I had a wonderful time chatting about books and writing with the 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders at FPG Bilingüe Elementary in Chapel Hill!
When I was in middle school, my English teacher organized a class trip to Disney World. And if I remember correctly, she was (not surprisingly) a big fan of all things Disney, too. As such, I’m including some dancing Aristocats in her honor.
Tom – the male cat – was voiced by Phil Harris. He also was the voice of Baloo the bear in the Jungle Book and Little John in the best Robin Hood movie ever. (You know, the one where Robin is a fox and John is a bear.)
Phil Harris was a bandleader, radio personality, and voice actor. Also, he was my dad’s favorite singer.
My dad had his record. Then eight-track. Then cassette. Then my brother burned the songs onto a CD for him. Then we downloaded mp3s for him. Oh how times have changed. It seems I’ve gotten gotten off topic.
Back to Disney and middle school! On that trip we spent three days, I believe, in Disney and Epcot. I have a great picture of middle school me wearing a straw hat by the mirrored exterior of one of the Epcot Center buildings. I think the building was Journey into Imagination. FYI – my favorites among of the Epcot attractions were Journey into Imagination, The Seas, and The Land. And now I write fantasy and teach biology. Hmm.
Fast forward twenty plus years and I was so excited to get an email from that same teacher. I haven’t seen her since I was in eighth grade! She and her kids and husband are all doing great which is wonderful to hear. As a teacher, it’s also nice to connect with a former teacher of mine. Doubly cool, she contacted me because she’d seen my name and book in The Mini Page.
The Mini Page started in North Carolina. It’s a weekly newspaper insert that has articles, activities, and games for kids, teachers, and parents. The June issue often includes great books for summer. I have to say, I was pretty excited to see VILLAIN KEEPER listed. Now, I just need to get the next issue of the News and Observer, find The Mini Page, and ogle it. (Picture to come)
It looks like the scheduled pub date for book two in my series is 02/02/2016!!
Today, I started thinking about some of the cool things in my finished, bound book that I hadn’t expected. One is the chapter art. The book is out in the world, and you can read a free preview here by clicking on the aptly titled ‘free preview’ button, and see higher quality images of the art. The pictures in the post are pics I took with my android phone.
My favorite of the interior art is the dragon who guards over the Contents and the Acknowledgements. The dragon is also guarding over this post. He’s (She’s?) got a banner, wings, claws, and a serpent’s tongue. A dragon in my books talks forgotten languages (as does one of my main characters) so I really like that the tongue is prominent in the illustration.
In my books, there are mentions of other legendary creatures or ‘Elderkind’ as well. Each is illustrated at the beginning of different chapters. It is sort of weird and wonderful to have someone make illustrations for my novel. It’s someone else’s interpretation of my ideas, and, luckily, that someone is much better at design and drawing than me. (Eric Deschamps is the cover artist!)
In Chapter one, the legendary Winterbird is shown. The Winterbird protects the mountainous Winterlands. If you notice, there is a crest behind the bird. To me, it looks symbolic of both wings and mountains.There is also a nice banner with the chapter title, and a coat-of-arms with the chapter number.
I like the Chapter two art also. The tree represents a legendary creature called the Walking Oak who is associated with spring. Interesting note – I thought about naming my book A LAND WITHOUT DRAGONS. Then I realized there are dragons in both lands noted in my book, and, well, it just didn’t seem to work. However, since I liked the name I used it where I could.
Chapter titles are entertaining to create. There isn’t as much pressure as there is with naming the book or series, and it’s just a lot of fun to brainstorm ideas. It was my editor who suggested coming up with titles, and I’m glad she did.
Below is the art for chapters three and four. I like how the four chapters have some differences yet a recurring theme. In this case chapter three shows the Sunsnake (associated with summer) and chapter four shows the Bloodwolf (associated with fall).
If you notice, each creature has it’s own shield behind it. To me, the Sunsnake’s looks like an abstract sun. The Bloodwolf looks like a abstract falling leaf. It’s fits their respective seasons.
It’s hard to see the details in these picture but the shield is flanked by a pen and pencil as opposed to two swords. Below, is a photo of the hardcover (sans dust jacket) where you can really see those details. I have a pen just like that. (Also, I suggest looking at it sideways, since I posted it sideways.
The page numbers also are printed on shields. It makes for a nice theme.
On May 7th at 6pm I’m going to visit Scuppanong Books in Greensboro, NC for Children’s Book Week. There will be other events this week and tomorrow night – including a picture book author and a poetry group. Also Scuppanong has wine, coffee, and sweets so it’s a great place to come for books and revelry!
If anyone doesn’t know, Scuppernongs are tasty sweet grapes that grow in NC and South. Wild vines of them used to grow out in the backyard of the house where I grew up.
Runt’s world is so interesting. I want to know more about it and about being a minion. He’s also a sincerely nice character, he’s brave, and he helps anyone who needs him. I wasn’t sure who was the one responsible for the goings on at the school until the end!
SPOILER/POSSIBLE SPOILER below cover pic…
Oh but do I like stories with hidden princes! I’m fairly certain Runt is actually a prince. (The bird said so!) This makes me really excited to read the next installments! That and the girl explorers are about to attack 😉
DR. CRITCHLORE’S SCHOOL FOR MINIONS by Sheila Grau
Yesterday, I had a wonderful time visiting students. I stopped by Southern Middle School first. Their mascot is a DRAGON! As I like dragons, and have them in my book, I took this as a good sign. In the author presentation I put together, I talk some about writing (and, of course, my book) and also how much the editing/revision process improved it. There’s a part where I read a short sentence or passage and then have the kids guess what type of editorial comment was attached to it.
I think it works well because it’s got a positive underlying message about criticism and edits (and editors) and it also gives them a taste of the story. MCSSMS posted a short video and you can see we had a good time and they were a great group. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pz-D70SlCkU&feature=youtu.be
I was lucky enough to visit Sandhills Classical Christian that afternoon. The students and I chatted books and talked about writing. They also knew how to fix the projector when my presentation turned green. To top it off, I saw a friend of mine, Ashley, who I hadn’t seen since I graduated high school. What a wonderful surprise and a great day!
Also, ain’t alliteration awesome. Anyway…
Flash fiction is fiction shorter than a short story. I couldn’t find exact agreement on exactly how much shorter than short stories flash fiction should be. After reading some different things, I decided to go with Grant Faulkner’s ‘less than 1000 words’ definition which is nicely described by him here in the NY Times opinion pages.
That being said, part of what I talked about at my first author visit was writing without expecting it to be perfect or necessarily good before the first, second, third, or even fortieth revision. It’s easier to write when not encumbered by expected perfection. It’s okay with me if what I start with is somewhat terrible.
It occurred to me, too, that if I kept it short and flashy, I could do some writing at author visits and with the kids and people attending. Then I thought, hmmm, I should probably write some flash fiction on my own first. Practice a bit. So I decided to sit down, write some six-word fantasy stories, and not worry about quality…
Sadly, I couldn’t think of any six word fantasy stories at first.
I did, however, come up with a six word memoir. Here it is in all it’s six word glory:
I teach. I write. I smile.
There aren’t any dragons in it, but I think it counts as a six word memoir. Then I started thinking about how if I change one word, it takes on an entirely different meaning:
I teach. I write. I try.
I teach. I write. I cry.
I teach. I write. I scream.
I have to admit, at this point, I was greatly enjoying my six word memoirs. So, of course, I decided to go dark. (Please note the six word stories below are actually fictional.) Here are my dark ‘memoirs’
I teach. I write. I lie.
I teach. I write. I kill.
Interestingly enough, I became inspired enough to try some six word fantasies. Here are my first two:
The crown falls. I catch it.
The crown falls. We are free.
I also saw a piece of flash fiction on twitter that started with ‘last words’. I realized I could write lots of flash fiction six word fantasy stories by starting with those two words and adding four other ones:
Last words: Dragons have big teeth.
Last words: She can’t summon lightning.
Last words: But unicorns are friendly.
Six word stories turned out to be fun AND addictive. It was difficult, but eventually it was time to increase my word count. I wrote a story that took an entire paragraph. I’m not sure how others will like it, but it was my favorite thing I wrote during my flash fiction experimenting. And I don’t think it would have come to me if I hadn’t first written I teach. I write. I smile. So here is my flash fiction fantasy that’s more than six words but many words less than a thousand:
THE NEXT STOP
Her dark hair is singed and her shoulder is red from a dragon’s bite. She still clutches her broken sword. She doesn’t know she’s dead yet. They rarely do. The driver tries to explain as she steps onto the bus.
“I didn’t lose,” she says.
“Maybe not,” the driver says, “but you still died.” He motions her to take a seat. “I’m here to take you to what comes next.”
She frowns like she doesn’t believe him, but she walks back to the third row and slumps into the seat. They never argue too much.
He drives to the corner of Main and Bramble, then slows for the next passenger. He’s not surprised to see the dragon. It has scales that look tougher than metal. Half a sword is buried in its chest.
The driver waves the dragon aboard, and points him toward the larger area in the back.
As the dragon passes the swordswoman, he reaches into his chest, pulls out the half a sword, and hands it back to her. She takes it. Neither speak.
The dead have no enemies.