Still in Maine.
Still reading and writing.
A few years ago I entered one of my manuscripts in the annual Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award – ABNA for short.
I figured that it would be a good way to get a reality check. Even brutal, the competition would position my work in comparison to other manuscripts.
Initially I had written the story for middle graders, but ABNA doesn’t have a children’s fiction category.
No problem, I thought, I will boost my characters’ age to fit the YA fiction category.
I didn’t win the jackpot but made it far enough through the competition to receive valuable feedback from the team of reviewers.
Not surprisingly the recurrent negative comment was related to the age of my characters.
Never, ever, think that writing fifteen instead of twelve will instantly morph your pre teens into teens.
They say to never take it personally but everything is personal, isn’t it?
So when I read this: “I wish you well and hope to complete this by buying this novel one day,” I thought that: One day I should give this story another chance.
Don’t turn a completed manuscript into an eternal Sleeping Beauty.
Over the last year, among other projects, I revised and edited this manuscript. For various reasons, I also changed the title and the name of my female protagonist (Sylvie instead of Françoise).
Today, I’m happy to give you a snippet of Chronicles From Château Moines, my novel for middle graders.
When the mother of twelve-year-old Scott dies, his father gets the crazy idea to move his family from California to Normandy. Now Scott must come to terms with his mother’s recent death while adjusting to life in France. He has no clue that his arrival is also a challenge to the locals, particularly to Sylvie. She doesn’t like this boy who turns her life upside down and threatens peace at school and through small town Château Moines.
Yet Scott’s intriguing and cute, and when the two of them share their love for music they slowly become friends. Their paths ultimately merge when Sylvie’s sister Elle momentarily disappears at the peace walk that Sylvie and Scott organize to protest the Vietnam War.
Set in 1970 and told from the perspectives of Scott and Sylvie, Chronicles From Château Moines is a middle-grade story about loss and friendship, about music and peace, and also about parents’ secrets.
I don’t want to brag, but in case you decide to read my book or suggest it to a child when it’s out, here are some additional comments I received from ABNA Reviewers:
“I really enjoyed the relationships between Scott and his sister and Françoise and her sister. Most siblings don’t seem to have much of a role in books so I was glad to see some nice close families here.
I was also anticipating what was to come with Scott and Françoise or Scott and Annie.”
“I really enjoyed what I read. I couldn’t wait to see what relationships were going to transpire. There were some really nice family relationships here as well. I would really enjoy reading the rest of this book. It seemed very well written.”
“This entry has some lovely prose that divides into two languages. I found this entertaining as I was learning French slowly while enjoying a tale.
I believed the relationship between siblings as well the parental/child connection rang true. It seems the loss of a parent is germane to children’s writing; I am sure it sets the emotional tone for the story.
Good sentence structure. Dialogue was flowing, not stilted.
The plot is charming and piques interest. I’d like to see what happens with both families.”
“This is a gentle story of culture shock, coming to terms with loss, and feeling the outcast. Françoise feels it as acutely as Scott though she has lived in France all her life. There are many forms of alienation in a teenager’s life and that is studied here.
Warm story, worth reading.”
Words of encouragement, like the gentle nudge of a friend on a steep hiking trail, go a long way. Thanks to the reviewer who wrote that he hoped to buy my book one day, I was able to give my story a second chance.
The copy-editor I hired provided much more than line editing. Isabel Stein was my partner for my first novel Trapped in Paris. She has worked for many years with renowned publishers; she knows what she’s doing.
Writers who share their publishing adventure through their successes and challenges, and share their referrals are generous. Katie Cross not only published the excellent Miss Mabel’s School For Girls, the first book in the Network Series, she also created a special tab on her blog, just in case people like me searched for editors, copy editors, book designers, cover book designers, etc. Thanks to Katie, I selected Jennifer to design the book cover of Chronicles From Château Moines. I cannot wait to see what she comes up with!
Anyone who believes in your writing deserves special recognition.
My husband was at the front line and backstage for Trapped in Paris. He did it again for my new book. It’s great that he favors technology to fiction writing. We don’t fight about who is more creative or less technical. I owe my husband countless hours of work and a few occasional funny French bad words that I had forgotten. Formatting a manuscript for a printed version and an e-version can be a real pain. I want to add that Chronicles From Château Moines and Trapped in Paris are printed by Createspace but not designed by the company. The choice of font and paper as well as the interior design are solely my husband’s work. I am really happy to share the life of a French man turned into an American entrepreneur. A keeper, I’m telling you.
Of course, you are also crucial to my writing journey. When you read one of my posts, either in French or in English (some brave ones do both!), when you like one of my posts, when you comment on one of my posts, you push me to write yet another post and moreover to improve my writing skills.
Thank you for being part of my journey.
I will share more of my book as the launching date approaches, so stayed tuned and bear with me.
Meanwhile, here is the song that plays when Scott and Sylvie dance together for the first time.