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  1. I'm pleased to welcome fellow Astraea author, Kelly Martin to my blog today.  Kelly's latest book, B.I.G. is Beautiful: A Love Story, is out now.

     

    Big is Beautiful

    BLURB

    The seven worst words ever spoken came out of Brittany Gregory's mom's mouth at breakfast, "I signed you up for math tutoring." Sure, she probably needs it (probably nothing, she'll fail without it), but the thought of having to stay in that school longer than she had to every day makes her sick. It's not the school's fault... just the few jerks inside.

    Brittany's tutor is none other than Matt Taylor, senior quarterback-- all around hottie. At first, she's shy around him because, hello, Matt Taylor! But as he shows more and more unexpected kindness toward her, Brittany softens around him.

    Unfortunately for Brittany, Matt's former girlfriend, the beautifully wicked Kendra Moses, has tormented Britt since eighth grade about her weight. In an unusual moment of brains, Kendra realizes Brittany's initials spell B.I.G.-- a hilarious (to the cheerleader) irony since Brittany isn't the smallest girl at school.

    With the Red Ball (Valentine's Dance) approaching, Brittany has to decide if her growing feelings for Matt are real, or if he's secretly been playing a part in Kendra's game all along.

     

    EXERPT

    After I stepped off of the bus, I slung my backpack over my shoulder. Feeling the cold morning chill pelting me, I zipped my new coat higher around my neck and tried to cover every bit of exposed skin I could. I must have slowed or shifted or done something to tick off the guy behind me because he decided to take it upon himself to yell loudly and with much annoyance, “Move it, Big. I know you have a lot of blubber to carry around. Give the rest of us a break, would ya?”

    And there it was. The first use of my nickname today. It wouldn’t be the last. My name at school was Big like Jillian’s name was Jillian and Kendra’s name was Kendra… well, some people called Kendra other names besides Kendra, but never in front of her face, and never with a crowd around.

    Of course, like always, snickers followed. You’d think my peers would get tired of it by now. It had been the same thing, the same taunting by the same jerks since I was in eighth grade and got a little bit on the chunky side. I’d never be a supermodel, but I wished they would give me a break! My entire life didn’t revolve around eating. I didn’t eat fast food every night and sit around like a log. Grandma Duke on my mom’s side had been big boned, and I supposed I inherited the dreaded gene from her. Having never seen my biological father nor his side of the family, I had no idea if I’d been doubly cursed.

    Man, I sounded like a whiner.

    “Big!” Caleb, the guy behind me, tapped me hard on the shoulder like I was deaf. Guess he thought I was too fat to hear. Guess I’d start walking slower… guess it was on purpose. Oh, to have the control.

    “Move it! I have a class to get to.” He pushed me out of the way so hard I slammed against the brick wall. It was enough force to scuff the top of my right hand. Little droplets of blood beaded out of the scrapes.

    “Can you even fit through the door?” He laughed, not taking a second look back at the girl leaning against the building in shock. I’d been made fun of before, laughed at, shunned, but I’d never been pushed. Never had physical evidence.

    A steady stream of my fellow students walked by me, some giggling and some just ignoring me. Others looked sad for me, which strangely was worse. I felt a hand on my shoulder which surprised me. My head shot up, and when I saw who it was, my mouth went instantly dry.

    Matt Taylor.

    The Matt Taylor!

    "You okay?”

    I couldn’t make my lips work. Matt Taylor, senior football star (star was too little of a word. Matt was a legend at Easton , leading the team to the first ever 2A championship in December) stared down at me. His pale blue eyes were soft. “Are you hurt?”

    I still hadn’t spoken, just stared at him like I’d never seen a guy before in my life. I’d seen them before, had seen Matt before, but I’d never talked to him. Finally, blood ran back into my brain and I shook my head, forcing myself to stop acting like a stupid groupie. “Yeah, I’m fine. Sorry to block your way.”

    “You’re not.”

    "Sure. “Anyway. Thanks for stopping.”

    He smiled, showing his famous dimples. I was so gawking at him. “No problem. I’ll see you later.”

    “Okay.” I watched him walk through the double doors and snapped out of my daydreaming when the ten minute bell rang. I started walking then hesitated. See me later? We didn’t have any classes together.

     

    BUY LINKS:

     

     

     

     ABOUT KELLY

     

    kellyhair2

     

    Kelly Martin a southern girl who writes... a lot. She is the author of the bestsellers SAINT SLOAN and THE DECEPTION OF DEVIN MILLER. Her first novel, CROSSING THE DEEP, won the Grace Award for best Young adult novel. By day, she is a teacher. By night, she has her hair in a bun and her fingers on a keyboard. She loves God, is addicted to chocolate, and would rather write than sleep. Kelly loves a good mystery and believes in Sherlock Holmes.


    You can find her at http://kellymartinbooks.blogspot.com

    She's also on Twitter

    And on Facebook

     
  2. I often get my writing students to fill in a character profile for their main characters. One of the things I ask them to think about is what their character likes doing most, what their favourite things are. That usually starts us all talking about what our favourite things are. So today I thought I'd write about some of my favourite things.

    Reading

    Graveyard Book                                       Book Thief

    Like most writers, I've got hundreds of books. I keep giving them away and then buying more so they never really go down. I read most things, I still love reading children's stories, my favourite at the moment is The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. And I love adult suspense stories such as Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and Before I Go To Sleep by S.J.Watson.

    Gone Girl                                            BeforeI gotto sleep

     

    Chocolate

    Chocolates

     

    Nibbling a bar of chocolate whilst reading a book has got to be the best thing ever. I love all sorts of chocolate, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate but I think my favourite is chocolate covered marzipan.

    Flowers

    orchids

     

    I love to have lots of colourful flowers in the garden. Now Winter's coming the garden might be pretty bare but I can still have flowers in the house. Orchids are my favourite. I've got eight orchids so far, here's a picture of one of them.

    Playing Music

    ABBA_Gold_cover

     

    Playing my CDs while I work always cheers me up in the Winter. So out will come my Sixties collection, the Beatles, Abba and my old time favourite Loretta Lynn. I'll turn up the volume and hum away as I write.


    There's lots more pictures of my favourite things on my Pinterest board.

    What about you? What are your favourite things?

    (This blog also appears on An Awfully Big Blog Adventure, dated 13/10/2013

     

  3. My Guest Author today is talented children's author and fellow Sassie, Linda Strachan. Linda's latest book, Don't Judge Me, is published by Strident Publishing.

    Dont Judge ME 2

     

    Blurb 

    Don't Judge Me is about four teenagers and a fire that is started deliberately in a block of flats.  Could one of them have started the fire? It's about friendship, trust and doubt.   We all make snap judgements – about our friends, people we meet, and other people's motives.  But what if we are wrong?  What if a life depends on getting it right?

    Take 4 teens, an arsonist, an unreliable witness and four different motives. With life and death on the line – Don't Judge Me

    Buy Links

    Amazon

     

    Linda Strachan

    I asked Linda to tell us a little about herself.

    How did you get started writing?

    I never really imagined that I would be a writer. I didn't know anyone who was a writer and  it never really entered my head that is might be something I could do.  One Christmas holiday I had a bit of free time and I started to draw and write a picture book, just for fun. I discovered very quickly that although I enjoy drawing and painting I preferred telling the story in words and I was never likely to be good enough to become an illustrator. That picture book never got published, but it started me writing and soon after that I wrote a short story for a competition in our local library and to my surprise, I won. 

    It seemed right to use the prize money as part of the fee for a correspondence course in creative writing.  Looking at those on offer, the only one I thought sounded even remotely interesting was the one on writing for children.  By the time I was half way though the course I had my first contract for a series of 8 books for reluctant readers. I never imagined I would become a writer, but now I can't think of anything I'd rather do.

     

    Can you tell us a fun fact about yourself?

    I once had a flying lesson in a small plane when I was a teenager. My father had his pilot's licence and thought I should try it but I wasn't very enthusiastic and was glad to get back on the ground again.

     

    What is your best tip for writers?

    Write!  It might seem like a strange thing to say but like any other craft you need to hone your skills and the best way is to keep writing and looking at ways to improve the way you tell the story, to keep it fresh and interesting to the reader.  Especially if you have just received a rejection letter, or good news.  Use that moment to write - use the emotion to make a character act in a particular way.

     

    Author Bio

    Linda Strachan has written over 60 books for children and young adults, and a writing handbook, 'Writing for Children' for new and aspiring writers. Her books are used in schools all over the world. Linda travels widely speaking in schools, festivals and conferences about her books and creative writing.  She lives with her husband in a small village in the south east of Scotland.  When she is not writing, or talking about writing she likes travelling and reading, cooking and artichokes, olives and chocolate.

     Author links

     Website

    Blog

    Facebook Author Page

    Twitter: @strachanlinda  

    Thanks for visiting my blog, Linda!

     

  4. Silly Moo

     

    I've had a few picture books published over the years but my most popular one, a lift-the flap book called Silly Moo! almost never got published. It looks harmless enough, doesn't it?  Yet several publishers thought the story was too dangerous for small children.

    I can see your brain ticking here. What on earth did the cow get up to? Did she drive off with the farmer's tractor and crash it? Climb the tree to pick the apples? Go ice skating on the lake? 

    Nope. The basic story plot is that an apple falls out of the tree onto Cow's head and she forgets where she lives so wanders around the farm trying to get into the other animals' homes. They all get fed up so decide to drop another apple onto Cow's head hoping she'll get her memory back and remember where she lives.

    Still can't see the dangerous bit? Well, let me tell you the gist of my conversation with the first editor who turned it down:

    Editor (on phone): We really like this story and would like to publish it.
    Me (getting excited): Oh, that's great.
    Editor: We need to change it a bit though.
    Me (a bit wary): Really? In what way?
    Editor (firmly): Well, it's far too dangerous.
    Me (puzzled): Dangerous? (wracks my brains) I don't understand. What's dangerous about it?
    Editor: Well, the apple falls out of the tree onto the cow's head. That's very dangerous to have something falling on someone's head.
    Me (baffled): But apples do fall out of trees.
    Editor: And later on in the story the hen drops the apple on the cow's head again.
    Me: Er, yes...but it's just an apple.
    Editor (sternly):What if the children copy it and go around dropping apples on each other's heads. It's very irresponsible.
    Me: I'm sure they won't.
    Editor (very firmly):  We can't risk it. it's far too dangerous. We need to change it.
    Me: But it's vital to the story. I need the apple to drop on Cow's head so that she gets a bit fuzzy-headed and forgets where she lives.
    Editor: We'll have to think of another way to for the cow to lose her memory (thinks for a moment) I know, perhaps she can be running down the hill and she falls over and rolls down to the bottom and hits her head ....

    Now I think that sounds far more dangerous than an apple on Cow's head!

    Similar versions of this conversation was repeated by several mainstream publishers over the next couple of years. I'd almost given up hope of getting Silly Moo! published when the wonderful team at Top That Publishing said that they didn't think an apple falling on Cow's head was dangerous at all, suggested making it into a lift-the-flap book and published it. Kids love it, and to my knowledge none of them went around dropping apples on each other's heads.

    I did have one complaint though. When my grandson read it he kept saying "Silly Cow!" instead of "Silly Moo!" and my daughter couldn't tell him off because well, it is a cow, isn't it? :)

     

    (A version of this blog first appeared in The Picture Book Den on 26 January 2012.)

     

  5. Stuck for an idea for a story? Try this fun writing exercise.

     

    strange-homes-8

     

    Take a look at the picture and ask yourself the following questions:

    Who lives in the house?

    Where is it?

    Do they live alone or with family/friends?

    Imagine the sort of person/creature that lives in the house. Think about what they like/dislike, what their biggest wish is, their greatest fear. As you start answering these questions you might find a story idea building in your mind.

    I did a writing exercise based around this house with the children of Alveston C0fE Primary School in May 2007 as part of the Dreams and Wishes Project for the Stratford Literary Festival. They made up a fantastic story where the house was actually a diving school run by a wicked headmaster. We then turned the story into a performance.

    This picture is from a website that features lots of strange and weird houses. Click on the website for pictures of other unusual homes if you want more inspiration.

    Get Writing!

     

    Karen