Monday, October 24, 2016

How It's Different For Women

A few weeks ago I was driving to a speaking engagement and realized I was low on gas. Really low. I tend to do a lot of writing in my head while I drive and that means things like gas levels don't register until the car lets me know there might be an issue.

The nearest gas station was in a not-great part of a not-so-safe town. But my choices were to break down on the freeway, or put on my big girl pants and go get gas and hope that nobody got it into their head to try to take them off of me.

It was fine, nothing happened. I got gas and kept my head up and paid attention to my surroundings and went on without a single incident - not even a catcall. But this post isn't about how what I thought might be an iffy situation turned out to be fine.

It's about the conversation that came about after that.

I was relating this to a friend of mine - male - who is a good friend, and an honestly great person who tends to come down on the same side of most issues as I do. So I was surprised when he said, "You know it's scary for a guy in that situation too, right?"

And yes, it is. I get that.

But here's how it's different.

Assuming the bad-ending result of a man's story who stops at a sketchy gas station is that he is attacked, and let's go ahead and say that he is stabbed as well. Not minimizing anything, this is his fallout:

1) Physical pain, injury and recovery
2) PTSD from being assaulted
3) Loss of money / wallet / concerns of ID theft
4) Loss of masculinity - although, I would argue that since in my scenario his opponent is armed and he is not, this would be minimal. In fact, it may even enhance his masculinity because he's been stabbed.

Here's how it's different for a woman who is raped in the same scenario:

1) Physical pain, injury and recovery
3) Loss of money / wallet / purse, concerns of ID theft
4) Possible transmission of STD'S, some of which the carrier may have for the rest of their life, and be obligated to inform potential partners of.
5) Possibility of an unwanted pregnancy, that the woman has to decide whether to terminate or not, and suffer the emotional fall out from.
6) The event being present in the minds of both the woman and her partner when they have consensual sex following the attack - and for awhile afterwards, I would assume.
7) Being viewed as "used goods" or "dirty" after the event - both by others and herself.
8) Being viewed as complicit in her own assault:
          Why was she traveling alone?
          Does she not know that's a bad part of town?
          Why didn't she check the gas level sooner?
          What did she think would happen if she stopped there?

Every one of the things listed above has many subcategories, but for the sake of length I'm leaving it at the basics, which as you can see already doubles the male's fallout.

This is why it's different.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Book Talk & ARC Giveaway: BLOOD FOR BLOOD by Ryan Graudin

My book talks are coming at you from a librarian, not a reviewer. You won't find me talking about style or craft, why I think this could've been better or what worked or didn't work. I only do book talks on books I liked and want other people to know about. So if it's here I probably think it won't injure your brain if you read it.

If you haven't read WOLF BY WOLF you might not want to skip this book talk, as there will be spoilers!

Yael is on the run, with blood on her hands - the blood of a skinchanger like herself, one that she killed thinking that he was Adolf Hitler. With the Resistance fighting in small pockets, Luka Lowe following her, and the real Hitler declaring his survival all over television, Yael hardly knows where to turn.

Luka isn't quite the hindrance she thought he'd be, but her growing feelings for him are. With the Resistance pushing back and the Fuhrer demanding blood for blood, Yael's skin changing abilities are one of the only things that can keep her safe. But two of the most recognizable faces in all of Germania are with her - Double Victor Luka Lowe and Felix Wolfe.

She won't let either of the boys get hurt, not with her conscience already heavy laden. But Germania is a dangerous place to be, no matter what side you're on.

Ever been curious about Adele Wolfe’s side of the story? Pre-order BLOOD FOR BLOOD to get the scoop! 

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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Debut Author Sara Ella On The Author Having Cover Input & A Giveaway!

I love talking to authors. Our experiences are so similar, yet so very different, that every one of us has a new story to share. Everyone says that the moment you get your cover it really hits you - you're an author. The cover is your story - and you - packaged for the world. So the process of the cover reveal can be slightly panic inducing. Does it fit your story? Is it what you hoped? Will it sell? With this in mind I put together the CRAP (Cover Reveal Anxiety Phase) Interview.

Today's guest for the CRAP is Sara Ella, author of UNBLEMISHED. Once upon a time, Sara Ella dreamed she would marry a prince (just call her Mrs. Charming) and live in a castle (aka The Plaza Hotel). Though her fairy tale didn’t quite turn out as planned, she did work for Disney—that was an enchanted moment of its own. Now she spends her days throwing living room dance parties for her two princesses, and conquering realms of her own imaginings.

Eliyana has always recoiled from her own reflection in the mirror. But what if that were only one Reflection—one world? What if another world existed where her blemish could become her strength?

Eliyana is used to the shadows. With a hideous birthmark covering half her face, she just hopes to graduate high school unscathed. That is, until Joshua hops a fence and changes her perspective. No one, aside from her mother, has ever treated her as normal. Maybe even beautiful. Because of Joshua, Eliyana finally begins to believe she could be loved.

But one night her mother doesn’t come home, and that’s when everything gets weird.

Now Joshua is her new, and rather reluctant, legal Guardian. Add a hooded stalker and a Central Park battle to the mix and you’ve gone from weird to otherworldly.

Eliyana soon finds herself in a world much larger and more complicated than she’s ever known. A world enslaved by a powerful and vile man. And Eliyana holds the answer to defeating him. How can an ordinary girl, a blemished girl, become a savior when she can’t even save herself?

Did you have any pre-conceived notions about what you wanted your cover to look like?

Yes! I knew I wanted purple. And not just because it’s my favorite color, but because purple/blue are symbolic in the story. I also knew I wanted my main character’s face on the cover somewhere because her birthmark/blemish is what the book is all about. Oh! And I hoped to have a little piece of NYC displayed since the book begins in the Big Apple. All three wishes came true!

How far in advance from your pub date did you start talking covers with your house?

I had to fill out something called an AMSI (Advanced Marketing and Sales Information sheet) back in September of 2015. So it was over a year before the release date that we started talking covers.

Did you have any input on your cover?

Yes. Lots more than I expected, actually. The AMSI had all sorts of questions regarding fonts, colors, people, places, or things I might like on the cover.

How was your cover revealed to you?

My amazing editor Becky Monds emailed it to me. I was like, “SBDLHASERASHBFK!!!!!!” It was so beautiful! I couldn’t have asked for a better design. I cried.

Was there an official "cover reveal" date for your art?

Yes! I have a YouTube (BookTube) channel so I did a live show cover reveal with my good friend Trina from the BetweenChapters channel. On March 4, 2016 we spent an hour talking about the novel and involving viewers in fun, bookish challenges leading up to the reveal at the end of the show. We topped it off with a giveaway in which six lucky viewers won a signed poster of the cover. It was tons of fun! Here’s the link to the replay if anyone wants to watch it!

How far in advance of the reveal date were you aware of what your cover would look like?

It was about a month before the reveal date that I got to see my cover.

Was it hard to keep it to yourself before the official release?

Um, yes. No, make that YES! I am such a horrible secret keeper, LOL :D I was itching to put that baby up on Twitter or Instagram.

What surprised you most about the process?

How much input I had. They really took my ideas and preferences seriously. I am so blessed to work with such an amazing team.

Any advice to other debut authors about how to handle cover art anxiety?

Don’t be afraid to voice your opinion. The first time I saw my cover there were a couple tweaks I suggested, and my editor took them gladly. If you don’t like something or feel as if something is missing, don’t hesitate to kindly talk to your editor or cover artist about possible changes.

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Monday, October 17, 2016

I Menstruate And It's Not A Big Deal

Most of you know I worked full time as a high school librarian for fifteen years. One of the first things I learned was to have an extra pad or tampon in my desk – and they’re not for me.

I can’t tell you how many times girls have come into my office asking if I have something they can use for “…you know.” And of course I do, no matter whether they’re a student I get along with or not, and in the moment when I hand that “something” over we’re not a student and a staff member anymore – we’re just two women.

It’s a phenomenon I’ve noticed before, as a college student or in my early twenties, in bathrooms of bars or a club when a perfect stranger’s hand sticks into my stall door from under the divider and says, “Hey, sorry. But do you have… something?” And again at the changing of hands, she’s not a stranger even if I never see her face. We’re just two women.

So why even among women do we struggle to say the word “pad” or “tampon?” Why do we slide them inside our sleeve or crush them in our fists as we walk to the bathroom so that no one will know that we’re menstruating? The fact that we shed our uterine lining means that we’re able to continue the human race, grow the next generation inside our bodies. But we’ve been taught that it’s bad, scary, shameful, dirty, or even gross.

In Biblical times a menstruating woman was considered unclean, and as a culture we haven’t come terribly far. In March of 2015, poet and artist Rupi Kaur posted a photo on her Instagram account of herself, curled up in bed, having bled through her pants. The photo was promptly flagged by users as offensive, and quickly removed from Instagram for violating community standards. Anyone who is familiar with Instagram knows you don’t have to wander far or scroll long to find any variety of explicit photos. Yet a fully clothed woman with a spot of blood on her pants caused an uproar.

Menstruation is not always met with disgust, but sometimes simple ignorance is to blame. I remember being in grade school and hearing about an older girl that had to be sent home early because she got her period in choir. The story had made some rounds by the time it reached the fifth graders, so the way we heard it, the girl had covered a chair in blood, gone home and had her period seven more times. They didn’t know if she was going to make it.

That one can be chalked up to the innocence of childhood, but I’ve had some dumbfounding experiences with adult males that can’t be so easily excused. When my boyfriend of nine years and I combined households, he soon learned that his sheets were our sheets. And our sheets have bloodstains. On all accounts he is a wonderful, kind, lovely person, who nicely asked me if I could possibly “wear something to bed to stop that from happening.”

To which I explained. “Honey, I am. You should see what would happen if I didn’t.”
“Really?” he asked. “It’s like that?”
“Yeah, honey. It’s like that.”

This came from a man in his late thirties who grew up with three older sisters. Even in a household of women, menstruation remained a mystery.

A few years ago a well-meaning man advised me not to venture into my garden during my time of the month, because it would make the pickles wilt. I told him that might not be the best gardening advice I’d ever heard but it was certainly a wonderful metaphor.

In 1892 famed axe-killer Lizzie Borden murdered her father and step-mother, yet when questioned about a spot of blood on her hemline by the police, she informed them it was from a “flea bite,” a euphemism at the time for menstrual blood. The officers promptly dropped that line of questioning, too mortified to continue. Lizzie was exonerated for lack of evidence.

Today we call that “getting out of gym class.”

As a YA author I’m often asked if I find myself restrained by the parameters of writing for teens, in terms of censorship. If you’ve read anything I’ve written then you’re probably aware the answer is “not really,” and – as I keep telling everyone – if I haven’t shocked you yet, just wait for the next one.

However, in an earlier draft of my debut NOT A DROP TO DRINK there was a mention of how my main character, Lynn, and her mother, handled menstruation in the post-apocalypse. Early readers asked me if that was really necessary as some might find it offensive. Being a new writer who only wanted to please, I chose to remove it. Looking back, I question how a book that opens with a nine year old shooting someone in the head in defense of her water source crossed the line by mentioning menstruation.

So where do we go from here? If red tents, axe-murders and wilted pickles litter the past what can we do in the present? Start by saying “pad” or “tampon” out loud, not asking for “something” because “you know.” Don’t be afraid to say menstruation, it’s not a dirty word. Don’t be ashamed to go into the store just to get a box of pads or tampons, because guys make that trip for condoms without thinking twice. Talk to your daughters openly about it, and – talk to your sons, too, so that their girlfriend doesn’t look at them like they’re stupid when they’re almost forty.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

NYCC16 Roundup: I Met A Dinosaur And Liked It Plus Some Swag I'm Giving Away

This was my second year at NYCC and I don't think it's something that one gets used to. Granted, there were more people inside the Javits than live in my entire county, but they also collectively had on brighter colors than my Midwesterner's eyes have seen in a lifetime of looking at stuff.


It was a great time. I found a LEGO booth that fit my style, and then Wonder Woman made out of Jelly Bellies, so that was all for the positive. Then I made my way over to the main gate and saw a swell of people so overwhelming that I found a place to hide under an escalator and just stayed there for a bit.

I was happy in my hiding place, but I had to find Brittany Cavallaro and Kimberly McCreight, none of us having ever met each other before. So that was fun.

We did manage to find each other, which was a small miracle. We went to the room for our meetup and I was stunned to find out that the long line of people waiting outside were actually coming there to meet us, and not waiting for the bathroom, which had been my assumption.

60 kids came to meet us, and each one received an EpicReads tote with free copies of our books! We signed for them at a round table an answered questions about our books. It was a great time, and good for face to face with fans - much better than a panel, I think!

After that I found another hiding place, up by the exits along the wall. Somewhere quiet where I could charge my phone, read some of the awesome books that I picked up on the floor, and watch a T-Rex chew people's heads. Seeing one of these things in real life was honestly a highlight. He accidentally knocked something out of a girl's hands and tired to bend down and get it for her but his tiny arms couldn't reach. Priceless. 

I came home with a lot more stuff than I went to New York with. My backpack resented everything I picked up, but I don't think you will. Giveaway below!

Phantom half-mask from ROSEBLOOD by AG Howard
First Look at CARVE THE MARK by Veronica Roth
Preview of THE THOUSANDTH FLOOR by Katharine McGee
Hardcover copy of IRON CAST by Destiny Soria

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Want to help me with all the mailing costs? I do giveaways at least once week, sometimes more. It can add up. If you feel so inclined as to donate a little to defray my mailing costs, it would be much appreciated!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

MG Hennessy & THE OTHER BOY: The Importance of Author Input On Cover Design

I love talking to authors. Our experiences are so similar, yet so very different, that every one of us has a new story to share. Everyone says that the moment you get your cover it really hits you - you're an author. The cover is your story - and you - packaged for the world. So the process of the cover reveal can be slightly panic inducing. Does it fit your story? Is it what you hoped? Will it sell? With this in mind I put together the CRAP (Cover Reveal Anxiety Phase) Interview.

Today's guest for the CRAP is MG Hennessey, author of THE OTHER BOY, a recently released MG novel about a transgender middle grader. M.G. Hennessey loves Star Wars, the San Francisco Giants, strawberry ice cream, and dancing. A supporter of the Transgender Law Center, Gender Spectrum. and the Human Rights Campaign, she lives in Los Angeles with her family. Be sure to enter the giveaway below!

Twelve-year-old Shane Woods is just a regular boy. He loves pitching for his baseball team, working on his graphic novel, and hanging out with his best friend, Josh. But Shane is keeping something private, something that might make a difference to his friends and teammates, even Josh. And when a classmate threatens to reveal his secret, Shane’s whole world comes crashing down. It will take a lot of courage for Shane to ignore the hate and show the world that he’s still the same boy he was before. And in the end, those who stand beside him may surprise everyone, including Shane.

Did you have any pre-conceived notions about what you wanted your cover to look like?

Design is definitely not my strong suit. But I knew what I didn’t want it to look like: I didn’t want any photographs of kids; I didn’t want a pair of sneakers or a baseball cap (‘cause there are wayyy too many of those on upper middle grade books); and above and beyond all else, absolutely no pink. The story is about a transgender boy who gets outed after living stealth for years, so that was a particularly important for me. I submitted a bunch of recent book covers that I loved for the art department to use as a guideline.

How far in advance from your pub date did you start talking covers with your house?

It was about a year before publication, and we had a final cover by the end of January.

Did you have any input on your cover? 

Lots and lots!

Having been around the block a few times, in my contract I requested (and received) “meaningful cover input.” If your agent can negotiate for that, it’s such an important thing to have; otherwise, by the time you see the cover it’s usually a done deal, and very little is liable to change.

My publisher was great: initially they sent me samples from the artist they wanted to hire. To be honest, I wasn’t thrilled; her style didn’t match what I’d pictured. But they wanted to give her a shot at it, so we did.

Unfortunately, when the cover samples showed up, not only was pink featured prominently in every last one of them (a pink backpack, a pink baseball hat (!), a pink shadow); I also just really didn’t like them. They all seemed a little grim for this book; despite The Other Boy’s subject matter, it’s overall a positive, hopeful story.

My publisher listened to my concerns, then sent samples from four other artists. I ranked them in order of preference, and was lucky enough to get my top choice! The cover artist we ended up going with, Erwin Madrid, really hit it out of the park. The cover design changed very little from the sketches he’d initially submitted.

It meant a lot to me that the art department let me be so involved, and really responded to my feedback. That’s all too rare in this industry.

How was your cover revealed to you? 

For the first artist, I was shown five different versions of the cover in full color. For the second, I was sent early sketches of the design (black and white) for approval.

Was there an official "cover reveal" date for your art? 

There wasn’t, actually; I guess with upper middle grade books, that’s not quite as much of a thing.

What surprised you most about the process?

Honestly, the amount of input I had. 

Any advice to other debut authors about how to handle cover art anxiety? 

Get cover approval or input in the contract if at all possible; that’s really key. And if you get a terrible cover, make sure to detail precisely what about it you don’t like.

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Friday, October 7, 2016

Book Talk & Giveaway: THE MIGHTY ODDS by Amy Ignatow

My book talks are coming at you from a librarian, not a reviewer. You won't find me talking about style or craft, why I think this could've been better or what worked or didn't work. I only do book talks on books I liked and want other people to know about. So if it's here I probably think it won't injure your brain if you read it.

You wouldn't think that bus accident on the way home from a field trip would give you super powers, but you'd be wrong. Only the losers got jammed into the second bus taking middle schoolers to the museum. Well, the losers and the most popular girl in school, who is in trouble for sneaking off to find an awesome jewelry store.

The fat kid, the social outcast, the super nerd, the quiet artsy girl, and the It Girl all managed to survive the crash, and don't even notice their weird new powers until a few days later. And powers are great but... when you can teleport (only four inches to the left), read minds (if they're thinking about directions), tear apart cars with your strength (but only in your thumbs), and change your eye color at will (and sometimes against your will)... it makes those powers seem... mighty odd.

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