Happy Half-Birthday, Dragon’s Truth!

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It’s hard for me to believe that September 30 will mark the six-month anniversary of the publication of Dragon’s Truth! The weeks have flown by and I have truly enjoyed sharing Rhyan Kember’s story and connecting with readers at libraries, bookstores, and festivals, and I’m looking forward to upcoming school events and classroom visits.

To celebrate this six-month milestone, I’ll be running another #followblitz promotion throughout the month of September.  New blog followers on leannepankuch.com, and new followers on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook will receive TWO entries to win an autographed copy of Dragon’s Truth and a map of Rhyan’s world. Already following me in all of these places?—You’ll receive one entry.

Check out the right-hand column on this page for easy blog sign-up and links to my social media accounts.

Thanks to everyone who has supported me on this fantastic journey!

Writing Secret #1: Where do You Get Your Ideas?

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Hatching a new idea…

Every time I attend an author event, this question is asked. I’ve answered it and I’ve heard other authors answer it. And, frankly, I think most of us have been doing some very creative fibbing.

Seriously. I’ve come to believe that anyone who answers this question in a straightforward, I-have-the-answer-you-are-looking-for way isn’t being entirely truthful. I rehearsed an answer to this question before my very first author event because I wanted to sound like I had this writer thing down and knew exactly what I was doing.

But I don’t.

And it isn’t just me, other more famous—and braver—authors have come right out and admitted the ambiguity surrounding the idea-getting process.

Neil Gaiman has a great post about the idea question on his site. Not only does he discuss the origin of ideas, but he also stresses that ideas themselves are just the first step in the marathon process that is writing. In other words, you need much more than a great idea to be a great writer.

Stephen King participated in a writing Q&A where he says he can only tell where his ideas come from about 50% of the time, and, even then, ideas need to be nurtured and developed. He uses the analogy of a little piece of grit (the idea) that eventually, with time, becomes a pearl.

In her book, Take Joy, Jane Yolen includes an essay titled, ‘The Mystery that is Writing’ where she addresses this “simple, yet infinitely tricky question.” She says that every story begins in two places—”the physical, touchable, knowable” (what readers and aspiring writers want to know when they ask the idea question) and “the hidden recesses of the heart” (the intangible characteristics unique to each writer). She describes the moment when the two places touch as being like when a mother hen taps on the outside of an egg and a baby chick responds with a tap on the inside. They tap and respond until they come together, the egg cracks open, and life emerges. Yolen says:

“It’s just that way a story begins, with a physical tapping on the outside: a line of a song that won’t leave your head, an article in the newspaper that strikes a chord, a fragment of conversation that loops endlessly…a repeating dream.

“And then, the answering emotion that taps within…

“The moment they come together, the story starts.”

Why does one idea move an individual to write, while others don’t. Why does one particular forest path, history book, conversation, fairy tale, gravestone, stranger, abandoned house, etc. get my writer’s mind churning, while another doesn’t? Why do I wake up with a scene from a recurring dream in my head some mornings, but not others?

I don’t know. I only know that I will continue to read and watch and explore and live and be open to ideas and inspiration whenever they decide to tap-tap-tap…

A Writer’s Adventures in Publishedland

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Leanne at the Kids Read Book Festival in Poughkeepsie, NY

It’s a little over a month since Dragon’s Truth released. I want to sincerely thank my family, my friends, my readers, and my publisher for helping to successfully launch my first book into the world.

The initial two weeks were an absolute whirlwind–I spent a ridiculous amount of time on social media promoting the book, updating information, and responding to congratulations (rough, right?). We celebrated the launch on March 30 (my birthday!) in a couple of local venues, traveled to Los Angeles, and returned to the Hudson Valley just in time for the first ever Poughkeepsie Library District’s Kids Read Book Festival where I presented on the use of maps in the fantasy writing process, met dozens of dragon lovers, and gratefully sent signed copies of Dragon’s Truth home with readers.

As each subsequent week began, I thought the activity would become more manageable–but it really didn’t. And, as excited and grateful as I am to be fulfilling my dream of being a published author, I continue to hate to be away from writing. Storytelling is in my DNA. I have to create…

To survive, you must tell stories. – Umberto Eco, The Island of the Day Before

So, I need to do a better job of balancing my time between the business of being a published author and my need to live out my vocation as a writer (you have to actually write to be a writer…!) I’m devoting the next few weeks to getting myself back on track. Send mojo and perseverance my way, if you can. #amwriting

End Note: I’ve got two great local Dragon’s Truth events coming up! Check out my Events page for all the details. I’m also scheduling events for the 2019-2020 school year, so please reach out through the Contact Leanne tab if you are interested in scheduling an event for your group or class.

Dragon’s Truth by Leanne M. Pankuch- ARC Review

The countdown begins! Dragon’s Truth releases on Saturday, March 30 and I’m a bit overwhelmed by all the last-minute release details. Seriously–it is a little like having a baby…
While I’m dithering about, well–EVERYTHING–check out this fantastic review of Dragon’s Truth from Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub:

Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub

Image result for dragon's truth by pankuchFourteen-year-old Rhyannon dreams of dragons, wizards, and magic. She feels constrained by her ordinary life and overshadowed by her beautiful sister Elspeth. When Elspeth is kidnapped, Rhyan embarks on a journey to save her sister and face the evil threatening her world. She finds friendship, love, and the magic and power she’s been craving–but she also discovers a growing darkness within herself. Will she save Elspeth? Can she control her abilities? Will she choose the path of light? Or will she slip into the dragon’s darkness? (taken from Amazon)

Many thanks to Netgalley for providing me with this ARC, in exchange for my honest opinions.

I loved this book! It was obviously influenced by works such as The Hobbit, as well as Celtic myths, yet was completely its own. This took me on an adventure and was written so skillfully that I was immediately invested in the characters.

And what…

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The Dragons are coming…are you Ready?

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No, this isn’t a promo for the much-anticipated premiere of the final season of Game of Thrones. Although–like many of you–I am counting down the days until April 14!

In only 17 days, my debut young adult fantasy novel, Dragon’s Truth, will enter the real world and Rhyan Kember’s story will finally be available to readers all over the planet. Adventure, love, friendship, dragons, magic–I’m so excited to share!

Thanks to all of you who have pre-ordered Dragon’s Truth. The value of pre-orders and their effect on a book’s success in today’s industry can’t be overstated. Publishers and booksellers make future decisions about a book based on pre-orders and pre-publication interest.They spend more money promoting books that launch with solid pre-sales. Better pre-order numbers can mean expanded access and distribution–the difference between success and obscurity.

Like all authors, I am very appreciative of pre-orders. So, I’m inviting anyone who orders (or has already ordered) Dragon’s Truth before the official launch date of March 30, 2019, to share a picture of their favorite dragon or dragon book on social media with the hashtag #dragonstruth and be entered to win a map of Rhyan’s world. Entries will be accepted through midnight on March 29.

Haven’t yet ordered? Love to read stories with dragons and adventure and want to be one of the first to enter Rhyan’s world? Here’s the info:

Click here to pre-order a signed copy through Oblong Books and Music. Pick up in store or ship directly to you!
Have your own fave local indie store? Pre-order with them today!
Also available through:
Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes and Noble


Frost: a tale of Love and Death

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Artist: Arthur Rackham

As those close to me know. I am a collector of tales. Not just physical books—although I do have an ever-growing personal library—but the stories themselves. As a child I was a voracious devourer of text. I read constantly! Forbidden to bring books to the table during meals, I sneakily read cereal boxes and mayonnaise jars. On too-cold or rainy Saturdays, I’d curl up in a quiet place with the dictionary, the Lives of the Saints, Funk and Wagnalls encyclopedia, Bulfinch’s Mythology, or a torn old volume titled A Fairy Book, illustrated by Arthur Rackham.

One of the first stories I remember re-reading was the fairy tale of Frost in The Fairy Book. Rackham’s art was frightening and beautiful—and so was the story! Sure, Marfa, the good daughter, is sent home with furs and riches, but the other sisters are left to cruelly perish in the snow after being rude to Father Frost. I shivered, but I loved the juxtaposition of darkness and light. This was the beginning of my realization that, for a story to be truly great, it can’t be all rainbows and butterflies, but must also be shadows and monsters.

I’ve struggled to capture this idea in every piece of my own writing—the constant dance between darkness and light. And I’ll keep struggling, because that is where the truth lies in story.

My fascination with the Frost tale has continued. My original copy of The Fairy Book was lost in a house fire when I was a teenager, but I found an old copy at a yard sale a few years ago. And I’ve collected other versions—including the “original” published by Alexander Afanasyev, the Russian counterpart of the Brothers Grimm—I’ve also acquired illustrations, and even a 1964 Russian movie, Morozko, based on the story. Most recently, I finished reading The Winter Witch, the final installment of the amazing Katherine Arden’s Winternight trilogy. I highly recommend the series and am avoiding spoilers for those who’ve added it to their reading list—suffice it to say that Frost—Morozko—is a key player in the tale.

What is your favorite fairy tale? Did it make your heart pound? Give you nightmares? Make you laugh? Make you dream of adventure? Inspire you to write your own?

Cover Reveal: Dragon’s Truth

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I’m excited to share the cover of my debut fantasy novel, Dragon’s Truth– due out from Vinspire Publishing on March 30, 2019.

To celebrate the reveal, I’m running a #followblitz giveaway. Here’s how it works: Follow my blog Tale Lady here at leannepankuch.com AND follow me on one additional form of social media: Twitter, Instagram, or my author Facebook page (not my personal account) and you’ll be eligible to win the grand prize: a signed copy of Dragon’s Truth, a Dragon’s Truth book bag, themed jewelry, and a bookmark. Two runner-up prizes of e-copies of the book will also be awarded. See the right column here on my site for social media links. Note: if you already follow my blog and at least one social media account–you are already eligible to win!

Deadline to join my #followblitz and enter the giveaway is 11:59pm on Saturday, February 2.

The Joy of Maps

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I’ve always loved maps.

Before Google and Mapquest and TomTom and Garmin, physical maps were a part of everyday life. They were more than just roll-up monstrosities hanging on classroom walls, antiques in museums, and decorative office or restaurant art.  

Back in the day, my ten-year-old self would unfold the paper travel map or open the road atlas in the back seat of the car during our family road trips. I’d watch for a sign indicating what town we were passing and then use my finger and the map key to calculate how far we were from our destination. I’d trace the distance we’d traveled and then the remaining journey, wondering about the towns we would pass through—bigger printed names meant more people and buildings.

I also remember the first time I saw a map in a book. It was Thror’s Map in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit.  

Clip of Thror’s Map in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit.
The image above is from my old paperback copy of The Hobbit. Click to view the full map on the Tolkien Gateway.

The map was so cool–but tantalizingly uninformative. I couldn’t read the runes, and—aside from the Lonely Mountain, two rivers, and the Desolation of Smaug—the arrows all pointed to places and perils that lay off the map—Long Lake, Mirkwood’s spiders, Dale and the mysterious Withered Heath “whence came the Great Worms.” But the promise of the map pulled me into the story and brought me along on the adventure of discovering Tolkien’s amazing world.

After that, I frequently selected fantasy books because they had maps: C.S. Lewis’s Narnia, Katherine Kurtz’s Gwynedd, Anne McCaffrey’s Pern, T.A. Barron’s Fincayra, Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom, and the Four Lands of Terry Brooks all came to life through masterful storytelling supported by intriguing maps.

My own novel, Dragon’s Truth (due out from Vinspire Publishing in March), will include a map. I was lucky enough to work with a very talented designer—Kara DeMaio at theblueprintstudio.com—to translate my vision and sketches into a truly fantastic map that will complement the text and help immerse my readers in Rhyan’s adventure.

Here’s a little peek at the map—subscribe to my News and Views page and follow me on Twitter – @talelady, Instagram – leannepan_author, and Facebook for information about upcoming give-a-aways that will include the map and Dragon’s Truth swag.

What’s in a Name? – Canine Edition

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I have a confession to make. I don’t like when pets have people names. I mean, some of them kind of work, like Max or Butch or Millie. But some just seem ridiculous, like Zach, Zoey, Chloe, or Edward.

Feel free to disagree with me. In fact, go ahead and make fun of me—here’s my second confession: I name all my dogs for characters or places from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Naming a new puppy is serious business. Our new puppy has had no fewer than five—possibly six—names in his short life. After his rescue in the Cayman Islands, he was given the name “Ivan.” Upon arrival in New York, he was christened “Cadbury.” A kind of clever name, I think, since his coat is caramel and dark black/brown. He was then adopted out to a family with small children who—after school began—decided that they couldn’t manage a new puppy and the needs of their five young children—they may also have named him, we don’t know for sure.

When we rescued poor Cadbury from the humane society, he became subject to my family’s obsession with naming our pets for LOTR characters and places, etc. We’ve had a “Brandy” (the Brandywine River), a “Ranger” (his papers said “Aragorn, Ranger of the North”), a “Took,” and we currently have a “Bree.”

For Cadbury, I wanted “Beorn” or “Bear” (after the character from Tolkien’s Hobbit), but we decided that those names were too similar to Bree. When my husband suggested “Strider” (the name given to Aragorn when he is introduced to Frodo by the innkeeper in Fellowship of the Ring) I thought “Perfect! The puppy has such long legs.”  But after a couple of days, it just didn’t seem right.

So, we whipped out our printed copy of The Tolkien Companion. It didn’t take long for my hubby to find the perfect moniker.

Drumrrrrrrollllllll…….

BREGO!

brego 4

Brego! Kingly, wild, smart, loving – the perfect pound puppy.

Yes, yes, I know—it starts with “Br” just like Bree, but it’s him. He is Brego.

Here’s the etymology of the word/name:  Brego means “chief, leader, king, lord” in Old English, which Tolkien used to represent Rohirric in his works. In the history of Middle Earth, Brego was the second king of Rohan. Also, in Peter Jackson’s film trilogy, Brego is the name of a horse ridden by Theodred, the king of Rohan’s son. After Theodred dies, Aragorn advises releasing the traumatized horse who has “seen enough of war.” Later, Brego finds Aragorn after his fall from a cliff and carries him to Helm’s Deep. Read more about Brego on this great site.

Naming a pet is a like naming a main character in fiction writing. The name is going to be with you for a long, long time—through many edits and plot convolutions. You should make sure you like it, make sure it fits “personality-wise,” and make sure you don’t mind saying it and writing it over and over again. This is no joke. In the case of a dog (or MC), you might find that you say (or type) the name fifty times a day.

Wherever you find inspiration for character names—graveyards, historical records, mythology, fairy tales, baby name books, news sites—choose wisely. Names have power.

Read other thoughts I’ve previously shared on naming characters.

The Irish in Me

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In honor of my Irish heritage, I keep a few long-standing St. Patrick’s Day traditions alive in our house: corned beef and cabbage, a pint or two of Guinness, Chieftains music and required viewing of Darby O’Gill and the Little People – a classic piece of Disney cinema based on the books of books of Herminie Templeton Kavanagh.

If you’ve never seen it, I highly recommend Darby O’Gill. Film critic and historian, Leonard Maltin in his book The Disney Films, states, “Darby O’Gill and the Little People is not only one of Disney’s best films, but is certainly one of the best fantasies ever put on film.”[9]

There are surprises in the movie (Sean Connery singing!) and fiery Irish romance (between Connery and Janet Munro). And the main character, Darby, is an authentic, storytelling Irishman played by well-known Irish stage and film actor, Albert Sharpe.

I love the film for many reasons, but there are two that stand out:

First, like my Chieftains albums, the story in Darby O’Gill is a perfect Irish combination of fun, family/laughter and drama/sadness/lament. A jig one moment and a crying banshee and lost love ballad the next.  Up and then down on the St. Catherine’s Wheel of life. First laughter and then tears, and then more laughter… tall tales and ghost stories, community camaraderie in the pub and a beautiful haunting setting in ancient ruins – Darby O’Gill and the Little People has all of the best of the Irish paradoxes wrapped up in a great, satisfying fantasy adventure.

But the value placed on storytelling and the storyteller in the film is perhaps what resonates with me the most. Darby honors the leprechauns by telling their stories, and because of the this, he wins a great prize from King Brian and is treasured by the people of his village. He is an honest soul – a dreamer – who gives himself up to the story in much the same way that he gives himself up to life – unafraid to laugh when he is amused and cry when sorrowful. There is no artificiality and pretense about Darby.

I grew up amid storytellers. Some told stories in song, and some – like Darby – told stories in gatherings of friends and family. I did my best to honor this storytelling in my yet-to-be-published novel, “Dogs, Frost and Watermelon Candy” – some songs and stories bring smiles and some tears; that is the Irish way.

In my opinion, storytelling simply for the sake of sharing story with the listener is something of a lost art. So many who profess to be storytellers today simply wish to promote an agenda or persuade a listener. And, while I recognize the validity of this in certain instances, I yearn for the honest balladeer and the traditional oral storytellers of old.

And so, in honor of the day, I raise a pint today to Darby, and to the Irish storyteller in myself…and in all of us.

Sláinte