Anna Myers

So, after reading Assassin by Anna Myers recently, I went on an all-out Myers binge.

I read Time of the WitchesTulsa Burning, Stolen by the Sea, Graveyard Girl, Flying Blind, Fire in the Hills, and When the Bough Breaks.

I read them one after another. Some took me one day. Some took a little more.

I enjoyed them all, but my favorite, hands down, was When the Bough Breaks. I liked the complexity of the book. Instead of one storyline, there were two, woven together – and I liked both of them. Sometimes when I read a book from multiple points of view, I prefer one character and want the other to shut up and let me get back to my favorite. This time, both were intriguing. Both had terrible secrets – and both were satisfying to discover.

I also still love the little things you find in a book written by a person you actually know in real life. One of the storylines – the one featuring teenager Ophelia – includes a scene at the cemetery, which is across the street from the school. I’ve been to Myers’ hometown, and the cemetery in that town is indeed right across from the school. I was driving around, killing time before a SCBWI Oklahoma workshop, when I went by the school and noticed the cemetery nearby. I thought it was a little creepy and strange, and wondered what the students though. Later, when I read the When the Bough Breaks, I was delighted to see the school and cemetery put to use in literature.

Myers’ books are such a good way to combine fiction with historical events. We homeschool, and I think her work will be a great way to supplement history when we are doing studies this year. My oldest daughter doesn’t care for history, but I think that’s just because she hasn’t had it come alive for her yet. She enjoyed Assassin. Now I just need to add more historical fiction to the curriculum.

Time of the Witches – This one focuses on the Salem witch trials and the effect on the life of an orphan named Drucilla. She is separated from her bff, Gabe, and moves in with a crazypants woman and her weird family. After she and her foster sister start visiting the servant of the town’s new reverend, several girls, including Drucilla, start claiming they are being attacked by witches.

Tulsa Burning – A story of a boy named Noble who lives in the small town of Wekiwa and faces the Tulsa race riot of 1921. His friend is trapped in Tulsa, and Noble (nicknamed “Nobe”) goes into the burning city to find him. Wekiwa had a lot of twists with who was related to who – I would have liked to have seen a dossier on all of the people who lived in the town!

Stolen by the Sea – A girl named Maggie rides out the Galveston hurricane of 1900. I didn’t even know about this event before reading the book. According to Wikipedia, the Galveston hurricane is the deadliest natural disaster to ever strike the United States. An estimated 6,000-12,000 people died. In the book, Maggie stays in her home, struggling for survival with the help of Felipe, a Mexican boy from the orphanage who works for her father.

Graveyard Girl – Another new event for me – the yellow fever epidemic in Memphis in 1878. I loved the newspaper quotes at the beginning. I also adored a quote from Grace, the Graveyard Girl, about life and death. This was a library book, and I meant to write it down before I returned the book yesterday, but of course I didn’t. Figures. I did not really love the artwork on the front, and I was surprised at how that colored my view of the title character. It reminded me of someone, and that was hard to shake. On Amazon there’s a different cover for the paperback, which obscures Grace’s face. I wish I’d seen that one first.

Flying Blind – Told from two points of view – a young boy named Ben and…wait for it…a macaw named Murphy! I enjoyed it. This book looked at the problem of plume hunting in Florida at the turn of the 20th century. The line between right and wrong isn’t so clear when Ben learns that two of the plume hunters are orphans that use the sales of feathers to survive. Plume hunting took a terrible toll on birds, with millions being killed every year just for fashionable hats for women.

Fire in the Hills – This one was about a girl in a tiny Oklahoma town who loses her mother and cares for an ill military deserter during World War I. I liked the main character, Hallie, quite a bit and wouldn’t have minded this story going on a little longer.

All in all, eight enjoyable books. I probably should have spread them out a little more so I could give each one a post. Or maybe I should get back to writing my own novels.

When you find an author you like, do you rush and read everything by them that you can get your hands on? What authors have inspired you to race through all their books?


Even as a kid, I always loved Oklahoma authors.

We didn’t buy a lot of books, but read every S.E. Hinton and Bill Wallace book at the school library. I read “A Dog Called Kitty” when I was pretty young. One of the librarians probably turned it face out, so I noticed it. Then I read the blurb about the author. Bill Wallace…from Chickasha? Chickasha, Oklahoma? That was our county seat. It was only half an hour away. And a real-live author lived there?

Didn’t get to S.E. Hinton until later – junior high or high school. Probably high school would have been the first time they would have had her books available for us. But still. Published as a teenager? From Tulsa? What?

I understand how kids like writers to be accessible on Twitter or blogs nowadays, because that’s how I felt about Wallace and Hinton. The fact that they lived in my state – saw the things I saw and knew the places I knew – made them more accessible to me…more real to me. I felt a kinship with them. I almost felt like I knew them. Reminds me of Twitter.

I think it’s unfortunate that I missed so many other Oklahoma authors, and I’m sure there’s more. I’m trying to find them all now.

I like to think that my librarian would have pointed me to Anna Myers, had she been published then. Her first book came out in 1992, the year I graduated from high school. I apparently missed its release.

I met Anna this year. She’s the regional head of the Oklahoma Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), and she’s fantastic. I liked her so much, in fact, that I sought out her books. She’s had nineteen (19!) published.

I started with her first, Red-Dirt Jessie. I enjoyed it, so I picked up the next one, Rosie’s Tiger. That one was good too. They were both middle grade, which really isn’t my favorite genre, but they were well-written and had good ideas and storylines.

And then I was in the library the other day, looking at the YA section for something new, and her books caught my eye. (They’re on the top row in my library, and I don’t even remember seeing them before!) Assassin looked good. I grabbed it, and a couple others, and checked out. Went home and cracked it open.

Oh, My. Word.

So good. So very good.

Assassin tells the story of Bella, a young girl who finds herself between John Wilkes Booth and Abraham Lincoln. The handsome, charismatic Booth uses her to help him with his plot to kidnap Lincoln. Even though Bella knows what’s she’s doing is wrong, she helps Booth anyway, endangering the president and causing her to lose the trust of the boy who’s always loved her.

This is spot-on good historical fiction. I read every word and sped through the book. I haven’t read a lot of YA historical fiction, but you can bet I’m going to keep reading these! I also recommended it to my 13-year-old daughter. I know she’s going to enjoy this story too – and even learn a little more about the time period to boot, like I did.

I’ve moved on to Time of the Witches, and it is proving to be as mysterious and exciting as Assassin.

Now I can’t help thinking of what else I’m missing.

I wish the library would have a list of all the books by Oklahoma authors. Full Circle Bookstore in OKC does a pretty good job of identifying books by local writers, but it would be nice if the library would do it too. I know that reading a book by someone from my state meant a lot to me as a kid (and now). I imagine there are other young men and women who would feel inspired and encouraged by these writers, just like me.

Do you have any ideas on how to raise awareness of local authors and their work?


S.E. Hinton and Taming the Star Runner

When I was a teenager, our high school library had four S.E. Hinton books: The Outsiders, Rumble Fish, That was Then, This is Now, and Tex.


Guess which four S.E. Hinton books I read as a teenager.

I didn’t even know there were any others. That was the only library I got to visit very often, and that was pre-Internet. We had a copy of Books in Print, but it wasn’t that much fun to peruse.

And S.E. Hinton is seriously awesome. She wrote The Outsiders when she was in high school. High school! It was published her freshman year of college. And she’s from Oklahoma. Tulsa…but that’s still close enough to me to be incredible. She was a teenage me’s dream – a young writer of amazing books from the same state I was in. It was almost too much to be believed.

She’s still active in the writing community and interacts with fans online. She is on Twitter (and has replied to my tweets – bliss!) and did a big Q & A on Goodreads this week. She’s done some books for children and adults that are in my To Be Read pile.

ANYWAY! S.E. Hinton wrote one more young adult book – Taming the Star Runner, which was published in 1988.

I was at the Mustang Library the other day, being a grown-up creeper in the young adult section, as usual, when I saw Hinton’s young adult books. I saw the original four, and then I spotted Taming the Star Runner.

My mind puzzled at the name. Taming the Star Runner? I wondered if it was sci-fi and pulled it off the shelf. Even with the horse on the front, I still figured it was going to be in the future or something.

Well, that was wrong. The Star Runner is a horse. Not a space-ship-y thing.

It’s about this kid named Travis, who loves to write but doesn’t love his stepfather, and gets sent to live with his dad’s brother in Oklahoma. The uncle has horses and kids come out for lessons, and people board their horses there. The instructor, Casey, owns the Star Runner, this wild-acting stallion. Casey also becomes Travis’ love interest.

I liked this book for several reasons.

First, I really connected with the horse aspects of the story. I know Hinton loves horses, and it’s obvious she knows her way around a barn. My daughter actually has a horse and we board it near our house. My daughter also takes lessons there. Having this experience really let me see the books’ horse stuff clearly in my mind. There was even a horse show in the story, and we’ve done that too. I still feel awkward at the barn and at shows, but it was neat reading about it in the story.

Second, Travis is a writer, and he has sent his book off to a publisher. Now, I’m sure that Travis’ experiences are not exactly S.E. Hinton’s, but I imagine she let some of her life shine through these pages. Travis’ thoughts and emotions during the submission and revision process felt almost like a mini-biography of Hinton’s life during publishing of The Outsiders. As an aspiring author, that was a real gem tucked away in the book.

Third. Dang, just reading a S.E. Hinton book again was good. She’s a great writer. Taming the Star Runner was different than a lot of the books I see today. Young Adult books today seem to really have to be quick paced to make the cut. Every page is just go, go, go, go, go! Every plot line and action is sharp and purposeful. Taming the Star Runner feels more like real life. There’s not always a huge incredible climax. Sometimes life just happens, and it’s not whiz-bang capers all the time. This book is more about feelings and emotions and less about action – although there is a big action scene at the end that was almost too fast for me to keep up!

I’m a little sad that unless she writes another, I won’t be reading another young adult book by S.E. Hinton again (at least for the first time.)

She was the person who first taught me that a kid from Oklahoma could be an acclaimed author, writing books she loved. She planted the seed that allowed me to start work on a first novel when I was in high school. That book was never finished, but I still think about it sometimes. Maybe I can do something with it in the future.

S.E. Hinton still provides inspiration to me today.

Do you have a favorite S.E. Hinton book? Who inspires you?

The Babbs Switch Story

Last week I found another book by Oklahoma author Darleen Bailey Beard. I had never read The Babbs Switch Story and had no idea what it was about.

The Babbs Switch Story is fiction, but is set amid the real story of the town of Babbs Switch, Oklahoma.

I consider myself kind of a Oklahoma history buff, but I did not recognize Babbs Switch as the community where a tragic fire burned a schoolhouse and killed 35 people in 1924. I also feel like I should have at least realized Babbs Switch was a town name, based on the train car and tracks on the cover. The Sooner Switch is near my town, and I know that is a place that was used as a train switchyard. I didn’t connect the dots, however, and thought that the book must be about a girl named Babbs Switch.

The book is actually about a girl named Ruth. The book opens with the death of a kitten, killed by her mentally disabled sister Daphne. Daphne doesn’t mean to kill the kitten – she loves soft things, and she doesn’t understand that squeezing them tight can hurt them.

When Daphne almost hurts a neighbor’s baby, the girls’ parents decide that Ruth shouldn’t sing at the Christmas Eve celebration at the schoolhouse – to protect both girls from accusations from the other townspeople. Ruth is angry. She sings the big solo each year at the celebration, and her “daffy” sister is ruining it for her.

This leads up to the fire that destroyed the schoolhouse and took the lives of thirty-five people. Before the sun rises on Christmas morning, Ruth realizes what is truly important.

Marker at the site of the fire

I liked this book. Like I said before, Oklahoma history is one of my big things, and I had heard about this story. I know the site is near the Wichita Mountains, and for some reason, I think we might have gone there at one time and seen the monument there. But…I have a terrible memory for someone who likes history so much. I’d like to go see the monument next time we’re over that way, just in case I’m just dreaming that I was there.

This book had a lot of difficult themes – from the death of the little kitten at the beginning to the horror of the fire and aftermath. I think some children might not be ready for this subject matter, even if it was at their reading level, but it would be a good book for a classroom of students studying Oklahoma history. It really brought the event to life.

On another personal note, I was surprised when another of the kittens was named Nutmeg. I thought I was being so creative when I suggested that name for my daughter’s cat.

And, even more of a shock was the name of Ruth’s friend’s big sister. LeNora. That’s my daughter’s name (except we don’t capitalize the N.) When I ran across that name in the story, I flipped to the copyright date – 2002. My daughter was born about two years before…and I personally know Darleen Bailey Beard. She used to live in the same town as us, and we went to the same small church. They moved away years ago, and we haven’t been in contact until recently.

I don’t know this for a fact, but it seems awfully coincidental that her character would have the same uncommon name as my little girl. I’m going to have to choose to believe that the inspiration for LeNora came from my daughter’s name. And I like that very much.

Of course I recommend this book! Maybe it’s not right for younger kids – especially very sensitive ones or those who might harbor excessive fear of fire. But I do think that it is a well-written book that adults and older kids will learn a lot from – both about the true fire at Babbs Switch, and about the fictional relationship between a young girl and her unconventional sister.

Great link with reprints of stories from the Oklahoman about that awful night.


Oklahoma authors!

I am continuing my quest to read as many books by Oklahoma authors as I can. I’m still sticking with children’s books – they read quickly and give me more accomplishments, and I like sharing them with my kids. It’s also great to read other books in my genre…and I love reading books by people I have met at SCBWI.

At the last monthly Oklahoma City Schmooze, I got to meet picture book author Tammi Sauer. She brought a copy of her newest book, Nugget and Fang: Friends Forever — or Snack Time?, and I quickly devoured it when it was passed around. The story and accompanying pictures were fantastic, and I wish I’d had more time to spend reading it. It’s the story of a minnow and shark that are best friends…until the minnow goes to school and is taught that minnows and sharks don’t mix.

I enjoyed Nugget and Fang so much that I followed it with Bawk & Roll – the story of two nervous hens that perform backup for an Elvis-style rooster; Mr. Duck Means Business, which tells the story of a duck that doesn’t want to share his quiet pond with rowdy barnyard animals; and Me Want Pet!a cute tale of a cave boy looking for a pet to call his own. These are just a few of Tammi’s books – she has sold more than a dozen to major publishing houses. As if that’s not enough, she’s also incredibly nice. I had a great time visiting with her at the schmooze.

I moved on to middle grade novels after enjoying Tammi’s stories. A few more books by Darleen Bailey Beard fit the bill perfectly. I started with Annie Glover is Not a Tree Lover. This was a cute, refreshing story and was perfect for light reading. I enjoyed most of it while my son was at soccer practice. She recently posted on Facebook that the book has been translated into Korean. I love the idea of schoolchildren in Korea reading about the little Oklahoma world she created. I followed it with Operation Clean Sweep, a cool story based on true events of a small town in Oregon in 1916. In the book, a boy discovers that his mother is planning on running for mayor against the incumbent – his father. At the time, Oregon was only one of a handful of states that had given women the right to vote.

My final Oklahoma author this week was Anna Myers, author of Rosie’s Tiger. Rosie is a young girl in 1952 who is upset when her brother returns from the Korean War with a new Korean wife and her young son. She enlists the help of a new friend, but ultimately has to learn to conquer her jealousy. I was particularly interested in this because my grandfather was in Korea. It was interesting to see what life was like in Oklahoma during that time.

There are so many Oklahoma authors! I think it is fantastic that so many here have found success in the publishing industry. I hope that someday I will be lucky enough to join their ranks. For now, though, I’m satisfied to keep writing and keep reading the work of those who have gotten there already.

Oklahoma authors

For me, one of the neatest things to happen lately is getting involved in the Oklahoma writers’ scene. I didn’t join any groups until after I had finished Pairs. I thought that was the way it worked. I think it worked better for me, anyway, because I’m not in love with having people critique my work until I’ve finished a first draft and rewrite. I think if I gave early chapters out for critique, I would get bogged down with those details and not finish.

I’ve really enjoyed reading the works of published authors in Oklahoma. As I learned about these authors online or in person, I realized I wanted to read as many of them as possible. So I got started.

My first Oklahoma author I know of would be Bill Wallace. He was from Chickasha, the county seat here. I read A Dog Called Kitty in grade school.

Of course I read the works of S.E. Hinton when I was in high school. I’ve readThe Outsiders, That Was Then, This is Now, Rumble Fishand Tex. (I just looked at her Wikipedia page and realized she has more than I haven’t read, so I need to add those to my TBR list.

When I worked at the newspaper, I read Twister by Darleen Bailey Beard. She was from my town (went to my church, actually) and I wrote a story when the book came out. I got a free copy of the book. Cool!

I don’t recall specifically reading any Oklahoma authors after that until recently. Now I’m on a roll, and I’m finding a lot of books to enjoy. I’ve read:

Sonia Gensler – The Revenant (Spooky and really vivid descriptions set in one of my favorite areas – northeast Oklahoma)

Anna Myers – Red Dirt Jessie (neat look at Oklahoma during the depression)

Gwendolyn Hooks – Can I Have a Pet? (My five year old loves this book and she is reading it herself. I’m going to video her reading it. That’s how much we love it.) The Noisy Night (Now the five year old has requested all the books in the Pet Club series. How could I say no?)

Darleen Bailey Beard – The Flim Flam Man (I meant to read this long ago, but never got around to it. I enjoyed this fictionalized version of a real Oklahoma event!)

Regina Jennings – Sixty Acres and a Bride (I don’t read a lot of Christian historical fiction, but this was good. I could really see the characters and scenes in my mind, and that’s not easy for me to do.) The author lives in the next town over, and I’ve actually run into her outside of the library. Hopefully I didn’t embarrass myself too much!

Harold Keith – Rifles for Watie (This was fantastic! I thought it was a boy book, but I grabbed it anyway because he was from the same teeny Oklahoma town as my grandmother – Lambert, Oklahoma…currrent population 7). I’d like to get some more of his books. I watched a movie, Believe in Me, which is based on his book Brief GarlandThe movie wasn’t bad, even though I would have rather the girls played half-court basketball, which would have been historically accurate. I’d like to read the book.

I’ve also read several self-pubbed books. Some I’ve enjoyed, others not. One that stands out as good in my mind is Skid, by Doug Solter. I didn’t think I would enjoy this story about car racing, so I put off reading it. Then it surprised me with a good story and interesting characters. My Smashwords version had a flaw in that it sometimes popped from one font to another, and that was distracting – but it wasn’t enough reason to miss this book.

Here’s the next Oklahoma books I’m going to read:

Annie Glover is Not a Tree Lover by Darleen Bailey Beard

Operation Clean Sweep by Darleen Bailey Beard

Rosie’s Tiger by Anna Myers

Those are the ones I actually have on hand. After I finish these, I’m going to get Regina Jennings’ new book, Love in the Balance, and the books by S.E. Hinton that I have missed, and more books by Anna Myers. I know Bill Wallace has more that I’d like to read too. Sonia Gensler’s new book, The Dark Between, comes out in August and I’m pre-ordered, thanks to a twitter contest and a bit of luck!

Any suggestions on more books by Okie authors?



Princess Academy

I just finished the book Princess Academy by Shannon Hale. I knew nothing about the book, but had heard good things about it, so when I saw it at the thrift store, I picked it up.

I really enjoyed the way Hale wrote this story. Her way of describing things sucked me in, and I could really imagine the word she created. Even with Belinda watching My Little Pony in the same room, I was able to block out the distractions easily, and focus on the story.

The only thing that gave me pause was how quickly the story resolved itself. As I neared the end, I started to worry that it would not reach a true climax until a sequel, but then all of it sudden it happened and was over. I think I would like to have seen it go on a little longer.

As I said, I really liked it, and I gave it four out of five stars on Goodreads. (I’m pretty stingy with the five-star ratings.) It wasn’t what I expected it to be, however. That’s a good thing, because perhaps now I can take what I expected and turn it into a story of my own.