A nonfiction project has kept me so busy that I have rather badly neglected my blog. So, without further ado, here is some belated but really fine news.
First of all, my good friend Aud shared something quite exciting: not only did she get a really good review from Kirkus, but that august publication also made her an offer it makes to only a select group of Indie-published authors! Go, check out her blog and find out. My other news can wait.
If you haven’t already gone to Aud’s blog, here’s more: she also revealed the cover for her second “Winnie and the Wizard Book.” And I love it even more than the cover to Frama-12! Is that a Frama-scope I spy? And…perhaps even a time-tear??
I’m so tempted to ask Aud if I can post that cover, but I want you to see it for yourself along with her cool Kirkus news. (This is not a spoiler: I’ve read an earlier draft of Hutra even before Frama-12, and that’s where I became so very fond of Winnie and her companions.)
My second (or is it third?) bit of news: the next Enola book is out: Enola Holmes and the Elegant Escapade! (Truth be told, it came out just two days after Aud posted her fun blog; this is an embarrassment of riches.) I loved this latest Enola adventure! Lady Cecily appears for the third time, and I think I enjoyed this book even more than her second appearance. There’s such a wealth of great characters, old and young, and Enola (my favorite as always) is in fine form. Elegant, even. It was a treat to read. (Just don’t read it as your first Enola book. Start at the beginning!)
So, here’s a number of things to celebrate and I’m happy to share them. I urge you to check them both out if you haven’t already.
I was delighted to be given an Advanced Reader Copy in exchange for an honest review. Full disclosure: anyone who’s read my recent posts will know I can’t claim to be objective in this review – I’ve known this book since it was a kid! But I will do my utmost to be honest.
So, here’s my honest opinion: I just finished Frama-12, and I enjoyed the heck out of it!
Winnie Harris, following a warrior code in honor of her mother’s fighting spirit, will do whatever it takes to protect her little stepbrother, Mikey. Kip Skyler, charming to everyone but Winnie, impresses her stepbrother with his sleight of hand. Now Mikey wants them to pass through a time tear into Frama-12 and save the inhabitants from an invasion. She’ll be the general and Kip the wizard.
Winnie sees two problems with the mission. Frama-12 is just a fantasy game, right? And Kip is majorly annoying. But she’s only half right. If the incompatible teens can’t work together, an enemy could march through a very real time tear and attack Earth.
To really enjoy a book, I have to like the main characters – mostly, at least. Winnie and Kip are like most teenagers, and most people in general: at times they can be exasperating, and at other times, deeply sympathetic. I came to care about both of them early on. As for Mikey, he’s an adorable little kid who tugged at my heart strings and made me laugh – and sometimes he’s unnervingly mature. But, unlike some other precocious kid characters, Mikey has a very good reason for this. He tells Winnie about it early in the story, but she doesn’t really believe him at first. He’s just her little stepbrother, right…? (Well, yes and no.)
As Winnie soon finds out, Frama-12 is home to a host of new, strange creatures and peoples. Some are alarming, some benign, some funny – and some of them a mix of all of the above. Winnie has to learn which can be trusted and which to beware of. Meanwhile, she’s confronted with a myriad of new sights, sounds, smells and tastes. She gets help in navigating all this from some unexpected sources—if only she can ease up and listen to them.
In trying to live up to her mom’s spiritual courage and determination, sometimes Winnie feels she has to be too independent, too strong. And that can make her downright stubborn at times. But over the course of the book, she learns more about what true courage looks like.
By the end of the book, there are some mysteries and unanswered questions – but I have it on good authority that there will be another book of adventures with Winnie, Kip, and Mikey. Hurrah!
This book is light and a lot of fun, but it also deals with some serious issues, like loss, separation from loved ones, and the challenges of stepfamilies. The story deals with these issues with warmth and heart. I highly recommend it for Young Adults and the Young at Heart looking for a fun contemporary adventure into a rather wacky world. It’s a great summer read.
And if you happen to be in southeastern Pennsylvania, you can meet the author and get your book at a signing with her on Saturday, August 6th!
If you’d like to read my interviews with Aud, you can read them here, where we interview each other about anthologies we’re in and other fun stuff, here, where we talk especially about conferences we went to, and here, where Aud talks about earlier publications and her general writing process.
Congratulations, Aud! I’m so pleased Frama-12 is out in the world where readers can enjoy it!
Here begins a new chapter of interviews featuring members of the two awesome critique groups I belong to. Aud and I have been in the same group for about seven years now, and I’m delighted to invite her to my blog.
Welcome, Aud! I understand you have some news to share.
Aud: I’m excited to announce that one of my stories has been recently accepted for publication by Running Wild Press. It’s a novella for adults titled Broken Soul to Broken Soul, about two people with separate traumas who come together and help each other heal.
Gemma: That is exciting! I’ve read prior drafts of that novella, and it not only brought tears to my eyes, it gave me goosebumps, and also made me laugh! I’m so happy it’s going to be seen by a wide audience.
G: That’s a very cool book trailer, by the way.
Gemma: I’d like to chat a bit about your past as a writer. How long have you known that you wanted to be a writer?
Aud: Ever since I was about 8 years old.
G: Do you remember what led you to that?
Aud: Two things:
One: I grew up in a chaotic environment and writing was my way to create order from chaos.
Two: As a kid, I couldn’t find stories that I wanted to read, so I made up my own.
G: Both of those are really compelling reasons. Writing is definitely a positive, powerful way to deal with chaos.
G: What’s your goal as a writer?
Aud: To entertain. I like it when a reader wonders, “What’s going to happen next?” My characters often make me laugh and/or cry. It’s my hope that they’ll do the same for my readers.
G: Your characters have definitely made me laugh! And sometimes make me yell their name out loud in frustration! But that’s only because I’ve come to care about them like friends. And Broken Soul to Broken Soul isn’t your only story that’s brought tears to my eyes.
G: What’s the first piece you wrote that you’re still proud of and/or happy with?
Aud: Standing Ovation. It was my first published book, put out by Ace Tempo Books. It’s a YA novel about a girl trumpet player who upsets her family’s balance when her dream of fame motivates her retired jazz musician father to come out of retirement. Sadly, this book is out of print. The last time I read Standing Ovation was during a train ride to an author presentation to promote another novel. Even though the book was old, it still made me laugh out loud!
G: Oh, I love that! Now, tell me more about that other novel.
Aud: That other novel was my second published book, I Almost Love You, Eddie Clegg, put out by Peachtree Publishers.
Aud: It’s a middle grade novel about an 8th grade girl who begins to develop a father/daughter relationship with her alcoholic stepdad. Fun fact: That book was rejected over 30 times.
G: Wow! That is all too common, but still, how did you deal with all that rejection? What did you do next?
Aud: I had a few cool rejections for Eddie. One publisher wrote that the main character was “refreshing and endearing” and the book was “beautifully written,” but it wouldn’t fit their list. I remember saying to myself, “They don’t want refreshing and endearing characters or a beautifully written book?” Obviously, there’s nothing you can do with a rejection like that. A lot of the other letters were form rejections. They sting, but I’m blessed to have a significant other who always takes my side. Whenever I complain that publishers are stupid for rejecting me, he not only agrees with me, he tells me I’m a genius. (Laughter) They’re not really stupid; calling them that is just part of the process.
G: Dealing with rejection can be a multi-step process for sure!
Aud: After a day or so of whining about it and licking my wounds, I’ll put the manuscript aside for a while, then re-read the manuscript with a critical eye, make changes and submit it somewhere else. Here’s the other thing about Eddie. I loved that story and the characters and I believed in it enough that I would have kept going until somebody accepted it. Also, it didn’t hurt that whenever I’d ask my husband if I’d ever be published again he always said, “Yes.” And he’s the most indecisive person I know!! (Laughter)
G: It’s wonderful to have so much support! And that you were dedicated to your characters and your story.
G: Now, what’s the hardest part of writing for you?
Aud: The dreaded first draft. Once that one’s out of the way, the rest is pure joy.
G: What’s the best?
Aud: Editing! I love polishing and seeing how a raw idea evolves.
G: Wow – for me, it’s just the opposite. I really enjoy the first draft. The editing makes me sweat. Of course, having a great critique group really helps. Even if their hard questions are sometimes what make me sweat the most!
G: Is there a place that you’ve lived, or visited, that especially influences your writing?
Aud: When I was 15, I spent a summer at a lake in Maine with relatives. It ended up being the setting for Broken Soul to Broken Soul, as well as for my adult short story, “Monkey in the Middle,” also accepted by RWP for their next short story anthology.
G: Congratulations on that acceptance! And a lake shows up in your book trailer, too.
G: A lot of writers when they start out emulate other writers, consciously or not. Can you think of any authors you emulated?
Aud: This probably makes me different from the average author; I began life as a reluctant reader. As a kid, I didn’t think anybody wrote stories I wanted to read, so I started writing for myself. When it comes to emulating, I probably emulated lively stories and conversations I’d heard when my mother and grandmother met for coffee. I think that’s why I enjoy writing dialog so much. Without realizing it, I paid attention to the cadence of their voices.
G: That’s very cool! And I can vouch for your dialogue – it just feels so real when I read it.
G: What writers do you most admire?
Aud: Right out of college I couldn’t get enough of Kurt Vonnegut. Back then I was also a big fan of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels. I was also impressed with Stephen King’s down-to-earth dialog.
G: What authors do you read most and enjoy most now?
Aud: I like Timothy Keller and Andy Stanley. Both are Christian nonfiction writers. As for fiction, the actual author doesn’t matter. If it’s a fantasy, cozy mystery, romance, literary fiction, Christian fiction, middle grade, YA, or anything about horses, I’ll pretty much read it. Good or bad. You can learn a lot about the art of writing by reading really bad fiction.
G: You know, you’ve got a good point. I’ll have to remember that the next time some writing doesn’t impress me.
G: What are you reading presently, or most recently?
Aud: I just finished a YA novel about a girl surfer titled, We Thought We Were Invincible, by Michelle Lynn. I’m bad with names, I only know that author’s name because I just checked it on my Kindle. (Laughter)
G: And what are you working on now?
Aud: Edits to my middle grade novel called, This Way/That Way.
G: We’re reading that story at our critique group now, and I’m really enjoying getting to know your heroine, Nickie. She’s quite a character!
G: What is the next project you hope to do?
Aud: It better be book three of my Frama-12 trilogy. (Laughter)
G: Good, because having read the drafts for the first two, I can’t wait to find out what happens in book three!