Monday, March 29, 2010

Writing Letters: A Lost Art?

There was a time when the only way of communicating with someone long distance was by sending a letter.  That's all changed with email, instant messaging, cell phones and texting.  People's lives have become so busy that there is little time to sit down and write a letter.  Today if someone wants to contact a person long distance, they pick up a phone rather than put pen to paper.

Are there times when it is important to communicate with someone quickly?  Of course there are.  Sometimes you need a reply to something that can't wait for the time it takes a letter to arrive by mail.  There are also times when a person wants to be able to hear another person's voice.  Who doesn't like hearing the words 'I love you' or 'I miss you?'

When you send or receive a letter, those words are permanent.  A letter is a moment in time that has been put down on paper.  That moment can be relived over and over every time that letter is read.  'I love you' or 'I miss you' can sometimes mean so much more when read on paper, because more thought was put into the words being written down.

My grandfather, who is 95 years old, saves all the cards and letters he receives.  Every so often he will pull them out and share them with me.  When I was younger, I never appreciated it as much as I do now.  That shoebox is filled with a lifetime of memories and a documented history of bits and pieces of people's lives.

Am I guilty of calling or emailing someone rather than taking the time to sit down and write a letter?  Yes, I am.  I occasionally send out cards with a few handwritten sentences, but that is not the same as taking the time to write a letter.  A letter lets the recipient know that they were important enough for you to take the time to sit down and put some thought into the handwritten words put down on paper.

Has letter writing become a lost art?  I hope not.  What can replace the joy of getting an envelope filled with news from a relative or friend?  If I get excited about finding a letter in the mail, how excited must the recipient feel when they receive one from me?

Are you a letter writer?  If not, will you make the time to sit down and write a letter this week?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Birthday Wishes


 Randolph Caldecott

Randolph Caldecott, an English artist and illustrator, was born at 150 Bridge Street in Chester, England, on March 22, 1846.  He was the third child of John Caldecott and Mary Dinah Brookes.  Randolph had a brother, Alfred, and a sister, Sophia.  

At the age of 26 Randolph quit his job, working at a bank, and moved to London, supporting himself entirely through his artwork.  Within two years he was successfully working on commission as a magazine illustrator for The Graphic, Punch, and other magazines.  In 1878 Randolph had two books, The House Jack Built and The Diverting History of John Gilpin, published for Christmas.  They were such a success, that Randolph produced two new books each year, for Christmas, through 1885.

Randolph became engaged to Marian H. Brind in 1879 and they were married a year later.  They had no children.  While Randolph and Marian were on a trip to the United States in 1886, Randolph became ill and died on February 12th in St. Augustine, Florida.  He was not quite 40 years old.

Randolph Caldecott is best remembered for his ageless illustrating contributions to children's literature in the nineteenth century.  He is also remembered through the Caldecott Medal, which is rewarded for excellence in children's book illustrations.  It was established by Mr. Frederic G. Melcher in 1938.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Ten Questions with Katie Hines

I'd like to welcome Katie Hines to my blog today.  She is the author of Guardian, a fantastic middle grade urban fantasy.  

1. Hi Katie.  Could you tell us a little about yourself?

I'm a wife, a mom, and a grandma who also is a writer.  Although I had some poetry published in an anthology back when I was in high school, the only writing I did in my 20s was in my diary, which was my confidant and friend.  When my husband suggested that I turn it into a memoir, I was hesitant, but thought, "What the heck."  I did, and the result was truly awful.  After a few kind and well-meaning words about the memoir, I decided that if I wanted to write anything worth publishing, I was going to have to learn more about creative writing.  So, I embarked on a journey of learning which eventually lead to Guardian.

2. What was your inspiration for writing Guardian?
While I was thinking about what to write, I was doing some internet research, and so was my husband, Bill.  He is actually the one who came across the Oak Island (Nova Scotia) treasure story.  When he shared it with me, I realized this was the storyline I was looking for, did my research and began writing, while never looking back.

3. What were the challenges in bringing your book to completion?
Obviously the very first is getting a whole draft written.  I kept adding layers as I was writing that changed previous chapters and impacted future chapters.  As such, it took me several "goings through" to finish the whole rough draft.  I actually have a total of nine editing manuscripts, and a whole file of deleted scenes, which I definitely didn't want to delete in case I wanted to use them again.
After doing the editing, it was a challenge to get it through my online critique group simply because there were anywhere from four to six of us, and we could only submit 2,000 words at a time every four to six weeks.  I was finally able to partner up with another children's writer who needed her entire manuscript critiqued, too, so that took care of that.

4. What were your experiences with your blog tour for Guardian?
I tried to make sure I publicized it as much as possible on the groups that I'm a part of, but of course the idea of the blog tour is to gain exposure for the book with readership that I don't normally touch.  The results have been mixed.
I think readers and commenter presence has depended on the audience size of the host and their willingness to publicize the interview on their blog, too.  For the most part, the hosts have been awesome, and I'm thankful for their willingness to help promote Guardian.
I've tried to mix up the content of the interviews for the readership, too, and I think that has helped.  Book reviews, interviews, guest posting.  I've got a few fine folks who have followed the tour everyday, which has been cool.
The thing I'm looking for, and I don't know whether I've achieved it or not, is to get exposure for the book outside my sphere of influence.  I do know I've heard comments from people that I've never heard of before, so that is good.  I have hired a publicity firm to help gain exposure for Guardian, so hopefully, I'll see some results from that.

5. What are your marketing strategies for Guardian?
Many strategies were in place by the time Guardian was published and rolling off the printing press.  Most of it involved online name recognition: blog, guest blogging, interviews, blog talk radio, web site creation and such.
Since the time the book has come out, I am still doing all the previous, but am adding book signings, library and school visits.  Recognizing I only have a limited reach, I have also hired a publicist to do some of the online marketing for me.

6. Can you share about any current writing projects?
I am writing another middle grade urban fantasy, and am excited about it.  It is being a little stubborn as it wants to go in directions I don't want it to go, so I'm having to rethink some of the plot and characters.  Additionally, I am slowly working on a young adult novel and two chapter books which figure the intrepid Grandma Helga. 

7. What are your top five favorite books and why? 
Any and all of Terry Brooks' books (all of which I have read several times), and the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  I also like the long series of Terry Goodkind and books by Madeleine L. 'Engle and Cornelia Funke, a German children's author.  Why?  Because they're all fantasy (not to be confused with science fiction), and I'm an avid lover of fantasy.

8. If you could be a character in any book you've ever read, who would you be and why?
I don't know.  In most of the fantasy books I read, the heroines get killed off, so that's not good.  I think there is a lady mage in one of Terry Brooks' books that I like, 'cause I think it would be cool to command and be proficient with magic while also accepting the responsibilities inherent with the same.

9. What would be the best way for readers to contact you?   
I have a contact button on my website at

10. Is there anything else you would like to share?
I would encourage other writers and aspiring authors to dare to dream and reach for the stars.  Perhaps the stars aren't available, but a trip to the moon is.  If you don't dream, then you'll never succeed because dreaming means you're envisioning your book as a success, which it will never be if you don't dream and don't submit.  There comes a point where you must say, "I've polished it as much as I can; it's time to submit."

Well, our time has come to an end.  Thank you Katie for taking the time to answer my questions today.  
If anyone has questions for Katie, please feel free to leave them in a comment and she will stop by to answer them for you.    

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Review of Guardian

Written by Katie Hines

 What does a very special book, a peculiar webbed scar, a secret promise, a mysterious knight, and a hidden treasure all have in common?  They make for an exciting middle grade urban fantasy full of adventure, secrecy and danger.

Sitting around a campfire, Drew is ready to share his secret promise with his friends Javon and Mattie.  Before he is able to do so a hooded stranger, carrying a sword, steps out of the darkness and approaches the young teens.  He then demands to know where the book is.

Who is this hooded stranger and where did he come from?  What is the book he is talking about?  Could it be the book Drew touched when he was a young boy?  How is this all connected to the promise he made to his dying mother?

From the first page to the last, you are drawn into this story that is full of twists, turns and a surprise ending that you definitely don't want to miss.

** Katie is picking one lucky person who posts a comment during her blog tour to receive a free copy of her book Guardian.  Be sure and leave a comment today as it is the last day of the blog tour.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Birthday Wishes



Theodor Seuss Geisel was born on March 2, 1904, in Springfield, Massachusetts.  He was an American writer and cartoonist, best known by children and parents as Dr. Seuss.  He also wrote about a dozen children's books under the lesser known pen name of Theo. LeSieg.  His books have been translated into over 15 languages.

Dr. Seuss's career of writing children's books began with And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.  It was turned down 27 times before being published by Vanguard Press in 1937.  His colorful, whimsical characters delight children and adults of all ages.  Who isn't familiar with Horton the Elephant, Yertle the Turtle, the Sneetches, the Lorax or the Grinch?  Some of the titles Seuss is famous for are The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, Horton Hears a Who, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Theodor Seuss Geisel died on September 24, 1991, in La Jolla, Ca.  Although his pen has been forever silenced, Dr. Seuss will live on through his books and his beloved characters, continuing to teach and inspire future generations of readers.

Here is a list of his books that I have:

- Dr. Seuss's ABC
- One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish
- The Foot Book
- Hop On Pop
- The Cat In The Hat
- Green Eggs and Ham
- The Tooth Book
- Hooper Humperdink...?  Not Him!
- My Book About Me

Do you have a favorite Dr. Seuss book or character?  Do you have any of his books sitting on a bookshelf?  


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