Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Saturday Slash

Meet my Hatchet of Death (or, some other colorful description RC Lewis and I come up with at any given moment). This is how I edit myself, it is how I edit others. If you think you want to play with me and my hatchet, shoot us an email.

We all know the first line of a query is your "hook." I call the last line the "sinker." You want it to punch them in the face, in a nice, friendly kind of way that makes them unable to forget you after having read the 300 other queries in their inbox.

If you're looking for query advice, but are slightly intimidated by my claws, blade, or just my rolling googly-eyes, check out the query critique boards over at AgentQueryConnect. This is where I got my start, with advice from people smarter than me. Don't be afraid to ask for help with the most critical first step of your writing journey - the query. My comments appear in green.

When twenty-four year old Neha is left standing alone at her wedding with nothing but henna designs on her hands as humiliating souvenirs, she has to swallow her pride and do the unthinkable - embrace the age old Indian tradition of arranged marriages. Absolutely fantastic hook. I'm totally into it.

Thanks to her nosy relatives, rumors spread about her possible rewording to "the" scandal. Worried the stigma will adversely affect her younger sibling's prospects, her parents place matrimonial ads in leading newspapers. I think perhaps just an indication her of why Neha's shame would also touch upon her sisters? You don't have to go into intense cultural detail, but a word wouldn't hurt. While Neha is not entirely thrilled about being reduced to 'Hindu software engineer girl, slim, fair comma here seeking alliance with highly educated engineer or doctor in Bombay', she goes along with it for the sake of her parents. When I'd rephrase to "With" her stressed father is on the brink of a second heart attack, she agrees to marry Sameer - a man she barely knows. He has a stable job, treats her family with respect and Neha knows in her heart that here is a man who would never walk out on her. I'd use a little more word economy in this last sentence. 

When Neha is sent to New York on an IT consulting gig with her nerdy, but compassionate teammate Raj, somewhere between battling snow storms to getting mugged, they fall for each other. Now Neha is having second thoughts about her impending nuptials. But with Raj planning to marry a U.S citizen to permanently stay in America, Neha must choose between her family's happiness or fight for Raj and true love.

I think this is a great query for a pretty fantastic concept. There are some very slight rewordings that I would address, but otherwise this is solid. I don't think it would hurt to indicate why her intended left her at the altar, and perhaps as I said above a mention of why her failed marriage would impact her younger sisters for those unfamiliar with the culture. Also, you definitely need a genre and word count para. This could be literary, women's fiction, or even romance just going by the body of the query. Good luck - I think this is a solid query!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts lately...

1) Why can dogs swim instinctively and humans can't?

2) There are three things we know very little about, comparatively: Space. Oceans. Our own brains. One surrounds us, one makes up most of our planet, and one basically is us. Weird.

3) I'm really into genealogy and last night I found someone in my family who literally died from picking their nose. No shit. Only in my life.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

German Cover For NOT A DROP TO DRINK Plus A Bunch of Giveaways

Lots going on in my world lately, so a quick clean-up post to make sure that no one is missing out on anything fun that may or may not actually interest them.

First of all, I am so, so pleased to share the German cover of NOT A DROP TO DRINK with you. So often authors see their foreign covers and think, "What?" My German cover is a beautiful re-imagining of the US version, which I think says a lot about the versatility and aptness of the original design. The re-titling BIS ZUM LETZTEN TROPFEN translates as "To The Last Drop." It will be published by Verlag Heyne in Germany on August 11.

August 26th the paperback of NOT A DROP TO DRINK will be available in the US. It will have bonus content. I can't go into too much detail, but for everyone who would like to learn a little more about Mother and how the world of DRINK came to be in the condition it is in the opening pages... well, you might be interested in the paperback.

And if you're thinking you want a hardcover, but you're holding out for a signed one, you might want to check out Brenda Novak's auction as items come to an end here at the closing of the month. Myself and six other Class of 2k13 members have a signed book package (with a tote!) up for auction. If this is your bag (see what I did there?) drop in and bid.

Some of you are sitting there thinking, Mindy, I could give less of a crap about DRINK written in a language I can't read, or buying it in paperback or bidding on it at auction when all I want is IN A HANDFUL OF DUST and I want it right now.

Well guess what, you might just get your wish. There's a giveaway on Goodreads at the moment for 10 ARCs of DUST, the companion novel to NOT A DROP TO DRINK. 

And, in case you still want to read more stuff I wrote (I hope you do, at any rate), there is also a Goodreads giveaway for Winter's Regret: What Might Have Been, an anthology of short stories from Elephant's Bookshelf Press, which includes a short from yours truly.

In the meantime, I'm cracking out the pages for my next book, which will be coming to you from Katherine Tegen books in the Fall of 2015. What's it about? Nothing pleasant.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

An SAT With Children's Author Tamera Will Wissinger

Today's guest for the SAT (Successful Author Talk) is Tamera Will Wissinger, fellow Class of 2k13 member and author of GONE FISHING, a 2014 ALSC Notable Children's Book.

Are you a Planner or Pantster?

Most of my writing begins as one tiny nugget of an idea scribbled on a sticky note or receipt, so I definitely start out as a pantster. If an idea grabs hold of my imagination and won’t let go, then I begin to flesh it out, still by the seat of my pants, though, and often in my head. At some point, though, I have to step back and ask what I’m doing and how I might make this lovely mess of ideas into a story or a poem that could hang together and actually become a book. That’s when my writing becomes more planful.

How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?

A first draft can take anywhere from six months to two years. Revisions can take that long or longer. From inception to final edits, GONE FISHING took about five years to complete. For picture books, the first draft is definitely shorter, but rewriting can take quite a bit of time. When I began THIS OLD BAND in 2008 it had a different title and an entirely different premise and I was struggling to complete a draft. That version was also a counting concept book that featured cowboys and cowgirls, but it featured a duel. Once I figured out that the characters wanted to play in a band rather than fight, I settled in and wrote the entire book rather quickly, but it took a couple of years of duking it out with that older version to arrive at that point.

Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi tasker?

I am a strict multi tasker and typically work on several projects in various stages of completion. That changes if I’m on deadline – then I become a one-project-at-a-time writer. I do think it’s simpler for me to weave from project to project because much of my work is poetry and picture book-length stories. A novelist has to keep many characters and plot threads in her mind for a long period of time; I’ve tried it myself and it’s hard.

Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?

I didn’t exactly have fears related to sitting down and writing – I spent many years in the business world and would secretly write poetry and short stories at nights and on weekends. I did fear publicly declaring that I was a writer; I thought that people might judge me. I got over that fear after I left my job and people began to assume that I was a stay-at-home wife with nothing to do. Some tried to offer ways to help me spend my time. When I did come out of hiding, people did judge, but by that point I had stopped caring because I had protected my writing time.

How many trunked books (if any) did you have before you were agented?

I’m unagented, so I’ll answer this based on pre-sale. Before my first sale, I trunked at least a dozen books, many of them picture books, a few readers, the beginnings of a couple of novels, and dozens and dozens of poems.

Have you ever quit on an ms, and how did you know it was time?

Yes…many. I knew it was time when my heart and mind were tugged in other directions, and the old ms didn’t tug back. 

Since you’re unagented, how do you submit manuscripts. How did you get that "Yes!" without an agent?

When I first began to feel that my stories were strong enough for publication, started out using Chuck Sambuchino’s Children’s Writers and Illustrator’s Market book. I had spent several years researching, sending out manuscripts or partials, hearing “no,” then a few “maybes” that became “no.” After several years of that and returning to school for my MFA in Writing for Children, I finally heard “Yes!” from my Houghton Mifflin Harcourt editor.

I know that conventional wisdom is to have an agent before you sell your first ms (especially with novels), but if you have a strong manuscript and you’re not getting positive reaction from agents, maybe consider a couple of things. Maybe the manuscript needs to be tweaked just a tiny bit more, or maybe you could try to submit your story directly to a few carefully selected editors on your own. Some publishers accept unsolicited manuscripts; just make sure to follow their submission guidelines.

How did that feel, the first time you saw your book for sale?

I was so grateful and overjoyed! Beyond simply being published, though, my writing goal was to write a story that would find it's way into children's hands, so the first time I saw children enjoying my book was the real joy for me. I never get tired of seeing and hearing children read - not just my stories and poetry – anything. When they are confident in their reading, children are so genuine and enthusiastic. I love being swept up in that excitement.

How much input do you have on cover art?

Very little. I have been lucky enough to be asked about conceptual style before final decisions about art direction, but the choice of illustrator, the final cover art, and interiors are mostly a collaboration between the illustrator, art director, and editor. The illustrators for both THIS OLD BAND (Matt Loveridge) and GONE FISHING (Matthew Cordell) have exceeded my expectations with their talent and creativity in visual storytelling.

What's something you learned from the process that surprised you?

This is something that I sensed, but had never experienced: Those working in and around the children’s publishing world are smart and generous, and care about the writing, the writers, and helping books reach the hands of young readers. That network includes a wide range of people from those working within the publishing world, to trade publications, authors, teachers, booksellers, librarians, bloggers, parents, and young readers. Really, anyone who loves and acts on the idea of helping children gain access to great books and reading is part of this global, committed network.

How much of your own marketing do you?  Do you have a blog / site / Twitter? 

I do a fair amount of my own marketing. I have a website, an online journal, a Twitter account, and a Facebook author page. I also keep an online journal called The Writer’s Whimsy (it’s not a full-fledged blog, but it does allow me the flexibility of blog-type posts when I choose to go that route.) 

And I participate in the Kidlitosphere Poetry Friday meme and am a regular blogger with Smack Dab in the Middle Blog. I’ve also been dabbling in videos – something that I’m hearing quite a bit about, so I think it’s time to learn about creating videos and how to use them as an author. A year and a half ago that would have petrified me – I didn’t even have a Twitter account until the 2k13 Twitter was set up in the fall of 2012. Now I don’t know what I was afraid of. I had pretty serious Twitterphobia before that! The marketing idea that I keep returning to is that it’s not always about me. I believe that there is a great benefit to me even when I’m engaging online in helping someone else.

I also reach out to booksellers, teachers, and school media specialists to engage in events and school visits, and occasionally present at conferences. I enjoy face-to-face interaction and feel lucky that my books allow me a fun way to engage young readers. It's hard to quantify any of these things in actual sales, although schools are great about pre-selling books when I visit.

When do you build your platform? After an agent? Or should you be working before?

Before an agent, before a first sale. When I signed my first contract in 2011 I had email, a rarely used Facebook account, and outdated business cards - that was my entire platform – I’m not kidding. I had been so focused on writing that I had ignored the vast changes happening online. I didn't recognize how – or feel that – I belonged, so I ignored it. I paid for it royally, too, in overcoming fears, coming up to speed, all the while feeling anxious and ignorant. Thank goodness for leaders like Mindy and my good dumb luck of stumbling into The Class of 2k13 and the Lucky 13s! Looking back, not having any sort of platform didn't rob me of the joy of celebrating, it just made that time more intense than it needed to be. 

Engaging now while you have a little more flexibility in your schedule can be simple: a static website with one or two pages describing you and what you write, a Twitter account, maybe a social Facebook page. You don’t need a blog, but you might consider writing a few essays or short tutorials and posting them on your site, or offering to contribute an essay to a few of your favorite blogs, or maybe even join a group blog that you can tie back to your web site. Then when you’ve made your first sale, you have a solid foundation upon which to build.

Do you think social media helps build your readership?

That's a great question, Mindy. I'm not sure that I know the answer. I do know that we are all in this together and that there are good and smart people online who are more than happy to help authors at any stage from pre published to well published. I have also noticed that those who know me, even if it's through my online friendships, are some of my strongest advocated. So I guess I would say that social media helps build relationships and that, in turn, may develop into readership. 

Thank you for hosting me here for your SAT, Mindy. I had a great time.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Saturday Slash

Meet my Hatchet of Death (or, some other colorful description RC Lewis and I come up with at any given moment). This is how I edit myself, it is how I edit others. If you think you want to play with me and my hatchet, shoot us an email.

We all know the first line of a query is your "hook." I call the last line the "sinker." You want it to punch them in the face, in a nice, friendly kind of way that makes them unable to forget you after having read the 300 other queries in their inbox.

If you're looking for query advice, but are slightly intimidated by my claws, blade, or just my rolling googly-eyes, check out the query critique boards over at AgentQueryConnect. This is where I got my start, with advice from people smarter than me. Don't be afraid to ask for help with the most critical first step of your writing journey - the query. My comments appear in green.

One taunt from school bully Sammy, and Daniel Hoover, age twelve, says nothing. He’s not the type to retaliate. I like it. This is a good hook on a timely subject. Kind of a quiet hook, but it gives promise of more to come.

One punch during lunchtime and Daniel walks away. He’s not going to risk getting into trouble when he’s up for an athletic scholarship to a prep school.

A second punch during wresting practice, and Daniel staggers.

A third punch, and Daniel’s nose starts to bleed. I think we need more of a feeling of a timeline here - is this all in the same day?

Three is too much.

Do it again. Do what again? Who is doing it?

One punch, and Sammy stumbles.

A second punch, and Sammy falls and hits his head on a step.

By the end of the day, Sammy is dead.

This is the story of Daniel Hoover, a latch key kid wrestling champ who struggles to raise his mentally-challenged younger brother and keep the household running. As he fights his family’s staggering poverty and the weight of his single mother’s expectations, he longs to secure a future altogether different from the one he knows until one fateful day where he reaches his breaking point. This is a great paragraph here, with a nice summation of the concept. What you need to do is bring together the elements before this into a more cohesive linear progression, making it less abstract. I don't dislike what you're doing here - it's definitely something different - but you don't want an agent to be turned off by your first sporadic sentences and not get to the meat here.

THINK OF THE CHILDREN is a 97,000 word coming-of-age adult debut. Your genre is off. With a 12 y/o protagonist this is upper MG, possibly YA depending on content and language. Your word count is also very high for a contemporary in this age range of readers. Definitely look and see what you can pare down out of the ms before querying.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Successful Author Talk With Lori M. Lee

Today's guest for the SAT (Successful Author Talk) is Lori M. Lee. Lori is the author of young adult
fantasy GATES OF THREAD & STONE, coming August 5, 2014 from Skyscape. She has a borderline obsessive fascination with unicorns, is fond of talking in capslock, and loves to write about magic, manipulation, and family.

Are you a Planner or Pantster?

Absolutely a Planner. I outline like a fiend. In fact, I’ve been known to have outlines as long as 50 pages. And that’s not counting the various documents on world building and characters. I have a problem.

How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?

The first draft of GATES OF THREAD AND STONE took 4 weeks to write, and then 1.5 months to self-edit. After that, it took another month to edit with CP feedback before I felt it was ready to query, so it was a little over 3 months total. Of course, “finished” is relative considering it went through quite a few more rounds of editing once I found an agent and then an editor. The first draft of its sequel took 6 weeks to write and 4 weeks to self-edit. I was on deadline, though, which totally shook things up lol. My husband began to complain that he hadn’t seen me for a month.

Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi-tasker?

I try to work on one project at a time, unless the siren call of another one is too strong to resist. I began a second WIP while writing the sequel to GoT&S, so I wrote 2k words a day on the sequel and then wrote whatever I could on the second WIP. That didn’t last longer than a week though. I managed to get a good 15k words into the WIP before my motivation began to ebb. I tend to work best when I’m completely focused on one thing.

Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?

Every time I sit down to start a first draft, there’s that paralyzing question: OMG WHAT IF I DON’T HAVE ANOTHER NOVEL IN ME? Once I get past that, it becomes much easier. But man... that obnoxious voice never quite goes away.

How many trunked books (if any) did you have before you were agented?

Discounting the portal fantasy romance I wrote when I was twelve, just one. (If we’re counting the portal fantasy romance, then two :P) I’m now recycling some of the mythology and characters in that trunked book for a new fantasy I’m working on. It’s been fun breathing new life into those old ideas.

Have you ever quit on an ms, and how did you know it was time?

I’ve never quit on a ms before it was fully written. You just never know what it might become until it’s done! Having said that, I tried really hard to get that trunked book to work, but I knew it was time to let it go when, after getting the same feedback from my agent and CPs, I just didn’t know how to fix it. 

Who is your agent and how did you get that "Yes!" out of them?  

My agent is Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary. It’s a bit of a long story, but GoT&S initially came to her attention via a referral. To my delight, she loved my book and offered and now she’s stuck with me.

How long did you query before landing your agent? 

I queried with that aforementioned trunked novel for months. It got a lot of interest, but it just never panned out. With GoT&S, I queried for about a month before receiving Suzie’s offer.

Any advice to aspiring writers out there on conquering query hell?

Everyone says this, but that’s because it’s true: keep going. Each rejection feels personal and it never stops hurting, but unless you’re getting personalized feedback all telling you the same thing, you keep sending out more queries and you keep pushing forward. Achieving your dreams isn’t supposed to be easy!

How did it feel when you saw your sale announcement?

I was dying inside, but I had to remain cool and calm on the outside because I was at work at the time. So I had a mini freak out in a relatively quiet hallway before returning to my desk grinning like an idiot.

How much input do you have on cover art?

I was allowed to provide feedback at every step of the way, which was fantastic. In the end, although the final product surprised me a bit, I really love it.

What's something you learned from the process that surprised you?

You know how everyone says publishing involves a lot of waiting? Yeah, even though I knew that, the waiting was still kind of surprising because... there really is a lot of it. Like... A LOT a lot.

How much of your own marketing do you?  

I try to accept whatever opportunities float in my direction, but I’m kind of just paddling along. I blog on occasion. I’m also on Tumblr and Twitter more often than I should be. And I’m also on Facebook, although I’m trying to be better on that platform.

When do you build your platform? After an agent? Or should you be working before?

I think you should do what’s comfortable for you. I don’t see using social media as work. Mostly I just goof around. I began tweeting well before I even wrote GoT&S, but I know authors who don’t tweet at all. It’s really up to what you want to do.

Do you think social media helps build your readership?

Not necessarily. Having a high number of twitter follows in no way guarantees that number of book sales. But it does help you connect with like-minded people, writers, and readers. And if a few of those people decide to check out your book, then that’s totally cool!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Submission Process For A Debut Novelist With Mary Elizabeth Summer

If there's one thing that many aspiring writers have few clues about, it's the submission process. There are good reasons for that; authors aren't exactly encouraged to talk in detail about our own submission experiences, and - just like agent hunting - everyone's story is different.

I managed to cobble together a few non-specific questions that some debut authors have agreed to answer (bless them). And so I bring you the submission interview series - Submission Hell - It's True. Yes, it's the SHIT.

Today's guest for the SHIT is Mary Elizabeth Summer, author of TRUST ME, I'M LYING. She contributes to the delinquency of minors by writing books about unruly teenagers with criminal leanings. She has a BA in creative writing from Wells College, and her philosophy on life is "you can never go wrong with sriracha sauce." She lives in Portland Oregon with her partner, their daughter, and their evil overlor—er, cat. TRUST ME, I'M LYING is her debut novel.

How much did you know about the submission process before you were out on subs yourself?

Nothing. Nada. Did no research. I went in totally blind.

Did anything about the process surprise you?

I figured there would be rejections. I did not realize that it would take editors months to respond, and that when they did, they’d have a thoroughly detailed list of exactly what they didn’t like about the book. I could have asked my agent not to send me the rejections, but I’m glad I did see them, because I was able to pick out a common thread among the rejections. I then edited my ms part way through the submission process, and my agent sent the updated version to the editors who hadn’t responded yet. I credit that mid-submission edit with getting me a book deal.

Did you research the editors you knew had your ms? Do you recommend doing that?

I followed them on Twitter. No, I don’t recommend it. Also, if you follow your agent on Twitter, I recommend unfollowing her/him during your submission time. You will freak out every time s/he says there’s an offer on the table, even though you know they have, like, thirty other clients. Had I to do it over again, though, I’d probably ignore my own advice, so there’s that.

What was the average amount of time it took to hear back from editors?

It varied so widely. I didn’t start getting rejections for a month or two. But some editors didn’t respond until seven months in, and only then because I had an offer on the table.

What do you think is the best way for an author out on submission to deal with the anxiety?

Everyone says this, but it is so true: Write something else. Really. First of all, it is the only thing that will be able to distract you from how your current book is doing. Secondly, you will not have time to write it later. Trust me. Write another two books, if you can.

If you had any rejections, how did you deal with that emotionally? How did this kind of rejection compare to query rejections?

I drank a lot. I kid, I kid. Mostly. ☺ I actually take rejection pretty well. All of the rejections were couched in the nicest way (editors are super nice, y’all), and that helped to soothe the sting of the rejection. Plus, I always look at it like I can learn something from it, which usually makes me feel better, as if the rejection wasn’t in vain.

If you got feedback on a rejection, how did you process it? How do you compare processing an editor’s feedback as compared to a beta reader’s?

First, I’d skim the rejection quickly. Then close it and do something else for a while. Then I’d open it again and really read it, trying to parse out what their objections were, whether I agreed with their comments, and how I’d try to change the parts in question if I could. Following that process is what enabled me to figure out the common thread in all the rejections that I was then able to rectify and resubmit. Getting the same kind of feedback from a beta reader is far less ouchy, so I don’t generally need to skim first—I can dive right into deep reading/parsing.

When you got your YES! how did that feel? How did you find out – email, telephone, smoke signal?

My agent called me, and I believe I said something along the lines of “I think I’m going to barf.” She told me to wait until after she told me all the details. (I <3 my agent.) To be honest, it felt utterly euphoric. There’s no feeling in the world quite like it.

Did you have to wait a period of time before sharing your big news, because of details being ironed out? Was that difficult?

I didn’t have to wait long—a week, I think. My editor wanted me to wait for it to be announced in Publisher’s Weekly. But I did tell my friends and family, so waiting a week to publically announce it just seemed like drawing out the celebration for a few extra weeks. But I feel for people who have to wait months to announce. I consider it cruel and unusual, personally.

Monday, May 12, 2014

A Pop Culture Philosophy Smashup & Giveaway

I'm knee deep in the WIP and researching things like the treatment of syphilis in the nineteenth century and the legal process of stripping people of their rights and incarcerating them in insane asylums... so yeah - it's summer!

All these happy thoughts sometimes drive one away from the writing and into a non-syphilis filled reality where I'm in little danger of institutionalization (I think). During one such break this weekend I did another short tour of my bookshelves and found some things that can probably go.

I enjoy the seedier side of fiction and that extends to television as well. But my college education makes me dig for more (when it's there) and thinking along those lines I bought some books awhile ago that were interesting one-time reads. So here. You can have them now.

So here you are - Breaking Bad & Philosophy, The Walking Dead & Philosophy and Dexter & Philosophy. Enjoy.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Saturday Slash

Meet my Hatchet of Death (or, some other colorful description RC Lewis and I come up with at any given moment). This is how I edit myself, it is how I edit others. If you think you want to play with me and my hatchet, shoot us an email.

We all know the first line of a query is your "hook." I call the last line the "sinker." You want it to punch them in the face, in a nice, friendly kind of way that makes them unable to forget you after having read the 300 other queries in their inbox.

If you're looking for query advice, but are slightly intimidated by my claws, blade, or just my rolling googly-eyes, check out the query critique boards over at AgentQueryConnect. This is where I got my start, with advice from people smarter than me. Don't be afraid to ask for help with the most critical first step of your writing journey - the query. My comments appear in green.

Manipulating fear as a force is dangerous. I like the hook. I'm definitely curious how someone can manipulate fear. It's pretty vague though, so you'll have to be sure to deliver below.

But it’s a danger seventeen-year-old David Stephens is fine with. He enjoys the power, and freedom away from his adoptive family.

Then that all crumbles when David finds out that the organization he belongs to, the Chosen, has a powerful enemy.

And David ends up in his hands. This all sounds interesting but there's a lot of white space here - figuratively and literally. The big question is why? Why is he manipulating fear? What's the point? Who is he manipulating it on? Does he like doing it? 

David soon finds what it’s like to be on the wrong side of fear as the enemy manipulator forces information from him. What kind of information? About what? Who is in danger here?

But when the manipulator leaves David in the hands of his pretty daughter, Cayla, David begins to wonder whether the manipulator really is bad. Especially as Cayla treats David well and attempts to convince him of how evil the Chosen are.

But then David and Cayla are attacked by the blackness—a force that wasn’t supposed to exist. Everything David was taught about fear seems to fragment and he begins to wonder just how much of the Chosen is as it seems. David soon finds himself allied with Cayla as they attempt to understand the truth behind the blackness.

But neither of them know how deeply they are connected to the truth. And that the truth may destroy them both.

There are a lot of holes at work here. We've definitely got good and bad - and a question of who is which - but other than that I don't understand what's going on. Who is David using his power against? What's the point? Why mention his adoptive family unless it's a plot point? If it is a plot point you need to not drop it after first mention? I also don't have any idea of what kind of world we're in - is this a contemporary with magical realism, or is this a high fantasy? You definitely need to get the details into this query to make it more than the standard Question What You've Been Raised To Believe story.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Book Talk: ELIZA BING IS (NOT) A BIG FAT QUITTER by Carmella Van Vleet

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.

The only thing Eliza Bing wants this summer is to take a cake decorating class with her best friend Tony at the community center. But with her dad going back to school and mom picking up as many extra shifts as possible, the entry fee is a little steep... and everyone knows that Eliza's ADD means she might not be interested for long. When her older brother decides the Tae Kwon Do classes he signed up for isn't for him, Eliza has an idea. She'll take his spot in the TKD class and prove she's not a quitter, if her parents agree she can the cake class in the fall.

It seems like a good plan, until she realizes that Madison is in the TKD class too - Madison who used to call her Every Day Eliza because sometimes she wore the same outfit to school two days in a row. Not to mention the fact that now she and Tony aren't getting along since she he didn't want to wait until fall to take the cake class with her... and... well... Eliza might have lost her temper with him over that... maybe.

Eliza never meant to actually enjoy Tae Kwon Do, but as the summer stretches on and she finds that the routines help her focus - something she's never been good at. There's a belt test looming in her future, and once Eliza proves she's not a quitter, she 'll be free to do exactly that... if she wants to.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Debut MG Novelist Tracy Holczer On Writing the Next Book & Giveaway

Welcome to another of my fabulous acronym-based interviews. The second novel is no easy feat, and with that in mind I put together a series of questions for debuts who are tackling the second obstacle in their career path. I call it the SNOB - Second Novel Omnipresent Blues. Whether you’re under contract or trying to snag another deal, you’re a professional now, with the pressures of a published novelist compounded with the still-present nagging self-doubt of the noobie. 

Today's guest is Tracy Holczer. Tracy lives in Southern California with her husband, three daughters, and two rather fluffy dogs named Buster and Molly. She has a deep love for the mountains where she grew up so she writes them into her stories. A 2014 ABA Indies Introduce New Voices pick, her debut middle grade, The Secret Hum of a Daisy, was written in praise of both nature and family, and all that can be found if you're willing to hunt for treasure.

So --- how to deal?

My first reaction to reading the intro was—HAHAHAHAHA, professional? Which pretty much addresses the validity of the second part of the question. How to deal? Oh, man. Seriously, I would like to know. At least, I would like to know how to get through this part without all the FEELINGS. That, I can’t really help with. The feelings come and we all have to find a way to sit with them until they pass. But I can help with what keeps me productive while I’m having the feelings.

  • Walking. Not on a treadmill, although that is better than nothing. But walking in the world. Talk to the trees and/or your dogs. Or cats. Or whomever you walk with. Clear all the stickyawful thoughts first thing in the morning. Pretend your brain is an etch-a-sketch and just rip that little plastic thingie clean.
  • Write anyway. Even if your head starts back to yammering. Tune it out like the white noise it is and plow ahead. When you string enough days together with productivity, the feelings dim to a dull roar.
  • Love on your people. Like crazy. This will make them love on you back. Which you desperately need, even if you think you need to be left alone in a cave. This is your lying, lizard brain trying to fool you. Don’t listen.

Is it hard to leave behind the first novel and focus on the second?


At what point do you start diverting your energies from promoting your debut and writing / polishing / editing your second?

Um, today. Yeah. Today. What a coincidence that you would ask me this question on the very day I started really focusing on my second novel and not the eleventy-eleven things I still have to do for my debut. You must be psychic.

Your first book landed an agent and an editor, and hopefully some fans. Who are you writing the second one for? Them, or yourself?

I always write for me first and the reader in revisions. I think it’s important to write like I don’t have a reader when I’m just trying to get the story down. Much less pressure this way. I have more confidence in my revision skills than my drafting skills, so this works for me.

Is there a new balance of time management to address once you’re a professional author?

I waited until my kids were all fairly self-sufficient before I decided to try for a writing career, so it hasn’t been too bad in terms of time management. But I’m miserable at multi-tasking, so I’ve come up with a schedule where I can focus on one thing each day, whatever that is, and writing happens about five times per week. But it is a balancing act. I constantly have to remind myself that writing isn’t my hobby anymore and I can’t do it only when I feel like it. Discipline is key. Even though I don’t have as much as I could. Always a work in progress, I am.

What did you do differently the second time around, with the perspective of a published author?

I’m (lucky? Jury is still out on that one) to have signed a two-book deal. So there isn’t the nagging worry, will this one sell, too? But there is a different kind of pressure with a looming deadline, even though my editor would admonish me for feeling pressured. She has gone out of her way to make sure I’m comfy-cozy. But you can only do so much for a writer and her wonky head. I suppose that this time, I really do feel more like a professional, that my first book passed some kind of test and now I feel challenged to surpass that first goal. To write better. To use the skills I’ve developed (to remind myself I have developed skills #$%! dammit!). To BE a published author. You know? To live up to this amazing gift I’ve been given.

After the sudden death of her mother, twelve-year-old Grace is forced to live with a grandmother she's never met in a small town she's never heard of. A town Mama left years before--with Grace in her belly and a bus ticket in her pocket--and never looked back. It doesn't take long before Grace desperately wants to leave, too.

Until she finds the first crane.

A mysterious treasure hunt, just like the ones her mother used to send her on, , takes Grace on a journey to find home. And it might just be closer than she thinks.

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Monday, May 5, 2014

We Need Diverse Books & Diversify Your Shelves Suggestions

Diversity in children's literature has become a prominent topic lately. The We Need Diverse Books campaign - spearheaded by authors such as Ellen OhAisha Saeed and Chelsea Pitcher - has roared into the public eye last week, with prominent authors and publishers tweeting under the tag #WeNeedDiverseBooks.

So here's my two cents.

As a lifelong reader, I always inserted myself into the stories I read. I was the main character. I was the saucy sidekick. I was the cool cat. The romantic interest was the guy I liked and the MC’s best friend was my best friend. I created a new physical reality for the book, and if an overly descriptive passage didn’t match my imaginings it would be jarring, and oftentimes kicked me right out of the story.

As a librarian I’ve encouraged reluctant readers to use this tactic, to cast the book with themselves and their friends (or enemies!) in order to make it more real, more enjoyable, a more palpable experience of an alternate reality that they can truly participate in. I see it working more often than not.

Every now and then I see reviews of NOT A DROP TO DRINK where people say they wish I would describe my characters more so that they could visualize them. The truth is that I purposely resist in-depth physical descriptions because I want the reader to have perfect freedom to visualize the characters in any way they choose.

This includes skin color.

In short, we need diverse books because everyone assumes Lynn is white.

One of the aspects of the We Need Diverse Books movement is to encourage readers to diversify their shelves. Whether by reading books featuring POC or LBGT characters, or books by authors who are the same, you can help Diversify Your Shelves. As a librarian I see some excellent titles come and go, so here are my suggestions for how you can diversify your shelves - and be very happy in the process.

THE GREAT DEATH by John Smelcer

Sisters Millie and Maura are the only ones to survive when their Alaskan village is visited by white men who bring with them a camera, a notebook, and the pox in 1917. Young and alone with the worst of winter coming on, they travel downriver taking with them only what their small backs can carry. Each village they come to is the same - empty, except for the dogs who are eating the dead.

The girls use what their parents have taught them to face dangers from the weather, wild animals, and strangers in the woods. With only each other to depend on they keep going, despite the fear that they may be on the only people left alive in a world filling with snow.


Isaac is a Choctaw boy on the Trail of Tears, and he knows before he even sets out that he will not survive the journey. Premonitions of death have been coming ever since the soldiers burned his villa, and he saw the village leaders in flame and ash before the fires had reached them. The warm shivers that ripple through his body warn him when a vision is coming, and he knows that soon he too will be a ghost.

Death comes quickly, and even though he'd warned his family that he would no longer be with them soon, they mourn him as much as possible in the little time allowed before the soldiers push them along. Isaac remains with them, along with legions of ghosts who have been lost along the trail and continue to push on with their tribe and help their loved ones make the treacherous journey.

In death Isaac is reunited with a very young girl who died on a cold night after rolling from her blanket. Though she misses her family, her death lifts a threat from them. Her older sister was taken by the soldiers and held captive and at the beginning of the trek, with the promise that the same fate or worse would befall the younger child if they tried to get her back. Now that she's a ghost, the little girl is free to help rescue her sister, enlisting Isaac's aid and the help of their shape-shifting Choctaw friend who can become a panther at will.

THE BURNING SKY by Sherry Thomas

Iolanthe is the greatest elemental mage of her generation, and she doesn't even know it. The Realm needs a savior, but her guardian has kept her safely tucked away in a remote area where she happily practices non-elemental magic, just like everyone else. With the Bane searching for the mage prophesied to destroy him, Iolanthe's guardian had his own memories of her past and keys to her nature removed from his mind, so that the Inquisitor would never be able to use him as a tool against Iolanthe, not matter how horrible her methods.

But the memory spell has taken its toll over the years, and her once sharp guardian has slipped into insanity, needing her constant care and unable to warn her of her own potential. When she accidentally calls down lightning, alerting the Bane and the Inquisitor of her existence, her guardian throws her into a trunk during a moment of clarity -- the only problem being that the trunk on the other end of the portal exist is locked... and there's no way back for Iolanthe.

Luckily, Prince Titus arrives at the lightning strike as well. The puppet ruler of Elberon, Titus wears a facade of pomp and bravado at odds with his inner-self. Titus knows what the lightning indicates, and he's spent his entire life preparing himself to die in the service of the Elemental Mage, as his dead mother had prophesied he must. As Iolanthe slowly suffocates inside the trunk located real-world Victorian London, Titus tracks her down.

Once she is released, the two team up to defeat the Bane. But the only place to hide Iolanthe is in plain sight. The Realm knows that Titus is enrolled in a all-boys prep school in London, and if he were to suddenly show up missing they would know he'd found the mage. Instead, Iolanthe's hair comes off and she is enrolled as his roommate -- a boy. As he teaches her to command all her powers and prepares himself to die in her defense, the two fight off a mutual attraction that can only end badly.

CHARM & STRANGE by Stephanie Kuehn

Andrew Winston Winters shuts everyone out at his private boarding school. Prone to long walks and solitude, his is the first name that comes up when a dead body is found in a stream on a remote part of the grounds. Having alienated his roommate and best friend long ago, Win has few defenders... maybe not even himself.

He can't deny that there have been moments in his past when he lost control. His violent impulses set him apart when he was younger, but his older brother was always there to shield him... until one day he wasn't. A family tragedy landed Win in the Vermont boarding school where he was supposed to find time to heal. But he can't begin to heal until he admits the truth about what caused the original wound.

With his mind breaking and his sanity slipping, Win takes a chance on friendship with a new girl at the school. Rediscovering what it's like to be cared about takes him closer to the truth, and one night in the woods after a party will bring him face to face with the truth of his past - whether he is able to cope with it or not.

DUALED by Elsie Chapman

West Grayer is the last of her family.

In a world where teens have a window of opportunity to kill their Alt - a genetic copy of themselves - she's lost her brothers and sisters through violence. Even being a complete - someone who has successfully killed their Alt - didn't save her brother Luc when he went along with their mutual friend Chord for his assignment.

Now Chord is complete, and West is left in a house by herself when she gets the text - she's now Active... and her Alt is looking for her. Although she's been training her whole life to be the killer and not the killed, West doesn't have the confidence she needs to take out her Alt. She joins an underground group to become a Striker - a killer for hire who will eliminate someone else's Alt for a fee.

Strikers aren't well-loved, and West's strikes aren't the cleanest ever performed. The marks on her palms that distinguish her from the rest of the population of Kersh disgust Chord, who tries to help her see that every strike she accepts is killing time in her window of opportunity, something that her Alt isn't taking chances on.

West waits for her Alt to come to her - and finds herself face to face with a better version of herself, with colder eyes and a Striker of her own who loves her. West's bullet misses its mark, and she's left wondering if life in Kersh is a massive game of survival of the fittest... is she really the one who is supposed to live?

HOOKED by Liz Fichera

Fredericka "Fred" Oday is only too aware of how much she stands out on the golf team at her predominantly white school... especially since she's the only girl. All she wants to do is play- it's the only outlet that fits well with her alcoholic mother's lifestyle and her dad's schedule as the country club's greenskeeper. But being one of the few Native Americans on this side of the Pecos Road means she can't just keep her head down and her chin up anymore.

Ryan Berenger is less than thrilled to be paired with Fred for their tournaments, even if Lone Butte High School is suddenly winning again. His best friend was cut from the team in order to make room for Fred, and his molded blonde girlfriend is less than pleased about where his gaze is roaming these days. He's been checking out more than Fred's perfect swing... and Fred can't ignore the fact that her concentration slips every time Ryan looks at her.

But there's more separating them than the barbed-wire fence that lines the reservation. Fred's brother can't forget the silver Jeep that nearly ran him off the road one night, and Ryan's best friend will never forgive the Native American drunk driver who killed his father when he was only a baby. Ryan & Fred's aren't the only passions running hot in a situation fraught with tension, romance and the emotional showdown between the girl with the killer swing and the boy with the killer smile.

PROPHECY by Ellen Oh

Kira has always known what it's like to be hated.

Since her birth, her yellow eyes have marked her. Even though she is royally born, the taint of demons follows her. The villagers call her kumiho - nine-tailed fox demon. Little do they know that far from being a demon herself, her eyes give her the ability to see demons writhing under the skin of the people they've possessed. And she is their only protection.

Scorned by common people and court ladies alike, Kira is accustomed to a lonely life. When the King is murdered in a demonic plot to pitch the Seven Kingdoms into chaos and war, Kira vows to stay by the young prince's side, and protect him always.

Her young cousin the Prince is supposed to be the savior predicted by the Dragon King Prophecy. His courage and nobility all attest that he could be the one. But according to the bloodlines dictated by the prophecy, Kira's brothers could be the Dragon King as well.

Or it could be Kira.

Only mythical treasures, long missing, can reveal the identity of the true Dragon King. Kira's family must evade predators both demonic and human as the race across the wilderness in search of a ruby that can control the tides - and reveal which one of them can fulfill the prophecy.

VENGEANCE BOUND by Justina Ireland

Cory loves chocolate, just like most teens. Unlike everyone else, the reason she eats is to keep the Furies under control. The mythological trio bound themselves to her when she was a child in a desperate situation, open to any opportunity to escape. As a teen, she follows their lead when the sins of a passing man seem worth of judgement. The only thing that seems to stem their urge for blood is the occasional dose of chocolate, something Cory has learned through the years.

But for the first time, Cory has met someone who doesn't raise their ire. She's the new girl at school, and mysterious Niko seems to be the only guy who they don't want to kill. But as her feelings towards men start to change, Cory finds the Furies harder and harder to control. Their need for blood starts to outstrip the availability of guilty men... but they don't seem to care.

Cory's mind becomes a battlefield as she attempts to control them in order to protect the innocent - and herself.

GOLDEN BOY by Tara Sullivan

Habo has never been accepted, not by the villagers he lives with, and not by his own family. An albino in Africa, his father left soon after he was born, believing him to be the bastard son of a white man. His older brothers resent the skin condition that makes him burn easily, which means his only chore is to watch the family goat grazing under the shade tree, while they toil in hot coffee fields. Even his mother jumps when he enters a room unexpectedly, as if she's seen a ghost.

The family farm is failing, which sends them all into the arms of distant family living in an urban area. Living removed from society means they have no idea that albino body partys have become a hot commodity in the black magic market. Albino skin, teeth, and hair can all fetch high prices. But most valuable are Habo's legs, which supposedly will bring great wealth to a mine if one is set on each side of the entrance.

A local ivory hunter who helped them cross the Serengeti knows the value of Habo's body. Although they try to hide him, Habo knows he is more useless now than ever. While his very presence is a danger to his brothers and sister, he is unable to work at all or even be seen in the streets. Tired of being a weight, Habo sneaks away one night in the hopes of reaching a part of the country where albinos are not killed for their very skin.

Days of journeying on foot brings Habo to the compound of a blind sculptor who cannot see Habo's oddly colored skin. After one evening of sharing supper, Habo is offered a bed for the evening. Days turn into weeks and Habo finds himself learning how to sculpt,  seeing shapes in wood that he can free with a knife... and learning to unsee his own skin as what defines him.


Aristotle depends on the summers to help define himself in 1987 El Paso. The youngest child in a family of much older siblings, Ari is constantly reminded that he cannot become what his older brother is - a jailbird. The summer after his fifteenth birthday he meets Dante at the pool, who offers to teach him how to swim. Dante's open and easy going manner immediately attracts Ari, who keep his own emotions as closed off as his father, a Vietnam war veteran.   Dante's love of everything spills over into animals, and he is nearly killed in the street while attempting to save an injured bird. The only reason he lives is because Ari shoves him out of the way, breaking both his legs in the process. Dante's family goes to Chicago during the school year, following a job lead for his professor father. Though Ari is reluctant to open himself up in the letters they exchange, Dante has no problem confessing his sexuality, and his feelings for Ari. As the next summer approaches, along with the return of Dante and his family, Ari is left to question if he can continue being Dante's friend, and if there was more than just friendship in his own feelings as well.

IN DARKNESS by Nick Lake

Shorty is a child of the slums in Site Soleil, a Haitian city torn to pieces by gang wars and daily violence. A gunshot wound lands him in the hospital the day before the earthquake of 2010 obliterates the city, bringing the building down around him. His only solace in the pure blackness is a voice that speaks to him of courage, and visions of a different time. Shorty is a twin, which is sacred in Vodun. His sister was stolen from him during the gang wars and he is now considered a half-soul. Touissaint L'ouverture, the Haitian rebel who led a slave revolt two hundreds years ago was born a twin as well, but his other half died as a child. From the confines of his underground prison cell in France to the rubble of modern day Haiti, the two half souls converge for an ethereal conversation about the future of Haiti, and their own purposes in life.

AKATA WITCH by Nnedi Okorafor

Sunny is an albino Nigerian who was born in New York City. When her parents return to their home country Sunny doesn't fit in for a lot of reasons. 1) She's an albino 2) She's perceived as an American and 3) She keeps seeing the end of the world inside candle flames.

Sunny is smart enough to keep this information to herself, but her odd qualities draw the attention of Orlu and Chichi, fellow students at her public school who are Leopard People (magical folk) and suspect Sunny may be as well. Although years behind in training and study, Sunny is distinct even in the magical realm of Leopard Knocks. She's a "free agent," a Leopard person born of two non-magical parents.

And no, Leopard Knocks isn't Hogwarts. Not even close. Instead of flying around on broomsticks and throwing balls through hoops the adult champions of this magical realm fight each other to the death in a yearly entertainment spectacle. The winner is the winner, the loser is... a saint. And going to your next class isn't as simple as looking at your schedule and manipulating moving staircases. The path to their teacher's hut is a test in itself, one that could kill them if not traveled properly. This is a place where group work is rewarded by everyone surviving to the next day and your juju knife chooses you not by obeying your commands but by slicing your hand open when you reach into a bag.

So why are children being subjected to these tests? To drive them into a sacred bond, as they have been selected by fate to bring down a serial killer. Black Hat Otokoto has been kidnapping Nigerian children and returning them minus eyes and ears. He's gathering black magic to him in order to call up a dark spirit whose power will unleash the vision that Sunny has seen in the candles. Sunny has a limited amount of time to harness the power she's inherited through her Grandmother's spirit line to stop him from succeeding and bringing about the end of the world.

CLEOPATRA'S MOON by Vicky Alvear Shecter

Visit both Ancient Egypt and Rome as our main character, Cleopatra Selene, is forcefully removed from her homeland after her mother's death. Cleopatra and her surviving brothers, sons of Marc Antony, are brought to Egypt to live with (of all people) Marc Antony's Roman wife, Octavia, whom he had abandoned in favor of Cleopatra VII.

Yes, sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

Used as political pawns in Ceasar Octavian's skillfully manipulated empire, Cleopatra's children must learn to survive in a culture foreign to them. Cleopatra Selene remains fiercely loyal to her patron goddess, Isis, performing her rituals even under threat of death. Meanwhile, the siren song of Rome - wine and women - is calling her brothers away from their culture of birth.

Intelligent and attractive, Cleopatra Selene has to decide whether she will allow her body to be used to further the Ptolemy line in an advantageous marriage of Ceasar's making, or if she will give in to the equally powerful pull of her own heart - which is headed in another direction.

MAGIC UNDER GLASS by Jaclyn Dolamore

A love triangle, a lost prince, a madwoman in the attic, possession, dark secrets kept quiet through murder and machinations, political intrigue, brewing war... and a living soul trapped forever inside the clockwork body of an automaton.

Nimira, a strong noble-blooded girl from the land of Tassim, has been cheated of a life of ease. Forced to play upon her skills as a dancing "trouser girl" in a second rate show, Nim catches the eye of Hollin, a man of money and an accomplished sorcerer who looks to fill the hole in his heart left by the death of his wife.

Nim agrees to his proposition that she come with Hollin to his estate, presumably to sing alongside an automaton he has recently purchased at an estate sale, and from whom other singers have run from in panic, claiming that it is haunted... or possessed. Nim stifles her own fear the first time she sings with the automaton and it looks at her with intelligence, and attempts to speak. Using the piano keyboard, she works out a way to communicate with the automaton, or rather - Erris, the faerie prince whose spirit is trapped within, bound by dark magic. Her own alienation and captivity serves as a cornerstone for their relationship, which blooms into the impossible.

Nim would risk all - losing her position and safety alongside Hollin, exposing herself and Erris to the roaming eye of a political figure whose scheming brought about the deaths of Erris entire noble family years ago, calling forth the spirits of dark magic - in order to bring Erris true life, or at least, a true death to escape his mechanical prison.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Saturday Slash

Meet my Hatchet of Death (or, some other colorful description RC Lewis and I come up with at any given moment). This is how I edit myself, it is how I edit others. If you think you want to play with me and my hatchet, shoot us an email.

We all know the first line of a query is your "hook." I call the last line the "sinker." You want it to punch them in the face, in a nice, friendly kind of way that makes them unable to forget you after having read the 300 other queries in their inbox.

If you're looking for query advice, but are slightly intimidated by my claws, blade, or just my rolling googly-eyes, check out the query critique boards over at AgentQueryConnect. This is where I got my start, with advice from people smarter than me. Don't be afraid to ask for help with the most critical first step of your writing journey - the query. My comments appear in green.

The Bee is not a superhero. He’s a diversion while Pete and his friends punish the bullies of their middle school. This is definitely interesting, but the hook lacks a punch that makes me see the connection between the two. Even though I know you'll explain this later on, I think you need a catchier hook.

After Bryant the Giant gives the new kid the ultimate wedgie, Pete and his friends create a superhero to teach him a lesson. They use their years of honed RPGing skills and THE ART OF WAR to form the perfect plan. I love the idea at work here. Dressed in bright yellow, the Bee distracts Bryant while the others tie his shoelaces together and peg him with a glue bomb, rendering him immobile. Furthering the illusion all this was done by one superhero and not a bunch of kids, the Bee delivers the victorious wedgie. I guess the big question is who is dressed up as the Bee though? 

Mallory figures out how the Bee works and who’s behind it. She pleads with Pete and his friends to take down her bully. They reluctantly agree, dress her up as the Bee, and go to work. After they execute their plan on her bully, the Bee spirals out of control until the school is bully-free but full of fear. With the entire school wearing yellow and black, only one person can end the fear and oppose the Bee: Pete. OK - so everyone starts impersonating the Bee in order to take down their own bullies, thus the victims become the bullies and now everyone is scared? It sounds like a really fascinating concept, and I love the idea here, but how is Pete the only person who can end the fear? By admitting that the Bee is fake in the first place? It sounds like a great clean MG version of Watchmen, but the query lacks punch. All the info is here but there's not a lot of voice.

THE SECRET POWERS OF THE BEE is a 45,000-word MG contemporary fiction.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Book Talk: SKY JUMPERS by Peggy Eddleman

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.

The green bombs of World War III created air that was too heavy to breathe, air that crushes your lungs in a moment. Twelve year old Hope lives in a small community sheltered inside the crater from one of these bombs, protected from trespassers by a lingering ring of the compressed air released by the green bombs. The Bomb's Breath, as the townspeople call it, instantly kills anyone who wanders into it... but it's also the only thing that makes Hope feel special.

She's one of the only kids daring enough to climb through the Breath and then sky jump from above, holding her breath while the heavy air cushions her fall. It's deadly, and her parents would kill her if they knew. Everyone else in town has skills that allow them to excel at the one thing people cherish - the ability to invent things, with every invention bringing them closer to the way of life before the green bombs.

But Hope's inventions always fail, and her recklessness isn't appreciated by anyone. Until one day, bandits discover that the people of White Rock have figured out how to make antibiotics. Medicine is priceless, and when the town is invaded and held hostage, Hope is the only one who knows how to get through the Breath to go for help.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Thursday Thoughts

It's been awhile since I shared my thoughts. I've been pretty busy with the WIP, but I did manage to put together some tidbits for you today. Thoughts lately...

1) Do the planet Mercury and the substance mercury have anything in common? Also, does anyone miss the days when someone dropped a glass thermometer and everyone ran shrieking in the other direction?

2) I've always been taught that the only way to effectively dispose of a tick is to flush it down the toilet. Because of my twisted brain I have a recurring nightmare about gigantic shit-engorged ticks emerging from the ground one day, a la Tremors.

3) And speaking of shit - I really feel like latrines should just be called shit ditches. It's so appropriate and pleasing to say.