Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Finding Perfect by Elly Swartz: Book Review

Finding Perfect
Author: Elly Swartz
Reviewer: Sharon M. Himsl
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux, 2016
Ages: 8 to 12, Middle Grade

For twelve-year-old Molly Nathans, life was perfect once. Mom and Dad were happy and not separated. Her friend Hannah’s family wasn’t planning to move far away and her other friend Bridget wasn’t obsessed with collecting obituaries after a family member died. Molly doesn’t think there is anything wrong with striving for perfection. If she wants to arrange her glass animal figurines perfectly, so many inches apart, it’s one thing she can control in her otherwise imperfect world. Of most importance, she wants to fix her parent’s marriage. Mom moved out and took a job in another city, leaving Dad to care for Molly and her siblings, Ian and Kate. Her old sister Kate is just plain mad, convinced that Mom has left for good. Ian, the younger of the three, misses Mom and cries a lot. 

Molly convinces herself that she can fix her parent’s marriage by winning the Poetry Slam at school. Mom would then feel compelled to return home for the awards ceremony and see the error of her ways. As the poetry candidates are narrowed down, it becomes clear Molly will win. But also clear is Molly’s strange behavior of late. For instance, instead of washing her hands just once, she repeats the process again and again, and her glass figurines are never, ever, in the right position. Most bizarre is her compulsion to count numbers in her head. Added to this strange behavior, Molly believes that if she doesn’t perform these acts, something terrible will happen to Ian. 

By the time her friends and Dad (and eventually, Mom) begin questioning her behavior, Molly has learned online she has a mental condition called Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Ignoring Molly’s attempt to hide her symptoms, family and friends intervene. They learn that others in Molly’s family have been OCD, and Mom and Dad learn the importance of tending to the needs of their family. The author does a great job creating a believable story about a real disorder that often begins in childhood. A book I would recommend.

Check out new Goodreads REVIEW 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Celebrate the Small Things: Don't Believe You Can't Achieve a Goal

Stepping out of your comfort zone? Afraid you took on a goal you could never possibly achieve? This may be the video you need to hear. Three times now I've listened to its message, and three times I have found the words helpful.  

I found some inspiration this week listening to speakers at the SCBWI Writers' Conference in Spokane, WA. Saw some old friends so all was good---loved it, but writing a new draft to completion remains difficult for me. Maintaining focus has always been a challenge, and I have a stack of unfinished drafts as evidence. This time, however, the luxury of time shouldn't be taken for granted. I have a book sequel to complete, so it's back to the 100-Day Challenge after taking two days off....and this marvelous video. 

Sorry I'm late posting a Celebrate post this week. It'll roll over into Friday later this week. Wishing you all the best, and if Weekends are your time of rest, by all means DO that. But as this video emphasizes, DON'T BELIEVE YOU CAN'T ACHIEVE A GOAL, because you really can. YOU REALLY CAN!

I'm headed back with my characters to Mersing and the South China Sea this week. Just visited Singapore. Not in real time of course, but you get my drift.....

Check out my New Goodreads REVIEW 

"Come celebrate with us" 
To join "Celebrate the Small Things, visit Lexa Cain's blog
Co-hosts are: L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge 
Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits Blog

Sharon M. Himsl

Writer/Author. Blogging since 2011. 
Published with Evernight Teen: 
~~The Shells of Mersing

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

IWSG: Writing in Different Genres

Sure, I've toyed with the idea of writing in a different genre, but it helps to familiarize yourself with the different genres to see where you fit first. 

I found a list of book types or genres that gives a good idea

Science fiction - Nope, never felt I could write in this genre, although I enjoy watching Sci-Fi movies and TV. My one claim to book reading in this genre would be Orson Scott Card's 'Ender' series. What a great series that was!

Satire - Nope, not a Mark Twain writer, which is my definition of satire, although I'm sure writers of satire could define this better.

Drama - I'm more of an action/adventure gal. I think drama involves in depth character sketches. Some writers do this extremely well. I would like to perfect this skill.

Action and Adventure - Yay, my cup of tea! 

Romance - Love it within another genre, but not by itself.  

Mystery - Yes, bring it on! But not the hard boiled detective type. 

Horror - Can't do it. I'm afraid to both watch and read horror, although I admit I have watched Stephen King movies. 

Self help - Hmm....wish I could say I had the expertise to write one. I read my share as a young woman trying to sort out the 'what ifs' and 'whys' of life.   
Health - I've done some on my blog and enjoyed talking about the benefits of adding fruit to our diet. It was fun. I may do one on vegetables next.

Guide - Yes, probably could....but sounds kind of boring.
Travel - I did a little. There's a travel writer in me that never got the chance. Ah, if I were younger and had more time to explore.

Children's - Yes, I have tried. Picture books, but not middle grade, which I am considering. 
And yes, to Young Adult of course. 

Religion, Spirituality, New Age - The subject is fascinating to me, but writing-wise, only as related to research of a character or situation.

Science - Nope, I do not have the education to write, but I did edit food science books and articles in my day job once. Now if gardening is a science, I could write about that!

History - Yes, I could and have done this. I researched 1920 to 1940 for a nonfiction book, and wrote about the Shoshone Indians for another. I've done a number of nonfiction series on my blog on women in history. Wish I could apply to Historical Fiction

Math - Oh dear, not for me.

Anthology - This has become rather popular lately, but have not done - yet. 

Poetry - Yes, but I'm more of a closet poet.

Encyclopedias - I helped a professor prepare and edit a large series of Food Engineering articles for the 'Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems' for the United Nations. Pretty proud of the project and final product.
Dictionaries - Nah, but you know, they need writers for this too.

Comics - Nothing but respect for those who have the talent!

ArtNot my cup of tea, but lots of talent out there!

Cookbooks - Have thought about this, but the world is overrun with cookbooks already. It's more fun to be inventive as you cook. Only problem with this style is you win some, and lose some! 

Diaries - Yes, I have kept three in my life. One as a young teenager. Another in college. A third during my 9 months in Malaysia. I also keep a dream diary (when I remember). I highly recommend diaries. You can discover some real gems for your writing.
Journals - Yes, I sometimes log my writing progress and thoughts. I do as needed to motivate.

Prayer books - I occasionally keep a prayer list. I usually list 10 things and/or people I'm praying for, then cross out when answered. You'd be surprised how many prayers are answered! I don't write out prayers or do devotionals.

Series - I would love to write a series. Lucky are those who find an interesting character or subject that warrants one! I keep thinking about this.
Trilogy - I'm working on a sequel to 'The Shells of Mersing' right now, but it's not likely to be a trilogy.

Biographies - Only as related to some fictional piece I'm working on.
Autobiographies - Yes, tried this once. Boring! But I think you could add Memoirs to this category, which I have tried and like.

Fantasy - Have never tried. I would need to read this genre a lot to feel comfortable. Lots of folks adore this genre, so I keep thinking I should try. If Time Travel works, that would definitely be my choice.

Wow, that's a lot of writing options! I should add I wouldn't mind trying adult fiction. At least two of my first short stories were from a male perspective for the adult market. I felt very comfortable writing in the male voice. Another story was Orwellian in nature about an elderly couple, the strangest thing I have ever written.

Flash fiction is kind of fun too. Again for the adult market. I've never written one to completion, but have had some great beginnings. 
How about you? Where do you fit in your writing? Are you all over the map like I am?   ~Sharon

New Review - GoodReads

THANK YOU Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh and co-hosts for the September 6 posting of the IWSG, Tyrean Martinson, Tara Tyler, Raimey Gallant, and Beverly Stowe McClure!!

Sharon M. Himsl

Writer/Author. Blogging since 2011. 
Published with Evernight Teen: 
~~The Shells of Mersing

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Exploring the Pennsylvania Colony by John Micklos, Jr.: Book Review

Exploring the Pennsylvania Colony
Author: John Micklos, Jr.
Reviewer: Sharon M. Himsl
Publisher: Capstone Press,  2017
Ages:  8 to 11, Chapter Book, MG
Pages: 48

Pennsylvania was the ninth colony established as a permanent European settlement in North America. First contact with the Native Americans occurred in 1608 with Englishman John Smith, but settlers didn’t arrive until much later. Swedish settlers arrived in 1638, the Dutch in 1655, and finally, the British in 1664 under the leadership of a Quaker named William Penn. 

Penn had been granted 45,000 acres by the king for settlement. He established peaceful relations with the Delaware, Shawnee, Nanticoke and Mingo tribes, but after his death, conflicts over land began. Pontiac of the Ottawa tribe was among those who led a brave resistance, but eventually most of the Native Americans were either killed or weakened by disease. 

Despite the conflicts Pennsylvania thrived as a colony. The soil was fertile and its central location had made the export of goods convenient, including for political gatherings. After the Revolutionary War ended, Philadelphia became the nation’s new capital and a meeting place for the nations's new Congress. The Declaration of Independence was signed there, and later the U.S. Constitution in 1790, at which time Pennsylvania entered the union. 

Business prospered in the growing economy. One famous businessman, a printer named Benjamin Franklin, ran a newspaper and wrote Poor Richard’s Almanack, but he was also well known as a scientist, inventor, politician, and diplomat. Micklos describes more pioneers during the period, for example, Daniel Boone, Betsy Ross, and Thomas Paine. 

As typical in this series, the “did you know” side notes, mini bios, illustrations, quotes and “Critical Thinking with Primary Sources” are useful in sparking classroom discussion. 

Celebrate the Small Things: Setting Goals and Getting Ready for Fall

I don't know about you, but there is something about the onset of Fall that gets my creative juices going. I saw this challenge on Facebook at my publisher's author site and decided this was for me. 

You basically devote 100 days of activity to an artistic/creative endeavor between now and December 31, 2017. Mine is to finish outlining my new novel and actually begin writing chapters. You set the challenge, and ideally plan each day in advance. I plan to commit at least 25 minutes a day (by timer if necessary). I know the time will be longer if I can just put my butt in the chair, but it's how my mind works (I have to trick it into compliance). Of course, everyone does what works best for them. #SHOWUP100

Today was DAY 1. I worked on the synopsis and back stories, and boy did it ever feel good. As this is a sequel, I loved pulling in characters from the first book, deciding who would no longer play a role. It wasn't easy. I wanted to give them all top billing on the novel stage, but alas, some actors no longer fit. Anyway, wish me luck! Have any of you tried this method?

The challenge is necessary. My husband and I just spent the last two weeks painting our home. I haven't been writing at all. We managed to put on one coat, but it was good paint and should get us by till next spring, when we'll apply a second coat. Frankly, it's been too darn hot to accomplish much more, and it's smokier than ever here. VERY tired of the smoke! 

Nonetheless, the signs of Fall are already here. The leaves of our new service berry tree are already beginning to turn. The mums are starting to blossom. We have Fall planting to do as well, but not nearly as much as last year. 

I hope you are doing fine. I've been offline far too long, but had so much stuff to do this summer. I have book reviews piling up that I need to do as well. Eventually, eventually. It all comes together somehow, doesn't it?

Take care everyone. Remember to smile and take deep breaths. I look at the world and have days when all I can do is shake my head in the negative, but we saw some beautiful coming together by all in Houston. Made me proud. Still tough for those folks, but help keeps coming in. I try to remember, it could always be worse, and that celebrating the small things in life is what matters most. 

ALSO Celebrating my novel and reviews. Check it out: 
The Shells of Mersing 

"Come celebrate with us" 
To join "Celebrate the Small Things, visit Lexa Cain's blog
Co-hosts are: L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge 
Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits Blog

Sharon M. Himsl

Writer/Author. Blogging since 2011. 
Published with Evernight Teen: 
~~The Shells of Mersing

About Me

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You could call me an eternal optimist, but I'm really just a dreamer. l believe in dream fulfillment, because 'sometimes' dreams come true. This is a blog about my journey as a writer and things that inspire and motivate me.