Slider’s Son! And is anyone else sick of paranormal…?

Slider’s Son will be published September

I wish my agent George Nicholson were alive to see this happen. He “loved” this manuscript when he read it, and that meant the world to me since he never used that term with my other novels, although he certainly championed them.

I’m getting my ducks in a row–wait, no, I’m not getting them in a row yet, but I’m herding them toward rows–for publication in ten months. That means setting up some book events and making myself available for young writers’ conferences and book fairs, libraries, schools, and, and, and…and it means lots of work, which is exciting work and fun work. I love doing book events.

However, it also means lots of social media time and online promotion. THAT I’m not such a big fan of. But I’ll do it. I’m delighted that North Star Press promotes its own authors’ events. That gives me great hope. I’m excited to publish this book with them.

The BEST news right now is that I found out last week that I will be receiving a Prairie Lakes Regional Arts Grant (PLRAG) Mid-Career Artist Grant to help promote this book!  I’m excited. And GRATEFUL!

Okay, besides the excitement,  I sat down to write here because I just followed a thread of a YA book promotional publicity group, thinking ahead to that social media aspect of publication. EVERY, and I mean EVERY book in the top thread was paranormal romance, time travel, or dystopian. A few dozen books down, I found one realistic-fiction romance book. Is anybody else sick of paranormal romance and dystopia? I really do love historical fiction. That’s what I love to read, and that’s why I wanted to write Slider’s Son, based on true stories, but set in the 1930s. I’m following my own passion, and it’s not the trend right now, but that’s okay!

Okay, that’s my vent for the night. In spite of the vent, I really am EXCITED to have Slider’s Son out in the world!

Deep Valley Book Festival

Deep Valley Book Festival–Betsy-Tacy Society Calendar of Events.

The Deep Valley Homecoming is coming up at the end of June. Author Melissa Wiley (whom I met at ALA in San Diego a couple years ago) will be a featured speaker. This will be fun. Check the above calendar. Book Festival/Book Fair is Sunday at Sibley Park. I’ll be selling Chasing AllieCat, Beauty Missing, Hair Hissing: Medusa Tells All, and Girl Meets Boy Because There are Two Sides to Every Story.



Jake Riley email makin’ my day

Last night, I finished the reading edit of my latest novel, Who the Frack is Maddie Jackson?  I was pretty happy.

This morning, I got up, ready to email a query and to send it off to FLUX, who published Chasing AllieCat and has first right of refusal for my next YA novel.

I turned on my email, and was overjoyed to receive this email:

“To Rebecca,

My name is Kayla and I have been reading your novel Jake Riley: Irreparably Damaged over and over again since the 6th grade. I am now in 9th and just got done reading your book literally 2 mins ago. I’d like to ask you a couple questions if I may, 1.) What was your inspiration to write this story because I find it especially intriguing, because so much psychological things were put into this book. Also 2.) If you could/ would write an extended version of this book what would you say would happen to Lainey and Jake and if they would ever meet again. As stated above I love this book and just can not get enough of it! If you do not get the chance to open or respond to this email, I completely understand but if possible I’d love to know!

Awaiting eagerly, Kayla”
This was about the nicest news I could get.
So I wrote back:
Hi Kayla,

You completely made my day with this email. Thanks for writing!

1. My inspiration was that I wanted to write a book set on the farm…I love the country, and since it’s what I know, I like to use that for setting. All I started with were two kids in an oats field chasing fireflies, and didn’t know where it would go. When Jake pulled Lainey’s shirt up, I knew he had a history of trouble and hurt inside, and then I had to figure out what that was. This book is the one I’ve written where I knew least how it would end at the time I started it. Oh, and the book I wrote before this was rejected over and over. One editor told me that the story in that book wasn’t unique enough, but he liked how I wrote. He said, “If you write something more idiosyncratic, please send it my way.” So I set out to write an idiosyncratic book set in the country!

2. I actually started a sequel, and then my editor told me to “leave Jake alone…let him be a mystery…” so I did. However, what I had Jake do was hop a semi, hitchiking north and west. He sends Lainey postcards from along the way, but since he doesn’t want to be found, they never come from where he actually is at the time–only from where he’s been. Lainey tries to track him down, and it takes a long time…That’s as far as I got with the story, but I intended that her friendship would be the healing element for him to finally quit hating himself and be able to have a life. I think wherever he ends up, he also might become a mountain biker or BMX rider, which finally gives him the confidence he needs to like his life and eventually come home and be with his dad again.

That’s how it plays out in my head. Do you have a different idea? If I ever do write the sequel, Jake might decide something slightly different.

Thanks again for writing, Kayla.


P.S. Would you mind if I put your letter (with only your first name and no email address) on my blog? 🙂 You really did make my day.
And she answered:
“To answer your question I think that Jake would struggle alot with what has happened in the past and take a long time to wrap his head around not having to be like those boys or like the guy he has been. I think he would try to find some thing to channel his emotions and maybe even become a veterinarian. As for Lainey I think that she would try to move on and focus on cross country and hopefully not having to punch anymore boys to set it back. I’m not sure if they would meet again because Jake has been on his own for a long time, he wouldn’t be willing to just come back. But if they did meet I think that they would have to re get to know eachother because they both have changed so much.
           Thank you so much for responding,[…]and I wouldn’t mind at all!   Kayla”
I have to say again, this COMPLETELY made my day! I think Kayla’s understanding of these two characters and how they grew is even better than the response I gave her. What a terrific reader she is! (And I have a hunch…maybe she’s a writer, too. Maybe someday I can write her a fan letter).

What’s with 1936-37???

So….I usually read at least two books at once, sometimes more. I listen to one at all times in the car, and read one, two, or more on paper and/or on Kindle on my phone.

Late last week, I started three books.

Moon Over Manifest (Newbery winner by Clare Vanderpool)

A Year Down Yonder (Newbery winner by Richard Peck)


Oh My Stars by Lorna Landvik because it’s been on my to-read shelf for several years now.

All three of them are set in 1936, at least at the opening scenes. What’s going on!? Slider’s Son, the novel I’m trying to sell right now, is set in 1936. I picked it because I wanted my story to be before WWII, with Hitler’s threat looming, and I wanted Grant to idolize Bob Feller, the 17-year-old Major League pitcher, and that narrowed my years down to 1936-1937.  I wrote the whole book before I realized any of these were set then. Sigh.

I’ve finished Oh My Stars and Moon Over Manifest. Both are good, very, very good. I’ll review Moon Over Manifest soon. I just had to rant first.

I loved Oh My Stars. This may be Lorna Landvik at her finest (so far). I don’t know. It’s hard to beat Patty Jane’s House of Curl for poignancy and humor. This book, though, made me wonder HOW ON EARTH she came up with these characters and story ideas. Patty Jane seemed more possible, plausible for an imagination tied to life, but Oh My Stars–I am baffled and awed by the creativity that brought that book to life! Wow. I hope I get a chance to ask L.L. about it when I see her in 2015 at one of her appearances in Minnesota.


If I Stay by Gayle Forman

IfI StayI almost forgot to review this book. I read it several months ago. I figured that I should read such a popular YA book and see what all the fuss is about. With all the buzz about the movie version coming out, I read it in the summer. Since it wasn’t on the “required reading” list I made for myself for sabbatical, I didn’t write about it.

I did think this was beautifully done, and I do see what the hype has been about. It’s a great love story, primarily, and it’s a terrific plot twist: the girl-in-a-coma watching the scramble to save her life after the rest of her family is killed. She replays her life, and falling in love, and has to make the decision whether to live or die. It’s a good story, and it’s certainly a good love story.

Since I’m writing a YA love story right now, it’s something for me to consider: what makes a good one work, how does the author suck us in so we don’t want to put the story down? I Gayle Forman does it well!

Still, this wasn’t my favorite book, and I won’t read it again. I like the character far more many YA love story heroines, though. So I guess that means I liked the story.


The Midwife’s Apprentice

The Midwife's Apprentice

The Midwife’s Apprentice

I read this Newbery winner, too, though it wasn’t on my Sabbatical reading list. My bucket list for life includes reading every Newbery winner since 1922 when the award was founded, so this year has moved me well along that goal.
I liked this book a lot. A LOT, actually. I’d give it four out of five stars. If it hadn’t been a Newbery, I probably would have given it five stars.  I guess I have such HIGH expectations for a Newbery winner that anything less than beyond spectacular, it doesn’t thrill me as much. This one was spectacular, but comparable, I guess, to the also spectacular but not beyond spectacular Cross of Lead. GREAT details about the Middle ages here. WONDERFUL character–the young girl whom we love and root for without a speck of hesitation–and good conflict. What the character wants is obvious immediately and that need and desire only gets more fervent as time goes on. She grows immensely both in confidence and in abilities, and she earns the satisfaction at the end of the book.  So yes, I loved this book.
Still, it’s not my favorite, and probably not one I’ll read over and over, but definitely recommendable.
Here’s something I DO NOT UNDERSTAND: The number of Newbery winners that are historical fiction is quite high. The proportion, is actually astonishing since agents are afraid to take on historical fiction. I find it very weird indeed.  (10 of the last 15 winners are historical, if you count the 1960s as historical, which I believe we have to since The Viet Nam War is now history).
Can anyone help me with that issue?

Mapleton Public Library Storytime

This was quite a good summer day. This morning, Freya and I went to the Mapleton Public Library, where I always love to do storytime. This morning we read about dogs and baby duck and monsters under the bed!


Freya, as always, was a big hit with the kids. They all got a chance to pet her. She loves the attention, even when she pretends to sleep through it.

Afterward, Freya and I walked around Mapleton for awhile. She likes the shady streets. Every time we’ve been there, she wants to go for a walk before she’s willing to get in the car.

This afternoon, I spent some time with a good friend and this evening, I did the Mankato Isle of Man Time Trial staged in Rapidan. I cut about a minute off last time’s time, so I’m getting back in better shape finally. It’s a delightully fun event, thanks to Mike and Sheila Busch.

The Rider by Tim Krabbé

Book Review, or maybe book rave?
The Rider by Tim Krabbé. Bloomsbury USA; Reprint edition 2003 (Originally published in the Netherlands in 1978).

The Rider wins my heart. This novel, by Tim Krabbé and translated from Dutch, is like watching a classic one-day race from inside the peleton. For anyone who’s ridden a bike competitively, or ridden “over your head” to keep up with buddies, or seen black from cranking up a hill so big you think it’ll kill you, you will understand this book. The translator Sam Garrett did a beautiful job because the language and metaphors are spot-on. Krabbé has nailed the physical and psychological agony and joy. Some gems:

Despuech, who has just made a break but obviously won’t stay away off the front.: Despuech is crazy. Despuech is only showing us that he doesn’t stand a chance in hell. He knows it too, but still it’s a fact: he has to choose between finishing at the back after shining, or finishing at the back after not having shone at all. Dozeas of riders are now thinking the word ‘Despuech’, and people along the route will clap for him. And later all the riders will slide right over him, like a net over an undersized fish.
Product DetailsGradually I find a cadence. Climbing is a rhythm, a trance; you have to rock your organs’ protests back to sleep.

I shift down. Forty-three nineteen: the gear of champions. How the hell do I keep talking myself into racing?

Gerrri Knetemann: “You guys need to suffer more, get dirtier; you should arrive at the top in a casket, that’s what we pay you for.”

Asked about the pain of getting dropped, Knetemann say, “It’s too bad, sir, but at a certain point you just can’t do it. And when can’t do it any more, you get dropped. Too bad. Nothing to make a fuss about.”

Perhaps I love this book so much because the protagonist narrating the story is a journalist/writer turned cyclist at age thirty. I fancy myself a combination of those two, so I particularly loved this little soliloquy: “I believed that, while cycling, I would come up with thoughts and ideas for the stories I’d be writing the rest of the time. Fat chance. The rest of my time I spent jotting in my cycling logbook and keeping statistics on my distance and times, and while cycling I thought of nothing at all.

Fear of heights, multiplied by my velocity. Don’t look to the side. The wind blows right through me…

Descents scare me, I’m the worst downhill rider here…

A sign. It says that the speed limit here is 60 kilometers per hour. My brain flashes a joke for my approval: point at that sign and waggle my finger at the others. Joke rejected.


Yup. there we go.I think of coming down a mountain in Eastern Washington State in a small group ride from the The Bicycle Butler bike shop. Switchbacks and all, the pack flying. I was in my drops, aero, keeping up, and then–a switchback, I braked—out of instinct and self-preservation—I slowed, and I was dropped like a wounded bird from the flock.
…saw a rider meticulously peeling a banana with both hands on a downhill stretch at 65 kilometers an hour…
Comments like those about the “up-and coming Hinault” and anectodes of cycling history woven in the consciousness of the rider—the narrator—all in the course of a 150 km race make us as readers feel part of cycling history, part of this race in 1977

Who the hell goes cycling on a hot day like this?
The book’s opening will grab you, if you are one who identifies with the story, or if you are obsessive about any passion in your life. The narrator looks up from his gear at the spectators. “Non-racers…The emptiness of those lives shocks me.”

Perhaps that’s the crux of it. When cycling becomes so central to our core that a life without it seems empty: there, I figured it out. That’s why I love this book so much.

A delightful writerly weekend

BOOKOLOGY, Children’s Literature Network, Nov. 3, 2012
With my buddy Kirstin Cronn-Mills (new novel: Beautiful Music for Ugly Children), Molly Beth Griffin (Silhouette of a Sparrow), and my dear friend Pamela Klinger-Horn, who supports writers and all good books! 

With Pamela and John Coy (Crackback, Top of the Order and many more). I got to sit at the same table with John and three librarians/teachers. We had a BLAST and tied winning the identify-the-author-by-“ten-things-you-don’t-know-about-me” game!

It’s Mary Tyler Moore! Back in St. Paul! (the hat is so high it’s out of the picture, maybe?)
Oh, no. I guess it’s author and my buddy Kirstin Cronn-Mills, on the street outside ADDENDUM book store, where she read Saturday afternoon. I loved the event. Not only did our friends Justin and Brian show up (below, listening attentively), but every single person in the store was “sucked in” and listening or asking questions by the time Kirstin was done!