Author Interview: C. Coco De Young

April 29, 2011

Today we’re visiting with award-winning author Carmine De Young, a contributor to Many Genres, One Craft with the article, “Linking Past to Present.” Hello, Carmine. Welcome to Damsels in Regress.

Hello, Tricia. Thank you for inviting me to Damsels in Regress. Your website is of interest to both readers and writers, and how wonderful it is to see a focus on historical works.

1. Historical research is a recurring topic here at the Damsels. In your MGOC article, you state the following about historical fiction: “The author must learn every aspect of daily life in the given time period — language, clothing, toys, food, dwellings, transportation, politics, religion, education, and laws regulating the affairs of the day and place.” In light of this, how can one know for sure whether she’s researched enough?

C. Coco De Young

It’s all about chocolate covered ants! Research is a search for the truth, and I feel compelled to bring that truth to readers of all ages. I was the worst history student until World History teacher, Mrs. Frances Meredith, showed me the world beyond the textbook. Her sense of wonder became mine. Every moment in her classroom was an in-depth look into the times and cultures of others. She did more than scratch the surface of people, dates and places. Mrs. Meredith taught us to re-search, to look again and again and again for what is the truth. She wore a sari to school when India was the topic. I recall a sampling of chocolate covered ants as a cultural delicacy another time. That was my “ah-ha” moment. That moment of inspiration, and the passion by which Mrs. Meredith brought the times and lives of others to the classroom stays with me each time I sit to write historical fiction.

How will we know when our research is enough? Read the rest of this entry »


Author Interview: Patrice Lyle

April 27, 2011

Please welcome YA author Patrice Lyle, a contributor to the Many Genres, One Craft anthology with the article, “Ten Ways to Avoid Losing Your YA Reader.” When she was nineteen, she worked as a nanny in Amsterdam with her sister–now there’s a story worth telling!

1. I enjoyed reading your article in MGOC.  Your point #3 was a good reminder for me–“Don’t forget the ‘bigness’ of relationships.”  Would you tell us how you came to this realization?

Patrice Lyle

In fiction and in life, stuff that may seem silly or trite to an adult can be a big freaking deal to a teen. I think it’s easy to forget how true that is the older we get. In my article, I used an example of your husband working late and forgetting to call you. Could have been many things, such as his boss kept talking to him after a meeting, a call came in that he had to handle, etc. And yeah, it could be annoying, but it’s probably not going to be devastating. (And if it is, that’s a whole other talk! lol). But if a fifteen-year-old girl is waiting for a call from a cute guy she has a huge crush on and he calls two hours later than he said he would (or not at all), there’s going to be trouble. And quite possibly tissue-worthy trouble. I realized this when I was working on a scene in Lethally Blonde when my main character Morgan accidentally spills her purse and freaks out when Derek (the hottie she’s got a crush on) sees her tube of Zit Bee Gone. I would have been mortified if that happened to me!

2. Which of your “Ten Ways” has been the most important for you in your writing?

#10 Never “force feed” your story into the YA genre just to try and make a sale. This really hit home because I’ve heard different writers say, “I’ll just turn this adult story into a YA so I can sell it.”  I don’t get that. I think the story – at its inception – is either YA or it’s not. Plain and simple. Plus a YA story is really a story about a teen character. It doesn’t have to be written for teens. It’s a story about teens. See the difference? Lethally Blonde would never have worked in the adult genre because Morgan, the main character, is sixteen-years-old and the story is all about her.

3. How long have you been writing for the YA market?

I’ve been writing YA since 2007. I wrote my first YA paranormal novel (my fifth completed book), landed a huge agent, but it didn’t sell. Then I wrote my second YA paranormal novel, Lethally Blonde, and sold that to Leap Books.

4. Could you tell us more about Lethally Blonde?

Lethally Blonde is a story about Morgan Skully, the world’s only blonde demon chick, and she’s got a brand new, very unusual after school job. Spying for the Devil. She’d much rather use her cloak-and-dagger skills to spy on hottie-licious Derek with her friends, but the Devil won’t take no for an answer. Luckily for Morgan, her new boss is kinda hot. Her assignment is simple: find out who at Pitchfork Prep is funneling secrets to the Russian Werewolf Council. If she succeeds, pedicures and platinum highlights are just the beginning. But if she fails…there’s more on the line than killer shoes.

5. Fun! What were your favorite books when you were a teenager?

The one and only….Sweet Valley High! Those were totally my favorite. I think I read every single one at least twice.  And I just bought the new Sweet Valley Confidential and it’s on my ever-growing TBR list on my Kindle! I also loved reading Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie, too.

6. Yeah, I’ve been an Agatha Christie fan for a long time. What are you working on now?

I’m working on a YA paranormal romance that has a cute guy and spells in it! And I’m also working on a diet and fitness book because I just finished my PhD in Holistic Nutrition.

7. Congrats on your PhD!  Your time in Amsterdam as a nanny sounds like great research for a novel.  Are you planning to use any of those experiences in your writing?

Yes! My first YA novel was actually loosely based on my experience as a nanny in Amsterdam. I say loosely because that book was a paranormal! Lol I do plan to revise that book in the future and try again!

Thanks so much for chatting with us today!

For more info about Patrice and her book, Lethally Blonde, please visit her online at: or

Also, Patrice is a member of The Class of 2k12 – a group of YA authors with debut books coming out in 2012 – so look for that website coming soon!

Check in with us on Friday when we’ll talk with another Many Genres contributor, C. Coco De Young.

Book Review: Many Genres, One Craft

April 25, 2011
Many Genres, One Craft: Lessons in Writing Popular Fiction
Edited by Michael A. Arnzen and Heidi Ruby Miller
384 pages

Fellow writers—this is for you. I’m going to be completely upfront about this. What you’re reading is not a review. It’s a recommendation.

Many Genres, One Craft: Lessons in Writing Popular Fiction is a treasure chest full of instruction, advice, tips, and wisdom for aspiring writers. Edited by Michael A. Arnzen and Heidi Ruby Miller, the anthology includes articles on the craft of writing, the different genres in popular fiction, and the writing life. All from authors who are connected somehow to Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction graduate degree program.

Yes, this is the writing program that brought the Damsels together. And that’s why I can’t be impartial when looking over this book. I know very well the value of the information in these pages. But look for yourself. You can find excerpts on the Many Genres, One Craft blog and information on how to pre-order. The book is due out in mid-May.

Included are articles by authors Gary A. Braunbeck, Nancy Kress, Victoria Thompson, and David Morrell. Kaye Dacus and Lynn Salsi, who’ve visited with us before at the Damsels, are also featured.

On Wednesday, we’ll be talking with Patrice Lyle, an SHU alum whose article, “Ten Ways to Avoid Losing Your YA Reader,” is part of the anthology. She’ll share her insights on writing young adult fiction and tell us about her debut novel, Lethally Blonde, which will be published in 2012.

On Friday, we’ll discuss award-winning author C. Coco De Young’s contribution to Many Genres, One Craft—”Linking Past to Present.”

So, don’t forget to check back with us. It’s sure to be a fun week.

Words of Wisdom

April 18, 2011

I spent my weekend at the 20th annual SCBWI Western Washington conference surrounded by local writers and illustrators and a brilliant faculty.  It was the best conference I’ve ever attended.  Part of that may be because I didn’t have a manuscript consultation so my nerves weren’t on edge.  In fact, I went with a finished rough draft in need of drastic revision, and I got a million new ideas for how to make this story come alive and be what it is intended to be.  But it’s hard for me to cover a whole conference, especially one with five break-out sessions in each of six slots and four keynote addresses.  (And I forgot my camera–the lovely Dawn Simon took photos for me, so check out her blog for the pics I would have here!)

So rather than try to cover everything, I will refer you to our region’s blog, the Chinook Update, with a link on the right-hand column.  Here, I will just give you a list of some words of wisdom that made their way into my head, heart, and notebook:

  • Author Deborah Wiles gave what was, to me, the best. keynote. ever.  I described it later as a “sucker-punch to my soul.”  She said all stories come from three places: what you know, what you feel, and what you can imagine.  She talked about her lists of words and things she loves, houses she’s lived in and people she’s known, and she didn’t shy away from the tough stuff.  Her darkest moments mirrored those of my WIP’s characters and that of a close friend, and when I confessed to being so moved in her book-signing line, she gave me the biggest, warmest hug.  I will remember her generosity always.
  • Author Rosanne Parry talked about the need for characters to not just have funny quirks but deep flaws and struggles–sins, if you will.  Her breakout session,  “Character and the Seven Deadly Sins,” helped me get in touch with some of my characters, two in particular.  She also noted that each sin can be turned around and used for good as well, along with the virtues our characters also hold at their core.  In the major turning points, will our characters’ sins or virtues come out?
  • British book packager Lionel Bender talked about book fairs and exhibitions, noting that they could be valuable opportunities to meet with publishers and get a jump on the newest things being published.  Can’t wait for Seattle to host one of the biggest in 2013!
  • Illustrator Dan Santat shared his struggle to find his own style, noting that it has to come naturally because otherwise it’ll look like you’re trying to find it and you’ll just end up copying everyone else.
  • Illustrator Jesse Joshua Watson mentioned wishing he could go back to his first books and use the skills he has learned since, but said, “You’re only capable of what you’re capable of right now.”
  • Editor Tim Travaglini talked about “high concept” teen fiction, noting that just because it is commercial it can and should still be of high quality.
  • Agent Marietta Zacker encouraged us to find our own authentic voice that kept our audience in mind and trusted them to feel the emotions of our characters for truly memorable stories.

And now it is time for me to get to writing!

Banking in 1830s New England

April 13, 2011

Thompson Bank from the OSV Village.

New England’s economy in the early 19th century was largely based on credit. Cash was scarce and business needed to be conducted, so other means of doing business were adopted. Farmers and townsfolk kept detailed accounts of what they were owed and what they owed in return and settled accounts through various means of payment, which rarely included cash.

In the early 1800s, the U.S. government minted coins of copper, silver and gold, but didn’t print paper money. The face value of a coin was the actual value of the metal in the coin, which limited the amount of minted currency and made New England a cash poor society. There simply was not enough cash in early 19th century New England for all the business people needed to do. As a result, people frequently purchased items and paid for services with credit. Transactions were recorded in writing at the time of purchase, and debts would be paid back in services or goods from the farmer’s harvest. Banks were not involved. While coin may have been the only legal tender, this didn’t hinder the credit system. A new means of payment was taking hold though with existence of more and more banks—the bank note.

"Bicknell's Counterfeit Detector"

From the late 1820s on, most of the money in circulation in New England was in the form of bank notes. A bank note was a promissory note made by a bank payable to the bearer on demand. However, they were not legal tender and no one had to accept them. Because of this, a bank note was only as good as the reputation of the bank that issued it. In order to give the impression of safety and ensure trust in customers, banks were often built of brick, with plaster facades in the Greek revival style—a style fashionable in the 1830s. A bank was usually a single room with a transaction space and a steel vault—the most important element in the building—built into the wall behind the counter. The vault represented security to the customers, for so long as the vault was closed, anything sealed in it would be safe from fires or any other disaster that could befall the building.

A bank typically employed only one person, a cashier who was usually one of the bank’s principal investors. The cashiers transacted business in the mornings and closed the doors in the afternoon while he spent the rest of the day reviewing bank loan applications, writing business letters and doing bookkeeping.

One bank would usually serve the needs of several adjacent communities; unlike the country store for example, a bank was not a necessity in a rural New England town. Despite bank notes’ popularity, local townsfolk still didn’t use the bank on a day-to-day basis. If a farmer needed a personal loan, he would be more likely to seek out a wealthy individual than the bank. The country store also supplied coins and bank notes to customers who needed small amounts of money. This was a purchase of cash and didn’t involve a loan, which meant no interest. Farmers would exchange goods for the cash.

Reproduction of early paper money.

Bank's vault. As long as this door was sealed if there was a fire, nothin inside would be lost.

Most banks were commercial and primarily served the needs of businessmen—storekeepers, craftsmen and textile manufacturers. Businessmen used banks to acquire loans, referred to as “discounts” in the 1800s. Most discounts were renewable three-month loans at six percent interest that were secured by collateral. The customer actually received a smaller sum than he requested because interest in the 1800s was deducted in advance. A bank used money from its shareholders to give these short-term loans, and in return paid its shareholders from its profits.

New England would remain a community based on credit for years to come. Bank notes continued to be used in place of cash until the National Banking Act of 1863 was established and paper currency was introduced into circulation. The biggest change in the New England countryside though, was the growth of the savings bank, which served the individual and not just the businessman. The savings bank for the first time allowed the small farmers to save money, which in turn received interest—a concept that would continue to grow in popularity through the years.

Banker's work area.

Banks tried to appear strong and reliable in appearance as well.

Simple Remedies

April 7, 2011

America Frugal Housewife


Wine whey is a cooling and safe drink in fevers. Set half a pint of sweet milk at the fire, pour in one glass of wine, and let it remain perfectly still, till it curdles; when the curds settle, strain it, and let it cool. It should not get more than blood-warm. A spoonful of rennet-water hastens the operation. Made palatable with loaf sugar and nutmeg, if the patient can bear it.

…presented to you from The American Frugal Housewife – Dedicated to those who are not ashamed of economy, by Mrs. Child…



Something to Strive For

April 4, 2011

When I was in fifth grade, I fell in love with Mary Downing Hahn’s WWII-era middle-grade novel, Stepping on the Cracks.  I’ve read my book-fair copy many times since then and it never loses its power to make me think about the issues of the time and admire the complexity of her story.  But I also remember noticing something else on that book’s cover: a little gold medal that said “Scott O’Dell Award.”

I was used to seeing gold and silver medals that said “Newbery” or “Newbery Honor,” the highest award given in children’s literature.  But Scott O’Dell?  The guy who wrote Island of the Blue Dolphins?  He has an award named after him?  (At the time, that book didn’t seem reason enough to name an award after its author, especially not an award for one of my favorite books.)

But yes, Scott O’Dell has his own book award.  It’s been given out each year since 1984.  It’s not a memorial award, either.  O’Dell himself set it up as a way to encourage children’s authors of, get this: historical fiction.  An award just for our small but lovely genre of choice.  Certainly something to strive for.

Follow this link for more info on the awards and the books that have won it:’DellAwardforHistoricalFiction.aspx  Some of my favorite honorees include Out of the Dust, Chains, Sarah Plain and Tall, and of course, the 1992 honoree, Stepping on the Cracks.

What are some of your favorites?