All-Star Fun With Margo Dill and her Newest YA Release!

1655060_10202352586313888_1471055173_oI grew up with three brothers; I learned to play baseball so I wouldn’t be left out of the fun. And I’ve been having fun with baseball ever since! When friend and author, Margo Dill’s book came out, Caught Between Two Curses, I jumped on the chance to read a teen novel with baseball in the mix.

Even if it was the Cubs. (Come on, I’m kidding. Mostly.)

Margo’s having a fun promotion this week because it’s the All-Star break and all of the true baseball fans are missing our sport. (And do not try to tell me that the All-Star game counts. Everybody knows we only watch to see if the players picked from our favorite teams get in the game.)

Anyway, as part of the All-Star celebration, she’s hopping around to a couple of blogs, and I’m thrilled she landed here today! Take it away, Margo!

When I came up with the idea for Caught Between Two Curses, it didn’t occur to me that baseball in a book would not be a big draw. I mean, I grew up in a world of baseball—thanks to my dad and grandpa, and my mom, too, who likes sports. My daughter’s one-year-old birthday party turned into a World Series party because the Cardinals were playing (and winning!) game 7 that night. But I have read review after review, which I am very grateful for, with a line, such as: “I wasn’t sure what to expect with this book because I don’t like baseball much, but luckily, it’s not really about baseball.”

This is true—my plot is much more about a 17-year-old girl who is having boy trouble and being pressured to have sex, who is living with her aunt’s family after her parents’ death, and who is trying to figure out how to break a curse on her family. She doesn’t like baseball herself, but her uncle is crazy about it. The curse grabs ahold of him for the first time while he’s at a Chicago Cubs baseball game while he’s eating a bratwurst, and eventually, he falls into a coma.

But my point is do we really pick books or not pick them because of a subplot? Am I marketing my book wrong? Do people just see the cover with Wrigley Field on it and assume it’s a baseball book? This whole issue has me thinking. I read books with things I’m not interested in all the time, like one of Claire Cook’s books, Time Flies, has a main character, who is a successful metal sculptor. I don’t like or dislike metal sculptors, but I have no interest in this art form. I did enjoy the book because it’s not actually about metal sculpting—it’s about a middle-aged woman trying to find her way and having an adventure!

Take this a step further. . .I love to read murder mystery books—like the ones James Patterson wrote about Alex Cross, but I’m not interested in murder—as a matter of fact, I don’t like it at all. I loved Hunger Games, but I’m not interested in watching teenagers fight to their death. I don’t usually read reviews about these books, such as, “I knew this book was about a game where teenagers fought to their death so their families wouldn’t starve, and I’m not usually interested in this, but the book turned out to be more than just murder.”

meAm I making my point here?

I love baseball. I put baseball in my book. I have discovered that perhaps I am not in the majority with my love of baseball, and that’s okay. But before we judge a book by its cover (BIG CLICHÉ THERE, HUH?), maybe read what it’s actually about? I’m thankful many readers who don’t like baseball have given my book a chance and liked it, and I’m hopeful many more will, too.

Have you ever put something in a short story or a book and had a reaction like this? OR have you had a reaction like this to a book you’ve read?

Margo’s book, Caught Between Two Curses, is on sale this week thanks to baseball’s All-Star Game! You can find out all the details about the sale here, but basically, the e-book for KINDLE is on sale for 99 cents today (July 15), $1.99 (July 16-17), and $2.99 (July 18-19). An autographed copy of the print book is available for $5.00 off the cover price–$6.95. Thanks to All-Star week, she is also having a contest with a prize of one $25 gift card to one of 5 restaurants (Olive Garden, Starbucks, Panera Bread, Applebee’s, TGI Friday’s) (U.S. mailing addresses only please) and a 3000-word free edit (anywhere in the world, English-language only). Enter to win those prizes on the Rafflecopter form below—no purchase necessary! Check out more about Margo and her books here!

RAFFLECOPTER LINK: a Rafflecopter giveaway

(I have NO idea why I can’t get Rafflecopter to actually show up on my blog! But if you click on that link, it will take you to the giveaway and you can sign up for all the goodies! And perhaps, before the end of the promotion, I’ll get Margo to show me how to fix it. In the meantime, I hope you’ll get Margo’s book, Caught Between Two Curses.)

Now hurry, y’all, you don’t want to miss the fun! Because when the All-Star break is over, she’s OUT of here!

Next Stop on the Writing Process Blog Chain (Hint: It’s Me)

2009-02-10 16.23.12Sure, t’is a lovely day to be writing.

It’s a wee bit rainy on this St. Patrick’s Day morning, but that’s all the better for this lass to keep her pounding at the keys. If the sun were shinin’ bright, a certain strawberry blonde might be up to all sorts of shenanigans. So a big thank you to the good Lord who brings the rains, and a big thank you to Margo L. Dill, who is any day now releasing her new novel, CAUGHT BETWEEN TWO CURSES! Margo invited me to answer a couple questions on the writing process (and if you want to know all about Margo’s news and process, check out the last stop on the blog chain here.)

On to the Writing Process questions!

1. What am I working on?

Whew! Just last night, I had a wee bit of a panic attack, wondering how I would manage all that I’m working on! I’m finishing up a children’s book for the Korean education market that’s been as much of a learning process as a writing process! I’m having a blast, tapping into my picture book writing-side over at Julie Hedlund’s 12 x 12. But honestly, it’s 12 books in 12 months and SO many writers, sharing info. And contests. And must-read books. My wee little brain is about to bust! And I’m working on a bookmap in preparation for a plot intensive by Cheryl Klein at the Springmingle conference in a few weeks. (And something tells me, I’ll be revising yet again when all is said and done.)

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Let’s see…I suppose I can answer this question as it relates to the EL book I’m finishing. It’s a bit different for me to write with such specific guidelines, in meeting reading levels, defining topics, creating review questions. And it’s a departure from fiction, where my comfort zone lives. But when I jump into non-fiction for kids, I learn so much–and I’m challenged with having to come up with a creative story framework to keep the kiddies interested. So it’s been stretching my writing process, but in a good way!

3. Why do I write what I do?

At this point, seven years in to my writing career, I try to choose projects that will bring me closer to my ultimate goal: writing books for kids. It doesn’t mean that I won’t pen a limerick for the Saturday Evening Post contest or send out a Chicken Soup for the Soul story. But mostly, my humor finds its home in children’s writing, and that keeps me pretty darn busy.

4.  How does your writing process work?

Hmmm…my writing process. Honestly, it’s not that complicated. I have a calendar over my desk with everything I want to work on during the month. First thing every morning, I pick a project for the day and then I do a little hop-skip dance around the office, maybe sing a bit, twirl a chicken over my head,  toss glitter at the keyboard.

Nah, just kidding. I do look at my calendar, decide what I need to work on, and then put my butt in the chair and get to it. I joke about getting ideas in the shower, but that’s no joke. The creative part of the writing process–the time when I need to think up a plot, figure out how to get from point A to point B, fine-tune a character–comes most often when I’m doing something else, something where I don’t have to concentrate. That just happens to be bathing.

Faith ‘n begorrah, I’ve gone on enough! It’s time to pass the chain along for the next bloggers who’ll be answering the same questions on March 24th.

Friend and author Suzanne–well, she writes as Suzanne Lilly, which is just about the BEST pen name ever, is a full-time teacher who somehow finds the time to write sweet and suspenseful, YA romances. Her latest published release is about gold rush days and…you know what? I’ll bet that’s exactly what Suzanne will be talking about, so join her next week at her blog.

Kathy Halsey is a newcomer to the blogging world, and she’s joined forces with a terrific group of children’s writers over at GROG (it’s an acronym; go check it out!). Kathy’s a former school librarian and teacher and enjoys the middle grade humor, so I can’t wait to see what she has to say.

And now, t’is back to work for me. Though it’s hardly work when Irish eyes are smilin’.

For Me? You Shouldn’t Have! (But Thanks for the Compliment!)

sunshineawardToday is National Compliment Day, and I’d just like to say that I think Margo L. Dill is grand! She gave me the Sunshine Blog Award because she thinks I’m a “blogger who positively and creatively inspires others in the blogosphere.”

Now, that’s quite the compliment. And I have to admit I’m feeling pretty warm and fuzzy inside right now. But there’s more to this award than a warm and fuzzy feeling. There’s favorites to ponder!

Favorite Things!

 

  • Favorite color: Okay, that’s tough. Really tough. I love SO many colors. But I’ll say blue, as in a Georgia blue sky on a summer afternoon in July.
  • Favorite animal: SO much easier. Dog.
  • Favorite number: I’m tempted to say my birthday number, but I’m rather fond of 5. I don’t know why.
  • Favorite drink: Oh. My. Gosh. Favorites are hard. Okay, Coke. No, unsweet tea. (Yes, I know. But it’s still unsweet.)
  • Facebook or Twitter?: Facebook.
  • Your passions: My faith, my family, my friends, my writing, my sports teams. Not necessarily in that order if one of my teams is playing.
  • Giving or getting presents: Giving is probably the nobler answer, but…
  • Favorite day: FRIDAY! I work at home now, but old habits die hard. I still get excited when Friday rolls around.
  • Favorite flowers: Why must you torture me with this favorites thing??? If I must choose, I’ll say hydrangeas. But now I feel bad for wisteria and bougainvillea and daisies and magnolias and camellias and forget-me-nots.

And now it’s time to pass along the lovely compliment. I’d like to give the Sunshine Blog Award to Debra Mayhew and Lisa Ricard Claro. Their blogs always brighten my day and make me so very glad I stopped by for a read.

But honestly, all of you brighten my day. And I’d say that even if it weren’t National Compliment Day.

And We Have Another Winner! Finding My Place Giveaway

Final Finding My Place CoverRemember when Margo L. Dill talked about her wonderful middle grade historical novel, Finding My Place? And you had a chance to win a five-page critique? And I said you’d squeal like a kid on Christmas morning when you won?

Prepare to squeal, Debra Mayhew!!!

I’m sorry the rest of you won’t be squealing (though maybe you’ve asked Santa to bring you a critique, too!), but you may still have a chance to win a critique from Margo. I know she’ll be touring blogs again in 2013, so go friend her on Facebook and then you can get all the details. Or just go ahead and buy Finding My Place.

You know you want to.

Five Questions for Margo L. Dill, Author of Finding My Place (And A Giveaway!)

Final Finding My Place CoverI’m SO excited to have Margo L. Dill joining me today! Her debut middle grade historical fiction, Finding My Place, has been out for a month or so and Margo is visiting blogs to share her story and her wonderful writing expertise. So I put five questions to her that I thought might be helpful to any and all writers out there, a little something for everyone! And P.S. You’ll want to read to the very end because Margo has something special for one lucky commenter!

 

1. Finding My Place is set in Vicksburg, Mississippi during the siege there in 1863, and honestly, I think the setting really makes this a unique Civil War story! I often wonder whether, when it comes to historical fiction, writers have an idea, then jump into the research? Or if a writer falls in love with a subject, then comes up with a story. So which came first for you, the history or the plot?

What came first for me was the history. I was teaching fifth grade social studies, when I read in the book, ONE PARAGRAPH about Vicksburg, Mississippi. It said how the citizens showed remarkable strength, lived in caves, and ate rats to keep from surrendering to the Yankees. I needed a novel idea because I was taking a correspondence course about writing for children, and so there was my idea!

 

2. Your heroine, Anna Green, has several siblings, but it’s her younger brother, James, who really tries her patience! How much of your own sibling relationships came into play in the story?

You are going to laugh at this—I am an only child. I have no idea what it’s like to have a sibling, but my husband has two younger siblings—a brother and then a sister. Whenever they are together, they talk all about the past and all the awful things they used to do to each other. Now, they love each other and are close—but back then, my husband is lucky that he has all of his limbs! Actually, my brother-in-law is the one that is lucky—one time my husband accidentally shot him in the leg with a bow and arrow!

 

3. I know this is totally geeky, but I love research notes as much as story, and you had some wonderful tidbits of information in your notes! What surprised you the most about life in Vicksburg during the war? And what made you say, “Ewwww. You’ve got to be kidding!”?

The substitutions that the Vicksburg citizens used so they wouldn’t surrender to the Blue Bellies were amazing to me. Instead of drinking coffee, they created coffee out of acorns! When they didn’t have any paper left, they printed their news on the back of wallpaper. They were creative and resourceful, and I love that spirit. As for gross—all the stuff I read about wounded soldiers and their treatments—gross—it is amazing anyone survived the Civil War. I couldn’t put a lot of that in my book since it’s middle-grade, but I do have some in there when Anna goes and works at an army hospital.

 

4. The road to publication for Finding My Place seemed to hit a few bumps along the way, but I’m so glad you succeeded! What advice can you give to writers struggling to get their novel published?

Don’t give up. It took 11 years from the idea to holding the book in my hand. Part of that was the fact this was my first novel, and I had no idea what I was doing. J I had a critique group that helped me , and I went to writing conferences. Once I had it revised and ready-to-go (really!), I found a publisher fairly quickly—I think I sent to three or four and got two responses—to get to that point took five years. Then once I signed my contract and turned in my final copy, instead of 18 months to publication, it took almost five more years! This was because of the economy and things beyond my control. I just kept writing and kept publishing and kept communicating with my publisher. In the end, it all worked out!

 

5. So we’ve talked about history, but now it’s time to take a look at the future. Inquiring middle-schooler (and older) minds want to know, so what can we expect to read about in the next Margo L. Dill novel?

I am working on a few things—I have a YA that is almost finished—my critique group says send it out, but I have a few more things I want to do. I also have a rough draft finished for a middle-grade mystery novel (contemporary, humorous) that I want to work on in the winter and hopefully send out in the spring. I have two picture books under contract, and those will be out in the future, too. As for more historical fiction, I’m not ruling it out, but it is very time-consuming and difficult to write. I’m going to have to wait until my daughter is in kindergarten!

 

Margo short hairSo there you have it–all you wanted to know about Finding My Place! Oh! Hold on a tic. I didn’t give you the story itself. As it happens, I read Margo’s wonderful book and was lucky enough to review it over at The Muffin. I’m also lucky enough to know Margo, in a virtual way. She’s a contributing editor at WOW! Women-on-writing, which brings me to another lovely surprise for you!

Margo is offering one of two professional critiques/evaluations. There will be one winner and she/he may choose one of the following:

**Professional critique of the first 5 pages of any novel, nonfiction work, or short story
OR
**Professional evaluation of a blog or social media profile with a written summary of what works and suggestions
All you have to do to win is leave a comment here and I’ll draw a name. It’s a swell prize, right? And Finding My Place is a swell book. You can find out how to get an autographed copy for your favorite young reader right here. It’s so easy, even I could do it. (And P.S. I did.)