If you are a writer, I have three gifts for you today – three valuable blog links. If you are a reader, I have two gifts for you – book reviews for great summer reading.
If you write picture books or have ever wanted to try writing picture books, you should know about a terrific blog run by a woman named Christie Wright Wild. She has lots of valuable information. Every month she runs a contest for picture book writers who can submit their manuscripts and, if they are chosen, get a free critique. Check out Write Wild out by clicking on the title. If you click on the Picture Book Contest blog you can find the monthly contest. (I haven’t won a critique yet, but I’m going to keep on trying.) Spend a little time looking around. There is much to enjoy and learn on Write Wild.
The Speculative Salon, one of my favorite blogs, has a great post this week called 101 Sites to Distract or Help You. Writers and others, you will love this one. Click the title and it will take you there. So much fun! Thank you, Elizabeth.
My good friend and fellow writer and blogger, Michelle Fayard, can be found blogging at Bird’s-Eye View. She always has something interesting going on on her blog, but recently had a particularly valuable post for bloggers – a guest post by Theresa Milstein about getting blog comments to work for you. Click HERE for the link. I learned a good deal from this post and from many others Michelle has posted. Poke around while you’re there. You can also read some of Michelle’s fabulous work in progress, The Underground Gift, if you click on her aptly named Work in Progress button.
Now for the first suggestion for a great summer read. My friend and critique partner Morgan Mussell (who blogs wonderfully and prolifically at the First Gates) has been raving about a book for some months. Morgan writes fantasy, very well I might add, and I don’t – write fantasy, that is. In fact, I hardly ever read fantasy. I may be the only human on the planet who hasn’t read all the Harry Potter books. But Morgan reads a lot of it and he has spoken very highly of The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens. I resisted for awhile, but last week picked it up. It’s a good thing I didn’t have a lot on my plate last week. This is one of those books that once you crack the cover, you won’t get much else done.
The book opens with three small children being handed off to a stranger. The oldest, four-year-old Kate, is told by her mother she must protect her brother, Michael, and sister, Emma, and keep them together and safe until their parents can come for them. They wander through a string of orphanages, each worse than the last, and keep being sent on and on until they end up going to the last possible place that will take them, seemingly at the end of the earth.
The pier was long and narrow and had many broken and rotted slats; it stretched out past the shelf of ice and into open water, and the children walked to the end and huddled there, pulling their coats right and leaning together like penguins against the bitter wind blowing in across the lake.
The orphanage is a rickety old mansion and they are the only orphans there. Kate is now fourteen; Michael, twelve; and Emma, eleven. Of course, they have to explore. They find what looks like a laboratory and there come across a green book with blank pages. Michael drops a photograph between the pages and BAM! They find themselves transported through time. A beautiful witch, known as the Countess, has a child in her hands and threatens to drop her to her death in a lake. The children of the town, Cambridge Falls, have been separated from their parents by the witch who is searching for something. The fathers are forced into heavy labor in search of the item and the mothers are kept away from their families.
Cambridge Falls is in a magical place and the surrounding area is populated by all sorts of beings. There are dark creatures called Screechers who terrify and control everyone, a wizard, hoards of dwarves (who are very funny and gross – something kids will love and I did, too), a giant named Gabriel, and the most terrible salmac-tar.
Its skin was a translucent, gooey white and dotted with greenish sores. Its arms and legs were hideously long and thin, its back curved from generations of moving through low-ceilinged tunnels. Its claws tapped the floor as it advanced, and Kate saw the milky, sightless eyes and huge, bat-like ears. The salmac-tar made a gurgling hiss deep in its throat…
This book, like the Harry Potter books, is marketed as a middle-grade book, but I think anyone who enjoys fantasy or a really compelling story with great characters that will take you away from your everyday life will love The Emerald Atlas. It, like Potter, will be widely read well beyond the middle-grade audience.
The second book I want to tell you about is The Fourth Wish. This book by Elizabeth Varadan is soon to be released as an e-book on Amazon, but you can still buy it in printed form. Elizabeth is a good friend and critique partner. She blogs at Elizabeth Varadan’s Fourth Wish and posts lots of wonderful book reviews. Stop by and say hello.
The Fourth Wish is a middle-grade book set in Sacramento. It opens with four kids (siblings Melanie, Cory, and Erin, and a neighbor, Arthur) going to a magic show and movie. We learn the three sibling’s father had recently left, and they are having a hard time dealing with the loss. On their way to the magic show, the four encounter a strange old woman, Mrs. Seraphina. The bag she is carrying breaks and the kids help her pick up the strange objects that have spilled out. She gives each of them a wish box, but they must all agree on a wish. You know the old saying: Be careful what you wish for… Cory gets the first wish and it is that The Great Mondo will do real magic, not just tricks. Well, once this particular rabbit is out of the hat, it’s pretty hard to get it back in. The domino effect of this wish is quite something. Mondo’s magic show goes completely out of control and he loses his job. Of course, the kids feel it’s their fault and set about trying to fix everything by finding the mysterious Mrs. Seraphina and using the other three wishes to put things back the way they should be. They learn just how specific every wish has to be as things go wrong with each try.
This is quite a romp through modern-day Sacramento. The setting is dead on and the children have normal lives with normal problems, yet there is plenty of funny stuff going on and enough of a mystery to keep the pages turning and turning. Kids from nine to ninety, will enjoy this fun summer read.
There isn’t much summer left for summer reading. I hope this and some of my earlier blogs have given you some good choices for filling your time. If you are reading this in your email, don’t forget to click on the headline to go to my blog. If you haven’t subscribed yet, please do. And please leave a comment. I love to hear from you.