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TJ Bown, Summerset Abbey, and Water.

In the brief teaser I tacked onto yesterdays blog post I let you know there would be a special interview today, and I’m not going to disappoint!  I had the chance to ask author TJ Brown a few questions in regards to her new release Summerset Abbey and the series it kicks off.  So, let’s jump right in!

TD:  Was there a certain event or idea that inspired the book?

TJ:  I have always loved the Edwardian period, but after Downton Abbey aired, I really wanted to write something in that period. I told my agent, we should pitch an Edwardian and she asked me what I had in mind. 5 weeks later I had a contract for a three book Edwardian series!

TD:  I know this is your first foray into historical fiction, did this pose any particular challenges or did you find it was a natural fit for you?

TJ:  It actually isn’t my first foray into historical fiction. Six months prior to getting the Summerset Abbey contract, I got a contract for a young adult series set in the 1920’s. So even though it won’t be out until June (Born of Illusion, June 15th!), I wrote it before the Summerset Series.

I honestly never thought I would be a historical writer, even though I love history and reading historicals. I just thought I had a more modern voice and the research intimidated me. But I had this idea that wouldn’t go away and once I wrote Born of Illusion I was hooked. Of course, Summerset is in a different time period, but before I started writing it, I figured that I had done so much research for the twenties, surely ten years prior couldn’t be that big of a difference could it? Was I ever wrong. 1914 England was a whole different world than 1924 New York. I had to start the research all over again! And I love it!

TD:  Can you tell me a little about your process?

TJ:  Usually, I start with a concept for a plot. Just a sketchy idea. Then the characters’ come. It’s rather like putting together a puzzle. And then my plot constantly changes and develops as I write. I’m not quite a seat of my pants writer, but the Summerset books have been unusually organic for me.

TD:  How many books do you foresee in this series?

TJ:  I am contracted for three but I have an idea for a fourth that my editor likes. Nothing is set in stone yet, and it may not happen, but I do have a fourth Summerset book in mind. We’ll see! But four for sure.

TD:  Do you have a favourite character or is there one who resonates more with you than the others?

TJ:  Victoria. In all of my books I have at least one over the top character and in Summerset Abbey, Victoria is the one. She is smart and imaginative and she says almost everything that comes into her mind. I adore her. Even though all girls are featured, Bloom in Winter is her book, and I had such an awesome time working on it!

So there you have it folks!  TJ Brown on her new book, Summerset Abbey, her process, and on writing historical fiction.  Now all that’s left is to drop a few details.  😉

Summerset Abbey is available at:

Book Blurb:

  • Summerset Abbey
    1913: In a sprawling manor on the outskirts of London, three young women
    seek to fulfill their destinies and desires amidst the unspoken rules of
    society and the distant rumblings of war. . . .
    Rowena Buxton
    Sir Philip Buxton raised three girls into beautiful and capable young women
    in a bohemian household that defied Edwardian tradition. Eldest sister
    Rowena was taught to value people, not wealth or status. But everything she
    believes will be tested when Sir Philip dies, and the girls must live under
    their uncle's guardianship at the vast family estate, Summerset Abbey.
    Standing up for a beloved family member sequestered to the "under class" in
    this privileged new world, and drawn into the Cunning Coterie, an exclusive
    social circle of aristocratic "rebels," Rowena must decide where her true
    passions-and loyalties-lie.
    Victoria Buxton
    Frail in body but filled with an audacious spirit, Victoria secretly dreams
    of attending university to become a botanist like her father. But this most
    unladylike wish is not her only secret. Now, Victoria has stumbled upon a
    family scandal that, if revealed, has the potential to change lives forever.
    Prudence Tate
    Prudence was lovingly brought up alongside Victoria and Rowena, and their
    bond is as strong as blood. But by birth she is a governess's daughter, and
    to the lord of Summerset Abbey, that makes her a commoner who must take her
    true place in society-as ladies maid to her beloved "sisters." But Pru
    doesn't belong in the downstairs world of the household staff any more than
    she belongs upstairs with the Buxton girls.  And when a young lord catches
    her eye, she begins to wonder if she'll ever truly carve out a place for
    herself at Summerset Abbey.

For more check out TJ at http://tjbrownbooks.com/

TJ Brown, author headshot

Author TJ Brown – Hooray for MomWriters!


Now, as if that alone doesn’t make one heck of a blog post, I still have more for you!  That’s right… we’re still in the middle of the January Photo Challenge – and I’m not one to give up on a challenge.  So here we are.  😉

The challenge today was to photograph water.  Easy peasy, right?  Yep.  Here’s the girl, immersed in the stuff:

kid in the bathtub

My little bathing beauty.

Let’s hope tomorrow is a LITTLE more of an actual challenge…

photo a day challenge for january

Something I’ve bought?  Well…  I guess there’s at least a little bit of thought to go into that one.  😉

 

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Pandora strikes Lily-Ann mute!

Okay, so y’all are probably getting sick of me mentioning the Goddess Girls series…  well…  too bad!  LOL  Today the challenge was to photograph something that I’m reading, and that’s what I’m reading.  Book nine:  Pandora the Curious.

Our copy of Pandora the Curious by Suzanne Williams and Joan Holub.

Our copy of Pandora the Curious by Suzanne Williams and Joan Holub.

Usually we’ve been inside the heads of the popular girls, but the last couple of books have taken us inside a couple of secondary characters (the girl and I ADORED Medusa the Mean).  Pandora, along with Medusa and Pheme are the anti-heroines to the cool clique of Artemis, Athena, Aphrodite and Persephone.  So it’s kinda fun to get to see inside their lives.

This book, in particular, is awfully special to Lily-Ann.  The first time she saw it she was actually rendered speechless for the first time in her five and a half years…  well…  since she uttered her first word (which happened to be “woof”) at three months of age anyway.  😉  What exactly caused her awestruck silence?  Take a peek:

There she is, the first name on the third line...  Lily-Ann S.

There she is, the first name on the third line… Lily-Ann S.

Kid kid managed to keep her wits about her when she saw that it was an autographed copy (she has a couple other autographed books too)…  but seeing her name actually inside the book?  Her jaw dropped and her eyes nearly bugged out of her head.  She just stood there and stared at it for several seconds, completely mute.  It was pretty amazing.

Lily-Ann LOVED the little heart.  :)

Lily-Ann LOVED the little heart. 🙂

So, that’s what we’re reading right now.  And I imagine we’ll keep on reading the Goddess Girls books for as long as Joan and Suzanne keep writing them.  I do have to admit…  I really look forward to the day that kid kid goes back on her own to read #1 all by herself.

You can keep up with Joan and Suzanne at the following addresses:  www.joanholub.com   www.suzannewilliams.com

Lily-Ann (hat hair and all) proudly showing off her Goddess Girls books.

Lily-Ann (hat hair and all) proudly showing off her Goddess Girls books.

 

Suzanne and Joan thank you so much!  You’ve given the girl and I many wonderful memories and are helping to build a love of books in a new generation – and that is something that deserves much appreciation.

Join me tomorrow as I share a little “happiness”:

photo a day challenge for january

Dwarf Eye Candy?!?

Okay, one last post on the new Hobbit movie.  I just can’t let this slide.  I actually found this completely insulting and fairly disgusting to tell the truth.

The fact that movie moguls assumed The Hobbit wouldn’t be marketable to a certain segment of the population without eye candy is completely degrading.  When I watch a movie, especially one with a literary foundation like The Hobbit, I’m not watching it looking out for hot men or sexy women.  I’m watching it for the story.  The notion that I, or anyone attracted to men, wouldn’t be interested in seeing the film if it were lacking in sex appeal is pretty revolting.

Every time I saw one of these “sexy” dwarves it pissed me off.

There was a lot in The Hobbit that left me feeling less than satisfied, but this whole thing with the dwarves?  Not cool.  Not at all.  Can someone explain to me exactly how we go from this:

thorin oakenshield

A beautiful rendition of Thorin by artist Turner Mohan.

To this:

a very non-dwarfish Thorin.

While yummy, totally undwarf-like in every way.

…because frankly?  Besides attempting to sex-up The Hobbit (which is supposed to be a light hearted children’s story) I can’t see any reason for the change.  And for anyone who loved the book, not only is the movie Thorin uncharacteristically good looking he’s also uncharacteristically noble and self-sacrificing with a voice as smooth as silk.  Movie Thorin would be welcome many places (and in many beds), but in this movie?  Not so much.

Of all the things wrong with the new hobbit movie (and despite the long list I AM trying desperately to like it still) this one is the worst.  It is insulting, degrading, and someone – perhaps many someones – really deserve to be slapped upside the head over their misogynistic attitudes.  Because truly, there is something wrong with the person who believes we must be tricked into a theater with the promise of eye candy.  Seriously, eye candy not required or requested.

For more reading on what exactly went wrong with what should have been a wonderful romp of a movie, visit http://whatculture.com/film/the-hobbit-20-blunders-that-ruined-an-unexpected-journey.php

And, just because I am concerned that some may lay blame with Armitage (the actor portraying Thorin),  I feel the need to note; Armitage does a beautiful job portraying this non-dwarf version of Thorin.  The fault for this offense does not lie with him.  He’s not the one who chose to change a character to appease some warped view of the movie going public.

So You Want to Be a Wizard

The cover of my twenty year old copy of So You Want to Be a Wizard.So You Want to Be a Wizard by Diane Duane was one of my favourite books as a kid.  I think I was about seven when I read it.  The bookmobile had just gotten a copy of it and I remember my name was the first one on the book slip – I always loved it when that happened.  I absolutely devoured it, and then couldn’t wait for the end of the week when the bookmobile would again be parked next to Dr. Seager Wheeler Park so I could tell the librarian about it – to ensure she stocked the next book when it came out.

A few years ago now, I saw an old copy (though not so old as the one I would have first read) on the “for sale” rack at our little neighbourhood library.  It was old enough that it still had the kraft paper envelope glued onto the first page – where the book slip would have slid in so perfectly.  I grabbed it pretty darn quickly, and when the girl was done checking out her books I gratefully handed over the quarter (or two, I can’t recall exactly how much it was) that the paperbacks withdrawn from the library collection sell for.  When we got home, I stashed it away on a shelf, knowing some day my girl might just love it as much as I did… and excited that it would be here waiting for her.

Inside my copy of So You Want to Be a Wizard, the withdrawn stamp and the kraft paper envelope... memories.

Tonight we started reading the brittle, crinkly pages, each one crackling and popping as they were turned.  There is just something special about older books.  Something magical in the way they sound, feel, and smell.  Even leafing through them is a journey…  and I’ll admit to a palpable tingle in the air as I listened to the pages turn taking us to the prologue and our epic adventure.

As my husband read aloud, I was taken back to the very first time I read So You Want to Be a Wizard.  And I was quickly reminded why I loved it so much, even then.  I was never one for flaky books with characters as thin as the paper their lives were printed on.  Even as a kid, I liked my words meaty, purposeful, and true.  Listening to Nita’s experience going back into the children’s section of her little library, I relived those first moments of discovery, when I knew what it was to stumble – with her – onto the amazing book and looking forward to where it would take her.  …yep, I’m going to enjoy doing this again.  😉

See you again soon Eva Nine! We’ll miss you!

Okay.  It happened.  I didn’t think it ever would, but it has.  I’ve been ruined.  Yep.  You read that right.  Ruined.  I can no longer read juvenile fiction without comparing it to the amazing The Search for WondLa.   Tony DiTerlizzi has ruined me.  From this point on, his magnificent work is the yardstick by which all other chapter books will be measured.

The truth is, I fell in love with DiTerlizzi’s prose and word-use within the first few pages of The Search for WondLa (which you may remember me raving about HERE).  I enjoyed reading it, if for nothing else, than his easy way with language, the way the words dripped off the page and onto my tongue like some sweet honey made just for my delighted writerly senses.  That would have been enough.  But then he made me fall in love with his characters as well.

Rovender Kitt?  Seriously, seriously love him.  I love the lessons of interconnectedness he bestows on Eva, which so closely resemble the things I’ve hoped to instill in, and inspire with, Lily-Ann.  I’ll miss this particular character even more than I’ll miss Otto, the giant water bear, who speaks with kindness and gentleness telepathically to our young heroine, Eva, whom kid-kid enjoyed so very much.

Tomorrow we have to begin another book.  The second book in the WondLa trilogy, A Hero for WondLa, isn’t available at our local library, and we don’t have the funds just now to run out and purchase it (or I would).  We would so like to linger on Orbona a little longer, but it is what it is.  I know whatever we choose to read, it won’t absorb us like the fluid, easy, natural flow of language that is Mr. DiTerlizzi’s masterpiece.  However, I also know that we WILL make it back to read more about Rovender, Otto, and Eva…  even if we are pulled away for a while, and that?  It’s a very nice thing to know.

the search for wondla, ipad wallpaper

Skippyjon Jones – preparing to party

Kid-kid will be turning five on July 20th.  And the two of us are both fans of theme parties.  Being a crafty momma, I love making things for her birthdays – both for her and her guests.  Which means it’s time to get working, lest we run out of time prior to the big event.  😉

This year the girl has asked for a Skippyjon Jones party.  Not familiar with our little skippito bandito buddy?  I’d highly recommend doing some reading.  Here’s a link to get you started:  http://www.wegivebooks.org/books/skippyjon-jones  Not only can you read the books for free, you can also help give books to programs that make them available to kids who otherwise wouldn’t have access to them.  I’ve blogged about We Give Books before (see here, and here), and we still absolutely love it!

So…  ideas thus far:

  • Chihuahua window clings for all the mirrors
  • Bandito masks for all the party guests
  • mask, cape, and Chihuahua ears for Lily-Ann
  • Skippyjon stuffy gift for Lily-Ann
  • Skippyjon cake or cupcakes
  • have a pinata
  • Read the original Skippyjon Jones book

But that’s where my ideas stop.  We could definitely use a craft idea, and a game idea…  So I’d be up for any thoughts from the peanut gallery (or from los chimichangos).  🙂

Waiting too long for a good thing…

As many of you already know, I read chapter books to my daughter every night.  It’s just part of our routine.  It’s a time both she and I equally enjoy, a time we both look forward to all day.

Well…  We’d heard a lot of good things about the Magic Tree House series.  And then at a big consignment sale a couple of weekends ago I was able to pick up five of the books (used) for only $1.50 (and not each, that was for the bundle), so we nabbed them.  Tonight?  Tonight we read one from cover to cover.  Yep.  The whole book.  At least the two we read before it had lasted a couple nights (3/4s of a book in the first night, 1/4 of it the second when we also got through 1/2 of another, finishing it the next night).  So in 4 nights, we’ve finished three books.  I have to say…  I’m really glad we got them used for what we did.  LOL

I think this really was an instance of waiting too long to check out a good thing.  The books are charming, but I think they’d have been more appropriate when she was on the cusp of turning three.  At four and three quarters we’re reading things like the Goddess Girls, Mary Pope Osborne’s take on the Odyssey – Tales From the Odyssey (just a side note, Osborne’s also the author of the Magic Tree House books), Harry Potter, and The Wide Awake Princess.  They all make this series seem a little too juvenile.  However, I do think they may still be a good fit for when she first begins reading chapter books on her own.

So yeah.  An entire chapter book in one evening is a pretty good sign that it’s time to pick up something else.  Damon is reserving the second Harry Potter book for us, and hopefully it will be ready for pick up tomorrow or the next day (love our little library, they’ll bring in anything for us that they don’t already have – even if they have to bring it in from elsewhere in the province).  And on Thursday our next book order is due in, and we’ll be ordering the next Goddess Girls book, “Medusa the Mean”.  So we’ll be set for the next while again.  🙂

Yay for reading!

Chihuahua with a Mustache

Today there was a book fair at the girl’s school.  She and I spent a great deal of time checking out all the titles on the tables.  Very honestly, there wasn’t much there that was even worth a second glance.  It was highly disappointing.  I knew we had to find something though.  The fair helps support the school, and a portion of the proceeds goes towards getting new books for their classrooms.  That, and the kid knew she was allowed to get a book.

Back and forth between the chapter book tables.  One mundane sounding description after another.  Then we wandered back to where we started – with the picture books.  We don’t read that many of them any more.  We read for a half hour (sometimes more) a day, but that’s almost all devoted to novels.  That’s when I saw it!

It was hidden beneath scores of boring paperback children’s stories…  a hard cover, only one letter of the title peeking out – but I recognized the font instantly.  “Lily-Ann!  What’s this???”  I slide the book out just a titch, so that two letters are now revealed.

“SKIPPYJON JONES!!!!”

I’m sure her animated shout could be heard throughout the main floor of the school.

Yep.  We found a copy of Skippyjon Jones; Class Action.

We love Skippyjon.  We read a lot about him at wegivebooks.org.  I remember the first time she saw the cover of the original Skippyjon Jones, she said “Momma, that cat looks like a Chihuahua.”  This sticks with me because I poo poohed her, assuming it was just the illustrators style… but very quickly found out I was wrong.  And yes, I made sure to apologize for it.

We’re Chihuahua nuts around here (as I’m sure you’ve guessed).  So these absolutely adorable books, with their smart stories, and rich characters?  We ❤ them in a big way.

So yay!  The kid now has her very own Skippyjon Jones book…  and we popped the CD in to listen to it being read while we drove to get her Daddy from work (it was interesting to hear someone else’s take on the characters voices and the songs – her mom voice and my mom voice are VASTLY different, and curiously enough we were pretty dead on for every other character and the songs).  We’ve now heard it six times.  And it’s no less charming on it’s sixth than on it’s first, though I’m not sure her Daddy would agree.  LMAO

Anyway…  instead of sharing a book cover as I often do when I’m writing about a book we enjoy, I’m going to share a picture the girl did up yesterday.  She took a photo (using the iPad) of Deedee, and then proceeded to edit it.  So here’s Deedee, or as the girlie put it – giggling hysterically:  “She’s a Chihuahua with a Mustache!”

A Chihuahua with a mustache

One pricey book order

I loved the scholastic book orders when I was a kid.  Mom and Dad always made sure I could get a new book (sometimes two or three) every month.  I looked forward to going through the brightly coloured pages of the order, searching for the right one.  Something that piqued my interest:  often it would be something about unicorns, or wizards, or fairies.  So You Want to be a Wizard was one of my very favourite books, and I remember with fondness the Unicorn Queen series as well.

The Secret of the Unicorn Queen, book one, Swept Away

I absolutely love that the kid being in school means we once again get the excitement and joy of a monthly book order.  She loves looking through the pages as much as I did.  And her teacher always makes sure to find us a copy of the “big kids” book order sheets too.  After all, the pre-k book order is all picture books and board books – and we generally like to order chapter books.

Normally we get a book or two, or if there’s a really good deal on a pack of books we’ll get that.  This last one though?  Eeeps.  I don’t think I’ve ever spent that much on a book order.  But honestly?  It was something we couldn’t pass up.

The best time to teach a child about ANY topic is when they are passionate about it.  And right now, thanks to first reading a book about Odysseus and now reading the Goddess Girls books, the girl LOVES learning about Greek myth.  So when a four piece children’s encyclopedias all about mythology showed up in the last book order, what else could we do?  We figured out the money, because one doesn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.  😉

So soon, we’ll be sitting down with the girl’s very first encyclopedias.  And she couldn’t be more excited about them.  It’s going to be really cool, and I love that this is a topic that enlivens her.  Learning can be so much fun – especially when you are allowed to follow your passions!

Little Dog Lost: a must-have book for every child’s library

I’ve already blogged about We Give Books and their amazing program that allows you to both read books online for free AND to donate a book to charity for every one you read.  So I won’t go into it any more than I just did.  But I do have to share about one of the books we read today, Little Dog Lost.

screen shot from the book Little Dog Lost by Monica Carnesi

Little Dog Lost is based on the true story of the heroic little dog known to the world as Baltic.  I don’t know how many of you would have followed his story on the news a couple years ago, but I know I did.  As mom to some amazing furkids I found it absolutely terrifying to know this poor little one was lost out on the ice flows of the Baltic sea.  Thankfully his story had a very happy ending, and it has now been immortalized in this beautiful book.

As we read, Lily-Ann was so moved by the words and images.  You could see her concern visible in her face and body language, and hear it in her voice as she asked questions and read along with me.  The story asks “Is it a seal?”  And just as the book declares, she too would say “No!”

This one is one of the few children’s picture books that I believe will become a classic.  Definitely a must have for every child’s personal library, and a must have for every school and daycare library.  Wonderfully written, and gorgeously illustrated!

Go check it out, and give a book to charity at the same time:  http://www.wegivebooks.org/books/little-dog-lost?auto_launch=1

back cover from Little Dog Lost

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