Book Tour: Odyssey of Love

Odysssey of Love

This week I’m taking part in the blog tour for Odyssey of Love by Linda Jämsén. I hope you’ll stop by again later in the week. On Tuesday, Linda has a guest post for us all on how to launch your book online. And on Thursday, I’ll be reviewing the book.

Below is the book summary. Below that is a graphic with the various stops on the blog tour. This book is definitely one I would recommend!

Book summary:

When Linda doesn’t receive the marriage proposal she had long been expecting from her boyfriend on her 41st birthday, she reluctantly visits a psychic, Angelica, who predicts that Linda will soon leave him for a romantic and music-filled Odyssey in Europe. There, a “Russian icon” will lead to her future husband, a “tall man with glasses.”

Skeptical at first, but eager to explore her Eastern European roots and reignite her passion for music, Linda moves to Hungary, the land of her idol, composer-pianist Franz Liszt. In Budapest, she reinvents herself as an English teacher and joins a chorus. Soon, she’s performing at the Liszt Academy of Music and Tel Aviv’s Opera House.

With Angelica’s vision in mind, Linda vows to “settle down, not settle for,” but is tempted by romantic close calls: Gabi is gorgeous but too immature; David in Amsterdam fits Angelica’s description to a T, but his British reserve needs some defrosting. Liszt look-alike Ádám has it all, including a wife.

With her teaching and singing gigs ending, Linda flies to Finland for one last trip before moving back to Boston. But is her Odyssey truly over, or is it just beginning?

Publisher: Tulipan Press (May 2021)

Pages: 320

ISBN-10: ‎ 194860499X

ISBN-13: ‎ 978-1948604994

Genre: Memoir

Purchase a copy of this book on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and Bookshop.org. Make sure to add it to your GoodReads list.

Come back tomorrow for Linda’s guest post!

–SueBE

How Much Research Is Needed to Write Fiction?

A slightly beefier spaceship than the Airstream.
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I’m not going to say that I never write fiction. Airstream is probably my third or fourth novel. I’m not sure about the count since one is a chapter book. But I’m much more comfortable with nonfiction. I know how much research I need to do and how long it will take me to draft.

I’m only now discovering how much research is required to write fiction. Maybe it is because I am writing science fiction but it is comparable to researching nonfiction. That said, I have to admit that I didn’t do much of the research before I started writing. Sure, there were a few things I needed to look into.

Before I could decide how far in the future the story needed to be set, I had to know how long it took to irradicate smallpox and for how many years most of our tech would be more or less recognizable. I also had to compare deep space travel to near space, compare fuel sources, and learn something about human hibernation.

All I can say is thank goodness both my husband and son are into space. My son is also a mechanical engineering student. He’s the one I hit up with many of my “what ifs.”

Why didn’t I do more research? Because I don’t like science fiction that is more about the science than it is about the story. Do not give me a lecture on quantum mechanics or the fourth dimension that is framed by a plot. Don’t do it. I’m warning you!

To me, the characters and story are central. Think about it. Genetic engineering was central to McCaffrey’s Pern books but you didn’t get into that until you had fallen in love with the harpers, the dragon riders, and the fire lizards. That’s how I want readers to feel about my story.

Yes, I did research before I started writing. Then I made an outline. Now, as I write, I am doing research. I’ve researched EVA (extra vehicular activity) suits for space walks. I’ve looked into suit propulsion. I know how cable and satellite work. The lunch table has seen more than one conversation about shelf stable foods and space as well as 3-D printing.

Although I needed an understanding of the topic before I started writing, I’m much more comfortable researching as I write vs doing all of the research up front. So how much research will I have to do? I won’t know until I get there, but I sure am enjoying the journey.

–SueBE

Opening with a Narrative Scene

The Dakota Access Pipeline

Most of the nonfiction books that I write for school libraries open with a narrative scene. The Dakota Access Pipeline describes a series of young people introducting themselves and explaining what the river and local water access means to them. The Assassination of John F. Kennedy explains why he was in Dallas and then describes the motorcade passing through the plaza.

When I started writing the book on Kennedy, I knew what scene had to open the book. The book on the pipeline? That was much less obvious. In situations like that, it helps to understand how the narrative scene functions.

A narrative scene brings the story alive for the reader. In this case, I chose to give voice to people who are the same age as the reader. That is a more natural hook than trying to draw them to the story of someone who is unlike thenselves.

The Assassination of John F. Kennedy

Narrative scenes are also full of sensory detail that pulls the reader into the story. It hooks them and keeps them reading. That means that you want to open with something that provides the right kinds of details. That might mean selecting a scene that is sensational – an animal trapped in the mud, likely to become a fossil. Or I might write about a ball game with captive warriors playing in a Mayan arena.

In cases when the opening isn’t obvious, I move forward and outline the book. As I research and contemplate, I uncover story after story. With each revelation, I ask myself, “Is this the one?” Sometimes I have to try one or two to find one that is a good fit.

Other times I have to see complete a rough outline so that I know what information is going into the last chapter. That way I can select an opening narrative that creates a circular structure. The scene has to hook the reader but it has to fit into the book as a whole.

If at first you don’t succeed . . . sigh and try again. That’s where I am with my current project but that’s okay. Every scene that doesn’t work brings me that much closer to one that will.

–SueBE

101 Best Sites for Writers

What is on your list of best web sites?
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Every year Writer’s Digest posts the 101 Best Websites. The list for 2021 is now online. The list is divided into parts including The Best Live Streams, Pod Casts and Youtube Channels; best sites about agents; best sites for markets and jobs; and much, much more. You can find links to the various sublists here.

Here are my thoughts on the various sublists as well as a few additions.

Writing Communities

I’m not at all surprised that NaNoWriMo and The Pitch Wars made the list. They are top notch sites and great communities. But I would definitely recommend the most supportive community that I’ve found online – WOW! Women on Writing. In addition to the blog and newsletters, it is a thriving community of writers who support each other in various ways.

Job and Market Web Sites

Phew. What a relief! The list includes one of my favorites. Funds for Writers is a gem because host Hope Clark is all about helping writers earn a living writing. That means that her markets are PAYING markets. And if she finds out that a market put itself forward as paying but doesn’t, she has no problem with retracting the recommendation and sending a message out to her subscribers.

Genre/Niche Websites

I have nothing to add to this list. I just wanted to point out that it is a great resource for anyone who is just starting out writing for a new-to-them niche or genre. There are resources for mystery writers, historical fiction, and writers of children’s material.

Everything Agent

If you are searching for an agent, this list is a must. Be sure to check out each site especially, my own favorite, Manuscript Wish List.

Sue’s List

We all have our favorite sites. Here are my favorites that didn’t make it on this years list.

WOW! Women on Writing

I already told you about this one but be sure to check it out for the inspirational blog, contests, newsletters, and more. This is a great resource and source of support.

Library of Congress

The Library of Congress is a great place to go look around. You’ll find free photos as well as film and music clips. There are also guides with lists of resources on various topics and videos from the National Book Festival each year.

St. Louis County Library

I would be amiss if I didn’t include the site for my library system. I visit it every day to check out books, audiobooks and movies. Or I’m doing research looking up academic articles on my latest topic.

What sites would you include on a “best” list?

–SueBE

Social Media: The Right Way to Do It

You want your followers to be this excited when they hear from you.
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On the way home from the library (yes, my husband and I go to the library together!), my husband was telling me about a musician he listened to on YouTube. He followed the guitarists Youtube Channel and since then has been swamped by messages, emails and ads from this particular musician.

He couldn’t tell me how many he got but what irritated him was that every contact was about something this musician wanted his followers to buy. Sometimes it was a recording. Other times it was swag. There might be concern tickets because, in spite of a global pandemic, you wouldn’t want to miss a performance by this “legendary performer.”

“It isn’t like Peter Frampton cleans his frets!”

Then we compared it to how Stephen King handles things. Now, I’m sure King has a publicist, but he also seems to be savvy about business. I follow him on Twitter and I get e-mails through his publishers. I don’t hear from King often – maybe once a week. I got emails about upcoming books. There is news when a book comes out in paperback or there is an audiobook. There are periodic freebies including previews.

But something that always catches my attention is when he recommends books by other writers. “While we’re waiting for me to finish this book, here are some great books I’ve read.” He isn’t just trying to get me to buy his books. He’s holding up other authors.

There are a few lessons in here about how to do social media right. I’m talking about social media in the broadest sense – e-mail, Facebook, blogs, Tweets, instagram, etc.

Don’t Just Promote Yourself

Don’t just hold up your own writing or other artistic work. Promote the work of other writers. Link to their books. Tell people when they are having a sale or giving something away. Which reminds me…

Give Things to Your Readers

Another great way to keep people coming back is to give things to your readers. For a children’s writer, this could include writing tips, teacher’s guides or free stories. You might provide activities to go with your books.

Be . . . Real

I was going to say be humble, but it is a good thing to tell people when you make a sale or win an award. But don’t refer to yourself in ridiculous terms. Legendary? Unappreciated gem? Please, just stop.

Let your readers call you these wonderful things.

The people who follow you want to know about your work. But they don’t want a hard sell every single time they hear from you. It is, as my mother would have said, unbecoming.

Be like Stephen King but, maybe, a little less scary.

–SueBE

3 Types of Word Lists You Need to Know

Word lists come in several types.
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This weekend I sat in an educational writing webinar. Among the topics discussed were word lists. Discussions involving word lists can be confusing unless you know which type of list is being discussed.

Reading Level

Saturday we were discussing words listed by reading level. The book that I’ve always used as a reference for this is EDL Core Vocabularies. When I was writing test passages I had to look up the various words in my passage and make certain they weren’t too hard. For a fourth grade passage, this might mean that I could have 3 fourth grade words and the rest had to be third grade or lower.

The reading level of each word is determined by several things. How long is the word? This means both how many letters and how many syllables. How likely is the word to be familiar?

But this book hasn’t been updated in a while. There are words that we consider familiar that weren’t 10 years ago. That is why many writers use both EDL and The Children’s Writers Word Book. It was updated in 2006 so it doesn’t consider words like disk or computer to be as unusual as the editors of the EDL did. It was last updated in 1989.

Vocabulary

Another type of word list is the vocabulary list. Some of these lists are similar to reading level lists. A “sight word” list are lists of words that students should be able to read on sight, meaning that they don’t need to sound the word out. These lists are frequently compiled for grades K-3.

If you are writing leveled readers for an educational company, you may also be given a vocabulary list. “Here are 10 words that you must include in your manuscript.”

Vocabulary lists and also be subject specific. If you are writing a book about camping, the publisher might want you to include the terms day pack, campground, canoe, gorp, and lantern.

Theme

Last but not least are themed word lists. I used themed lists to enrich and add depth to fiction. If my character is a swimmer, I might create a list of water and swimming words. If my character is interested in wolves or trains, I would create a list based on the appropriate topic.

Once I have that list, I can look for ways to use these words in my story. If I am describing the wind, it could howl (wolf) or scream (train). Someone who is struggling to make an uphill climb is panting (wolf) or chugging (train). A character is following a trail (wolf) or a track (train).

I’ve never had to use all three word-list types in one manuscript but it pays to know what they are and how to work with them. You never know when an editor will say “I need you to work with a word list” and you want to know what questions to ask.

–SueBE

3 Things to Do When Overwhelmed by a Rewrite

Rewrites can feel overwhelming.
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Today I’m finishing up a rewrite on one of my contract jobs. As is so often the case, the comments from two editors and the content consultent add up quickly.

What do I mean? There were something like 94 comments on a 4000 word manuscript. Sometimes they were talking to each other. Sometimes they were talking to me. But there was no way of knowing until I read them. It was more than a little overwhelming.

Here are three things to do to beat back the rewrite blues.

Finish What You Were Working On

Invariably, these kinds of things come down late on a Thursday or Friday afternoon. Add to this the fact that I’m generally right in the middle of something else when the request comes in.

The first trick to not being overwhelmed is to respond to my editor (got your message and I’ll look over it later). Then I finish what I was working on. Once that is done, I am better able to concentrate on the rewrite. Only then do I make a quick pass through the comments, noting what requires actual work on my part and what doesn’t then I…

Take the Weekend Off

I’m not joking when I say that these things come along at the end of the week. I could work all weekend and maybe I should. But my theory is that I work better when I recharge my batteries. On Sundays I do social media work for my church and I get Monday’s blog post ready. These means that I take Saturday off. I knit or crochet. I make a point of going out somewhere with my husband. I get some stuff done around the house. But I don’t work.

Honestly, I am really good at spending the day on the sofa with a knitting or crochet project and an audio book. Really good.

Bite by Bite

One of my friends loves this saying. How do you eat an elephant? Bite by bite.

I like this saying because it is the same way you tackle a rewrite. If you thought I was going to say comment by comment, that’s not quite it. When you try to do that, you discover that comment #5 negates #2 through #4 and alters #1.

But only focus on one section at a time. When there are too many comments and you can’t read them all, I copy the paragraph or section in question into a new comment. Then I pick through the comments. I copy what I need to do below the text. I delete what falls by the wayside. And then I have it all in one place, I get to work. Section by section.

Remember that the editor is on your side. You may not decide to make every suggested change but they really do want to help you make the best book possible. You just need to approach it in the right frame of mind and a crochet project waiting in the wings.

–SueBE

Story Stakes: How to Pile on the Trouble

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I am almost exactly half way through my first draft of Airstream, my middle grade science fiction novel. I wouldn’t say that I’m having a problem with the muddle middle but I am having to step carefully. I need to make sure that the stakes are high enough to keep readers engrossed.

This is an issue that every writer faces. Some of them pile on one problem after another. There is life-threatening danger at every turn. But it can be even more effective if you work with the three different types of story stakes.

External Stakes

External stakes are what is going on in the outside world of your story. Your character has a physical need that must be met.

In my story, my characters are trying to get home. That’s a pretty big external problem. But they are also facing a wide variety of space threats including the need for air, food, and fuel.

The fight for survival is compelling and I could keep piling on physical threats. Or I could include internal stakes.

Internal Stakes

Internal stakes are emotional or mental. Internal stakes might include a quest for self-confidence, a feeling of love, or hope.

Being in space and facing the usual threats is going to be mentally taxing. But I’ve added internal stakes by giving my characters even more to worry about. They’ve been gone a long time. How is everyone on Earth? Two crews have had to join forces on one ship. That’s going to add stress and anxiety as they learn to work together and try to trust each other.

Philosophical Stakes

Philosophical stakes have to do with a belief system or philosophy. What does it mean to be good? To be a leader?

In my story, my characters are faced with some of the same philosophical stakes readers today are facing. In a world where not everyone is valued equally, now much effort should go into saving those at the bottom? If you cross social boundaries to form friendships, what happens when someone in authority tries to pit the two groups against each other?

Yes, I could just keep piling on the external stakes. But science fiction has long asked difficult questions. What philosophical stakes can you bring to your work-in-progress?

–SueBE

International Literacy Day

Today is International Literacy Day. A big part of literacy is being read to as a child. This helps future readers build their vocabulary. In addition, picture books and graphic novels help build visual literacy.

It has always been funny to me how the books kids love often challenge their parents. My parents quickly grew tired of my toddler favorite. My parents still quoted Puffy at me when I was in college! “Puffy the puppy is fat and well fed. Puffy the puppy…”

My favorite when my son was little was Sandra Boyton’s Barnyard Dance. Or her Moo Baa La La La.

My son’s favorite? No, David! by David Shannon. The day he latched on to this book at Mainstreet Books, I challenged him. “Why do you even want it?” “The pictures are just so beautiful.” Beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder. I couldn’t argue with his reasoning and he got the book. I can’t even say how many times we read it but he’s an engineering student now so I guess it worked out in the end.

With e-books and online content playing such a big part in the market today, digital access is part of the literacy equation. That’s why the theme of International Literacy Day 2021 is “Literacy for a human-centred recovery: Narrowing the digital divide.”

Recovery from what? COVID-19.

International Literacy Day was found in 1967 by UNESCO, the United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organization. Not surprisingly, UNESCO is concerned with how COVID-19 has disrupted learning. As much as upper and middle class Americans complain about our children missing organized sports and school activities, the pandemic has emphasized inequality in access to learning.

Because of this UNESCO is encouraging those of us who work with young learners to consider this – what makes technology-enabled literacy learning inclusive and meaningful to leave no one behind. In short, as awesome as they are, Little Free Libraries in middle class neighborhoods are not enough. Check out the UNESCO Literacy Day site for more information.

–SueBE


#InternationalLiteracyDay #LiteracyDay #LiteracyDay2021

  

3 Tips for Writing Quiet Stories

I recently read The Night Walk by Marie Dorleans. I wasn’t sure what to expect but a writing friend was over the moon for this book. It is a sweet story about a family that goes for a walk at night. This isn’t just a stroll through the neighborhood or a holiday story. Holiday story? Think Christmas Eve or Halloween. It is about a family on a journey to greet the sunrise.

As befits a story about a night time walk, it is very quiet. We often worry about writing a story that is too quiet. After all, quiet stories aren’t an easy sale. But there are three things you can do to help get a “YES” on your quiet story.

Depth and Emotion

Way back in 2015, I wrote about Connie Hsu’s comments on quiet picture books. Hsu is an editor at Roaring Brook. She explained that editors mean something different when they call a book quiet. They mean that they won’t be able to get marketing (or buyers) excited about it.

This means that a book that doesn’t have big action or laughs can sell. But it has to have depth and emotion. These are what draws the reader in to this type of book.

A Hook

Quiet picture books also need to have a hook. Think about the quiet stories that readers love. The two that always come to mind for me are Owl Moon by Jane Yolen and Dream Snow by Eric Carle. Both are seasonal books about a winter night. Owl Moon is a book about owling and family. Those are the hooks. Dream Snow is a Christmas book. The Night Walk is about family. It also sets the reader up for a discussion about the difference between night and day, sunrise and sunset.

A hook can also be something surprising or a twist. There are other books about walks. But these are daytime walks through the red wood forest. Or walks to school. This is a book about a night time walk that isn’t an escape!

An Audience

So who is it that will buy your quiet book? Many quiet books make excellent gift books. You could give Owl Moon to either a bird lover or a new father. I would choose The Night Walk for new parents or nature enthusiasts.

So who is the audience for your quiet book? Is it a baby book? A birthday book? Maybe it is a holiday book.

Rowdy or quiet, if your story has a depth, a hook and a definable audience, you are much more likely to get a YES from an editor or agent.

–SueBE