Monday, January 26, 2015

What are you reading right now?

I hope you're reading something! Give your brain a rest from television and dig into a book if you haven't in a while.

I've been reading science fiction lately from three very different authors and it struck me how very different their books are from one another. Is it because of the intended audience? Two are set in space and the third is about interdimentional travel, which is maybe more fantasy than scifi, but oh presented as if it's made possible by science.

The first book was Dawn by Octavia Butler set in space on an alien ship where the last remaining humans are being held captive until the Earth has recovered enough from WW III to be habitable again. And woah is it weird! Mainly because the aliens are rather sea slug-like and they want to hybridize with us humans. The humans don' thave a whole lot of choice because they wouldn't even be alive if the aliens hadn't saved them, but they sure don't want to be "owned" by these aliens.

This book gives an interesting look at what might happen if you throw the survivors of a catastrophic war in a room together. I'm afraid Butler's take is the worst of human nature comes out, not the best. It's like Survivor the TV show meets Animal Farm. (Butler wrote this long before Survivor ever came out.) It's well written and somewhat disturbing, but there's no purple prose. It moves along at a steady clip and has you wondering the entire time.

The next is Pandora's Star by Peter F. Hamilton. Great cover, huh? I have to admit I'm nowhere near done with this one. It's like 1,000 pages long. I chose it because I've never read the usual popular science fiction, hard core stuff, (aside from Dune) and I thought I should give it a shot. It's all about world building, lemme tell you! Humans have colonized dozens and dozens of planets and are expanding their range. They've figured out how to rejuvenate their cells so they can live for hundreds of years and they've got wormholes to make interplanetary travel easy. The actual plot is a bit fuzzy for me because so much time is spent on this world building and hopping from one seemingly random character to the next. I'm sure they'll all meet eventually, but just how or why I'm not sure. So far, it strikes me as a detective/mystery story in space. There's something going on way out on a new planet and humans want to go see what's happening there, so that new discovery aspect is kind of cool.

Overall, I find myself wishing for a hero.  None of the characters sticks with the reader long enough for me to get attached to them or care about what happens to them. I'm really a character-driven story kind of person at heart. I need that to really enjoy a  story, I'm afraid, so while I can read this, I don't see myself falling in love with it unless something changes really quick! My biggest gripe with the book is humans are still driving cars on the ground. All this technology and we still don't have flying cars?? Really??

The last book is A Thousand Peices of You by Claudia Gray about some teens who have the ability to jump to other dimensions parallel to our own in persuit of a supposed murderer. While the Peter Hamilton book describes how every technology works in great detail, this book doesn't describe it's technology at all!  You just have to buy that it works because a teenage girl is telling this story, and she's not too wrapped up in the technicalities of it all. And I suppose that difference is because the audience is teenage girls, not scifi geeks. Which is fine. I'm all for knowing your audience and tailoring your writing style to that audience. Maybe call it scifi lite? Really, really lite.

It think this fact might have been the downfall of this book as science fiction, asking the reader to suspend TOO much disbelief. It follows 3 main characters that travel to like four different "dimensions", but some how these other dimensions seem way in the future or far in the past. One is very similar to the real one they live in with only a few changes, but the others are vastly different: futuristic London, czarist Russia, and a climate changed water world. They're supposedly jumping into the bodies of their parallel selves living in these other dimensions. Maybe the idea was, if something different happened at a key point in history, the dimension would be vastly different, but it's so glossed over I missed that along the way. The places they went, while cool, seemed very random. There wasn't a lot of reason so go to any of them, just that they were pursuing a supposed murderer.

I guess the take home lesson for me is each author brings a different story to a different audience. All of these books are well loved, best sellers for various reasons. What's your favorite science fiction novel?

Friday, January 23, 2015

Cover Reveal: Nobody’s Goddess by Amy McNulty #M9BFridayReveals


M9B-Friday-Reveal

Welcome to the Cover Reveal for
Nobody's Goddess (The Never Veil #1)
by Amy McNulty
presented by Month9Books!
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!

Nobody's Goddess

In a village of masked men, each loves only one woman and must follow the commands of his “goddess” without question. A woman may reject the only man who will love her if she pleases, but she will be alone forever. And a man must stay masked until his goddess returns his love—and if she can’t or won’t, he remains masked forever.
Where the rest of her village celebrates this mystery that binds men and women together, seventeen year old Noll is just done with it. She’s lost all her childhood friends as they’ve paired off, but the worst blow was when her closest companion, Jurij, finds his goddess in Noll’s own sister. Desperate to find a way to break this ancient spell, Noll instead discovers why no man has ever loved her: she is in fact the goddess of the mysterious lord of the village, a Byronic man who refuses to let Noll have her right as a woman to spurn him and who has the power to fight the curse. Thus begins a dangerous game between the two: the choice of woman versus the magic of man. And the stakes are no less than freedom and happiness, life and death—and neither Noll nor the veiled man is willing to lose.

add to goodreads
Title: Nobody's Goddess (The Never Veil #1)
Publication date: April 21, 2015
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Amy McNulty
Chapter-by-Chapter-header---About-the-Author
Amy McNulty

Amy McNulty is a freelance writer and editor from Wisconsin with an honors degree in English. She was first published in a national scholarly journal (The Concord Review) while in high school and currently spends her days alternatively writing on business and marketing topics and primarily crafting stories with dastardly villains and antiheroes set in fantastical medieval settings.

Connect with the Author: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Giveaway
Complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win!
(Winners will receive their book on release day)

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

when it's time to self edit~

I've been working on editing two books for the past few months, so I've been in the thick of the self-editing process a lot lately. Since I'm a hand writer in the rough draft stage, my first step is to type my manuscript. It becomes my first pass edit because I fix small errors in spelling and clarity, but I don't make any major changes to the document. I may not even make chapter breaks at that stage. I still work in Word. I've tried Scrivener twice and I just can't handle it. Besides, publishers and agents want a Word document, so why would I create more work for myself?

And I'd just like to point out here, I am NOT an English teacher. I want you to disregard all grammar rules in the early stages! That comes much, much later. Don't bog your creative process down with that now.


Step 1

As I'm sure you've probably read before, the first step in the editing process is to write "the end" on the rough draft and set it aside for 4-6 weeks. Yep. Don't do a thing with it! Go relax, take naps, read fiction. Enjoy your break and your accomplishment.

In some ways, having two projects going at once actually helps me.  I can ignore one project while it gels and still be productive on another project. And they're completely different genres, so there's no trouble with mixing things up.

After a project sits a while and you haven't been picking at it, open it up again. I like to print the entire thing out and read through it on paper. I know some people can work entirely on the screen, but I struggle. Hard copy is best for me and I can write lots of notes in the margins of things that need to be done. Now is NOT the time for making grammar edits, sentence structure edits, or punctuation corrections. Sure, you can fix little things as you go along if they're obvious, but I figure that's what spell check is for. Now is the big picture overview time. Look for holes in your plot, things that don't make sense, characters that don't ring true, descriptions that are too much or too little.  Hopefully, you outlined the project before you started, but if you didn't, you'd better do it now. That character arc needs to be there, the climax needs to be in the right place, and the three act structure should be solid. Look for showing vs. telling. If the telling gets to be too much, make a note to fix it.

Ask yourself, is my theme clear? Did I convey the emotion or the message I wanted to get across? If you don't know what your theme is, look to see what themes have come out in the manuscript. Are they what you intended? If not, you know what to do. Make notes in all the places in the document where you could improve it.

Step 2

Write some more. If you're like me, you skipped writing some scenes the first time around that could improve the flow of your story. Go back and write those scenes now. Fill in the blanks.  Because I write so spare to begin with, I'm not usually one of those writers that has to cut a lot of text, but I know a lot of people do have to make cuts.  To do that, examine each individual scene and ask yourself - Does this move the story plot along? If not, cut it. Ask am I repeating myself, i.e. making characters illustrate things that have already been demonstrated earlier in the manuscript? Then cut that. Do I have long passages of description that don't illustrate character or plot? Trim that down.  Obviously, many published authors do all of these things and get away with it. This is where your art comes in. Your skill at determining how much is too much and how much is enough, is what makes the work uniquely yours.

This step can take a long time. If you like to be organized and give yourself deadlines, pull out a calendar and mark the dates by which you'll have each chapter completed. I find having that goal written on a calendar helps me stay on track. Make all your writing changes (I like to work by chapter), run another spell check, and print a new draft.


Step 3

This is the one I struggle with - the beta read. This is when you're ready for another pair of eyes to see it. I personally don't think it's all that useful to show anyone your rough draft work. They'll just start nit picking your grammar and it won't be very productive or encouraging for you. The only person I might show early work to is another writer or a very close friend who isn't going to shoot me down before I've even begun. That said, you do need some fresh eyes and the opinion of someone who's never seen your opus. Where I struggle is finding that person. I live in a rural area with no writer's critique group nearby. Asking a non-writer to read for you is tricky because it's a BIG favor you're asking. You need someone who loves to read and reads a lot and who can read for the big picture again.

Many people, writers included, think you're asking for grammar edits at this stage. Beta readers PLEASE don't waste your valuable time on grammar edits. Again, look for plot holes, things that don't make sense, repeated phrases or annoying things like stereotypical cardboard characters. Point out anything that jars the reader out of the imaginary world the author is building. And try to do it quickly.  I know that's asking a lot, but you have no idea how badly you've got the poor writer on pins and needles waiting for your thoughts. They'll love you forever if you can do all this quickly.

Writers, once you get your beta reader's thoughts back, take a look at them. You may be offended or upset by them, but remember they might be saving you from an even bigger disappointment from your eventual readers. You don't have to agree with everything they've suggested, but you should at least consider their ideas. If it's not clear to them, chances are it won't be clear to others either. This can be an emotional time. It doesn't hurt to set the manuscript aside again and wait on it. Let it gel a bit. Give yourself time to process, reboot, and come back with a clear head.  Then go back to Step 2

Step 4 (2)

Yep. Go back to all the places the beta reader pointed out that needed something and fix them if necessary, just like you did in Step 2 with your own comments. This may involve writing new scenes again, or rewriting the ones you already have. Make a schedule and due dates if you need to. Make all the changes, do another spell check, and print a new draft. Whew!


Step 5

A lot of people never make it this far. They get discouraged or distracted, so if you've made it here, pat yourself on the back. Nice work!

That said, Step 5 is scary. It's query time.

Do all the grammar/punctuation/spelling edits that I told you to ignore at the beginning. Like I said, you can do them all along as you come across them, but it never hurts to do one last polish. The reason for leaving them until the end is because there's no sense wasting time on it if you're just going to cut or rewrite that passage anyway. Then, you need to prepare a pitch, a query letter, and a synopsis because it's time to put it out to agents and/or publishers.

Many writers get stuck in the feedback loop between Step 3 and 4. They keep going back to their betas for approval instead of moving forward. I think they must be operating under the assumption that it has to be perfect and will never be changed again once it goes to a publisher. I'm here to tell you, your book will be edited again many times after it's accepted for publication, so you're wasting time. Your work should be polished and presentable with all major errors fixed when you query, but it ain't gonna be perfect. Get over it. :)

Now, go write!

Monday, January 19, 2015

2015 Diversity Reading Challenge

Happy Martin Luther King Day!

King is often quoted and for good reason. He wrote incredible speeches, but my favorite quote is one you don’t see very often. It’s unfortunate because it’s particularly astute, even in 2015.

 



"Men often hate each other because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don't know each other; they don't know each other because they can not communicate; they can not communicate because they are separated." -- Martin Luther King, Jr.


We live in a diverse world. No matter how much some people don’t want to admit it, we do. And that’s ok. Diversity is what makes life interesting. The recent movement #WeNeedDiverseBooks seeks to support books with nontraditional characters. When was the last time you read a book about someone who was from another country? Or a character with a disability? Or someone who’s gay? The vast majority of traditionally published books are about straight, white characters if you think about it, but there are diverse options out there.


In honor of diversity and Martin Luther King, who wanted us all to know each other better and not be afraid of differences, I’ve decided to take the Diverse Reading Challenge this year. I’m kind of a sucker for challenges these days. :)

Here’s the challenge:

1) Read a book by an author of color – I’ve always wanted to read Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou. Just after Christmas 2014 I read Octavia Butler, and woah was that different! In a good way :) I’ve chosen Song of Solomon and I know why the caged bird sings.

2) Read a book with a person of color on the cover –  It’s a little silly to read a book just because of its cover though, but have you ever noticed how there’s a lot of books about people of color that don’t show them on the cover?? Yeah, hmm.  Do publishers shy away from people of color on book covers, I wonder?  I did just come across one today that I think I'll read though. It's non-fiction, which is unusual for me, but the subject is so intriguing. It's The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. It's about a black woman who's cells were collected by a doctor in the 1950's and have since been reproduced for scientific study all over the world.

3) Read a book about coming out – I’m going to read Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg . It actually sounds kinda cute. I hope it’s not depressing.

4) Read a book with a main character with a disability – I’m going to read All the Light We Cannot see by Anthony Doerr about a blind girl during WW II. Looks amazing. Pretty cover too.

5) Read a book with bullying – I think this will be easily found, as a lot of YA deals with bullying. I‘m considering If I Ever get out of here and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part time Indian. I’ve been meaning to read Sherman Alexie for a long time. I’m reading Winger by Andrew Smith right now. It’s about privileged white kids in a private boarding school, but they sure bully the heck out of each other. Ugh. Depressing. I guess bullying is something everyone gets to enjoy.

6) Read a book illustrated by an artist of color – The suggestion was Kadir Nelson. I’m not familiar with Kadir, but I will be soon!

7) Read any Walter Dean Myers book – another author I’m not familiar with, so that’s good. I’ve chosen Monster. Written years ago, it sounds just like something you’d see on the news these days.

8) Read a book by or about someone who has a spectrum disorder – I found two I want to read. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon and Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine both look very interesting

9) Read a book about a child soldier or a child growing up in the Middle East- I have no idea where to start. Any ideas?

10) Read a book about a character that suffers a sexual assault – Eew. I don’t normally read this kind of book because I find it difficult to read such stories. I mainly read to be entertained and I couldn’t possibly see such a story as entertainment. I only hope I can find one that’s up lifting in some way. I’ve already read Speak. Wasn’t crazy about it. This might be the one I don’t get to.

11) Read a book with some same sex parents – Ideas?? Maybe Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants? Seems like there was a female couple in that, but the parents are out of the story for much of the book so I’m not sure about that.



My Goodreads goal this year is to read 21 books, so a good number of them are going to be diverse subjects. I hope you’ll join me, if not for the whole challenge, for just a book or two. I’ve love to have a book club chat. At least read my new novel this year, Vessel, a dystopian scifi with Asian main characters. It’ll be out in May. Eep!


Please check back and see how I’m doing as the year goes on. I’ll post updates and hopefully reviews of the diverse books I read. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts too. OK everybody. Let’s Read!
 
 *That's me at the Lincoln Memorial in 2011 where King gave his "I Have a Dream Speech". Let Freedom Ring!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Sins of the Father @DiverseBkTours Tour


Welcome to the latest Diverse Books Tour for Thelonious Legend for his book

Sins of the Father!

 
Read on to learn more about it and be sure to catch
 my interview with the author at the bottom. :)
 

~About the Book~


Sins of The Father

By Thelonious Legend

ISBN: 978-0615961125, 0615961126

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages: 272

Genre: MG/YA/Fantasy/Science Fiction

Plot Summary:

This was going to be a special year for the Parker sisters. Eve was going to dominate in the classroom and on the basketball court. 

Gwen was going to make the starting five and go down in history as the greatest prankster ever. Ana was going to do as little as possible.

But without warning, all three sisters gain extraordinary abilities that defy science… powers that come with a cost. Now all they want to do is make it through the school year without drawing any undue attention, while racing to find a cure before the side effects of their new abilities kill them. Eve’s temperament, Gwen’s fondness for pranks, and Ana’s predilection for money, however, are challenges they must overcome to achieve their goals. Because if they can’t, they’re dead…

~Book Links~


Amazon: Purchase Link

Barnes & Noble: Purchase Link

Goodreads: Connect about it on Goodreads!

 Book Depository: Pick up internationally!

 

~About the Author~


 Thelonious Legend
 
IT Professional by day, but by night I use my pen and pad as a canvas to explore questions of race, identity, privilege and class in a science fiction setting. Eclectic reader with a fondness for the classics and first generation Hip Hop snob. Don't start none won't be none! Philadelphia Eagles football fanatic and I also enjoy MMA from the safety of my couch. On the weekends you can find me wine drinking, rock climbing, fishing, or being an unpaid chauffeur to my daughters' activities. Also I'm a snark purveyor and been making with the funny since it was called the 'Dozens'. Get at me!


 
 
 
~Find Thelonious Legend here~

 Website: Official Blog

Facebook: Sins of The Father Page

Twitter: @TheLegendBooks

Goodreads: Author Profile
  

~Author Interview~


Thanks so much for being on the blog, Thelonious. Tell us a little about your writing journey.

I always wanted to write but for whatever reason was afraid to take that first step. Then I saw small indie film titled 'I Will Follow' and I thought the film was amazing so I googled the director/writer and discovered it was Ava DuVernay is now doing Selma. So as I did more research I discovered that Ava's background was in PR/Marketing and she just decided to make films. After that I had no valid excuse for sitting on the sidelines.
What do you enjoy most about being a writer?

I have to say talking about my book with my daughters. Including plot, character development, writing style and how it compares to their favorite books. And for the record they do not cut me any slack.
Kids are brutally honest. I know exactly what you mean.What is the hardest aspect of being a writer?

Rejection. Being rejected or dismissed by publishers and readers is tough. But nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Having a rhino hide never hurts. :) So how much research goes into your story?

A tremendous amount of research. I watched hours of Youtube videos of my favorite fighters to choreograph my fight scenes. And when I write a minority character, I do exhaustive research so I can understand that respective culture. And I do this important because it is critical I get it right and avoid clich├ęs and stereotypes.
Writers are sometimes influenced by things that happen in their own lives. Are you?

Definitely. I'm influenced by politics, by my daughters, by my job, pretty much everything and I try to use it all.

What can you tell us about your writing projects?

I have published one book and hope to have the other out by April 2015. I also write on my blog about diversity and host two chats on twitter. #BlackWritersChat for any writer that has questions about writing diverse characters, and publishing/marketing independent diverse works. And #BlackComicsChat where we provide a platform for creators of diverse comics to talk about their work and reach a captive audience.

I'll have to check out those hashtags. I've always got questions about writing diverse characters!What is the most surprising thing about writing/publishing you have learnt?

How hard it is. You have to become an expert at so many disciplines, social media, PR/Advertising/Marketing on top of writing, editing and publishing. It can be overwhelming at times.
Do you have any tips for other writers?

I would say find friends or beta-readers who are not afraid to hurt your feelings and give you the unvarnished truth about your work. It will make you better.

Other than writing what else do you love? 

I have to say I really enjoy fatherhood. Nerding out with my daughters, be it the latest Marvel movie, or going fishing and rock climbing. Just love spending time them.

I think kids keep you more in the moment and remind you what's really important. Who is your favorite author and why?

Toni Morrison. One for her honesty. She is not afraid to write about things that people keep locked in their closet or stored up under their bed and it's scary. Also, her skill level. She does things with the English language that make me want to set down my pen. Her work is that good.

Oh, I know exactly what you mean, but you have to let great writers inspire you, not discourage. :) If you had a premonition you would be stranded on a desert island what 5 books would you take?

Hmm Lord Of Rings Trilogy, James Alan McPhereson's Hue and Cry, which is an incredible collection of short stories and probably something from Paul Beatty because you are going to need to laugh.
Can you give us five words that sum you up?

Wow, that's hard. Ok here we go... Loyal, funny, driven, compassionate, and political.
Sweet. How can we learn more about you and Sins of the Father?


https://twitter.com/TheLegendBooks

http://theloniouslegend.blogspot.com/

http://www.amazon.com/Thelonious-Legend/e/B00II6GJZS/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_2?qid=1420082045&sr=8-2

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7899848.Thelonious_Legend

 https://www.facebook.com/TheloniousLegend

Thanks so much for coming Thelonious! Best of luck with your writing! 


Friday, January 16, 2015

M9B Friday Reveal Blitz: 2014 MG Books you may have Missed with Giveaway


M9B-Friday-Reveal

Hey all! Welcome to Tantrum Books and Month9Books Middle Grade Books You May Have Missed Blitz! Check out all of our 2014 titles below and enter for a chance to win 1 of 3 prize packs of eBooks! International.

Click on the cover for book information.



Tantrum Titles



Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Giveaway
(3) winners will receive eBook prize packs of 5 Month9Books MG titles of your choice!
International
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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Missing in Paradise Blog Tour


Welcome to the Missing in Paradise Blog Tour!  Enter the giveaway and read on down below for details :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway



Giveaway Information: Winner will be drawn January 31, 2015

· Two (2) winners will received a signed copy of Missing in Paradise by Larry Verstraete (US/Canada)
· Five (5) winners will receive a digital copy of Missing in Paradise by Larry Verstraete (INT)

~ABOUT MISSING IN PARADISE~

 
Title: Missing in Paradise
Publication date: November 3, 2014
Publisher: Rebelight Publishing Inc.
Author: Larry Verstraete

Four months after Gramp’s mysterious death, Nate helps out at Gram’s garage sale. An eerie feeling, as if Gramps were reaching beyond the grave to send Nate a message, leads Nate to a box full of clues. A missing plane. A secret to keep. A map highlighting the route where Gramps died and the message, “Shipment #35-Gold.” Nate and his best friend, Simon, are convinced that Gramps was on a treasure hunt when he died. They’re just as convinced that Gram’s shifty next door neighbour, Fortier, is after the gold too. Nate and Simon sneak away on a Greyhound bus for the small town of Paradise where Nate is sure treasure awaits. Can they find the gold before Fortier gets his thieving hands on a treasure that rightfully belongs to Gramps?
 
Larry Verstraete is an award winning author of 13 non-fiction books for young people. This is his first work of fiction.


~Find the Book Here~

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound
 

~Excerpt~

 

The crunch of twigs woke me up. Framed in the bright moonlight, a dark shadow lumbered past the shelter. I sat up. My heart hammered against my ribs. My stomach churned. I check my glow-in-the-dark watch. One a.m.

Something snorted – an animal searching for food? A foul stench arose, along with grunts and heavy thuds along the ground. A bear. It had to be a bear!

Simon rolled over, still asleep. I couldn’t see the animal, but I heard it thrash closer and closer. I patted the ground quietly to locate the plastic bag with its enticing peanut butter sandwiches, but couldn’t find it.

Don’t breathe. Don’t move. Pray it goes away.
Ages later, the heavy footsteps ebbed. Once more, the forest grew calm. Again I heard Simon’s soft breathing. Certain the animal had gone, I relaxed. I dozed fitfully with an ear on the forest, wary of sounds that signaled the creature’s return.

I slipped into a dream.

 I run through blinding light down a rutted road. When the glare lifts, I follow a narrow trail choked with weeds and roots. I enter a clearing surrounded by thick forest and dotted with wooden buildings built of thick vertical planks.

I am not alone. Dozens of men mill around me. One man leads the group, taller than the others, his stride confident and strong. I can’t see his face clearly, not at first, but I know who he is. There is no mistaking the broad should, the square jaw, the patch of stubborn hair sticking straight up.

~ABOUT THE AUTHOR~


Larry Verstraete, a retired teacher, has authored thirteen non-fiction books for young people and won multiple awards including the 2012 McNally Robinson Book for Young People Award and the 2010 Silver Birch Non-fiction Award. Missing in Paradise is his first work of fiction.

Connect with the Author:  Website | Facebook | Goodreads