Stretching waaaay outside of my comfort zone here.
Cannot believe I'm taking on TWO books: co-authoring a middle-grade tale and going solo writing my first fiction for grown-ups.
I’m up for this challenge after taking time to grieve the loss of my parents and rightsize to a new space after two decades in our cherished home.
It's exciting and scary just thinking about penning two different genres at the same. But it feels right, so here I go!
WIP 1 : Fiction for Grown Ups
Fifteen years ago:
my writing workshop classmates told me
I had to develop the short story I submitted for our class project
into a full novel.
My first reaction?
Without expanding my draft,
I submitted it to a writing contest.
It scored an honorable mention.
Still not ready to take on a novel.
The content, disguised as fiction, was too tender and personal to write more then.
But times change.
What once felt too raw is now okay to explore.
Fast forward to 2019:
I submitted the old draft from workshop days
to my critique group.
And they liked it!
The novel takes place in a southern town (no surprise as penned by this North Carolina gal). It explores challenges between newcomers and the old South as characters come together (or not!) to save the town’s annual community choir presentation of Handel’s Messiah. (We write what we know: Guess whose 100-person member community choir has performed an annual "Messiah" concert every December for more than 40 years -:D.)
My book is more than a Christmas-time tale. There's love and hope, but it's not a true romance. Kind of like a cozy without a murder mystery. No violence or dysfunction. For now, I’m tagging it as general adult fiction with a touch of women's and southern fiction.
Honestly, my story might be the type the Hallmark Channel might select for a TV movie .....and I'd be over the moon if they did!....but I haven’t decided yet if every character will get a happily ever after. Stay tuned!
WIP 2 : Co-Writing a Middle-Grade Tale
Meanwhile, back in children’s book land……
friend and awesome picture book author/illustrator,
and I are co-writing a middle-grade adventure
for kids ages 8-12 featuring an 11-year-old girl who loves horses.
We didn’t set out to co-author a book,
but our ideas for this story
have been percolating for both of us since 2015.
Four years ago almost to this day!
We started when I uploaded a writing prompt to my author Facebook page and invited people to post a brief back story. Rosie jumped on it!
Months later, Rosie developed the prompt into a story and shared her draft with me. I loved it! However, the tale waited until my life settled after rightsizing and becoming an adult orphan.
Co-authoring a book is a huge learning challenge, but I'm lucky. Rosie Russell is the perfect co-write partner: enthusiastic, imaginative, hard-working and talented.
We connected through social media in 2014 and have been supporting each other’s writing journey ever since.
Even met in person once in 2017 … a marjorly rare treat for cyberpals! … when her family vacationed nearby my North Carolina home (in the US south).
Since Rosie lives more than 1,000 m/1.6 km away from me in Missouri (midwest US), we’re swapping ideas like mad via i-messages, emails and phone.
We started by organizing and agreeing on story development. We explore characters and plot by uploading inspiration photos and concepts to a shared drive.
There’s technical, headachy-to-me stuff to determine, too, like who/how to formate and distribute our book.
And we're figuring out how to pay Uncle Sam his taxes for book sales earned by two authors in two different states. No accountants here -:D.
Once we pull these pieces together, we’ll flesh out chapters and decide who’s authoring and editing what. Most important, we want to make sure our writing styles synch up to give young readers an exciting, flowing narrative. Plus, both my books will retain the same family-friendly vibes and focus on Small Town USA life that are found in my Sweet T Tales.
I'll be looking for ideas about titles, book covers, character struggles and more, and I'd be over the moon to have your company and feedback on this next stretch of my writing journey.
You'll find updates on my writing here on Cat's Corner (sign up below to send this blog to your email or newsfeed). You can also be first to know the latest by joining my tribe of readers and receiving occasional newsflashes in What’s Up (Join HERE or in the link below).
Thanks a ton!
What have you tackled that felt beyond your comfort zone? What helped you succeed? And if you successfully co-authored a book, let us know what you learned from the experience in the comment section.
How about an adventure to set your young reader's heart dancing in a positive way? I am excited to tell you about a new middle-grade page-turning fantasy. Music Boxes, by Tonja Drecker.
Read on to preview Drecker's book, catch a brilliant video trailer, meet the author, and read my review. Plus, you can enter for your chance to win books, swag, and a $10US Amazon gift card in a Rafflecopter giveaway that runs from midnight (EST), 21 February 2019 until midnight (EST) 15 March 2019 (open in US only). Good luck and happy tales!
ABOUT THE BOOK
I only desire your talent...
Twelve-year-old Lindsey McKay's biggest dream is to be a famous ballerina. But after moving to New York, she ends up at the Community Center with a teacher who is a burly bear in tights.
When she meets Madame Destinee, the teacher of a top dance school who offers her classes for free, Lindsey can't believe her luck. In exchange, she must perform in exclusive midnight shows, ones sure to make her a star. But something is not right
One by one, the other dancers disappear. Each time they do, a music box with a figurine just like the missing ballerina joins Madame's growing collection. If Lindsey does not discover the truth about the dance school, she might end up a tiny figurine herself.
Title: Music Boxes | Author: Tonja Drecker | Publication Date: March 2019 | Publisher: Dancing Lemur Press, LLC | Pages: 155 | Recommended Ages: 9-12
Amazon US * Barnes & Noble * Kobo
Suspense kicks in from the start with the cast of characters as Lyndsey bumps into Madame Destinee. You know something's up right away as the teacher promises a successful dance career, BUT only if Lyndsey attends midnight lessons at Madameâs ballet school. The school is populated with other tween dancers to serve up juicy rounds of adolescent insecurities and friendships.
The author sprinkles humor and perfect tween-sized romantic tension between Lindsey and her attractive dance partner, Robert. I chuckled over one cute scene as Robert recalls his flubbed pas de deux with Lindsey:
Pas de huh!
Madame's dog, Broussard, adds his doggy humor and canine wisdom by providing clues to the mystery behind Destinee's music box collection.
âRemember fights you had growing up with your siblings? (Come on ... you know you had a few!)
Alternating dynamics of love and jealousy between sisters Lindsey and Bridget give an authentic, age-appropriate feel to sibling conflicts while also portraying positivity.
No spoilers here about the clever connections between young dancers, Madame Destinee, and the music boxes. To be honest, I re-read the fanciful resolution a few times because I didn't catch on to its creative details right away.
However, the author reveals all in the end and delivers a satisfying conclusion
This imaginative tale for upper-elementary graders delivers fantasy and mystery while underscoring the importance of career dreams, friendship and kindness. I highly recommend Music Boxes for children in grades 3-6. A must-read for kids who love ballet!
MEET THE AUTHOR
Tonja Drecker is a writer, blogger, childrenâs book reviewer and freelance translator.
After spending years in Germany exploring forgotten castles, she current resides in the Ozarks (the US Midwest) with her family of six.
When not tending her chickens and cows, sheâs discovering new adventures, nibbling chocolate and sipping a cup of tea.
Disclosure: I was given an advance review copy of this book and wish to share an honest, unbiased opinion of my reading experience.
The giveaway will run from midnight (EST) on the night of February 21st, 2019 until midnight (EST) on the night of March 15th, 2019. Entries will be made through the Rafflecopter. One winner will receive a music box (the one found in the book video: https://youtu.be/ww_RY4IVg3w) with the authorâs golden signature on the bottom as well as swag (US addresses only). The second winner will receive an Amazon GC of $10 (US). The second winner must be in possession of a qualifying US Amazon account.
The contest is open to U.S. residents only, ages eighteen and over. No purchase is required for entry. All winners must claim their prize 48 hours after notification. Winners will be announced on on Saturday, March 16th 2019 by 10:00am (EST). All addresses and personal information will be used only for prize allocation. Sponsor, Tonja Drecker, assumes no responsibility or liability of any kind. Please email all questions to .
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Have a hankering for adventure, history, and a touch of romance in Renaissance Italy? You're in luck! I'm pleased to partner with Italy Book Tours in spotlighting a new fiction novel for adults by Crystal King, The Chef's Secret.
Read on to meet Crystal, read an excerpt from her book, and enter a giveaway for a chance to win one grand prize package of a $25US gift card and two books by the author. Five additional readers will score one copy each of the Chef's Secret. (Giveaway ends 7 March 2019. Open to US and Canada only.)
Good luck and happy tales!
Book Title: The Chef's Secret by Crystal King
Category: Adult fiction, 352 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Atria/Simon & Schuster
Release date: Feb 12, 2019
Tour dates: Feb 11 to 28, 2019
Content Rating: R (for a couple of explicit, but loving, sex scenes (no abuse or rape) and minor curse words)
A captivating novel of Renaissance Italy detailing the mysterious life of Bartolomeo Scappi, the legendary chef to several popes and author of one of the bestselling cookbooks of all time, and the nephew who sets out to discover his late uncle’s secrets—including the identity of the noblewoman Bartolomeo loved until he died.
When Bartolomeo Scappi dies in 1577, he leaves his vast estate—properties, money, and his position—to his nephew and apprentice Giovanni. He also gives Giovanni the keys to two strongboxes and strict instructions to burn their contents. Despite Scappi’s dire warning that the information concealed in those boxes could put Giovanni’s life and others at risk, Giovanni is compelled to learn his uncle’s secrets. He undertakes the arduous task of decoding Scappi’s journals and uncovers a history of deception, betrayal, and murder—all to protect an illicit love affair.
As Giovanni pieces together the details of Scappi’s past, he must contend with two rivals who have joined forces—his brother Cesare and Scappi’s former protégé, Domenico Romoli, who will do anything to get his hands on the late chef’s recipes.
With luscious prose that captures the full scale of the sumptuous feasts for which Scappi was known, The Chef’s Secret serves up power, intrigue, and passion, bringing Renaissance Italy to life in a delectable fashion.
Excerpt from THE CHEF’S SECRET (Atria/Simon & Schuster)
By Crystal King
Forty-three days after he first laid eyes upon the most beautiful girl in the world, Bartolomeo had the good fortune to overhear the maids talking about a girl at the palazzo. Two of the serving maids huddled in the pantry near his post where he was prepping nightingales for the cena. When they mentioned the dress she had worn the night before, Bartolomeo realized the principessa was the object of their admiration.
One of the maids was a thin slip of a girl who served the cardinale’s sister. The other was a young woman who had caught his fancy for a time the summer before, but soon bored Bartolomeo with her empty gossip.
“She’s here from Roma,” the first said, awe in her voice. They talked of the girl’s extraordinarily wealthy family, of her famed dressmaker, and of how long it took to wrangle her curls each morning.
When they said her name, Bartolomeo had to put his knife down for fear of cutting himself. Oh, to know her true name! Happiness filled him like a carafe of fine wine. Her name, he thought, was like the taste of strawberries sprinkled with sugar. It was like the summer sun touching the petal of a freshly bloomed flower. That evening, when he gazed out his little garret window, he wished he could shout her name across the rooftops, but he could never say it aloud. To do so was too dangerous, for her and for him. He would take a thousand lashings for his Stella [Author’s note, this is a pet name that Bartolomeo has for her], but he could not bear to have her come to harm.
The next morning, Stella stopped Bartolomeo in the loggia. The sky was bright and the October air was still gentle and warm. He was readying to leave the palazzo to go to market when she approached. He was so startled to see her there he stopped in his tracks, mouth agape.
The princess was radiant in a red velvet gown, her hair piled high upon her head. Her beauty was staggering, her skin so clear, her cheeks ruddy and fresh. What a sight he must seem in comparison, with his own hair a tussle of wild waves, a grease stain adorning one sleeve. He hadn’t bathed, and he was certain he smelled too much like onions and ham.
She recognized his discomfort and giggled, in a way that immediately eased his fear. She gently touched his arm with one hand, and with the other she pressed a piece of paper into his palm. “What is your name?”
He looked around to see who might be witnessing the exchange, but there were only a couple of gardeners in the vicinity, none of whom paid them any mind. “Bartolomeo,” he said, gathering courage.
She released his hand and shared her own name. Bartolomeo’s heart sang as she repeated the word he had been turning over and over in his mind since the day before.
To follow the tour, please visit Crystal King's page on Italy Book Tours.
Buy the Book:
Meet the Author:
A Pushcart Prize–nominated poet and former co-editor of the online literary arts journal Plum Ruby Review, Crystal received her MA in critical and creative thinking from UMass Boston, where she developed a series of exercises and writing prompts to help fiction writers in medias res. She resides in Boston but considers Italy her next great love after her husband, Joe, and their two cats, Nero and Merlin. She is the author of Feast of Sorrow.
Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Pinterest ~ Instagram
Enter the Giveaway!
Ends March 7, 2019
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