Thursday, September 22, 2016

The other day, my teen daughter heard Alanis Morissette's "You Ought to Know" and got rather confused by a line in the lyrics.
Image by svklimkin on morgeufile.com

"Is she really singing about a cross-eyed bear? Am I hearing that wrong?"

I explained to her that the lyric is "the cross I bear," alluding to Jesus' crucifixion and his teachings prior to it about following his example of living self-sacrificially. This is a kid raised going to church weekly and attends Christian school. So if that allusion whipped right by her, chances are, there are plenty of folks without and even with a Judeo-Christian faith background who don't quite get a number of English idioms that are allusions to Bible stories.

Allusions are complex as literary devices go. An allusion is meant to bring an entire story and its context to bear on a present situation. Therefore, as I explain each, I'll note not only what a phrase typically signifies, but also the context from which the words are taken.

Am I my brother's keeper?

What it means: Not really my problem. I'm not going to take responsibility.

What it alludes to: Genesis 4:1-16
God likes Abel's sacrifice of lamb better than his brother Cain's first fruits offering. Cain gets so envious that he kills Abel. When God asks, "Where is your brother?" Cain's playing-dumb response is, "Am I my brother's keeper?" Cain hoped to evade responsibility and punishment, but he got both, in spades.

Beat swords into ploughshares

What it means: A picture of perfect peace, when weapons aren't needed, and the metal would best be put to use making farm equipment, leading to plenty of food for all.

What it alludes to: Isaiah 2:4, Micah 4:3
These verses are nearly identical in describing a time when humanity is living peacefully under God's leadership: "He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore" (Micah 4:3 NIV). Folks are so much at peace that weapons are obsolete--a waste of good metal that could be put to better use. Without the weapons, folks don't even train for battle. They have better things to do, like keep agriculture humming along.

Cross to bear

What it means: A difficulty that requires walking a path of suffering; a situation that requires "dying to self" or putting aside one's desires, demands and rights.

To be clear, in popular understanding, the former meaning is more prominent, though it is theologically an incorrect interpretation. The latter meaning more accurately reflect what the Matthew 16 verses mean--radical humility, not masochism of Stoicism. Christian teaching on suffering is more accurately reflected in a "thorn in the flesh" (see below).

What it alludes to: John 19:16-18; Matthew 16:24-26
Two contexts here: first, Jesus' own crucifixion, in which he was made to carry the wood beams on which he would be executed. It's a picture of carrying the means of your death, of extreme self-sacrifice. Second, Jesus taught his disciples that being his followers meant having a similar willingness to  be selfless and to obey God instead of following one's self-serving, throw-others-under-the-bus desire to be first.

Forbidden fruit

What it means: a tempting, bad / wrong thing

What it alludes to: Genesis 2:15-3:24
God gave Adam and Eve and entire garden of food to eat, except for the fruit of one tree, but the cunning serpent convinced them to eat anyway. Breaking that simple rule lost them the privilege of being in the garden and brought pain and curses.

Gird up your loins

What it means: Get ready to fight or do a difficult task.

What it alludes to: Job 40:7, Jeremiah 1:17, Ephesians 6:14, I Peter 1:13
In a culture that wore long, flowing tunics, it was difficult to get anywhere fast with all that fabric flapping around you. "Girding" meant gathering and securing the extra cloth in a girth or belt, and the "loins," or lower torso, would thus be wrapped up, enabling freer leg movement.

Here's a helpful image of the process:

Image by Ted Slampyak (http://jazzagecomics.storenvy.com//)


Good Samaritan

What it means: a complete stranger who cares for someone in need or danger

What it alludes to: Luke 10:25-37
When Jesus says the second greatest commandment is "love your neighbor as yourself," a listener asks "But who is my neighbor?"

He goes on to tell the parable--a fictional teaching story--of a man who gets robbed and beaten and left for dead. Two of his countrymen pass him by, doing nothing (probably not wanting the inconvenience of becoming ritually impure from possibly touching a dead body.) A third guy comes by -- someone from Samaria, land of half-breeds who practice a divergent form of Judaism -- and he helps. And not just a little. The Samaritan cleans the victim's wounds, gives him a ride on his donkey, takes him to a nearby inn, then pays for his care.

Jesus uses the story to teach that loving neighbor isn't about deciding who's part of the in group or out group, it's about showing the care you'd want to receive when you see someone in need--even weirdos, outsiders, and enemies.

Out of the mouths of babes

What it means: Wise words coming from a young person.

What it alludes to: Psalm 8:2, Matthew 21:16
"From the mouth of infants and nursing babes
You have established strength
Because of Your adversaries,
To make the enemy and the revengeful cease." (Psalm 8:2)

Jesus refers to the verse when, following the events of Palm Sunday, the religious leaders are angry that kids are following him around, yelling "Hosanna to the Son of David!" He's making the harsh point that God has given this insight about his identity, and that the temple leaders are, therefore, in enmity with God if they dislike these words.

Pearls before swine

What it means: Know your audience, and be discerning. If a group won't be inclined to value the very good thing you're offering, better to not waste it.

What it alludes to: Matthew 7:6
As part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns his listeners: "Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces."

Dogs in the Bible are scavenger beasts that do gross things like eat dead bodies; swine/pigs are paralleled here, and likewise "unclean." Similarly, a parallel is being drawn between "what is sacred" and pearls. This verse is part of the section that teaches "do not judge lest you be judged." So it's a counterbalance--don't condemn others, but do be discerning.

Salt of the earth

What it means: A truly good person who embodies loving God and neighbor. A solid citizen who does good and influences others to do the same.

What it alludes to: Matthew 5:13
"You are the salt of the earth," Jesus tells his listeners in this Sermon on the Mount word-picture of being a positive influence. Salt was used in this era to preserve perishable foods (salted meats, pickled vegetables), and as a flavoring. The verse also warns against "losing saltiness"--failing to be a positive force who keeps decay (especially moral decay) at bay.

Scapegoat

What it means: An innocent forced to take on someone else's guilt

What it alludes to: Leviticus 16: 20-22
As part of the original rituals of Yom Kippur / Day of Atonement, a live goat ritually had all the sins (deliberate wrongdoing) and trespasses (straying) of the people prayed onto it by the high priest. It was then set loose to wander in the wilderness. It is a picture of evil being removed through substitution--an innocent one carrying another's guilt.

Thorn in the flesh

What it means: Chronic infirmity, annoyance or trouble, especially that cements your sense of limitation and keeps you humble.

What it alludes to: II Corinthians 12:7-9
In his epistles, St. Paul refers a number of times to a problem with his eyesight that hindered his ability to keep up one important part of his church-building enterprise--sending letters to congregations to train and encourage them. He realized it was more than an annoyance--it was teaching him to not become arrogant about his success spreading Christianity. (There are other theories and interpretations of what St. Paul's "thorn" might have been,)

Writing is on the wall / Handwriting on the wall

What it means: Judgement is imminent / the bad ending is obvious

What it alludes to: Daniel 5
Babylonian King Belshazzar threw a big banquet using sacred vessels looted from the temple in Jerusalem. A hand appeared and wrote a cryptic message on the wall: "Mene, Mene, Tekel, and Parsin." No one could figure out what it meant, so the prophet Daniel was brought in, and he told them the specific judgment about to befall this bad king. The very next day, the prophecy came true.

Were these terms familiar to you? Which one(s) surprised you most?

Thursday, September 22, 2016 Laurel Garver
The other day, my teen daughter heard Alanis Morissette's "You Ought to Know" and got rather confused by a line in the lyrics.
Image by svklimkin on morgeufile.com

"Is she really singing about a cross-eyed bear? Am I hearing that wrong?"

I explained to her that the lyric is "the cross I bear," alluding to Jesus' crucifixion and his teachings prior to it about following his example of living self-sacrificially. This is a kid raised going to church weekly and attends Christian school. So if that allusion whipped right by her, chances are, there are plenty of folks without and even with a Judeo-Christian faith background who don't quite get a number of English idioms that are allusions to Bible stories.

Allusions are complex as literary devices go. An allusion is meant to bring an entire story and its context to bear on a present situation. Therefore, as I explain each, I'll note not only what a phrase typically signifies, but also the context from which the words are taken.

Am I my brother's keeper?

What it means: Not really my problem. I'm not going to take responsibility.

What it alludes to: Genesis 4:1-16
God likes Abel's sacrifice of lamb better than his brother Cain's first fruits offering. Cain gets so envious that he kills Abel. When God asks, "Where is your brother?" Cain's playing-dumb response is, "Am I my brother's keeper?" Cain hoped to evade responsibility and punishment, but he got both, in spades.

Beat swords into ploughshares

What it means: A picture of perfect peace, when weapons aren't needed, and the metal would best be put to use making farm equipment, leading to plenty of food for all.

What it alludes to: Isaiah 2:4, Micah 4:3
These verses are nearly identical in describing a time when humanity is living peacefully under God's leadership: "He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore" (Micah 4:3 NIV). Folks are so much at peace that weapons are obsolete--a waste of good metal that could be put to better use. Without the weapons, folks don't even train for battle. They have better things to do, like keep agriculture humming along.

Cross to bear

What it means: A difficulty that requires walking a path of suffering; a situation that requires "dying to self" or putting aside one's desires, demands and rights.

To be clear, in popular understanding, the former meaning is more prominent, though it is theologically an incorrect interpretation. The latter meaning more accurately reflect what the Matthew 16 verses mean--radical humility, not masochism of Stoicism. Christian teaching on suffering is more accurately reflected in a "thorn in the flesh" (see below).

What it alludes to: John 19:16-18; Matthew 16:24-26
Two contexts here: first, Jesus' own crucifixion, in which he was made to carry the wood beams on which he would be executed. It's a picture of carrying the means of your death, of extreme self-sacrifice. Second, Jesus taught his disciples that being his followers meant having a similar willingness to  be selfless and to obey God instead of following one's self-serving, throw-others-under-the-bus desire to be first.

Forbidden fruit

What it means: a tempting, bad / wrong thing

What it alludes to: Genesis 2:15-3:24
God gave Adam and Eve and entire garden of food to eat, except for the fruit of one tree, but the cunning serpent convinced them to eat anyway. Breaking that simple rule lost them the privilege of being in the garden and brought pain and curses.

Gird up your loins

What it means: Get ready to fight or do a difficult task.

What it alludes to: Job 40:7, Jeremiah 1:17, Ephesians 6:14, I Peter 1:13
In a culture that wore long, flowing tunics, it was difficult to get anywhere fast with all that fabric flapping around you. "Girding" meant gathering and securing the extra cloth in a girth or belt, and the "loins," or lower torso, would thus be wrapped up, enabling freer leg movement.

Here's a helpful image of the process:

Image by Ted Slampyak (http://jazzagecomics.storenvy.com//)


Good Samaritan

What it means: a complete stranger who cares for someone in need or danger

What it alludes to: Luke 10:25-37
When Jesus says the second greatest commandment is "love your neighbor as yourself," a listener asks "But who is my neighbor?"

He goes on to tell the parable--a fictional teaching story--of a man who gets robbed and beaten and left for dead. Two of his countrymen pass him by, doing nothing (probably not wanting the inconvenience of becoming ritually impure from possibly touching a dead body.) A third guy comes by -- someone from Samaria, land of half-breeds who practice a divergent form of Judaism -- and he helps. And not just a little. The Samaritan cleans the victim's wounds, gives him a ride on his donkey, takes him to a nearby inn, then pays for his care.

Jesus uses the story to teach that loving neighbor isn't about deciding who's part of the in group or out group, it's about showing the care you'd want to receive when you see someone in need--even weirdos, outsiders, and enemies.

Out of the mouths of babes

What it means: Wise words coming from a young person.

What it alludes to: Psalm 8:2, Matthew 21:16
"From the mouth of infants and nursing babes
You have established strength
Because of Your adversaries,
To make the enemy and the revengeful cease." (Psalm 8:2)

Jesus refers to the verse when, following the events of Palm Sunday, the religious leaders are angry that kids are following him around, yelling "Hosanna to the Son of David!" He's making the harsh point that God has given this insight about his identity, and that the temple leaders are, therefore, in enmity with God if they dislike these words.

Pearls before swine

What it means: Know your audience, and be discerning. If a group won't be inclined to value the very good thing you're offering, better to not waste it.

What it alludes to: Matthew 7:6
As part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns his listeners: "Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces."

Dogs in the Bible are scavenger beasts that do gross things like eat dead bodies; swine/pigs are paralleled here, and likewise "unclean." Similarly, a parallel is being drawn between "what is sacred" and pearls. This verse is part of the section that teaches "do not judge lest you be judged." So it's a counterbalance--don't condemn others, but do be discerning.

Salt of the earth

What it means: A truly good person who embodies loving God and neighbor. A solid citizen who does good and influences others to do the same.

What it alludes to: Matthew 5:13
"You are the salt of the earth," Jesus tells his listeners in this Sermon on the Mount word-picture of being a positive influence. Salt was used in this era to preserve perishable foods (salted meats, pickled vegetables), and as a flavoring. The verse also warns against "losing saltiness"--failing to be a positive force who keeps decay (especially moral decay) at bay.

Scapegoat

What it means: An innocent forced to take on someone else's guilt

What it alludes to: Leviticus 16: 20-22
As part of the original rituals of Yom Kippur / Day of Atonement, a live goat ritually had all the sins (deliberate wrongdoing) and trespasses (straying) of the people prayed onto it by the high priest. It was then set loose to wander in the wilderness. It is a picture of evil being removed through substitution--an innocent one carrying another's guilt.

Thorn in the flesh

What it means: Chronic infirmity, annoyance or trouble, especially that cements your sense of limitation and keeps you humble.

What it alludes to: II Corinthians 12:7-9
In his epistles, St. Paul refers a number of times to a problem with his eyesight that hindered his ability to keep up one important part of his church-building enterprise--sending letters to congregations to train and encourage them. He realized it was more than an annoyance--it was teaching him to not become arrogant about his success spreading Christianity. (There are other theories and interpretations of what St. Paul's "thorn" might have been,)

Writing is on the wall / Handwriting on the wall

What it means: Judgement is imminent / the bad ending is obvious

What it alludes to: Daniel 5
Babylonian King Belshazzar threw a big banquet using sacred vessels looted from the temple in Jerusalem. A hand appeared and wrote a cryptic message on the wall: "Mene, Mene, Tekel, and Parsin." No one could figure out what it meant, so the prophet Daniel was brought in, and he told them the specific judgment about to befall this bad king. The very next day, the prophecy came true.

Were these terms familiar to you? Which one(s) surprised you most?

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The new school year has begun, which always feels to me like a time for me to start new things, or in this case, restart old things.

Back in 2009, one of my critique group friends called with an urgent punctuation question. It was something pretty simple about quotes within quotes. This got me wondering if any of my blog followers have burning questions about some matter of grammar, usage, or style.

From there, I started a little series called Editor-on-call, in which I answer your burning questions. It has been a long time since I put out a call for more questions, so I thought I'd do so again. I want to keep this blog relevant and a helpful resource for you, dear readers.

Perhaps first you'd like to know what topics I've already covered. There are quite a few, as it happens, though this hardly exhausts all the concerns I hear come up at my critique group and in the author collaborative I belong to.




Tell me, readers, what burning questions do you have about grammar, punctuation, or fiction writing problems you don't know how to fix?
Thursday, September 15, 2016 Laurel Garver
The new school year has begun, which always feels to me like a time for me to start new things, or in this case, restart old things.

Back in 2009, one of my critique group friends called with an urgent punctuation question. It was something pretty simple about quotes within quotes. This got me wondering if any of my blog followers have burning questions about some matter of grammar, usage, or style.

From there, I started a little series called Editor-on-call, in which I answer your burning questions. It has been a long time since I put out a call for more questions, so I thought I'd do so again. I want to keep this blog relevant and a helpful resource for you, dear readers.

Perhaps first you'd like to know what topics I've already covered. There are quite a few, as it happens, though this hardly exhausts all the concerns I hear come up at my critique group and in the author collaborative I belong to.




Tell me, readers, what burning questions do you have about grammar, punctuation, or fiction writing problems you don't know how to fix?

Thursday, September 08, 2016

I was fortunate to land a job early in my career that required me to learn graphic design. Between the professional seminars, how-to books, a very kind colleague who taught me all his best tricks, and a grad school class, I got to a level of basic competence. The more newsletters and magazine spreads and brochures I designed, the more my skills improved.

All that to say, even words people can learn some of the basics of design. You don't need an art degree to attempt to create marketing graphics (though seminars and how-to books are a good idea, so you understand composition, balance and the like).

These days, you don't even need the pricey software I learned on (Quark, Photoshop, Illustrator). There are a number of freeware solutions that will enable you to create very attractive designs. They aren't as powerful as the pricey design products, but they also aren't nearly as complicated to learn (I'm looking at you, Photoshop).

Photo editing


GIMP is a great, basic photo editor, available free, that allows you to not only resize images, but also tweak the colors and use layer masks--one of Photoshop's most powerful tools. Check out GIMP's tutorials page for instructions on using some of these more advanced options. Because it is open-source software, there are lots of cool plug-ins you can get from third parties to make the software even more powerful. Check out the 20 best free GIMP plug ins to start.

Layout


Canva is my new favorite toy. This powerful web-based design platform has lots of free design elements, premade designs, and great, easy-to-use tools to make quick marketing graphics.

Once you login--you can do so easily by linking with a Facebook or Google account--pick the type of element you want--a blog graphic, social media post (Twitter-friendly designs are under this heading), card, poster, etc. This will create a live working area in the correct size for your needs.

From there, you can select one of their premade designs, or you can assemble something freestyle. The amazing thing is that EVERYTHING is editable. It's kind of crazy. You can upload your own photos, pull them into the live area and resize them, flip them, turn them on a jaunty angle. The backgrounds come with textures and colors, but these are editable too. You can change the colors, even the opacity.

You can layer in shapes and text. And wow do they offer a lot of very cool pre-make text elements that are, once again, editable (made larger and smaller, different color, different typeface). Pick the shape that will work well with your message, then simply change the pre-made text to your words, and edit any other attribute as needed. Let me give you a couple examples, from my fairly quick and easy noodling efforts:


This is a standard Twitter-post size. I used one of Canva's free photos, expanding it until it was the right width--the program automatically cropped it to fit in the live area. I dropped in "heading" text element on the left, then changed the typeface to "Emily's Candy" (is that not a great font name?) and played with the color mixer until I had a nice crimson that reflected the raspberries. The black text is the standard "subheading" type, 



This design uses an uploaded image I got from the free image site, morguefile.com. The text graphic is a pre-made that I edited by adding my own text and changing the color of the border to echo the apple. The #1linewed (one line Wednesday, a weekly Twitter party for writers) theme this week was "school," so I had fun doing themed thank you graphics.



This is perhaps the most complex design I've attempted so far. I got the 3D book covers using the free 3D cover designer available from Adazing (warning--you will get a lot of e-mail ads from them in exchange for the free design). Each of these I uploaded. Because they have some white around them to accommodate the drop shadow, I stuck with a white background. The text elements are, top to bottom, subheading, body text, and heading. Only the heading text did I significantly edit, changing to a brush-syle typeface and tweaking the color. I now know how to fine-tune my color choices more, so I will likely do some revisions to this ad for my book series.

It's easy to do permutations of a design by making a copy on an additional page, change an element or two and see which you like better. When you're ready to post the image elsewhere, use the share button, or download. If you have permutations and want to download only one, click "options" in the download menu, and pick just the page you want. 

Anyway, That's a little taste of some of the fun things you can do to jazz up your blog posts, Twitter posts, or Facebook posts. Follow me on Twitter @LaurelGarver to see what new experiments I dream up.

Have I convinced you to try out some of these tools? Do you enjoy design or find it intimidating?
Thursday, September 08, 2016 Laurel Garver
I was fortunate to land a job early in my career that required me to learn graphic design. Between the professional seminars, how-to books, a very kind colleague who taught me all his best tricks, and a grad school class, I got to a level of basic competence. The more newsletters and magazine spreads and brochures I designed, the more my skills improved.

All that to say, even words people can learn some of the basics of design. You don't need an art degree to attempt to create marketing graphics (though seminars and how-to books are a good idea, so you understand composition, balance and the like).

These days, you don't even need the pricey software I learned on (Quark, Photoshop, Illustrator). There are a number of freeware solutions that will enable you to create very attractive designs. They aren't as powerful as the pricey design products, but they also aren't nearly as complicated to learn (I'm looking at you, Photoshop).

Photo editing


GIMP is a great, basic photo editor, available free, that allows you to not only resize images, but also tweak the colors and use layer masks--one of Photoshop's most powerful tools. Check out GIMP's tutorials page for instructions on using some of these more advanced options. Because it is open-source software, there are lots of cool plug-ins you can get from third parties to make the software even more powerful. Check out the 20 best free GIMP plug ins to start.

Layout


Canva is my new favorite toy. This powerful web-based design platform has lots of free design elements, premade designs, and great, easy-to-use tools to make quick marketing graphics.

Once you login--you can do so easily by linking with a Facebook or Google account--pick the type of element you want--a blog graphic, social media post (Twitter-friendly designs are under this heading), card, poster, etc. This will create a live working area in the correct size for your needs.

From there, you can select one of their premade designs, or you can assemble something freestyle. The amazing thing is that EVERYTHING is editable. It's kind of crazy. You can upload your own photos, pull them into the live area and resize them, flip them, turn them on a jaunty angle. The backgrounds come with textures and colors, but these are editable too. You can change the colors, even the opacity.

You can layer in shapes and text. And wow do they offer a lot of very cool pre-make text elements that are, once again, editable (made larger and smaller, different color, different typeface). Pick the shape that will work well with your message, then simply change the pre-made text to your words, and edit any other attribute as needed. Let me give you a couple examples, from my fairly quick and easy noodling efforts:


This is a standard Twitter-post size. I used one of Canva's free photos, expanding it until it was the right width--the program automatically cropped it to fit in the live area. I dropped in "heading" text element on the left, then changed the typeface to "Emily's Candy" (is that not a great font name?) and played with the color mixer until I had a nice crimson that reflected the raspberries. The black text is the standard "subheading" type, 



This design uses an uploaded image I got from the free image site, morguefile.com. The text graphic is a pre-made that I edited by adding my own text and changing the color of the border to echo the apple. The #1linewed (one line Wednesday, a weekly Twitter party for writers) theme this week was "school," so I had fun doing themed thank you graphics.



This is perhaps the most complex design I've attempted so far. I got the 3D book covers using the free 3D cover designer available from Adazing (warning--you will get a lot of e-mail ads from them in exchange for the free design). Each of these I uploaded. Because they have some white around them to accommodate the drop shadow, I stuck with a white background. The text elements are, top to bottom, subheading, body text, and heading. Only the heading text did I significantly edit, changing to a brush-syle typeface and tweaking the color. I now know how to fine-tune my color choices more, so I will likely do some revisions to this ad for my book series.

It's easy to do permutations of a design by making a copy on an additional page, change an element or two and see which you like better. When you're ready to post the image elsewhere, use the share button, or download. If you have permutations and want to download only one, click "options" in the download menu, and pick just the page you want. 

Anyway, That's a little taste of some of the fun things you can do to jazz up your blog posts, Twitter posts, or Facebook posts. Follow me on Twitter @LaurelGarver to see what new experiments I dream up.

Have I convinced you to try out some of these tools? Do you enjoy design or find it intimidating?

Friday, August 26, 2016

with guest author Dusty Crabtree
Phoenix art by Laura

I know a number of author friends who were delighted to publish with a small publisher that felt like family. But in today's publishing climate, it's tougher than ever for small publishers to survive. So what do you do when your cozy family in the publishing world decides to close its doors? If rights revert to you, you might decide to go the route of today's guest. I asked her to share her experiences with that starting over process with an existing book. Take it away, Dusty...



Thank you for hosting me again, Laurel! Last time I was here it was for the one-year anniversary tour for Shadow Eyes. Now, here we are three years later releasing it again.

(Be sure to enter the rafflecopter at the bottom of the post for a chance to win a print copy of Shadow Eyes and a $50 gift card to Amazon!)

Shadow Eyes, my YA urban fantasy, was first released in 2012 by Musa Publishing. Being a young, small publishing company, Musa closed in 2015 as so many small publishing companies are forced to do. After a lot of thought and advice-seeking, I decided to self-publish it this time. A lot of reasons went into this.

1. I didn’t want to wait anymore. Publishing through a traditional publishing company takes time! There’s waiting to get accepted by a publisher, waiting to sign a contract, waiting to get assigned an editor, waiting to get all the edits done on your part, waiting for the company to finish their edits, waiting on the cover art, and then finally waiting for the release date (they often have a long line ahead of you). Self-publishing is much faster, and having gone through it all before, I really just wanted to get Shadow Eyes back out there as fast as I could. I have a sequel waiting in the wings for goodness’ sake! Let’s get this show on the road!

2. I was tired of searching and getting rejected. That may sound shallow or childish, but come on, who likes getting rejected. And, believe me, I know rejection by publishing companies is normal and not to take it personally. I went through a lot of them the first time around before Musa picked it up. Many of the rejections were most likely by companies who didn’t even look at the book because they didn’t have time or space for new authors. Most others have certain tastes and a certain market they are trying to sell to, and my book just didn’t fit.

I didn’t take it personally. But it still got old. When doors kept slamming in my face, I didn’t doubt myself or wallow in self-pity. I got frustrated and discouraged. I kept seeing the light at the end of the tunnel grow dimmer and dimmer as the end kept getting farther and farther away. I started to feel like I’d exhausted all possible options, and what would I do then?

That’s when I realized there was another door. A door that wouldn’t slam in my face. Sure, the world beyond that door was new and scary, and I was sure to be met with opposition and possibly judgement. But it was an open door nonetheless. And it gave me a breath of fresh air.

3. My genre and content has a unique and specific market. Most traditional publishers don’t want a book with a limited market, so if yours doesn’t seem like it would appeal to a wide audience, they won’t want to take a chance on you. This is probably what influenced my decision the most. After talking to a trusted author/editor about it, I realized that what she said about my genre and content was true. It is unique. And that’s okay!

In fact, I'm proud to not fit their traditional, mainstream, please everyone and cater to everyone mold! My books will find an audience that will love them for what they are -- bold, unapologetic, unique, spiritual and morally grounded, yet too edgy to fit a Christian mold either. I will find my audience without a publishing company’s help. Thank you.

4. Self-publishing gets you more profit for the same amount of time promoting. True, you may not have quite as much reach as you would with a publishing company, but you will make much more profit. Also, I found that with a small publishing company, I was doing most of my promoting anyway. They helped out with what they could – gathering a few reviews from me, helping their authors cross-promote, giving us ideas, hosting tours, etc. But much of the promoting fell on me. So that much isn’t very different now.

5. I learned to view self-publishing in a different light and swallowed my pride. It’s no lie. Many people in the book community have a prejudice against self-published books. They view these books as “not good enough” to get picked up by a traditional publisher. Like a lot of prejudices, there is some foundation for this. The truth of the matter is anyone can self-publish. Sure it takes some research and asking a lot of questions, but anyone can do it. The book doesn’t have to be professionally edited, and the author doesn’t have to be any good. The thought is that if a book is traditionally published, at least it’s been screened by someone out there who deemed it as worthy enough to be in the book market.

But here’s another truth. Just because a book hasn’t been screened, doesn’t mean it’s not any good. Now, I do still think books need to be professionally edited because even the best writers are blind to their own limitations. We all need an outsider who knows what they’re doing to help us with what we can’t see. But if it has been edited, who’s to say it’s not just as good as a traditionally published book?

I just had to get out of that prejudiced mindset, swallow my pride, and simply be secure and confident in my work, knowing it’s just as professional and worthy as any other book out there, with or without the “self-published.”

Closing thoughts – I will say that going through the traditional publishing process the first time was extremely valuable! I learned so much that I believe will help me be successful this time around. The connections I made, the lessons I learned, and the ideas I gleaned have all been very helpful. Plus, having been traditionally published at least once does help give you some credibility amidst the sea of self-publishers out there.

So, if you’re looking to publish your first book, I recommend at least attempting to go the traditional route first. After that, it’s totally up to you and what you feel is best. Just don’t let fear or your own prejudice get in the way of your decision.

About the Author


Dusty Crabtree loves a good story, but she also loves young people. These two loves are evident in all parts of her life. She has been a high school English teacher since 2006 and a creative writing teacher since 2014. She's also been a youth sponsor at her local church for as long as she’s been teaching. She feels very blessed with the amazing opportunities she has to develop meaningful relationships with teens on a daily basis. With her love of reading in the mix, becoming an author of young adult books was just a natural development of those two passions in her life. She lives with her husband, Clayton, in Yukon, Oklahoma, where they often serve their community as foster parents.

Blog / Twitter / Facebook


About Shadow Eyes


Iris thought she could ignore the shadows…until they came after everyone she loved.

Seventeen-year- old Iris Kohl has been able to see both dark and light figures ever since a tragic incident three years ago. The problem is, no one else seems to see them, and even worse…the dark figures terrorize humans, but Iris is powerless to stop them.

Although she’s learned to deal with watching shadows harass everyone around her, Iris is soon forced to question everything she thinks she knows about her world and herself. Her sanity, strength, and will power are tested to the limits by not only the shadows, but also a handsome new teacher whose presence scares away shadows, a new friend with an awe-inspiriting aura, and a mysterious, alluring new student whom Iris has a hard time resisting despite already having a boyfriend. As the shadows invade and terrorize her own life and family, Iris must ultimately accept the guidance of an angel to revisit the most horrific event of her life and become the hero she was meant to be.

Goodreads / Trailer 
Available for pre-order Amazon / Barnes and Noble / Apple iBooks / Smashwords


a Rafflecopter giveaway

To see other posts on this tour and to increase your chances of winning, visit Dusty’s blog for the schedule with links as they are posted. 
Friday, August 26, 2016 Laurel Garver
with guest author Dusty Crabtree
Phoenix art by Laura

I know a number of author friends who were delighted to publish with a small publisher that felt like family. But in today's publishing climate, it's tougher than ever for small publishers to survive. So what do you do when your cozy family in the publishing world decides to close its doors? If rights revert to you, you might decide to go the route of today's guest. I asked her to share her experiences with that starting over process with an existing book. Take it away, Dusty...



Thank you for hosting me again, Laurel! Last time I was here it was for the one-year anniversary tour for Shadow Eyes. Now, here we are three years later releasing it again.

(Be sure to enter the rafflecopter at the bottom of the post for a chance to win a print copy of Shadow Eyes and a $50 gift card to Amazon!)

Shadow Eyes, my YA urban fantasy, was first released in 2012 by Musa Publishing. Being a young, small publishing company, Musa closed in 2015 as so many small publishing companies are forced to do. After a lot of thought and advice-seeking, I decided to self-publish it this time. A lot of reasons went into this.

1. I didn’t want to wait anymore. Publishing through a traditional publishing company takes time! There’s waiting to get accepted by a publisher, waiting to sign a contract, waiting to get assigned an editor, waiting to get all the edits done on your part, waiting for the company to finish their edits, waiting on the cover art, and then finally waiting for the release date (they often have a long line ahead of you). Self-publishing is much faster, and having gone through it all before, I really just wanted to get Shadow Eyes back out there as fast as I could. I have a sequel waiting in the wings for goodness’ sake! Let’s get this show on the road!

2. I was tired of searching and getting rejected. That may sound shallow or childish, but come on, who likes getting rejected. And, believe me, I know rejection by publishing companies is normal and not to take it personally. I went through a lot of them the first time around before Musa picked it up. Many of the rejections were most likely by companies who didn’t even look at the book because they didn’t have time or space for new authors. Most others have certain tastes and a certain market they are trying to sell to, and my book just didn’t fit.

I didn’t take it personally. But it still got old. When doors kept slamming in my face, I didn’t doubt myself or wallow in self-pity. I got frustrated and discouraged. I kept seeing the light at the end of the tunnel grow dimmer and dimmer as the end kept getting farther and farther away. I started to feel like I’d exhausted all possible options, and what would I do then?

That’s when I realized there was another door. A door that wouldn’t slam in my face. Sure, the world beyond that door was new and scary, and I was sure to be met with opposition and possibly judgement. But it was an open door nonetheless. And it gave me a breath of fresh air.

3. My genre and content has a unique and specific market. Most traditional publishers don’t want a book with a limited market, so if yours doesn’t seem like it would appeal to a wide audience, they won’t want to take a chance on you. This is probably what influenced my decision the most. After talking to a trusted author/editor about it, I realized that what she said about my genre and content was true. It is unique. And that’s okay!

In fact, I'm proud to not fit their traditional, mainstream, please everyone and cater to everyone mold! My books will find an audience that will love them for what they are -- bold, unapologetic, unique, spiritual and morally grounded, yet too edgy to fit a Christian mold either. I will find my audience without a publishing company’s help. Thank you.

4. Self-publishing gets you more profit for the same amount of time promoting. True, you may not have quite as much reach as you would with a publishing company, but you will make much more profit. Also, I found that with a small publishing company, I was doing most of my promoting anyway. They helped out with what they could – gathering a few reviews from me, helping their authors cross-promote, giving us ideas, hosting tours, etc. But much of the promoting fell on me. So that much isn’t very different now.

5. I learned to view self-publishing in a different light and swallowed my pride. It’s no lie. Many people in the book community have a prejudice against self-published books. They view these books as “not good enough” to get picked up by a traditional publisher. Like a lot of prejudices, there is some foundation for this. The truth of the matter is anyone can self-publish. Sure it takes some research and asking a lot of questions, but anyone can do it. The book doesn’t have to be professionally edited, and the author doesn’t have to be any good. The thought is that if a book is traditionally published, at least it’s been screened by someone out there who deemed it as worthy enough to be in the book market.

But here’s another truth. Just because a book hasn’t been screened, doesn’t mean it’s not any good. Now, I do still think books need to be professionally edited because even the best writers are blind to their own limitations. We all need an outsider who knows what they’re doing to help us with what we can’t see. But if it has been edited, who’s to say it’s not just as good as a traditionally published book?

I just had to get out of that prejudiced mindset, swallow my pride, and simply be secure and confident in my work, knowing it’s just as professional and worthy as any other book out there, with or without the “self-published.”

Closing thoughts – I will say that going through the traditional publishing process the first time was extremely valuable! I learned so much that I believe will help me be successful this time around. The connections I made, the lessons I learned, and the ideas I gleaned have all been very helpful. Plus, having been traditionally published at least once does help give you some credibility amidst the sea of self-publishers out there.

So, if you’re looking to publish your first book, I recommend at least attempting to go the traditional route first. After that, it’s totally up to you and what you feel is best. Just don’t let fear or your own prejudice get in the way of your decision.

About the Author


Dusty Crabtree loves a good story, but she also loves young people. These two loves are evident in all parts of her life. She has been a high school English teacher since 2006 and a creative writing teacher since 2014. She's also been a youth sponsor at her local church for as long as she’s been teaching. She feels very blessed with the amazing opportunities she has to develop meaningful relationships with teens on a daily basis. With her love of reading in the mix, becoming an author of young adult books was just a natural development of those two passions in her life. She lives with her husband, Clayton, in Yukon, Oklahoma, where they often serve their community as foster parents.

Blog / Twitter / Facebook


About Shadow Eyes


Iris thought she could ignore the shadows…until they came after everyone she loved.

Seventeen-year- old Iris Kohl has been able to see both dark and light figures ever since a tragic incident three years ago. The problem is, no one else seems to see them, and even worse…the dark figures terrorize humans, but Iris is powerless to stop them.

Although she’s learned to deal with watching shadows harass everyone around her, Iris is soon forced to question everything she thinks she knows about her world and herself. Her sanity, strength, and will power are tested to the limits by not only the shadows, but also a handsome new teacher whose presence scares away shadows, a new friend with an awe-inspiriting aura, and a mysterious, alluring new student whom Iris has a hard time resisting despite already having a boyfriend. As the shadows invade and terrorize her own life and family, Iris must ultimately accept the guidance of an angel to revisit the most horrific event of her life and become the hero she was meant to be.

Goodreads / Trailer 
Available for pre-order Amazon / Barnes and Noble / Apple iBooks / Smashwords


a Rafflecopter giveaway

To see other posts on this tour and to increase your chances of winning, visit Dusty’s blog for the schedule with links as they are posted. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Photo by Gabor from Hungary / morguefile.com
Characters can be found in all sorts of places--among our families, friends, acquaintances, even strangers on the train. Yet we never borrow traits without tinging them with our own interpretation of those we observe and mixing in bits and pieces of our own imagination.

In other words, every character, even those you base on real people, have some of you in them.

I'll give you an example. The poem below I'd written as a sort of tribute to some of the ordinary yet extraordinary boys whose friendship I'd cherished in childhood.

Gilbert

My friend Gilbert
had the kind of face
you see on milk cartons
on rainy Thursday mornings
that puddle in your brain
without a grain of sense
or purpose but dripdrip drip.

Gil played games
that brought down bullies
to no-longer-larger-than-life lugs
we could look in the eye
and not cringe.

Gil's games
made emperors of roaches
and elf queens of
bucktoothed, freckled girls
who are good at math
and can't sing.

Gil thought thoughts
that entered me like garlic
and permeated blood
and lungs and skin,
reeking and lusty of life,
lingering in the pores
for days.

Laurel Garver, Muddy-Fingered Midnights p. 8. 

This fictional friend's name is, of course, an homage to Gilbert Blythe from L.M. Montgomery's Green Gables books.

Some of the details are bits and pieces of Duane, who lived next to the awesome graveyard and let me be Bionic Wonder Woman to his Bionic Batman. And also Billy, who was willing to be Pa from Little House on the Prairie. And finally Brad, who agreed that the monkeybars was totally a spaceship, and storing gobs of maple seeds for our fort's winter food supply was a dire necessity. These boys were kinder than average--and willing to give anyone a shot at joining the imaginative game of the moment.

But to be honest, I was usually the one who came up with most of the ideas when we played. You might say Gilbert is the kid I wish I'd been--imaginative, sure, but also the kind of leader who brings people together by drawing out their best selves gently and naturally.

When you build a hero or a villain, you will (mostly unconsciously) add pieces of yourself to the mix--what you admire and aspire to, what you find most loathsome, and at times even parts of yourself you most want to heal or change. This is the aspect of writing that some consider therapeutic or even mystical.

What aspects of yourself have you been surprised to discover coming out in your characters?
Thursday, August 18, 2016 Laurel Garver
Photo by Gabor from Hungary / morguefile.com
Characters can be found in all sorts of places--among our families, friends, acquaintances, even strangers on the train. Yet we never borrow traits without tinging them with our own interpretation of those we observe and mixing in bits and pieces of our own imagination.

In other words, every character, even those you base on real people, have some of you in them.

I'll give you an example. The poem below I'd written as a sort of tribute to some of the ordinary yet extraordinary boys whose friendship I'd cherished in childhood.

Gilbert

My friend Gilbert
had the kind of face
you see on milk cartons
on rainy Thursday mornings
that puddle in your brain
without a grain of sense
or purpose but dripdrip drip.

Gil played games
that brought down bullies
to no-longer-larger-than-life lugs
we could look in the eye
and not cringe.

Gil's games
made emperors of roaches
and elf queens of
bucktoothed, freckled girls
who are good at math
and can't sing.

Gil thought thoughts
that entered me like garlic
and permeated blood
and lungs and skin,
reeking and lusty of life,
lingering in the pores
for days.

Laurel Garver, Muddy-Fingered Midnights p. 8. 

This fictional friend's name is, of course, an homage to Gilbert Blythe from L.M. Montgomery's Green Gables books.

Some of the details are bits and pieces of Duane, who lived next to the awesome graveyard and let me be Bionic Wonder Woman to his Bionic Batman. And also Billy, who was willing to be Pa from Little House on the Prairie. And finally Brad, who agreed that the monkeybars was totally a spaceship, and storing gobs of maple seeds for our fort's winter food supply was a dire necessity. These boys were kinder than average--and willing to give anyone a shot at joining the imaginative game of the moment.

But to be honest, I was usually the one who came up with most of the ideas when we played. You might say Gilbert is the kid I wish I'd been--imaginative, sure, but also the kind of leader who brings people together by drawing out their best selves gently and naturally.

When you build a hero or a villain, you will (mostly unconsciously) add pieces of yourself to the mix--what you admire and aspire to, what you find most loathsome, and at times even parts of yourself you most want to heal or change. This is the aspect of writing that some consider therapeutic or even mystical.

What aspects of yourself have you been surprised to discover coming out in your characters?

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

with guest author Peggy McAloon

Today I'm talking with guest Peggy McAloon about how her own difficult childhood inspired her to write stories to empower children in difficult circumstances, and give them the joy that can be found in imaginary worlds with heroes much like them.

Tell us a little about the fantasy world you've created.


My goal was to create a world where children would not only feel safe but could imagine themselves visiting. The flowers in the dimension of Fiori are as big as tractor tires and provide a form of entertainment for the inhabitants as they play on swings suspended from the flower petals with spider webbing.

Elle must search for her missing brother 
There are numerous reflection ponds throughout the valley. A massive turquoise bird called a Truero. The Trueros are large enough that the Fiorins and the guides can sit atop them and float on the waters. The ponds in Fiori are alive with brilliant colors. They reflect the crimson, gold, and purple colors of the skies there.

There are fancy parties at Mother Blue’s castle with dancers and acrobats to entertain the guests whenever there's a victory against evil on earth.

The Fiorins who aren’t currently assigned to protect a human child stay in the valley among the flowers until their next assignment.

Guides love riding in a carriage like Cinderella, except these are pulled by a giant Spider instead of horses.

Some things are quite different from life on earth. Miniature house pets that look like our elephants live in many of the houses there.

It’s a magical fairy-tale kind of place, and any child would love to be able to go there. You can float on a Truero on a reflection pond or take a ride on Pegasus into a valley where lions and koala bears live in harmony.

image credit: marcus scott reed for morguefile

What drew you to write for children?


That’s very easy to answer. I was one of those unfortunate kids who suffered abuse as a child. I was threatened not to tell anyone, so my only escape was through books. I loved to enter a fairytale land and pretend I was the princess or float down the Mississippi River with Huck Finn. My reality was too painful for a child to live in, so I used the books at the library to escape my life for hours at a time.

I want to give that same gift to other kids in trouble, but do it in such a way that they can find their courage too.

I worked with a child counselor to put together a discussion sheet so parents can use the characters in the first book in the series to discuss bullying and abuse in a non-threatening way through the characters.

I’m currently working with a teacher to prepare a discussion sheet for “Missing.”

Too many children in the United States and throughout the world continue to be victims of both bullying and abuse. Some of those children will not only try to commit suicide, but they will succeed. Unfortunately, most of the parents who have lost children didn’t know anything was wrong. I’ve blended reality and fantasy in such a way that kids will be more willing to talk about the topics we try to avoid. We can’t afford to do that any longer.

What is your favorite chapter in Missing?


I don’t want to give any spoilers here, so I’ll share that the adult side of me loved the segment where Elle rediscovered her faith.

That said, the little kid who still dwells somewhere deep within me laughed at the part where the class bully, Jimmy Backus, had a run-in with a manure pit.

Is there a message in Missing that you hope your readers will grasp?


The underlying message of this book is to have a kind heart and never to lose faith. We can face nearly insurmountable challenges when we show a caring spirit to ourselves and others.

What was the hardest part of writing Missing and why?


That question is a painful one. This book is the final 100 pages of the original first book plus another one hundred and fifty pages.

I wrote the first book and was accepted by a publisher willing to work with me. Shortly before Elle Burton and the Reflective Portals was to be published, I learned the publisher intended to sell it for over $20.00. I was heartbroken. I didn’t want to make money from the series (Breaking even would be nice); I wanted to help kids in trouble.

No child can pay $20.00 for a book.

The publisher told me they could cut the final pages out of the first book and close it in a cliffhanger. They explained cliffhangers are good and would entice people to want to buy the next book.
In theory, that might have been a good idea, but I don’t particularly like cliffhangers.

I agreed to their terms to bring the cost of the book down, and the first book in the Lessons from Fiori series launched. What I didn’t know…what I could never have planned, was a fall I took in London about the same time as the release of book one.

I returned home from that trip in tremendous pain, and I couldn’t figure out how to take the ending of my first book and turn it into a ‘stand-alone’ novel.

Pain and creativity don’t seem to work in conjunction with each other well for me. I spent nearly six months trying to find a resolution for my injury and pain without coming up with any logical idea on how to rewrite my original ending for book one.

It was painful for me not to be able to release book two almost immediately, but it was physically impossible for me to sit at the computer and write after the fall.

My warning to other authors: If you want to end a book in a cliffhanger, make sure the sequel is ready to publish no longer than a month after the first book launches.

Did you learn anything from writing this book? What was it?


Writing this book was rather like being given a second chance to find my strength as a child. Through Elle, I’m able to realize how much I missed as a child and how important it is for us to provide strong role models for our sons and daughters. I will always wonder if I’d found a role model like Elle in my books if I’d have found the courage to tell someone about my abuse.

What advice would you give writers interested in creating a fantasy for younger readers?


You need to remember that children have vivid imaginations and are looking for a world where they can find action, excitement, and challenges.

You need to balance the good with the evil and give children something safe to hold onto within the fantasy world you’re creating for your characters. Build a world any child would want to not only visit but come back to over and over again. Make them believe anything's possible!

You also need to keep copious notes on the characters and the descriptions of your imaginary world. Kids are discerning readers too, and they'll remember if you change something about the world you've created between books.

In the first two books of my series, I’ve allowed readers to see two segments of Fiori. Who knows what they may discover as additional books are released?


About the author


Peggy M McAloon is on a mission to inspire kids everywhere to stand up to abuse and bullying. Her “Lessons from Fiori Series” about a young girl from Wisconsin, provides a strong female role model who isn’t afraid to show compassion or hack into a con man’s computer if the need arises. Peggy’s courageous battle with depression, abuse, and a traumatic brain injury has enabled her to identify with both children and adults who have suffered from abuse and bullying.

She’s a retired trainer and speaker in the field of commercial credit. Her first book, “The Art of Business Credit Investigation” was featured in Inc. Magazine. She’s been interviewed by the Associated Press and appeared on news shows in her efforts to protect our water resources.

Facebook / Twitter / Google Plus / LinkedIn / Amazon Author Central

About the book


Missing
Genre: middle grade fantasy

Kidnapping. Monsters. Magic.

Elle's desperate to find her kidnapped brother. She teams up with the winged warriors from the dimension of Fiori to save him, but JJ isn't the only one in danger. What will Elle sacrifice to bring her brother home? Can she fulfill the ancient prophecy and restore the magic of the Bronze Pendant?


You will love this coming of age, action-packed fantasy for middle-grade readers. Elle Burton's goal is to rescue her brother. What she discovers is pure evil. The author provides a female role model who strives to overcome her flaws and inspire kids everywhere.

"Missing" blends the magic of a fairytale with the contemporary realities of the world today's youth inhabit. You will discover a new world order through the journey of a young girl who exhibits both compassion and jaw-dropping courage in her quest to fulfill an ancient prophecy. Find yourself caught in the ultimate struggle between good and evil. "Missing" is the second book in the "Lessons from Fiori" series.

Available from Amazon

Book 1 available HERE


There are seventeen prizes with seventeen winners! Peggy is generously giving away 5 signed copies of the first book in her series, Elle Burton, 10 signed copies of her new release, Missing, and 2 replicas of Elle's necklace.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Tour Schedule


August 8
Bookish Orchestrations-Tour Introduction

August 9
Laurel's Leaves-Author Interview
So You Want to Write Christian Fantasy?-Character Interview with Amadeus

August 10

August 11
Peggy's Hope 4U-Character Interview

August 12

August 13
Bookish Orchestrations-Giveaway Winner


How about you, readers? Is there some aspect of your life story that has led you to write for certain audiences?
Tuesday, August 09, 2016 Laurel Garver
with guest author Peggy McAloon

Today I'm talking with guest Peggy McAloon about how her own difficult childhood inspired her to write stories to empower children in difficult circumstances, and give them the joy that can be found in imaginary worlds with heroes much like them.

Tell us a little about the fantasy world you've created.


My goal was to create a world where children would not only feel safe but could imagine themselves visiting. The flowers in the dimension of Fiori are as big as tractor tires and provide a form of entertainment for the inhabitants as they play on swings suspended from the flower petals with spider webbing.

Elle must search for her missing brother 
There are numerous reflection ponds throughout the valley. A massive turquoise bird called a Truero. The Trueros are large enough that the Fiorins and the guides can sit atop them and float on the waters. The ponds in Fiori are alive with brilliant colors. They reflect the crimson, gold, and purple colors of the skies there.

There are fancy parties at Mother Blue’s castle with dancers and acrobats to entertain the guests whenever there's a victory against evil on earth.

The Fiorins who aren’t currently assigned to protect a human child stay in the valley among the flowers until their next assignment.

Guides love riding in a carriage like Cinderella, except these are pulled by a giant Spider instead of horses.

Some things are quite different from life on earth. Miniature house pets that look like our elephants live in many of the houses there.

It’s a magical fairy-tale kind of place, and any child would love to be able to go there. You can float on a Truero on a reflection pond or take a ride on Pegasus into a valley where lions and koala bears live in harmony.

image credit: marcus scott reed for morguefile

What drew you to write for children?


That’s very easy to answer. I was one of those unfortunate kids who suffered abuse as a child. I was threatened not to tell anyone, so my only escape was through books. I loved to enter a fairytale land and pretend I was the princess or float down the Mississippi River with Huck Finn. My reality was too painful for a child to live in, so I used the books at the library to escape my life for hours at a time.

I want to give that same gift to other kids in trouble, but do it in such a way that they can find their courage too.

I worked with a child counselor to put together a discussion sheet so parents can use the characters in the first book in the series to discuss bullying and abuse in a non-threatening way through the characters.

I’m currently working with a teacher to prepare a discussion sheet for “Missing.”

Too many children in the United States and throughout the world continue to be victims of both bullying and abuse. Some of those children will not only try to commit suicide, but they will succeed. Unfortunately, most of the parents who have lost children didn’t know anything was wrong. I’ve blended reality and fantasy in such a way that kids will be more willing to talk about the topics we try to avoid. We can’t afford to do that any longer.

What is your favorite chapter in Missing?


I don’t want to give any spoilers here, so I’ll share that the adult side of me loved the segment where Elle rediscovered her faith.

That said, the little kid who still dwells somewhere deep within me laughed at the part where the class bully, Jimmy Backus, had a run-in with a manure pit.

Is there a message in Missing that you hope your readers will grasp?


The underlying message of this book is to have a kind heart and never to lose faith. We can face nearly insurmountable challenges when we show a caring spirit to ourselves and others.

What was the hardest part of writing Missing and why?


That question is a painful one. This book is the final 100 pages of the original first book plus another one hundred and fifty pages.

I wrote the first book and was accepted by a publisher willing to work with me. Shortly before Elle Burton and the Reflective Portals was to be published, I learned the publisher intended to sell it for over $20.00. I was heartbroken. I didn’t want to make money from the series (Breaking even would be nice); I wanted to help kids in trouble.

No child can pay $20.00 for a book.

The publisher told me they could cut the final pages out of the first book and close it in a cliffhanger. They explained cliffhangers are good and would entice people to want to buy the next book.
In theory, that might have been a good idea, but I don’t particularly like cliffhangers.

I agreed to their terms to bring the cost of the book down, and the first book in the Lessons from Fiori series launched. What I didn’t know…what I could never have planned, was a fall I took in London about the same time as the release of book one.

I returned home from that trip in tremendous pain, and I couldn’t figure out how to take the ending of my first book and turn it into a ‘stand-alone’ novel.

Pain and creativity don’t seem to work in conjunction with each other well for me. I spent nearly six months trying to find a resolution for my injury and pain without coming up with any logical idea on how to rewrite my original ending for book one.

It was painful for me not to be able to release book two almost immediately, but it was physically impossible for me to sit at the computer and write after the fall.

My warning to other authors: If you want to end a book in a cliffhanger, make sure the sequel is ready to publish no longer than a month after the first book launches.

Did you learn anything from writing this book? What was it?


Writing this book was rather like being given a second chance to find my strength as a child. Through Elle, I’m able to realize how much I missed as a child and how important it is for us to provide strong role models for our sons and daughters. I will always wonder if I’d found a role model like Elle in my books if I’d have found the courage to tell someone about my abuse.

What advice would you give writers interested in creating a fantasy for younger readers?


You need to remember that children have vivid imaginations and are looking for a world where they can find action, excitement, and challenges.

You need to balance the good with the evil and give children something safe to hold onto within the fantasy world you’re creating for your characters. Build a world any child would want to not only visit but come back to over and over again. Make them believe anything's possible!

You also need to keep copious notes on the characters and the descriptions of your imaginary world. Kids are discerning readers too, and they'll remember if you change something about the world you've created between books.

In the first two books of my series, I’ve allowed readers to see two segments of Fiori. Who knows what they may discover as additional books are released?


About the author


Peggy M McAloon is on a mission to inspire kids everywhere to stand up to abuse and bullying. Her “Lessons from Fiori Series” about a young girl from Wisconsin, provides a strong female role model who isn’t afraid to show compassion or hack into a con man’s computer if the need arises. Peggy’s courageous battle with depression, abuse, and a traumatic brain injury has enabled her to identify with both children and adults who have suffered from abuse and bullying.

She’s a retired trainer and speaker in the field of commercial credit. Her first book, “The Art of Business Credit Investigation” was featured in Inc. Magazine. She’s been interviewed by the Associated Press and appeared on news shows in her efforts to protect our water resources.

Facebook / Twitter / Google Plus / LinkedIn / Amazon Author Central

About the book


Missing
Genre: middle grade fantasy

Kidnapping. Monsters. Magic.

Elle's desperate to find her kidnapped brother. She teams up with the winged warriors from the dimension of Fiori to save him, but JJ isn't the only one in danger. What will Elle sacrifice to bring her brother home? Can she fulfill the ancient prophecy and restore the magic of the Bronze Pendant?


You will love this coming of age, action-packed fantasy for middle-grade readers. Elle Burton's goal is to rescue her brother. What she discovers is pure evil. The author provides a female role model who strives to overcome her flaws and inspire kids everywhere.

"Missing" blends the magic of a fairytale with the contemporary realities of the world today's youth inhabit. You will discover a new world order through the journey of a young girl who exhibits both compassion and jaw-dropping courage in her quest to fulfill an ancient prophecy. Find yourself caught in the ultimate struggle between good and evil. "Missing" is the second book in the "Lessons from Fiori" series.

Available from Amazon

Book 1 available HERE


There are seventeen prizes with seventeen winners! Peggy is generously giving away 5 signed copies of the first book in her series, Elle Burton, 10 signed copies of her new release, Missing, and 2 replicas of Elle's necklace.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Tour Schedule


August 8
Bookish Orchestrations-Tour Introduction

August 9
Laurel's Leaves-Author Interview
So You Want to Write Christian Fantasy?-Character Interview with Amadeus

August 10

August 11
Peggy's Hope 4U-Character Interview

August 12

August 13
Bookish Orchestrations-Giveaway Winner


How about you, readers? Is there some aspect of your life story that has led you to write for certain audiences?

Thursday, August 04, 2016

with guest author Laurie Lewis
Image credit: jclk8888 on morguefile.com

I was eager to learn more about the story behind the story of The Dragons of Alsace Farm from my guest, author Laurie Lewis. Her new women's fiction novel  has some resonances with my new YA novel  Almost There: family secrets tucked away in an elderly person's home, a French grandparent, dementia, and the haunting presence of WWII, though I deal with different generations--Millennial, Gen X and Silent Generation (born during the war).

The real-life issues she turns into fiction will resonate with many of us watching our parents or grandparents decline. And so will the hope infused in this novel.

What's the story behind your intriguing title?

Great question. I wrestled over that title for months, even up to the day I submitted the manuscript, and I still worry whether it will resonate with readers, but my heart told me this was the title, and I’m crossing my fingers that when the last page turns, readers will agree it was the perfect title.

Here’s how I came up with it. Agnes survived the bombing of the Alsace region of France during WWII, and when her family moved to America, they named their farm after their homeland. The Dragon reference ties into Agnes’s past, and a mystery in the book, so I can’t give that away, but because of Agnes’s past, “Dragons” became the catchphrase for everything that challenges or frightens her.

What drew you to write about a character with dementia?

My beautiful, gentle mother inspired the story. She had a ramshackle farm she loved, and sadly, she was diagnosed with dementia several years ago.

We were unprepared for the decisions we had to make on her behalf. I soon realized how many friends were experiencing the same challenges with their parents, finding themselves in the uncomfortable position of parenting a parent. We knew Mom was afraid of the changes over which she had no control, but she was also still Mom—fun, happy, loving, caring. So instead of just creating a WWII survivor, I ramped up the tension by placing Agnes on the dementia spectrum.

What special research was required to write this intergenerational story?

A lot came from personal observation. A young couple with mild disabilities moved onto Mom’s farm for a few months. Mom believed she was helping them, and they felt they were helping Mom. I was fascinated by the way these three disabled people strengthened one another and themselves through serving each other, and I wanted to introduce that element into the book.

I met with a social worker to suggest a program where people who need a home could be paired with people who had a home but needed a little help. I cited the story above, and they thought the idea had promise, but there was no funding to try such an experiment, and it never was implemented.

As for Noah and Tayte, I remembered a sequel I had written years ago to my first novel, “Unspoken.” I never published it, but I loved the personal dynamic of the emotionally broken characters, so when I began drafting “Dragons,” I placed them in the story, and had them fill that helping role with Agnes.

I interviewed doctors, caregivers, therapists, and other families affected by dementia in order to illustrate the challenges families face with this diagnosis. Two friends/family therapists helped me assure that all these complicated characters—Agnes, Noah, and Tayte—were accurate depictions of people with their mental and physical concerns.

Tell us a little about your story's themes.

My favorite theme comes from a moment when Agnes fights the pull of dementia by remembering love. “Remember love,” is my battle cry now.

The power of redemption runs strong through the book. I hope people will close “Dragons” and feel hopeful, empowered, and refreshed.

The book really is about families and love. The power of tested love, the promise of new love, the strength of family love, and the courage they require from us.

What did you learn while writing this book?

I had a long hiatus between my last book and this one, so I first relearned how much I adore creating stories and characters. I also wish I could get a do-over with Mom. I would have spent more time asking her questions, recording her answers, and her stories. So we have little adventures now. Agnes has taught me how to love Mom where and as she is.

Which chapter was your favorite to write?

Oh, that’s easy. Twenty-seven, with twenty-three coming in a close second. These are the chapters when Noah comes into his own, when he loses himself through helping Agnes, and in the end, finds the answer to question that most plagued him—what kind of man was he?

What's the best piece of writing advice you've ever received?

Just start. We all have a story to tell. Just begin getting it down on paper. The editing and perfecting can come later, but get your ideas down on paper, for yourself, for your family, and for others who will be impacted by what you write.




Everyone has their secrets and Tayte, Agnes, and Noah are no exception. In Agnes’s home, though, those secrets—or dragons—might just tear them all apart. Part of the Kindle Scout competition, The Dragons of Alsace Farm, was hot and trending for four weeks before its launch. Find out why during this blog tour!

About the Book


In need of his own redemption, Noah Carter finally confronts his childhood hero, the once-beloved uncle who betrayed him. Instead of vengeance, he offers forgiveness, also granting Uncle John a most curious request—for Noah to work on the ramshackle farm of Agnes Deveraux Keller, a French WWII survivor with dementia.

Despite all Agnes has lost, she still has much to teach Noah. But the pair’s unique friendship is threatened when Tayte, Agnes’s estranged granddaughter, arrives to claim a woman whose circumstances and abilities are far different from those of the grandmother she once knew. 

Items hidden in Agnes’s attic raise painful questions about Tayte’s dead parents, steeling Tayte’s determination to save Agnes, even if it requires her to betray the very woman she came to save, and the secret her proud grandmother has guarded for seventy years.

The issue strains the fragile trust between Tayte and Noah, who now realizes Tayte is fighting her own secrets, her own dragons. Weighed down by past guilt and failures, he feels ill-equipped to help either woman, until he remembers Agnes’s lessons about courage and love. In order to save Agnes, the student must now become the teacher, helping Tayte heal—for Agnes’s sake, and for his.

About the Author



L.C. Lewis (Laurie) was born and raised in rural Maryland, surrounded by history-rich Philadelphia, Washington, and Baltimore. She and her husband Tom reside in Carroll County, Maryland, where they raised their four children.

The Dragons of Alsace Farm, Laurie’s eighth published novel, was inspired by a loved one’s struggle with the dragon of dementia. Her women’s fiction novels include Unspoken (2004) and Awakening Avery (2010), written as Laurie Lewis. Using the pen name L.C. Lewis, she wrote the five volumes of her award-winning FREE MEN and DREAMERS historical fiction series, set against the backdrop of the War of 1812, America’s nearly forgotten second war of independence: Dark Sky at Dawn (2007), Twilight’s Last Gleaming (2008), Dawn’s Early Light (2009), Oh, Say Can You See? (2010), and In God is Our Trust, (2011).

Dark Sky at Dawn and Twilight’s Last Gleaming were finalists in the 2008 USA Best Books competition. Oh, Say Can You See? was a 2010 Whitney Award finalist.

Three new books are in progress. Please watch for her remake of Awakening Avery, a political suspense novel titled The Shell Game, both of which are slated for later in 2016, and a March 2017 novella, Laurie’s contribution to the multi-author “Destination Billionaire Romance” series.

Laurie loves hearing from her readers and may be contacted through her website: www.laurielclewis.com. You can also follow her on Twitter @laurielclewis or on her blog at www.laurielclewis.blogspot.com. She also enjoys interacting with book clubs. Contact her to arrange a video chat with your group.

Book Club

The back of the book contains some thought-provoking book club questions. Laurie would love for you to schedule a video conference with her if their book club chooses The Dragons of Alsace Farm as one of their selections in the next six months. You can email her at: laurielclewis@laurielclewis.com.

Giveaway


First and foremost, The Dragons of Alsace Farm is a love story, about the power of tested love, the promise of new love, and the strength of family love. Here's a love basket, with a fun date night, Agnes's favorite breakfast for the morning, and an autographed copy of the book to read on a lazy afternoon.  Always remember love.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Goodreads Giveaway



Enter here for the chance to win a paperback of The Dragons of Alsace Farm.


Tour Schedule


July 31
Bookish Orchestrations-Tour Introduction

August 1
The Overactive Imagination-Author Interview

August 2

August 3

August 4
Laurel's Leaves-Author Interview

August 5
Phrey Press-Author Interview

August 6
Bookish Orchestrations-Tour Conclusion and Giveaway Announcement
 
Thursday, August 04, 2016 Laurel Garver
with guest author Laurie Lewis
Image credit: jclk8888 on morguefile.com

I was eager to learn more about the story behind the story of The Dragons of Alsace Farm from my guest, author Laurie Lewis. Her new women's fiction novel  has some resonances with my new YA novel  Almost There: family secrets tucked away in an elderly person's home, a French grandparent, dementia, and the haunting presence of WWII, though I deal with different generations--Millennial, Gen X and Silent Generation (born during the war).

The real-life issues she turns into fiction will resonate with many of us watching our parents or grandparents decline. And so will the hope infused in this novel.

What's the story behind your intriguing title?

Great question. I wrestled over that title for months, even up to the day I submitted the manuscript, and I still worry whether it will resonate with readers, but my heart told me this was the title, and I’m crossing my fingers that when the last page turns, readers will agree it was the perfect title.

Here’s how I came up with it. Agnes survived the bombing of the Alsace region of France during WWII, and when her family moved to America, they named their farm after their homeland. The Dragon reference ties into Agnes’s past, and a mystery in the book, so I can’t give that away, but because of Agnes’s past, “Dragons” became the catchphrase for everything that challenges or frightens her.

What drew you to write about a character with dementia?

My beautiful, gentle mother inspired the story. She had a ramshackle farm she loved, and sadly, she was diagnosed with dementia several years ago.

We were unprepared for the decisions we had to make on her behalf. I soon realized how many friends were experiencing the same challenges with their parents, finding themselves in the uncomfortable position of parenting a parent. We knew Mom was afraid of the changes over which she had no control, but she was also still Mom—fun, happy, loving, caring. So instead of just creating a WWII survivor, I ramped up the tension by placing Agnes on the dementia spectrum.

What special research was required to write this intergenerational story?

A lot came from personal observation. A young couple with mild disabilities moved onto Mom’s farm for a few months. Mom believed she was helping them, and they felt they were helping Mom. I was fascinated by the way these three disabled people strengthened one another and themselves through serving each other, and I wanted to introduce that element into the book.

I met with a social worker to suggest a program where people who need a home could be paired with people who had a home but needed a little help. I cited the story above, and they thought the idea had promise, but there was no funding to try such an experiment, and it never was implemented.

As for Noah and Tayte, I remembered a sequel I had written years ago to my first novel, “Unspoken.” I never published it, but I loved the personal dynamic of the emotionally broken characters, so when I began drafting “Dragons,” I placed them in the story, and had them fill that helping role with Agnes.

I interviewed doctors, caregivers, therapists, and other families affected by dementia in order to illustrate the challenges families face with this diagnosis. Two friends/family therapists helped me assure that all these complicated characters—Agnes, Noah, and Tayte—were accurate depictions of people with their mental and physical concerns.

Tell us a little about your story's themes.

My favorite theme comes from a moment when Agnes fights the pull of dementia by remembering love. “Remember love,” is my battle cry now.

The power of redemption runs strong through the book. I hope people will close “Dragons” and feel hopeful, empowered, and refreshed.

The book really is about families and love. The power of tested love, the promise of new love, the strength of family love, and the courage they require from us.

What did you learn while writing this book?

I had a long hiatus between my last book and this one, so I first relearned how much I adore creating stories and characters. I also wish I could get a do-over with Mom. I would have spent more time asking her questions, recording her answers, and her stories. So we have little adventures now. Agnes has taught me how to love Mom where and as she is.

Which chapter was your favorite to write?

Oh, that’s easy. Twenty-seven, with twenty-three coming in a close second. These are the chapters when Noah comes into his own, when he loses himself through helping Agnes, and in the end, finds the answer to question that most plagued him—what kind of man was he?

What's the best piece of writing advice you've ever received?

Just start. We all have a story to tell. Just begin getting it down on paper. The editing and perfecting can come later, but get your ideas down on paper, for yourself, for your family, and for others who will be impacted by what you write.




Everyone has their secrets and Tayte, Agnes, and Noah are no exception. In Agnes’s home, though, those secrets—or dragons—might just tear them all apart. Part of the Kindle Scout competition, The Dragons of Alsace Farm, was hot and trending for four weeks before its launch. Find out why during this blog tour!

About the Book


In need of his own redemption, Noah Carter finally confronts his childhood hero, the once-beloved uncle who betrayed him. Instead of vengeance, he offers forgiveness, also granting Uncle John a most curious request—for Noah to work on the ramshackle farm of Agnes Deveraux Keller, a French WWII survivor with dementia.

Despite all Agnes has lost, she still has much to teach Noah. But the pair’s unique friendship is threatened when Tayte, Agnes’s estranged granddaughter, arrives to claim a woman whose circumstances and abilities are far different from those of the grandmother she once knew. 

Items hidden in Agnes’s attic raise painful questions about Tayte’s dead parents, steeling Tayte’s determination to save Agnes, even if it requires her to betray the very woman she came to save, and the secret her proud grandmother has guarded for seventy years.

The issue strains the fragile trust between Tayte and Noah, who now realizes Tayte is fighting her own secrets, her own dragons. Weighed down by past guilt and failures, he feels ill-equipped to help either woman, until he remembers Agnes’s lessons about courage and love. In order to save Agnes, the student must now become the teacher, helping Tayte heal—for Agnes’s sake, and for his.

About the Author



L.C. Lewis (Laurie) was born and raised in rural Maryland, surrounded by history-rich Philadelphia, Washington, and Baltimore. She and her husband Tom reside in Carroll County, Maryland, where they raised their four children.

The Dragons of Alsace Farm, Laurie’s eighth published novel, was inspired by a loved one’s struggle with the dragon of dementia. Her women’s fiction novels include Unspoken (2004) and Awakening Avery (2010), written as Laurie Lewis. Using the pen name L.C. Lewis, she wrote the five volumes of her award-winning FREE MEN and DREAMERS historical fiction series, set against the backdrop of the War of 1812, America’s nearly forgotten second war of independence: Dark Sky at Dawn (2007), Twilight’s Last Gleaming (2008), Dawn’s Early Light (2009), Oh, Say Can You See? (2010), and In God is Our Trust, (2011).

Dark Sky at Dawn and Twilight’s Last Gleaming were finalists in the 2008 USA Best Books competition. Oh, Say Can You See? was a 2010 Whitney Award finalist.

Three new books are in progress. Please watch for her remake of Awakening Avery, a political suspense novel titled The Shell Game, both of which are slated for later in 2016, and a March 2017 novella, Laurie’s contribution to the multi-author “Destination Billionaire Romance” series.

Laurie loves hearing from her readers and may be contacted through her website: www.laurielclewis.com. You can also follow her on Twitter @laurielclewis or on her blog at www.laurielclewis.blogspot.com. She also enjoys interacting with book clubs. Contact her to arrange a video chat with your group.

Book Club

The back of the book contains some thought-provoking book club questions. Laurie would love for you to schedule a video conference with her if their book club chooses The Dragons of Alsace Farm as one of their selections in the next six months. You can email her at: laurielclewis@laurielclewis.com.

Giveaway


First and foremost, The Dragons of Alsace Farm is a love story, about the power of tested love, the promise of new love, and the strength of family love. Here's a love basket, with a fun date night, Agnes's favorite breakfast for the morning, and an autographed copy of the book to read on a lazy afternoon.  Always remember love.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Goodreads Giveaway



Enter here for the chance to win a paperback of The Dragons of Alsace Farm.


Tour Schedule


July 31
Bookish Orchestrations-Tour Introduction

August 1
The Overactive Imagination-Author Interview

August 2

August 3

August 4
Laurel's Leaves-Author Interview

August 5
Phrey Press-Author Interview

August 6
Bookish Orchestrations-Tour Conclusion and Giveaway Announcement