Thursday, July 29, 2010

A New Journey in Research

You never know where research will take you. Well, at least this is what I've found out while researching my books. I love to go to different places and find out about legends and myths. There is adventure in exploring an area and using the description as some setting in your book. This is the joy of writing and researching. They seem to go hand and hand, and they are a very creative, fun step in the writing process.

I recently got back from an adventure in London. I wanted to return to the British Museum book room that had a range of information on things in the museum. I learned the book room had been closed and all the books moved to the British Library in another part of London.

The British Library in London
So, off I went to investigate. I am proud to announce I'm the new proud owner of a British Library card. The librarian got excited when she learned I was an author researching my third book. And I must say, I did find some interesting legends and myths on dwarves and dragons, which I'm focusing in on the third book. Plus, a changeling will play a pivotal part. So, I researched as much as I could on that.

The third book is turning into an adventure that will involve dwarves. So, I was thinking I needed more than just information about legends. I wanted some hands on experience of something that is closely associated with dwarves, mines.

The next logical step would be to find a mine. Luckily, I live in California, and it is famous for the Gold Rush and the many mines in Gold Country, the Sierra Mountain foothills where much of the gold was panned and mined during the Gold Rush. On July 24, 2010, I headed onto Route 49, the highway that connects many of the gold rush boomtowns. And yes, found myself a gold mine.

Tiffany Turner on the Sutter Gold Mine Tour

The Sutter Gold Mine is located off of the old Route 49 which leads through the old boomtowns. Complete with red construction hat, I was driven on a miners' transport truck 200 ft. underground. There was a chance to walk around and look at the white quartz. Veins of the quartz contain the gold. It is mined and processed as gold ore. The walls were testimonies to the hard working miners that had blasted out the tunnels I traversed.

Unfortunately, the price of gold dropped to around $200 an ounce, and the mine closed in the early 90s. Of course, now the price of gold is around $1,000 an ounce. Talk of reopening the mine has been going on for 10 years. However since it's closure, it's being used to give tourists going through the area a look at a real gold mine, both modern and historical.

When you write a story that often includes crystals, a good exploring research trip wouldn't be complete without discovering a new kind of crystal. I walked into the On Purpose Higher Awareness Book Store in Sutter Creek, and found a fabulous new crystal stone to inspire me for my next book. It's called Septarian or "Dragon Stone". It's a type of fossil stone that includes clay sediment wrapped with ancient shells that formed together with calcite crystal. I leave the beautifully polished stone on my nightstand to inspire me as I write.

This is why I love researching for my books. You have to bring a little of real life into fantasy to make it believable. To go and experience your settings and base them on real adventures breathes life into writing. Writing from experience is the best way to drive writing, and of course, it makes the research an enjoyable part of the writing process.

Writing Exercise:
What can you research and write about?
Post comments and ideas below, and I can share them in a future blog.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Summer Reading: Important for Children of Any Age

Not often do I go on the day job soap box, but as a teacher I know how important it is to keep your children reading during the summer. So many school budgets have been cut that summer school is becoming a luxury. As it is, only the really low and needy kids will make it into summer school these days. But all children need to practice their reading during the summer. They lose important skills they learned during the school year if they don't.

So here is a list of some things to consider from a 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade experienced teacher to help you navigate where to start in your child's reading needs:

1) Let them read for enjoyment.
A lot of parents try to force books on kids which tends to turn them off. Of course, sometimes it's hard for a child to find what they like. This is actually part of the reading process, and trying lots of different kinds of reading is a skill they practice in school. Take them to the library and let them explore. Try not to limit.

These days there are a lot of different kinds of books to try. New classics have come out since you were a kid. The "Wimpy" kid series, lots of fantasy, graphic novels are some of the new popular areas that were absent 20 years ago. Let your kid "Go for It" and explore. You might discover some new fabulous novels as well.

2) Reading anything is good.
A lot of kids don't find they enjoy books. But they might enjoy gaming magazines, code books, Highlights for Kids, or other reading enjoyment. Even the internet has vast amounts of reading to explore. Reading has changed it's venue, and even Ereaders to phones have reading opportunities. Trying lots of different things is key. The summer can be a wonderful time to explore all these vast storage areas of new reading.

3) Practice makes perfect.
Kids are not perfect readers, and need practice. It's called Independent Reading, and it's the third prong of reading development. Kids need to read on their own for enjoyment. The summer is a time to really practice and make this third area of reading development key. The more reading children do, the better they will get.

4) Setting up a reading time is helpful.
Kids need routines. Just a basic time for Independent Reading time is a wonderful structure to get kids to practice. It can be chosen by the child or structured into their regular day. 20 minutes seems to be a good starting amount, but can be increased 5 min. each year. I wouldn't go over 30 minutes during the summer unless your child wants to. Reading Time shouldn't be torture, but for enjoyment. And if your child starts to want to read longer than the set time, brilliant. They should start to choose more reading time on their own so it doesn't become a punishment.

In the end, your child should start to be able to enjoy reading whether it's on the internet, with a book, on the Ereader or even a magazine. Reading should be for fun, and the more practice your child has at that, the more they will want to read.

Tiffany Turner is working on her third book "The Lost Secret of Dragonfire". Her first and second books, "The Lost Secret of Fairies" and "The Lost Secret of the Green Man" are available on in paperback or Kindle Editions. She teaches during the school year in a California Elementary school, and has 13 years teaching experience.