I hope this blog post finds you well and safe. Reading is an important portal into other worlds, where we can all escape for a while.
With the opportunity to read a lot more, I have been looking at my book shelves for inspiration. Re-reading a book after a number of years can surprise and delight us once again. It maybe because we have life experiences to reflect on or the story has new meaning.
As you can see it is an eclectic mix of authors, genres and publishing dates. There are a couple of childhood books that I have kept, such as Hiawatha, The Illustrated Book about Africa and Grey Rabbit and the Wandering Hedgehog as well as a history of Bucklebury.
I also have a lovely collection of fellow authors books, which I have bought, won or been gifted. I love reading emerging author’s work as they have such unique viewpoints and narrative styles.
As many of you know, I commit to a blog schedule at the end of each year for the coming year. My blog has in the past morphed into a writer’s blog as opposed to a reader’s blog and so I want 2020 to be different by still continuing to support my writing community as advocate but also to engage my reader’s more. To this end my twice weekly posts will be divided between writing topics and delving into my books and writing life for my readers.
I hope you will find the content interesting, enlightening and fun. I will post every Tuesday and Thursday each week as follows:
Bibliophile’s Collective Tuesday
Stories behind my published books and also from works in progress.
Update on events I will be attending.
A glimpse at my current writing project.
Sharing short stories or poem’s I have written from prompts or workshops.
My book reviews
Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday
Segments from my interview with Online for Authors
Special Interviews with authors from Creative Edge & First Pages
Author Website links
I am also starting a newsletterso please sign up when prompted. I hope we can develop a great relationship with this new venture – Sneek Peeks & Glimpses. Thank you in anticipation.
Congratulations are in order to Jenna Greene for winning the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award. I asked Jenna some questions about her experience.
Which book won the award?
Reborn – a YA dystopian novel. (The first in a new series).
Can you tell us a little about the story and its characters?
This is a story about a girl named Lexil who is banished to slavery because of the marks on her skin. These marks state that she has lived previous lives and, as such, is to toil in service for those not fortunate enough to have multiple lives.
Why is this story important to you?
This story is important to me on many levels. One – it is a genuinely good story. I feel it is the best writing I’ve done so far. Two – I love the characters and the mythology. I kept the premise of the story simple, but the mythology is unique. Three – I wrote this book in a turbulent part of my life. This story will be forever connected to my mother, as I wrote the first half of it when she was sick and the second half of it after she passed away. And when you write a book about connection to past lives, and those who have lived before … there is no way to escape the fact that maybe those who love us never really leave.
When did you decide to submit this book for the award?
I’ve never submitted a book for an award before but, as mentioned, I feel very proud of this book and very connected too. It just felt okay, for once, to see if others thought it was worthy of recognition.
Where was the award ceremony held?
Traverse City, Michigan.
Can you tell us about the Moonbeam‘s Award – who can apply, who sponsors it etc.?
The Moonbeam Children’s Book Award has bronze, silver, and gold for various categories in Children’s Literature. My novel, Reborn, tied for gold in the YA science fiction and fantasy category. The awards are sponsored by the Jenkin’s Group.
How was your trip to the award ceremony?
Eventful, to say the least. I nearly didn’t make it, as traveling from Canada in winter isn’t exactly easy. Security scanners broke at the Calgary airport, delaying my traveling buddy and I in the line for two hours. We barely caught our flight to Chicago. Our connecting flight to Michigan couldn’t land because of snow, so we had to try again the next night. My luggage wasn’t lost, but it was inaccessible, so I spent 24 hours without it… and the list goes on. But travel adventures make good writing later!
Jenna Greene is the author of the acclaimed Young Adult Fantasy series, Imagine! She is a middle school teacher, dragon-boat coach, enthusiastic dancer, and semi-professional napper. She lives in Lethbridge, Alberta with her husband (Scott), daughter (Olivia), and dog (Thor, dog of thunder).
In my youth, my father filled my bookshelves with Tolkien, Lewis, L’Engle, Alexander, and Eddings. As I entered adulthood, he bought me Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time books as they released.
My dad’s health declined. I began writing my own fantasy novel, transforming my useless anxiety into imaginative scribbling.
During this time, Robert Jordan was diagnosed with a disease similar to my father’s. They endured identical treatments, even taking part in a study for the same drug.
Jordan passed away before completing the series which was finished by Brandon Sanderson. My husband gave me those last three books because my father was gone too.
The sole connection between my dad and Jordan may appear tragic, but out of despair came Tranquility.
How did you come up with the title?
Tranquility is the name of a book within my novel. I wanted the title of that book to clearly represent peace, which was the intended purpose of the rules in that book.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
When I buy a fantasy book, I’m looking for a good story to curl up with and enjoy. I wrote a book I would want to read. Great books stick with me, and make me want to discuss them with other readers. A fictional story becomes the reader’s once the book is in their hands, and any message received is personal. I hope my book provides what good fiction should be: enjoyment; a story that remains in hearts and minds; and a reason for thoughtful discussion. That’s a tall order, I know.
How much of the book is realistic?
My hope is that the emotions, characters, and general circumstances connect to the real world enough for readers to identify with them. Some of the setting and characters were inspired by the Adirondacks, one of my favorite places. The messengers in the last chapter were inspired by a pair of Southern Ground Hornbills, who still reside at the Philadelphia Zoo. However, this is an absolute work of fiction.
Are your characters based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
There are pieces of me, people I know, and experiences I have sprinkled throughout the story. Close family and friends tease me about certain characters, who remind them of me. The best fun is when people project themselves on characters, who are not at all inspired by them.
Where can readers find you on social media and do you have a blog?
My website is the best place to connect with me. I do not have a blog.
Do you have plans or ideas for your next book? Is it a sequel or a stand alone?
I have the first few chapters of a stand alone WIP written and sitting on the back burner. The sequel to Tranquility is taking precedence.
Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why? I think Taelmai is high on my list of favorite characters. She struggles with hypochondria, but her nurturing personality drives her to care deeply for others, allowing an underlying bravery to well up. She’s a complicated, anxious, loving person, and I wonder about her reliability. She feels very human to me as I care for, worry about, and doubt her.
Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one?
Fantasy is my favorite genre. I do like to dabble. My short story Kat, The Jailer, and Jack is a retelling of an Indian folk tale The Tiger, The Brahmin, and the Jackal. This was fun to write because it was backwards for me. I took this old story filled with personification and reworked it into a modern all human cast of characters.
Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer?
Seat of my pants, definitely! Reading an interview with Madeleine L’Engle was a huge inspiration to me. Until I read it, I knew I had a basic idea for a story, but I didn’t know where it would go or how it would end. I thought I needed to have this outline to be a REAL writer. Then I read “The Wand in the Word: Conversations with Writers of Fantasy” by Leonard S. Marcus. He asked L’Engle, “Did you know from the start how the story would end?” she responded, “No. I’ve never done that! It is more fun not to know. If you know exactly what is going to happen, it doesn’t work. But if you start to write the story and listen to it, see where it wants to go … well, I think that’s how God creates.”
Reading this from one of my most-admired authors freed me from self-imposed constraints. I began to write, and the story unfolded.
What is your best marketing tip?
I value personal, grass roots effort as a strong starting place. I have a small teen/young adult tribe who have agreed to help me promote my book. They will be involved in everything from sharing and creating social media posts to live-streaming my author events and overseeing craft tables to talking to group leaders at their schools. Their peers are my readers. There is no better way to reach a population than to have some enthusiastic members encouraging their peers to enjoy what they have enjoyed. Also, talk to people and listen well. I discovered three friends, who have connections to newspaper/magazine publications. All three of them have helped me secure feature articles about my book. Talking to my town’s librarian and comic book store owner have secured me two author events. When I was on vacation in the Adirondacks, I talked to bookstore owners and loon conservationists about my book and its being inspired by their part of the world and the creatures residing there. I’ve made some great connections. Get yourself out there!
Do you find social media a great tool or a hindrance?
I have mixed feelings about social media. Tending to it takes a lot of time away from my writing and the personal engagement I prefer. However, it is a convenient way to reach a lot of people.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
I enjoy losing myself in the story as it develops. This feels very similar to why I love to read.
Do you read for pleasure or research or both?
I usually read for pleasure, but now that I am a writer, I find myself reading differently, noticing technical writing choices. I try hard to put that away, and just enjoy, but sometimes I am struck by a point of view or how dialogue is handled and I become thoughtful about the craft instead of the story.
Where is your favorite writing space?
I dream of writing in a cafe, using WiFi, and sipping a cafe mocha. However, I am a homeschooling mom, who is thankful for the times that my kids are learning independently, taking a class, volunteering, at practice, or playing outside so that I can write by daylight. For me, it’s more about a favorite time to write. That would be by daylight, but out of necessity, most of my writing happens in the wee hours. As for where this happens, I mix it up between my kitchen table, dining room table, and sometimes, when the sun is still up, the desk in my bedroom. That makes me feel fancy!
CHRISTA CONKLIN is the author of several articles, and two short stories: Moontail and Kat, the Jailer, and Jack. Tranquility is her debut novel for which she received the 2016 Cascade Award for Unpublished Speculative Fiction. She teaches piano and woodwinds at a music school in her small New Jersey town. Her family hikes mountains, paddles lakes, strolls city streets, and picks their own everything at local farms and from their own gardens. She and her meteorologist husband home school their children and don’t train their Miniature Goldendoodle. Visit her at christaconklin.com.
Tranquility by Christa Conklin “Tranquility is a refreshing take on the fantasy genre. Filled with magic, prophecies, and plenty of mythical beings, Conklin weaves an intriguing, imaginative tale that grabs you and doesn’t let you go until the last page. With a rich cast of characters, vivid world building, and a story you’ll be talking about long after you finish reading, Tranquility leaves readers both satisfied and yearning for the next adventure in the series.” —Kathryn Lee Martin, author, the Snow Spark Saga Elk Lake Publishing, Inc. March 20, 2019
Blurb: She must prove there’s more to life than peace and more to death than dying. The One People find guidance to peace and unity in the pages of TRANQUILITY. Drethene views the methods prescribed in the book as hurtful attempts to escape their diverse ancestry. Such pain is personal, as her parents aim to conceal how different she looks from the rest of their people. Even her job keeps Drethene quiet and secluded. While working in the Academy library, she secretly reads histories used only to teach future leaders to loathe the past. Drethene is inspired by these books filled with cultural variety. When she discovers another world as part of her people’s heritage, a well established enemy is revealed, and she rises to meet the truth and save both worlds. Now Drethene must convince the One People that their lives are not as tranquil as they seem. They are being hunted and must reunite with a sisterworld that has been erased from their past. If they choose to remain in the comfort of their rewritten history and false sense of peace. they will be dragged into a maelstrom they have forgotten to fear.
Mostly it exhausts me, both emotionally and physically. But so does playing the piano and doing art. If I was doing those things to relax, then it would be like a colouring page or writing a diary entry. But when I’m truly working on my art (writing) then I’m exhausted afterwards because it takes a part of my very self, when I’m truly creating.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
Yes. I wanted to publish a mid-grade book, which would be too far separated from my adult romance. I wouldn’t want the mid-graders to pick up the adult romance, so I considered writing the younger genre under a pseudonym.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I’m part of a writer’s group, where we write together and share our work. My best friend is also a writer, who writes romance and we talk about writing all the time. I am lucky to also have a couple friends who work at the local library and who like to write and read, not to mention writers I’ve met and become friends with through conferences, book fairs and author readings from Calgary, Edmonton and Medicine Hat. It really is a big community once you get involved. They help me become a better writer because we share insights and advice and things we’ve learned or discovered, from anything from writing style to book advertising options.
Do you want each book to stand alone, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
Currently I’m working on a three book series. The first two definitely go together, originally written as one long novel split into two. The third book could be a stand alone and is the prequel to the first two. The series is a Young Adult Sci-Fi Fantasy based on a fanfiction novel I wrote two years ago. The first book has been published and is called ‘The Gift Stone’, book one of the Gifted Series ( https://www.amazon.ca/Gift-Stone-Bianca-Rowena/dp/0994851332/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8 ).
Book two will be released in the summer of 2018, and will be titled ‘Takano Rynn’, the name of the main male character in the series. Book three will hopefully follow soon after that.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
I was born in Romania and we were Hungarian speaking. So when I came to Canada I was five years old and put into Kindergarten. I remember being forced to go to these English language sessions in the office, where they would hold up a photocard of a boot and say ‘boot’ over and over again. It didn’t take me very long to learn English, and it was WAY before anyone realized I understood it. So I had the power to know what everyone was saying around me and about me, without them knowing that I understood them. Understanding English came quickly at age five, but speaking it back, took a bit longer.
Also, whenever my parents needed to tell us something that they didn’t want anyone else to overhear, they’d tell us in Hungarian. And when they wanted to discuss something that they didn’t want my sister and I to hear, they’d discuss it in Romanian (we were too young to have learned Romanian in school, before coming to Canada). So I recognized at an early age that language held the power of communication, either to make it possible or to close it off and leave you completely clueless, depending on which language was being spoken at the time.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
‘Swim the Fly’ by Don Calame
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
I’ve got five unpublished but completed novels and one half finished novel, as well as 4 full length screenplays and many, many, many stories I started.
What does literary success look like to you?
A movie made based on your book.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
For my fan-fiction I spend a lot of time researching the details. Otherwise my novels are more character based so I don’t get into details, even in my sci-fi/fantasy novels, of the technicality of things. I sort of avoid too much research. As for character research I watch a lot of movies, read a lot of books in the genre I write and observe everyone around me. That too is research!
How many hours a day/week do you write?
The last three months I’d been writing at least 3-5 hours daily, mostly for posting fanfiction chapters daily ( www.wattpad.com/biancawatson ). But when I’m not deep in my fanfiction I spend most of my time editing. I’ll write a novel in a month or two, non-stop, about 6 hours a day. Then I’ll stop and do edits at a slower pace. I’m not a planner, so when ideas hit me I write them as fast as I can (like my personal Nanowrimo), then I plan and edit and work hard on the rewrites, but at a slower pace, a few hours a day. It’s not a consistent thing for me, writing. It’s on a project by project basis, so the times fluctuate per month.
How do you select the names of your characters?
I like short, simple names. Usually I can just sense that the name is right for the character or if it is wrong.
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
I write YA because everything I write comes out sounding YA, whether I intend it to or not. My first novel, The Virgin Diaries, was a contemporary adult romance. Yet anyone who has read it would tell you it ‘reads’ like a YA. I’m naturally drawn to writing in a more simple, easy to read, style and my understanding of the world around me seems to be naturally very young minded. So I stick with what I write best!
What projects are you working on at the present?
I was working on my Star Wars fanfiction right after the new movie came out, doing a sequel to it. Now I’m focusing on my next novel in the Gifted Series, Takano Rynn, which comes out this Summer. I also want to write some new material for future work, and I’m editing (alongside book two) book three of the Gifted Series, which may need a rewrite for the ending. I also write in a journal when I can.