Books -- reading and writing.
Home, cooking, the weather.
And whatever connections I can make between these chapters of my life.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Secret Hum of a Daisy

 Funny, tiny remarks that still make me smile:

Jo saying, "I come here all the time when it gets warm and film the wildlife, which includes people."

"That's how it had always been with Mama. Taping things up in a way that was easy to take down."
(She used double-sided tape. What a great image.)

First line: All I had to do was walk up to the coffin.

(I'm thinking a lot about First Lines these days. So important!
Re: Richard Peck's talk at Books of Wonder.  And another Richard Peck beginning thought is HERE.)

Won't give away last line but it does refer back to the title. Which I always like. Titles are also tough. I kept forgetting this one while I was reading the book. Afterwards, not so much.

Here's a nice, short review of Tracy Holczer's debut middle-grade novel, via Publisher's Weekly:

I read this one on the advice of an interesting list in the Christian Science Monitor of the best middle-grade books of the year, so far (though truthfully, some are Young Adult in my opinion) HERE.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


I'm way behind in my adult novels To Be Read list.
To whoever recommended this one, thank you and I'm sorry I didn't get to it a year ago when you raved.

A perfect vacation read, THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS is written by M.L. Stedman, an Australian living in London. 
Click to read that the novel's ->  ->
Coming soon to the movies!

The book is about many things I love: lighthouses, families, World War I. 

For a terrific interview about writing the book, click here:

As I turned the pages quickly (because it was that kind of story- hey Oprah likes it too!), I was reminded of writing advice I recently read on Janice Hardy's blog about creating conflict:

2. Offer an impossible choice

Choices move the plot, but impossible choices make the protagonist work for it. When there’s no clear answer, and both choices have terrible consequences, readers know something about the story is going to change and the stakes are going up–two solid ways to keep readers hooked. 

To read the rest of her tips, CLICK HERE.

Without spoiling the novel for those of you who haven't read it, Stedman is quite good at that impossible choice thing. 

Anything else I shouldn't miss reading this summer, which will be gone when I blink fast?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

How Many Pages is Enough?

Intriguing post over at 100 Scope Notes today.

Be sure to read the comments, too. There were 36 at my last count!

Truly, it's not only about PAGE COUNT as far as heft (or lack thereof) goes. 

My first novel was 196 pages, not counting the Author Note, etc. But the new book might be a tad longer--not much!-- AND the font's smaller. So there's that.

But Travis Jonker has a point over there on his blog. I love shorter middle-grade novels. 192 works for me!

Click right here and check it out:

Plus, it's a fun topic to think about. And he's a funny guy.

"What if a story is longer, you say? Either it gets edited down, or slap a #1 on the spine because that sucker’s becoming a series. Shorter? Beef that puppy up."

Monday, July 14, 2014

Quote of the Day

I love this from my writing group buddy, Teddie Aggeles, on a chapter I sent to my Skyway Writers SCBWI critique group last week:

"I’m not sure we can completely know a Main Character the way we need to until the story unfolds. 
...even when we think we know our characters, there’s always more to discover about them, just like in real life."

(I'm trying, really.)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Being Still and Listening

July seems like a good time to re-post advice I'm still working on.
Of course, it never hurts to be in a place where your choices for Internet Background Noise are limited.

My husband's great-grandmother hung this where she could read it every day during the summer months she spent in this quiet place.

 (Here's a reposting from two years ago.)
"The discipline of the writer is to learn to be still and listen to what his subject has to tell him."
                 Rachel Carson

This morning I read Candice Farris Ransom's post about switching off the internet and listening Here it is. What do you think? I don't think I can completely unplug. But I'll try to strike a balance.

I'm leaning toward the advice of Laurie Halse Anderson, 
in her blogpost about Social Media.

Cut the amount of time you spent on social media and reading blogs about writing and getting published by 75%. Yep. If you spent 10 hours a week on that stuff, then from now on, spend 2.5 hours. Use the time that you get back for writing your novel and for reading great books. That will make your chances of getting published much stronger than any Facebook post ever will.

Of course, I'd spent an entirely productive time cruising around on Laurie Halse Anderson's blog.  She's got some great advice and fantastic visuals so I'll be back.  She'll be in my 25%.

It's the other internet background noise I may be able to live without. 
It's a lot easier to be still and listen when the background noise isn't clutter.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Diving In

Sharing a quote I copied from Bruce Black's WORDSWIMMER blog

"You can't cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water."
--Rabindranath Tagore


(Which seems entirely appropriate from where I sit today, not far from the water, not having a clue how to get on over and end this story.)

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Glory's Birthday!

Yes, I know, it's a little strange to wish a book character a happy birthday. Sort of like having an imaginary friend, isn't it? 

But my first main character, Gloriana June Hemphill, has a birthday that coincides with a national holiday. 
A great excuse for a blogpost, right?

I previously wrote more about Glory and her
 July 4th birthday HERE.

I'm eternally grateful for all the teachers and librarians who've shared my book, Glory's birthday and Freedom Summer with young readers.

Horn Book recently included GLORY BE in a new list of books  about Freedom Summer.

And I'm beyond excited to have been invited to talk about my book and what I know about that summer. I'll be in Oxford, Ohio, home of Miami University where so many of the 1964 Freedom Summer workers were trained. Details to follow. At least one of the events will be open to the public, so I hope to see a few Ohio friends there!

If you missed the remarkable movie, FREEDOM SUMMER via PBS, here's a link: 

Have a terrific July 4th weekend, everybody! 

(And listen to Elvis, Glory. He doesn't wish just anybody a happy birthday.)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Welcome, Nancy Castaldo

I love it when author friends stop by. Nancy and I met last fall when we go-assisted at a Highlights Historical Fiction Whole Novel retreat. (Here's our fun group.)

Now she has a book coming- in a few days!- about a subject near to my heart: DOGS!

But not just any dog. 
These are special creatures, working dogs. Shelter dogs, Sniffers extraordinaire!

So sit with us and pour an iced tea. Feel free to jump in with questions for Nancy in the comments section.

You can also pop over to her website:

Augusta: How did you find these amazing dog subjects? Did you actually get to meet them all?

Nancy: That was the best part of the research, Augusta. These dogs were amazing and I felt so lucky to spend time with them.  It took a lot of research to connect with some, but I had serendipitous meetings with a few. Like, Rocky, for example. I met him while he was working in my local shopping mall. I felt like I was witnessing something incredible every time I went off with one of them. And to think most of them had been abandoned in shelters before their sniffer dog careers!

Augusta: I love the genre of non-fiction picture books. Any advice for an aspiring writer?

Nancy: Write about something you are passionate about and let that passion shine through in your writing.  Enjoy your research and make it count. Research is the main ingredient in writing nonfiction.  It can be easy to get lost in it. 

Augusta: Ah, research. Yes, easy to get lost.
I know you take a lot of your own photographs. Can you tell us your own background, how you came into this type of writing and illustrating?

Nancy: In my senior year of college I interned at Audubon Magazine. It was the perfect internship for me. I was finishing a double major in biology and chemistry, was co-editor of our literary magazine and was a photography student.  The internship combined everything I loved.  I stayed for the full year and realized I wanted to ultimately combine writing and photography. This is the first book that I have been able to do that and it’s been a fantastic experience.

Augusta: The story of the medical sniffers and Zack’s dog Alan was one of my favorites. Is there anything you left out of these dogs’ stories that you wish you could have kept? Anything your readers might like to know?

Nancy: Sniffer dogs are all wonderful, hard working dogs. I only wish I could have included more of them in this book. My intent was to have the reader meet each type of sniffer dog and really get to know them. I hope I accomplished that.

Augusta: You did that so well. Tell us, what are you working on now?

Nancy: I’m working on another book for Houghton Mifflin about seeds that has taken me as far as Russia for research. It will be out next year!

Augusta: Seeds! Wow. Intriguing topic. So Nancy, we'd like to know- what do you read for fun?

Nancy: Just about everything! I love all genres of kid lit, but I do have a leaning towards historical fiction.  I’m a reviewer for the Historical Novel Society and have the opportunity to dive into many great books. I also love to read nonfiction – both adult and kids.

Augusta: Why am I not surprised you like historical fiction?

Where’s your favorite place to write? Are you a coffeeshop kind of gal?

Nancy: I love working in my home office. I live in a rural area and can see everything from birds and deer out my window to rows of corn.  And I have two great office buddies, my 90 pound golden doodle, Gatsby, and my cat, Zuzu, to keep me company. They also happen to be the best first listeners! :)

Augusta: You are blessed! Have you always loved dogs and had pets?

Nancy: Yes!  I had everything when I was a kid – rabbits, guinea pigs, lizards, turtles, frogs, salamanders, birds, as well as a dogs and cats. In fact, I volunteered in our local animals shelter for years. I thought I’d end up being a vet, but found I enjoyed working with animals in the wild a lot more!

Thanks for hosting me on your blog today, Augusta. This has been fun!  

 Thank you for stopping by, Nancy. 

Leave us a comment about your dog, Nancy's book, the amazing service dogs and all the special animals in your lives.
And don't forget to check out SNIFFER DOGS, ready to order right now!

A link to the excellent KIRKUS review, with ordering info is RIGHT HERE.