Tag Archives: Young Adult (YA)

Book Review: Flash Virus, Episode One – by Steve Vernon

Flash Virus, Episode OneBook: Flash Virus: Episode One
Author: Steve Vernon
Publisher: Stark Raven Press
Date: October 20, 2012 (second edition)
Genre: YA (young adult)
Pages: 56; not a paper book
Price: $0.00 (Kindle)
My Rating: strange, wonderful read; not only for young adults
 

 If you have never read any of Steve Vernon‘s work, what can I say? Steve writes with such abandonment that it is a rollercoaster ride experience when reading his books, blog posts, anything. His imagination takes the reader to places most wouldn’t even think to put on paper. 🙂 Mostly in a good way.

In the first episode of Flash Virus, a school is visited by strange … people? … who gift all the students with cell phones. The cell phones seem to cast some kind of spell over anyone answering the ringtone “here comes Santa Claus”, and it just gets more bizarre from there. There is an attempt at takeover, the expected teenage rebellion, and more. To be honest, I didn’t want to stop reading till the end, and the end came too soon!

Flash Virus: Episode One is amusing, strange, entertaining, and keeps the reader interested. The problem – when you want to keep reading – is this is only the beginning, but Steve Vernon has made following episodes available at very low prices on Amazon.

Flash Virus: Episode One is a good, safe, book for middle-grade readers and up. And Please forgive my overuse of the word ‘strange’, I meant it in a good way. 😉

Steve Vernon loves to write and share his work. You can find Flash Virus episodes on Amazon at very low prices, starting with FREE for episode one.

You can find Flash Virus: Episode One listed on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

If you want to check out another of Steve’s books you can read my review here, and also enjoy our interview here.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂

 

 
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Interview with Laura Best, and book giveaway!

Laura BestIt is my pleasure to welcome author Laura Best to my interview chair for a second time as she was the first author I interviewed here.  Laura, who has lived in a small Nova Scotia community all her life, is the author of the award nominated “Bitter, Sweet“, and more recently “Flying with a Broken Wing” – my review of which you can read here.  Laura has been published in literary magazines across Canada, and in 2003 her short story “Alexander the Great” was nominated for the Journey Prize. Now on with the interview!

I am very pleased you agreed to this interview, Laura, especially since it provides a great excuse to give away a copy of your new book … and to pick your brain a little … and to give someone a copy of your new book, which I already said.  🙂 
 
Near the end of our interview back in January 2011, which was after your first novel – “Bitter, Sweet” –  you said, “I’m working on another novel at the moment. I don’t often discuss my work with others. All I will say is that it is young adult and set in a fictitious community in Nova Scotia.” 

Flying with a Broken Wing Now we can discuss that project since it has come out into the spotlight as the young adult novel “Flying with a Broken Wing”

First, to address the obvious, you seem to enjoy writing fiction based in Nova Scotia. Why Nova Scotia?

Often, we tend to think that books happen in other, more exotic places, and not in our own back yard. When I was growing up, I never read a story set in Nova Scotia. I wouldn’t have even thought that was a possibility. I might even have thought it would be boring. I’m happy to know that is changing and there are many wonderful books out there that are set right here in Nova Scotia. For those of us living here, I think it gives us a sense of pride to have our home province as a setting for a book. And while Nova Scotia might not be exotic to me it might be for people living in other places. I love this province! It’s what I know best, that and rural life. Most everything I write also has a rural flavour to it. It’s a large part of my identity.

I love this province, too, Laura, and it makes me glad to find books that are set here. Your writing is doing Nova Scotia justice, for sure.

I’m always impressed and fascinated with the ideas that come together to create well-rounded characters, their life stories, communities, even worlds. Where did the idea come from for “Flying with a Broken Wing”, and how long did it take you to fit this novel together?

The book started out with the idea that I wanted to write a story with a visually impaired protagonist. My writing usually begins with the idea of a character first. While I begin with a broad idea of what will happen most times the character leads me through the story. Situations crop up as I write. In the beginning, I didn’t know for instance, that my main character’s caregiver would be a bootlegger or she’d make friends with a boy whose father was a “drunk and a bully.” These things emerged along the way as Cammie told her story.

I’d say it took about a year to write the book if I were to add it all up. A few months into the writing of this book, I stopped because I wasn’t sure that I was happy with the way it was going. After taking a break for a few months I went back to it, decided I liked what I’d written, and continued on until I finally was able to write, “the end.”

You’ve given a good example of what a little time away from a manuscript can do for an author to finish the story. I’m very glad you continued it. Did you have to do any research to make this story believable?

There was very little research required for the book, just a few small facts to check out to make the story more authentic since it’s set in 1949.When writing a story with a historic setting it’s important to know what was going on in the world at that time. In one place, Cammie makes mention of a movie star whose legs were insured for a million dollars. I love these little details and find them quite interesting. For instance, the Standard magazines, that were mentioned several times, are magazines I actually have from when the queen and king toured Canada right before the Second World War. I’ve always loved looking though those magazines and knew it would fit into a story one day.

While Tanner is a fictitious community, the story could have been set in any number of rural communities in Nova Scotia. There’s this common bond in rural communities, things that are passed down from one generation to the next. It’s a part of the fabric, an inner knowing, if you will, of the people and the lifestyle. Cammie’s whole way of speaking, the sayings she used, are all things I grew up hearing, and still hear today. No research required in that department. 🙂

You are a fine example of ‘write what you know’. 🙂 “Flying with a Broken Wing” is an intriguing title, and very suitable. How did you come up with it, and was that always the title you had in mind?

The title came from a line that appears several times in the book and also makes up the very last lines in the book. “‘They say birds can’t fly with broken wings, Evelyn Merry,’ I whisper. ‘But that doesn’t mean that we can’t. I promise you we will.’”

More importantly, the title suggests that we can fly in the face of adversity, just as the main character, Cammie, does. We all face hardships in life. We’re either born into it or we encounter it along the way. We can allow these things to define us, and accept our limitations for what they are, or we can do what some might say is the impossible regardless of our life’s circumstances. I think it’s an important message.

The title originally began as “Fly with a Broken Wing” and slowly progressed to “Flying with a Broken Wing.” 

Flying with a Broken Wing” works so much better! Who or what inspired you to make your main character visually impaired? 

Writing a visually impaired protagonist was challenging because I knew I’d be entering a world that’s totally foreign to me. Not only did I have to let the reader know what Cammie could see (or couldn’t see) her other senses had to come into play as well. I had to make sure the reader understood Cammie’s visual impairment and I had to do it in a believable way. My mother is visually impaired and has been since birth. I decided that Cammie would experience the world the same way my mother does. When Cammie takes her glasses off to read up close, or her ability to read Aunt Millie’s moods by listening to the sound in her voice and her body language, these are things I borrowed from my mother. Several times through the writing of this book I’d call and ask her to explain what her range of vision was with and without her glasses on.

You did an excellent job of portraying that; your mother must be proud of the results of your work. In this book you have several very interesting and spunky characters. Do you have a favourite, and why?

I do love Cammie, but her aunt Millie might just be my favourite. Many people have expressed their strong dislike for Millie, and she’s certainly a hard nut, there’s no denying that. She’s self-centered, tough, and a known liar. But she’s more than that. She’s a product of her environment, someone who does love but doesn’t know how to love very well. Her toughness is a matter of self-preservation. She’s a bootlegger. She has to be tough. Perhaps Millie’s my favourite because I don’t judge my characters. I simply observe their actions. I don’t become upset by what they do or don’t do. And then, of course, I know a bit more about Millie than everyone else. She comes off as cruel, not only because she’s physically abusive, but because of the lies she’s told Cammie over the years. But we can take heart in knowing that Millie didn’t simply invent these lies to be cruel. There are reasons for the things she’s told Cammie. We just don’t know what they are. I think that’s the way it is with the people in our lives. How many times do we pass judgment on others without stopping to consider what personal challenges they might have faced in the past or are facing at this very moment? Everyone has a story. We don’t always know what it is, but we’re often quick to pass judgment.

Excellent points! I’m learning we must know our characters well in order to portray them effectively to others. Which of your characters gave you the most trouble, and in what way?

That’s a tough question. I’m not sure I’d say any of the characters gave me trouble. But if I had to choose one I might say Cammie because her visual impairment was challenging to write. Still, I didn’t want this to be just a story about a visually impaired girl. More importantly, I wanted it to be about a girl with hopes and dreams, a girl who isn’t about to sit back and let life happen to her, a girl who decides to change her life, someone who isn’t defined by the things that make her different, a girl who just happens to be visually impaired. I’ve come to have such respect for the blind and visually impaired. I’ve heard so many stories from my mother about some of the people she went to school with and some of the remarkable things they went on to accomplish. If my readers gain anything from this book, I hope it’s a better understanding about people who are living with physical challenges and the things they are capable of achieving. 

I believe readers of “Flying with a Broken Wing” will hear Cammie’s heart and root for her as I did. This is a book that should be encouraging to girls in whatever their situation. Which of your characters is the most like you in attitude and/or approach to life?

I’m probably most like Evelyn Merry. I’m the person who offers support to others, who cheers for the underdog, and holds other people’s secrets close to my heart.  

There are names which can be considered unisex, my name being one of those, and you created a male character with a female name that is very unusual for a man, at least not one I had ever heard a man called. Why did you choose to do that? And why that name?

I like unusual names. They tend to be the ones we remember, and I wanted Evelyn to be a memorable character, not simply Cammie’s sidekick. I’m really bad at choosing names for my characters but, thankfully, I have a book to look through. When I came across the name Evelyn, the book said that at one time it was a popular name in England for a man. I wasn’t sure in the beginning just how I felt about the name, but as time went on it really grew on me. I can’t imagine it being anything else. I love his name. 

It was really odd to me at first, but the more I got to know Evelyn the more I liked his name. Do you have another novel in the works since this one really leaves the reader hoping for a sequel?

 I’m working on several different stories at the moment. I didn’t plan for it to happen that way but it did. And while I am planning on a sequel to “Flying with a Broken Wing” my heart is pointing me in a totally different direction these days. I’m the type of writer who is led by the characters and the story. When a story demands that I work on it, and I try to ignore those demands, I’ll encounter all sorts of problems until I give in. While my logical mind might tell me to write one thing, I need to listen to the quiet whispers inside me. If I don’t pay attention I end up losing the joy in writing because I’m looking off into the future at the end result instead of enjoying the process along the way. So, for now, I’m working on a story that makes me truly happy and the sequel, I’m in the midst of writing, has been put on the back burner for a little while longer.  

I am so glad there will be a sequel! I think because you follow your heart is why your writing is so good. Is there anything you would like to add to this interview that I may have left out? 

I can’t think of anything I’d like to add only that it’s been fun, and some of your questions were quite challenging. I think that’s a good thing. Thank you so much, Lynn, for interviewing me about my latest book.

Thank you, Laura, for agreeing to share your writing wisdom and experience with us again. I am learning from you. Now let’s give away a copy of your new book!

Readers, if you would like to have a chance to win a SIGNED copy of “Flying with a Broken Wing” by Laura Best, please leave a comment about anything you found especially interesting in the above interview. On April 22 at 6:00 PM EST one name will be selected using the “random name picker” tool. At Laura’s book launch, Nimbus Publishing gave me an extra copy just for this event! So … remember to check your inbox in case you are the winner because I will be contacting you for a mailing address. 🙂

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings! 🙂

Book Review: Triangles – by Kimberly Ann Miller

Triangles - Kimberly Ann MillerBook: Triangles
Author: Kimberly Ann Miller
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press
Date: June 18, 2013
Genre: young adult
Pages: 216
Price: $9.95
My rating: a fairly good read based on a fascinating concept
 
 

I received this book (ARC) from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

This story is told mostly from the point-of-view of a seventeen-year-old girl, Autumn, who is an unhappy complainer. She gives her sister a hard time, their dad died, their mother is very ill, and we find out she is not happy about a nice guy who is constantly bestowing her with little gifts at work – which she rewards by attempting to get rid of his attention through her rude behaviour toward him.

When Autumn agrees to go on a cruise with her sister she does so with reluctance. It was what she thought would be a good temporary escape, a chance to get away from the pain they are going through in their family life. What she gets on this cruise is a trip through the Bermuda Triangle that is confusing and very strange.

Each time Autumn has an alternate reality experience she is as shocked as before, even though she is aware it is happening. Her life gets more messed up each time a change occurs, but it doesn’t change her rude and hateful attitude.

The author did a convincing job of making Autumn an unlikeable person and – if I remember correctly – she is the only one in the book to use bad language. She comes across as crude, rude, and a hateful brat a lot of the time.

On this cruise she is pursued by two guys, and in each alternate reality shift they also change in personality and circumstance. Terrible things happen, confusing things happen, surprising things happen, and Autumn’s fear is that she will be trapped in the Bermuda Triangle forever and not be able to live the life she is learning she really wants.

Triangles – by Kimberly Ann Miller – is a fairly quick read. The mystery of the Bermuda Triangle is a fascinating topic to write a fictional young adult novel around. Although a few places did not make sense to me and tripped me up a bit, the idea of someone getting caught in the Triangle and living through it is an interesting one. It certainly makes the reader think.

You can find Triangles listed on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂

Interview with Steve Vernon, and book giveaway!

Steve VernonToday it is my pleasure to introduce to you bestselling author Steve Vernon, author of Sinking Deeper OR My awesome brilliant Questionable Heroic Decision to Invent a Sea Monster.  Please read my review HERE.

Steve has published over fifty short stories, as well as the books Halifax Haunts, Wicked Woods, Haunted Harbours, and his children’s picture book, Maritime Monsters. He lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Steve, it’s my pleasure to welcome you to my author interview corner. 😉 I have been wanting to do this for awhile and now seems a good time. Please get comfy and tell us a little about yourself.  

Hi, Lynn. I’m happy to be here.

A little about myself?

I’m a storyteller – first and foremost. I grew up in Northern Ontario, raised by my grandparents, and came to Nova Scotia when I was seventeen years old to get to know my Mom. I fell in love with the Atlantic Ocean from the first time I saw it and have lived here ever since – although I have hitchhiked across Canada a couple of times.

When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? Who or what inspired you?

The problem with a writer’s memory is it is a bit of a stew pot, in that has been constantly stirred. Trying to pinpoint a memory like that is a little like trying to hunt up my favourite chunk of carrot from somewhere within the middle of the pot. I do remember sending a story to Alfred Hitchock’s Mystery Magazine – back when I was eleven years old. I received an actual hand-written rejection letter – because I believe some slush reader had kids of their own.

I also remember the morning that W.O. Mitchell –  author of Jake and the Kid and Who Has Seen The Wind – came to our English class as a guest author. I’d say right then and right there I decided to myself that I was going to grow up someday and become an author.

I’m still working on that whole “growing up”  part of the equation…

Well, don’t worry, Steve; growing up doesn’t seem to be all it’s cracked up to be (although I still have a long way to go myself). As a writer, do you do much reading? Who were/are your favourite authors or books?

I read every day.

As a writer, I have to.

Whenever someone comes to me and says – “I want to be a writer” – the first thing I ask them is –  “What have you read?”

If they tell me – “Well, I’m not all that much of a reader” – I promptly punch them in the nose – or, if they know karate or are of any potential size I might just shoot them once or twice with a ball of high-caliber sarcasm.

Fact is – WRITERS NEED TO READ.

You can’t a drive a car without gas.

You can’t exhale without inhaling good air.

A fire needs good firewood.

Say it again – WRITERS NEED TO READ.

My favourite authors include Stephen Hunter, Robert Parker, Brian Keene, Joe Lansdale, Bernard Cornwell, Gary Paulsen and Conn Iggulden.

I agree about the reading. Have you ever felt like giving up? When did you finally believe in yourself so you can say “I am a writer”?

For me, giving up has always been an exercise in futility.

The fact is – no matter what I tell myself – sooner or later I find myself sitting down and making up a story. I am a born storyteller – it is something that is genetic in me. So saying that I’m depressed and that life isn’t worthwhile and that I’m going to quit writing and storytelling is about as sensible as me saying that I’m going to quit breathing.

In fact – that’s another one of my rules for determining if someone is a writer or not. If they are driven to do this – to string words together and convey ideas upon the computer screen or a piece of paper – then they are most likely supposed to be some sort of a writer.

It’s like a fellow who wants to be a painter. Odds are – if he is any kind of visual artist at all – he will have already established a LONG career of doodling and crayon coloring.

Writing – for me – is a natural obsession.

I’ll give it up on the day that they dump about thirty or forty shovels full of dirt on my box.

Then we can expect many more books from you. 🙂 Do you have a motto or Bible verse or quote that you try to live by and that helps to keep you going?

“He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.”

And if anyone out there can’t peg that quote then you really need to make time to read a few more books.

I’m glad to say I recognize those words. 🙂 What do you remember about your very first time to be published, how did that happen?

First story I sold was to a biker magazine –  “OUTLAW BIKER”. They paid $150.00 and a contributor’s copy –  a magazine with more breasts, beards and motorbikes than I had ever seen together at any one time.

Now back then – in the mid-eighties –  that size of a check was about the same as I got paid for several days of flipping hamburgers at a fast food joint – where I was working at the time. So I remember thinking to myself – “Wow, I’m going to be rich.”

It didn’t work out quite as easily as that.

Interesting start! What have you had published thus far? Of those, what do you most enjoy writing?

I could fill a book with everything that I have written. I’ve sold close to a hundred short stories. I’ve got seven regional books out through Nimbus Publishing – (Haunted Harbours: Ghost Stories of Old Nova Scotia, Wicked Woods: Ghost Stories of Old New Brunswick among others). I’ve released about thirteen e-books through Crossroad Press. I have also released eight e-books independently.

Besides that I have written – and sold –  about one hundred fifty book reviews. I have written and sold about a hundred poems. I have written and sold several dozen author interviews. I have written and sold a couple dozen articles and have written and sold one radio play.

I like to keep busy.

Which do I enjoy the most?

Well – I really DO enjoy the work that I get paid for an awful lot. There is a real satisfaction in receiving an actual cheque in the mail for my words.

I could also tell you that I ALWAYS enjoy the work that I am doing at any point in time. Whatever story, novella, novel or script that I am working on – that is the one that I love the most.

However – if I really had to be pinned down to one particular work – I would have to say that Sinking Deeper OR My awesome brilliant Questionable Heroic Decision to Invent a Sea Monster was my absolute favourite work. I really enjoyed creating that young adult novel.

You are a very prolific writer! What process do you go through when writing and perfecting a book or article?

There are two processes that I can tell you about.

The first is the ideal process.

The ideal process consists of writing a manuscript and then putting it away for the next month while I work on something else. Then – after the manuscript has suitably cooled down and I have had enough of a chance to fall out of love with each little turn and twist of phrase and every single plot entanglement – I stomp through it with an eye for continuity and entertainment value.

HOWEVER…

I sometimes end up rattling something off at the very last minute, running my eyeball over the computer screen to see if anything TOO obnoxious happens to stick out, and then throwing it between two pieces of cardstock and calling it a book.

My usual procedure falls somewhere in between those two schools of thought.

What method do you use to keep track of your writing ideas?

I scribble them somewhere, put it under a likely looking heap on my desk and then forget about it. Years later, usually around the January resolution-making season, I stumble across that scribbled note while making an entirely-too perfunctory attempt to clean up this sorry landfill that I call a desk – and I think to myself –  “Hey, that would probably make a pretty good story.”

Then I most likely will put that note back under another heap of scrap paper to mature a little longer.

It is – in hindsight – sort of a compost-heap approach to writing.

Funny! 🙂  What inspired you to write Sinking Deeper OR My awesome brilliant Questionable Heroic Decision to Invent a Sea Monster?

That’s an easy question.

Let’s see if I can make the answer a little more confusing than it needs to be.

For starters – I wrote that novel because I REALLY wanted to write something for all of the kids that I visit through the WRITERS IN THE SCHOOL program. My ghost story collections are VERY popular amongst junior high and high school students – but I REALLY wanted to come up with an actual chapter-by-chapter novel for that age group.

So I came up with Sinking Deeper OR My awesome brilliant Questionable Heroic Decision to Invent a Sea Monster.

If you want me to get philosophical about it –  the book is actually my ode to the oral storytelling tradition. Granddad Angus is sort of a role model for myself – the kind of storyteller that I would like to grow up to become – assuming I ever get around to actually growing up.

I am VERY proud of this particular novel –  especially now that it has made the shortlist of BOTH the Hackmatack and the Silver Birch award. That is an awesome achievement for a writer who really did not know what he was doing at the time that he did it.

You have good reason to be proud of this novel. It looks as if you might have had fun writing this book. How long did it take you to write it? Did you have to do any research? 

I had a lot of fun writing this book.

Research was minimal. I had spent a couple of years – off and on – living in the town of Yarmouth. I worked in a fish plant, raked blueberries, worked in a cotton mill and indulged in all manner of small town activity. I woke to bagpipes every morning of the two years that I spent attending Kings College University. I even threw a caber quite a few summers back. Dropped it to a reasonable eleven o’clock position – which isn’t too shabby for a beginning caber chucker.

As for the sea monster – well, I had been thinking about that particular idea since I was a kid.

Did you write a little of yourself into any of the characters? Do you have a favourite?

I’d have to say that I want to be Granddad Angus – and I probably was Roland – as a child growing up.

Did you find any part of the story difficult to pull together? If so, how did you stick with it?

Writing for kids is HARD work.

Don’t let ANYONE tell you that writing for children is easy.

I put more sweat into the creation of that novel SINKING DEEPER and the writing of my children’s picture book MARITIME MONSTERS than ANY of my other works.

I stuck with it because I have bills to pay. If in doubt I ALWAYS apply a working man’s ethic to my craft. My muse wears work boots and punches that time clock like it was a religion.

That sounds productive. How did you go about finding a publisher?

Well – I’ve got several publishers –  but I’d have to say the publisher that has done the MOST to help make me the writer I am today is Nimbus Publishing. I connected with them on my very first ghost story collection – way back in 2004  – when I pitched my book at the First Annual Halifax Word on the Street Pitch the Publisher’s event.

Pitch the Publisher was basically a sort of Dragon’s Den for writers. You are given a very few moments to tell three different maritime publishers about your book – and WHY they ought to publish it. The event has gone on every year since 2004 – but as far as I have been told my book Halifax Haunts: Ghost Stories from Old Nova Scotia was the very first book to actually make the leap from a pitch session to a published work.

The book remains my bestselling work – with over ten thousand copies sold to date – which isn’t all that bad for a Canadian regional press.

Fantastic! Tell us what honours this book (Sinking Deeper) has received thus far and what is coming up.

As I mentioned – the book has made the short list for both the Hackmatack and the Silver Birch awards for Children’s Fiction. There is no cash prize involved – but both award committees have made certain that copies of Sinking Deeper have been bought and placed in school libraries across the maritimes and Ontario. That – in itself – is a huge benefit – and I am exceedingly grateful for this opportunity.

As a result I will be taking part in school and library readings across the maritimes – and possibly a few in Ontario – although transportation is an issue. I will be appearing at the OLA Conference this year – at the Follett Table on February 1st – at 11:30am. Any of you writer-types or librarians attending I’d be happy to meet with you.

I hope someone reading this can take you up on the invitation. Congratulations  on making the short lists! Do you have another job you go to daily? If so, how do you find time to write when you are busy with life?

Oh yes – I have a day job.

It pays the bills.

As to how I find the time to write – I get up early and drink a LOT of coffee.

What other interests do you have for a change from writing?

I garden a little, shovel snow – (hey, it’s Canada) – and work out a little. I read and I watch WAY too many old movies thanks to the Turner Network.

Fortunately we don’t have snow all year! I understand about old movies; I like the Turner Network, too. How do you consistently write? Do you have writing goals – daily? Weekly? Monthly? Long range?

Writing goals have unfortunately been relegated to the realm of forgotten New Year’s resolutions.

I write as often as I can – as well as I can – not nearly often enough.

And yet you are an accomplished author. Do you have another project in the works? Any hints you can share with our readers about that?

I’m currently working on completing a young adult serial/series that is available in Kindle and Kobo format. The work is entitled Flash Virus and it consists of six separate episodes that will eventually form a stand-alone book. I am currently halfway through Episode Five. The first episode is free – in both Kindle and Kobo – and I have given away about 8-10 thousand copies through both networks.

It’s basically the end-of-the-world as told by a teenager.

The protagonist – Briar Gamble – has to react when his school is “invaded” by evil cellphones and a creepy pale-faced mad genius whom the kids refer to as Captain Albino.

You want a taste of it – here’s the first sentence.

“So as near as I could tell the end of the world began roughly about the time that Billy Carver’s butt rang – about halfway through the War of 1812.”

Eight to ten thousand free copies? Wow! (I am reading one of those.) And that first sentence is a good hook. 🙂 Finally, do you have any advice for hopefuls?

Read every day – not just what you like to read – but read other stuff as well. Read action novels, political tomes, fairy tales, ghost stories, historical yarns, romance novels.

Feed the fire.

Grow yourself an iron-hard rhinoceros hide. This is NOT a profession for the easily discouraged.

Explore your imagination.

Don’t forget to tell a story.

Beginning, middle, end – save the artistic timelines for Quentin Tarrantino and the like.

Don’t give up the day job and remember to have fun.

If all else fails, go and fly a kite.

Great advice! Thank you, Steve, for this enjoyable and informative interview. You certainly gave us a different slant on things.  🙂

Sinking Deeper by Steve VernonNow for the giveaway: Are you interested in winning a copy of Steve Vernon’s YA novel – “Sinking Deeper OR My awesome brilliant Questionable Heroic Decision to Invent a Sea Monster”? Please leave a comment about this interview for your chance to win. At 6 PM EST on Tuesday, February 5, one name will be pulled from the basket and I will contact the winner for a mailing address so Steve can send the winner a book!   :) Be sure to check back.

 Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂

We have a winner!

Tonight is the night we all have been waiting for .. those of us who want to know who won a copy of Bitter, Sweet by Laura Best, that is.  You have been entered into the contest if you left a comment on this post: https://lynnadavidson.wordpress.com/2011/01/26/interview-with-laura-best-book-giveaway/

Tonight at 9:00, that’s 8:00 EST, my dear husband drew a name out of the basket and I have sent the winner an email requesting her mailing address.   When she has replied then I will post her name so that everyone knows who won.  If she does not reply by Thursday (Feb. 17) I will send another email.  If I have not heard from the winner by February 21 then I will have my husband draw out another name.
So, check your emails, everyone!  Is it you?

Thanks for participating, and … Creative Musings!  🙂

Just a little Foxy!

This is a quick post while waiting for the February 14th draw.  (Read post of January 26.)  I hope you have left a comment there to be in the running for Laura Best’s book Bitter, Sweet.

In the interim I am writing, and reading, and thinking about what I will say in my review of the book I read just last night.

Right now I want to mention something neat that happened yesterday.  My husband and I were on our way home from church and dinner, and upon driving up the road to our house we slowed to turn into our driveway.  But, we stopped instead because, to our surprise, there at the end of our driveway stood — a red fox!  A beautiful, bright-eyed, healthy-looking fox!  Unalarmed, it just stood there looking at us a few moments.  Then, seeming to realize we were going to turn in, it calmly strutted out of our way and trotted up the hill by our yard.  The people in front of us turned and drove back to watch this gorgeous animal, and another van also stopped when they realized we were watching something.  The fox must have found an interesting little critter to its liking because not long after that it was on the side hill digging, with its back end up and head and shoulders hidden in the snow.  Amusing.  It mattered not to the fox who was watching.

Gotta love rural/country life!  Here I have the privilege to see all kinds of wildlife, including eagles nearly every day, and also hawks, many other birds, white-tailed deer, foxes, coyotes, and other animals.  Yes, I love God’s creation!

What do you like about where you live?

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂

Interview with Laura Best & book giveaway

This is what you have been waiting for,  so get comfy!  🙂   You can read my January 18 post for my review of Bitter, Sweet – but now it is my great pleasure to introduce Laura Best, author of Bitter, Sweet. Laura has lived in the small community of East Dalhousie, Nova Scotia her entire life. Her fiction has been published in literary magazines across Canada, including The Antigonish Review, Grain, and Room, and she was a contributor to two Christmas anthologies published by Nimbus. In 2003, her short story “Alexander the Great” was nominated for the Journey Prize.

Laura, welcome to my blog. I’m delighted to have you as my first interview participant. 🙂 To start things off, please tell us a little about yourself.

Nice of you to invite me to your blog, Lynn. Besides being a writer, I’ve been married for thirty-one years. I have three children, two girls and a boy, and last year I became a grandmother for the first time. I belong to the Writer’s Federation of Nova Scotia and I’m also a member of CANSCAIP. I’m very much interested in local history, and I’m a member of the local museum Society as well as a volunteer with the local church.

When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? Who or what inspired you?

Although I enjoyed writing at a very young age, and continued to write through high school, I never considered it seriously as an option until after the birth of my third child. That was when I realized that I needed to do something for me, and right away I knew that ‘something’ was writing. Did anyone in particular inspire me? Not really, it was more of a matter of necessity in the very beginning, a strong need to express myself with words.

As a writer, do you do much reading? Who were/are your favourite authors or books?

Because a lot of my time is spent writing I don’t get to read as much as I’d like to, but I think I read a fair bit. A day does not go by that I don’t read something. There are a lot of authors whose work I really enjoy: Donna Morrissey, Jill MacLean, Christy Ann Conlin, Syr Ruus, Jan Coates, Ami MacKay, I could go on and on. Some of these are writers that I’ve met within the past two years whose work I thoroughly enjoyed.

Have you ever felt like giving up? When did you finally believe in yourself so you can say “I am a writer”?

It took quite a few years and a few published stories under my belt before I really believed that I was a writer. When I could actually tell others that I was a writer without a flicker of self-consciousness then I knew deep in my heart that I was. For many years I was a closet writer. Very few people knew my secret. I didn’t know anyone else who wrote and I was about as removed from the writing community as anyone would want to be. I didn’t even know a writing community existed. Writing in isolation like that takes a lot of determination. I might not have felt like a writer back then, but I was determined that one day I would. So much has changed for me since then. I’ve met more writers this past year than I could ever have imagined. My oldest daughter is also a writer and last Fall we both had work published in the same issue of R.E.A.L. Seems like I’m surrounded by writers and it feels pretty good.

As far as giving up goes, I think most writers feel like giving up at some point. Writing is not for wimps. It’s a lot of hard work with many disappointments along the way. My times of discouragement are always short-lived because when I’m completely honest with myself I know that I couldn’t give up. Even if I never had another thing published I would still write.

Do you have a motto or Bible verse or quote that you try to live by and that helps to keep you going?

I do have a favourite verse from the Bible. “For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.” I truly believe that everything happens in its own time and that we need to have patience and faith. I try to keep in mind that no matter what is happening in my life that there is a purpose.

What do you remember about your very first time to be published, how did that happen?

My very first publication came in 1993. It was a short story that I submitted to The Amethyst Review, a literary journal right here in Nova Scotia. I saw an article about the journal in the Chronicle Herald and it mentioned that they were one of very few journals who offered feedback on the submissions. Since I’d never received any feedback it sounded like a good idea. I submitted the first time and my story was rejected, but then I reworked the story with the suggestions they had offered and it was accepted.

That must have been exciting! What have you had published thus far? Of those, what do you most enjoy writing?

So far my list of publications includes over forty short stories published in literary magazines, some non-fiction articles, pieces in two Christmas anthologies and a farm anthology published by Nimbus Publishing. My debut young adult novel, Bitter, Sweet was published in 2009 by Nimbus Publishing. As for a preference, I enjoy writing from a child’s perspective, for me it wouldn’t matter if it was a short story or a novel. I’m happiest writing either.

That’s a wonderful list of accomplishments. What process do you go through when writing and perfecting a book or article?

I usually spend some time thinking about the story I want to write before I begin. When I’m writing fiction I always need to have a character in mind before I start writing. I sometimes jot down notes as ideas sometimes come to me at the oddest times and when I’m no where near my computer. I’m not one of those writers who work from an outline. For me, it’s sometimes a matter of showing up on the page each day to see what will happen. I sometimes get surprised! When I’m not writing I’m often thinking about my characters and getting to know them better. I tend to edit as I write, and will go over a paragraph or sentence many times until I’m satisfied with the way it sounds.

What inspired you to write Bitter, Sweet?

The inspiration for Bitter, Sweet came from a newspaper clipping that I’d saved for a number of years about a family of kids who get in some trouble with the law. I saved the clipping thinking that a similar situation might one day make a good scene for a story. I wasn’t sure in the beginning if it would be a short story or something longer. Then one day out of the blue a line came to me. Turns out it was spoken by Pru, the eldest daughter in the book. When I got further into the story I began to see that it was going to be much longer than a short story and as more and more ideas came to me I knew I was writing a young adult novel.

How long did it take you to write Bitter, Sweet? Did you have to do any research? And how did you come up with that title?

Bitter, Sweet came about very quickly and ideas seemed to flow quite freely. I think I wrote it in about three or four months. Setting it in the community where I live I think helped immensely. It was easy to write about the things I grew up knowing about.

Although I had some knowledge of healing plants I needed to do more research on that topic. I had to check to make sure that the deadly nightshade plant actually grew in Nova Scotia. I was pretty sure it did but since it plays such an important role in the story I had to be positive.

The title is in reference to the deadly nightshade plant or bittersweet. The Publisher wanted to keep the title I had chosen because they felt it was the perfect title for the book even though there were many books on the market with bittersweet in them. The comma between the two words was the publisher’s idea to help set it apart from other books with the same title. Now that I’m used to the comma I couldn’t imagine it not being there.

Did you write a little of yourself into any of the characters? Do you have a favourite?

It’s difficult for a writer to choose a favourite character. We tend to like all the characters we create on some level. But if I had to choose, I’d probably say that Pru would be at the top of my list.

I think most authors put a bit of themselves into their characters. It would be difficult not to. I enjoyed writing the character of Issy the most, and her dialogue seemed to come so easily. Since I happen to share some of Issy’s beliefs, I’d probably answer yes to that question. I can see some of my own traits in Issy.

How did you go about finding a publisher? an editor? and do you have an agent yet?

So far I’ve hardly given any thought to acquiring an agent, but one never knows what the future will hold. When I submitted a synopsis of my story and a few sample chapters to Nimbus I waited about eight months before I heard anything. At that point I was asked to submit the entire manuscript. Four months after that I received a call from Penelope Jackson, the Children’s Book Editor. Nimbus wanted to publish my book. When it came time to edit the book Caitlin Drake was assigned as my editor. She was wonderful to work with. The rest is history.

Bitter, Sweet has been on a thrilling publicity ride.  Besides your book making an appearance in the Hallmark movie November Christmas, tell us what honours this book has received thus far.

Last July, Bitter, Sweet was shortlisted for the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People. This is a national award presented by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre in Toronto and it was an honour and a thrill to be nominated alongside some of Canada’s best known YA writers.

You are not only a writer but you have a job to go to every day, so how do you find time to write when you are busy with life?

Since my job allows me to have months off at a time I probably am fortunate to have more writing time than writers who hold down a year round job. Oddly enough, it is during those times when I am working that I tend to get more writing done. When my time is limited I make writing a priority. I set aside a specific time to write in the evening and I try my best to stick with it.

What other interests do you have for a change from writing?

My others interests would naturally include reading, but I’ve been known to do a little knitting as well. While I like to try new things I also know that any other hobbies would take time away from writing.

How do you consistently write? Do you have writing goals?

While the idea of writing goals sounds appealing to me, and I know having goals works well for others, I haven’t found that to be the case for me. Setting goals doesn’t allow for those unexpected things that crop up, revisions that you hadn’t planned on, a new plot twist, those kinds of things. I do like to keep a record of my daily word count so that I can at least look back on the progress I’ve made so far.

Do you have another project in the works? Any hints you can share with our readers about that?

I’m working on another novel at the moment. I don’t often discuss my work with others. All I will say is that it is young adult and set in a fictitious community in Nova Scotia.

Oh, that sounds intriguing, I look forward to reading it. Finally, do you have any advice for hopefuls?

The best advice I can give to hopefuls it to write as much and as often as you can. Pay close attention to any comments that editors send your way. Forget the notion that your work can not stand to be improved upon. Everything can be improved. You’ll start to know when you’re getting closer to publication. Those comments will be laced with a sweet touch of sugar as your writing get stronger. Lastly, don’t give up. If you believe in your talent keep working at it, perfect it to the place where someone will want to publish it.

Great advice! Thank you so much for this interview, Laura. It’s been fun learning more about you and I wish you much continued success.

Readers, I hope you enjoyed getting to know Laura Best a little better. Visit her blog, being sure to check out her Publications link and her November 29 post: http://www.lauraabest.wordpress.com

Also, Nimbus Publishing generously donated a copy of Bitter, Sweet for me to offer here. Check them out at: http://www.nimbus.ns.ca

Would you like a chance at winning this copy of Laura’s book? Simply post a comment here on my blog, telling what you most enjoyed in the interview. Enter only once, please. I will put the entries into a basket and at 9:00 pm (8:00 EST) on February 14 – Valentine’s Day – my husband will draw out the winner’s name. I will contact that person for his/her mailing address. If I do not get a reply by 8:00 pm EST on February 21 we will select another name – so check back!

Thanks so much for reading my first interview, and … Creative Musings!  🙂