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Wicked Challenge: Making a Sentence Out of Just Book Titles

It’s the Wonderfully Wicked Read-a-Thon weekend and we’re entering our first challenge!! We had to make a complete sentence out of only book titles and you can see OUR SENTENCE below. You can use as many books as you want and if you want more info you can view the challenge here:  http://lovelylit.blogspot.com/2011/10/wonderfully-wicked-readathon-challenge.html.

Our sentence, made up by each kiddo and my fabulous better half Tim, is below. We seem to have merged a few types of literary genius, both picture books, YA fiction, and Mr. Stephen King for one extremely cool Halloween sentence. LOL! We had fun doing this together. Thank you Lovely Lit blog for this challenge during the Read-a-Thon. My kids all know what a great fan I am of paranormal and supernatural reading.

Here goes:

One Spooky Night, The Perfect Pumpkin Pie Vanished Just After Sunset Where the Wild Things Are Under the Dome.

Here are the books used:

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Wonderfully Wicked Read-a-Thon This Weekend, You Could Read to Win!

This weekend is the Wonderfully Wicked Read-a-Thon put on by several other blogging book lovers. What you read doesn’t have to be Halloween oriented, just any genre is fine. Just read, read, read! You can participate in challenges which you’ll find on the main site (you can click on the other blogs during the times allotted to get challenges), updating as you go and using your social networking skills to talk it up. You can win prizes for doing so! There is still a day to sign-up (as of Friday at 3:00 p.m.) and you can do that here: http://www.myshelfconfessions.com/read-a-thon/ or http://rebgeo.net/posts/wonderfully-wicked-read-a-thon-intro-information/and see more information. You can see challenges NOW at the latter link of Kindle Fire’s blog.

Hashtag on Twitter is #WWReadathon, so use it frequently!! Spread the love of reading and books.

I’m going to do this one with the kids so we’ll be reading lots of picture books, YA books, and I’ll try to log what all we read together. I love making reading a family project. It’s rainy and awfully cold and windy in Ohio, so what a great time to snuggle up with books and hot tea with honey.

Have fun and don’t forget to sign-up to win here:  http://www.myshelfconfessions.com/read-a-thon/ or http://rebgeo.net/posts/wonderfully-wicked-read-a-thon-intro-information/.  Thank you to all the hosts who organized the read-a-thon and are supporting the challenges.

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On Being a Mom AND a Writer: Cory P. Oakes, Author

Readers, this is the first part of a series of guest posts I am hosting in regards to “Being a Mom AND a writer.” As moms and writers, we all struggle with time for dinners, homework, sports, diapers, and fitting writing in. How do you do it? Do you have thoughts?  I hope you find this series funny, insightful, and supportive. If you, or someone you know, would be great for a guest post pertaining to the subject of being a writer and a mother of young children, please contact me at hookofabook@hotmail.com. Thanks for reading, Erin

My first guest post is by Cory Oakes, author of newly published THE VEIL a young adult fantasy novel, and mother of a busy eighteen-month-old daughter.

Cory Oakes: On Being a Mom and Publishing a First Novel

I am a stay-at-home mom to an eighteen-month old tornado of energy with the power to tear apart a room in five seconds flat and then giggle uncontrollably about it until I start laughing too. I am also a writer with a book coming out this November 1 and a planned sequel looming large over my head.

This situation comes with its share of challenges. Like most Writer-Moms (and, I suspect, most Moms in general) there are many nights when I go to sleep wishing there was more of me to go around so that everything and everyone in my life who matters – my daughter, my husband, my writing, my friends, my pets (and heck, even my hair!) – could get all of the love, attention, and time that they deserve from me.

 But that’s the tough stuff. I’d rather talk about the surprising ways that being a mom has actually improved my writing.

Perspective – Publishing can be a tough world. In my twenties, rejections from agents or an unkind word about something I had written often knocked me flat for days at a time. Even today, bad news is always hard but ever since my daughter came along, the “Need To Be Successful In The Publishing World” has slipped down a few notches on my ladder of importance, well below “My Daughter is Happy and Healthy” and “My Husband Still Loves Me”. Not to mention that toddlers do not come with Pause buttons – when an email or a phone call sends me reeling, having a good, long mope about it doesn’t always fit into my busy schedule of diapers, meals, playtime, playgroup, and snacks. Kids force you to get a grip, and quickly, so you can be there for them.

Focus – Gone are the long, lazy days when I had time to nourish my inner writer with “mood music” or when I could put off writing a certain scene until I was “really feeling it.” These days, my writing time is either bought (with a baby-sitter), stolen (“sure, take all of the tissues out of the box one by one while I just finish this last part . . .”) or bargained-for (“I’ll watch your kid if you watch mine next week”) and I’m hyper-aware that I have to make every minute count. This means no frills. When I get forty-five minutes or an hour to write, I have to dive right in – whether I am “feeling it” or not! This was the hardest adjustment for me (and one I am still working on) but it has really done wonders for my writing.

To be honest, I am not always able to kick it into gear with no notice, limited time, and with a baby monitor blinking beside my computer screen. But when it works, I am able to crank out stuff that would have taken me hours before. And it’s not because I am “super writer” all of a sudden – it’s simply because I no longer have the option of agonizing over every single detail. And I suppose time will tell if that turns out to be a good thing or not, but so far it seems to be helping me “cut to the chase” with my writing a lot faster.

A large part of writing, at least for me, is making decisions. Will this character be tall or short? Good-hearted or selfish? Will she fall in love with this character or this other one? What direction do I want the story to go? Each decision shapes the novel by opening up new paths while simultaneously closing off other ones. Sometimes it’s about making the right decision – after all, if J.K. Rowling had decided that Harry Potter was going to take a pass on attending Hogwarts, we probably wouldn’t still be talking about her today. Some decisions deserve to be agonized over. But sometimes, moving forward in a story means just coming to a decision – any decision – and making it work. I am much better at doing that these days, if only because I constantly have one eye on the clock.

Life Experience – There is nothing like creating and giving birth to a human being to give you a mini “insta-dose” of wisdom! Ok fine, so I’m not wise. But all of the emotion and experience that comes with the day-to-day of being a mom is wonderful fodder for writing. There are a lot of things about being a parent that you just can’t know until you are one and as a consequence, I have found that my parental-type characters are much more well-rounded and truthful these days.

Motivation – This is the big one for me. I had always pretty much assumed that having a child would be the death of my writing career, and I was shocked to discover that it was the exact opposite.

I took about a year off after I had my daughter, but around the time she turned one, some invisible timer went off inside of me and told me, forcefully, that it was time to finally do something about this “getting published” thing. That led to a decision to self publish which, ironically, led to me signing with a publisher, which set this whole, crazy thing in motion. I give my daughter credit for this (well, most of it – Octane Press, my publisher, should get some credit too!). As cheesy as it sounds, I did it because I wanted her to be proud of me. I wanted to be able to tell her that I had a lifelong dream to do something and that I went after it with everything I had (and that she should do the same). Obviously it would be great if the book really takes off, but even if this is the last book I ever publish, a large part of me will be okay with that, because I now have something concrete that I can hand to my daughter one day as evidence that dreams do come true.

 And that is something that I never would have been able to say before I became a mom.

Cory’s debut young adult novel, THE VEIL, is out this November 1, 2011 and is now available for preorder on Amazon (http://amzn.to/TheVeil) and Barnes&Noble.com (http://bit.ly/nkEDRN). Watch  for a review on THE VEIL and an exclusive interview with Cory coming soon to this blog.

Cory now lives in Austin, Texas with Mark and their beautiful daughter, Sophia. In addition to writing, Cory enjoys reading, cooking, running, and hanging out with her family and pets.

 For more on Cory or THE VEIL, please visit her website at http://www.corypoakes.com.

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Graphic Novel Trend Spectacular for Abundance of Reasons!

Lately, I’ve interviewed several authors that mentioned comics as a source for their childhood (and probably adult, too) reading pleasure and creativity. Quite coincidentally, I also read that comics are a great resource for parents who struggle with reluctant readers. Then, when a recent trip to the library and a graphic novel display, as well as my youngest daughter’s obsession with having graphic novels read to her, really got me thinking, I decided to put a post together. I can’t believe what books for children are available now as graphic novels. Not only are children investing in words by reading graphic novels, but they are also enjoying visual art and adventure right at their fingertips!

As a kid, I loved buying comics. Yeah, I know, I’m a girrrrl…but hey, we can love comics and graphic novels too!  And I wasn’t a dork (as far as I say), so yeah, I’m not ashamed to declare that girls who love make-up and red lipstick can still love comics (I hear my fiance yelling, right on girl….)!

 Flashback to Archie and My Childhood

Back when I was a kid we picked up Archie, Jughead, Betty and Veronica….those little magazine-sized comics at the grocery store. They’ve been around since the 1950s or so, but I wasn’t around till 1974 so I only remember reading in the 80s.  Of course, they still make the Archie comics, and many other media arose from Archie over the years, but personally I remember my child-like eyes being big on the racks by the check-out and my mom always buying me one for the ride home. However, my kids certainly aren’t bringing me an Archie mag and a block of Bazooka gum (which was hard as a rock, BTW!!). It was fun then, but for our kids times have changed.

Getting my Marvel Fix

As an older teen, I became even more bold and couldn’t wait to get to the comic store (then on almost any side street) and pick-up my next issues of The Amazing Spiderman and, my favorite of the early 90’s, Spawn. Then X-Men, Avengers, Thor (oh, little Marvel heavy, sorry)…who could go wrong with all that luscious colorized art that oozed with visual goodness and exciting reading.

What Happened to Comics?

With a busy career and getting even busier as a mom, my comic reading went out the window, as well as purchasing. And I guess I wasn’t the only one, as in the last decade comic sales have plummeted. At $5 a pop for a few pages, it just wasn’t feasible for most people anymore to go every week and buy a whole stack, and with too many favorites, it became even harder to choose! Die-hard collectors still bought, but now most kids are enticed by a million other things put out every day in this electronic world.

The Graphic Novel On the Rise

Graphic novels, on the other hand, are entirely different. Sales of these in most beloved comic lines like Spiderman, X-Men, Superman and so forth increased. I think people feel they get more for their money. In a 2011 article by Comics Alliance (www.comicsalliance.com), they stated that graphic novel sales are up 3% for the year, though sales in comic shops are down.  This was due to the growth of graphic novels in bookstores, which is a great sign for the comic industry. Sales of periodical single issues fell 8%, in comparison, and Manga 15 to 20%.  However, digital comic sales have doubled since 2010. So maybe it is the comic store that is dead and not really the comic industry? Let’s hope.

So, Why Are Graphic Novels Great For Your Children?

Now on to my main point of this blog, comics and graphic novels are great for kids. And graphic novels seems to be on the rise.  Boys and girls between the ages 9-12 are most suited for graphic novels and they are a great resource for parents who have reluctant or struggling readers. Instead of hundreds of pages full of just words, suddenly there are amazing visuals with words to go with them. The writing and vocabulary are still on par, and even advanced, yet the child is more excited to read and propelled by the art.

Manga, which is Japanese for comics and are Japanese in origin, are wonderful also as the vocabulary is on a high-level for an advanced reader, or are able to challenge average readers in an environment that is more conducive to their learning. Because they are graphic, they are more quickly understood and absorbed as kids are naturally visual learners.

With some of the graphic novels or comic compilations, they can also offer smaller doses of reading if that is easier for the attention span of a child.  There is a ton of action on each page for them to look at, while the writing is still superb. I even found that my 4-year-old daughter is very into graphic novels. We started with some Scooby-Doo graphic novel compilations. There is one main comic short that it’s titled from, but there are usually two to three comic stories in the book. We can read one at a time, or all three if she is feeling more focused. She loves looking at the pictures as I read the story.

Recently at the library, we have been picking up more graphic novels and I am amazed at how many chapter books (those books familiar to my seven-year old) have been turned into a graphic novel or have a graphic novel spin-off! What a great way to entice reluctant readers to read an actual chapter book. If they enjoy the comic version first, maybe they will try the other books. If they enjoy books, they might compliment by enjoying the graphic version and be entertained by the art. It is a win-win both ways.

We just found a series of Geronimo Stilton graphic novels (Geronimo Stilton is a mouse with a fun children’s book series for 8 to 16 year olds). My four-year old recognized the famous mouse from my seven-year old’s chapter book browsing and wanted to get the graphic novel Geronimo Stilton: The Secret of the Sphinx right away! She loved it. Now she can be part of the story through the photos and she is learning history too. There is great writing in these graphic novels that is both entertaining and educational.  However, I think it reads much better if you do funny voices and yell all the crazy sound effects. As a parent, let yourself go and get into reading the story.

We’ve seen graphic novels which also accompany popular Young Adult (YA) novels as well. For instance, The Amulet of Samarkand: A Bartimaeus Graphic Novel, which was adapted from Jonathan Stroud’s best-selling Bartimaeus series book one, The Amulet of Samarkand. I’m halfway through this one and loving the visuals. You can download the First Chapter on from the publisher’s website at http://disney.go.com/official-sites/bartimaeus-series/graphic-novel-amulet-of-samarkand-page-1.

Now even classics are being re-told in this format to get a kid’s brain to absorb these monumental novels that might otherwise be destined for Cliff Notes. For instance, you’ll find Beowulf, The Iliad, Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, and many more.  We even saw the famous French tale called The Little Prince adapted into an artistic graphic novel.

Even though we don’t have reluctant readers in our household and are blessed with three avid readers just like we are, we’re loving the advantages of graphic novels to accompany our two older children’s reading list, as well as helping our youngest daughter to read.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on comics and graphic novels! Do you like this trend? What are your favorite comics of all time? Found any new graphic novels for kids you’d love to share? Please share your comments with everyone below.

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The Priest’s Graveyard by Ted Dekker is an Engaging Thriller that will Keep You Turning Pages Late Into the Night

Tim Busbey, my much more entertainment savvy fiance, also has a blog on which he writes book reviews (among other writings) and we’ve decided to exchange our reviews on each other’s blogs in hopes that will be helpful to our readers! He is a writer himself, penning a novel in the thriller genre and you can read some of this first chapters also on his blog.  He most recently read Ted Dekker’s latest book “The Priest’s Graveyard” and his guest blog/review is below. If you wish to read his blog further, it is www.timbusbey.wordpress.com.

The Priest’s Graveyard is an Engaging Thriller that will Keep You Turning Pages Late Into the Night
by Tim Busbey, www.timbusbey.wordpress.com

“The Priest’s Graveyard”
By Ted Dekker
Center Street
In Stores Now

If there’s one thing Ted Dekker knows, it’s evil. Not just over-the-top, stereotypical, cartoonish, made-for-movies evil like a lot of writers create. Dekker knows how to get inside the minds of real people and explore that dark place that most of us are afraid to admit even exists. Almost makes you wonder what is going on in Dekker’s brain. Should we be afraid of him? Just kidding, Mr. Dekker. But seriously, he certainly has a gift for mining the depths of despair and depravity that lurk deep in the human soul. In “The Priest’s Graveyard,” Dekker again shows us how seemingly normal people can behave in unimaginable ways when put in the wrong situation.

This time around, the two “normal” people are Renee Gilmore and Danny Hansen. Renee is a recovering heroin addict from a broken home rescued by a knight in shining armor. After nursing her back to health, Renee and her knight fall in love. When he fails to return home from work one day, Renee knows something awful has happened and she becomes intent on gaining vengeance on the man responsible for her husband’s death. Danny is a Bosnian immigrant who saw the brutal murder of his mother and sister during the country’s tragic civil war. Years later, Danny emigrated to America hoping to escape the demons of his past. Now a priest, Danny doles out vengeance on evil men who have so far escaped justice at the hands of our system of justice.

When their paths cross, Danny is pulled into Renee’s quest for justice. At first, Danny attempts to dissuade Renee from continuing on this path, attempting to keep her from becoming like him. Eventually, Danny begins training Renee in his ways of vigilante justice and she proves to be a more than able student. Together, the pair travel down a dangerous, twisting path that leads them both to the edge, and takes them across lines they never thought they’d cross.

Dekker takes the reader on a journey with Renee and Danny, a journey where the characters and the reader alike come to see that love is the answer – not laws or rules or vengeance. Again, as he has become expert at doing, Dekker weaves a brilliant allegory about the true Christian life, a life built on accepting the sacrificial love of Jesus, not following a system of rules and regulations. But he does it in such a way that, for a casual reader, they can simply enjoy the story as a heart-stopping, riveting thriller.

“The Priest’s Graveyard” is an engaging thriller that will keep you turning the pages late into the night. It’s the perfect story for any Dekker fan and any fans of high-adrenaline thrillers.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I give “The Priest’s Graveyard” a 4.5.

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Reality bites – fiction rules!

Great post from Tim Busbey (www.timbusbey.wordpress.com) about fiction writing in response to a recent writing by Brad Meltzer. Reality bites – fiction rules!

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