Twelve-year-old Ally is the only witness to a bank robbery in her small town. Unable to block out the memory of the robbers, a notorious gang known as the Gauze Men, Ally joins her little brother and a bunch of neighborhood boys digging a hole in her backyard. Only the hole isn't just a hole - it's a massive set of tunnels snaking beneath the neighborhood and heading for an abandoned steel mill. Ally is old enough to know the danger, but she reasons spending time with sixth-grade heartthrob Paul is more fun than sitting at home with her worries. And dangerous it is - none of the kids' parents realize the tunnels exist, but the Gauze Men might.
I've just finished reading the book and it's filled with adventure and excitement... and mud! And every kid loves mud. I know when I was 10 or 11, I would have adored the idea of digging tunnels under the backyard. When I heard the extraordinary story of how and why this book was published (and where the proceeds are going), I bought the book from Amazon to show my support -- if you know me, you may realize how unusual this is, because normally I only support indies! And I welcomed the chance to have Natalie Bahm on my blog.
Take it away, Natalie!
Take it away, Natalie!
* * * * * * * *
Want to Write More? Get a Critique Partner.
A year ago I was so frustrated with writing I almost quit.
My life was chaotic, thanks mostly to my four little children. I hadn’t finished a book in over two years. I felt guilty about not making time to write.
I decided I needed a real critique partner—someone I could trade pages with on a daily basis. I wanted someone who would push me to finish a book. This person was Wen Baragrey.
Wen and I started sharing books about a year ago. Since then, we’ve both written two complete books and started several more. I’ve written more pages this year than just about every year before combined.
This is why:
1) For me, being accountable on a daily basis is CRUCIAL. Before I started working with Wen, I didn’t write regularly. I needed to know someone was waiting for the story—someone I didn’t want to disappoint—before I felt motivated to get my daily writing done.
2) Reading her writing made me want work harder. Wen is an amazing writer, but more than that, she’s brilliant at some of the things that I struggle with—like description and humor. Reading her stuff makes me push harder when writing my own. I’m a way stronger writer now than I was a year ago.
3)She is ALWAYS positive about the first draft. I believe that once a manuscript is done you need a harsh critique or two… or ten. But during a first draft there’s no such a thing as too much praise.
Wen has taught me that positive reinforcement is important. As writers we’re hard on ourselves. If I had a dollar for every time I think I should quit writing because I suck and I’ll never be good enough, I’d be a rich woman. I’ve realized it’s essential to have a voice in our lives counteracting that negative self-talk.
Wen is also the biggest reason that my first book, The Secret Underground, is out now. Wen’s grandson, Jayden, has been very ill since birth and her daughter and son-in-law have struggled to pay the bills. I felt like I needed to do something to help them.
I called my agent, Sara Megibow, and asked if we could do a book for Jayden. She thought it was a great idea. Wen spent countless hours reading and rereading the book, offering critiques and advice, and drawing the beautiful interior illustrations.
All profits from sales of The Secret Underground go directly to Jayden’s family. You can read more about the project here. The paperback version is available on Amazon. The eBook can be purchased just about anywhere eBooks are sold. The audiobook is available through iTunes, Audible, and Amazon. The paperback will be available through more booksellers soon.
Thank you so much for joining us today, Natalie. Readers, please consider helping Baby Jayden by buying the book!