August 30, 2013

Exact Change Only, Please: it's FIVE & DIME FRIDAY

The change is from beneath the couch cushions this week, as I wistfully hear stories of my friend Liz at the Edinburgh Book Festival, and imagine being there when the sun is actually, you know, apparent in the sky. Or not. And, speaking of Scotland, I love that reminded me this week of the fabulousness of Paisley Abbey, a glorious old bit of monastery in the small town of Paisley, just outside the sprawl of Glasgow. They have an alien gargoyle. After Charlotte and I looked so carefully for the one of the National Cathedral after the ALA in 2010, I am deeply disappointed to have been at the Abbey twice - and never seen it! Ah, well, something to look for next time I'm in town.

And so, on with the coinage!

By now, you've probably seen this SHARED WORLDS project, where a bunch of authors write on their hands their writing advice. Yes, well, my hand is just not large enough for all that I'd want to write... but, I've come to appreciate those whose brevity and wit serves them well in this (Yes, Neil-Coiffure -of-Curls-Gaiman, I'm looking at you.) My favorite word? PERSIST. A perfect use of time if you're ever in need of a little fire lit under you.

Speaking of writing - or writers - do I have a new plot for you! Brain-snatchers! They take over your body movements, and control you through cell phones!! Oh, wait. Researchers have once again made my speculative fiction plot non-fiction... Snap.

Been awhile since you've read an anthology? Need a couple of freebies from DEFY THE DARK, the June-released anthology collection featuring Dia Reeves, Carrie Ryan, Beth Revis, Sarah Rees Brennan and others, including a debut writer? I did, too. Thanks and you're welcome.

Okay, I love a good infographic - it's one of those little quirks of personality. This one - much like the one put out by LEE & LOW about the dearth of minorities in children's lit - did not make me happy. It's about females in computer science, and women, I'm ... wow. A little alarmed. I hate how so much of programming, etc., is seen as a boy's club, but it's only getting worse. Is there a way to counteract this? Make math and science relevant and cool? Go Engineering, Girls!

Some people just talk diversity in children's lit. And then, there's Mitali. A nice interview with a Facebook friend from Iran, talking children's books.

Dear ones, Christmas is coming. This is a BROAD hint to those with writers in their lives who need one. Thank you. (Via BookRiot.)

I'm a big fan of SF Signal as the place where all things speculative go to live, and I ran across this Writing Robots vs. Vampires/Fairies piece with a smile.

August 29, 2013


My newly-six-year-old nephew started his first day of school last week, and suddenly I'm stunned with the idea that SUMMER IS OVER. It all happened so fast; we went from bright sun to foggy mornings, he went from a Charlie Brown headed little baby to... a Kindergartener.

It's the Book Season in the publishing world as well; the end of those short weeks with Fridays off, and the beginning of the season of new books! I've got three September releases just burning a hole in my desktop here, and I'm beginning with the one which has gotten a ton of buzz. I've seen the author interviewed all over, have read about this book, and have admired the cover from afar, and am glad to have my own copy at last!

Now, I'm not normally a big fan of book trailers, however, I love the way this book trailer is made - from the typed words to the the period silhouettes and the way each cameo comes with each girl's strengths, like a video game character (indeed, there's a game-board look to the way the little pieces of the family trees fit together). Since YOU can't yet read the book, until later in September, you can at least look at the book trailer with its treacherous and dangerous sounding music, and reorganize your TBR pile.

I'll also take this moment to remind the FCC that my ARC of this book was provided courtesy of the author and Chronicle Books, via Edelweiss.

Reader Gut Reaction: This book was good fun for fans of the original Sherlock Holmes. From start to finish, there was a clarity of prose that reminded me so much of the writings of Arthur Conan Doyle and Bram Stoker, of a sort of 19th century British sensibility, with vocabulary and word choice and pacing - half of the time. The other half of the time, the writing was much less 19th century, and much more steampunk - cognoggin, if you will. I liked that the voice and the characterization of both girls was so distinct, and I liked that they were both, at times, equally annoying. And, there are Irene Adler cameos! That made me very happy, too.

The other gut reaction I had was, "Is there a Throckmorton in the house?" Because BOY, did I miss my Theodosia books, reading this. Her teen self would fit right in.

Concerning Character: Evaline Stoker is beautiful - which is useless to her. She is also quick and twice as strong as any man she's met, energetic, restless, and -- brash. She leaps in with both feet, without a plan and no other backup but her own two hands, and a sharpened stake. It's the way of things, after all - she's a Stoker from the long line of vampire hunters, after all. She's got to prove herself. Okay, so she gets a bit... off at the sight of blood, and clearly, leaping in with both feet sometimes means not seeing the cliff ahead of you - which is something Mina never does. No matter. She is who she is - she's going to live up to her name. Someday.

Alvermina - a ridiculous name - is neither quick nor strong, but she can observe, while other people simply look. Other people can be so tiresome and slow, plodding and dull. Mina is a Holmes, and she doesn't have to prove her superiority - it's evident, isn't it? Elementary, my dears. She's a serious scientist and doesn't have time to muck about with society. Never mind that she doesn't really know... how, feels dreadfully insecure, and wishes, just sometimes, that the gentlemen who cluster like flies around Evaline would look at her at least once... Never mind. The men in her family - and in this investigation, blast it - are going to take her seriously, starting now.

Armed with their particular skills - and hangups - the girls set out to solve a strange and frightening crime. This book immerses the readers in a world with bright, creaky, and colorful new clockworks - and vocabulary - on nearly every page. The heroines are not always likable; they're both arrogant and exasperating, because of who they are - and because of their insecurities. Their gentlemen foils are also elusive and evasive - and mostly upstaged, which is as it should be. Steampunk, time travel, mystery, and vampires blend together in a read-it-in-one-sitting whodunnit that you won't solve before the novel's end. And, like the best of the Holmes mysteries, there looks to be a recurring arch-nemesis... and no, it's not a Moriarty, it's ... someone ... worse. Maybe. The fun is in the not-knowing.

Recommended for Fans Of...: Gail Carringer's ETIQUETTE & ESPIONAGE, of course; Maureen Doyle McQuerry's THE PECULIARS, the FLORA SEGUNDA books by Ysabeau Wilce; the Theodosia Books by Robin LaFevers; Kate Elliot's COLD MAGIC and its sequels; Jenny Davidson's THE EXPLOSIONIST, and its sequel, INVISIBLE THINGS; Y.S. Lee's AGENCY novels; the SALLY LOCKHART mysteries of Phillip Pullman; and, obviously, the books of Arthur Conan Doyle and Bram Stoker, what we in the trade call "source documents."

Cover Chatter: If you've been to the San Diego Comic Con, you might have seen the work of the steampunk folk who make clockwork-looking insects. Well, the scarab on the cover of this book is the real deal, made by Mike Libby of Insect Lab. Their work shows on the East Coast in Boston and Maine, and two years ago showed up in the NY Times. It's an amazing cover, and I can't help but say how COOL IT IS to a.) not have a cover featuring the girls - ruining our idea of what Alvermina's dreadful blade of a nose looks like, or Evaline's super sophisticated and icy beauty, and b.) have the whole steampunk thing made really real with an actual bit of clockwork. It's a stunning cover, full kudos and applause to the design team. I'm sure they can rest on their laurels for at least five minutes after this one.

Authorial Asides: Though author Colleen Gleason may be new to many in YA circles, apparently she's been known to write a vampire novel or two.

After September 17th 2013, you can find THE CLOCKWORK SCARAB by Colleen Gleason online, or at an independent bookstore near you!

August 28, 2013

Writing Wisdom from Tony Cliff: Grounding a Flying Boat

Today we're happy to host a guest post by Tony Cliff, author of Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant, recently released by First Second and reviewed here a couple of days ago. It's always a lot of fun to talk to first-time graphic novelists because so often they come at their projects with the perspective of having produced webcomics, or comic books, or having written or illustrated other types of books, and so we get to hear about the creative process and how it's similar (or different). Tony's here to talk about the nitty-gritty of dealing with fantastical elements, and how to finesse a story so that the unbelievable--a flying boat, say--becomes a necessary part of the story. Thanks, Tony, for stopping by!

When I began writing THE TURKISH LIEUTENANT, I wanted a way for her to be able to travel around the globe quickly and at will, without having to rely on the typical modes of transportation at the time (early 1800s). Similar to the way a James Bond is able to hop around the globe in the line of duty. So I gave her a flying boat. A flying sailboat, specifically.

The "sail" part is important. This is the time of the Napoleonic wars – a time when men on wind-powered warships were wrestling for control of the seas. Never mind that it would have been technologically incongruous to give Delilah a diesel-fuelled propeller plane to travel around in, it would do a disservice to the spirit and aesthetic of the time to equip her with anything but a ship with sails. Two on the top, for propulsion, and one on each side for lift.

Image: Tony Cliff/
A flying sailboat is, of course, complete nonsense, despite what you may have read elsewhere. Science – no, never mind science – your basic human understanding of the world prohibits the existence of a flying sailboat. But hopefully, within the context of DELILAH DIRK AND THE TURKISH LIEUTENANT, it is perfectly believable.

The boat is, for the most part, treated like background dressing. Delilah refers to it in only the most casual manner. Few other people see it. Those that do, however, react appropriately. They react how you might were you to encounter a real-life flying sailboat: a mixture of fear, awe, suspicion, and a cargo load of other assorted emotions. This is the first thing that helps the boat "sit" in the world without feeling patently absurd. Having a character in the story react to an extraordinary thing in a way that mirrors a potential reader's disbelief is an effective calming technique. You, the writer, are holding out a hand to your reader and saying, "yes, I know this is preposterous, but you're not the only one who thinks so! You're not alone in this!" You can see this happening in the GAME OF THRONES series with dragons. The characters who aren't (spoiler alert) freaking out about the real-live dragons are talking wistfully about the power and might of the dragons of old. Whenever ol' George R.R. Martin gets around to unleashing some actual dragon action, it's going to be good (this might have already happened? I'm only half-way through book three). Look at the entirety of Harry Potter's introduction to Diagon Alley and the Wizarding World - there's a reason ol' J.K. Rowling started Harry off in the world of regular, boring old humans instead of writing a story about a boy who's always known he's an amazeballs wizard. It's so we can share in Harry's discovery of these unbelievable people, places, and disgustingly-flavoured candies.

Perhaps you'd like to write about a world in which astonishing magic or extremely advanced technology (is there even a difference???) are hum-drum facets of everyday life. Even then, you may choose to include an "avatar" character; someone to represent the viewer's introduction to this world. Again, see Harry Potter. That magic stuff is all pretty routine to Ron and Hermione, but it isn't to us, and it isn't to Harry. The reader's avatar doesn't have to be a complete newbie, though – there are countless other ways to provide a helping hand to a reader who may raise an unbelieving eyebrow at the reality of your fictional world.

As far as these things go, I also appreciate simplicity and solid rules. The flying boat flies, assuming it is piloted correctly. It does not hover, it does not submerge, and you need water to land it on. It does not autonomously swoop in at the critical point in Act 3 to (spoiler alert) save Delilah from certain death. The very worst time to reveal a certain property or ability of a magical item is exactly when it becomes useful in resolving suspense or conflict. The boat is not a magic-bullet solution to Delilah and Selim's problems, and it doesn't do anything that hasn't been established.

Conversely, the boat is difficult to handle and fragile, which gives it character. The value of flaky, unreliable technology is demonstrated well in MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: GHOST PROTOCOL. Early on, it is established that sometimes some of Ethan Hunt's wacky gadgets can fail. Initially this is played for laughs. Later it is played for good, solid suspense. Overall, it is much easier to relate to than fantastic future-gadgets that never fail. How much time and effort do you spend maintaining the proper operation of the device you're reading this blog post on? Fallible technology and/or magic is much more believab%f000

Tony Cliff is a contributor to the Flight series of anthologies, has been nominated for Shuster and Harvey awards, and has three times been nominated for an Eisner award. Delilah Dirk is his first published graphic novel. (Bio courtesy of Macmillan.)

Tony Cliff's website
Tony's Tumblr blog (check out the awesome sketches thereupon!)

August 26, 2013


Dear FCC: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher, First Second.

This week we're very excited to linger in the graphic novel arena, thanks to some help from Gina at First Second—she sent over a review copy of today's book, Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant (officially released tomorrow), and she also hooked us up with a guest post from author/illustrator Tony Cliff, which will go up on Wednesday, so check back for the story behind the story! (We're suckers for finding out how these gorgeous creations take shape behind the scenes.)

Reader Gut Reaction: If you like swashbuckling adventure, strong female protagonists, and plenty of outlandish mayhem, then Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant delivers in spades. I'm going to note right up front: don't expect a high level of realism except in the gorgeous setting details and some of the historical backdrop—in a sense, this is more like a fantasy in that a) you've got a globetrotting, independent female pirate/adventurer, and b) she has a flying sailboat. So, right off, you know this is about fun and whimsy and entertainment. Well, maybe not right off—we start from the point of view of the eponymous Turkish lieutenant, who lives a rather humdrum life and kind of likes it that way. He likes tea and conversation, not brawls and excitement, but he's going to get ALL of it when he runs across Delilah Dirk.

Concerning Character: It's the contrast between the two characters that makes this story constantly entertaining. Delilah gets into scrapes, the lieutenant helps her out of them; the lieutenant is decidedly not streetwise and lacks certain practical skills, but hanging with Delilah spurs a rather rapid education on his part. And, of course, as you might expect, he learns he kind of enjoys it after all. Delilah was such a intriguing and fun character, I found myself wanting more character depth on her part, but the lieutenant—who, after all, is really the narrator of the story—was clearly drawn and sympathetic. And, speaking of drawing, the artwork for this is truly a sumptuous feast for the eyes. I'm really not exaggerating—to me, it's the visuals that make the book shine. It's in full color, but makes excellent use of a muted palette to convey the feel of the historical time period.

Recommended for Fans Of...: Graphic novel adventures with a historical component, like Prince of Persia (reviewed here) or the Crogan series (reviewed here).

Themes & Things: Although I'd say this one focuses more on story than theme, the one thread that really stands out is the idea of unlikely friendships, and how much we can get out of those strange matchups. You wonder what you could possibly have in common, but then you realize there's also something extraordinary about having friendships that bring something new into your life, something unexpected and crazy and fun. And that might just be the cure to the loneliness you didn't know you had, or the boredom that crept in when you weren't looking.

You can find Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant by Tony Cliff online or at an independent bookstore near you!

August 23, 2013

TURNING PAGES: Killer of Enemies, by Joseph Bruchac

Even before this summer's box office flop of The Lone Ranger, the issue of Native appropriation has haunted writers. Stereotype, thy name is Laura Ingalls Wilder's "savages," Twilight's fantastical sidekick, Jacob, and every other racially problematic representation of broken English speaking, nature-communing, peace-pipe smoking, peyote-tripping, "simple savage" Native character with a braid full of feathers.

So, it was with a little bit of trepidation that I received an invitation to be part of a cover reveal for KILLER OF ENEMIES. I mean, it sounded so typical: a story about an Apache girl being her tribe's designated killer of enemies... whose favorite weapon is .357 Magnum... and who survives in this post-apocalyptic landscape to serve her scarred and insane genetically modified leaders...

Um, wait. On second thought... not THAT typical...

Reader Gut Reaction: History had moved us past countries and states and into the future, where corporations bound territories together. New America, Euro-Russia and Afro-Asia are the way countries are divided now. Lozen is a low-tech hick, even before the silvery magnetic ball, larger than Earth's moon, comes from space and knocks out all communications, digital and electronics. Jets fall from the sky, life support machinery in hospitals die, and any computers, light bulbs, phones, and cars without the simplest combustion engines are kaput.

Before The Cloud, science was king, and its powers were a lure to the richest corporation owners. Called the Ones, these wealthy individuals modified their bodies and genetically enhanced their eyes and their brains - and, when they got bored, even their pets. Of course, once digital and electronic power ended, the Ones were fried in an instant, and the cages of those genetically modified pets opened wide... and a further hell was released. Humanity has crowded together for survival, but monsters are surrounding them - without and within - large, insane, and multiplying. A hike across country could find you the victim of a half tiger, half porcupine "genmod," who has been tracking you for miles. A bike ride on the last of the paved roads could end in you being carried off by a massive cross between a pterodactyl and a turkey vulture. Cities are slaughter grounds, and terrified humanity clings desperately to remnants of a social order which came from before. The Ones are gone - but the wannabes, who were cutthroat survivalists, not yet rich enough for full genetic modification but trying their hardest to social climb - they are all who are left. And with their position of power - and their armies of hired thugs - they rule Haven, the former Southwestern Penitentiary that Lozen now calls home.

Lozen's family, as have-nots, have always had no choice but to stay close to the simple life, thus Lozen can do things most people can't, like camping and living off the land, shooting an actual old gun, and using a Bowie knife. Her enthusiasm for these old-skool activities means that she's good at them, and can also run, fight, and climb. After the Cloud, Lozen's family moves far into the desert. As the world is in chaos,, the Sonoran desert offers La place to live cooperatively and peacefully. Together with members of their families and friends, they retreat from the madness. Unfortunately, the madness sends out scouts to find them... Three remaining Ones, having heard of Lozen's skills and kill rate with the monsters, have banded together to create a town, and Lozen's going to come and keep them safe. Of course, that's not what she wants - but after seeing those she loves gunned down in cold blood... that's her only choice.

Fast-paced, action-packed, and easy to get into, KILLER OF ENEMIES is a dystopian fantasy that flat-out erases the stereotypical "simple Native" tale in favor of a cold-eyed, sharp-shooting monster-killing menace, whose powers are freaking her out, but who is nonetheless DETERMINED to save her little corner of the world, and those she loves.

Concerning Character: Lozen was named for a long-ago relative who became vital to his people as their Killer of Enemies, and a hero remembered in story and song. While Lozen acts as a monster killer on behalf of the remaining Ones, her real focus in life is to GET OUT of Haven, spirit her family away, and hide. Danger is mounting. Outside the gates of Haven, the monsters she can see and kill aren't the worst thing. SOMETHING speaks to her - audibly - in her mind... and it calls her Little Food. Inside Haven, the guards are brutal and dismissive - and tend to grope her - and the psychopaths who run Haven are bickering and political. Each sees her as useful against the others - but possibly too useful, as she escapes scrape after scrape, each night coming back to Haven alive. They all want to use her, and they all want to use her up. Lozen's weakness - what's left of her family - has been used against her for the last time. She refuses to make other friends - that only endangers everyone. She's ready to take her life back, and take to the hills. But, although she's getting stronger with each kill, can her family keep up? Is there a way to save everyone precious to her?

Highly Recommended for Fans Of...: THE HOUSE OF THE SCORPION, Nancy Farmer; GRACELING, Kirsten Cashore; UGLIES, and sequels, Scott Westerfeld; LIFE AS WE KNEW IT, and sequels, Susan Beth Pfeffer; UNWIND, Neal Shusterman; PARTIALS, and sequels, Dan Wells; ALANNA, by Tamora Pierce; ENGLAVE, and sequels, Ann Aguire; BLOOD RED ROAD, Moira Young.

Themes & Things: Since I just blogged about the tiresome trope of the strong female character, it might seem counter-intuitive to review this book. However, this is essentially a superhero story, and there just happens to be an Apache girl as the main character. As a superhero, of course the Killer of Enemies has to be super-fast, super-strong, and super-tireless. Without romanticizing, this surrealistically awesome chick, she is also often terrified, dirty and cold, has already lost people she loves, and ONLY survives because of the help of others. Not limited to being unrealistically strong and studly, she eventually allows other interests and concerns to change her game plan, and in the end, that turns out to be the best move she could have made.

Cover Chatter: Action shot in sepia tones! The bullet even shreds the 'e' in the title. I love, love, love that this moment actually happens in the book. Jump off a cliff, shooting at something? Oh, yes, please. I, of course, would have shot my foot off AND broken my neck leaping and shooting, but this is why we love X-MEN and Spiderman and all - because they are our superheroes, and like Lozen, can do impossible things. While jumping, wearing a cool Bowie knife and sheath, awesome fingerless gloves and a headband and goggles, deep in the Sonoran desert with still shiny hair. And cool leggings. :envious sigh:

This book was given to me courtesy of the author and the ever-adored TU BOOKS. In September, 2013, you can find KILLER OF ENEMIES by Joseph Bruchac online, or at an independent bookstore near you!

X-posted at Guys Lit Wire

August 22, 2013

Guest Posts, and Other Links of Note

It seems to be Guest Post Season, or something. We've got Tony Cliff--author of the new and adventuresome and visually stunning graphic novel Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant--stopping by with some words of wisdom next Wednesday. And, while I have been sadly lax in posting to my own blogs, I have in fact been reasonably prolific in doing a couple of guest posts of my own: a Dear Teen Me letter (complete with embarrassing photos), as well as a WOW Wednesday post over on Adventures in YA Publishing in which I attempt to explain advice from my college figure drawing professor and why it's been so important to my writing endeavors. (I think it mostly makes sense, but you be the judge...)

So that's it for tooting my own horn. (I always feel weird about shameless self-promotion, but that's where my blogging has been, so...) Anyway, on to tooting horns for other people. First up is Leila, over at Bookshelves of Doom, who put together an awesome master list of book recommendation engines. Go check it out. If you're the sort of person who needs help deciding on your next read, maybe one of these will be for you.

Or maybe you prefer booklists if you're looking for reading? NPR put together the Ultimate Backseat Bookshelf featuring 100 must-read titles for readers aged 9-14. The committee of deciders included fellow blogger and kidlitosphere luminary Travis Jonker of 100 Scope Notes, so rest assured it was no panel of effete
non-kidlit individuals. (Also included were authors Linda Sue Park and Rita Williams-Garcia.) No wonder there are a lot of my personal faves on the list...The Phantom Tollbooth...Bunnicula...The Wolves of Willoughby Chase...James and the Giant Peach...and on and on. SIGH. Now I have some serious re-reading to do...

Lastly, the Cybils are still accepting applications for panelists, so if you're an active kidlit/YA blogger and want to be involved in a REALLY FUN book award, go sign up!

August 20, 2013

Writer's Rites: Writing Real, Telling True, Unapologetic.

QUOTABLE: "To write the truth — as opposed to writing truthfully, writing down true things, writing one’s version of truth, or completing an assignment for the Think Piece Industrial Complex on the subject of truthiness — one must, according to Bertolt Brecht, accrue four skills beyond courage: the keenness to spot truth, the strength to wield it powerfully, the judgment to bestow it upon those who will use it, and the cunning to communicate it effectively." ~ On Being Nice But Writing The Truth, by Anne Elizabeth Moore, Portland Review

A buddy sent out a squeeing email when Rachel Renee Russell was on NPR the other day. "Does it matter that she's not white?" caroled my Caucasian buddy, R. "Noooo!"

I wouldn't have expected it to matter to R., one of the most openhearted and accepting people I know. But, I know it mattered to Rachel Renee Russell. I love how she described writing a white character: mental gymnastics. "Can I do this?" she asked herself. Six books in thirty-four different languages later - the answer is obvious. Twelve million copies in print say that, on paper, Russell is successful. But, I have a feeling that her mental gymnastics continue.

Ah, Mental Gymnastics. Even the most sedentary writer is medaling all gold in mental gymnastics. They seem to come with the territory of being a writer. We're forever balancing what we want to say with what we're told we "should" say; forever teetering between the self and the self-censoring. Some of us are able to balance on the razor's edge, tuck and turn and land with arms outstretched; the judges holding up proud 9.9's and 10's. And, the rest of us...

We're enthusiastic, here at Wonderland, about diverse populations, but we've both been criticized in various ways for not writing "ethnic enough." I remember being shriveled with humiliation at being requested to "represent more" and reminded of my "role" in the writing world, and A.F. has had her own less-than-heartwarming experiences. We're part of the ethnically diverse population, writing books featuring members of diverse populations, but still, in the eyes of some, it's not enough. We grip our beliefs and clutch our convictions, and try to find our balance on the beam once again.

For a lot of people, the "why boys don't read" question frequently devolves into a discussion of female YA authors, female protagonists, and pink book covers. The conventional wisdom on the topic does not emphasize that reading is generally a matter of interests, and that at various times in our lives, some people are interested more in other people, while others remain more interested in things.

The antidote for a lot of people complaining about boys not reading and girls being drowned in pink, is to laud main characters with a new angle. Goodreads and Amazon are full of lists and labels "Kick*ss Female Characters!" "Powerful Female Protagonist!" There is not, and never will be, a Listmania! category celebrating Manipulative Female Androgyne! or Caustic Henwit Shopkeepers! Well... no. Those are too much like Real. What fun is it to shrug on the identity of a Meek-But-Nice Female? If she doesn't have dialogue that doubles as banter, and isn't able to backhand the Mean Girls while doing a backflip, then what good is she? We're after the trope of the Strong Female Main Character, and we will not be denied!

Strong Females. Ah, tropes.

I'm not resisting the idea that female characters need to make their own decisions and choose their own adventures, but I'm kind of over the "strong" thing. There's really no such thing as a positive stereotype, I'm afraid, and in the end, that kind of characterization boomerangs back to societal pressure shaping the kind of characters we write. Not real women. Not women who talk to each other about the issues of the day, and not about men or the issues facing the men in the book. We write Strong Female Characters who, if we're super-clever, also represent. Woot!

There is something to be said for writing unapologetically, for putting out there your unlikeable character (or, conversely, your likeable character), your lovers and your losers, and your ignorance. There is something to be said for not hiding behind "nice" or politically correct, to pretending that no one on earth is going to read what we're writing - and just letting it out there.

“The act of writing is not only about claiming our truths, our selves, but having the courage to not apologize when we do. Our writing is where we need to be our bravest and most fearless selves. You can’t write your best work if you’re not all in—and once you’re all in, you’re vulnerable. We don’t serve our audience—our true audience—by holding back.”
“The ideal of perfection is incredibly seductive but it is also unattainable, and the act of pursuing it will cause some of the most interesting and genuine parts of ourselves to wither and fade. But we are, all of us, terrified of being exposed for the fraud we secretly fear ourselves to be … Writing is about being brave, taking risks, accepting and embracing our essential humanness; it is not about being comfortable or safe or a way to stay invisible.” - Robin LaFevers.

A reminder: Embrace The Naked. And, happy writing week. Go light your world.

August 19, 2013

Monday Review: A CORNER OF WHITE by Jaclyn Moriarty

Reader Gut Reaction: You all must know by now that I'm a huge Jaclyn Moriarty fan. Even as her books get more surreal (The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie) and more magical-realistic (The Spell Book of Listen Taylor) I'm willing to go along for the ride, and I always end up coming out the other side either wishing I could live in that world or wishing I'd written the book myself. With A Corner of White, Moriarty continues along the surreal path, leaving the reader questioning what's real and what isn't at every turn, yet hoping against hope that it's all true. And THIS reader was inordinately glad to find out it's only Book One, because the questions that get answered at the end of the book only lead to further questions, and because I really did not want to leave these characters behind.

Concerning Character: At first, you aren't quite sure what's real. Madeleine clearly lives in the real world, in Cambridge, England. But Elliot, who lives in the Kingdom of Cello? We read about him as though he is real, but is he, truly? Is he an invention? A fiction? How can a world where colors take sentient form be actual? Because Madeleine and Elliot are connected with one another, able to communicate through notes left in a parking meter, a portal from one universe to another. Madeleine doesn't quite believe it, while Elliot is the more credulous one...but both characters are real and solid and believable, regardless. And they have to make that leap of faith, each about the other one's existence, in order to deal with their troubles, to reach out and connect. Very profound, when you think about it. As always, I adore every single one of Moriarty's characters, which are drawn with her usual humor and quirkiness. Even the ones who aren't quite as likeable--and there are some--demand your attention. I hope to create characters even half as memorable.

Recommended for Fans Of...: Books about alternate universes, that make you question what's real and right in front of you. Fans of Diana Wynne Jones, I think, would really like this one, especially if you liked the Howl's Moving Castle books.

Themes & Things: Even with all the shiny things in this book--alternate universes and their intriguing differences, for instance--there are core themes that make the story itself solid, not just bells and whistles. Friendship, and what it means to trust others, help them, allow them to help you. Family, and how deep those bonds go, and how far you'll go to keep those bonds alive. Who you are at your core, independent of the trappings of your own world or any remnants of your past that you might cling to, and how it is you define that elusive sense of self. There is a ton of depth here, and the book's structure and unique slant serve to highlight that depth rather than distract from it, in my opinion. Another fabulous read from one of my favorite YA authors.

Review Copy Source: Library.

You can find A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty online, or at an independent bookstore near you!

August 16, 2013

Brief Notes on Being Back

As of Tuesday evening, I've been physically back home after traveling to India, and I'm still mentally recovering, but plan to get back to regular blog posts next week on the usual Monday and Thursday schedule. This was one of the most emotionally and mentally exhausting trips I've taken, which led to more physical exhaustion than I had expected--not to mention the jet lag after 32 hours of travel and a 12.5-hour time difference--so it's going to take me a while to catch up to my normal pace of life. (I promise there will be photos on my Flickr page soon!)

One thing that will be different: my husband and I made this resolution that after we got back from this trip, we wouldn't let the crazy busy-ness get out of hand, and we wouldn't just return straight to the demanding, insane schedule that was making us tired and cranky before the trip. We'll see how successful those intentions the meantime, though, I'm looking forward to putting my head back into the game kidlit-wise; getting back to promoting my book that came out this summer, Underneath; and watching the Cybils process unfold (the panelist application form is open, people! Go!). And, of course, I plan to enjoy the remaining weeks of summer in an environment that is not HORRIFYINGLY HUMID.

It's nice to be home!

August 14, 2013

WCOB Wednesday: Tortall and Other Lands: A Collection of Tales, by Tamora Pierce

We have very few of The Great female fantasy authors left. Most recently we lost both Anne McCaffrey and Dame DWJ. Years ago, we lost Madeleine L'Engle and Andre Norton, not to mention Marion Zimmer Bradley. Ursula K. LeGuin is still writing, but at eighty-three, she is one of the last and precious few of her formidable cadre of writers. Thank goodness we still have Tamora Pierce, going strong.

As I'm eagerly awaiting a newly released Pierce book this autumn, I thought I'd have a Tamora Pierce re-read. It's been fun...but, I also realized I'd missed some the first time around! It's a good thing I looked! Three Pierce books came out during the time I was in Scotland, and while they get there eventually, it was hard to find them when they first came out, and with one thing and another, I lost track. So, I was happy to find this collection of Tales, and can officially review it as a Wicked Cool Overlooked Book.

Reader Gut Reaction: I like a good anthology, and an anthology all written by the same author is super. Mostly written in the same world - well, those are my favorite of all, perhaps. Tamora Pierce's strength is in characterization and setting, and while I didn't expect her to necessarily be a deft short story writer, I'm delighted to note that she is that, too. Of course, all of her shorts I think could be turned into full length novels, or come from a world where the novel has already been written, so maybe it's easier for her to stop writing when it's time. Either way, this is a really full and exciting collection I could savor over and over again, because of the confident handling of the emotional scope of the young characters, and her acute understanding of the older ones.

Concerning Character: Two stories stand out in this collection for me. “Huntress” is set in modern day New York City, and it deals with runners - which I know will be attractive to CitySmartGirl and others who were into that scene in high school. A first-year runner gains a coveted group of friends by showing up the seniors with more age and less drive to go. Suddenly she's one of the charismatic and handsome Felix's "lionesses" - one of the best and brightest - if she can take the initiation. When it turns out she doesn't want what all being a Lioness means, she's left defenseless - or is she?

“Testing,” is another quirky story - it's not fantasy at all, at least, not in any sense that's expected. X-Ray, however, is the type of housemother who can see right through you. Her girls - try though they might - can't shake her, break her, or get her to go away. Maybe she's a keeper, then? Pierce based this on her own experiences working in group homes, and I found this one to be especially endearing - she gets into the heads of some of her charges with amusing accuracy.

I loved the Shang Warriors from the Alanna books, and was delighted to meet one again in “Student of Ostriches.” You've gotta love a young girl who not only takes to a boring job she's stuck with, but does her best to become her very best at it. She see her family and friends as people who could use her help, be helpful, and make a difference. “Hidden Girl” is a story I wish a lot of people could read... It's about a girl who wears a veil - and is OKAY WITH IT. Rather than take the Western assumption that a woman's individuality and beauty is considered a problem when her culture embraces women in veils, it shows the flipside. VERY cool, indeed. Probably my second favorite story is “Nawat” - the story of the crow-man we meet in Pierce's TRICKSTER'S QUEEN. I always wondered, after they married, and lived-happily-ever-after how that would work. Crows are ... loud, harrying, chaotic, and rude. Also too smart, and fond of sparkly things for their own good. What is normal in a bird would be DEEPLY annoying in a human being, and Ally didn't seem insane... This story is about their children. Crows are faithful parents, but they're definitely not human. Humanity, it turns out, is a choice. My very favorite story in this collection is “Lost,” and not only because it has a brilliant female mathematician or two, and Darklings. Like Diana Wynne Jones, Tamora Pierce is very good at taking the side of the wronged child, and making sure they can leave a bad situation. Sometimes the comeuppance of those involved is immediate, sometimes it takes time, but in the realm of Tortall, even if your particular wrong isn't righted, if you survive, you pay it forward. There's a fierce, good feeling, in reading stories like those.

Recommended for Fans Of...: Diana Wynne Jones, Mercedes Lackey's THE FIVE HUNDRED KINGDOMS series, as well as the fairy-retelling, THE BLACK SWAN; Gail Carson Levine's EVER, ELLA ENCHANTED, etc.; and THE SQUIRE, THE KNIGHT & HIS LADY, by Gerald Morris. None of these are anthologies, but these are general recommendations for fantasy books that are like hers.

Cover Chatter: I like. Simple, classic, clean; no character on the cover, just the rampant lioness shown on the flags of Tortall. It's awesome, and why wouldn't it be, since it is the standard of Alanna, the Lionness we all knew and loved from the long-ago 1983 kick-off to the whole thing? It works as it should, showcases Tortall, and reminds the reader where it all started.

Etc. Asides: While this book is based in Tortall, the new Pierce book is set in Emelan, along the Circle Sea. So, while this doesn't help prep me for the new book, reading MELTING STONES will - but that's another review...

I picked up my copy of this book from the library. You can find TORTALL AND OTHER LANDS: A COLLECTION OF TALES by Tamora Pierce online, or at an independent bookstore near you!

August 13, 2013

Lois Duncan is on her own cover...

I've already become slightly obsessed with the Lizzie Skurnick Books reissues of classic YA fiction - the first of these, Lois Duncan's DEBUTANTE HILL - but until this interview, I had no idea the slightly-hostile looking girl in the foreground of the book cover was Duncan herself - at sixteen. Pissed, because some "creepy boy" was driving her Jeep.

Sixteen, and pouting in bright pink, Technicolor life. What a cool snapshot of a moment in time. Too bad photography from the late eighties could never make me look that awesome.

August 12, 2013

TURNING PAGES: SPIRIT AND DUST, by Rosemary Clement-Moore

One of Rosemary Clement-Moore's strengths as a writer is her sense of fun, her good grip on cultural references - even obscure ones - and some crazy-complicated plot twists. It goes without saying that her characterization is splendid - mostly what we've loved about her books in the past is the inner mind of some complicated character who goes whistling into the dark and creepy world, and comes out only a little worse for wear at the other end. This is a fast-paced book with a lot of detail - museums, historical characters, and the like. You'll want to pop over to Minnesota yourself.

Reader Gut Reaction:You'd never know that this novel is a sequel - it has a lot of standalone value, as the individuality of each Goodnight girl is, as always, very, very strong, and leaves you hoping to meet the whole lot of them at some point. You do meet a new one this time 'round - from the 1920's. I can imagine a Clement- Moore book set in the twenties... it would be awesome! Anyway. I sat and read this in a single sitting, and can well and truly call this a beach read. Or a poolside read. Or a bedside read. Lots of action, mysterious mystery, and the requisite Hot Guy. I didn't love this one as much as TEXAS GOTHIC, but lots of fun regardless.

Interesting sidenote: the main character is a first year college student. This doesn't change the fact that the book is perfectly appropriate for both younger and older YA. In the still undefined marketing niche of "new adult" this novel still stands firmly in an E for Everyone kind of place - which is quite a feat, given that there's an intense romantic connection, and a lot of worrying happenings in the dead-and-departed world. Somehow, Clement-Moore does it again: both new adults and older ones will appreciate this book.

Concerning Character: We met Daisy Goodnight in TEXAS GOTHIC, where she comes across as a pain in the butt know-it-all. Despite being stunningly good looking, she's abrupt and a bit cold. Not surprisingly, in this novel, she's not that person, because we're in HER head. And, so, she's smart - brilliant in science and maths, but also slightly cracked, because she's got a lot going on in her head, mainly that she's trying to promote the idea of Daisy Goodnight, Hardcore Witchy Woman, and really, she's just nervous and unsure of herself, and determined to do right - as best she can.

Her most recent case takes her from her home of Texas to Minnesota - underdressed for the whole thing - to find the whereabouts of a college student after the death of her bodyguard/driver. Daisy - who hears the dead - has been secretly working with the FBI for quite some time now, as their person-of-last-resort, but in this cellphone and Facebook mad world, she's no longer a secret. Even in Minnesota, Daisy is such a Not Secret that the student's mafia crime boss father decides to kidnap her... because it's his daughter missing, and he'd like Daisy's undivided attention - the FBI aren't working fast enough for him. The thing is, Daisy would have been glad to help, if he'd just asked - but now he's got a geas laid on her, and she's trapped. And, there's a Hot Guy in the mix - who she can't seem to remember isn't entirely on her side; after all, he was there to kidnap her. Meanwhile, her usual sharp skills don't seem like they're quite... working. The kidnappers aren't your average run-of-the-mill, looking for a ransom folk. They've got some connection to a shadowy Brotherhood... and something else hinkey is going on...

Recommended for Fans Of...:older teen series, which feature less friend-drama and more mystery and interactions with the adult world, such as Meg Cabot, Rachel Hawkins' HEX HALL series, Kiersten White's PARANORMALCY series, and Suzanne Selfours novels. Also, Rosemary Clement-Moore, with this Goodnight series, is writing the YA equivalent of adult Amanda Quick/Jayne Ann Kretz ARCANE SOCIETY novels, which have a huge fanbase and following.

Cover Chatter: I always love a good, unique cover, and this eye cover is definitely unique. However, the little silhouette in the eye, though - is it the love interest, Carson? Is it representative of the disturbed dead? I can't quite tell... but it seems like a "real" person, an actual embodiment, which means it'd be Carson, which is ...okay, kind of a disappointment. The Goodnight Girls are enough in and of themselves to be interesting characters, without applying the usual marketing schtick of having the Female Form YA Cover to catch a reader's eye. This is certainly a memorable cover, but I'm still not convinced that the design folk quite understand how to communicate the quirky joys of this series in cover form.

I picked this up at my local library. You can find SPIRIT AND DUST by Rosemary Clement-Moore online, or at an independent bookstore near you!

August 07, 2013



There's your new super-heroine, coming September 2013, courtesy of Tu Books.
Here's the jacket copy:

This is not a once upon a time story.

Years ago, seventeen-year-old Apache hunter Lozen and her family lived in a world of haves and have-nots. There were the Ones—people so augmented with technology and genetic enhancements that they were barely human—and there was everyone else who served them.

Then the Cloud came, and everything changed. Tech stopped working. The world plunged back into a new steam age. The Ones’ pets—genetically engineered monsters—turned on them and are now loose on the world.

Fate has given seventeen-year-old Apache hunter Lozen a unique set of survival skills and magical abilities that she uses to take down monsters for the remaining Ones, who have kidnapped her family.

But with every monster she kills, Lozen’s powers grow, and she connects those powers to an ancient legend of her people. It soon becomes clear to Lozen that she is meant to be a more than a hired-gun hunter.

Lozen is meant to be a hero.

This book isn't being released until September, so I will hold off my review to the end of the month, but I want you to know that IT IS KILLING ME, people, KILLING. ME. to do so. But, I do it for you. For you, dear readers. But, mainly so I don't have to hear all the grumbling about "why can't I have this book NOW." Yeah, yeah, just give it a month, all right? I'm sure we Cybils folk, at least, will be seeing this one again. Meanwhile, enjoy the author bio:

JOSEPH BRUCHAC is a storyteller, poet, and author of more than one hundred twenty books for adults and young readers. His work, which often draws on his Abenaki ancestry as well as the stories and legends of other Native peoples, has won numerous awards, including ALA Best Books for Young Adults, Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor, National Wildlife Federation Award, and multiple state association awards. Bruchac lives in Greenfield Center, New York. Find him online at Joseph Bruchac Dot Com.

August 06, 2013

TURNING PAGES: The Panopticon, by Jenni Fagan

A little disclosure: One, I lived in Glasgow, Scotland, for five years. Two, I taught the State of California's young offenders for three years. I come to this book from a different direction than a lot of people might, because of that.

A note to readers: while this book has a fifteen year old narrator, it is not a YA book, anymore than A CHILD CALLED IT or GO ASK ALICE or any of those other fictionalized realism novels were strictly for young adults, but it might be read by a few. I admit that I picked it up not quite realizing that. So, again: NOT YA, okay? That said, I'll add: it's a tough book.

Once I made up my mind to read this novel, I made a point of avoiding reviews, especially once I heard the premise.

The author, Jenni Fagan, is a Scottish poet, and her novel is blurbed by the author of TRAINSPOTTING. Yeah, yeah, everyone remembers the movie, and trying to figure out if they could understand a person from Glasgow based on one particular scene. Well, that ...kind of gave me an idea of where this novel would be placed, in terms of literature. It'd be kind of the YA meets Breaking Bad. The character would be a skinny wee ned, in-your-face brash, foul-mouthed, wearing a manky tracksuit, dripping gold jewelry and slang, and thoroughly unlikeable.

It's always nice to be wrong.

That surveillance window in the watchtower glitters in the dim. Dinnae look up. There could be anyone behind that glass. Five men in suits with no faces. All watching. They can watch.

I dinna get people, like they all want to be watched, to be seen, like all the time. They put up their pictures online and let people they dinna like look at them. And people they've never met as well, and they all pretend tae be shinier than they are - and some are even posting on like four sites; their bosses are watching them in Boots, and even outside the chip shop. Then, even at home - they're going online to look and see who they can watch, and to check on who's watching them.

Is that no weird?

Reader Gut Reaction:You should know that a panopticon is a type of institutional building designed by English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in the late 18th century. The concept of the design is a circle with the guard tower in the middle, with smoked windows... disallowing the inmates from knowing whether or not they're being observed, and creating an assumption of being observed all the time, thus creating better behavior. Or, so Bentham thought. It's a reflection on the surveillance society of the UK that this idea of a panopticon for young offenders would even be imagined; CCTV is EVERYWHERE in the UK, but do watchers make a difference? Is having someone watching you, all the time, actually making you seen and known? Or, just more blank, blind eyes who don't know what you're going through? Methink it is the latter...

When I finished this book, I had to have a lie down - and it gave me nightmares. I felt like having a good scream for reasons I couldn't quite put a finger on. It's disturbing. It's hopeless. It's INFURIATING. And yet, it has that kernel of hope we're taught to look for in YA lit. Is the hope real? Is the Panopticon real? Is The Experiment real?

Now, that... that, you'll have to decide for yourself.

Concerning Character: Her name was a number, at one point. She was born of a schizophrenic mother, in the parking lot of a psychiatric hospital, and no one knew what to do with her. Now her name - the one given to her by adoptive mum, Teresa, is Anais Hendricks. She had twenty-four different foster care placements before she was seven. She was adopted, from seven to eleven, and then, she's been moved an additional twenty-seven times in the ensuing four years. Her kind-of-boyfriend, Jay, is doing serious time. Her adoptive mother was stabbed to death, in their home, when Anais was only eleven... her life thus far has been an utter disaster. And now, because of her tendency to skip school, do drugs, and run minibuses into walls ...when they're on fire... she's come to the Panopticon, the penultimate stop. The Panopticon's a run-up to "real" jail, which is where Anais is going if the comatose policewoman, whom Anais is suspected of battering nearly to death, dies. There is indeed blood all over her school uniform - but not the policewoman's blood. So far, there's nothing linking her to the case, except everyone knows Anais hates her. As for Anais herself, she was so high, she doesn't remember what happened, but she knows she didn't batter that stupid woman. She's almost certain...

If she dies, Anais will be put away in secure lock-up until she's eighteen, and then, jail. For real. Possibly forever.

The voice in this novel seems spot on for a Scottish kid, the voice of kids on the street and on buses after school that I heard while living in Glasgow. However, what Anais says - profanity-laden and snarky, much of the time - isn't her charm as much as what she thinks. Inside, she's not really a mean girl, she's neither as bad nor as hard nor as skanky as she appears. She hates getting into fights - they make her shaky and scared. She has to look hard, though, put on a front, and make sure no one knows she's soft inside, or the life she lives, and the people she lives it with, will break her for good. She's afraid - terrified - that she really and truly is schizophrenic, like her birthmum, the sort of crazy that you can't come back from. She's afraid that the real Watchers, the faceless men who have made her life an Experiment - she's terrified that they're real, that, when she reaches the end of it all, her whole world will have been a joke, a farce, a let's-see-how-much-she-can-take exercise. She uses and is used and abused by sexuality, yet all she really wants to be is loved - truly loved, loved like Tash and Isla, two other girls in the Panopticon, love each other. She just wants a love that doesn't mean loss...

And, in a way, that's the crux of this book - despite the difference in slang, in geography, in criminology, maybe - that's the real story. Everyone wants to have a tiny bit of something real, real love, real hope, a real life that has moments of peace and beauty and excellence. Maybe they'd never be able to say so in those words, but what Anais wants is a common song in the human experience. Anais plays a game where she chooses alternate lives. Why couldn't she have been born in Paris - to loving parents? Well, maybe she was. Maybe she's going to be fabulous, and go there and be a painter. Maybe she's going to take her chances, and suck up every piece of learning the world has to teach her, and find her way to a garret and paint, and wear pillbox hats and fab star-shaped sunglasses.

After all, you never know, right? And that's the hope we all must live in, or die.

Recommended for Fans Of...: HOLES, by Louis Sachar; LOCKDOWN and MONSTER, by Walter Dean Meyers; G. Neri's YUMMY: THE LAST DAYS OF A SOUTHSIDE SHORTY; RASH, by Pete Hautman

Cover Chatter:: I'd imagine this would be a difficult book for any cover design team to tackle. "Yes, well, let's get a good, cheery cover for a novel about a girl in care who may, or may not be responsible for someone's death. Oh, and she's never met anyone related to her, is watched all the time, and is possibly in the grips of a borderline personality disorder. Ready... design!" Snark aside, the cover with the "flying cat" on is at least a sign that the design team read the book. A weird flying cat/lion thingy does indeed appear, and Anais likes to go and pretend she's flying whilst riding it. The girl with the red high tops and the sweater, however, doesn't really match Anais in apperance; she's much more apt to be wearing high-waist micro-mini shorts and a pillbox hat... However interesting looking the cat, however, I find that I prefer the simple black American cover - no faces, no inexplicable symbolism. The lines on the cover are evocative of bars; the single white keyhole of light, with the tiny female figure, gives a creepy, desperate feeling of one girl against the eyeless - but ever watching - universe. That same sense of suffocating, soulless detached observation is characteristic of the novel itself.

Authorial Asides: Author Jenni Fagan was herself in foster care, according to a April 2013 interview in The Scotsman. Thus, the voice and characterization are indeed spot-on, at least in small part due to her own experiences.

My copy of this book was received courtesy of the publisher, Random House. You can find THE PANOPTICON by Jenni Fagan as an ebook, or at an independent bookstore near you!

August 05, 2013


I might have to come up with a different picture for these sorts of posts... can we really call it "turning pages" if no pages are ever involved? Never mind - you can use your imaginations and flip with me through these highly addictive, roundly-written pirate tales for kids. They're bite sized dramas - completely episodic - and leave you wanting more.

Reader Gut Reaction: These books are part of Lu Sylvan's "Book Bites" series, which means that they are short, easily "digestible" and fun, in an introductory sort of way, to readers who are often confounded at the idea of an entire book. However, too many times when people talk about books for "reluctant readers," they default to books which are shallow on characterization and overloaded on action. I'm pleased to say that this is not an issue with UNDER A BLOOD RED MOON and its piratical sequels. There's action - surely. There's quick thinking, there are lies and counter-lies, betrayal, bewilderment and a near drowning, all within the first few chapters. But, the characters are distinguishable, specific, and come from varying backgrounds. They each have a secret desire, and each have their own reasons for being where they are ... and this, not the length, is what is going to hook the elusive "reluctant reader."

Concerning Character: It isn't that Blossom has set out to be a royal pain - she hasn't. Not really. She's just the middle child OF middle children - there are tons of sisters above her, and tons below, and her parents have daughters coming out of their ears. She isn't needed at home. She isn't needed right now at all. She's going to make sure she's useful and ready to be used... when she is needed. So, she's just going to go off to sea and learn to be the greatest pilot the world has known. Right?

It would be all right, if Pym didn't feel he had to go with her. She's royal, yes, not just a royal pain, and he's her devoted servant. He'll do anything he can, to keep her out of trouble, including blackening a few eyes...

Casimir knows he's just one more mouth to feed at home, so it's off with him, to the sea. He doesn't know enough to be a sailor - too many knots, too much knowledge. He can grow cabbages, yes, but not much else. So, he's pretty sure only the pirates will take him...

Rollo is big and loud, and that's his only advantage, it seems. Sure, sure, he comes from pirates, the fiercest, most awesome, most amazing pirate king and queen in the world! But, he's not entirely sure that everyone believes it... not even him...

Four disparate voices, four different reasons, four competing secrets, and four sailors, apprenticed on for four years to do their best to learn their craft. Four characters for readers to identify with, cheer for, groan over, and observe on their hero's quest - because there's a lot of that in here. The first episodic novel "bite" ends with a decision: the players are in place, and they're going to do their best to do their jobs - learn what they can - and get out alive.

Did you think that melodramatic? Well, there's a distinct chance that not all four characters will make it. One has already nearly drowned, two have blackened eyes, and one more has had a knife held to their throat. These are pirates yes? They're not the calmest bunch.

Recommended for Fans Of...: Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean, of course; Any of the Jacky Faber books, BLOODY JACK, etc., by L.A. Meyer; PIRATES! by Celia Rees; THE DUST OF 100 DOGS, by A.S. King; THE BIRD OF THE RIVER, Kage Baker; SASSINAK, by Elizabeth Moon; and, technically, SHIP BREAKER, by Paolo Bacigalupi

Authorial Asides: Lu Sylvan is a pseudonym. In her real life, while still an author, Lu Sylvan publishes in the traditional way, on paper, with ink, for Holt BYR and Harcourt, and she writes MG and YA fantasy and historicals.

Each of Lu's "Book Bite" books is $.99 and is available from B&N, Amazon, and they were written to painlessly and interestingly fulfill the "your child should read fifteen to twenty minutes a day" dictum that many teachers - and educational experts - rightly believe. Kids should read, but for those who find it borrrrrring and painful, these episodic ebooks really are a good answer. There are nonfiction ebooks to partner with the fictional ones - a factual book on lady pirates, and "Animal Bites" that are entertainingly factual about alligators, mosquitoes, wolves, and more.

You can find UNDER A BLOOD RED MOON by Lu Sylvan at her website, or at ebook retailers!

August 02, 2013

DON'T TAKE WOODEN NICKELS! It's Five & Dime Friday!

Get out of that piggybank and rattle some silver change! We're back, with a little this and that from around the internets! Okay "we" is definitely a euphemism, as it's just me in this little post, but hark - from a ways away - I hear the dulcet tones of Aquafortis!

"...honking the horn is polite and expected road etiquette, not a sign of impending road rage. That one was hard to get used to. (I spent at least the first few days thinking OHMYGOD EVERYBODY IS HONKING AND ANGRY THIS IS VERY VERY BAD.) They are not angry. In fact, most trucks have "Honk Please" painted on the back."

Oh, my word! She's alive! And yes, in very,very,very,very, VERY very warm India. Sweating. You have to check out her pictures and Professor Robart's brilliant ramblings and photographs of Indian architecture. Some fine stuff there.

So, facials. Folks, did you know that some of them contain little pebbles of plastic? Which go straight down your drain??? And are eaten by fish? I did not know that. I am really peeved about that. Fortunately, I've always loved St. Ives and their little bits of apricot pits, but sheesh, facial companies, do you really need to be told that it's a bad idea to put non-biodegradable stuff in substances that go down the sink? STOP IT. The Great Lakes thank you.

And speaking of facials... um, bird poop. Well, arguably, it doesn't bother the fish when it goes down the drain, but... nightingale poop? Really, NYC? Sometimes I just have to take a moment and wonder at what comes out of the Big Apple. Fab children's books, wonderful publishing houses, fierce editors... and some of the weirdest pop culture phenomenons in the world. I mean, don't you sometimes wonder what it all means? Fish pedicures. Cronuts. Sharknado.

Oh, wait. Can't blame that last one on New York...

At CBC Diversity: "How can I possibly be making the best books for today’s teenagers when I don’t even know them?" WORD. Funny thing, to find out that John Green is kind of universal. Could that mean that - gasp! - it could work the other direction? That books which are pleasing to kids who are not "white, middle class suburban"ites could cross the street the other way? Inquiring minds want to know!

SF Signal has a really, really really good series called "Women to Read" where author A.C. Wise talks up women in speculative fiction, and gives other readers a lot of good input on what to read that features women, or books in speculative fiction with female writers. This week? young women to read about. Go Flora Segunda!!

OOOH. USA Today posted a cover reveal and sneak peek snippet of Melissa Meyer's next book after SCARLET... it's called CRESS.

"Isn’t it interesting that I’ve never been questioned for writing about an almost-pro snowboarder (I’m a cross-country skier whose idea of catching air is breathing in oxygen while hiking in the mountains)? Or about the crazy-rich (I’m still working for a living)? Or about living with a port wine stain (in fact, people with birthmarks have written to thank me for putting their experience into words)? Or for that matter, I find it remarkable that I’ve never once been questioned about writing from a white girl’s perspective." People always say, "Write what you know." readergirl & writer Justina Chen says you can also write what you don't. And, speaking of that -- funnily enough, my writing group has never talked about writing race in YA - we talk a lot about voice, and all of that, but never race. And now we can listen to Mitali talk about it.

Random Penguin House wants to read more SFF! The Suvudu Universe rolls out... now!

GAH! It's August. How did we get here? SCBWI Conference time rolls around again. I'm not going, but cheers to all of you who are, and have a great time. Off to prep for a weekend again - more company, some old friends from Scotland for the next couple of weeks - so I'll bid you adieu. Stay tuned for a lightning quick review of PIRATES and horrible prison conditions next week. Ciao!