All posts by sharonledwith

You’re Practically Grown Up…NOT!

Tween traitEighth-graders frequently seem confused about how grown up they are. And do you blame them? Not me. Twelve to fourteen-year-olds pay adult admission, and are about to make the giant leap into high school, yet they’re not allowed to drive or work. Bummer. Girls, already on the road in developing the forms and functions of grown women, deal with parents who one moment scold, “You’re practically grown up!” and then awhile later become hysterical when their princess ASKS about the ins and outs of dating. Boys, with their physical and sexual maturity just beginning to awaken, are suddenly surrounded by a horde of newly attractive and unnervingly gigantic girls. Yikes!

Most eighth-graders concerns are related to friends, family, and school. Honestly, it’s a social media nightmare at times. Are they going to be embarrassed? Will their BFF still be their friend tomorrow? Does he like me like me, or just like me? You get the drift.

So as a writer, how do you connect with such a tough audience, who’s not quite grown up, yet feel that all systems are go and are ready to wear bigger shoes? One way is to hook into their characteristics, and extract a much needed trait or a combination of traits to make your characters feel authentic to your readers. In order to do this, we need to take a look at what makes an eighth-grader tick.

Here are some 8th Grader Characteristics:

  • Can be touchy, and express anger easily.
  • Music is increasingly important to them, as is technology and the latest got-to-have gadget.
  • Sarcasm is a prevalent quality. (I use that one a lot!)
  • As their self-concept develops, they can be withdrawn or prone to challenging others. They struggle with a sense of identity.
  • Abstract reasoning skills are strengthening and expanding.
  • May test limits and rules, but also develop ideals and choose role models.
  • Skin problems may be emerging, boys’ voices are changing, and girls are menstruating. Personal hygiene and self-confidence become issues.
  • May begin to experiment with sex and substances.

Remember, readers this age are looking for escape, to experience things they can’t in their own lives. Being attuned to how they think, and what they’re feeling is a step in the right direction to creating a story that will keep this age group turning page after page of your latest tween read!

Sharon Ledwith HeadshotSharon Ledwith is the author of the middle-grade/YA time travel series, THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS, available through Musa Publishing, and is represented by Walden House (Books & Stuff) for her teen psychic series, MYSTERIOUS TALES FROM FAIRY FALLS. When not writing, researching, or revising, she enjoys reading, yoga, and anything arcane. Sharon lives a serene, yet busy life in a tourist region of Ontario, Canada, with her hubby, one spoiled yellow Labrador and a moody calico cat.

Learn more about Sharon Ledwith on her WEBSITE and BLOG. Look up her AMAZON AUTHOR page for a list of current books. Stay connected on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, GOOGLE+, TUMBLR, and GOODREADS. Check out THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS TIME TRAVEL SERIES Facebook page.

The Strange Business of Writing Fiction…

Manuscript, inkwell and featherThe business of writing fiction for a living is altogether strange. The writer is not like the farmer with his seeds, the teacher with her curriculum, the pianist with her Steinway or the violinist with his Stradivarius. The writer has only what’s between the ears—and whatever can be coaxed to bubble up and be set down on the page. And even if the fiction writer strikes literary gold, there’s still the iffy, grubby business of getting it published.

Cue the violin…

There is one writer I know of who toiled for years over what he thought was his masterpiece, only to be metaphorically kicked in the teeth over and over again. He couldn’t even find a North American publisher at first, so in desperation he sent his manuscript to an agent in Britain, who managed to get his book published in a series of three volumes. Good stuff, you say? Um, no. Unfortunately, the publisher managed to somehow lose the ending of the book—the epilogue—which rather ruined the effect. Needless to say, the British critics panned the book. Even the Goodreads’ trolls can’t hold a candle to them.

The bad press was disastrous; the author was deeply in debt and praying that the book would earn enough money to placate the bill collectors. His prayers fell on deaf ears. But to be fair, the book he’d written was… strange. It dealt with, among many other themes, madness, murder and mass slaughter, of both men and animals. His main character was an animal—an albino, in fact, which thought and acted like a sadistic human stalker. And when the author found an American publisher willing to print a North American edition, the book ended up being a dud— mostly because of those critical British reviews.

Sadly, the author never really recovered from his failure and died an unhappy, debt-ridden failure. Hmm. It’s too bad he didn’t live a little longer. The author’s name was Herman Melville and his book, Moby Dick, is now considered a classic.

Strange business, writing fiction…

Sharon Ledwith HeadshotSharon Ledwith is the author of the middle-grade/YA time travel series, THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS, available through Musa Publishing, and is represented by Walden House (Books & Stuff) for her teen psychic series, MYSTERIOUS TALES FROM FAIRY FALLS. When not writing, researching, or revising, she enjoys reading, yoga, anything arcane, and an occasional dram of scotch. Sharon lives a serene, yet busy life in a tourist region of Ontario, Canada, with her hubby, one spoiled yellow Labrador and a moody calico cat.

Learn more about Sharon Ledwith on her WEBSITE and BLOG. Look up her AMAZON AUTHOR page for a list of current books. Stay connected on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, GOOGLE+, TUMBLR, and GOODREADS. Check out THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS TIME TRAVEL SERIES Facebook page.

Book Review: Legend of Ghost Dog Island

I’m a sucker for legends and myths. Atlantis. Robin Hood. King Arthur. You get the idea.Legend of Ghost Dog Island So when I picked up middle-grade author Rita Monette’s debut novel, The Legend of Ghost Dog Island, I wasn’t disappointed. The book, set in the Louisiana bayous during 1956, was inspired by Ms. Monette’s childhood. She states in an interview we had last year, “In 1956, none of the modern day conveniences are around, such as cell phones, TV’s, and video games for the kids to entertain themselves. And kids had much more freedom to explore without fear of their surroundings. This is a perfect time for adventures to take place without using “fantasy” worlds.”

The author also includes historical facts pertaining to the lifestyle and history of the Cajun people, as well as sources for further research on the topic in the “author’s notes” section at the end of her book. So what’s my take on a story set in a place that can conjure up some pretty scary images? This is what I posted on Amazon and Goodreads…

Without ever leaving the confines of my comfy chair, Rita Monette transported me back to Louisiana, circa 1956, and into 10-year-old Nikki Landry’s world. A carefully-crafted love story about a girl and her dog, Monette stirs up her brand of literary gumbo using unique smells and settings, while creating believable characters with a flavor of down-home dialogue. Add a spicy mixture of an old legend, topped with delectable mannerisms and savory Cajun slang, and you’ve got yourself one heck of a mouth-watering read for middle-graders through to adult.

The Legend of Ghost Dog Island would be a great addition in any classroom setting to learn and study about the history of the Cajun people, and life on the Louisiana bayous in mid-twentieth century. My stomach is already starting to grumble for Ms. Monette’s next installment.

Tagline and Blurb:

Behind every legend lies the truth.

Moving is nothing new for ten-year-old Nikki Landry. Her fisherman father relocates their raggedy old houseboat several times a year in search for better crabbing spots. However, their latest move has brought her to a mysterious bayou where she feels something is watching her from a nearby island.

Nikki learns of a local legend about something sinister inhabiting those swaps, stealing the souls of dogs…which would explain the strange howling sounds. Papa reassures her there’s nothing o the island but gators and snakes. He would know. He’s spent his whole life trapping and fishing those bayous and swamps. But Nikki and her new friends uncover strange happenings from years ago, that may have started the old legend, and town folks aren’t talking. Then her beloved beagle goes missing.

Join Nikki as she seeks to discover the real truth behind the legend of Ghost Dog Island…before it’s too late.

Excerpt:

Mama closed the door behind her. She knew once Papa got going on one of his tales, there was no stopping him.

The last traces of daylight seemed to disappear in a hurry, as if Papa had ordered it away. The glass globe of the kerosene lamp clinked. He touched a match to the wick and adjusted the flame until it filled the room with pale light and gray shadows. He motioned me to sit next to him on the worn sofa.

I hurried to his side, not knowing what spooky legend he was going to tell this time. But as scared as I’d get, I always enjoyed hearing ’em.

Mais, there’s a legend told around these parts.” That was how they always started out. He leaned down so the light from the lamp made eerie shadows across his face.

I rolled my eyes, determined not to get spooked this time.

“Folks say there’s something living out yonder,” he went on. “Legend has it the monster lures dogs to the island using evil spells. Then at the peak of the full moon, they’re turned into hollow spirits with glowing eyes.” Papa put on his eeriest sneer. “That there’s Ghost Dog Island.”

“Ghost dogs?” I pulled my knees up against my chest and wrapped my arms around ’em tight. My mind conjured up images of a huge monster with drippy fangs and dogs with bright yellow eyes. I thought about the feeling I had of something watching us. Was there really a creature out there? Did it have its eye on my best buddy? I shuddered.

IEEEOWWWOOOO-oooooooo! The howling sound echoed again across the bayou.

Rita Monette was born and raised in Southwest Louisiana. After retiring from her “real”Rita-studio pic cropped-1 job as an administrative assistant for the State of Michigan, Rita began doing what she always wanted to do…write and paint. Five long years later, Musa Publishing offered her a contract for her debut middle grade novel, The Legend of Ghost Dog Island, which also includes her artwork. Her stories are set in the beautiful, yet mysterious, bayous and swamps of her home state. Rita now lives with her husband, four lap dogs, and one lap cat, in the mountains of Tennessee.

Buy Links: Musa Publishing and Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Learn more about Rita Monette on her website and blog

New Release Announcement: Legend of the Timekeepers…

legendofthetimekeepers-300dpiAfter two years of hard work and multiple rewrites, my newest book in The Last Timekeepers saga, and the prequel to the series, Legend of the Timekeepers has finally been released! I found this story much harder to write because I was jolted out of my comfort zone of historical facts and into the fictitious civilization of Atlantis. Fantasy isn’t easy to write. You have to come up with a believable world to lure your readers in. And if you write something that doesn’t jive, you risk pulling a reader out of the world you’ve created and possibly out of your book. That said, I’m so grateful for the editorial crew I was gifted with on this book, and my hope is that you’ll appreciate and enjoy the journey we’ve all been on through to make this book possible and believable.

Here’s the tagline, blurb, and an excerpt from Legend of the Timekeepers:

There is no moving forward without first going back.

Lilith was a young girl with dreams and a family before the final destruction of Atlantis shattered those dreams and tore her family apart. Now refugees, Lilith and her father make their home in the Black Land. This strange, new country has no place in Lilith’s heart until a beloved high priestess introduces Lilith to her life purpose—to be a Timekeeper and keep time safe.

Summoned through the seventh arch of Atlantis by the Children of the Law of One, Lilith and her newfound friends are sent into Atlantis’s past, and given a task that will ultimately test their courage and try their faith in each other. Can the Timekeepers stop the dark magus Belial before he changes the seers’ prophecy? If they fail, then their future and the earth’s fate will be altered forever.

Excerpt:

“Why are you here?” Lilith asked. “You’ve already got your life seal.”

“I have more questions for Istulo.” She continued to stare at the disk.

Lilith sighed. “My name is Lilith. What’s your name?”

Her shoulders relaxed slightly. A hint of a smile broke out on her face. Her upturned nose wiggled. “She-Aba. I was born here in the Black Land. Both my parents arrived from Atlantis fourteen years ago yesterday. My mother gave birth to me the next day.”

Lilith perked up. “That would make today your birthday!”

She-Aba beamed. “Yes. That’s why I’m here. For my birthday last year, I had my life reading done by Istulo. But recently, there’s been a hiccup in my plans. It’s like my life seal rearranged itself, and now I’m confused. I’m here for a reaffirmation.”

“What’s the problem?”

She-Aba traced her life seal with the tip of her perfectly shaped fingernail. “My lifetime occupation was supposed to be to design clothing for the people of the various positions in the court and temples.”

Lilith smirked. “That makes perfect sense.”

“I know, right? So why, all of a sudden, would my life seal change from designing clothing to something completely different?”

Lilith arched a fair brow. “How different?”

“Well, instead of clothing people in lavish robes and gowns for others to appreciate, the seal suggests that I’ll be doing the opposite by covering up and hiding the truth. I don’t understand it at all. I thought my life was all planned out for me.”

“I thought mine was too, until my country blew up and slid into the ocean,” Lilith muttered.

“Hey, look at the bright side, at least your hair isn’t red like mine.”

Lilith eyed She-Aba carefully. “What’s wrong with red hair? My uncle has red hair and it suits him fine.”

She-Aba moved in closer. “If you haven’t noticed already, there aren’t many redheads around here. The natives think red is magical, and anyone with red hair is considered a freak of nature.”

“That’s ridiculous!” Lilith said loud enough to cause an echo down the marble hallway. “Is that the reason why those artists were rude to you? Because you have red hair?”

“Red is a very powerful color,” a raspy voice said from behind both girls.

Lilith and She-Aba jumped. They slowly turned to find Istulo hovering over them.

Wearing the same white gown and orichalcum headband Lilith saw her dressed in before, Istulo nodded slightly before she said, “Red represents the essence of life—if we are drained of blood, we are drained of energy. The people of the Black Land understand this, and therefore red is reserved only for their gods and goddesses.”

Lilith giggled. “Don’t tell She-Aba that, she’ll think she’s a goddess.”

Sharon Ledwith HeadshotSharon Ledwith is the author of the middle-grade/YA time travel series, THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS, available through Musa Publishing. When not writing, researching, or revising, she enjoys reading, yoga, kayaking, time with family and friends, and single malt scotch. Sharon lives in the wilds of Muskoka in Central Ontario, Canada, with her hubby, a water-logged yellow Labrador and moody calico cat.

Buy Links: Musa Publishing Amazon Smashwords Barnes & Noble

Learn more about Sharon Ledwith on her WEBSITE and BLOG. Stay connected on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.

Developing a Middle-Grade Book Series…

Image: 123RF stock photo
Image: 123RF stock photo

Ever wonder how your favorite middle grade author came up with the idea to write a series? Many of the Emblazon authors here have written a series, including myself, and believe me when I say that it’s no small task. The most important thing to remember in creating a series for ANY genre is to connect the dots, create a common thread to tie your individual stories together into a nice, shiny bow at the series end. Complicated? Not really. Here’s a peek at the process of how I developed my middle grade series:

First: I made sure that my adolescent characters had enough problems going on both individually and together in order to carry my series through the ten books (eleven if you include the prequel) I have planned. In essence, the entire series needs to get from A to B to Z dragging my characters along (sometimes kicking and screaming) until, by the end of the series he or she or they need to come out changed. They need to have shown growth, they need to have evolved through the course of their adventures.

Second: I didn’t put any elements into my first story that I didn’t want to live with through the entire series of books. It’s a long haul to drag unnecessary fillers such as a troublesome pet, a psychotic boyfriend or an ongoing health problem for the ride. Like they say, “Use it or lose it”.

Third: I didn’t solve the big mysteries or resolve all my characters’ problems in the first book. Too much, too soon. The idea is to hook readers with that first book, and get them begging for more. Characters should still have dreams and goals and ambitions to work toward through the length of the series. And while I do answer the burning questions and resolve the terrible conflicts, I will make sure that I replace them with additional—hopefully more serious—ones.

Fourth: It’s all about building relationships between my characters, and getting my readers to care about them. So I throw obstacles at my characters and create the necessary tension to get readers to care about, and sympathize with the characters. It’s all about the journey and how my characters work together to resolve their problems. I want my readers to be as invested at the end of the series in how that relationship is working out as they were in the first book.

Fifth: I keep a series guidebook stuffed with all the vital information on my main characters— and recurring side characters. The color of their hair and eyes, their brother’s or sister’s names, or any allergies is vital to log. Believe me readers know when something is amiss and will call you on it!

Sixth: When I first sat down to plan my tween time travel series, I made sure I was writing it for the right reason—because I loved my characters enough to tell their story over a period of years. And hopefully, if I’ve done a good job, then I will be lucky enough to engage many readers to follow my series for years to come.

Remember—the first book in a series is the most important, especially if you’re a debut author like I was. This book will be your hook, and the first glimpse readers have into the world and characters you’ve created. So, what are some of your favorite middle grade series? We’d love to hear from you!

This post is part of Tween the Weekends, a monthly theme here at Emblazon. To participate, visit out TTW page and join in!

Sharon Ledwith is the author of the middle-grade/YA time travel series, THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS, available through Musa Publishing. When not writing, researching, or revising, she enjoys reading, yoga, kayaking, time with family and friends, and single malt scotch. Sharon lives in the wilds of Muskoka in Central Ontario, Canada, with her hubby, a water-logged yellow Labrador and moody calico cat.

Learn more about Sharon Ledwith on her WEBSITE and BLOG. Stay connected on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.