Why Children Should Read—A Lot!
by Maggie Lyons
How important is it for a child to read well? Some states predict their prison populations based on the number of students failing fourth-grade reading tests. (This fact was presented at a Congressional hearing by Dr. Reid Lyon of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.) According to the ProLiteracy organization, 63 percent of prison inmates can’t read. Prison is perhaps the direst of the numerous consequences of illiteracy.
Here are a few more surprising facts published by the ProLiteracy organization:
In the United States, 29 percent (63 million) of the population over the age of sixteen can’t read well enough to understand a newspaper article written at eighth-grade level.
An additional 30 million adults (14 percent of all US adults) only read at the fifth-grade level or lower.
Seventy-seven million Americans have only a two-in-three chance of correctly reading—and therefore understanding—the label on their prescription medicine.
Illiteracy costs the United States between $106 and $236 billion each year.
These are just a few of the social consequences of poor reading skills in the United States.
Learning to read proficiently takes a lot of effort. Sally Shaywitz of Yale Medical School once observed that “reading is the most complex of human functions.” But the rewards for grasping the skill of reading proficiently make that effort worthwhile. A study by American researchers Cunningham and Stanovich found that, not surprisingly, the more children read, the more they expand their vocabulary, improve their spelling skill, and increase their verbal fluency and general knowledge. And common sense suggests that reading proficiency improves writing skill too.
But the benefits don’t stop there. A British project, Every Child a Reader, has found, among other things, that children who learn to read well enjoy learning. Their social interaction with adults and classmates improves and their self-confidence is boosted.
The key to improved academic achievement lies in the amount of reading a child does. Just adding an extra ten minutes per day can dramatically increase a child’s exposure to words and, by extension, improve their ability to comprehend what they read. For example, according to researchers Anderson, Wilson, and Fielding (article in Reading Research Quarterly, vol. 23) students who read for only 1.8 minutes per day, read 106,000 words a year. If those students were to increase their reading to around eleven minutes per day, they would read almost 700,000 words per year, an increase of a whopping 556 percent.
Studies indicate that the most productive reading in terms of academic achievement comes from voluntary, independent reading—that is, reading outside school. Children who enjoy reading so much that they happily read outside school are the ones most likely to develop significant cognitive skills—and most probably social skills—the fastest. This is where adults can have an enormous influence. Encouraging children to read should be a primary goal for all adults who care about the children in their lives.
Maggie Lyons is a writer and editor who was born in Wales and crossed the pond to Virginia. With no regard for the well-being of her family and neighbors, she trained as a classical pianist. Then came a career of putting rear ends on seats—that is, orchestral management, marked by reams of marketing and fundraising writing and program note scribbling for audiences whose first priority was to find their names in the donors’ lists. Editing for academic publishers also brought plenty of satisfaction—she admits she has a fondness for nerds—but nothing like the magic she discovered in writing fiction and nonfiction for children. Several of her articles, poetry, and a chapter book miraculously appeared in Stories for Children Magazine and knowonder! magazine. She hopes her stories encourage reluctant young readers to turn a page or two.
Her middle-grade story Vin and the Dorky Duet and Dewi and the Seeds of Doom are available in MuseItUp Publishing’s MuseItYoung line. www.maggielyons.yolasite.com
Friday, November 30, 2012
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Join us in our FACEBOOK EVENT PAGE
MuseItUp Publishing Remembers 2012…
Rings in the New Year…
31 Days filled with Doorprizes
I’ve been sitting here trying to figure out a Holiday Special for our house, something out of the box. I know many will be celebrating the twelve days of Christmas, or the twenty-four days before Christmas…but not everyone celebrates this holiday. Then it hit me…
There’s one thing that everyone has shared…and that’s 2012.
Beginning December 1st I invite everyone to like our Facebook Event Page and share their fondest 2012 memory.
We’ll offer one daily doorprize with the winner announced the next day, along with FREE reads and specials.
On January 1st, one name will be drawn from all the comments posted in our Facebook Event Page. The grand prize?
They’ll win every single doorprize offered in the month of December…31 ebooks published in 2012 to cherish.
See you on Facebook.
Posted by MuseItUp Publishing at 9:41 AM
Friday, November 23, 2012
Writing romance in your mystery and vice versa
by Maggie Toussaint
The realm of mysteries has clearly defined categories. There are thrillers, cozies, police procedurals with hard-boiled detectives, paranormals, and more. Authors stretch the mystery genre to make it their own by adding elements such as arts and crafts, animals, ghosts, music, vampires, and busy-bodies, to name a few.
But what happens when an author blends a hearty dose of romance into the mystery world? Does that change the classification of the book for editors and bookstore placement?
Maybe, or maybe not, depending on the amount of romance added. An established genre already exists within the romance world for books that combine elements of suspense and danger with romance – romantic suspense. What’s the difference between a romantic suspense and a mystery with romance? Is there a solid black line separating the two kinds of books?
To answer that question, we must put on our editorial hats and determine the driving force of the book, romance or mystery. Full length books invariably contain supportive subplots, such as a secondary mystery or a secondary character romance, which further cloud the “what is it” book genre. Let’s examine the genres of romance and mystery in more depth.
Romance readers expect interpersonal conflict in the story. They enjoy traveling along with the hero and heroine (or the main characters if it is a same sex love story) to experience the emotion of falling in love. They worry if the couple will overcome their trials, they rejoice when the couple finally gets it together. The given in romances is the happily ever after resulting from the triumph of love. That’s true no matter which genre of romance you read.
Additionally, romance readers expect certain settings. They read within their comfort level for sensuality, religion, and danger.
In a romantic suspense, the love story between two characters is the over-arching story line. Suspense elements raise the stakes for the main characters, placing obstacles in their paths, oftentimes threatening their lives. Finding love and committing to each another provide the happily ever after and conclude the story momentum for a romantic suspense. The danger element, though integral to the plot and highly entertaining for the reader, will usually conclude first.
To write a romantic suspense, the majority of the scenes relate to the romance, a lesser amount of the scenes will boost the suspense. A rule of thumb that is often quoted in the romance world for a romantic suspense is that the blend is about 60 percent romance and 40 percent suspense. A story with a higher percentage of suspense will cross genre boundaries into the mystery world.
Mystery with romance
Changing gears, a mystery with a strong romance subplot will devote more scenes to the mystery and less to the developing relationship. Depending on the mystery genre, sex and violence may occur off-screen, so that the author builds up to the moment and then allows the reader to use their imagination to fill in the blanks.
Within a mystery, a protagonist, the story lead, actively seeks an answer to a crime or puzzle. The antagonist, or the villain of the piece, can be a known threat with no proof of wrongdoing or he/she may be an unknown, acting in such a concealed way that the reader tries to determine who-dun-it before the protagonist solves the puzzle. Authors throw in red herrings to misdirect the protagonist and the reader and to heighten the story tension. The driving force in a mystery is finding the answers the protagonist needs.
Adding a romantic relationship to a mystery often raises the stakes for the protagonist. He/she is torn by wanting to protect the other person and fearing that the other person’s motives are suspect. The romance adds emotional depth to the lead character, forcing him/her to act out of his/her comfort zone, and increases the level of story conflict.
In series mystery with a romance subplot, even if the protagonist finds comfort or happiness in a relationship in a story, that partnership is doomed to have severe ups and downs in subsequent books. The romance will continue to serve as a means of conflict because conflict drives a story. Though romance is present in the story, it occurs around the framework of the mystery, and no happily ever after is promised.
In a stand-alone mystery, a romance subplot may end well, though it is not the focus of the plot, the mystery is.
Love and murder
To recap, a mystery with a strong romance subplot has the majority of the scenes devoted to figuring out who-dun-it and how they did it; the romance subplot adds tension and conflict to the story but does not promise everlasting love. A romantic suspense is driven by the love story between two individuals; the suspense subplot adds to the conflict and tension of the story by forcing the characters to make choices under pressure.
A happily ever after is implied or stated in a romance novel.
A sense of justice is served, along with a triumphant protagonist, accompanies the ending of a mystery. Both endings are satisfying to readers. To determine if your book is a mystery with romance or a romantic suspense, define the main plot and ensure that the majority of scenes are devoted to that story line.
The balance point for one author
The best thing to do is to write a great book that fits squarely in one genre. However, if you’re like me and your stories come out a blend of romance and mystery elements (or other genres blended with mystery), rest assured that it is still possible to get published, but most likely you will have to work harder to find the right publisher.
When I first began marketing my work, I received mixed criticism, until finally one day an editor asked point-blank if the story was a romance or a mystery. I popped right up with an answer, “It can be whatever you want it to be.” Imagine my surprise when the editor came right back with, “What do you want it to be?”
That was an eye-opener. Editors don’t have time to tell you what your story is. I took a look at one of my stories, making an Excel spreadsheet and noting which scenes supported the mystery plot and which supported the romance plot. The split was about 50-50, but the blend was bad, with the romance scenes frontloaded and the mystery scenes backloaded, which led to an aha moment.
Yes, it’s important to make your characters three-dimensional, but it’s equally important for the author to exert firm control so that each segment builds upon both plots. I guided the rewrite of the story with the same mindset as disciplining a small child. A firm stance and positive reinforcement for getting it right goes a long way toward training yourself how to write marketable books.
Keeping it fresh
Though this advice is for blended genre authors, these tips should come in handy each time you sit down to compose or edit. Every sentence you write should be the very best you can make it. Don’t think to yourself that my writing is better than a crappy published book I read the other day; make sure it’s as good as a great book you recently enjoyed.
Find a way to keep yourself on task as you write or edit so that your finished product is a better fit for an already established genre category. Failure to write to an established bookselling category, unless you are the next J.K. Rowling or Diana Gabaldon (authors who broke the rules and still made it big), will result in a file folder full of rejection letters. Once you break in, you will find that published authors have slightly more leeway to bend the rules.
Conflict is the story engine in fiction. Whether you are writing a mystery series with a romance subplot or a romantic suspense series, each book must delve into a new aspect of interpersonal conflict. Tension can arise from the setting (his house or hers), from their immediate family (nothing like kids and pets to add spice to your characters’ lives), from extended family (a relative in need of food, shelter, or money), from their careers (no time for fun), or even from the couple’s disparate viewpoint on long-term commitment.
The spreadsheet idea works well for authors who are more typically known as “plotters,” because they tend to work well from an outline. Authors who are “pantsers,” as in they write without much pre-writing routine, may respond better to different methods of tracking the story scenes. Pantser friends of mine have used brightly colored sticky notes or note cards to help get them organized after they spit out the first draft.
All over but the shouting
When it comes down to it, I enjoy writing both types of stories. That dichotomy makes me a mystery author and a romance author, but most of all, it makes me a storyteller.
The digital mystery is available now!
Buy it here:
A scientist by training, a romanticist at heart, Maggie Toussaint loves to solve puzzles. She writes cozy mystery and romantic suspense books, one of which won Best Romantic Suspense in the 2007 National Readers Choice Awards. She has four published romantic supsense books and four mysteries, including her campy cozy from Muse It Up Publishing, MURDER IN THE BUFF. Visit her at www.maggietoussaint.com and http://mudpiesandmagnolias.blogspot.com/ .
Posted by MuseItUp Publishing at 10:02 AM
Sunday, November 18, 2012
Thought I'd share some pictures of my book signing yesterday at MountainSide Books & Gifts. Had a great time, and did a little holiday shopping, as well. I'm also looking forward to a multi author signing, in the spring, at this same bookstore with NY Times Bestselling romance author, Megan Hart, and other local authors. If you're in the area, please check out this wonderful locally owned bookstore.
Saturday, November 17, 2012
Creating Characters from Real People
By Katie L. Carroll, author of Elixir Bound (MuseItUp Publishing, August 2012, ISBN 978-1-77127-140-0)
As a writer, I’m always mining my own life for material, but nothing I write is truly autobiographical. In Elixir Bound several of the characters are inspired by real people (and one is even named after a real person). Note I said “inspired.” It’s not that I actually wrote a book about people I know. Even if Elixir Bound didn’t take place in a made-up world, it’s still far from a memoir.
Characters are not real people. Let me repeat that: Characters are not real people. Real people are boring. Real people act in ways that are inconsistent and don’t always make sense. Real people do things that don’t serve a story, like eat three meals a day, brush their teeth, and shower. In theory, my characters do those things, but in fiction, they only do things that serve the story.
Like real people, though, characters should have more than one side to them, and they should have faults. Maybe you know someone who is super sweet and generous with her time. She doesn’t lose her temper very often (and here comes the flawed part), but when she does, watch out! The flip switches and she becomes a crazy person.
Okay, I’m exaggerating a bit here, and the person I know isn’t nearly that bad. But the character inspired by this real person is that bad because the story calls for her to be that way. Characters are often larger than life, and that’s a good thing. They should be. (Larger than life doesn’t necessarily mean loud or in-your-face. It could be a character is shy, and the larger than life part is that they are so shy it is debilitating.)
Reading gives us the chance to live vicariously through a character. I like when I see myself in a character, but I like it even better when that character is an exaggeration of any self I can imagine (good or bad). So provide your readers with interesting, dynamic characters that are more than the real people that inspire them.
About the Author
Katie began writing after her 16-year-old sister unexpectedly passed away. Writing was a way to help her sister live on in the pages of a story. Her debut YA fantasy Elixir Bound is about Katora Kase who must decide if she will become guardian of a secret healing Elixir and bind herself to its magic. It is available from the MuseItUp bookstore, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other ebook retailers. Her picture book app The Bedtime Knight released earlier this month from MeeGenius. For more about Katie, check out her website www.katielcarroll.com.
by Katie L. Carroll
READ EXCERPT...PURCHASE EBOOK
Katora Kase is next in line to take over as guardian to a secret and powerful healing Elixir. Now she must journey into the wilds of Faway Forest to find the ingredient that gives the Elixir its potency. Even though she has her sister and brother, an old family friend, and the handsome son of a mapmaker as companions, she feels alone. It is her decision alone whether or not to bind herself to the Elixir to serve and protect it until it chooses a new guardian. The forest hosts many dangers, including wicked beings that will stop at nothing to gain power, but the biggest danger Katora may face is whether or not to open up her heart to love.
Posted by MuseItUp Publishing at 8:31 AM
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
I am delighted to announce that my novel, Tangled Love, set in Queen Anne's reign, 1714-1714. The results will be announced on the 17th November at the Romance of Festival's gala ball in Bedford.
Tangled Love is available from:
Amazon Kindle and elsewhere
Tangled Love is available from:
Amazon Kindle and elsewhere
Monday, November 12, 2012
Today, I welcome fellow MuseItUp author and friend,
Michelle Pickett, to share her writing process with us.
What do you write?
I write both adult and young adult urban fantasy, sci/fi and paranormal romances.
Do you use 1st person, 3rd person, multiple POVs?
So far I've only written in the first person POV, but I'm drafting a book that will be in the third person. I'm finding it a lot harder than I thought it would be.
How do you get started with a book- is it an idea, a character, vary from story to story?
It is usually the story that comes first for me. Although, sometimes the story and the main character show up simultaneously.
Do you draft quickly or are you more detailed in your draft?
I'm not a fast drafter. It usually takes me about six weeks to draft my first draft and another six to do revisions and rewrites. [Wow! That seems fast to me, but my drafts are all over the place!]
Do you do research before your first draft, during?
I don't usually have a lot of research that needs to be done, but if I do I tend to do it while I'm writing rather than before.
Do you outline? How?
I don't, is the short answer. I have a general idea and just go with that. However, I'm starting to see the benefits of having at least a loose outline to follow. I haven't found the method that works best for me yet, so I'm trying different formats. I've been reading some craft books on outlining. So far I've just been jotting down notes and keeping them in order in relation to the storyline.
Do you name everything up front when you are drafting or do you leave comments for yourself to go back and fill in later so you don't lose the flow of what you are working on?
I generally name everything up front, but that doesn't mean the name will stick. I've been known to change names a few times before finding the one that I "feel" fits.
Do you work with CP's or Beta's? How soon into your draft do you let them see your work?
Nope, I've never worked with them. When I started writing Concilium I didn't know they existed. Afterward, when I learned of them, I was never really sure how to go about finding one to work with. I have some family members and friends that read my work that I call my "Betas and CPs" but they really aren't.
What books/websites have you found most helpful to helping you write your best?
Hooked, by Les Edgerton.
Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose by Constance Hale.
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, How to Edit Yourself into Print by Renni Browne, Dave King.
The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman, Becca Puglisi
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started writing.
I wish I knew about Beta readers and Critique partners and how important they are. I think Concilium would have been a much stronger book if I'd had some additional input from outside sources. It's hard to be objective when it's your "baby."
What do you have out now, or coming out? Any upcoming events? A website we can find you and your books at? An author photo? A booktrailer? Anything else you want to share?
Concilium was released in July.
The sequel, Concilium: The Departure, is scheduled for release in November. Both are published through MuseItUp Publishing.
PODs, my debut young adult novel, will release in paperback through Spencer Hill Press June 4, 2013 (my son's 12th birthday!) [I think that is so awesome!]
I just signed a second contract with Spencer Hill Press for a young adult paranormal romance, titled Milayna, that will release in paperback in March of 2014.
I'll be at the 2013 Book Expo America in at the Javits Center in NYC signing copies of PODs.
Places you can find me on the web:
Book Buy Links:
Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your process, Michelle!
Posted by Mary Waibel at 6:00 AM