All I Want as a Writer this Christmas is…

Christmas is definitely a season of giving, but it’s a time of wishes too. Our favorite Christmas stories sometimes involve ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, hoping for something amazing to happen. As writers, we may be ordinary people, but we take ownership of our extraordinary imaginations. That means we have no problem talking about Christmas wishes…and making them too. So without further ado, these are the wishes on the WWAT crew’s letters to Santa: John: In the immortal words of Cousin Eddie from Christmas Vacation, I want the gift that keeps on giving. (No, not a jelly-of-the-month-club membership.) I want to get better. I want my writing to shine like a child’s smile on Christmas morning. I know that writing is subjective, though as most writers I have come to loathe that word, but I want my voice to be so powerful that it even if it isn’t your style, the writing sucks you in. I want my storytelling to be so incredible that readers have to turn the page, and when they run out of those, the only disappointment stems from there being no more to turn. I want vortex-like openings; lofty and thrilling middles; and heart-pounding, emotionally draining but satisfying endings. In short, I want to be an incredible writer. Megan: A breakthrough. This Christmas (or, more realistically, New Year), I’d like to connect with an editor the same way I connect with my agent. I would love to have the opportunity to work with someone and have that person challenge me to make my project as great as it can be. I would be happy to work on one book, or a whole series, where I can show my editor that I respect what he or she does as much as that person respects me. I’m hoping 2017 will be that year! Jess:   To hear voices in my head. Yep, that’s correct. I’d like to go batty for Christmas. Over the past month I have been researching and reading, desperately trying to jump start my next story. I have scenes. I have names. I have all sorts of ideas. But no direction. I usually see an ending before I begin. Now, I am not a true outliner/plotter, but usually I have something in place to keep my momentum and confidence. This time…not so much. I miss writing. I desire to write and to do so I’ll need a good wander, a successful pantsing, and the company... read more

What Hooked Me? The Blackthorn Key by Author Kevin Sands

In this month’s blog, the WWAT Crew discuss what it was that hooked us in the middle-grade book, The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands. John: Puzzles, codes, and mysteries Oh My! If you love these things (and who doesn’t), you will love The Blackthorn Key. I knew I wasn’t alone since many of the reviews left at Goodreads and Amazon also mentioned how much readers enjoyed that part of the plot. Not much of a spoiler, but in the story, our young hero, Christopher Rowe, must solve a series of science-related puzzles in order to discover the final secret and defeat the baddies. I was most impressed with how the puzzles were relevant to the history and time period. That sneaky Kevin Sands, not only did he entertain me, but he taught me some things. It was actually the puzzle-loving reviews that drew me to The Blackthorn Key. One of my works-in-progress deals with a puzzle-solving twelve-year old, and I wanted to see how Mr. Sands did it. I wasn’t disappointed. If you love puzzles and specifically, secret codes, you might check out Mysterious Messages: A History of Codes and Ciphers by Gary Blackwood. It’s a fascinating book that discusses how people throughout history have created and solved coded messages for all manner of different reasons. Jess: Science         The Blackthorn Key takes place in an apothecary (historic chemistry) and in the opening scene the main character, Christopher and his best friend Tom make gun powder and a cannon. Why is science such a hook for me? I used to teach high school chemistry and I always believed I was teaching students first, then chemistry. Not everyone was going to grow up and play with fire, solutions, and explosions like me (I will argue chemistry is still a part of everyone’s life). I believed along with the concepts it was my job to inspire curiosity, problem solving, exploration and innovation. I searched for books such as this to recommend to my students and Neil Gaiman sums up why beautifully in his ‘Face facts: we need fiction’ article found in The Guardian (         “I was in China in 2007, at the first party-approved science fiction and fantasy convention in Chinese history. SF had been disapproved of for a long time. At one point, I took a top official aside and asked him what had changed? “It’s simple,” he told me. “the Chinese were brilliant at making things if other... read more

Bah Humbug! The Most Wonderful Character

MARLEY was dead, to begin with. So begins what many consider to be the second greatest Christmas story of all time. There are many things I love about this time of year: the food, the family, and (as an educator) the break…but one of the things I love the most is the opportunity to read Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in the season it was intended. I took the opportunity to read a portion of the book with my class last week, and before doing so I did a little background research on the story. I actually learned a few things I never knew. I knew that Dickens was actually struggling as a writer when he wrote it. His recent works had been less than well received and money was tight. I didn’t know that his own father had been thrown into debtor’s prison forcing him at twelve years old to work 10 hour days in a boot blacking warehouse. This experience would shape much of his later views, and these remembrances may have been on his mind when he first devised the plan for A Christmas Carol. After several trips to visit some of the less fortunate of the time, Dickens planned to write a pamphlet that would change people’s opinions of the poor. He soon determined that it would have more impact if he wrote a story instead. Maybe the most interesting thing I learned was the state of Christmas at the time. The celebration of Christmas had been on the decline for some time, but Dickens saw it as an opportunity to not only inject new energy into a once merry time, but also highlight the plight of the poor in a most powerful way–and thus, A Christmas Carol was born. I have always marveled at the character of Ebenezer Scrooge. He is no hero, not in the beginning anyway. He is a character who you want to see get what’s coming to him. And yet, that’s not what Dickens does. He takes Scrooge by the hand (or by the collar when necessary) and with the help of a handful of ghosts, guides him through a life-changing journey–one that sees him go from the worst humanity has to offer to the best. It struck me as I taught this story to my students that in Scrooge we witness not only one of the most entertaining transformations of character, but we witness Dickens’ effort to change the society he lived in. Scrooge is the England that... read more