Thursday, January 28, 2016


Dear Reader,

It's an exciting BOOK BIRTHDAY for Author McCallum Morgan. You met him last week when he shared about his writing journey and inspiration for his first book, A HOLE IN THE ICE. ( has picked a winner TBA at the end of the post. Today is the official release date of the sequel, A HOLE IN THE SEA and McCallum is giving away two autographed copies of his new book:
Check out the Facebook release party for more details:   
Rafflecopter giveaway: 

Summary of A Hole in the Sea:
Parsifal and Balder are trapped on the arctic ice after Lady Vasille and Lord Keazund vanish into the Sea. The magical Compass shows Parsifal dire warnings of storm and mermaid. Unable to resist the hole in the ice, the two friends [plunge in and] find themselves cast adrift on an otherworldly Sea filled with myth and dangerous monsters. Guided by Dioktes, a strange old man of doubtful motives, they come to the Port, a floating city of wreckage ruled by a desperate rabble. Lady Vasille has designs upon the Port and upon all of the Sea and will stop at nothing to obtain the coveted Compass. If Parsifal isn’t careful, he and his friends will be caught up in her schemes once more. But it’s hard to be careful when you’re trying to survive.

Author McCallum Morgan talks about writing the sequel, A Hole in the Sea. . .

        The sequel was really fun to write. I was really into the characters by now and they came naturally to me, almost as if they were telling the story themselves. I’d plotted out vague events long before I got around to writing the book, so the rough draft came rather fast; but I still had to work on fleshing out the emotional plot (thank you again, Clara). Figuring out the deeper storyline seems to be the hardest part for me. At least that was true in this series, because I’d plotted out the overarching action beforehand and hadn’t meshed it with a solid emotional storyline from the beginning.     

Like my first book, I drew inspiration from those old games of make-believe that my brother and I so enjoyed. The new, monstrous character of Wilma Jones first originated in some long-ago pirate adventure. She was originally Wilma Jean, the name that popped into my head when an old scrap of wood shaped like a claw (if you used your imagination) came into my hands. She’s half-crustacean, so it seemed only natural to wed her to Davy Jones. Thus we have the parents for the nightmarish Tan Noz (named after some coastal British goblins). If I remember correctly, the Tan Noz are actually leftover evidence of my brother’s plotline from the game we created that inspired the books.

One of the most exciting things about the sequel happened as I was getting it ready for Little Bird Publishing House. I was given an opportunity to turn a song that’s sung by the new character Fou into an actual song! I hope to have it available as a free download on my website:, but I’m not sure when it will be up.


     ************MARGARET BRUETSCH***************

             !!!!!!!!!CONGRATULATIONS, MARGARET!!!!!!! 

Margaret, please e-mail me (claragillowclark(at)gmail(dot)com with your mailing address, and your book will be on its way to you soon!

Please join the Birthday Party and stop by McCallum's FB page or click on the Rafflecopter link below for a chance to win a Hot-off-the-Press paperback of A HOLE IN THE SEA.

Check out the Facebook release party for more details:

Rafflecopter giveaway: 

Thanks for stopping by! Next up is the Award Winning Author/Illustrator, the amazing Suzanne Bloom!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Writing from the Inside Out. . . One Writer's Beginnings

Dear Friends,

Please welcome Author McCallum Morgan, an extraordinary young writer, former student and friend. (Giveaway at the end of the blog!)

Author McCallum Morgan (He made the jacket!)
As a child, McCallum always wanted to write a book. He scribbled in notebooks, drew pictures, and lived largely in a world of make-believe. Into this fertile field a seed was planted. Notebooks began to fill and they didn’t stop. It was a soaring waltz with words among the silvery clouds and he loved it. He was thirteen.
     It became his first novel, A Hole in the Ice, published when he was nineteen. He is now twenty and working on the third book in the Weather Casters Saga.
     McCallum still draws and occasionally attacks an unfortunate piece of fabric with a sewing machine. He may be spotted around his home town of Bonners Ferry, Idaho, sporting his collection of bizarre clothing items, singing ‘Totale Finsternis’ or at the bakery near his home, drinking a caramel macchiato. His day job is log home finishing. He lives with his parents in a house perched on the hillside twenty miles south of the Canadian border and takes his tea with milk and sugar in a cup and saucer.

A Hole in the Ice by McCallum Morgan
A Hole in The Ice is an epic historical fantasy sweeping across time, myth and nineteenth-century Europe. A decadent cast of characters embark on a mysterious journey in pursuit of a mythical lost land said to be inhabited by beautiful but deadly mermaids. As the reader sweeps across the story under the glimmer of chandeliers and falling snow flakes, they are taken on a beautiful adventure to the very limits of the imagination. Each character in this extraordinary tale has their own personal treasure they are hunting and each one will pay a price higher than they ever anticipated.
Review from a reader: This story follows a young man named Parsifal and a strange cast of characters into the land of paranormal and strange inventions, machines, and powers which control man and beast. . . .This trip through the world of the 1800s is quite imaginative and also shows the author did his research. I enjoyed the author's ability to paint his worlds with words. . . . that made reading this book a pleasure. Brian P. Lane

 McCallum Morgan shares his writing journey:  

I hate to admit it, but A Hole in the Ice started as fan fiction. The original manuscript, which I started at age thirteen or thereabouts, had dæmons in it. In its defense, it was an attempt to diverge from the original inspiring work of fiction, an attempt to cater to my own personal tastes. Here’s how it all began:

I’d just started reading Phillip Pullman’s The Golden Compass and I was entranced. This was the book I had been looking for. This was brilliant. This was real magic. Except for one thing: I was confused about the time period of the setting. It was just a small thing, but there I was, imagining a more Victorian feel to Lyra’s Oxford, and BAM! This is what happened next:

The Author and his brother
My brother, a year and a half my junior, and I liked to play make believe. We would come up with characters and settings and what-not and play these imaginary adventures that could last a week or more. I was reading The Golden Compass. I said let’s do something like The Golden Compass but set in an earlier time, something like Pride and Prejudice (I had watched the BBC production with my mom and sister). The first imagined time period kind of fell through, since my story ended up with trains and zeppelins; back then, I had a vague understanding of historical time periods. It was all 1800s to me. Hence, the steampunk.

Most of the character names originated from the 19th-century. I constructed them in a matter of minutes. Vassilissa came from the Russian fairytale. Vasille was just the logical last name to go with that. Lord Keazund sprang into my head, fully formed (I pronounce it kay-zhund), and Parsifal came from Arthurian legends. Balder came along later. The character of Balder is all that remains of my brother’s characters and plot, but even Balder is in a new and changed form that my brother refuses to claim. My brother and I still bounce story ideas off each other. Often, we won’t really be listening to each other, but it still helps us develop our own ideas, and sometimes we do inspire each other.

Character sketch of Vassilissa
Drawing has always been a part of that. My brother and I always drew things, often related to these imaginary escapades. Often, if I’m inspired by something, I’ll draw related things before I ever get around to writing anything down because it’s so immediate and visual. The exception was my first book; I wrote a lot of it first and then drew pictures for it. However, I sketched scenes and characters from sequels in the series as I wrote the first one. Even though details may change when I finally begin the actual drafting of the next book, the sketches of settings, characters, and costumes I’ve made seem to keep my inspiration going, it helps me look forward to where the plot and story are going.

The plot of A Hole in the Ice just happened. It unfolded as if it were the only bridge across a very deep chasm. Of course, it changed over the years of writing and re- imagining. I dropped the dæmons before I’d finished the very first draft, because even then I entertained grand notions of someday publishing the thing. But the main, albeit vague direction of the plot stayed pretty much intact. It was the emotional story that developed over the years, growing from bare bones into something meatier than the original. (Thank you, Clara, for helping me with that.)

There are so many other factors of inspiration. Young authors like Christopher Paolini inspired me (or made me ambitiously jealous!)  Since the expedition in A Hole in the Ice crosses Europe, I had to drop into the Transylvanian Alps because I love Dracula. And then there are zeppelins and half-zeppelins, because I love zeppelins and read all about the first aerial circumnavigation of the globe by Dr. Eckener on the Graf Zeppelin. I owe my love of airships to Kenneth Oppel and his wonderful books in the Airborn series. Probably every book I’ve ever read has had some kind of influence on my work.

So it is fan fiction. Fan fiction of multiple books (and movies and old legends). But isn’t that the reason we all write? We write because something we read inspired us. We write not to improve on our favorite stories (because that can’t be done), but to make something new and fresh, something all our own. The expedition and The Compass remain in A Hole in the Ice, but I don’t think you could find another book in the same (sub)genre so completely different from The Golden Compass.
To be a writer, you first have to be a fan of reading and books.

Thank you, Mccallum, for giving us the inside view of your writing journey and inspirations! McCallum has generously donated a print copy of his first novel, A Hole in the Ice. As always, you don't have to tweet or share on fb or join the blog for a chance to win an autographed copy. All you have to do is leave a comment for us and will pick the winner. We'd LOVE to hear from you. We are truly grateful for your encouragement and support! 

The winner will be announced next Thursday, January 28th, on the Book Birthday and the Giveaway for A Hole in the Sea.

Book trailer Link:
Purchase a copy of A Hole in the Ice:

The Book Birthday for, A Hole in the Sea is next week!!
Amazon Sequel Pre-order Link:

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Announcing the LUCKY Winner of PRETTY OMENS by Alexandria LaFaye

Dear Readers,

What a week! We were thrilled that so many of you stopped by and left such thoughtful comments for Alexandria (and me!). Thanking my stars this morning that I don't have to pick the winner, because has done it for me. Whew!

The LUCKY WINNER of PRETTY OMENS is announced at the end of the post, but please take a moment to read about two other titles in the series by Alexandria LaFaye:

The Year of the Sawdust Man:
Nissa’s life has never been perfect. Living with her free-spirited mama in the small town of Harper, Louisiana, has led to lots of gossipy small talk and mean rumors. But now Mama is gone, and all the townsfolk can talk about is who she might have run off with.

Nissa’s memories of the Sundays her mama would come home smelling of sawdust lead her to suspect that some of the rumors are true. Did her mama run away with the Sawdust Man? And is she ever coming back?

"Prepare yourself for feisty eleven-year-old Nissa Bergen because she and her wayward mother, abandoned father, and the gossipy denizens of small-town Louisiana are about to invade your heart in a first novel that is entirely engaging, touching, and unfailingly entertaining. Alexandria LaFaye is a writer to welcome—and cherish."
—Robert Cormier, author of The Chocolate War
"I read The Year of the Sawdust Man with the same sense of joy and wonder I felt many years ago when I finished a review copy of a first novel by an unknown author: To Kill a Mockingbirdby Harper Lee."
—Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey, author of A Woman of Independent Means
"A bittersweet, moving debut. . . . Beautifully written."
Publishers Weekly, (starred)
Link to the book:

The Sequel:

Nissa’s Place

Ever since her father remarried, Nissa feels like a stranger in her own home. Her new stepmother rearranges the house and removes all signs that Nissa’s free-spirited mother ever lived there. And her best friend wants to trade her time with Nissa for the opportunity to impress boys. Hoping to find traces of how life used to be, Nissa accepts an invitation from her mother and moves to Chicago.
But life in Chicago is overwhelming to Nissa, and she misses her home and father. She’s thrilled to help her mother sew costumes and plant a rooftop flower garden, but how can she fit in when people talk so fast and don’t even care to wish her a good day? After a revelation in the Chicago library, the willful Nissa discovers a way to stake her independence and find her place in her family and life in Louisiana.
Told with the lyricism that marked The Year of the Sawdust ManNissa’s Place is a beautiful continuation of Nissa’s story and a remarkable book on its own. Once vou meet Nissa Bergen, you’ll never forget her.

“LaFaye surpasses the lyricism and emotional depth of her sparkling debut, The Year of the Sawdust Man, in this sequel. Readers will be moved as Nissa comes to view Heirah Rae’s flight as an act of courage and a spur for Nissa to make her own dream of a library in Harper come true.”
Publishers Weekly
“LaFaye works lyrically with folk expressions and wisdom, conveying them in a delightful way. She also succeeds in picturing the racial attitudes of the era and allows the rural characters to be true to themselves in the city environment.”
School Library Journal
“In the honeyed and colorful language of the deep South, Nissa sorts through her feelings for her mama, her steady dad, the pregnant Lara, and her racially divided town. Inspired to turn Lara’s old home into a local library, Nissa wrestles with segregation, and hope. A fine, upstanding sequel to The Year of the Sawdust Man.”


And now, the lucky winner of PRETTY OMENS is:   
 ***********JANET SMART***********

 **************CONGRATULATIONS, JANET!!!!************
JANET,  please send your mailing address to  Let her know if you'd like PRETTY OMENS personalized to you or to someone else.

Thank you, Alexandria, for the fantastic post on the art of writing and for donating an autographed copy of PRETTY OMENS. Thank you, dear Readers, for showing up! Come back next week for something entirely different!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

From the Inside Out -- One Step Deeper into the Art of Writing

Dear Friends,

Please welcome author Alexandria LaFaye, who shares deep (and inspiring) insights into the art of writing. Read on. . .and please leave a comment below. We'd love to hear from you. Thank you!
Author Alexandria LaFaye
 A. LaFaye is a writer, professor, mother of five, and wife. An associate professor of English at Greenville College, she is gearing up to launch their first MFA program in Multimedia Storytelling. She also teaches as a visiting associate professor in the graduate program in Children’s and Young Adult Literature at Hollins University. LaFaye's other titles include: The Keening(Milkweed), Water Steps (Milkweed), and Worth(Aladdin). Catch up with her on Facebook at

Starting on Jan 12, Alexandria will be hosting a series of webinars for KidLit College on character development through worldview. She hopes they can bring in a wonderful crew of writers to explore this element of craft together!

                     Write Around the Corner by Alexandria LaFaye
I love complexity in language—words, images, and titles that can mean many things. It adds layers to your writing and your reading that allows you to move around in the writing itself, see new things each time you read, so I thought “Write Around the Corner” would be a great way to talk about the subject of layering and subtext in your writing. Words that work for you in a way that brings your own writing and your readers around the next corner to see what might happen next.
Duality in writing—addressing a dual audience, integrating double meaning, and organically weaving in theme—are all complicated and intriguing elements of craft, but for today, let’s focus on double meaning.  I’ll explore it in three elements of craft—slanted dialogue, imagery, and titles.
Let’s go for the easy one first—“Titles”
My latest book PRETTY OMENS is a retelling of the myth of Cassandra set in a Virginian coal mining community in 1911. I chose the title for many reasons.
1. It’s a book about misconceptions and how they can shape the way we see the world around us and the people within it. The narrator Cass Ann Marie Pettibone was miraculously saved as an infant, but everyone believes she’s become a “devil child” and their fears are “confirmed” when she begins to see visions of the future. But are those visions evil or good? 
2. An omen is really just a sign of things to come. But people often see it as an evil word.  Using it and the word “pretty” offers a tension between what many people think when they hear the word “omen” and the positive connotations of “pretty.” Together, they create a thematic connection to the idea of re-seeing things we misunderstand.
3. When Cass Ann Marie sees an omen, she has to draw it, so it’s a pretty omen.
This title works on so many levels, I hope, because it’s directly connected to the book physically (she draws the omens), thematically (re-seeing things we misunderstand), and in terms of the connotations of the words (pretty and omens). These ties create the layering we’re discussing. I’ll call it a discussion because I would love to receive comments from readers to discuss this element of writing in more depth.
If you’d like to get your own copy of PRETTY OMENS, you can order it here:
Advanced praise for Pretty Omens:
    In language as lovely as a curling mountain creek, A. LaFaye tells the story of Cass Anne Marie, born during a nasty winter on Crowley’s Ridge. Loved back to life by her mama, the young girl is shunned by the mining community because of her gift of omens. And yet this gift might prove to be their salvation. Pretty Omens, a story-in-poems by a pitch-perfect author, reads like a classic. —Mary Logue, author of Sleep Like a Tiger andLake of Tears
     In LaFaye’s strong, fast-paced novel-in-verse, the voices of her characters ring true, the language dazzles, drawing the reader into Cass Anne’s story of love and redemption, religious intolerance, and belief. —Paul Janeczko, author of Firefly, July, Publisher’s Weekly Book of 2014
      Told in sparse free verse poems, LaFaye’s gritty tale of a young girl’s struggle against a town’s superstitions, is both powerful, and heartbreaking, and ultimately inspiring. —Han Nolan, National Book Award winner, Dancing on the Edge

Let’s move on to the layering of imagery. I first came to understand how an image can be layered by reading “Oranges” by Gary Soto. It introduced me to a concept I like to call “impacked imagery.” This is the use of enjambment to get two images for the price of one. Let me show you:
In the poem, the narrator is about to meet up with a girl he is smitten with. He says,
She came out pulling
At her gloves, face bright
With rogue, I smiled,

Ending the line with “pulling” opens a narrative gap—an opening in a text that is intended to be filled by the writer and the reader together.  In the fraction of a second between that line and the next the reader is asking, pulling what? And answering—the door closed or something like that and when they read “at her gloves,” they’ve seen the door close and watched her put on her gloves—that’s an impacted image-2 for the price of one.

He does it again with “bright” because we think she’s blushing from nerves or the cold and in reality, she’s wearing makeup.

Here’s a link to Soto’s full poem on the Poetry Foundation website, a resource you should make use of regularly for the wealth of poetry, audio poems, and articles on the genre.!/20599498/0
You can create impacted imagery through paying careful attention to how you end one line of poetry with a narrative gap and closing that gap in the next line. Notice the use of specific and suggestive words at the end “pulling” and “bright.”
If you’d like to know more about my take on imagery, here’s a post on the subject on my blog WORDY WANDERINGS REST STOP
That brings us to the hardest form of duality and layering in writing—slanted dialogue.  Writing dialogue that says many things at the same time through layering is called “slanted” because it never says what it means directly. When people who know each other speak, their word choices, body language, and allusions are filled with double meaning because they have a history together. The trick is bringing all of that out in your writing.  Allow me to use an example from my novel THE YEAR OF THE MAN. In this scene, we join Nissa Bergen and her mother Heirah on their front porch in Harper, Louisiana in 1933:

Just because Papa and I knew Mama was gone didn't mean the whole town of Harper had to find out.  Of course, if Miss Chessie Roubidoux got even a whiff of trouble from our place, she'd be making up stories and spreading them about faster than thistle down in a windstorm. One year, she had everyone in town believing Mama practiced Voodoo on account of the fact she drank hibiscus tea. Miss Chessie was walking past our place on her way to the post office and she saw me and Mama sitting out on the porch sipping our fresh, brewed-in-the-sun hibiscus tea.  She stopped in the street and stared at us, the dust settling in our her shiny shoes. Wiping the sweat from her face with the handkerchief she keeps hanging over her belt, Miss Chessie said, "What on earth are you drinking, Heirah Rae Bergen?"
    Mama held up her glass and shook it a little so the flower petals in the tea would float around a bit.  I could tell by the smile on her face that Mama was thinking up a good answer. "Hibiscus tea." 
    I was disappointed. I usually got a good laugh over watching Miss Chessie stomp off after Mama served her up a little just deserts. 
    "Hibiscus tea? What is that? Some Voodoo brew you picked up from them colored folk down at the Tar Baby?"
    Mama was good friends with the folks down at the Tar Baby Cafe. We were one of the only white families in there on any given day. I loved their alligator jambalaya. It was so hot, it made my mouth itch for days.  Most white folks thought it was a sin to mix with black folks, but Mama didn't give a damn. Neither did Papa. I didn't even bother thinking about it.
    Now Miss Chessie, she thought all black folks were evil because she thought they were into Voodoo magic. She was sure Voodoo was devil worship. Mama just played right along with Miss Chessie's stupid beliefs.
    "Why, yes Chessie. This is straight from a witch doctor's kitchen." Mama held her tea up higher.  "It'll shrivel the kidneys of my enemies." Mama took a big gulp.
    I bit my lip to keep from giggling as Miss Chessie glared at Mama's glass of tea. She said, "You're evil, Heirah Rae Bergen. And I'm going to see that this entire town knows it."
    Mama licked her lips. "You do that, Chessie." 
    Miss Chessie stomped off shouting. "A woman like you shouldn't be allowed to have children."  She turned back to say, "Wit your evil ways, you'll make that sweet girl just like you!"
    Mama squeezed my hand, saying,"She'll be just like herself." She stood up, went to the porch railing, then raised up her glass so Miss Chessie could see it. "Here's to your health, Chessie!"
    Miss Chessie just shook her head then charged into the post office all ready to spread lies about Mama.

Notice how much these two women say to each other without speaking it out loud, Chessie is a racist who thinks Heriah Rae is an inadequate mother, unmannered, and shameful. On the other hand, Heirah Rae thinks Chessie is a superstitious busybody who should mind her own business and basically tells her, “I hope your kidneys shrivel up and you die, you old prune” just by toasting to her health. In this scene I engaged the speakers in an everyday discussion that revealed their inner motivations by how they said what they said. 

For instance, Chessie didn’t ask, “What are you drinking?” She said, “What on earth are you drinking, Heirah Rae Bergen?” The use of all three names suggests a scolding by a superior.
Physical descriptions also help, Chessie’s handkerchief over her belt and shiny shoes suggest her prim and proper nature.

So, in this short scene, we learn loads by not only what was said, but what was implied.  That’s slanted dialogue. 

If you’d like to share more misadventures with Nissa and her mama, please check out THE YEAR OF THE SAWDUST MAN and its sequel NISSA’S PLACE from Milkweed Editions (Let’s hear it for Indie Publishers!).
Questions anyone? I‘d love to discuss this topic further.  In fact, if you have anything at all you’d like to chat about in terms of writing, reading, or any other subject, please share a comment on this blog.
You can also e-mail me at
Visit my website at
Tweet me @artlafaye
Check out my blog at
Or stop by my facebook page at:
I’m around. Please reach out to connect.

Thank you so much, Alexandria, for sharing pearls of writing wisdom. And thank you everyone for stopping by to share your thoughts. Don't forget to check out Alexandria's links for more about her books and the craft of writing. Happy New Year!

THIS JUST IN: Alexandria just wrote that she's offering a FREE book to one lucky reader who leaves a comment. How cool is that?