The Shelly Seashore

September 4, 2017

The Shelly Seashore

In Sisters at the Seashore, the Funny Sisters, Tina, Becky, Kim, Ellen, and Jill visit the seashore with Mom and Daddy.

Like the Funny Sisters’ home, this seashore is actually a real place!

As a family, we end up meeting our family at this specific beach because it’s closer to most of them.  It isn’t the girls’ favorite beach because of the tiny broken shells that replace sand as the shoreline.  They have a special nickname for it: “the shelly beach.”

Whenever we go there, these shells get everywhere!  They get stuck in between toes, in bathing suits, and I think they even use the salt as a glue to attach themselves to human bodies.  Oh, there’s a beautiful stretch of pretty white sand up to the waterline, but past that are tiny shell fragments that carpet the beach even out into the water.  One must carefully step so as not to cut the bottom of one’s feet.  The good news is that, just like a carpet, the shell blanket is not very deep.  Usually, someone has already shuffled their feet through the shells like a bulldozer to make a thin shell-free sandy path into the water.  We look diligently for these tiny safe-foot-paths.  If we can’t spy one, we make one.

The water here is slightly greenish and usually clear enough to see various sea life in the shallows.  Often as the tide changes the younger girls will dig for various mollusks and crabs.  These tiny creatures are usually less than a quarter of an inch in length!

Once, though, we saw a giant conch!

Rebeccah loves to collect very small complete shells; these you have to uncover in the sand as the water grounds them to fragments quickly.

This is the beach that the Funny Sisters visit.  We have many fun cousin-time days here!  Because of the unique properties that make this one of my favorite beaches to play at, North Vilano Beach at the walkover has become “the beach” for the Five Alive series!

Thanks for reading!

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~Nancy Tart

Lost in Translation: Awesome

August 30, 2017

Lost in Translation: Awesome

One of my favorite words is “awesome.”  This is because the prefix of this word “awe” first meant “terror.”  The root word in its original form has one meaning – “pain” (Greek achos) which translated into “terror, dread” (old English ege, eige, aege) When this translated into the Middle English spelling, “awe,” it still meant “terror, dread.”

Around the 1600s, “awe” began to mean “reverence” as well.

So during the majority of Elizabethan Literature, the word “awesome” meant “inspiring terror, dread, or reverence.”

In the turn of the 1900s, the additional definition of “amazement” was added to the root word “awe” thus creating a secondary definition for “awesome” that meant “inspiring amazement.”

Today, we generally think of the secondary modern definition, “excellent, exciting, remarkable,” when we hear “awesome.”

Our primary dictionary definition says “a feeling of reverence, admiration, etc., produced by that which is grand, sublime, or the like.” This is the most popular written meaning today, but as with many other words, the spoken secondary meaning is overtaking the written primary.

Most modern dictionaries list a “dated” or “archaic” secondary definition for “Awesome” that reads “causing awe or terror, inspiring wonder.” Some list an “obsolete” definition as “the power to inspire fear.”

When you read “the river is awesome” and the writing dates before 1900, it would have meant “the river is terrible, inspiring fear, demanding respect.”  This gives more weight than our current modern-definition thought of “the river, amazing.”

This word morphed from “pain, dread” (as in, “I’m scared to death of this power!”) to “excitement, amazement” (as in, “that is so beautiful, wonderful!”); “awe” has lost its dread.  The undercurrent of danger and respect has been washed out.

Just a little bit about our dynamic language of English.

Thanks for reading!

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~Nancy Tart

Meet Chloe

August 29, 2017

Meet Chloe

Sometimes when authors create a character, the character is based on a mash-up of features and attributes they admire in many people or desire in themselves.  Chloe in Web of Deception is such a character.

Chloe has beautiful dark skin with dark hair sensibly braided and clothes she’s managed to make out of skins.  Her leather clothes are because she denies using the linen tunics common to the slaves in the household where she’s been captive for many years.  Chloe is determined (some say stubborn).  Keeping her traditional dress reminds her that she will not remain a captive.  She keeps memories of her homeland even though she was very young when she was captured.  Chloe is bold but quiet.  She is calculating and analytical.  She prides herself on not being emotional; her captive life has taught her emotions are only a weapon others can use against her.

Chloe’s deer-like appearance hails from her birth land.  She blends into the forests and jungles like a ghost.  Her boldness and shrewd logic are qualities I wanted in myself.  Her passionate fire and unstoppable determination were qualities I observed in my sisters.  Her bane is a streak of passion that can ice to frigid darkness – this is the evil twist of her positive qualities.

Creating Chloe was a challenge and manipulating her character believably was complicated.  This is what makes her character fit perfectly into the dynamic of Web of Deception’s storyline.

Chloe has lived waiting for a specific person to enter her village.  She has one close friend, Vi’liam, a military trainee with no family, who listens to her and sees her as a little sister to be protected.

She feels the presence of this person when a captive is taken by the military commander and she determines to release and follow him.  This captive is Jordan.

Be sure to check out the rest of Chloe’s story in Web of Deception on the nook!

Thanks for reading!

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~Nancy Tart

Slices of Stories

August 16, 2017

Slices of Stories

Have you ever wondered about the stories of people you barely touch?  I do. Each time I see a person or group of people my brain asks that question and sometimes I theorize about the answer.

A biker in full regalia changing a tire on the sidewalk, a child standing in a full school bus with both arms protruding from the open window, a pair of women talking with their hands in the car next to you at the traffic light, a tall, thin girl crossing a 6 lane roadway with a drink in her hand; what are their stories?

These were all people I passed just on a twelve-minute ride this morning.  All bits of five full vibrant life stories and I eavesdropped on a few seconds of each.

Consider now: I’m at a park bench.  It’s early morning, school busses transporting children are still flying by the three roads that surround the park.  A mother and her toddler enter the park, they are the only ones besides me.  He laughs and runs free.  Mother checks out the surroundings from behind dark sunglasses – the same thing I do when I enter new surroundings.  Mother pushes him on the toddler swing as he smiles and points out squirrels and birds in the overhanging trees.

My mind asks me; what is their story?  I can describe them in detail.  I observe tiny things like how many keys dangle from her keyclip over her back right pocket, he is wearing the easy-slip-on canvas shoes I love (even in navy blue, my favorite color), her blonde hair is darkening at the base (maybe she dyed it blonde about six months ago or it’s summer-kissed) and twisted up in a becoming bun atop her head (It could be called a “messy bun” but it looks good on her), he has a cowlick (maybe he took a nap in the carseat).

It sounds weird, doesn’t it?  This is the overworking mind of a writer.  I only glanced at them twice, once when they entered and once when he squealed at a bird or squirrel, yet I imagine an entire storyline connected to them just from those glances.  Odd.  I’m probably wrong on all counts.  My mind has been doing this as far back as I can remember.  I see people and write sketches about them.  Many of these character sketches based on a 2-second glance have become bit parts in various stories.  I trained myself not to believe my assumptions and imaginative storylines about the people I meet. (That doesn’t mean my brain doesn’t still analyze and make storylines!) I allow people to fill in their own story as I get to know them.  I had to teach myself not to judge others by what my perceptions of them are.  As I learned more about people, took more psychology classes, watched lives unfold, and lived my own life, my assumptions came truer to reality; but I still don’t judge others by them.

It does help me get inspiration for story characters, though.  So, that’s just a glimpse into the mind of a writer.

I wonder what goes through the minds of the mother and toddler as they catch a glimpse of this woman sitting cross-legged on a huge picnic table by herself with keys, business cards, a banana peel, and a phone lying in front of her and tapping away like a diesel locomotive on a not-so-silent laptop keyboard.  What do they perceive of their observation of a slice of my life’s story?

Thanks for reading!

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~Nancy Tart

 

My Illustrators

August 3, 2017

My Illustrators

I love to write.  When it comes to drawing, I’m not an artist.  So when I’m ready to finish a story, I enlist the aid of my team of illustrators.

The latest releases, “The Mystery of the Strange Chip” and “A Clue in the Barn” were illustrated by a team.  Christina Tart sketched the design and Kimberly Tart used her new favorite medium, pastels, to color it in.  They turned to a computer editing software package to add text for the design.  The results are the new covers for what they call “old” stories.  (Old, well, they were written when I was dating and just after I was married – so they are older than the illustrators!)

It’s interesting for me to see what my illustrators come up with when they draw.  Sometimes what they see is not what I would have seen, but it’s usually much better!  When Ann Pearson (one of my little sisters) illustrated for “Long Tail” her images of Long Tail and Red Hawk looked different than what I pictured, but they were so perfect for the series!  Those images were colored by Christina and Rebeccah.  Crayon drawings gave the perfect texture to the childish, fun, read-along Long Tail stories.  (Ann’s running farmer was just perfect – you can see him in the DVD book and handmade book versions.)

Another new release is “Sisters at the Seashore” one of the Five Alive: Stories of the Funny Sisters.  Jaquline did her first illustration job on that!  She’s excited because “now I’m published too!”  Christina thinks it’s neat that their names show up on the ebook websites as illustrators or colorists (depending on their role).  Rebeccah loves getting commission on her work!  (I pay my illustrators 10 to 50 percent commission depending on the number of illustrations in the work.  The “Jilly and Luke’s Block Adventures” are 50 percent commission works because they are picture books – an illustration almost every page!)

At one bookshow I did, a fellow author expressed interest in my illustrations.  Her favorite was “The Living God” because she claimed the “abstract art is amazing” and she commented that it looked like the open jaws of a lion.  I’d honestly never seen it that way, but now, I can’t not see the open lion jaws when I see the book cover!  I previously just saw it as colorful geometric shapes.  (Christina’s favorite book cover illustrations appear to be random flowers, geometric designs, and scrollwork.)

As of the latest release, I now have five illustrators on my team: Ann Pearson, Christina Tart, Rebeccah Tart, Kimberly Tart, and Jaquline Tart.

Oh, and Jaquline’s second book cover illustration will be published shortly too – she redid the cover for “Birthday Present!”

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

Meet Jordan Binak

August 2, 2017

Meet Jordan Binak

We’re going to meet another fictional character today.  This one was created over 20 years ago!  Often when authors create fictional characters, they pull from themselves and add strengths they want.  If you study Charles Dickens, you learn that the character of David Copperfield has many traits and experiences that Dickens actually had.  Of course, the story is fiction, but the lead character is very close to Dickens.  I think of this as a “masked cameo” – like when a movie director has a cameo appearance in a film he directs.  Only in a book, since the readers may not know the author personally, the author can give his “masked cameo” a larger role.

When writing “Web of Deception,” I used many friends and family from real life and masked them or blended them together to make my characters.  (Don’t tell anyone!  And, no, I’m not saying who is who!)  Jordan was how I envisioned my character with his backstory.  Strong, bold, self-sacrificing for others, humble, frustrated, confused, content, fearless.  (Actually, he sounds like any teenager!)  I would work out the story in my backyard, acting out each part until I was satisfied with the way each sub-story played out and how the characters acted.  (Quite a lot of it was chopped later, or rearranged, just like a movie!  And my dog, Lady, was my first-ever audience.)

Jordan gets most of his character from his birth family.  This foundation is built upon by the family who takes him in.  He credits most of his character to his sister, who he looked up to and was always trying to be like.  He doesn’t realize it (most young people don’t until later when they choose to analyze themselves), but even his perception of others is influenced by his childhood village.  As a youngster he enters a military training school.  This is common in the World of Kings’ province of Swavaria.  Their Warrior-Spirits begin training between three and five.  Jordan enters “late” at seven and a half.

When he’s graduated from this school, he finds himself thrust into a twisted quest he knows nothing of.  This quest will answer more questions and touch more memories than Jordan knew he had.  “Web of Deception” was written using my “step in their shoes and walk around” model that I use for most characters.  Being that Jordan was my first protagonist (lead character), I discovered that when I was frustrated, it was easy to write confrontation and fight scenes. When I was calm, it was easier to drift to other characters and develop them.  This made for a great release of frustration!  I’d just turn whatever was bothering me into the creature Jordan happened to be fighting!  (This was a major stress-reliever!  When I created Kvortee, I was envisioning a bully we’d just dealt with.)

I completed the first draft of “Web of Deception” when I was fourteen.  When the first edition was published, the ending was cut, so this second edition contains the full ending!  Enjoy!

Thanks for reading!

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~Nancy Tart

DVD Books

July 23, 2017

DVD Books

I’m one of these people who loves real books.  The smell, the weight, the way my finger anxiously waits behind one edge of a page while my eyes finish it quickly – I’m immersed in the writer’s world and feel like the book surrounds me.  To me, nothing will ever replace the printed book.

I’m also a computer programmer; I understand that as the paradigm shifts with new technology some things go extinct.  We shifted from room computer brains to a tiny chip stuck in a device that fits in our palm – and this tiny smart phone is smarter than the room-sized computers!

Thus, I am a paradox.  I collect and buy print books but publish ebooks.  I love writing using colored pens in notebooks but I can format .docs and .pdfs for ebook and print submissions (everything is submitted electronically now).  Remember typewriters?  I skipped those completely.  So I’ll explore any method of presenting my books to my audience.

I have audio-books (The Home Edge Readers) as the short lecture format was easy to read.  The purpose of this custom series is to teach students new terms – so audio was a good idea as they can hear the terms pronounced.  My father is a wizard of production; he produced these.

He had another wizard idea and asked for all my rough pictures and illustrations for Long Tail.  I emailed them to him and he produced a DVD Book.  Basically, this is a DVD (plays in any normal DVD player) with the story coming up as one page on a screen with illustrations, printed words, background sounds, and audio text.  (“Grandma Pearson” reads the story as the words are on the screen.)  My girls loved this!  (It is now what Lucas calls “grandma chicken movie.”)

Vivid colors grab the audience’s attention.  There are rooster crows, farm sounds, running feet, and other background noises as the narrator reads the text that is printed on-screen.  Older children read along (like a sing-along-song video) while the activities and changing screen images keep the younger ones’ attention.

Further projects are on the way, but for now “Long Tail and Red Hawk” is our pilot DVD Book.

It’s another way to read a children’s book.  I like to compare it to a graphic novel with narration.

It’s entertaining, short, and fun.  I even catch my teenager sitting on the edge of the couch or leaning behind it, pretending she wasn’t watching the “kiddie movie” when she sees us notice her.  For about fifteen minutes, they enter Long Tail’s chicken world and they are hooked!

Learn more about it (and try it!) here: https://www.etsy.com/listing/187678255/

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

Squirrel Book!

July 17, 2017

Furry Squirrels Lighting the Way

One day we were driving home and a squirrel jumped out in front of the van.  Amid squeals and screams from “Don’t hit it!” and “Mommy! A squirrel!” to “Yummy! Squirrel stew!” I managed to avoid it.

We were on our way to church.  Our church family calls themselves the squirrels.  Instantly, the girls were coming up with nutty squirrel names and reasons for why this “teenage boy squirrel” was out in the road. (I have no idea how it became a teenage boy squirrel, we certainly didn’t catch it and examine it!)

They suggested I write a bunch of stories with these cute little squirrels.  We jotted down names, ages, and built squirrel families in the “Landmark Tribe” in the “wooded lands.”  This was complete with the Beaver Clan and the masked robber family (raccoons).  Several of our chicken names were drafted for Landmark Tribe’s squirrels.  They even sketched out character traits!  Granny Pecan was the first character made.  Her heavenly hazelnut pie was perfected.  They drew pictures and giggled about the squirrels’ stories.

The first story to be published is just out!  Busting Berry Bath is a humorous tale told by Chip, one of the Crunchies of the Landmark Tribe.  (Adults are “elders,” babies are “squawlers,” and teenagers are “crunchies.”)  Each story is a squirrel-style fable; special messages of good character are hidden within. (Can you find the message?)  In their own quirky, squirrely way, these squirrels are lighting the way for all good creatures.

We hope you enjoy this story and the many more to follow!

Thanks for reading!

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~Nancy Tart

Meet Joseph

July 13, 2017

Meet Joseph

Jaquline’s favorite series of stories right now is The Devonians.  She loves the short, easy to read, stories with “bright colors” (Christina illustrates the covers in bold crayon) and “big words” (the lettering is large print).

Each of the Devonians stories follows a different child within the village colony of Covenant.

Daydreamer follows Joseph Taylor.

Joseph is a colonist on a planet called Devonia.

This planet has a much longer year than Earth does, so when Joseph says “6 years old” he’s really the same age as someone over 8 years old on Earth!  Joseph’s year is equal to about one year, four months, and two weeks of Earth time.

Joseph’s family lives on a farm – like everyone on Devonia.  They have running water because they pipe water using a waterwheel from the Crystal River to their farms using bamboo pipe!  They also collect rainwater from their rooftops!

Joseph likes to daydream.  He sometimes lets his daydreaming get in the way of his chores!  This is what happens in Daydreamer.  Joseph has a best friend who lives on the next farm.  Her name is Alena.  Joseph has four brothers and one new baby sister named Rose.  Two of his brothers are twins.

Jaquline says she likes Joseph because he’s a lot like her.  He tries to do big kid stuff, but sometimes his wandering thoughts get in the way.

Jaquline says, “Maybe, children on Devonia are the same as children everywhere!”

*Of course, Devonia is fiction.  It’s a world I made up and all the characters are also fiction!*

Thanks for reading!

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~Nancy Tart

Mythical Horses

June 27, 2017

Mythical Horses

They say that in fiction, we don’t really create anything new, we draw on our memory of things we have seen to create something new: Like the Sevokloi in Web of Deception – they are like squids with reptile bodies (leather) adapted for a desert terrain and having two steadying legs like an overgrown insect.  I love creating creatures that don’t really exist.  I also like to pretend (in my stories) that other mythical creatures are real: like unicorns and pegasi. (The people of my world call them “skyhorses”.)

In our house, each of us have different theories on how the stories of mythical creatures like flying horses (pegasi) and horned horses (unicorns) came about.

My personal theory is that someone in ancient times came across a skeleton of a horse with a bone spear stuck through its skull.  Since it was bone, they thought it was part of the skeleton (maybe they’d never seen a horse!) and voila, stories spread of a horned horse!

For pegasi, maybe there were some pre-Ionian shepherds out when Elijah rose up to heaven (it says “there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire… and Elijah went up by whirlwind to heaven”) and those shepherds said “Look Joe!  Flying horses of fire driving a chariot of fire!”  (tada, pegasi!) Then Joe says “maybe that’s how the sun goes across the sky.”  Boom!  Now there’s the Greek story of Helios driving flying horses in his flaming chariot.

Rebeccah thinks that flying horses and horned horses were mutants of the horse kind.  An isolated, now extinct, species of horse in ancient times used an overgrown tooth to dig the ground like cracker cows and wild hogs looking for food.  These were unicorns.  A few, eohippus sized members of the horse kind, flew-hopped about like archaeopteryx with tiny wings.  These ended up being called pegasi!

However you explain the origin of mythical creatures in fantasy stories, they do make the stories far more interesting.  (They also let us know that the story world we are entering is not real – so we can expect many strange things.)

I love mythical creatures.  I like pretending to create something new.  And it’s fun to theorize about how people created them.

Thanks for reading!

Type at you later…

~Nancy Tart