Friday, August 31, 2012

Wintergirls Book 30

“Dead girl walking,” the boys say in the halls.
“Tell us your secret,” the girls whisper, one toilet to another.
I am that girl.
I am the space between my thighs, daylight shining through.
I am the bones they want, wired on a porcelain frame.

Lia and Cassie were best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies. But now Cassie is dead. Lia's mother is busy saving other people's lives. Her father is away on business. Her step-mother is clueless. And the voice inside Lia's head keeps telling her to remain in control, stay strong, lose more, weigh less. If she keeps on going this way—thin, thinner, thinnest—maybe she'll disappear altogether.

In her most emotionally wrenching, lyrically written book since the National Book Award finalist Speak, best-selling author Laurie Halse Anderson explores one girl's chilling descent into the all-consuming vortex of anorexia.

First of all, this is not my normal read, but this is a good book. Secondly, this is an issue book. I cannot talk about this book without talking about cultural problems that cause such issues. My opinions/beliefs on such cultural issues are not mainstream. If you are offended, I apologize in advance (for upsetting you--not for what I think).

I'm reviewing an audio book. This book is extremely well written and was read by an extremely talented voiceover actress. The actress was so good that before I could review the book, I flipped through a paperback copy to make sure there were textual changes that prompted her vocal changes. 

Leah is dying, literally. She's starving herself, because she's haunted with depression and I think to some degree anxiety. Her mother is a work-aholic. Her father spends too much time pursuing his interests (some academic, some feminine) to notice his daughter, and her step-mother is too concerned about her own daughter to get what Leah is going through. So she continues to struggle with the depression every day. She continues to eat less and as the depression gets worse even less. Stepmom almost notices and then pretends not to, because it's easier. Dad does not notice, because he doesn't want to. Mom notices, attempts to fix it, realizes she can't just take control of this situation, and goes back to work. Meanwhile, Leah continues to starve. And to some degree, they all blame Leah.

And I blame them. Her depression and eating disorder is at least in part caused by her parents divorce. Her parents got divorced, because they never really liked each other and because her father was having an affair (which now seems to be happening with stepmom). Here is where things are going to get controversial. I don't care if you never liked each other. You created a life. Suck it up and deal with it. 

Because if the divorce didn't have enough to do with Leah's problems, her dad remarries a woman with a kid very shortly after that. This woman really doesn't seem to be a bad person, but her child is her priority and Leah ranks somewhere after that. This is obvious. She magnifies her daughter's problems and views Leah's problems as less than they are. As a parent, I think to some degree this is natural. (This is why I think step-parents are rarely in a kid's best interest; it's natural for the parent's kid to come first, so the step kid is always a step kid). However, being natural doesn't help Leah. Things continuously get worse, and continually go unnoticed until Leah tries to kill herself. Her younger step sister finds her, and this is where Beth becomes really irate at Dad and Stepmom. Stepmom doesn't visit in the hospital, that's fine. If she's like me, she really doesn't care. When she gets out of the hospital, her dad takes her to stay with her mom. Because they don't want her around her younger stepsister until she gets well. I understand both sides of this. However, Leah is his child. Emma is not. While it may be acceptable for Emma's mom to protect her daughter at the cost of kicking another kid out of the house, it is not okay for Leah's dad to allow her to be kicked out of his house. I don't really even know that I think it's okay for the adults to blame her for what happened. I get that she cut herself. I also understand that she was in a spiraling depression. People cut for lots of reasons, and while you may be in control of the knife, you're generally not in control of the circumstances that lead to the knife. That's the purpose of cutting. And if you're cutting because the adults in your life have continuously put themselves first and you don't feel like they know you exist, I really don't think it's okay for them to blame you for this. Then stepmom drops Leah off at her shrink and goes off on her. "You hurt my little girl, blah, blah, blah." She doesn't even want Leah there for Christmas. Again, I understand why she would, but she shouldn't have had the chance to. First of all, I'm sorry your little girl had to see someone with their gut cut open, but I think the knife through the gut was just a little bit worse... Secondly, if you're little girl had seen someone slip and break their leg, you'd be concerned about the leg not the little girl. Why would you assume that anyone would choose to have such a serious depression? Especially, when you're part of the  cause of the depression....

You can probably guess by now that I have personal experience with cutting, depression, and stepparents. I think the adults in Leah's life were probably better than the adults in my life, and it still didn't work out for her. Eating disorders and cutting have become commonplace among teenage girls, and I think for most of them the problems start at home. We won't combat these problems until we start looking at the real issue. Ironically, after reading the acknowledgements

Monday, August 27, 2012

Interview with Jessica Spotwood Author of Born Wicked

I absolutely loved Born Wicked, and you can find my review here.  So I saw author Jessica Spotwood on twitter one day and asked for an interview.

Here she is!

  1. Born Wicked is set in a brilliant alternative history. Why did you choose to use an alternative history and what inspired the history you did use?
Thank you! I love the idea of writing letters and candlelight and having teas and wearing incredible dresses. It seems so lush and sexy, though I’m sure it was less so in reality. Things were changing rapidly in terms of industry and technology and growing freedoms, but that era was still awfully repressive for women (for anyone who wasn’t a straight white guy, really). I shifted things to make it even more so in Cate’s society, where being an independent, clever girl is even more dangerous than it was in our version of the 1890s. I suppose I wanted to play with that contradiction – the sensuousness of the high society dress and rituals with the rigid social expectations for women. I did do quite a bit of research on Victorian-era dresses and home d├ęcor and etiquette, though I shifted things a bit to account for the alternate history.

  1. I love Finn, but I think he's different from a lot of YA heroes. What inspired his character?
Well, as a reader, I was a little tired of the alpha-male hero. I thought it might be fun to write about the kind of guy I fell for in real life – smart, sweet, and a total bibliophile. I think Finn is adorkable. And it was nice to play with gender roles – if anyone is the stubborn, bossy one in this relationship, it’s Cate! I actually just wrote a whole post about writing a non-alpha hero over at Narratively Speaking!

  1. What we're all dying to know—when is the sequel coming out? Do we have a synopsis yet?
STAR CURSED will be out in June 2013. There isn’t an official synopsis, but I can tell you that I’m afraid things are only going to get worse before they get better for Cate and her sisters! The Cahill girls will learn more about their magical heritage and what’s expected of them in the coming war between the Brotherhood and the witches. As usual, they’ll be divided about how to handle the responsibilities they’re faced with. They’ll finally get to meet their godmother, Zara Roth. There will be scandalous romantic trysts, new friends, political uprisings, and heartbreaking betrayals!

  1. What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Find people who will read your work and give you honest feedback. They don’t necessarily have to be other writers in your genre – mine were voracious readers, former English major friends, my playwright husband, friends who wrote poetry and essays. Ask them to tell you what works, what they want more of, as well as what confuses or doesn’t work for them. It’s so important to learn to take criticism thoughtfully.

  1. If you had to describe Cate in three words what would they be?
I love this game! Stubborn + protective + sister.

  1. It's the zombie apocalypse! You must evacuate your house with only two possessions. What are they?
Well, assuming that my cat and my husband don’t count as possessions, I’d grab my grandmother’s earrings and my box of memorabilia, which includes a bunch of letters and cards from my husband and friends. If I could choose a third thing, I’d go with my falling-apart, much-loved paperback of GONE WITH THE WIND, which I’ve had since I was twelve and read at least a dozen times.

Thanks so much for having me, Beth! 

Anne of Avonlea Book 28

The goodreads synop is long and misleading, so I'm just going to attempt it myself. The truth is I don't really know what this book is about! If I had to say it's about one thing, I would say it's about a  girl growing up and the misadventures along the way.

This was a cute book. Lots of times, I laughed out loud. But more than a single story arc with a climax that gets closer and closer with every turn of a page, this read like a series of vinettes, all about a girl growing up. This little book isn't anything earth shattering, but I enjoyed it. I think it's a good book for young readers and probably a fun book to read to a child. Three stars.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Maddy's Oasis Book 25

"With an ill mother in need of expensive surgery, Madeleine flies from NYC to the west Texas desert to take on the doomed Desert Oasis resort project in hopes of earning the bonus attached to finishing it on schedule. She soon finds there's only one thing hotter than the desert sun: Jake, the infuriating Texan whose dislike of the fast-paced city puts them at odds at everything from her high-heels to her to-do lists. When the Oasis reveals its dark secret, Maddy finds she must choose between money and those she cares about. Contemporary western (sweet) romance novella."

OMG!!! I loved this book. I'm so excited. There hasn't been a book I really loved in a long while! But I loved this book! I didn't think I was going to at first. It's written in third person, and that's usually not my thing...and tends to annoy me. Also, it's hard for me to read books set in Texas, because they usually rely on stereotypes. But this one didn't. 

This book got really good really fast and became impossible for me to put down. Before ELF was born, it was common place for me to stay up all night reading a book. But I'm lucky if she sleeps 6 hours a night, so when she does I sleep. Except this weekend, I stayed up to read. I was routing for Jake and Maddie all the way through. The romance is strong, and the characters are all developed. I loved Jake's family! Being from Texas, they reminded me of people I know.  There were a few things that I really loved. Like when Maddy complained to Jake's uncle about him fighting at the construction site, and the uncle asked if he won. So Texan. The other thing I really loved is the way the romance came offthe page in spite of characters never really saying, "I love you." Don't get me wrong. I'm a sucker for "i love you," but what they did say was stronger. I LOVED what Jake said at the end. Can't tell you--sorry.

Oh--and this is adult, but it's clean romance. 

If I changed one thing about the book, it would be the fight. Maddey's ex-boyfriend works with her and is at the construction site. He's talking trash about her, and Jake kicks his butt. I wish the fight had come in sooner, so that it read more like he was defending Madeline, (because the ex was saying some really disrespectful things). Instead, it reads like Jake is jealous, and he is. But I would have liked it better if he were defending Madeline. 

I seriously want more from Jake and Madeline. The book is wrapped up well. There is no reason to have a sequel, but I'd totally pay for one. Or fanfiction. Something. I need more!!!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Writer's Cost Benefit Analysis & The Dollar

 Not many people are born knowing craft. Even those with natural gifts are usually really great at one or two things like voice and dialogue, but not great at something else. The problem is, if you're hoping to put out a phenomenal book (why are you writing, if this isn't your goal) you need to be good at everything. You will need things like classes, conferences, critiques. They all cost money. Some times lots of it. You can take this advice with a grain of salt. It's the sum of experiences of one person. But these are things I wish someone would have told me in 2010.

Conferences: Do go to conferences. Try to find conferences that offer craft workshops. If you need a pep talk, it's fine to attend motivational keynotes, and if you're about to put out a new book, marketing sessions can be good. But craft is what we make our names and build our careers on. DO NOT PAY FOR A PITCH SESSION. Your chances of getting an offer from a con are the same as in the slushpile. An agent even says this here. If you're going to a con and have a polished manuscript by all means take advantage of free pitch sessions. Do not pay for extra for it. I think most cons these are free anyhow, but I've met several people in the last year who have told met they paid for pitch sessions. This is crazy. If an agent makes an offer, they will make money off your work. Why would you pay them for that opportunity? One last thing about cons, local ones are often cheaper, and in my experience very good.

Classes: Be careful what you paid for. I once paid for a revision class that focused mostly on plot. I did learn some things, but I don't feel I learned how to revise. The class promised I'd be able to revise my novel in six weeks. Instead, I learned to plot. Not a waste, but  not what I was looking for and since there were NO page critiques $200+ dollars was too too much. I don't think you should pay more than $50 for a class w/ no page critiques unless it's focusing on one aspect of writing/revising. For example, a $150 for a characterization class is probably okay without page critiques, because you will most likely get professional feedback on writing exercises aimed at characterization. But $150 for a novel writing class with no page critiques probably isn't going to pay off, because you're going to get general information you can find in the blogosphere for free. Mediabistro has some good classes that are a little bit pricey, but you do get what you paid for them. If you're a member of RWA, the online university has LOTS of classes, many free. The ones that aren't free are usually fairly priced. If you know of another good class source with fair pricing please leave it in the comments.

Critiques: Before you spend money on a critique, ask yourself what you're hoping to get. If it's discovered, save your money. You do hear of people meeting their agents at a conference, but it doesn't happen that often. You have a better chance in the slushpile for free. If you're hoping to learn something, or get help fixing something authors give better advice than agents/editors. I'm not saying that to insult agents or commercial editors, but they're usually looking at marketability whereas writers care about story/technique. Something can be commercially viable but horrible, or amazingly well written with no marketability. I'd rather a well-written manuscript with no commercial appeal than the other way around. And if you're going to spend money on a critique I would say stay under $3/page.

Freelance Editor: Someone once encouraged me to take a class over using a freelance editor. This was the worse advice I ever got. I don't mean to insult the person who recommended it, but they seemed to think you couldn't learn anything from a freelance editor. They just did it for you. Since then I've worked with a freelance editor and learned a lot. True, most of what I've learned has been grammatical, but that's because that's what I hired her for. Honestly, for the project I was concerned with, I could have hired a freelance editor for $400 or $500. I took a class for $250. I didn't get a whole lot out of the class, since the instructor never read pages. A trained editor correcting things and telling me why they didn't work would have been a whole lot more helpful. Fixing one plot means you can still mess up future plots. Understanding what is wrong with the plot can help you avoid the same mistake in the future.

Obviously, these are just my opinions based on experience. But I wish I'd known these things earlier.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Alligators Overhead

My friend Lee is here today to talk about her new book, Alligators Overhead. Lee has been kind enough to offer two e-copies of her book in any format for a contest here at Project 52. To win make her book cover your profile picture on any social networking site, just leave a link below. will choose winners!

Thanks for letting me talk about my book on your blog, Beth. I appreciate this opportunity a lot.

Here’s what the book is about.

Alligators, witches and a spooky mansion aren't your average neighbors unless you live at the edge of the Ornofree swamp in the backwater town of Hadleyville. The town's bad boy, Pete Riley, may only be twelve, but he's up to his eyeballs in big trouble, and this time he isn't the cause. This time the trouble arrives when a legendary hundred-year-old mansion materializes next door and the Ornofree alligators declare war to save their swamp from bulldozers. Things only get worse when Pete's guardian aunt and several of her close friends vanish while trying to restore order using outdated witchcraft. Now Pete must find the witches and stop the war. He might stand a chance if his one friend, Weasel, sticks with him, but even then, they may not have what it takes.

About the author:

C. Lee is writer who captures the pulse of adolescent confusion in her Young Adult fiction, Sliding on the Edge and The Princess of Las Pulgas. She admits to revealing a lot of her Old Adult confusion while doing that. Alligators Overhead is her first Middle Grade novel. She lives in California with her husband and assorted animals at the edge of a redwood forest. Lee blogs at The Write Game and she’d love a visit at her website.

So why alligators? I’m asked that question a lot. My answer is, “Why not?” After all, cats have been done. Dogs have been done. Horse stories are everywhere. There are only a few stories with alligators out there. I know they’re not cuddly and cute critters, but they are fascinating when you know a bit about them.

They’ve been around 65 million years! That’s a whopping long time, don’t you think?

In the 1980's American alligators were limited to the Everglades National Park in Florida. They were in danger of extinction because of human beings. Once they were protected, they made a major come back. I like critters with stamina. They remind me of writers.

Park rangers and other people that are far braver than I am go out at night into the swamp and count alligators.
I asked, “Why?” And in kind of a loud voice of disbelief.
“Because their eyes glow in reflected light, and we can see them better than during the day.”
“Oh, of course, why didn’t I think of that?”
(As a side note, I didn’t volunteer to count any alligators). Thanks for letting me talk about my book on your blog, Beth. I appreciate this opportunity a lot.

You can get a copy of Lee's book now here:
B & N

Friday, August 10, 2012

Heist Society Book 23

Another audiobook!

When Katarina Bishop was three, her parents took her on a trip to the Louvre…to case it. For her seventh birthday, Katarina and her Uncle Eddie traveled to Austria…to steal the crown jewels. When Kat turned fifteen, she planned a con of her own—scamming her way into the best boarding school in the country, determined to leave the family business behind. Unfortunately, leaving “the life” for a normal life proves harder than she’d expected.

Soon, Kat's friend and former co-conspirator, Hale, appears out of nowhere to bring Kat back into the world she tried so hard to escape. But he has a good reason: a powerful mobster has been robbed of his priceless art collection and wants to retrieve it. Only a master thief could have pulled this job, and Kat's father isn't just on the suspect list, he is the list. Caught between Interpol and a far more deadly enemy, Kat’s dad needs her help.

For Kat, there is only one solution: track down the paintings and steal them back. So what if it's a spectacularly impossible job? She's got two weeks, a teenage crew, and hopefully just enough talent to pull off the biggest heist in her family's history--and, with any luck, steal her life back along the way.

Wow! That is a long blurb. But at least it's accurate. 

I loved this book. It was really cute. The thing I love most about this book is in print, I'm  not sure I would have liked it. It's written in third person, which is usually an automatic turn off for me, and I think the romance is only a sub-plot. And I need romance to get through 300+ pages, but this worked. (At least, in audio format). The book was well written. There was more romance than I expected which was extra points. There were an array of characters who were all well developed, and I think the author did a good job of making me like a bunch of thieves. I don't think Kat ever had any intention of staying a thief, but I'm not sure I would have minded if she chose to stay with her family and be a thief. Sure, stealing is wrong, but family is good, right? (Although, I'm glad that wasn't the choice she made). Another thing I really loved was the word choices the author made. She used a thief's vocalb in places that had nothing to do with moving the property of another.

5 stars!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

ISWG: Taking the Plunge & Some Thank Yous

I'm taking the plunge--kind of. Some people say it's a short story. Some people call it a novella. I call it Fate, and I'm taking a risk with it. It's a risk and it's not. But it's important to me, because the story behind the story is just as interesting with this one. A person who's opinion I really valued told me they could not get past page three of this story and would no longer be reading for me. I was ready to give up. When my husband found me crying over my computer, he took it and read the whole story in about twenty minutes. (Thank you, Emil).  He told me to find someone else to read it.

I posted I needed a CP on my blog and the next day Shelley at Stories in the Ordinary offered to read for me. One day later she e-mailed back saying she loved the story, and I should pursue it. I did. About half of my queries resulted in full requests. Super thanks Shelley. If you hadn't believed in me, I couldn't have. The first rounds of requests for revisions went well, but they resulted in more revisions and while I have some different changes I want to make, I'm not willing to change some things others would like me to.

Which leads me to a calculated risk. I'm self publishing it. An agent told me self publishing shorter work won't hurt my chances of getting an agent for longer work, and because it's short anywhere it gets published it will only be available as an e-book. It's already been professionally edited by Kelly Hashway, and that's another thank you. If it goes well, I may even consider self publishing novel length work in the future. If it doesn't, well, I'm not making any money or building a platform with it on my hard drive either.

And now a plea for help. Would any of you be willing to help me with a blog tour or a cover reveal or both?