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Monday, March 26, 2012

Adventure Books

Where were all the great adventure books for kids when we were growing up? I'm talking about books for the 10-14 year old reader. I'm talking about stories we could have identified with when we were that age. A difficult age. Not really a child but not an adult. There have always been lots of stories for little kids. What happened to the interesting books when we were in fifth through ninth grades?

The adults in our lives told us to read or gave us books like Robinson Crusoe, Robin Hood, Little Women—classics that were written long before our time and in a manner that required so much concentration we lost sight of the story. Where were the books written in our time? The only ones I remember were stories about teen girls in early Michigan by Elizabeth Howard, like Peddlar's Girl and North Winds Blow Free.

Maybe there were other books written then that I knew nothing about. We lived in a rural area where the library for our school (2 whole classrooms for K-8th grades) consisted of a 3-shelf bookcase in each room. The public library was ten miles away. The county bookmobile came to our school once a month, I think, or maybe twice. My grandmother always sent a book for birthdays and Christmas. I know she meant well, but the books were the above-mentioned classics that never held my interest. While I enjoyed my mom's Nancy Drew collection, the books were written in the 1930s—more than a little before my time. A rumble seat? Ri-ight. I could really identify with that.

Where were the Harry Potters, the Katniss Everdeens, the Percy Jacksons, the Gallagher Girls? Today's books have characters who act and sound like contemporary kids. They have fantastic adventures. Their lives have at least a touch of reality that the reader can identify with. More than anything, though, I think it's the voice in which the stories are written that captures the reader's attention. The classics were written in the style of their time—the 1800s. They weren't classics then. They were just good stories. Then.

I am fascinated by all the books available for kids today. How to choose what to read next must be a problem for them. What a problem to have! Maybe an interested teacher or librarian who knows a kid well enough will recommend one—the way the bookmobile librarian did for me with the Elizabeth Howard books. More likely, it's one of their friends saying, "Hey, you gotta read this."

How I envy them this wealth of books. Or not. I can read those books, too.

What books do you remember from your pre- or early teen years?

Monday, March 19, 2012

After Vacation

Is it just me or do other people suffer from post-vacation letdown? After being away from home for over two weeks, I really wanted my routine back—not to mention sleeping in my own bed. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed our trip to Florida and South Carolina where we visited with family and friends, saw great sights, fished (not me), shopped (so not me), ate terrific seafood (definitely me) and basked in the warmth of the Florida sun. Of course, the warm weather followed us back to Michigan so it wasn’t like returning to brutal cold and snow. (Is this weather weird or what? Seventy degrees in March?)

The laundry is finally finished. (How do two people generate so much laundry?) I’ve sorted the mail and taken care of bills. The house was left in fairly good order. So why don’t I feel like doing anything? It seems like such an effort getting back to what used to be my routine. My husband did drag me kicking and screaming (sort of) to the fitness center the day after we returned. I guess he thought I didn’t do enough walking through antique stores with my sisters while he was throwing out those lures for the smart fishies.

On Saturday, I got the prod I needed. I went to our local writers’ meeting (the Mid-Michigan chapter of Romance Writers of America). Something special happens when a bunch of writers get together. All that creativity permeates the air, seeps into my pores, and I come back rejuvenated. I’m ready to do what's essential for a serious writer: put butt in chair and fingers on keyboard. Writers write. We may moan and groan about writer’s block or the disappearing muse or vacation letdown. But, in the end, if we don’t put those fingers on the keyboard or pencil/pen to paper, we’re not doing our job, we're not writers. Last week, I wrote about play. Now, it’s time to get back to that work-in-progress. No more excuses.

How do you get over vacations?

Monday, March 12, 2012


One of the most enjoyable things we did on our vacation to Florida was go on a dolphin-watching tour. It was so much fun! I always knew dolphins jumped out of the water, but I didn’t realize how much they play. They leap and twist and race alongside tourist boats for fun. They say, of all the animals, dolphins are most like humans. It got me thinking about how humans play.

As children we played. When my uncles and their families visited we would have baseball games in the field behind our house (the same place Mom used to flood in the winter so we could ice skate). My dad’s brothers were a lot younger than he was. In fact, one of my uncles is only 10 years older than me. When you’re a kid and your uncles are in their twenties, they seem so cool. And they played baseball with us. Dad never played. He was the movie maker. Our play is forever memorialized on 8mm film.

It seems to me that as we age we “play” for something—a goal, a reward. When we play golf, we strive for a lowest score or when we play baseball or football, it’s the highest score we aim for. We play poker for money. But, do we ever play for no reason at all?

Have you watched how little children play? My grandchildren play dress-up. My granddaughter (4 ½) makes up stories that go along with whatever costume she wears. She insists I play the minister to marry her and her imaginary groom. Then, I get to be the clerk at the honeymoon hotel. Kids run and play with no incentives, no rewards, no keeping score. When/how did we lose that?

I love playing with the grandkids. No pressures, no keeping score. Just play for the sake of play. It’s a freedom I seldom experience. The only other thing I can compare to that freedom of play is when I begin writing a new book. The joy, the newness, the excitement of an adventure stretching out in front of me waiting for me to discover where the adventure is going and how the characters are going to get there. I’ve mentioned before that I’m more a pantser than a plotter so each story starts with a premise and I go with it. Eventually, I remind myself that this is my job, that finishing the book and sending it to an editor is the objective, that there is an incentive (selling the book to a publisher) and that brings about a reward (sales).

But, for a brief time, I can enjoy playing.

How about you? How do you play?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Meeting New Authors

One of the amazing aspects of being a member of Romance Writers of America is the camaraderie between members. I noticed this when I joined waaay back in 1993. Not just a warm friendliness but a truly genuine desire to help one another. One such author is Michele Stegman. She posted on an RWA loop about an opportunity for authors to tell how they met their husbands which she posted on her blog all during February. As I hope you recall, I participated. What a terrific way to be introduced to new readers. Turn-about is fair play so I would like to introduce you to Michele.

Welcome, Michele Stegman! Thanks for stopping by and sharing your passions.

I think it is wonderful when an author has a passion about something and puts it into her books.  For instance, a friend likes to do beadwork and wrote a book where the heroine does beadwork.  Another author writes books about quilters.
  I have a lot of interests, as you will see with a quick look at my website. www.michelestegman.com Two of my passions are hand spinning and weaving. As an author of historical romances, I enjoy “living in the past” as I card and spin up a fleece, then use the yarn I spin to weave a shawl or scarf.  And I think it is wonderful to know the name of the animal a piece of my clothing came from!

Before the Industrial Revolution (late 1700’s) a lot of time was taken up with spinning and weaving.  It was the only way to make cloth for clothing.  In some colonies, there were even laws about how much wool each person, including men and children, had to spin each week.
Clothing, bedding, and linens, are listed in old wills as important items that are passed on to the next generation.  A well made, homespun dress might last two or three generations.

But very seldom do I read anything about the heroine, or anyone else in a book, spinning or weaving.   I seldom see a spinning wheel or spindles in movies, either. 
So have I put a lot of spinning and weaving into my own books?  Well, I’m working on it.  In my next book, Conquest of the Heart, set in 1067 England, there is some mention of it.  And I’ve started a book about a woman whose profession is a hand spinner in 1665. 

Another passion of mine is cooking and baking and I have made use of this passion in my books.  In Fortune’s Foe, the heroine is a disaster in the kitchen and has to be rescued by another woman, who becomes the heroine in the next book in the series, Fortune’s Pride.  In Mr. Right’s Baby, my heroine also likes to bake--which is much appreciated by the hero.  What are your passions?  Do you like to read about them in romance books?  Or, if you are a writer, do you include your hobbies and passions in your writing?
Michele Stegman loves history and enjoys writing historical romance.  She also enjoys living her history in an 1840’s log cabin complete with spinning wheel, looms, and her own homemade soap.  Her daughter calls the place “Pioneer Village.”  But Michele appreciates modern technology, too, and could not get along without her laptop and iPad!

Mr. Right’s Baby is Michele’s only contemporary romance, a genre she never planned to write.  But one day she was driving along and the whole plot for the book popped into her head and she knew she had to write this one!  Mr. Right’s Baby can be found at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/102049 and http://www.amazon.com/Mr-Rights-Baby-ebook/dp/B00655TAFA/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1330303934&sr=1-1
For information on Michele’s other books as well as her passions (on her My Art page) visit her website at www.michelestegman.com