In the writing room right now ...

In the writing room right now ... I have taken down the brown "butcher" paper that held ideas, photos, drawings, and my hand-drawn maps and plot outlines for the past five or six books. I've placed all those items into three-ring binders, and cleared the deck for paintings and photographs that involve courage, as I move forward in GHOSTKEEPER, the new novel set in Lyndonville, Vermont. My 1850 Vermont adventure THE LONG SHADOW is under contract with Five Star/Cengage -- I will give you a publication date as soon as I know! Scribbling lots of poems, too. And there's a possible route to publication of the "Vermont Nancy Drew" novel I built on Wattpad (see right-hand column). Yes, I guess I do like multi-tasking! How about you?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Research, Research, Suspense!

With enough research, the suspense starts jumping up and down and I can hardly wait to get writing the next chapter! I suppose that's the opposite of "writer's block." I love it!

The amazing Cheryl Minden designed a cover for ALL THAT GLITTERS, the first volume of the "Vermont Nancy Drew" series I'm working on. Finalizing it with Cheryl, along with the lovely change in weather -- not humid any longer -- and some gifts of time from my family have all come together into the energy to round up the research for the new chapter. And it's online. Yay!

Today's photo shows some of the in-person research at Vermont's State House, with the curator of state buildings, David Sch├╝tz, in the Senate Chamber that teen sleuth Lucky Franklin enters in chapter 26. And for an extra visual bonus today, here's the cover! Thank you so much, Cheryl!!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A New England Town Re-Shaped by Fire


Yesterday my husband Dave and I browsed a postcard "show" -- really a marketplace, with a dozen or so dealers, and hundreds of thousands of postcards, many of them images of buildings, railroads, and people long gone. It was a historian's treasure trove, and we won't be going out to dinner again for quite a while, because we gathered so many of the 3.5 by 5.5 inch cards to bring home with us. I don't think either one of us purchased a modern "color photo" postcard; we chose the early black-and-white ones, mostly camera shots but some hand drawn or etched, and a few hand-tinted with washes of pastel color.

Probably the most compelling in Dave's batch were a pair that showed the disaster of a winter fire that wiped out half the downtown structures of Lyndonville, Vermont, in 1924. Dave will be doing his own posts about that (at the moment, he "does" Lyndonville and I "do" four other neighboring towns). But I want to share the link to a remarkable video we found that narrates the blaze and its results, as well as showing a number of the postcards that were printed at the time to show the disaster. The video is by Lindsay Marcotte, who was a student at today's Lyndon Institute when she made it. Here it is: http://youtu.be/o0JtuL5SK7Y

It's remarkable that Lyndonville looks untouched today (and there have been other fires since then, too).

In Cold Midnight, the novel I'll bring out in November of this year, Claire Benedict climbs the roofs of St. Johnsbury at night; in the first chapter, she sees a fire being "set." Most downtown structure fires in northern New England have been accidental, but St. Johnsbury and Lyndonville (neighboring large towns) have both seen terrible cases of arson. Two imposing buildings that were lost within the last couple of generations were North Hall of St. Johnsbury Academy, and the Y.M.C.A. building on Eastern Avenue. I've put the postcards showing these onto the Cold Midnight Pinterest board, and I'm placing them here, too, for easy access. North Hall (top image, with South Hall more distant) was lost in 1956, and the Y.M.C.A. building in 1984.

A peek into the possible fiction future: I've started another novel called The Fire Curse that works with all those fires. It's not the next one in my queue to complete, but ... I'll get there, one of these days.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Cold Midnight: A Cover, and a Release Date!

Thanks to the fantastic team at Raphel Publishing, COLD MIDNIGHT is headed toward a November 3, 2012, release -- and designer Jacob Grant provided this great draft cover today, which will probably get polished a bit more as the book comes together.

Editor Adrienne Raphel and I are working on making this the best book yet. In fact, tomorrow I'll be "unreachable" as I buckle down to revisions based on our discussions. I love working with Adrienne -- she and I have similar beliefs about what a good story does for the reader.

And here's a summary of COLD MIDNIGHT, now on the Sisters in Crime (New England) website:
For high school freshman Claire Benedict, the pressures of home and school are huge -- her father is home from the Great War now that it's 1921, but he's too depressed to work, her mother is furious at still supporting the family, Claire's friends have stepped aside, and teachers pick on her for her family background. So climbing the downtown roofs at night gives her a world of her own, free and wide-ranging. To her surprise, there's another night climber: Ben Riley, looking for a miracle. When the two of them witness both an arsonist and a late-night poker game that ends in murder, their sleuthing turns risky. Skills alone won't get them through the dangers that lie ahead.
For a look at some of the photos (and fires!) behind the story, check out the connected Pinterest board here: http://pinterest.com/bethkanell/cold-midnight-climbing-on-roofs-at-night-solving-c

I'm looking forward to your comments!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

One Mind, Many Paths

Wild things, from the IAB.
My favorite "pithy quote" for acknowledging and enjoying spiritual diversity is "One mountain, many paths" -- it tags both my belief about the way different minds and souls need to approach Meaning in different ways, and my attachment to the mountain landscape here in Vermont.

After a delighted browse through the website and blog of the Integrated Arts Academy in Burlington, Vermont, this morning, my version for the day is, "One mind, many paths."

For perhaps three decades or more, educators and others who ponder how we share our stories and our humanity have recognized the validity of "multiple intelligences": Some of us shine in our approach to words, others through numbers, others through music or visual arts or culinary arts. And that's the reason that so many curriculum guides to youth literature include visual arts and sometimes recipes in the guides.

However, a teaching enterprise like the Integrated Arts Academy is a reminder that we can't expect to stick on "arts" exercises as if they were stamps to fill a page, and then expect "the kids" to connect. Instead, on the best of our days and in the best of classrooms, the multiple receptors of every student come first in planning how to introduce and develop a topic.

In writing The Secret Room, my choice was to focus in each chapter on all five of my senses, but most especially to pay attention to scent, fragrance, what things smell like. Marcel Proust, of course, reminded us that the scent of a single cookie can bring back an era and a set of attachments. For me, the scent of horse manure, the dairy barn, and the cedar fragrance of a well-sawdusted chicken house all evoke different times and meanings from my life. And I deliberately bring them into my stories, to let readers build from those reminders also. (I'll talk about "sound" in terms of my newest book, due out this fall, Cold Midnight.)

In an integrated arts curriculum, there must be five "senses" in another way. Suppose one of them is rooted in paying attention to where we are: the sense of place. In the same way that a festival flag for "MOUNTAIN" is just the start of exploring what a mountain is -- and what a Vermont mountain is, and what it feels like, acts like, means in our story -- we can approach a moment of history or a set of characters and call forth their attachment to the exact place they inhabit.

What are the senses you use as you savor the place where you are today? List three important qualities of the where/when of your day. How could each one nourish your own hunger for learning and for creating?