Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Book Review: Alex and Eliza

I am not a fan of romance novels, except certain romance novels. I am also one of the few who hasn't been obsessed with Hamilton, the musical.

Still, "Alex & Eliza," by Melissa de la Cruz, is a perfect love story for the YA audience who love the musical "Hamilton," and those who don't. I haven't seen "Hamilton," and don't know much about it, but I still enjoyed the story of how Eliza Schuyler and Alexander Hamilton fell in love and worked around the arrangements of marriage for power and wealth to marry for love.  It was nail biting in the end, and the plot was not predictable. True love prevails, so you have to like that! Especially since that doesn't seem the case for Eliza's sisters.

This made me want to see "Hamilton!"

Monday, June 19, 2017

Gangbanger trailer

Finally! A book trailer for my latest book, "Gangbanger." This 45 second video is like a summary of the book. A picture really is worth 1000 words. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Famous Last Words - Some Thoughts on Writing Endings

Endings are difficult for me, especially when writing them. Sometimes I know what the ending is, or should look like, before I start writing the story. That does not make it any easier. As I approach the end of a novel I am working on, I'll want to rush to the finish line, or I'll worry about loose threads, or I'll wonder if the ending is satisfying enough.

There is reason to worry. A bad ending can ruin a book for a reader. An unsatisfying ending can leave them hanging. The goal is to bring a story full circle and to a satisfying conclusion. To leave the reader closing the book with a feeling of being swept away.

No pressure there.

A good ending feels like a natural conclusion to the story. Having someone or something new appear and save the day will not work. The characters have to drive the ending, with tools that were there earlier in the story. Author Raymond Chandler said, “The solution, once revealed, must seem to have been inevitable.”

A good ending shows growth in the character. Along with the external conflicts, a good story shows depth by taking its characters on an emotional path as well. This inner conflict is resolved by showing a change in the character, and gives the story heart.

It is satisfying to see a story come full circle. In some way, the end should resemble the beginning.

Make sure all subplots are resolved. Leaving loose ends is sloppy storytelling.

Don't philosophize to the reader. This is a common complaint about the ending of Dan Brown's novel, "The Lost Symbol" where the character spends too much time thinking about his experience while watching the sun rise. As James V. Smith Jr. explains in Writer's Digest, "Keep description to a minimum, but maximize action and conflict. You have placed all your charges. Now, light the fuse and run."

Monday, May 8, 2017

Book Review: Everything Everything

I read Everything Everything, by Nicola Yoon, because I heard it was coming out as a movie (on May 19!) The story sucked me in immediately and reminded me of the Bubble Boy on Seinfeld, because main character Madeline lives in a house sized bubble. Allergic to the outside world, her everything happens inside the same walls, with her loving and protective mother and a full time nurse she adores.

Then love changes everything.

Get it, read it, then see the movie. Or not. I can't tell you yet if the movie is worth seeing. I can tell you the book, with its interesting storytelling through texts, drawings, graphs as well as traditional chapters is compelling, and surprising. I'm not sure I like the ending, but I can accept it.

Monday, April 24, 2017

My Dream Author Panel

I have had the pleasure of "meeting" many authors going to book signings, promotional events, keynote speeches and conventions. My favorite format is a panel, where there is more than one voice being heard and answering questions. This is a great whether it be authors, editors, or agents. But the very best presentations come from authors, the creative individuals who make imaginative worlds come alive.

So, this is my dream author panel. I'd love to see these people get together and hear the advice they'd give the rest of us.

Suzanne Collins
 I'd like to hear from Suzanne not only about The Hunger Games series, which I loved, but because she had several books published before her blockbuster hit. I'd like to hear about her earlier work, and what happened when The Hunger Games became a sensation. 

Neal Shusterman
I have been a fan of Neal Shusterman's work ever since I read "The Schwa Was Here" in my child's middle school book club. It was such a different and fun book to read. His newest book, "Scythe," won a Prinz medal honor in 2017. I'd love to hear how he gets his ideas, and more about his craft.

Gary Paulsen
Who hasn't read something by the author of "Hatchet?" Greg Paulsen's work is remains relevant and fresh, although it isn't always set in the modern day as newer writers are advised. I'd like to hear his thoughts on that.

Kate DiCamillo
She is the queen of middle school literature. Who wouldn't want to hear the secrets of her magic?

Amanda Hocking
 I have never read anything written by Amanda, but her success speaks for her. I would like to see her on the panel if only to detail how she succeeded as a self published author. Publishing is more and more accessible with small press and self publishing options, as entrance into the Big Six (or is is five now?) is more and more elusive. Amanda might feel a bit out of place, not being a writer of children's fiction, but I am including her for her "expert" knowledge on self promotion and nontraditional publishing.

Please post your suggestions in the comments. I'd love to hear about authors who inspire you. And if you are interested in hosting a conference or event, check out Eventbrite.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Book Review: Asking For It

Irish author Louise O'Neill does not shy away from the very heavy subject of rape in her YA novel, "Asking For It," where the beautiful, vain and somewhat superficial Emma O'Donovan wakes up to a reality that she can't remember and the terrible aftermath of shame, regret and suspicion.

For those who are hesitant, the violence happens off screen, as Emma blacks out and remembers nothing. The tone of the book is divided into two parts, the before and the after. Emma, at age 18, is confident that she is the best looking of her friends, that she can attract any guy she sets her sights on. Her friendships are shallow, and selfish, except for her longtime friendship with the boy next door, patient and level-headed Conor.

Her confidence is taken from her by the actions of others on a night she doesn't remember; and the reactions of her peers, her parents, her friends on social media, and her community. The reader is plunged into the darkness of her soul, feeling every emotion as Emma attempts to make sense of her world now.

"Asking For It" is a gripping read, it is an important one, too. It is a start of a conversation that has to happen about rape, consent, and slut shaming.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Giving your Creativity the Gift of Time

Like most people, I'm busy. I've got three kids, a job and a to do list that never seems to be finished. There are days I forget if I brushed my teeth that morning, but when I go back to check, my toothbrush is wet, every time. As busy as my days can be, I am taking the time for personal hygiene, because it needs to be done.

Lately, I've been feeling nostalgic. Maybe it is because my oldest son is about to turn 18, and this milestone marks the end of his childhood. It is natural to want to look back at that childhood and my part in it. Or maybe it is because some friends in my circle are still having babies and creating young families, and their experiences are bringing back memories of when my days were busy in a different way, filled with diaper changes and trying to keep small people alive or get them to go to sleep. Being a mother to small children was easily the most exhausting and busy time of my life, yet it was one of the most creative.

Although I was more busy than ever, there was natural downtime built into my days. Time to think about something other than my to do list. Time to just be and feel the sunshine on my face or notice the sound of the wind rustling the leaves on the trees. Time to sit in a rocking chair and let my mind drift to the motion and lilting music meant to convince a baby to nap. Time like that allows room for creativity. I wrote so many story ideas on the back of an envelope while a baby slept in the car or while I was sitting on a park bench watching at toddler play in the sand.  Entertaining toddlers meant walking to the park almost daily, or sitting in a chair in my driveway for the better part of an hour blowing bubbles or drawing on pavement with chunky sidewalk chalk pieces.

I need more time like that, and time doesn't just appear, I have to make it. I have to find some moments in my days to allow my mind to wander and give my creativity more space.

I started with a daily walk. This is something I enjoy, and tried to do when the weather was good or I felt determined to take better care of my health. It isn't just good for my body, it is good for my creativity. This had to stop being an occasional treat to something I do, like brushing my teeth. This makes me wish I had a dog, or a long walk to my mailbox.

Having that time makes me hungry for more. These days I am not spending much time on park benches watching children try to impress me with what they can do. Maybe I can find some time doing routine jobs at work, or during the commute, or while cooking dinner. Or maybe I need to stop and take 5 minutes to sit in a chair and watch the sunset and let my mind wander. I deserve it. Let's call it part of our mental hygiene.