Ogres and Turkeys Just in Time for Thanksgiving!

  What do ogres and turkeys have in common? In the land of Ogregon, they’re both ginormous next to your smaller-than-usual hero. Milo Speck: Accidental Agent, by Linda Urban, weaves together a unique tale of socks and turkey feathers with a boy who wants to make his father proud. While I was reading this novel, I was reminded of some of my favorite books and movies when I was younger. So rather than give accolades about the writing or the setting or the characters (all of which are excellent), I want to motivate you to read Milo Speck based on these other works of fiction you might have already enjoyed. Linda Urban encourages readers in her endnotes to read some of Dahl’s books and says the BFG inspired her novel. Giants… ogres… see the connection? Another Dahl book I was reminded of was Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. If you haven’t read this one, it continues the story of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, only this time they go into space! Now, I don’t want to give too much away, but Linda Urban uses a very unique mode of transportation to get Milo from the “real” world and into Ogregon. HINT: It has to do with laundry. And where do the turkeys come in? First place you’ll see one is on the back of the book jacket. And I will tell you there is a scene very reminiscent of this one from The Swiss Family Robinson. Haven’t you always wanted to ride an ostrich? What about a giant turkey who can do the chicken dance?   Before I give anything else away… And, yes! There are spies with strange technology! So I hope I have made you curious enough to rush out and buy Milo Speck: Accidental Agent. It’s a great read for all ages, and especially fun for reluctant readers. If they resist, just show them the pics on this awesome blog post.... read more

Managing Your Middle

So…I used to have a problem with my middles—bigger issues than I do now. I know this time of year that’s a normal cause for concern. Most folks do pay a bit more attention to what goes in and what it becomes. But I’m not talking about stuffing my face. I’m talking about my writing. Those middles. Those bloated or deficient middles that did little more than bridge my beginnings and endings. For too long, I took them for granted, figuring that most readers don’t quit on books—that they would make it to my dynamic, twisty ending. But alas, I had to face facts: A. attention spans are shortening. Readers may not be so generous to finish what they started. B. It’s just poor form. As the old saying goes, the only sin a writer can commit is to bore the reader, and if I’m not as passionate about my middle as I am my beginning or end then shame on me. C. I wasn’t going to get it published with a sagging middle. So how do you fix middles that need attention? First, I can’t say enough about the James Scott Bell book that WWAT crew’s Jess Toman wrote about here. His advice forces you to focus on the middle and its importance. Second, I’ll tell you what helped me with my plot-driven stories, and finally, I’ll give you some examples of what you might do to help your character-driven novels. So about my issue. My biggest problem? I was a pantser, and my novels tend to be plot driven. I absolutely hated preparing to write by doing preparatory writing. I wanted to dive in. Get going. Crush that beginning fresh. Doing anything else felt like reading the Cliff Notes of a great book prior to reading it—it spoiled it. But since I knew how I wanted my stories to start, and I’d planned out my exciting ending, I found myself wading through the middle only because I lacked the passion to sustain me. By the time I reached the end, I was mentally exhausted and my ending even suffered. So what was I to do? Sadly, I figured I would have to be that guy—a plotter. Fortunately, I found a happy medium. I discovered that if I dove in and wrote the first chapter(s)—the ones that really got my juices flowing and then stopped to outline, things went much smoother. Now outlining isn’t for everyone. I hated... read more

Middle Magic

A mirror moment makes middle magic. Say that 10x fast. Now that you’re awake let’s talk about the best middles. I hear authors talk sometimes about the beginning was always clear to them, or the first idea they had was how the book should end. Readers talk about the best beginnings and even more so the best endings. The poor middles get neglected. I, myself, hadn’t given much thought to middles until I read Write Your Novel from the Middle by James Scott Bell and regret that I hadn’t paid more attention sooner. I recommend purchasing this short writer’s help book and really any by James Scott Bell (Check out Voice). He is fantastic. Bell talks about the golden triangle in which the top point is the mirror moment, the character reflection moment that comes between the beginning pre-story psychology the character had and the end character transformation. There is this mirror moment in both good character driven and plot driven stories. In character-driven stories, the character looks at herself and wonders what kind of person she is, what she is becoming, what will she have to do to battle successfully, and is she willing to change? In plot-driven novels the character considers the odds against him, and at this point the odds should be against him. There should be no way to go on and not face certain death: physical death, professional death, or psychological death. In the middle grade, Doll Bones, the three friends who ran away from home realize that at this point in the story, they have to go home before they get into big trouble, but instead decide to see their adventure to the end no matter what. And in The Graveyard Book, the main character Bod reflects on himself and where he is grown up. He finally sees that he isn’t dead like the rest of the inhabitants of the graveyard. That time for him should be a long ways off. The award winning, young adult, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe starts with, “The Different Rules of Summer: The problem with my life was that it was someone else’s idea.” Right away we know as readers it feels like the main character doesn’t have control over his life. Ari is an angry teen. His siblings are all older and out of the house. His mother doesn’t talk to him about his brother in prison, and his dad talks nothing... read more

Middle Me This – Books With a Slow Burn…

I will admit I am not the most patient of people. It may come from my temperamental-but-ever-so-charming Irish ancestry (apparently the McAndrews were the fieriest of the fiery sort in County Mayo), or perhaps the fact that as a mother of two young children working part time while pursuing my dream, life moves at a very, very rapid pace. That’s why I like books that start with a zing bang boom and keep me hooked until the bitter (or hopefully, happy) ending. If a book doesn’t do that, especially a young adult or middle grade book, from which I’ve come to expect immediate seduction (Can I use that word on a kidlit blog? I’m gonna use that word on a kidlit blog…), I get a little surly when I’m greeted with a lot of “this is how it is around here” stuff. Fingers begin tapping on my Kindle, and the dust bunnies in the corner shrug their shoulders and say, “Well, you could be cleaning.” But I am determined to give each book at least a 20% try (that means I stick with it no matter what up to 20% of the way through on my Kindle). And that’s how I discovered the three beauties below. Just when I was about to set the novel aside (which actually means closing my Kindle app and opening the Facebook one on my phone, dust bunnies be darned), these books got their teeth into me and dragged me right back in. Meet the books with a healthy midsection… The Scorpio Races (Maggie Stiefvater)…bringing the characters (that you already know) together. I am not big on extensive description. I have to coax it out of my own writing, remembering that my audience cannot see inside my mind (thank God!). I started this book with many recommendations and high hopes. And I did warm immediately to Kate Connolly and Sean Kendrick. The water horses are pretty intense too (kind of felt like Jurassic Park meets Black Beauty meets Wales). But after so much description of the sea, I either 1)needed to go to a rocky beach with breathtaking views, or 2) quit torturing myself with reading about one. However, it soon became clear that the sea is a character itself, and as Stiefvater began her intricate dance of weaving characters together, I finally latched on to a middle that carried me well to the end. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (Jenny Hann)…establishing... read more

NEWS: G.K. Kaup Pitchwars Interview

Read an interview from WWAT’s own G.K. Kaup on Brenda Drake’s website. Read her Pitchwars entry here!... read more