I am happy to announce the Carry the Light Anthology is available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Carry-Light-Stories-Essays-County/dp/1937818055/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1342237398&sr=1-1&keywords=carry+the+light+san+mateo.
One of my goals as a young adult novelist is to subtly educate my readers. In Between Shadow’s Eyes, the protagonist, Sarah, is constantly remembering or using vocabulary words, sometimes grumbling about her teacher. I, myself, had an English teacher in seventh grade that opened the dictionary on the first day of class, and starting with the letter “a,” proceeded to quiz us on the words in the order they appeared. We had to learn both spelling and all the definitions in groups of twenty. I complained a lot about those tests that year, but I will forever be grateful to Mrs. Krumenacher for the depth of my vocabulary.
Certiain rules are not meant to broken. Or are they? I never considered making the canine character, Shadow, the narrator in my book. Even if I hadn’t heard that novels told from the dog’s point of view were unpublishable, my novel focuses on a young girl’s unfortunate circumstances rather than the dog’s special talent. Yet, now that I know it is not only possible to get these types of books into print, I wouldn’t rule out experimenting to see if I could write in a dog’s voice in the future.
One great example of successfully capturing a dog’s mindset is demonstrated in Garth Stein’s The Art of Racing in the Rain. And Stein isn’t the only author to overcome this supposed insurmountable publishing hurdle either. W. Bruce Cameron also broke the forbidden barrier in his novel, A Dog’s Purpose. Clearly, readers are not nearly as biased against watching the world through a dog’s eyes. Both Stien’s and Cameron’s books made it to the New York Times bestseller’s list.
The lesson learned? A good story trumps all. Write what you love and, with a little luck, readers will follow.
I am not now, nor will ever be, one of those people who would watch the Academy Awards just to see what the stars are wearing. Nor would I flip to an article written by the “fashion police” entitled Best and Worst Dressed. So it shouldn’t be too surprising that when reading a novel and I come across either variation of “he wore” or “she wore,” the prepare to skim function of my brain kicks into overdrive. However, there are times when I will actually be intrigued by clothing choices. This occurs when the way a person is dressed informs either the character ‘s predicament or their personality. In other words, their appearance is relevant to the plot or contributes to character development.
In the excerpt below from my young adult novel, BETWEEN SHADOW’S EYES, I intentionally used clothing and description to create an impression that there is something a bit odd about the character. (You will note I did not use the passive words such as “he wore” or “she wore).”
A flowing black-and-tan sari had replaced her “Save the Redwoods!” T-shirt and khaki pants. She, well, she floated toward me. That was the best description I could come up with for her smooth gait. Her chin swept side to side as she approached my car as if her head was loose about her neck. Something about the combination of her mannerisms and her physical appearance set my nerves on edge. With that pale skin and wispy blonde hair, she could have been a ghost herself.
Here are a few other examples where clothing descriptions would speak volumes about the plot or character:
A young girl awakes is convinced her dad’s old fishing hat that is littered with destination pins clues to her father’s past. (Intrigued?)
A young sergeant shows up to a military hearing in a tank top and holey jeans. (Is this guy in trouble or what?)
A prom queen has discovered what the girl she beat out in the contest is wearing to the big event and has selected the exact same outfit to wear. (Don’t you hate her already?)
The clothing choices in the above scenarios are not description for the sake of painting a picture. These examples provide insight into the storyline and the character’s mental state. The girl who wears an uncomfortable hat to bed is probably distraught if she is willing to inflict pain to keep his belongings close to her. Why? Has her mother just informed her that the man she presumed to be her father was actually her step-dad when her mother presented her with this hat now deceased biological father ? If you are in trouble in the military, do you really want to piss off your commanding officers by thwarting a time-honored dress code? What kind of person who’s already won an honorary position thumbs her nose at her competition in such a vindictive manner? I want to read on and find out. Do you?
I love everything about dogs. Well, maybe not everything. There is that “what you can step in” aspect. But I do love the way dogs can coax you out of a bad mood, the way puppies smell, the unselfless ways of canines, and then there is the entertainment value. Whatever will they do next?
I also love to write about dogs – which is why one of the key characters in my young adult novel is based on my crazy pooch, Shadow. Shadow is a border collie mix with loads of personality and a gigantic heart. I got to thinking the other day that one of my favorite novels also had a border collie as a pivotal character (Nop’s Trials). That lead me to create a list of my favorite top ten dog books of all time (in no particular order):
1). Nop’s Trials by Donald McCaig
2). A Dog Year: Twelve Months, Four Dogs and Me by Jon Katz
3). Marley and Me by John Grogan
4). Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck
5). The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
6). The Poky Little Puppy by Janet Sebring Lowrey (A Golden Book Classic)
7). Old Yeller by Robert Stevenson
8). Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
9). The Call of the Wild by Jack London
10). Cujo by Stephen King
Do you have any favorite animal stories? Cats? Horses? Maybe a tiger (as in Yann Martel’s The Life of Pi).