The Silver Compass Adventures: An Introduction, Part Two

My work on the Silver Compass Adventures continues. The boys are in the middle of a wild ride across the Atlantic in the Curse of the Anne Venture. A couple of weeks ago, I introduced you to Mike Triplett. Today, I’d like you to meet Thomas “Tommy” Cooper.

Tommy is eleven years old. He’s lived with his grandparents since he was two. His mom is currently back in a drug treatment program and he doesn’t really know his dad (though, that may be about to change). Aside from being old, his grandparents are sort of cool. Sometimes. Grandpa Cooper has been teaching Tommy to find his way around a mechanic’s shop. He works hard, and expects Tommy to do the same. Money might be tight around the Cooper home, but with a steady paper route and a handful of regular lawn mowing jobs, Tommy can usually do most of the things he likes to do.

Life in a small community is sometimes dull for Tommy, considered a troublemaker by some folks. But mostly, he’s a good kid. He’s not afraid to speak his mind, even if it gets him in trouble. He treats authority figures with respect as long as he believes they deserve it. Which is why he has a really hard time with his mom.

Tommy has a soft spot for animals. He’s not allowed to have a pet at home, his grandpa is allergic and they just cost too much. Still, this hasn’t kept Tommy from trying to bring home the occasional stray.

Mike Triplett has been Tommy’s best friend for as long as he can remember. They learned how to walk together, started school together. They ride bikes and skateboards together. Then, when they were in the second grade, Elijah moved to town, and Mike and Elijah hit it off real fast. Afraid he was losing his best friend, Tommy couldn’t bring himself to like Elijah much. Until Tommy found out Elijah has an older brother in the Marines, and he has an awesome video game collection! Tommy decided the kid was okay after all.

Tommy played Little League with Mike for a year, but doesn’t love the game like his friend. He’s played football, soccer, basketball. He started to learn the guitar. Tommy hasn’t quite figured out yet what his passion is.

One thing is for certain, Tommy does love to have fun. He’s a bit of a thrill seeker, an adventurer. And just when it’s shaping up to be a rather boring summer, Mike is given a special compass that once belonged to his granddad, a really old compass. And it turns out, the compass can transport them through time.

Just imagine the possibilities of the Silver Compass Adventures!

Photo credit: Katie Aguilera

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3 Reasons Why I Do My Research in the Children’s Library

As a writer of fiction, I find myself facing lots of questions as I begin a new project. No matter what I’m looking for, my first stop has become the children’s section at my local library. Whether it is the ankylosaurus, Annie Oakley or, more recently, 16th-18th century sailing ships, the information in the children’s library is the same as it would be anywhere else. Here are my reasons to start at the children’s section.

1. Discover the World as a Child Would

The children’s section of the library is filled of course, with shelves full of books, and organized like any other part of the library. The fiction sections are laid out just like the adult shelves, in order by author’s name, but rather than being sorted by genre, they are sorted by age group and reading level. The non-fiction section is exactly like the adult library, sorted and shelved according to the Dewey Decimal System.

However, there are some major differences between the adult section and the children’s section. First, and most obvious, the shelves are shorter. So I may have to sit on the floor to peruse the books in my subject of interest, but I won’t have to find someone to help me reach a book on the top shelf. Also, the children’s section of the library is noisier. There is a play room where kids can go and discover fun things about our world (currently, it’s set up like a grocery store!). The librarians aren’t stern-faced cliches glaring over the rims of their glasses to shush anyone. And there are wonderful displays such as a fully outfitted doll house and a beautiful fish tank.

I love the creativity of the children’s library. Also, since I write for children, it makes sense to me to read about the things I intend to write about as a child would. I can always do more digging on a subject if I find it necessary. A book written for children focuses more on the interesting details rather than the technical aspects of a subject. They are usually beautifully illustrated which lends even more to the imagination and creativity. In reading them, I can find myself fascinated by the subject like a child would be, curious and full of wonder.

2. Don’t Get Caught up in the Details

I don’t know about you, but for me, research can become very distracting. I will uncover ten new questions for every one I find an answer for. Or I can be drawn off subject by a fascinating side note. Internet research makes this sort of thing even harder to avoid. I get fascinated by the numerous tiny details of a subject and find myself moving away from the matter at hand – the story.

With children’s books, I can get a broad overview of my subject without getting so caught up in the details. I get distracted easily, so the broad brush strokes offered by a children’s book can actually help me narrow my focus to learn just what I need for the story I’m working on.

3. It’s Not All About Me

Finally, the best part of doing my research from the children’s library? I get to spend time with my sons reading and talking about sailing ships or dinosaurs or spider, if they insist. And they get to be part of my work. So yes, I do my research in the children’s library. I get to take my kids to the library, spend time with them and learn new things with them, find out what interests them.

My boys will not be small forever, and reading with them, sharing my love of words with them, is priceless. They are the reason I keep writing in the first place. We may as well enjoy the ride together.

Research is an integral part of writing. As long as there is something to write, there will be research needing to be done. Currently, I’m learning about sailing ships from the 18th century. Next up, I want to learn more about space travel. Maybe after that it will be the geography of Japan, or the traditions of Santeria. I may not be able to learn everything in the children’s library, but it’s an excellent place to start.

How do you go about your research? I’d love to hear about your methods.

The Silver Compass Adventures: An Introduction

I started this blog as an opportunity to do more of what I love: write. More importantly, to share my love of words with others. In keeping with that, I’ve decided it’s time to share a bit more about my current work in progress. Some of you may know, April is the first session of Camp NaNoWriMo. If you’re not familiar with that, here’s their website. I am participating in this writing challenge with a word goal of 30,000. More importantly, my goal is to finish the books I’m currently writing.

Currently, I’m working on a middle grade adventure novel that I hope to build into a series. It centers around three eleven year old boys who find they have a device that can transport them through time and space. It is a compass, given to one of the boys by his granddad, a family heirloom. In their first adventure together with the compass, they are transported back to the early 18th century and find themselves in the middle of the Atlantic on a ship bound for the American colonies where they find themselves confronted by the Curse of the Anne Venture.

While I don’t want to give away any spoilers for the story, I would like to introduce you to my three intrepid adventurers. First up, I give you Michael Triplett, the owner of the compass.

Michael Triplett lives in a small town just outside the state capitol. His mom and dad divorced a few years ago, and his mom is remarried. Michael, or Mike as he prefers now, lives with his mom, stepdad, and sisters A.J. and Gabriella.

Mike plays short stop on his local Little League team. He’s been playing baseball since he was big enough to hold a bat. He started playing short stop two years ago, when he was nine, deciding it was his favorite position because of his favorite player, Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees. Baseball is his favorite thing ever, and there’s nothing worse than a rained out game.

Except maybe sisters. A.J., or Amanda Jean, is Mike’s twin sister. Mike and A.J. get along okay most of the time. Especially when they need to defend each other against their two year sister, Gabby.

Mike goes to school with this two best friends, Tommy Cooper and Elijah Capelli. The three boys are virtually inseparable, hanging out at the ball field, the skate part or the arcade, they’re sure to be found there together.

Mike’s favorite person in the whole world was his Granddad Triplett. During the time leading up to and just after his parents’ divorce, Mike and A.J. spent quite a bit of time with their granddad. He was the one who taught Mike how to ride a bike, catch a fly ball and bait a hook. For as long as Mike can remember, there was an annual fishing trip with Granddad, dad, Mike and A.J. Until last year. Last year, just before summer, Granddad passed away.

Mike misses his granddad tremendously, especially as his eleventh birthday approaches. Life has become unbearably complicated now with another new baby on the way, and dad too busy trying to keep his business running.

Then, on his eleventh birthday, Mike is given a silver compass, a family heirloom that belonged to his granddad. It turns out, this compass has some rather interesting properties, and when he gets together with his two best friends, the compass transports them to another time and place.

And so begin the Silver Compass Adventures.

Photo credit: Katie Aguilera