Thursday, April 17, 2014


I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about how my reading habits have changed.  I’ve always read voraciously.  But when I was a girl, a book was also something I could sink deep into, give myself to completely.  As the years went by, I slowly stopped reading that way.

As a literature major, I had a prof I really dug who used to tell me that it wasn’t my job to determine whether a book was “good.”  Other, more qualified people had already determined the classics I was reading were good.  My job, he insisted, was to figure out why.

I carried that attitude into my pursuit of publication, post grad school.  I looked at every published book and thought, “Why did an agent rep this?”  “Why did a publisher pick this project?”  Again, I came to a book thinking, “Someone else decided this was good.  Why?”  And I do think this reading technique went a long way toward pushing me toward my own first publication.

Now, though, I find myself drifting back toward the way I once read as a girl.  I’m once again giving myself permission to determine on my own whether or not I think a book is good.  I find myself drifting, too, away from the bells and whistles of technique and back toward story, which is what snagged me as a reader in the first place.  

In fact, I find myself drifting toward story in all sorts of mediums—I allow myself to get invested in TV shows (THE AMERICANS is my current fave); I adore movies (especially vintage), and regularly now turn off the computer, put my WIP aside, and plunge into a new flick.

…I wonder, as I wrap up my current MG and take the first steps into a new project, how this attitude will change my writing from here on out.  That in itself is a story I can’t wait to dig into…

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Making Long Car Trips Bearable: The Joy of Listening to Audio Books (Jody Casella)

My to-be-read list is out of control.

It's an obsession, some (my husband) might call it a sickness--this collecting and stacking and shifting of books around our house. I buy books. I check books out of the library. People give me books. All of these books find their way into piles.

Beside my bed...

On the coffee table...

And the grand daddy of book stacks in my office...

Typically, I read ten books per month, which hardly makes a dent in any of these stacks when you consider that every week I am hauling more books into my home.

But lately, I have been way off my 10-books-per-month habit. First, I was working like a lunatic on a revision. I had a totally self-imposed deadline: I wanted to reach the end of this particular version of my WIP before I went out of town. For six weeks I did not take a day off, and most of those days, I was writing until 9 or 10 at night. Some days I didn't even know what day it was. I'm not lying.

For example, one day I thought for the entire day that it was a Thursday, and when my husband mentioned that it was Friday, I didn't believe him. I actually thought he was Gaslighting me, and he had to point at the date on my laptop screen to convince me of the truth.

My brain on revision can't handle much reading is what I am saying.

I've also been traveling my butt off to promote my book Thin Space. I've logged almost 1000 miles driving alone, and recently, with my mother as a passenger, I headed to CT and MA to do a few school and library and bookstore visits, adding another 1200 miles to the odometer.

Something I have discovered during this mushy-brained/intense travel-schedule period is how much I enjoy listening to audio books.

If you haven't given audio books a whirl, let me tell you, you are in for an experience. These are full-blown performances, an art form in and of themselves, complete with various voices and music and sound effects. Often, I will get to a certain point in an audio book, run out of road for listening, check the book out of the library to finish the remaining pages, and find myself reading the book with the actor's or actress's voice in my head.

Some great ones I've recently sampled:

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (Jeez, this one about killed me on a trip back and forth to Lexington KY. There is a dog character in this book--probably the BEST dog character I have ever read. I won't tell you what happens to him, but JEEZ. Like the Red Wedding in Game of Thrones, I am still not over it.)

Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt (this one made me cry like a blubbery baby on the road home from a book festival.)

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater (I drove the length of North Carolina under threat of snow, safely cocooned under the spell of the delicious writing of Stiefvater.)

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan. As you'd expect from these two YA masters, this book is both hilarious and heartbreaking.

Also, it possibly kept my mother and me from strangling each other during our 8 day, intense mother/daughter, 1200+ road trip. So it has that going for it, too.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Got My Arms Full of ARCs (by Amy K. Nichols)

This month we're blogging about what we're reading, and I don't even know where to start. I am up to my eyeballs in advanced reader copies!

I'm a member of the Class of 2K14 debut authors, and we've been having a lot of fun sending our ARCs on a tour among the members of our group. Maybe it was the lunar eclipse or Mars being so close, but somehow I ended up with four of my fellow classmates' ARCs showing up at once.

So I'm reading them all. And so far, they're all amazing!

Can I tell you about them?

In no particular order, here they are.

by Varsha Bajaj

Abby Spencer wants a life of excitement!

Well, sort of. Actually, that's a lie. All Abby really wants is to meet her father. It's not that she's ungrateful for what she has--nice mom, adorable grandparents, great friends--but she feels like something's missing. She'd never tell anyone that.

Abby knows her dad lives in India, but she's never met him and doesn't know much else about him. But Abby's mom realizes it's time to have the big talk and for Abby to finally meet her father.

Does he want to meet her? Abby's about to find out that her dad lives a very different life in a different country and she's going to experience it all, for better or worse. This is what happens when all your wishes come true...

by Stephanie Diaz

Sixteen-year-old Clementine wins escape from a brutal life on her planet’s surface, only to find herself battling to save the entire planet from destruction.

Clementine has spent her whole life preparing for her sixteenth birthday, when she will be tested for Extraction in the hopes of being sent from the planet Kiel’s toxic Surface to live with the free and without fear. On the Surface, children are forced to endure a life of backbreaking labor and unending hunger, all the while praying the protective shields will guard them from the moon’s lethal acid that threatens to batter the planet.

When Clementine is lucky enough to be chosen for Extraction, she must leave Logan, the boy she loves; her only family. Wrenched apart, Clementine promises to come back and save him.

A utopia compared to the Surface, the Core is free of starvation, gun-wielding officials, and the moon’s acid. But life is anything but safe, and Clementine is constantly fighting to not be “permanently removed.” Meanwhile, Clementine learns that the planet’s leaders are going to exterminate Surface dwellers—and Logan.

Trapped by the steel walls of the underground and the lies that keep her safe, Clementine must find a way to escape and rescue Logan and the rest of the planet. But the planet leaders don’t want her running—they want her subdued.


by Christine Kohler

A young man, an old soldier, and a terrible injustice. Should the punishment be death?

Growing up on Guam in 1972, fifteen-year-old Kiko is beset by worries: His older brother is a USAF navigator in Vietnam during the war; his grandfather is acting crazy due to dementia; he just learned that when his mother was a teen during World War II she was raped by a Japanese soldier. When Kiko discovers an old Japanese soldier hiding in the jungle behind his house how far will he go to prove to himself that’s he’s a man? Based on a historical event, No Surrender Soldier is the story of a boy grappling with ancient questions of courage and manhood.


by Stefanie Gaither

In a near-future world, a sixteen year old girl must decide what she believes and who to trust when her sister’s clone is accused of murder.

When Cate Benson was a kid, her sister died. Two hours after the funeral, they picked up Violet’s replacement, and it was like nothing had ever happened. Because Cate’s parents are among those who decided to give their children a sort of immortality— by cloning them at birth. Which means this new Violet has the same smile. The same laugh. That same perfect face. Thanks to advancements in mind-uploading technology, she even has all the same memories as the girl she replaced.

She also might have murdered the most popular girl in school.

Or at least, that’s what the paparazzi and the crazy anti-cloning protestors want everyone to think: that clones are violent, unpredictable monsters. Cate is used to hearing all that, though. She’s used to defending her sister too—against mean girls, against paparazzi, and now, if necessary, against these dangerous rumors. But then Violet vanishes, and when Cate sets out to find her, she ends up in the line of fire instead. Because Cate is getting dangerously close to staggering secrets that will rock the foundation of everything she thought was true.

These are only the ARCs from the tour that I've received so far, but with twenty members in the class, there are loads more to come. I can't wait! I hope you'll check them out, too.

Monday, April 14, 2014

My Once and Future Reading List (by Nancy Ohlin)

Here is my confession:  I hardly ever read.

When I was a teen, I read a lot.  For me, reading was a magical combination of enlightenment, escape, and evasion; with my face buried in a book, nothing and no one could mess with me or invade my space.   My reading list was enormous and varied:  the classics, mysteries, sci-fi, historical romance, and even psychology.  (In high school, my best friend and I used to pore over Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams and The Ego and the Id to and attempt to psychoanalyze each other.  I know, serious nerddom.)