Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Next Big Thing

Today I’m hosting the Next Big Thing blog campaign. The Next Big Thing is an international campaign that began in Australia. Authors and illustrators of books for kids and young adults talk about their recently published books and/or those that are due to be released. Each author who has been nominated turns around and nominates a couple of other authors. We all answer the same questions about our work. It’s really just a great big game of “Tag, you’re it.” Today is my turn to answer The Next Big Thing’s standard questions about…well…the next big thing which for me is my current work-in-progress the sequel to “Rescue in Poverty Gulch”.  

Following me will be MG writer Elaine Pease and children’s book illustrator Cathy Morrison.  You can read a little more about them at the end of this blog.  Here goes:

What is the working title of your next book?

The working title for my book is “Trouble on the Tracks.”
Where did the idea come from for the book?

This book came to pass because at the end of Rescue in Poverty Gulch, I could not get my characters to leave Cripple Creek.  I tried twice, both on the first draft and the second.  Nope.  They wouldn't leave.  So I decided there was another book to be set in Cripple Creek with Ruby and her donkey, Maude.  The individual plot points unfolded more slowly, but Cripple Creek had two fires within a week’s time in April of 1896.  In actual fact, they had to let the prisoners out of jail to keep them from dying.  Jake Hawker, the fictional villain from Rescue in Poverty Gulch was among them
What genre does your book fall under?

MG Colorado-set historical fiction.
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Well Maude, I guess would be played by a talented, well trained donkey-double.  Perhaps she’d be played by my own donkey, Daisy, who likes attention so much she would love to be a movie star.  Ruby, I’m not sure.  I think she’d be played by one of the talented 5th graders I taught before I retired from my teaching job.  I can think of a few that are both gregarious and talented with a tendency for trouble. And did I tell you there’s a cat in this book?  I think Gayle Gresham’s tiger gray would fit perfectly for this part.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Trouble for Ruby and Maude when Jake Hawker, infamous donkey kidnapper and thief escapes from jail during the second Cripple Creek fire of 1896; it turns out Hawker is more than just a donkey-napper, and Ruby, Maude and the cat play a part in re-capturing him.
Who is publishing your book?
I hope it will be FilterPressBooks  of Palmer Lake Colorado who I have worked with on my last two books and also the paperback version of a third book. 
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Hard to answer this one since the book was started when I was teaching full time.  Typically, the first draft is the hardest and takes the longest.  On the revisions, each draft gets a little quicker, but I have yet to sit down and write a draft with uninterrupted time, so it’s very hard to measure. My best guess is 4-5 months steady at it.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Maybe Anne of Green Gables with a donkey?  It’s such a hard question to answer because there are so many great children’s books out there and I do not stick to just one genre of reading.  I think, piece by piece, there are lots of characters I might compare Ruby to, but not to books as a whole.  For instance, I love the YA author Richard Peck and the way he weaves both wholesomeness, history, and humor into his stories, but I can’t say that this book compares to any of his exactly because every writer is unique.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

With this book, it was the sheer joy of “playing” with dynamic between Ruby and her donkey.  The fact that it is a sequel minimized some of the up-front work on characterization and setting, so I could just jump right in and see what kind of trouble they would get themselves into this time around.

What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
I think it’s the cat named Trouble. In the first book, Maude held her own as the darling donkey in residence, and she hasn't disappointed in this book.  But Trouble adds a few new plot twists and “what if” possibilities from a writer’s standpoint, at least.  Other new characters appear, also, and old characters, including Miss Sternum and Mr. Penn offer a few surprises. Pa’s continued quest to find Ruby a “ma” remains constant…much to Ruby’s dismay.
Next up on The Next Big Thing:

Elaine Pease- June 6
Children's MG and picture book author. Elaine also loves to inspire children by making appearances at bookstores and schools to show and tell how she writes and illustrates her books.

Cathy Morrison- June 13

Cathy Morisson is a talented illustrator specializing in the juvenile market - picture books, educational publishing, magazines, games and puzzles.  She is fun and whimsical but also enjoys historical fiction.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Gettin' Too Slangy? A great writing resource.

Slang seems to be a part of our daily conversations, creeping into our language like well…a dog in a doublet.  If it hadn’t been for this wonderful book, I’d never have known what a “dog in a doublet” was.  You might want to take a moment or two to ponder that phrase while I give credit to award winning author, Randall Platt,  for sharing her list of references with me. 

Randall, like me, spends much of her writing time creating the past.  For a writer of historical fiction, this means a lot of things like researching clothing, housing, transportation, and a myriad of other details that beg to be placed correctly in time and place.  As I worked on my most recent book, set in 1896, I kept finding myself slipping into what sounded like more modern speech.  Several phrases popped up with questionable etymologies.  For a quick fix, I usually rely on an online etymological dictionary…easy to use and searchable online.  But unless I got lucky, this resource didn’t help for idioms or slang.

Randi gave me several suggestions for references to try, but the one I settled on for starters is Casell’s Dictionary of Slang.  My version is about 1500 words and expressions are listed alphabetically; it’s easy to use, and it dates everything by the first year an expression came into common use. It also gives an approximate end date if appropriate.  Example:  “dog in a doublet” [late 17C—early 19C]

As it happened, this book came into my hands during a time when I was rewriting an out of print book for the purpose of creating an electronic copy.  When I started the rewrite I was agonizing over whether to update the book to make it more contemporary or keep it as originally written…late 1960’s early 1970’s.  I decided to stick with the older dates and found myself flipping continually through “Casell’s” to determine when “high five” came into use or “far out”.  

Oddly, I lived through that era, but for the life of me never really paid much attention to the etymologies of what came out of my mouth.  This reference book turned out to be an enormous help wading through old expression and for verifying that the language for the book was targeted correctly.

So now I know you’ve been dying to find out what “dog in a doublet” means so here goes:  a daring bold person; thus proud as a dog in a doublet, very proud, amere dog in a doublet, a pitiful figure , one who shows off to no avail. [the custom in Germany and Flanders to dress the dogs used to hunt wild boar in a form of buff doublet]

I never would have known that without access to this reference book.  In fact, I think it’s such a good phrase, it stands to be revived in the 20th century!  I can think of several people it might apply to, but I'm better not to mention names...

Language is changing constantly, and one can only imagine, with the rapid changes in the world around us, what “Casell’s Dictionary of Slang” might look like in ten more years.  For now, I find it a helpful resource for any genre of writing and plan to keep it near at hand when I write.

Cheerio…  phr [1910 +]  1. Goodbye.