Saturday, November 27, 2010

Unbroken Connection

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!! It has been quite a year, and I definitely have a lot to be thankful for! My son is healthy and strong (and starting to walk again) after going through four surgeries this year. My middle son is FINALLY potty trained!! Woohoo. I never want to have three kids in diapers again. And my baby girl is showing her spunky personality everyday.

And, of course, I am so thankful that my book is coming out soon. It has always been one of my dreams to be an author. I remember telling my parents when I was probably around eight years old, that I wanted to be a singer, a writer, or an actress. Well, my singing is about average, I am waaay to shy to be an actor (maybe I'll blog about my short, humiliating foray into acting), so that left me with writing--which I love. I just finished my second book and it is out being critiqued right now.

While I'm waiting for the critiques on my next book, I've been trying to catch up on my to-be-read list. I stumbled across a book in my library by Angela Morrison called Taken by Storm that I read and loved.

I also had the opportunity to read Taken by Storm's sequel, Unbroken Connection and then interview the author. Unbroken Connection is a fabulous book. I got it in the mail one afternoon a few weeks ago, so I started to read, thinking that I'd get in a chapter or two while waiting for my son's bus to drop him off. I couldn't put it down!! I ended up reading the entire book in one afternoon. It is a touching love story that made my heart ache for Leesie and Micheal.
(And for all of you Kindle readers, Unbroken Connection is only $2.99 at Amazon--click on the link for a description of the book.)

I am excited to share my interview with Angela Morrison.

Kaylee: Unbroken Connection is the sequel to Taken by Storm. Did you always plan to write a sequel for Leesie and Michael? Where did you come up with the idea of their story?

Angela: Michael and Leesie's story was born in the back of a dive boat. We were tossing on the waves off the coast of Cozumel, shivering in the rain, when a fellow diver told us the weather wrecking our dive was left over from a hurricane that hit Belize the night before. He'd heard about a boat full of divers that got caught in it and drowned. At first, I found that hard to believe. But it was true. The story haunted me, and I began asking myself what if a guy on the boat survived when his parents and friends didn't? What would he do? Where would he go? And who would love him?

I didn't plan on writing a sequel, but when I finished writing TAKEN BY STORM, Michael and Leesie wouldn't leave each other alone. They wouldn't leave me alone, either. I scribbled down their conversations and it began to form into a story that I needed to tell. UNBROKEN CONNECTION was supposed to be the second book in my contract with Penguin, but they got nervous and asked me to write the story with different characters--in case TAKEN BY STORM didn't do well. I refused. Yikes. I had to come up with a whole new book, but that led to the amazing blessing writing SING ME TO SLEEP became. I wouldn't trade that book for anything, but I couldn't give up on UNBROKEN CONNECTION, either. When my editor left my imprint at Penguin, her boss rejected UNBROKEN CONNECTION. My readers threw a fit! So I released it independently, so they could read it.


Kaylee: I love the cover of Unbroken Connection. Did you design it?

Angela: My son designed it. We wanted to keep the feel of Penguin's paperback cover for TAKEN BY STORM. I think my son improved on it--tons! I love UNBROKEN CONNECTION's cover, too!


Kaylee: I've been following your Cayman Summer blog, where you are putting each chapter of the third book in this series online as you write it. How is this process going for you? Is it harder or more nerve wracking to post as you go? Or does it give you more motivation to write quickly for your waiting audience? (It makes me nervous to even think about it... but I'm glad you're doing it)

Angela: I have to admit I was incredibly nervous the first day I posted, but I have the most devoted band of readers an author could ever ask for. They encourage me and send me love every day. It's incredibly inspiring. I love getting instant feedback and will use that a lot when I revise. The motivation to post for them every day is fantastic, and it does give the writing teacher in me a chance to pontificate now and again.


Kaylee: Now, the impossible question... What is your all-time favorite book? (Okay, if you're like me and there is no way in the world to narrow it down to one, what are your most favorite books?)

Angela: Tolstoy's WAR AND PEACE. It's the most heartbreaking love story I know. Maybe that's why all of my books are tragic. I used to read it every year, but I'm so busy now writing, it's been a couple of years. I have the big, fat unabridged version, so it takes awhile to get through, but I love it again every time I read it.


Kaylee: Along this line, what books on writing have you found most valuable?

Angela: Hands down, Vogel's THE WRITER'S JOURNEY and Cameron's THE ARTIST'S WAY. I also love everything Katherine Paterson writes about writing. Check out THE INVISIBLE CHILD. The poetry writing book I use the most is Kowit's IN THE PALM OF YOUR HAND. But Paul Janecsko's HOW TO WRITE POETRY is fun if you want to write poetry for children.


Kaylee: What advice can you give to any aspiring authors?

Angela:
Work hard on your craft. This is an art, and it takes years of practice to be able to hone your skills to the professional level. Don't give up. I can't say it will be worth the time and sacrifice in monetary terms. If that's why you write, choose another avenue. But if you write because you're miserable if you don't, welcome to the agony! Welcome to the joy.

Search for good mentors and opportunities to learn from professionals. If you write for teens or children, join SCBWI. My MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts--a high quality low residency program--changed my life. Check out my liv2writ blog on my website. I post my best writing advice there. Start at the bottom and work up!

And I'd also love to have you join the discussion at http://caymansummer.blogspot.com/. I hope the journey will be especially valuable for writers--and I'm giving away some free critiques as part of a big contest. Believe in yourself, in your story, in your art. It took me three and a half long years of rejection and revision to sell TAKEN BY STORM. Publishing is going through a painful revolution. There are lots of new opportunities there. Explore. Be creative. Share. Have fun. Love it.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Oh, Say Can You See

The bicentennial of the War of 1812 is less than two years away, and America is gearing up to host spectacular celebrations of the 200th anniversary of her second war of independence. LDS author, L.C. Lewis, saw the event fast-approaching and began writing a historical fiction series to commemorate this often overlooked moment and generation. Along the way, Free Men and Dreamers has garnered an impressive array of reviews, endorsements, and awards. Though each book continues the overall story, each volume is written as a stand-alone read as well, and Lewis thinks volume four, “Oh, Say Can You See?” which weaves her characters through the events surrounding the writing of the Star-Spangled Banner, may be the most timely of all the volumes.

This week author L.C. Lewis is prepping for the national launch of “Oh, Say Can You See?”

From the backliner of the book:

Although the British raids have left Washington a devastated, blackened city, the battered Constitution has held and the presidency has survived!

But the struggling government has no home. The British saw to that. Gone is the Capitol and her magnificent library, the chambers of the Supreme Court, the President’s House, and every relic and document not secreted out of the city.

Next on the list of British prizes—the rebellious port city of Baltimore! A victory here would assure the Americans’ defeat, but a loss would dilute the importance of the destruction of Washington.

But has the raid on Washington stiffened the backs of the Americans? This is the question gnawing at the leaders on both sides.

The Willows women are mourning their absent men—gone to war, or wounded, or captured—as they await the birth of a blessed child.

Mere miles away, attorney Francis Scott Key embarks on a diplomatic mission that will leave an everlasting mark on America. Proving that a pen can be more powerful than a sword, Key records his fears and hopes—the fears and hopes of his embattled people—as he watches the bombardment of Baltimore while detained in the midst of the British fleet.

What changed in this noble man’s pacifist heart, empowering him to pen the powerful anthem, known today as “The Star Spangled Banner,” an epic poem that rallied a shattered nation to rise from its knees to claim the dream of “one nation under God?”

Experience the personal sacrifice of five families placed in the firestorm of the War of 1812, citizen heirs of the sacrifice of the Founding Fathers.

View the trailer at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQYHvfQeZvE&feature=player_embedded
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Kaylee- That all sounds exciting! You’ve mentioned that “Oh, Say Can You See?” may be the most timely of all your books. What do you mean by that?

Lewis- I could lump volume three, “Dawn’s Early Light” in there as well because it surrounds the British attack on Washington. In my opinion, the devastation there really culminated in the writing of the Key’s epic poem, “Defence of Fort McHenry,” which we know now as the “Star-Spangled Banner.” But what I meant is this, America is enjoying a renewed reverence for the Founding Fathers and their brilliance in designing the government they did. Sadly, many of us know less about the Constitution now than we did in sixth-grade, but that is changing today. There is a sense of patriotism sweeping across the land that resembles that passion and urgency felt in 1814. Remember the American political landscape was changed after the British attacked us. The iconic buildings Americans were beginning to identify with their nation and government had been destroyed. It was then that the flag rose from being a mere fort marker, to an emblem of this nation. Key recognized that as he peered across the Baltimore harbor, praying to see one of the last surviving symbols of America—that star-spangled flag flying above Fort McHenry. I think most Americans can identify with those feelings.

Kaylee- I’ve read that your research has been extensive. Why did you choose to write the events of this period as historical fiction rather than just as straight history?

Lewis- There are some spectacular historical accounts of this period, many of which I reference, but as I read reviews of those authors’ brilliant work, I recognized that there was an entire audience of people who didn’t enjoy that format, but who learn history best when it is personalized and wrapped around a compelling storyline. So I researched this period and created characters readers can invest in, and had them experience these events. By doing this, I can place them anywhere and in the midst of any event I choose.
Kaylee- What was the hardest part of writing “Oh, Say Can You See?”
Lewis- Since this volume thrusts our characters into the pivotal Battle of Baltimore and the events surrounding the writing of the "Star Spangled Banner," I really wanted readers to feel the emotions experienced by the families as well as the soldiers and sailors during that "perilous night" with "bombs bursting in air.”

Kaylee- The cover is beautiful! Did you have a hand in designing it?

Lewis- I had input. I knew I wanted an image of the bombardment of Fort McHenry with the focus on that splendid flag. Amy Orton, the cover designer at Walnut Springs Publishing presented a concept and we tweaked it together. I hope it will make readers hungry to tear into the book.

Kaylee- You’ve already received some beautiful endorsements. We’re posting a few listed on the book’s back cover:

"This book touched me deeply, causing me to reflect on the countless lives that have sacrificed freedom and happiness so that I could pursue my own. Lewis has written a compelling, almost epic, novel, full of themes that span from 1812 to 2010—and beyond. As her characters wrestle with the dislocation and trauma of a war, they come to realize what it means to be Americans, what it means to be free—and ultimately, what it means to be human." Braden Bell, author of "The Road Show."

“Master storyteller L C Lewis weaves her tales using well researched American history facts as the warp and masterful plotting and characterizations as the woof. (The word might be weft. I'll try to check if the wireless persists.) Oh Say Can You See carries all the threads of the previous three books in her Free Men and Dreamers series and presents a rich tapestry of life, love, conflict and triumph during the War of 1812.”. Liz Adair, award-winning author of “Counting the Cost.”

Once started, I had to read the whole thing through, and many parts brought tears to my eyes. (Ernest Runge, a Viet Nam veteran and history enthusiast)

Lewis- I love reading the early reviews. I sent unedited copies to some colleagues and readers and I was deeply, deeply touched by the warm reception the book has had so far. I especially love hearing that whole families are reading the series and writing to tell me how much they’ve learned about America. I can’t wait to hear their reaction to “Oh, Say Can You See?”
Kaylee- Tell us a little about your research for this volume.

Lewis- Aside from tons of reading, and visits to Frederick and other sites, my research for this book took me to Fort McHenry where I spent time with the expert on the Battle of Baltimore--Scott Sheads--who not only heads the staff at the fort, but who has served as the curator of the "Star Spangled Banner" exhibit at the Smithsonian. Like most historians with whom I've had the pleasure of chatting, Sheads is generous with his research and observations, offering me tidbits of little-known information about the perilous battle upon which the hopes of a battered nation hinged, and about the principle characters like Francis Scott Key who observed it as a detainee in the harbor, including details about the days surrounding the writing of the poem that became our nation's anthem.
Kaylee- I hear one more volume is planned after this one. When will it be released, and tell us about the other volumes.

Lewis- Book five is set for a spring 2011 release and it will carry us forward, as we see how the events of this period shaped America and affected the next generation. We’re toying with two titles—“The Morning Breaks,” and “In God We Trust.” Right now, we’re all leaning towards “In God We Trust.”

The other three books in the series are:

Volume 1, DARK SKY at DAWN, introduces the complex story of our six lead families--three American, two British, one slave--and the devastating prelude to the war.

Volume 2, TWILIGHT'S LAST GLEAMING, carries readers into the harrowing events at Hampton, Virginia, and illustrates the toll the war takes on civilians--women and children. But through it all, a new tenacity begins to strengthen the young nation's spine as Americans rally to the cause of their nation.

Volume 3, DAWN'S EARLY LIGHT, throws our characters into the attack on Washington and the events that proved the mettle of the the Constitution and the Presidency.
Kaylee- Tell us a little about L.C. Lewis.

Lewis- Well, many readers will be surprised to hear that I’m a grandma and not a grandpa! Publishers tend to obscure female historical fiction authors behind a pen name because some readers just expect the authors of these books to be male. I write women’s fiction under my real name, Laurie Lewis. My most recent release was in April—a women’s novel titled, “Awakening Avery,” which is currently nominated for a Whitney Award. (http://whitneyawards.com/wordpress/about-the-whitney-awards/)

I’m a long time resident of Carroll County where my husband and I still reside. The past few years have been consumed by these books, but as soon as volume five is released I hope to pick up some of my old hobbies—genealogy, cross-stitch, the guitar and gardening. I’m dying to learn to play the piano and my brave daughter has offered to teach her uncoordinated mother the ropes.

Kaylee- Thanks so much for stopping by and chatting with us today. Let’s just remind readers that OH, SAY CAN YOU SEE? is set for an October release but autographed copies can be pre-ordered at http://www.thisistheplace.com/store?start=Product&wid=15166.

L.C. Lewis is beginning pre-release promotional activities readers can participate in by visiting her web site and blog at www.laurielclewis.com, and www.laurielclewis.blogspot.com.