Book Hippo

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Boy's Own

A lot of my characters are young boys. In The Mountain City Bronzes, Kevin and his father tell their stories as children. In Beggar Charlie, Charlie tells of him and two other boys trying to find their way home. The story I'm working on presently is titled, The Last Words Of Edward Broome. In it, Albert tells his story. None of these boys are over fourteen. Yes, I'll answer the question before the answer, it is hard to get into an adolescents minds. I am, after all, a fifty-seven year old woman. So I have to do a lot of remembering to the past when I was in school. What their interests were and such. Also, a lot of research into the past, the seventies in the first story, Victorian age in the second and the turn of the last century for my newest. That being said, if you want a challenge, try writing from a point of view that may not be the most natural for you. It's fun and it also teaches you as a writer to be open to other's thoughts.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

What's In A Name? Your Character Traits

When writing fiction, it is important to choose names well. All writers are taught not to make two names alike, (unless it's part of the story). The name must fit the character and sound well when read out loud. A character named, John Smith, say, would have to at some point in the story, explain why that is his name. This is so the reader doesn't get frustrated with the cliche moniker. It would have to be a plot point. I fully believe that a character's name has to be part of the story, not just tacked on because you don't want to think of anything better.
Now, in Beggar Charlie, I chose an everyday English name, Charlie. Not Charles, which, to me, denotes a grown man. Hickory Dick was another name. Dick, plain English again to ground them in their English character, two boys lost in China, where not even their names belong. Tang, of course, was the Chinese boy who helps them. But any story or novel a writer begins must start with him/her naming his/her characters. Think of your story and you will get the name.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Beggar Charlie

Writing for tweens is unlike writing for any other age group. The thing is, tweens like action. That's true in movies as well as books. So I had a challenge when writing Beggar Charlie, my tween adventure. I had to keep thinking, action, action, action. Also, I wanted it to be interesting for young readers. So the setting I chose was China in the 19th century. My reason was that western children don't know much about the subject and it might possibly interest them. I have read about China and Victorian Britain for years and thought there was a good story in it. My first choice, the easiest one was my main character, Beggar Charlie. I felt that the quintessential Victorian British character is an orphan. So Charlie became an orphan. I added a character that had been in 19th century America and thought I had a winning concept. Being a lover of history, every place in the world is of interest to me. So I'm happy with my first published tween adventure. It did, after all, become a Wishing Shelf Book Award finalist. If you're thinking of writing your own book for tweens, just remember action, and whatever age group you're writing for, you must know the kind of things they look for in their reading. That is also advice for genre, too. Look at your target audience.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


Sorry for not posting for awhile. I have been very busy. Just to let you know what I've been doing. I was a finalist in the Wishing Shelf Awards and got a certificate. I was very happy with that. And I have been to the SCBWI conference here in Ottawa, ON. The conference was great, there was an agent, an illustrator and three publishers. Each gave a talk and were very entertaining. Oh, did I mention that there were two authors, yes, Ruth Ohi and another lady gave quite enthusiastic talks. I was so ramped up during the conference that I wanted to grab the publishers and yell, "Listen to my ideas!" But I didn't. The first morning was a Saturday. There was a steampunk party on Friday but I didn't go. I was up at three in the morning because I was so excited. I was there early, about seven o'clock. It began at eight-thirty but we needed to be there at eight. So I was early and watched the television in the lobby of the hotel, Albert at Bay. By the way, everyone reported that their rooms, about $130.00 per night were superb. So if you're thinking of coming to Ottawa, ON you might want to take a look at that hotel. Anyway, I watched Dr. Seuss cartoons with the Cat In The Hat. Before that day, I had not known there were such cartoons. The front desk clerk then turned on the news. We all got our nametags and folders and coffee. Then we went in and listened to the speakers until noon. Then a catered lunch. Not bad. Fortunately our big room could be partitioned so we each, Picture Book, Novel and Illustrators had their own space. I did not hear the novel and illustrator talks, just the picture books. It was money worth spent. I had a one on one critique with Ruth Ohi, who totally put her finger on what was wrong with it. I have re-written it completely. On the second day it was warmer. But still, I wore a sweatshirt because it had been so cold the first day. It was a lot warmer and I felt so out of place with everyone else in nice clothes. If I could have hid, I would have. Anyway, I was there at seven o'clock again, only to find that on Sunday the conference didn't start until nine. Oh my. Around eight a couple of other people walked out to get breakfast. I decided to get some toast so I went out the back door to the same restaurant where they asked me to join them. They were from North Bay, ON and were so nice. I bought a book from Heather Stemp called Amelia and Me, about her grandfather's sister who met Amelia Earhart. Great book. If you're looking for YA or Tween, try it. They were so nice that Mr. Stemp paid for my toast and coffee. Inside, when we got back, the room was full. We listened again, the whole room, to an agent, then we had pitch crits, where authors had sent in pitches for stories and the panel, all the publishers and the agent, gave us clues on how to improve our sales pitch and stories. I forgot to mention that Karen Krossing got a Crystal Kite Award for Bog, her YA/Tween novel about trolls. At noon, lunch. The food was not that good but it was adequate. After, I listened to the closing remarks, then because I was not signed up for a critique group, I went home. Great weekend. Anyway, I hope you'll forgive me for not posting there were other things going on, too and maybe next time I post, I'll tell you about them. Cheers

Friday, March 11, 2016

A Native Conspiracy

In the nineties, when I took to researching and history reading, I found myself drawn to the history of North, Central and South American. Most specifically, the native peoples, who they were and how their stories played out. I found this most interesting and after reading quite a few books I decided to check the newspapers at the National Archives to see what they reported on the subject at the time that events happened. I went to the oldest newspaper they had, a microfilm, actually, it was from the USA before it was USA. The date was in the 1600s on the east coast. At that time, the Cherokees lived in the east and were trying to get along with the white people in their midst. However, up north, in what is now southern Ontario, a group of white-hating natives called the Mingoes were wanting to start a war against white expansion. They were, in fact, prescient, and could see that white people would destroy the native world forever. They were also remnants of tribes that had already been disseminated by the whites. They knew of what they spoke. So the article was about a meeting that was supposed to take place between the Cherokees and the whites. The whites disappeared and it was put around that the Cherokees had kidnapped them. The Cherokees big men got together and approached the whites in the colony, said they did not do it. That it was a warrior named The Wolf who had kidnapped the whites and tried to blame it on the Cherokees. The plot: that the whites would attack the Cherokee in retaliation and start a war. Then the Cherokee would side with the Mingoes and together they would destroy the whites. Alas, the Cherokees wanted peace and promised to retrieve the kidnapped white people. I never read if there was a follow-up piece or what they did about The Wolf. I didn't have to, I know how the story eventually played out. Two hundred years later the Cherokees were displaced, sent to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears. The Mingoes do not exist anymore. We won, blah, blah, blah. but sometimes victory doesn't feel so good.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Laurier Palace Theatre Fire

Sometimes only a tragedy can effect changes which benefit society. The early part of the twentieth century saw no uniform building standards in the public structures of Montreal. Not until 1927 was this noticed to be a danger to the lives of the citizens who dwelt in the province. On January 9, eight hundred children aged five to fifteen were attending a movie at the Laurier Palace Theatre. All of them sat in the balcony enthralled by the comedy 'Get Em Young'. Under the floorboards a cigarette lay smoldering. In an instant it flared into a big fire. An usher tried to extinguish the flames unsuccessfully while calling to the children not to panic, but they became hysterical anyway. They fled from the balcony trying to get down the stairs to safety but as the doors opened inward, the great crush of small bodies pushing out kept the exits tightly shut. Children were trampled to death as more and more of them reached the doors in their haste to get out. The smoke choked and blinded the kids and more panic ensued. Although fire station number thirteen stood just across the street, they did not arrive soon enough to divert the tragedy. Many children had already been crushed underneath the feet of other kids when the firemen came. The men chopped holes beneath the stairs and walls, dragging children to safety. Many had already expired from asphyxiation and being crushed. One fireman, Adelard Boisseau, discovered his six-year old son's body when he entered the building. Later, at the morgue, he found two more of his children. This place became filled with distraught parents throughout the evening. Many parents were questioned as to whether their child had been accompanied by an adult or someone who could have calmed them. The answer was usually no. Immediately the Catholic Church exerted their great influence. Priests, who had always worried about the safety of people's souls called for changes as the shocking story hit the news. On January 11, the city held church services for all the victims. There were 78 dead children in all, most of them French-Canadian. The funeral procession was attended by 50,000 people. Mayor Moderic Martin issued condolences to the families from his office and the Montreal Theatre Managers' association began collected money for the families of the dead. They set their goal at $10,000, which would be $120,000 in today's money. The co-archbishop of Montreal railed from the pulpit, preaching that cinemas were unhealthy for children. It weakened the lungs, he said, and gave children sinful ideas which led to immorality. He demanded the moving picture theatres be closed to children. A few months later a judge recommended that everyone under sixteen be barred from public cinemas. More importantly, building codes were also changed. Now all safety doors had to open outward. In 1967, the ban on children at the cinema was lifted. Forty years of safe movie viewing plus the decline of influence of the Catholic Church made people stand up for children again visiting the theatres. Laws were modified with movies labeled as 18 and over, 14 and over and general admission. All this happened at the same time as Expo '67 when Montreal was opening itself to the world. Even though some of the survivors still lived, older folks now who could remember the smoke, heat and panic of that night, the majority of Montrealers were convinced that their children could now sit safely in a cinema and thrill to cartoons and comedies like other kids around the world.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Cash Cow?

TV has a lot about mysteries on it. A couple of mysteries I have thought about are the Chupacabra and Cattle mutilations. Then one night it occurred to me. I have always thought the only animal to take blood out of a creature and leave the body behind is man, ditto for mutilating. Of course these mystery shows liked to posit that it was coming from aliens. The Chupacabra being an escaped pet of aliens who have visited Earth. The cow mutilations come from the aliens themselves. But I wondered, why would aliens leave a body they could just as easily take with them? To make a long story short, I looked at other animal stories. Stories of poachers. So who leaves the body of an animal to rot? Poachers. Think of the African elephant and Siberian tiger whose remains are found all over their habitat. And why are they poached? Medicine. Or for nickknacks made of ivory or rhinoceros horn. What is taken from the cows is their sex organs. So maybe there's a market for cow sex organs somewhere? Why would a poacher just have a herd of cows when they could steal some for less? And for the animals in Latin-America? Blood is drained. So maybe there's a need for blood in some market in the world? Just a thought. But I can't bring myself to believe that an alien would come millions of miles to Earth just to steal and cow's uterus.