Monday, March 31, 2014

MMGM - Ice Dogs

Ice Dogs
by Terry Lynn Johnson
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Ice Dogs

I became acquainted with Terry Lynn a few years ago when she had her first book published with 4RV Publishing.

I recently won her book! I quickly read it and loved it. She really writes what she knows. She lives in Canada and has had a lot of experience with Alaskan huskies, hiking, snowshoeing and snow!

This book is full of action. It is about fourteen-year-old dog sledder Victoria Secord. She is a champion musher, independent, self-reliant and (thankfully) an expert in surviving the unforgiving Alaskan bush.

She wants to go to another dog yard and get more dogs. Her mother says, "Jeremy Cook's dogs aren't any better than the ones you already have. A dog's a dog, Vicky. And we've already got too many."

She defies her mother's orders and sets out across the snow covered wilderness to Cook's place. All the time she is getting ready she hears her deceased father's advice and packs the bag with lots of items - just in case.

An injured "city boy" and a snowstorm catch her and her dog team by surprise. She must find a way to save them all as the temperatures drop and their food runs out. They spend cold nights in the wilderness. The suspense runs throughout the story. You wonder where they will find their next food, you wonder if they can survive the cold, you wonder if the dogs are going to survive with injuries and little food.

Her love for her dogs - her heroes - grows stronger and stronger. The harsh winter elements take their toll on her, the city boy and her dogs. This suspenseful story, filled with adventure, will keep you turning the pages.

You can go here and read an excerpt of her book.

For more reviews of MG books, go to Shannon Messenger's site.

Posted byJanet Smart  on Creative Writing in the Blackberry Patch.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


The point in time or space at which something starts.

Beginnings are hard, but finishing is harder.

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

They say the beginning of a book has to hook the reader. It has to want them to keep reading.
I agree. If it takes too long for a book to grab my interest, I stop reading. Not always, but most of the time. What about you?

I just competed in a competition on Writing for Children and Teens blog about beginnings. You send in your first 125 words, then your next 250 words until you get the red light. I stepped up to the 5th round before I got eliminated.

I just finished reading a couple of books. Here are their beginnings:

What The Mood Said by Gayle Rosengren
Esther planted her feet on the curb. Her older sister Violet tugged at her arm and said, "Come on! We're going to be late for the matinee."
But Esther wouldn't budge - not until a streetcar had clattered past and the street was empty in both directions.
"Ma said to be extra careful today," she reminded Violet as she finally stepped off the curb and crossed the street. "She saw a ring around the moon last night. That means something bad is going to happen."

Ice Dogs by Terri Lynn Johnson
All eight of my dogs are stretched in front of me in pairs along the gangline. They claw the ground in frustration as the loudspeaker blares.
"Here's team number five. Our hometown girl, fourteen-year-old Victoria Secord!"
A male voice booms out my racing stats while my lead dog, Bean, whips his crooked rat tail. He tries to lunge forward, and then catches my eye and screams with a pitch that shoots up my spinal cord and electrifies my teeth.

Can you tell by their beginnings what the books are going to be about? Did their beginning draw you in and make you want to read more?

Some books go against the rules and are still popular. What are the rules?

The Blood Red Pencil blogged one time about The Top 25 Reasons Your Submissions are Rejected. Go here to see this post.

#9 states The opening contained the phrases, "My name is..." and/or "My age is..."

Of course, there are exceptions. One of my favorite books (Because of Winn-Dixie) starts this way: My name is India Opal Buloni, and last summer my daddy, the preacher, sent me to the store for a box of macaroni-and-cheese, some white rice, and two tomatoes and I came back with a dog.

What are some of your favorite book beginnings? Does a book have to grab you in order to keep you reading?

I am sure this favorite spot of mine had a small beginning a long, long time ago. But look at it now! Our writing can do the same. From its beginning, our story can grow into something grand.
Just remember - you have to finish it.

Posted byJanet Smart on Creative Writing in the Blackberry Bush.


Monday, March 24, 2014

MMGM - What the Moon Said

Today is Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.
To see what middle grade book other bloggers posted about, follow the links on  Shannon Messenger's site.

What The Moon Said
by Gayle Rosengren
2014 G.P. Putnam's Sons


I love historical fiction and after reading the info about it on the Jacket Flap, I suspicioned I would enjoy this book. And, don't you just love the cover?

I fell in love with the ten year old character, Esther. This story takes place during the depression. Her pa loses his job and she and her family leave Chicago and move to a farm in Wisconsin. In Esther's words, they are like pioneers. They had no electricity and no bathroom. But she did get a best friend and a dog named Mickey.

Her mother is very superstitious about everything. Or should I say, very very superstitious. She forbids her to see her new friend because she says she is marked by angry fairies.

The thing Esther longs for most is for her mother to tell her she loves her and to give her a hug, which she has never gotten. But, in the end she realizes:
     Love was actions more than words. And not just easy actions like hugs and kisses. It was the hard ones, like sticking by someone in bad times, not just in good. It was working for them, even when you were tired. It was putting their needs first, even before your own. It was taking care of them when they were sick. It was forgiving them when they disappointed you. It was protecting them and teaching them. It was all the things Ma had always done for Ester.

If you like historical fiction, I recommend this book!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Editing in Bits and Pieces

I'm participating again in Writing for Children and Teens Red Light, Green Light event. It is hosted by Cynthea and Kissy.

It is kind of like the Red Light, Green Light game you played as a child.
You submit your first 125 words of your manuscript - Cynthea and Kissy either give it the red light or green light. If you get a green light, you advance to the next round. Then you submit the next 250 words of your manuscript. You keep submitting until you get the red light. Then you go back to start and start all over again

She gives you helpful tips on your manuscript excerpts along the way.

I am finding that this is a great way to edit - in bits and pieces. I find myself making small changes in each of my submissions before hitting the send button. I want each word and each sentence the best it can be.

In looking at your manuscript in tiny lumps, you help each section of your manuscript better stand alone. You make each word and sentence count.

Pull up your manuscript and give this a try. I think you will find it helpful in making each section better.

Better sections mean better manuscripts.

Writing is like quilting. You work on it one section at a time, 
until you are happy with the finished product.

Posted byJanet Smart on Creative Writing in the Blackberry Patch.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


FICTION: Written stories about people and events that are not real. An invented story.

EXAMPLE: She is a writer of fiction.

QUOTE: Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn't.  Mark Twain

Do you lie? Do you tell tall tales? Do you have an imagination? Are you good at making things up?

You might say that those are good qualities of a writer of fiction.  

But, sometimes a writer gets writer's block. Your imagination goes on vacation, you've used up all your tall tales and you start feeling guilty about lying.

What do you do?

You can always add cheating to your resume. Use real life experiences and change them up a bit. Do you know a colorful, unique or ordinary person? Sure! We all do. Take a little from them and add it to one of your characters or plots. Of course, be sure and change the names and the locations. Your Aunt Hazel may not want everyone to know she has a pet snake, wears purple underwear and dreams of running for president some day.

I have stolen names, quirks, special abilities, dreams, memories, pets, jobs, hobbies, clothing, locations, etc. from family and people I know and placed them in my stories. You know what they say - fact is stranger than fiction.

 Maybe you can find a place for one of these unique, but ordinary, objects in your next story of fiction.


Happy Writing!


Thursday, March 13, 2014


I am a day late with my post. But that is only because I have been -


Having a great deal to do.


I was too busy to notice it was past time to post on my blog.


Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it. Henry David Thoreau

I do not have a regular paying job - a job outside the home - so a lot of people may think of me as not being busy.

Since being married, I have been a mother and wife.  None of these are paying jobs, but they sure kept me busy and still do.
I used to craft and sew. I never received much payment for this, but it sure kept me busy.
Now I write. I have never received much payment for this, but it sure keeps me busy.

Writers are always busy writing, editing and submitting. Then we start the process all over again.
We are busy as a bee. But that is an overused cliche, so I should change it to say - Busy as a writer with a deadline!

Maybe if I keep too busy to look for it, like Henry David Thoreau said, success will come when I least expect it.

Success is not always measured by the amount of money you make.  Success is also measured by the amount of happiness in your life. At least I think so.

My quote is: Stay busy, be happy with what you do, and success will come when you least expect it.

Stay busy and you won't notice the time fly by.

What have you been busy doing lately?

Posted byJanet Smart  on Creative Writing in the Blackberry Patch.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Gawking Characters

Do you know what it feels like to 'finally' get something? To finally understand something or understand 'why' you do something.

This happened to me once in 7th grade math class. I just didn't get all the lines, points etc. of this strange math we were being taught. I got up my courage and timidly raised my hand. My teacher, Mrs. Ashley, came to my desk and explained it to me. It was like a string was pulled and the bulb clicked on. I understood it!

I never really thought about gawking characters before. But out of the blue, another bulb has clicked on and I now understand what makes a narrator a gawking character.

Simple - It is when the narrator tells the reader what happens in a scene instead of letting the reader experience it directly.

Search your manuscript for words such as: saw, smelled, felt, heard, realized, watched, taste, etc.

If you can - get rid of them!

These may not be the best, but here are a few examples:

Mr. McMillion’s pickup truck barreled across the field toward them. They clapped and yelled when they saw the old blue Ford. It came to a halt near the cave, 
They clapped and yelled. The old blue Ford came to a halt near the cave,

We don't need to tell the reader that the characters saw what they saw. Just write what they saw.

She saw the old store, boarded up and empty. She felt the bright sunlight that surrounded it. She smelled the green grass and decaying wood.
The old store, boarded up and empty, stood before her. The bright sunlight warmed her bare arms. A gentle breeze carried the scent of green grass and overpowered the mustiness emanating from the once popular meeting place .

they looked ahead of them and saw a small spot of bright sunlight in the distance

they looked ahead of them. A small spot of bright sunlight appeared in the distance.


She watched him scamper into the hillside and disappear. 
He scampered into the hillside and disappeared.

We don't need to say she watched the rabbit. Had she not been watching, she couldn't have told us that the rabbit scampered into the hillside and disappeared. Just write what she watched.


It’s just a mouse, she thought.

She ignored the squeaks of a mouse coming from behind the wooden box. 

 You don't usually need to identify who the thought belonged to. If it is from her point of view, who else's thought could it be?


January ate a piece of the cobbler. The sweet taste of berries brought a smile to her face.
January ate a piece of the cobbler. The sweet berries brought a smile to her face.

When she ate the cobbler, we already know she tasted the berries.

Okay, I know this is something most of you already know, but I decided to blog about it anyway. There may be some of you out there who hasn't 'got it' yet. And if there is, I hope this post, put in layman's terms, helped you to understand it better.

I found when editing my manuscripts that I use the word saw way too much.  Which word is your weakness?

Feel free to give us an example in your comments. 

Posted byJanet Smart  on Creative Writing in the Blackberry Patch.