Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Thanksgiving, Charlie Brown and Racism ... a year later

In honor of Thanksgiving I thought I would link to the post I wrote a year ago about Thanksgiving, Charlie Brown and racism. Coming off such a crazy election season, with accusations of racism, bigotry, xenophobia, homophobia, and so many other phobias and isms filling our daily news cycle, I looked at this blog post and realized it is still pretty relevant, perhaps more so this year than last.

The election was stressful for many, and politics is probably a subject that should be avoided at many a Thanksgiving dinner this year, especially if a sufficient amount of wine is consumed. So my Thanksgiving wish is for people to assume the best in each other, instead of jumping to the worst of conclusions about people with whom they disagree. I try to teach my kids to do this--life's just easier that way.

And what does this have to do with Charlie Brown? Well, read the blog post and then ask yourself what should people see when they watch the cartoon clip?  In the end, no one can know what the animators were thinking or what their intentions were nearly 50 years ago. Why assume the worst? Why not focus on the good in the story - the debut of the first African-American Peanuts character?

Or even better, how about not thinking about race at all, and just enjoy the story of Good Ol' Charlie Brown trying to please a demanding Peppermint Patty with a Thanksgiving dinner filled with toast, popcorn and jellybeans? I might enjoy that more than turkey anyway.

And have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Writing, Publishing and Fur Babies ... Oh my!

Here is a link to my second Author Interview of all time! Mercedes Fox is an author whose website has a section dedicated to author interviews, and I am happy to say that she interviewed me! Please take a look as I answer questions regarding my thoughts on the writing and publishing process, discuss my fur babies and talk about Kibblestan. She even features a picture of Speckles, my inspiration for Philecia's character. Hopefully Speckles won't let the fame get to her head. :) Enjoy!  https://mercedesfoxbooks.com/meet-author-andrea-rand/

Friday, November 11, 2016

Kinzie, Kibblestan and American Sniper

When you're writing a novel it's important to know your characters inside and out, including their backstory. In writing my second book, The Chronicles of Kibblestan: Canines, I really struggled. I had a good story -- a dog that's gone missing in a Kibblestan that has drastically changed since the first book in the series. Kibblestan is no longer a happy place, there's something sinister about the canines, and my eleven-year-old heroine, Kinzie, is determined to find her missing dog, no matter what the cost. But for some reason there was a disconnect. While Kinzie's actions and story flowed onto the page, her heart and soul stayed just beyond reach. I couldn't figure out her backstory and the writing showed.

Then I went and saw the movie American Sniper, and Kinzie's backstory hit me hard. I came home that day, went straight to my computer and typed out that first chapter like it was nothing.

I recently attended a Veterans Day event at my son's school, and my heart twisted when the speaker asked the kids to raise their hands if they had a parent in the military and close to a hundred kids raised their hands. They sacrifice, too, and I hope that my book can play a small part in showing my appreciation to our military families.

In honor of Veterans' Day, I'd like to share an excerpt:

“Dad?” Kinzie said. “Do you really have to go again? Can’t you get out of it somehow and stay here where it’s safe? With me? Please?”

Dad squeezed Kinzie’s hand. “I’m sorry, punkin. I’ve got to go. I’m a soldier. It’s what I do.”

“But I’m going to miss you so much.” Kinzie blinked back tears. “And Ria will, too.”

Dad squeezed her hand harder. “I know. It’s going to be rough. But you’ll be moving into that new house with your mom and Nate. It’ll be exciting.”

Exciting? Yeah, right. New house, new school, new stepdad and stepsiblings. Even Mo was gaining two new step dogs.

“And we’ll video chat as much as we can. Time’ll fly. Before you know it, I’ll be back.” Dad smiled but Kinzie knew better. This wasn’t like the last time he left, when she was too young to fully understand. This time she did understand, a little too much. She understood that sometimes, soldiers don’t come back, and this knowledge was like an icicle lodged deep in her heart that refused to melt.
Kinzie sat up and reached for her father, hugging him around his neck while she wept on his shoulder.

“I don’t want you to go, Dad. Why do you have to go? Why? Why can’t it be someone else’s mom or dad? Why does it have to be you?”

Dad returned Kinzie’s embrace, gently patting her back. “There, there, punkin. It’s okay. It’s all going to be okay.”

Kinzie lifted her head and stared into Dad’s eyes. “But what if it’s not? What if you don’t come back?”

Dad took a finger and wiped the tears from Kinzie’s face. “Look. A wise man once said that the only way for evil to win, is for good people to do nothing. And unfortunately, there’s evil in the world. Lots of it. And to keep it from spreading, to keep our own country and freedoms protected, well, the good guys can’t do nothing. Understand?”

Slowly, Kinzie nodded. Dad pulled her close and she leaned her head on his shoulder. “Sweetie, America may not be perfect, but make no mistake—we’re the good guys. And when evil’s a threat, we can’t just sit back and do nothing.”

To read the entire chapter click here for Amazon's Look Inside feature. 

For other patriotic children's books, including a special book for the younger set called "Veterans: Heroes in Our Neighborhood" visit conservativechildrensbooks.com.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Chronicles of Kibblestan: Canines

Oh my, oh my.  It has been a busy fall! At long last the second book in my Kibblestan series is available in paperback. Yay!  If you have read my first book, Revolution, you will surely enjoy this second installment in the series featuring characters that are familiar and some that are new, and some canines that are ... well ... Let's just say they would definitely flunk obedience school. I have dedicated this story to the members of the United States military and their families, for I think any military family will appreciate the themes in this book. For more information or to order, click here.

E-book will follow, and my grand plan will be to get these books made into audiobooks as well, but I'm not yet sure when that will happen.

November 1st is National Novel Writing Month and I have signed up to meet the challenge of writing 50K words in one month. Considering this month also has Thanksgiving in it, it will not be easy, but my goal is to have book # 3 out at this time next year, so what better way to incentivize myself to get through this first draft but by signing up for Nanowrimo!  Other than that, life is busy but good. I tend to update my Facebook page more often than this blog, so you should follow me on Facebook if you'd like hear more from me!

Friday, September 2, 2016

And the Reviews are In!

I haven't blogged in awhile, as I have been busy doing things to prepare for the release of my second book, The Chronicles of Kibblestan: Canines. My cover artist (the extremely talented Tim Jessell) sent me the first sketches of another intriguing cover and I am beyond excited. As an author, there's something about seeing your cover for the first time that makes you realize that this writing thing is for real, and that all those words you spent a year or more painstakingly crafting to make the magic of story come to life is about to become a reality. It's pretty cool.

Another thing I've been doing is updating my website.  I've posted the reviews I've received from my trusted beta readers who are telling me what they think about Canines. I even have one young fan who is making Kibblestan trading cards. Is there ever a bigger compliment than that? :)

If you go here on my website, you'll see the preliminary jacket flap copy of Canines (that's industry-speak for the summary on the back of a book that's meant to intrigue you just enough to buy it -- a challenge for authors, as you have to find that sweet spot of giving enough information to hook the potential buyer, without giving away too much information. Not sure that I've mastered the art of jacket flap copy, but I give it my best shot).

I also, sadly, had to update my About Me page, for I suffered the loss of a beloved pet since writing my original bio, but gained two new pets that I think are adorable, despite what many people say.

But that can be the subject of another blog post.

I'll leave you with a picture of my constant companion in my office. She is the inspiration for my character Philecia's personality, and someone who insists on cuddling up with me as I type out my stories while annoying me with her incessant licking, which I believe is due to her high anxiety.

Enjoy your Labor Day!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Yes, Even a Kid Can Make a Difference

This blog post is a continuation of my first two posts entitled How a Writer's Decision to Give a Character Backstory Altered a Little Slice of WWII History. If you missed Part One of this blog post, Click Here. If you missed Part TwoClick Here.

So how does an eleven-year-old boy watching Jaws have an effect on World War II history? If you’re Hunter Scott, you decide that Quint’s story is pretty fascinating, and would make a very good History Fair Project. If you’re Hunter Scott’s dad, you tell him to go to the library to do research, as Google was not yet a verb. So Hunter searched the history books, old newspaper articles and scoured the Internet but couldn’t find much information about one of the worst disasters in U.S. Navy history, and Hunter and his dad found this kind of … strange

Hunter didn’t give up in his quest for information, though. He advertised in a local Navy newspaper that he was looking to interview survivors of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and found a survivor who lived close by. This man’s firsthand account of surviving for five days in shark-infested waters made Quint’s story sound like a casual swim. He gave Hunter a list of names of other survivors, many who were happy to connect with this eleven-year-old boy and tell their stories—stories that some had kept buried deep inside for years. Hunter recorded the tales of these heroic men, who had suffered on a level that’s hard for most of us to fathom. Their stories are grave reminders of the true horror of war, as well as inspiring testimonials of how the human spirit can triumph against unspeakable odds. And as Hunter interviewed survivor after survivor, he heard one common concern that was voiced repeatedly. These men insisted that their captain had been unfairly court-martialed. 

You see, the night of the sinking had been dark with poor visibility. Warnings of Japanese submarines in the area had not been taken seriously, so were never passed along to Captain McVay. In fact, he had been denied his request for an escort and was told he could zigzag at his discretion--indicating that the Navy did not think their route was dangerous enough to take these precautions. Zigzagging is something a captain would do in conditions of clear visibility and a high probability of enemy submarines in the area; however to Captain McVay’s knowledge, neither situation applied. However, after the tragedy the Navy decided they needed someone to blame. Instead of focusing on a series of errors that could have prevented the tragedy, the Navy court-martialed Captain McVay for hazarding his ship by not zigzagging. 

Sadly, Hunter couldn’t interview the captain to hear his defense. Captain McVay had committed suicide years after the sinking. The other survivors could defend him, though, and they wanted to clear his name. But how could they make the Navy listen? They’d been trying to for decades, without success. 

Could an eleven-year-old boy make a difference?

To make a long story short the answer is yes, he could – and he did. Hunter had put his Indianapolis History Fair Project on display in Congressman Joe Scarborough's local office. (This was in the days before Joe made a living bickering with Mika Brzezinski each morning on MSNBC). People started visiting Scarborough's office just to see the display, and eventually he offered to help Hunter and the Indianapolis survivors in their quest to clear Captain McVay’s name. Legislation that exonerated Captain McVay was drafted and introduced to Congress and eventually Hunter's and the Indianapolis survivors' persistence paid off. The legislation was passed and signed by President Bill Clinton.

I have only skimmed the surface of this story, but it really is a good one that’s an awesome reminder  of how just one person – even a kid – can make a difference in a world that I think we all can agree is getting crazier by the minute. It’s also a reminder to be thankful to our men and women who serve, past and present. As the saying goes, freedom isn’t free, and sometimes it’s easy to take their sacrifices for granted. 

For more on this story, I urge you to read Hunter’s book, Left for Dead.

It’s been years since I’ve read it, but it obviously has stuck with me.

Lastly, you might hearing a lot more about the U.S.S. Indianapolis in the coming months, as a movie is being made about it starring Nicholas Cage. However, as I researched for this blog post I came across another film that looks really interesting. Films by Serendipity has been interviewing survivors for the past ten years, allowing them to tell their stories and now made a documentary called The U.S.S. Indianapolis: The Legacy.  Very cool, if you ask me!

Friday, July 8, 2016

How a Writer's Decision to Give a Character Backstory Altered a Little Slice of WWII History: Part 2

If you missed Part One of this blog post, Click Here

So how did giving Quint backstory alter a slice of World War II history? According to an article from  Aintitcool.com, an uncredited writer working on the Jaws script decided Quint needed motivation for hating sharks so much. He came up with the premise that Quint had been a survivor of the U.S.S. Indianapolis.

But what’s that? you might say--as did Steven Spielberg. The story of the U.S.S. Indianapolis is one of tragedy, valor and incredible survival—and one of the biggest disasters in U.S. Naval history. She was a cruiser with a top secret mission—to deliver the components of the atomic bomb that would end World War II. But after she delivered her cargo to Tinian Island and made it to Guam, she was ordered to go to Leyte Gulf in the Philippines to prepare for the invasion of Japan. The captain asked for an escort but was denied, and tragically, as the Indianapolis crossed the Pacific waters, she was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine. It only took twelve minutes for the ship to sink, and those who survived the sinking were left to persevere in the water, fighting against thirst, hunger, exposure . . . and sharks. 

The true horror of the Indianapolis was that when the ship went down, no one was looking for her. Nobody missed her return. It is estimated that around 900 men survived the sinking. The men suffered at sea for not one day or two days, but for four nights and five days. By the time a passing plane found them by chance, the number of survivors had dwindled to a little over 300. 

For any shark fans out there (and I admit I love a good shark attack story, as morbid as that may be) the firsthand accounts from the survivors of the Indianapolis are both fascinating and terrifying. Men with fresh burns, covered in oil and floating with their buddies, watched the dorsal fins come and go, felt the sharks bump up against them and wondered who might be picked off next. The men huddled in groups, fending off the sharks and trying to resist the temptation to drink the salt water, which led to insanity and certain death. You read their stories and feel humbled by the tales of bravery and sacrifice, and I am incredibly grateful to these men who suffered so much as a result of defending our great country. 

Fast forward thirty years and actor Robert Shaw delivers Quint’s Indianapolis speech with perfection (redeeming himself from the previous day of shooting, where he thought he should drink to get into character and let's just say it didn’t work out so well).

Some say that this scene became Steven Spielberg’s favorite scene.

It was a powerful scene.

And it was this scene that an eleven-year-old boy watched in his living room years later, when he turned to his dad and asked, "Is that true?"

And so began a series of events that altered a slice of World War II history . . . 

Stay tuned . . .

Monday, June 27, 2016

How A Writer's Decision to Give a Character Backstory Altered a Little Slice of WWII History: Part 1

One of my all-time favorite movies is Jaws. It’s one of those movies I could watch over and over again, even though by today’s standards, old Bruce the mechanical shark is looking pretty fake. Plus, I already know what’s going to happen, so how is it I can watch it again and again?

Besides the camera angles that allow you to see what a shark might see as he’s contemplating lunch, and the crowded beach scenes filled with groovy-looking extras sporting style that would make Marcia Brady proud, Jaws is a great movie because of the authenticity of its characters.

There’s a saying in the writing world that there’s only a handful of plots in existence, (probably less if you’re watching Lifetime Television J), so when you write a story you’ve got to put your own twist on a common plot to make it unique. A way to do this is through characters--rich characters, memorable characters, characters that people can identify with.

But how does a writer develop authentic characters? One key ingredient to authentic characters is to know their backstory. Even if it never makes it into the final book (or script) a writer should at least have an idea of the previous events in a character’s life that have made them who they are. Why do they act the way they do? What are their motivations?

An uncredited writer of the movie Jaws decided that the character Quint, the salty shark hunter, needed a backstory. He needed to find some motivation for why Quint had such animosity for sharks. What no one realized at the time, is that this writer’s idea would set forth a series of events several years later that would impact a little slice of World War II history.

Stay tuned …

Friday, May 20, 2016

Join Me for a Fun Day at the Sachse Author Con!

Tomorrow should be a fun day. I'm going to the 2nd Annual Author Con at the Sachse Public Library. If anyone is in the DFW area and is looking for something to do, you should stop by! Plenty of local authors ready to sign their books in all different genres. This will be my first event of this kind for me to attend by myself. I went to Hobby Lobby and bought some patriotic-themed items to decorate my table with, including a little mouse wearing an Uncle Sam hat in honor of what seems to be one of the most beloved characters in my book - Matilda. Here is a link for more information: http://www.cityofsachse.com/index.aspx?nid=484 I hope to see you there! :)
Here is a list of authors that are going to be there. I hope you can come on out!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Music to an Author's Ears

I've been a little busy lately. Learning the whole author gig, while fun, can be a bit overwhelming. For awhile, I was doing really well. I had my nose to the grindstone every day, revising the last five chapters of my upcoming book, The Chronicles of Kibblestan: Canines. I attended my first book festival, and I attended my second school visit. Things were chugging along . . .

Until . . .

(insert dramatic music)

I decided to do my own taxes.

Couldn't be too hard, could it? Doesn't Turbo Tax walk you through all the questions? Well, yes. But as a new author with a new publishing company, there was definitely a learning curve to navigate.

And that took time. Away from writing, away from blogging, away from social media.

Now that the taxes are filed, I can get back to the business of writing, and what better motivation than to share with you a message I received from a friend . . . A message that is music to any author's ears.

My friend bought one of my books a little while ago to give to her friend's eleven-year-old daughter. I received a message the other day that said:

"Just wanted to let you know that I was finally able to give my little friend Danielle your book on Thursday evening. (I know that took a while) And the reviews are in....she is enthralled! Her mom told me she isn't usually a reader but cannot put the book down. She is really excited to know there will be more to come. Congratulations!!!!

Music to an author's ears? That's an understatement!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Our Politicians are Only Human - Here's Proof

We’re not electing a god, but sometimes it’s easy to act like we are. Especially in the year of a presidential election. Who can forget the infamous Howard Dean scream or the Rick Perry “oops?” Now it’s Marco Rubio who repeated himself one too many times in a debate and people are speculating whether his campaign is doomed.

I think that in all the hoopla (and yes, I’m the first to admit that sometimes blunders are entertaining), we need to remind ourselves that all these people we see trying to earn our vote are just that – people. They have their strengths, they have their weaknesses and we can’t expect them to be perfect 24/7.

I try to keep this blog from a mom’s perspective, and leave nuggets on here that can serve as conversation starters with your kids. My book, The Chronicles of Kibblestan: Revolution mentions three things the citizens of a country must do to remain free. One is to value freedom. Teach your kids that if you value freedom, you’re going to take your job as voter seriously, and educate yourself on who you’re voting for. What are their beliefs? What’s their background? What’s their vision for this country and do they have the skills to make that vision become a reality?

And remind them that the politicians are only human. They make mistakes. They can get corrupted by power.  They cannot solve all your problems – that comes from you.

Here are some great examples of other ways that politicians are only human:

 Politicians sleep,

They eat pancakes,

They even throw up on Japanese Prime Ministers (I couldn't find a video of that, but you get my point).

So go ahead and give our candidates a break. And enjoy the rest of this election season.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Why Tomorrow's a BIG DAY

Today has been a long day. Tonight I'm feeling like this. Tomorrow . . . the pressure is on. I will be conducting my first school visit to talk to the kids about being an author, and I am PSYCHED! Still, it's a little nerve-wracking. I've never done this before, and I've got to keep it interesting.

I've put together a Power Point that includes Katniss, a dachshund and a crocodile about to bite off a guy's head.

I will share how a bout with the stomach flu can influence your writing.

And I will reveal the two words that are needed for any story to exist . . . and warn the students of an  enemy to these words that could have kept one of the most famous fictional characters in recent history from ever existing.

Wish me luck! :)

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

My First Author Interview - Woo-hoo!

I just saw my first on-line author interview. Pretty cool, even though it's not for winning any awards or solving any world problems. I recently joined the Writers' League of Texas and they give an opportunity for new members to be interviewed so I obliged.