Monday, March 28, 2016

I love New Hampshire

I love New Hampshire. All my novels are set there and even to this day, the state gives me such pleasure. I really enjoy, as a writer, finding a setting I resonate with and have a heart connection so that my characters feel just as home there as I do.

J. Lee Graham

Monday, March 21, 2016

Life's changes and Elizabeth Strout

Spring is here. Birds, buds, flowers, bushes, and sunshine. It's all very, very sweet yet the sound of sadness does, at times, permeate the air.

A great time for reading a book, getting centered, doing some yoga and (perhaps the best cure of all) going OUTSIDE and planting things: flowers, vegetables, ideas. Rake, clean, cut the grass, volunteer to clean up your community, create a change that makes you feel like you contributed to something bigger than yourself.

I'm reading My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout. I'm only five pages in and already I'm nodding my head saying, "You go, Ms. Strout!" Thank you for moving me with your writing.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

A great nod to Rebecca Stead

I just finished reading Rebecca Stead's Liar and Spy and was very glad to see a male protagonist who actually has emotional, vibrant, living breathing, what else can I say, organic relationships with other characters in the novel. It was reassuring that a piece of work written for Middle Grade could still have the capacity to move me.

Frankly, I don't resonate with adventure stories where the protagonist (male or female) simply zips around from hair-raising adventure to another without a moment of reflection or emotional recovery. While I understand that sometimes an adventure is just an adventure, those types of stories are not for me. I think a truly good story has to have, at its center, a heart.

In my novels, my male protagonist has some kind of visceral connection with other people, especially another male. In the time travel series, Andy's best friend is Roger; in book 3, All the Time in the World, Andy also finds a role model in Eric. In The Sculptured Rocks, Dan has his best friend, Tom, as well as a bully named Krenshaw. Later he meets the young farmer, Nate. In The Time of His Life, Andy meets Jake Hollis at the camp and of course, in The Promise of Living, Ryan and Dave are inseparable.

But to continue with Stead. She has the ability to sum up a whole slew of emotions by one simple sentence. When the protagonist starts 7th grade, a minor character, Jason, has the ability for him to reflect:
"I go back to thinking about Jason, who was my every-day-after-school friend until the end of sixth grade, when he went to sleepaway camp for seven weeks and then started sitting at the cool table in September like he'd been there all along."

Way to go, Ms. Stead! That says so much and you do it so extremely gracefully without a bit of self-pity.
Here's another sample: if you've read the book, you'll know the backstory. If you don't, no worries, nothing is spoiled:
"Bob draws Candy's blue dot, making a perfect circle and then coloring it in.
When he's done, she looks at it up close. "So what does this mean again?"
Bob tells her. "It means you're not alone. No matter what."
The book is filled with extremely tender moments, and they often took me by surprise. While Ms. Stead certainly doesn't need my Seal Of Approval given her recent success, I can't wait for her next book.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Various thoughts as the sun warms up

Tomorrow, March 8, is my character Dave Calderwood's birthday from my YA Novel THE PROMISE OF LIVING.
Does it matter? Probably not. But, for me, creating a birthday helps create a character. Ask any one of us who as ever been on the stage: it's called the backstory, and whenever I had a part to play, I created that character's birthday as well.  

 Dave Calderwood was Ryan’s best friend since they had their first snowball fight in second grade, and they had been in the band since they were twelve, Ryan on trombone, Dave on percussion.

Dave was seven months older than Ryan and had turned seventeen in March. He inherited the Scottish genes from his dad, black curly hair, dark, brooding eyebrows, and green eyes that reflected the Outer Hebrides. He was the same 5’10’’ as Ryan, yet puberty had hit him early and by fourteen he was already shaving on a daily basis. Ryan had sat next to him in algebra class that freshmen year and jealously wished he could have been doing the same. Even now, with Dave’s long dark sideburns, thick with hair and epitomizing manhood, Ryan was envious. His own blond wisps on his face were embarrassingly juvenile.

I'm reading Rebecca Stead again.. enjoying her work: where she is strong and where she is 'weak'... and I love the way she creates a plot that draws me in.

I love my new Instagram account: jleegraham79. It's fun to create.


Wednesday, March 2, 2016

March 5, 1770 and Andy Mackpeace

I've always been intrigued by the Boston Massacre: March 5, 1770. I put it in my first Middle Grade Time Travel Adventure novel IN THE NICK OF TIME with my main character Andy traveling back to 18th century Boston to experience it firsthand.

I've always disliked time travel stories where the character travels and then lives in a kind of bubble and never really connects to anyone from the past. They deal with the past, but not emotionally connect. I wanted to change that.
In IN THE NICK OF TIME, Andy meets Samuel Maverick, one of the victims of the massacre, and in this excerpt, Andy doesn't quite know what is going on until it's too late:

Andy watched as more boys gathered and pitched the rock-laden snowballs.        
I've seen this before. In history class. Snowballs. Snow and crowds and...
His stomach lurched. He knew what this was! It was 1770. This was the Boston Massacre.
            Andy grabbed Samuel's arm and pulled him hard. “Get out of here. You have to get out of here. This is dangerous. They're going to start shooting!” he screamed.
            “Don't be an ass! They're not going to do anything,” Samuel pushed back. He joined the crowd in their taunts. “I dare you! Fire! Go ahead. Fire!” He threw a brick and then more snowballs with rocks in them. “Fire!”
            The crowd grew braver and began throwing harder objects at the soldiers. The noise was louder and louder. Andy tried again. He screamed at Samuel. “We have to get out of here! I'm serious!”

             “Stop grabbing me!” Samuel yelled. He pushed Andy who fell down onto the feet of the people behind him. Then one of the soldiers (and we know it was one of two), heard the word “Fire!”, mistook it as an order from Preston, and pulled the trigger.

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