Researching Historical Characters: They Tell You Who They Are: by Dianne K Salerni

Today it is my pleasure to bring readers another installment in my posts on historical research. In this 6th article, YA and MG novelist and fellow Kid Lit Author’s Club member, Dianne K Salerni, will talk about researching historical characters. Here’s Dianne:

The very best thing about writing a book with real, historical characters is that you get to skip the process of building their personality from scratch: their strengths and weaknesses and emotional wounds. Historical characters tell you who they are through their letters and other writings. When I wrote about the romance of spirit medium Maggie Fox and Arctic explorer Elisha Kent Kane in We Hear the Dead, I had years of their love letters to draw upon.

Researching my upcoming novel, The Roosevelt Ghosts, I had not only letters to guide me, but also the autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt (who was born a Roosevelt long before she married her fifth cousin, Franklin). Eleanor’s first cousin Alice, daughter of Theodore Roosevelt, was so much a fixture of Washington D.C. for her 96 years that she was known as “the other Washington Monument” and left untold writings and interviews behind.

Eleanor’s primary emotional wound isn’t hard to identify. She spells it out pretty plainly in her autobiography: My mother was always a little troubled about my lack of beauty, and I knew it, as a child senses those things. I can remember standing in the door, often with a finger in my mouth, and I can see the look in her eyes and hear the tone of her voice as she said, “Come in, Granny.” If a visitor was there, she might turn and say, “She is such a funny child, so old-fashioned that we always call her Granny.” I wanted to sink through the floor in shame.

It is reported in multiple sources that Eleanor’s mother, Anna Hall Roosevelt, spoke quite harshly to her young daughter. You have no looks, so see to it that you have manners.

Eleanor

Eleanor was orphaned at the age of eight, losing her mother and one of her brothers to diphtheria and her father to the effects of alcoholism. Thereafter, she lived with her oppressive maternal grandmother, who ran an austere household and dressed Eleanor in made-over garments that left her sadly out of place among her peers. Her cousin, Corinne Robinson, commented (in regards to a dance when they were both young teens): No one, young or old, wore very short skirts in those days, even for sports, but her grandmother bought her a dress that could have been for a five-year-old. A friend of Corinne’s remarked, more bluntly, that Eleanor was a living freak.

Teens are cruel, but so, apparently are adults. Edith Roosevelt, Theodore’s second wife and Alice’s step-mother was as snide as they come. Eleanor has been here too – poor little soul; she is very plain. Her mouth and teeth seem to have no future. She was also a master of the side-slander. I got Alice a beautiful dress at Stern’s, dark large plaid with navy blue velour, but how much do you think it cost? Forty-two dollars. Alice is a child who needs good clothes and would look quite forlorn as Eleanor in makeshifts.

Only Alice defended Eleanor’s physical appearance: She was always making herself out to be an ugly duckling, but she was really rather attractive. Tall, rather coltish-looking, with masses of pale, gold hair rippling to below her waist, and really lovely blue eyes. It’s true that her chin went in a bit, which wouldn’t have been noticeable if only her hateful grandmother had fixed her teeth.

Alice, meanwhile, had her own emotional wounds. Her mother died shortly after her birth, and her father abandoned her to the care of an aunt while he ran off to the Dakotas to assuage his grief. Theodore refused to call his daughter by the name she shared with her mother, and when he married Edith, his childhood sweetheart, Alice felt that she became even more of a burden. My father obviously didn’t want the symbol of his infidelity around. His two infidelities, in fact: infidelity to my stepmother by marrying my mother first, and to my mother by going back to my stepmother after she died.

Alice

It was no wonder that Alice acted out in response to this domestic drama. As she got older and attempted, more and more dramatically, to capture her father’s attention, she alienated everyone in her immediate family.

Edith referred to her as a guttersnipe. One of Edith’s friends described her like a young wild animal that had been put into good clothes. Alice’s own half-sister, Ethel, said she was a hellion, …capable of doing almost anything to anyone at any time. When Alice was sent away, at age fourteen, to live with her aunt in New York because her family in Washington couldn’t stand her, Edith made sure Alice knew where she stood, remarking that Alice’s first letter home was so sweet, the family thought it must have been done by (your cousin) Helen.

Ultimately, I had little character-building to do at all. It was only left to me to construct the ghost that would bring these two cousins, similarly-rejected but with opposite personalities, together.

Salerni Head Shot

DIANNE K. SALERNI is the author of the The Eighth Day fantasy series and historical novels, The Caged Graves, a Junior Library Guild Selection, and We Hear the Dead. Her next book, The Roosevelt Ghosts, featuring young cousins Eleanor and Alice Roosevelt and a vengeful ghost, will be released in the fall of 2020 by Holiday House.

Dianne K. Salerni
Author of Middle Grade and YA Fiction

  • The Roosevelt Ghosts (Holiday House) ~ coming Fall 2020
  • The Eighth Day (HarperCollins) ~Minnesota Young Readers Award Nominee 2017-2018, Young Hoosiers Book Award Nominee 2017-2018, Virginia Readers Choice Nominee 2016-2017, Tome Society It List 2016-2017
  • The Caged Graves (Clarion/HMH) ~Pennsylvania Young Readers Choice Nominee 2016-2017
  • The Inquisitor’s Mark (HarperCollins)
  • The Morrigan’s Curse (HarperCollins)
  • We Hear the Dead (Sourcebooks)

 

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MG Author Malayna Evans Presents her Debut Novel:Jagger Jones and the Mummy’s Ankh + Win A Free Copy.

My inspiration for Jagger Jones and the Mummy’s Ankh: by Malayna Evans

COVER

When my oldest son was nine years old (he’s now sixteen and 6’2”!), he asked me over lunch at my favorite coffee shop what ancient Egyptians looked like. I’m a pretty legit person to ask about that: I spent too many years (and way too many dollars) earning my Ph.D. in ancient Egyptian history. When I told my beautiful, biracial son he’d fit in well, he told me someone should write a book about a kid who looked like him lost in ancient Egypt. I added the sassy little sister, also much like his, and, voila, I had an idea and two South Side Chicago protagonists. He and I wrote chapter one that very afternoon. (Okay, that chapter one is long gone … but the inspiration is still there.)

Three things to know about Jagger Jones and the Mummy’s Ankh (Month9Books):

ankh-cover

  1. The magic and oversized crocs and scorpions are fake, but the history is real. Well, much of it anyway. The setting, the main ancient Egyptian characters, even the artifacts and sections of magic spells are attested, as is the weird period of time—that Amarna Period—when the pharaoh tried to replace the old gods and goddesses with his favorite deity, the sun disk (Aten).

 

  1. Two real bits of history helped me shape the plot. One was a tomb from this period that features the second Amarna princess, Meketaten, who died young. (I needed a mummy, after all). And the second thing was a spell, which is usually written as three hieroglyphs right after a pharaoh’s name: ankh, wedja, seneb, which means (may you have) life, prosperity, and health. I figured exploring the meaning of life in book one was a pretty good theme. (I couldn’t save that princess–she really did die around this time–but saving her afterlife seemed like an emic spin on the age-old boy-saves-princess classic.)

 

  1. Absentee parents are hard. That doesn’t stop many kids from having to live with the situation. I wanted to explore that common problem as well. Jagger’s (barely existent) relationship with his father isn’t central to the plot, but it is key to Jagger’s personal growth, and perhaps also informs his big brother over protectiveness.

Thanks for reading. I hope kids will enjoy the adventure and hardly notice all the history they’ll be soaking up on the way. You can grab Jagger’s story here: https://www.amazon.com/Jagger-Jones-Mummys-Malayna-Evans/dp/194867162X/

Here’s Darlene’s review of the book:

Although 13 year old Jagger Jones loves ancient history, he’d rather learn about it from the comfort of his own bedroom than the constant globe-trotting to which his mother subjects him and his younger sister Aria. The trio are on their way to Jagger’s favorite place – Egypt. When they check into their hotel Jagger is awakened in the middle of the night by the sound of someone calling his name, telling him to “Come”.

            Unable to stifle his curiosity, Jagger and Aria go outside into the Egyptian night to investigate. They discover an underground tomb and begin the adventure of a lifetime. Inside the tomb Jagger discovers the source of the voice – an Egyptian ankh – the symbol of life. When Aria touches the amulet, they are swept 3000 years back in time to Ancient Egypt.

            If Jagger doesn’t find some mysterious gemstones with magical properties, Mek, the sister of an Egyptian princess, will lose her soul and her chance at the afterlife. Jagger, Aria, and their entire family will also die and be wiped away from history as if they never existed. How can Jagger save the ancient princess and his own family? Why can’t he and Aria just go home?

            Readers will enjoy the action and details of ancient Egyptian history as they are swept up in the intrigue and magic of the Pharoahs and Egyptain Gods. They will also marvel at how the author mixes ancient magic with modern technology to affect the story’s outcome in clever and surprising ways. A quick, enjoyable read for any adventure loving kid.

 

Malayna is giving away a SIGNED COPY of her book JAGGER JONES AND THE MUMMY’S ANKH. Just leave a comment at the end of this post to be part of the random drawing. Winners will be announced on this blog on May 16, 2019.

 

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Malayna Evans was raised in the mountains of Utah and spent her childhood climbing, skiing, reading Sci-Fi, and finding trouble. Many years later, she earned her Ph.D. in ancient Egyptian history from the University of Chicago. She’s used her education to craft a time-travel series set in ancient Egypt. Book one, Jagger Jones and the Mummy’s Ankh, is out in May of 2019. http://www.Month9Books.com

Malayna lives in Oak Park, IL, with her two kids, a rescue dog, and a hamster.  She’s considering adding chickens to the family.

 

 

Winner of SQUIRREL’S FAMILY TREE!

Between this post and FB, 18 people named their favorite trees. While this is hardly a consensus, here’s the breakdown with trees and the number of people who picked it as their favorite:

Aspen -1           Birch – 1        Blue Spruce – 1        Cherry – 2       Cottonwood – 1

Dogwood – 4       Magnolia – 2       Maple – 4               Oak – 2                Plum – 1         

Red Bud – 1           Redwood – 1          Sweet Gum – 1         Sycamore – 1

And…the overwhelming winner chosen by EIGHT people…WEEPING WILLOW. Everyone who chose this remembered it as a favorite tree from childhood. I had one in my yard as well. My sister and I often climbed it. So many of our favorite things stem from childhood.

me in tree   sis in tree

Me and my sister hanging out in the weeping willow tree of yesteryear.

The winner of a copy of the PB SQUIRREL’S FAMILY TREE by Beth Ferry is…Katherine Morgan! Thanks to all who entered. I really enjoyed hearing about your favorite trees and hope you will keep on enjoying one of nature’s most amazing gifts! 3 Cheers For Trees!

 

 

YA Author Joshua David Bellin Presents Book Three in the Ecosystem Trilogy.

Today it is my pleasure to feature one of my favorite Science-fiction authors, JOSHUA DAVID BELLIN who just launched volume three of his ECOSYSTEM series. Here’s a brief description of this riveting trilogy:

In a far distant future, Earth’s environment has mutated into the Ecosystem, a collective sentience that has pushed human beings to the brink of extinction. Only those individuals who are born with the psychic power known as the Sense can negotiate the Ecosystem’s deadly maze in search of the food, water, and fuel their people need to survive. When Sarah, a seventeen-year-old Sensor with a grudge against the Ecosystem, sets out to avenge her mother’s death, she learns more about the Ecosystem–and about herself–than she ever bargained for.

 

3 covers

Each e-book is normally $2.99, but they’ll be discounted to $0.99 each during the promotional period.

Book One: Ecosystem

Miriam, an apprentice Sensor, is lost in the Ecosystem, and Sarah sets out to rescue her. Joining Sarah is Isaac, a boy who claims to possess knowledge of the Ecosystem that will help their people survive. The harrowing journey to find the missing apprentice takes Sarah and Isaac into the Ecosystem’s deadliest places. And it takes Sarah into the unexplored territory of her own heart, where she discovers feelings that threaten to tear her–and her society–apart.

Book Two: The Devouring Land

When Sarah’s village is overrun by monstrous creatures from the Ecosystem, she shepherds the survivors into the forest surrounding the village. Her own Sense badly damaged in an earlier attack, she must fight through a host of new threats in hopes of discovering the place where her mother was born, rumored to be home to a community of healers. But the City of the Queens is haunted by a dark secret of its own, and Sarah will have to learn the truth of her lineage in order to save the people she loves and protect the world she knows.

Book Three: House of Earth, House of Stone

The City of the Queens is under attack. Sarah is forced to flee into the treacherous mountains to the far north, where she hopes to gain allies to contest the power that assails the city. But to wage this final battle, Sarah will have to overcome an ancient curse that threatens not only the survival of her people but the existence of the Ecosystem itself. And she will have to decide whether to save Isaac, the boy she loves, at the cost of losing everything else she holds dear.

The Kindle e-books will all be on sale from May 2 through May 6, just $.99 each!  Here’s the link to the trilogy page on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Ecosystem-Trilogy-3-Book-Series/dp/B07Q3YN7QB

Joshua David Bellin author photo

Julian Lennon Presents:A Trilogy of Stories To Teach Children How to Love Our Planet.

The complete trilogy from New York Times bestselling author Julian Lennon, Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter, philanthropist, and photographer.

Jump aboard the White Feather Flier, a magical plane that can go anywhere on Earth! In this three-book set, Julian Lennon’s books immerses children into interactive and unique journeys where they will meet the White Feather Flier.

The Flier’s mission is to transport readers around the world, to engage them in helping to save the environment, and to teach one and all to love our planet. Just press a button printed on the page and use your Imagination Power to make the Flier glide through the air or transform into vehicles that will help those in need.

This set includes:

  • Touch the Earth
  • Heal the Earth
  • Love the Earth

Heal the Earth (Julian Lennon White Feather Flier Advent)

Touch the Earth (Julian Lennon White Feather Flier Advent)

 

Love the Earth (A Julian Lennon White Feather Flier Adve)

These inspiring, lyrical stories are rooted in Lennon’s life and work and are filled with beautiful illustrations that bring the faraway world closer to young children. The books each include a special poem written by Julian Lennon to fit each story.

A portion of the proceeds from book sales will go to support the environmental and humanitarian efforts of the White Feather Foundation, the global environmental and humanitarian organization that Lennon founded to promote education, health, conservation, and the protection of indigenous culture.

Amazon link:

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=julian+lennon+children%27s+book&i=stripbooks&crid=36HHNFI0B06RP&sprefix=julian+lennon%2Cstripbooks%2C400&ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_13

3 Cheers For…Trees! + PB Give-Away.

This week we celebrate Earth Day and Arbor Day. What better way to honor the day than to learn a bit about trees. Did you know:

– There are 3 TRILLION trees in the world

– One Acre of forest absorbs 6 TONS of carbon dioxide and puts out 4 TONS of oxygen. ONE TREE produces enough oxygen for 2 people per year.

– Exposure to trees and nature can reduce blood pressure, relieve muscle tension, and reduce mental fatigue.

– Neighborhoods with more trees experience less crime.

“I think that I shall never see, a poem as lovely as a tree.” – Joyce Kilmer

How about showing your favorite tree some love?

To celebrate these wonders of nature, I am giving away a copy of the new PB by Best-selling author Beth Ferry called SQUIRREL’S FAMILY TREE.  Read my review of this delightful book below.

“This story is a perfect introduction for young children into the world of nature – specifically the importance of squirrels to the growth of oak trees. The rhyming structure and soft illustrations invite the reader into the outdoors and the life cycle of both tree and squirrel. Perfect book to curl up with your favorite kiddo for a read-aloud.”

Just leave a comment and mention your favorite kind of tree and I will put your name in the hat. One winner will be randomly chosen and announced on this blog on FRIDAY, MAY 3.

So what tree is your favorite?  Mine is the sweetgum.

file000798916762

Darlene Beck-Jacobson Presents: A New MG Historical.

I am thrilled beyond words to announce the sale to CRESTON BOOKS of a new MG historical titled WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY.

author pic 1Marissa Moss at Creston Books has acquired Notable Social Studies Award winner Darlene Beck-Jacobson’s next middle grade, WISHES, DARES AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY. This novel in verse crystallizes a boy’s worries about his father, who is MIA in Vietnam, and how his family, new best-friend, and a bully unexpectedly help him find the courage to do the right thing, not just the easy thing. Publication is slated for Spring 2020; Liza Fleissig at Liza Royce Agency negotiated the deal for world rights. 

Here’s a blurb about the book: 

Eleven year old Jack misses his Dad who is MIA in Vietnam. It’s been months since he and his family had word of his whereabouts. The last thing Jack wants to do is spend summer with his grandparents. Mom believes it will be good for them all – Jack, his sister Katy, Mom, Gran and Pops – to be together while they wait for word about Dad. Keeping busy will keep them out of trouble and help them think of other things.

Jack expects the worst summer of his life. The first summer without. Without Dad, without friends, without his room and all the things that remind him of Dad. When Jack meets a girl named Jill – a girl with a brother who makes trouble for both of them – things they believe are turned upside down. Welcome to a summer of fishing, camping, bullies, and a fish who grants wishes. A fish that could be the answer to Jack’s problem. But when Jill makes wishes of her own, things don’t turn out the way they expected.  Every wish has a consequence.

Will the fish grant Jack’s biggest wish?  Will Jack be brave enough to ask?