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Last week, my publisher sent me an email inquiring if I would write a guest post for YA Books Central and promote my new YA/dystopian book, Nirvana.
One problem: I hate promoting stuff so I’m going to get that out of the way first so I can talk about what’s really on my mind:
The Hunger Games.
Until the end the day, Nirvanawill be just $3.99 on Amazon for Cyber Monday.
I’m also supposed to let you know that I will be doing an Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Friday, December 4, 2015, from 2‐4 pm on the r/books subreddit. So, if you have any questions on topics related to the consequences of virtual reality, the decline of the bee population, or anything I write about in Nirvana, please join me there.
Okay, let's get back to The Hunger Games.
Yes, that’s right. Despite all of my corporate and government projects that keep me quite busy, the only thing I'm thinking about lately is The Hunger Games. Is it because the final film, Mockingjay Part II, came out last Friday?
With Nirvana receiving four and five star reviews, some reviewers have compared it to
George Orwell’s 1984 (I'm flattered!)
The Matrix (great films),
and, perhaps most quizzically, The Hunger Games.
I get it. There's a dystopian element to The Hunger Games and Nirvana.
Now, I’ll admit my knowledge of The Hunger Games isn't as extensive as yours might be. I have never read the books, nor seen the movies. I spend a lot of time in front of my computer! However, it is my understanding that the books and films depict a world run by a monarchical government that requires each “district” to choose a female and male youth to fight to the death in the annual Hunger Games event. The last person standing is crowned the victor (and gets to live).
Could events described in The Hunger Games happen in our lifetime? I hope not. The majority of us live in a modern society, where violence isn't the only answer. In Nirvana, however, I write about very real issues ‐ ones that we will need to confront in our lifetime. The Hunger Games is completely fictional while Nirvana, through a fictional cast of characters, is grounded in modern day truths.
How do I know this? Well, I research these "modern truths" every day. The technology described in Nirvana does exist. I've seen it and I've used it ‐ that "floating sensation" didn't just come from anywhere! And, most importantly, I've seen the damage that it can cause, both psychologically and socially. Hexagon, the government institution featured in Nirvana, is intended to shed light on what may happen once this virtual reality technology falls into the wrong hands.
The second modern truth I touch on inNirvana is the decline of the bee population. It's very likely that this epidemic could lead to an Extinction event in our lifetime. Bees and other pollinating insects have an essential role in our ecosystem. In fact, at least a third of our food depends on their pollination. A world without these wonderful little creatures would simply be devastating for food production.
The best thing that we can do right now is be aware of the issues. If more of us are informed, and we're spreading the word, maybe we can protect ourselves. For this reason, I invite you to pick up a copy
of Nirvana and tell people about it.
Do you believe in these "modern truths" like I do? Comment below ‐ I'll read every single one.
Your Friend, J.R.
PS ‐ My publisher would also be very happy if you entered the Nirvana GIVEAWAY attached to this blog. Now, if you win, you have to promise to tell people about these issues. Okay?
About: When the real world is emptied of all that you love, how can you keep yourself from dependence on the virtual?
Animal activist and punk rock star Larissa Kenders lives in a dystopian world where the real and the virtual intermingle. After the disappearance of her soulmate, Andrew, Kenders finds solace by escaping to Nirvana, a virtual world controlled by Hexagon. In Nirvana, anyone’s deepest desires may be realized ‐ even visits with Andrew.
Although Kenders knows that this version of Andrew is virtual, when he asks for her assistance revealing Hexagon’s dark secret, she cannot help but comply. Soon after, Kenders and her closest allies find themselves in a battle with Hexagon, the very institution they have been taught to trust. After uncovering much more than she expected, Kenders’ biggest challenge is determining what is real – and what is virtual.
Nirvana is a fast‐paced, page‐turning young adult novel combining elements of science fiction, mystery, and romance. Part of a trilogy, this book introduces readers to a young woman who refuses to give up on the man she loves, even if it means taking on an entire government to do so.
Release Date: November 10, 2015
One winner will receive a copy of Nirvana, US and Canada only.
Entering is simple, just fill out the entry form below. During this giveaway, J.R. Stewart has a question for you to answer in the comments below for more chances to win his book! When J.R. Stewart is not writing, which field does the author work in?
*Click the Rafflecopter link to enter the giveaway*
has worked on many corporate projects throughout a prolific IT academic and consulting career, and is involved with many confidential virtual reality projects. After working on advanced "VR" technologies for over a decade, Stewart grew concerned about the implications of this work and the possible psychological effects that it may have on its users.
Please enjoy the wonderful illustration above by Anna Gavrilyuk, our Pick of the Week for last week’s topic of CITY. Thanks to everyone who participated with drawings, paintings, sculptures, and more. We love seeing it all!
भारतीय महिलाए और समाज महाराष्ट्र के शनि शिंगणापुर मंदिर में एक महिला ने शनि महाराज को तेल चढा दिया. इसके बाद बवाल खडा हो गया क्योकि ट्रस्ट का कहना है कि 400 साल की परंपरा में पहली बार किसी महिला ने मंदिर के चबूतरे पर चढकर शनि महाराज को तेल चढाया, यहां ऎसा नहीं […]
Jennifer Rofé is a senior agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency where she represents picture books through young adult. Middle grade is her soft spot and she's open to all genres in this category, especially the tender, hilarious, or zany. She is always looking for fresh and distinct voices; stories that simultaneously tug at her heartstrings and make her laugh out loud; "adorkable" heroes; and big, developed worlds. In picture books, she enjoys character-driven projects and smart, exceptional writing. Jennifer also represents illustrators and author/illustrators. Some of Jennifer's clients include Meg Medina, Christina Diaz Gonzalez, Crystal Allen, Barry Wolverton, Eliza Wheeler, and Mike Boldt.
What in a query letter catches your eye and makes you request a manuscript?
First and foremost, a query letter that is professional always catches my eye—you might be surprised to know that I (and my colleagues) receive many query letters that aren’t professional. What do I mean by professional? Your query letter includes a proper greeting, a concise and clear description of the work, and a brief and relevant bio. Writers and illustrators should consider the query letter a cover letter for a job application, or even a first job interview. What will make an employer take notice… and what won’t? A big component to being professional is following the agency submission guidelines (if you don’t, I delete). Finally, a query catches my eye when it’s clear that the writer or illustrator is prepared—she has done research about me, my list, and the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
Beyond that, much of the process is subjective—do I connect with the illustration style or writing? Does the story pique my interest? The summaries on jacket covers (or on bookstore websites) are a good guide for writing the kind of summary you use in a query. When you read a jacket cover, what makes you want to start the first chapter?
Once you’ve read a manuscript that you really gravitate towards, what makes you offer representation? How long of a process is that?
It’s exciting for an agent when they want to offer representation to a writer or illustrator. It’s thrilling, really. For me to reach that point, I have to love the story and the writing, and I also have to believe that I can sell the project. For illustration, it’s about falling in love with the art and having the vision for how the art works in the children’s market. From there, I will have a conversation or two with the author or illustrator and see if we connect. In this conversation, I gauge how knowledgeable a writer or illustrator is of the publishing industry and if her expectations of the industry are reasonable and realistic. Also, I try to determine if we have a similar vision for the specific manuscript or illustration style. I also always ask if the author or illustrator is willing to revise. If someone is hesitant to go through the process with me, then how can I trust that they will be open to the process with an editor? So it’s really not enough that I love your story, I also have to connect with the creator in some way and trust that we can develop a strong working relationship.
In terms of how long of a process that is, there is no exact time to share. It depends on how busy an agent is and how open they are at the time to finding new clients. In some cases, an author or illustrator can secure an agent very quickly, especially when more than one agent is interested in the work. Other times, there might be radio silence, and then several weeks later, an agent comes across your query and deeply connects with your work. For me, once I get the conversation going with the author or illustrator, I can know within a conversation whether or not I want, must, work with the creator.
When you represent an author or illustrator, what role do you play in their career both long and short term?
Your agent is like your GPS system—where are you trying to go and how can we get you there? In the short term, an agent opens publishing doors that are typically closed—agents get your work in front of editors and your art in front of art directors. The long term is more advanced and nuanced, of course, but in a nutshell, it’s about career planning. Some of the matters we discuss include: What is the right next idea for the client to pursue? Which idea is aligned with their artistic perspective or other books, or which idea will lead them down a new path? Should an illustrator accept an offered job or is this not the style of book she wants to be focusing on? Should the illustrator pursue a new style she is developing? Do we need to find a client a new editor or a different publisher to help him move in a new or better direction? Again, where does the client want to go, and how can we lead him there?
What advice would you give authors and illustrators as they go through the submission process?
First and foremost, do your research on agents. Pick a handful, maybe up to ten, that you think would be a good fit for you and your work, and submit accordingly. If you get no bites during that time, then revisit your query and your opening pages. Do they require revision? When you’re ready, submit to the next batch of agents. If there are still no bites, then revisit your materials again. Keep in mind that agents are busy, and the more established ones are likely to have full and active lists and don’t necessarily have the room for more clients. This is a reason to keep in mind newer agents at reputable agencies — they are looking for clients. Attending SCBWI conferences is also an excellent way to make a personal connection with an agent. Consider conferences if feasible. Secondly, be as patient as you can and as kind to yourself as you can be during this process (even if that means a social media hiatus). Submitting can be a taxing and rattling time. And finally, keep pushing forward and honing your craft. It might not be the first manuscript that lands you an agent—it might be the third or fourth or seventh—so keep working.
Three things an author or illustrator should do when querying you?
1. *Follow the agency’s submission guidelines.* I can’t stress this enough.
2. Personalize your query letter. Make it clear that you’re querying me for a reason— you’re familiar with my interests and list, you saw me speak at a conference, you’re fond of the authors and illustrators the Andrea Brown Literary Agency represents, etc.
3. Be professional and confident (even if you don’t feel this way). There’s no need to mention that this is your first submission or query letter ever, that you’re brand new at this and aren’t entirely sure what you’re doing. Would you walk into a job interview and tell your interviewer that this is your first one ever and boy are you nervous! When you’re prepared, you get to be confident, even if on the inside you’re shakin’ in your boots.
If you have a manuscript you think might be a fit for Jennifer, all SCBWI members can query her during the month of December at Jennifer@andreabrownlit.com. Please follow the Andrea Brown Literary Agency submission guidelines. You can follow her on Twitter @JenRofe
Review by Leydy
NEEDby Joelle CharbonneauAge Range: 12 and up Grade Level: 7 and upHardcover: 352 pagesPublisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (November 3, 2015) Goodreads | Amazon
“No one gets something for nothing. We all should know better.”
Teenagers at Wisconsin’s Nottawa High School are drawn deeper into a social networking site that promises to grant their every need . . .
At the risk of wearing out my welcome I'm hoping you'll give one more look at a re-write of my query for ONE WAY TO TUCSON (title of the moment)[Most recently seen here.] Former two-tour Marine MP Trevor Hayworth is now a substitute mailman. One day, while he’s delivering, a young woman begs him to help her escape [From ?] —but warns against calling the police. He returns at night, breaks in, and stun-guns her captor. [Starting with the next sentence, the word "trafficking" (or "traffickers") appears seven times in seven sentences. For some reason I get sick of reading it.] The girl, Alita, tells Hayworth the man is a boss in an international sex trafficking ring and Hayworth can’t call the police because ranking officers are clients of the traffickers. While Hayworth processes the mess they’re in, two trafficking couriers arrive for a money pick up. When the fight is over the couriers are tied up, the trafficking boss is dead, and the mess has metastasized. [That's a pretty long setup paragraph. Removing a few unnecessary words might help: Former Marine MP Trevor Hayworth hears a woman calling out to him from a nearby house, begging for rescue. He pulls out his cell phone, but she warns against calling the police. Hayworth breaks in and subdues her captor.The girl, Alita, says the man runs an international sex trafficking ring with ranking police officers among his clients. As Hayworth processes this mess, two couriers arrive for a money pick up. When the dust clears, the couriers are tied up, the boss is dead, and the mess has metastasized.] Later, Hayworth and Alita are in his pickup, racing out of San Diego for Tucson, where the girl’s family supposedly lives. With them is a list of names and numbers of trafficking honchos from around the world—and their clients. [When you said "With them" I wasn't sure you didn't mean with the girl's family.] Chasing them east on Route 10 are trafficking thugs, corrupt cops, and a twisted newspaper reporter who moonlights as a hitman. Between shootouts and hospital visits Hayworth tries to get the trafficking info to the right people. He realizes it’s unlikely they’ll make it to Tucson, and if they do he has a bad feeling the welcoming committee won’t be Alita’s family. [If the immediate goal is to get the info to the right people, I'm not sure we need Tucson. Unless the right people are in Tucson. You could combine the last two paragraphs into something like: Hayworth and Alita race out of San Diego carrying a list of names and numbers of trafficking honchos from around the world—and their clients. Chasing them east on Route 10 are thugs, corrupt cops, and a twisted newspaper reporter who moonlights as a hitman. If they can make it to Tucson unscathed, they can turn the list over to the FBI, reunite Alita with her family, and live happily ever after.] Notes If someone asked me to rescue her from a house, I'm not sure I'd assume I could handle it by myself. There could be a gang of guys holding her captive. I'd probably bring along a few of my ex-marine buddies. I would expect a house containing the boss in an international sex trafficking ring to also contain a few of his underlings and more than one woman in need of rescue. Once they're far from San Diego, all they have to do is drive about 110 miles per hour. They should eventually attract some state troopers who aren't clients of the sex traffickers. In checking a map to see how long they have to drive (about 6 hours) I discover most of the trip from San Diego to Tucson is on Interstate 8. Interstate 10 runs from LA to Phoenix, then south to Tucson, and they would merge into 10 between Tucson and Phoenix. Most of the "chasing" would probably be on I-8. (Assuming when you say "Route 10" you mean the Interstate.)
Kimberly Jones of Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, Georgia, tells us what's on the shelves.
What trends do you notice in children’s book sales? What are the current hot reads?
Graphic novels have always been exciting to kids, but more parents are starting to be okay with their kids selecting a graphic novel over a traditional chapter book. Also, with graphic novels like El Deafo, Sisters, Boxers and Saints, and Roller Girl it's easier to show the parents that these books have merit.
How do you choose what books to order? Do you use a publishing rep?
We are advised by our publishing reps, but we also use edelweiss, customer recommendations and we try to keep a pulse on exciting new titles. Listening to NPR is another great source to hear about upcoming new books.
What would you like to see more of from authors/illustrators in terms of community involvement?
I'm very proud of our community of authors. I see lots of authors being heavily involved in the community, taking on important issues and launching their own campaigns and platforms. They are a group of artist who are naturally embedded in the community and don't require a nudge to do the right thing.
How do you handle author/illustrator visits? Can authors/illustrators contact you directly?
Normally our author/illustrator visits are set-up via their publicist or publisher. If an author is self-published or with a small press they should go to our blog: http://www.littleblogofstories.com/ for instructions on setting up a visit.
What is your favorite part of being a bookseller/manager/librarian?
My favorite part of being a bookseller is getting the right book in the right person's hand, nothing is more rewarding than that. My favorite part about being the Store Manager is listening to all the creative ideas our booksellers have and seeing them come to life.
Personal book recommendation?
Right now I'm in love with Written In the Stars by Aisha Saeed. I love diverse books that introduce me to a new culture in an interesting way.
This is the last day for Phyllis Harris Designs biggest sale of the year! Sale expires at midnight on Monday, November 30, 2015 CST. 30% off($30 min.) using code: 3030SALE. Everything in the shop on sale! Jewelry, Books, Canvases and Prints! Discount available in either shop.
Be sure to take a peek at my newest 2 minute video, too! My talented husband provided the background music. It is his original song title, "Thanksgiving".
You my friends, are the reason for the joy and success of Phyllis Harris Designsand I cherish you and your support. I so appreciate you sharing our website with your friends and family; and I wish you all a blessed Christmas season!
♥ Gifts that give back ♥
Phyllis Harris Designs & You – Giving the gift of love and healing
Lilly Malcom is the Executive Art Director and Associate Publisher of Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Random House. As an art director, she has had the privilege to work with many talented illustrators, among them David Small, Jon Agee, Jerry Pinkney, Judy Schachner, Tao Nyeu, Zachariah O’Hora, Erin EitterKono and Jen Corace to name a few. Lily enjoys working with longtime professionals as well as first time illustrators. She is always on the lookout for unique memorable characters and stories with a strong visual narrative.
When an illustrator has more than one style, do you like seeing them in one portfolio or does that throw you off?
I’m fine with multiple styles as long as they are executed well. But it’s not something you have to have in your portfolio. It’s better to master one style and keep working at it. That said, if you are excellent at realistic painterly work as well as a loose free line—then go for it! We’re looking for all sorts of styles and if I stumble upon something unexpected, that’s great.
But really the focus should be on making your portfolio strong and captivating. You need about 15 or so pieces that are compelling and geared towards children’s publishing. Sometimes you only have one chance to show your work, so it must be your best. If your strength is animals, then start with those pieces and move on later to people. Be sure to show characters with expressive faces, engaged in different activities. Show that you understand settings, moods and that you’re capable of continuity between scenes.
And if you have a favorite character you’ve created, definitely put that in too. We’ve created books based on one image that we’ve loved and have asked for a story to be created around them. Also, I like sketches when they are included. It shows how artists handle their line and you get to see a bit of their process. This can always go online if you don’t want to put it in your portfolio.
Do you ever ask illustrators you are considering for a project to do samples before hiring them? If so, do you pay for those samples or are they done for free?
At Dial we usually don’t ask for samples. If we’ve gotten in touch with you, it’s because we love your work and think you can create a wonderful world for the characters in the manuscript. We’ve already looked at a bunch of your art and have confidence that you will do a terrific job. That said, on the rare occasion we do ask for a sample, I feel we should pay you for your efforts. If you get the project, then the advance would cover it, and if we go with someone else then we can pay a small fee. Sometimes an agent or illustrator will offer to do a free sample. And in that case, we see if that’s the right thing to do for that project.
Do you like receiving postcards from illustrators you’ve never met? If so, how often do you think one illustrator should send out new postcards?
I love receiving postcards. I get tons of samples every day and postcards allow me to flip through quickly and sort. If I’m interested to see more, I will go to your site. Remember to print work on both sides of your postcards and make your contact info easy to find. And in terms of how often people should send samples out? You could send out a big blast once a year and then follow up with smaller targeted mailings once or twice more.
When you are looking at illustrators online, what is the best way to grab your attention and make you look at more of their work?
This is a little intangible but I’m looking for something unique. I’m not looking for someone to reinvent the wheel and create a whole new style using toothpicks. I’m just looking for someone who can infuse life and heart into the characters and the world around them. It can be as simple as how they work the eyebrows or the bits and pieces around the character that tell you something about them. It’s the artist’s job to illustrate the full story. The story beyond the words. It’s a big thing and a hard thing to do well. I’m looking for hints that you can take a text and make it your own.
This may just be the single most exciting review experience I had this year. I couldn't believe it was even a question when I got the email from Quirk asking me to review the Hillary Rodham Clinton Presidential Playset. It's got pantsuits, it's got White House ghosts, it's got Republican Adversaries, it's got Supreme Court Justices, it's got it all. You can click here to get all the details and specs, but basically all you should need to hear is Presidential Paperdolls.
The idea for the book tour was to set a scene and give it a creative caption, which I have done below.
Feminist dance party in the Oval Office with RBG, Oprah, the ghost of Nancy Reagan, lady secret service, and Bono (who we all know is a friend to the ladies). Jeb Bush only wishes he were invited.
So I've been playing with this dolls all weekend and marveling at their hilarity, but Luke really kicked it up a notch last night when he ran into my room and said "Come see what Bill did!"
Bill knew I was stressed so he took it upon himself to clean and vacuum my living room.
Hill, Jeb, the ghost of George Washington, and Clarence Thomas made sure he didn't miss any spots.
Of course it's only fair that I make the dolls do something for Luke now, so while he was at work this morning, they got out all the Christmas decorations.
The Ghost of George Washington hanging our stockings by the chimney with care.
Ruth Bader Ginsberg putting some lights on the tree.
Hillary supervising the unpacking of the ornaments.
And good old Bill, providing some jazz carols to keep them all in the holiday spirit.
Thank you, thank you, thank you to Quirk for sending me this playset and please go get one of your own. Regardless of your political persuasion, this is just a blast to have on hand.
One Thing Stolen really was a book I hoped into being—hoped and fervently re-visioned. Then stood back and hoped some more. To all of those who read the book, encouraged the book, were there for the book, thank you. You might now know how much that matters, but it matters. Much. And so, again, I thank you Cleaver, Melissa Sarno, and the Texas Library Association.
In Amsterdam, days are getting darker, the weather is grey and sometimes wet and cold… Yup, it’s the end of November alright!
I could complain about it, but I’d rather see it as an advantage: I can enjoy being in my apartment, warm and cosy, and while I snuggle under a blanket with a hot cup of tea, I make sure to have my sketchbook in reach. Because I want to do what I love, as much as I can: Make art.
Are you struggling to keep your creative habit going?
So you want to be a artist. You already are one!
You have the best intentions to make, but you may want everything to be perfect before starting; You need the right supplies, you need enough time, the perfect surroundings…
Stop looking for the perfect circumstances. There is no such thing.
You are simply procrastinating, it’s self-sabotage. It’s a waste of your valuable time and energy and it can drain your creativity. And spontaneity. Some of the best art was made on the backs of envelopes, beer mats, napkins or paper placemats.
As an artist (yes, you!), you can make art wherever and whenever you want.
Sure, we do need a bit of planning every so often. Otherwise chances are that busy life eats up all of our time to make art.
Here’s a tip: when you are putting things on the agenda (the one that may be clipped on the fridge, or on the wall next to your computer), sketch the activity instead of writing it! That way you give yourself that quick art fix by combining planning your time AND making art.
Now stick to the plan
Don’t do anything else than working on that creative habit of yours. Shut down your computer and throw your smartphone in the corner. Hanging out on social media is fun, but making art will give you a lot more satisfaction and a great sense of accomplishment!
It's an exciting start to the basketball season for Warriors fans here in the Bay Area, and I love helping students find great books to fuel their love of the game. Below are some new basketball books geared for 2nd through 5th grade reading. But really, I've found that they all appeal to a wide range of ages.
Full disclosure--I am not a huge sports fan. While I can look at these books in terms of their readability and design, only a real fan will be able to tell you if they are accurate and interesting.
Doeden is one of my favorite sports writers for young readers. Here he introduces the sport of basketball using short sentences, dynamic photographs and clear diagrams. "Defenders try to stop the other team from scoring. They knock the ball away. They steal passes." Throughout, Doeden uses nonfiction features like headings, captions and vocabulary to direct kids' reading. I especially noticed how diverse the photographs are, with plenty of examples of women players as well as kid and amateur players too. A terrific book for new readers who are interested in learning more about the game.
The Amazing Athletes series is one of our favorite new series for sports biographies. Geared for third grade readers, this series balances straightforward, simple writing with interesting details. As any of our basketball fans can tell you, Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry has racked up impressive stats, winning 2014-15 Most Valuable Player for the NBA. With this biography, readers will learn about his family life, high school and college years, and then look at his first few years playing for the Warriors. While there is not any mention of winning the 2015 NBA championship, most of my students will know all about that already.
Instead of focusing on the classic players you may remember, this book looks at the new stars--wondering who will be the superstars of tomorrow. Young fans will like the trading card like layout which features one large action photo, a short description of the player's playing history and achievements, and a quick "Did You Know?" fact in bold print. Pair this with Side by Side Basketball Stars, also from Sports Illustrated Kids but with more challenging text, and encourage students to debate which stars are the greatest players--backing up their arguments with facts and reasons. On the easier side, I've just ordered Basketball's Greatest Stars, by S.A. Kramer, which is a new book in the Step Into Reading series.
The review copies came from our school and public libraries. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.
Greetings, YABC! Today we are pleased to welcome Lauren Morrill, author of The Trouble With Destiny. Their book presents a unique YA science fiction experience through an eclectic collection of literary mediums. Lauren was kind enough to answer a few questions about her book!
Lauren Morrill is the author of Meant to Be, Being Sloane Jacobs, and the forthcoming The Trouble With Destiny. She lives in Macon, Georgia with her husband and son. When she’s not writing, she spends a lot of hours on the track getting knocked around playing roller derby. Follow Lauren on Twitter at @laurenemorrill.
Now meet Lauren's book, The Trouble With Destiny.
With her trusty baton and six insanely organized clipboards, drum major Liza Sanders is about to take Destiny by storm—the boat, that is. When Liza discovered that her beloved band was losing funding, she found Destiny, a luxury cruise ship complete with pools, midnight chocolate buffets, and a $25,000 spring break talent show prize.
Liza can’t imagine senior year without the band, and nothing will distract her from achieving victory. She’s therefore not interested when her old camp crush, Lenny, shows up on board, looking shockingly hipster-hot. And she’s especially not interested in Russ, the probably-as-dumb-as-he-is-cute prankster jock whose ex, Demi, happens be Liza’s ex–best friend and leader of the Athenas, a show choir that’s the band’s greatest competition.
But it’s not going to be smooth sailing. After the Destiny breaks down, all of Liza’s best-laid plans start to go awry. Liza likes to think of herself as an expert at almost everything, but when it comes to love, she’s about to find herself lost at sea.
With introductions in order, it's time to CHAT!!
Joanne Mumley: As a proud former HS concert band member, I was impressed with the voice you gave your characters. It definitely brought me back to high school. What did you do to help keep that Liza’s voice authentic throughout the story?
Lauren Morrill: I’m so glad you think so! This book was inspired by my own experiences in high school marching and concert band, so I definitely thought back to high school Lauren and my fellow bandmates to try to nail the voice. While the book is 100% fiction, there’s a lot of callbacks to my my time playing flute for the Maryville High School Red Rebel Marching Band. I’m expecting to get a few emails from my old classmates after this one!
JM: What is one thing you want your readers to take away from The Trouble with Destiny?
LM: What I love about Liza and Huck and the rest of the band kids is how unabashedly in love they are with their nerdy band selves. While Destiny is a romance, it’s also about finding your people, having their back and knowing they have yours. You don’t ever have to be ashamed of your tribe.
JM: Who are some of the authors that inspire you?
LM: Sarah Dessen is probably my biggest inspiration, and not just her writing, either (though her books are among my very favorite YA novels of all time). I love how honest she is about how scary/difficult/wonderful writing can be. Her tweets and blog posts have really helped get me through some rough writing days. I’ve had the privilege of meeting and get to know her over the last couple of years, and she is absolutely one of the kindest, most generous people in the YA community. I’ll read anything she writes (but my favorites are The Truth About Forever and Along for the Ride!).
JM: There are tons of music competitions around the country, what made you decide to choose a cruise ship as the major setting of The Trouble with Destiny as opposed to music competitions that happen on the main land?
LM: Remember how I said the book is 100% fiction? Ok, so maybe it’s more like 99%, because when I was in high school my band took our annual spring trip on a cruise ship to Nassau, where we played in a competition (and that’s where the similarities end, I promise!). Setting the novel aboard a cruise ship might have been more fun than taking the actual cruise. As a writer, it’s fun to put your characters in inescapable situations, and what’s more inescapable than being trapped on a boat in the middle of the ocean with your closest friends, your biggest enemies, and your ultimate crush? Cruise ships may be huge, but they start feeling a lot smaller when the stakes get raised!
JM: What are some of your current favorite books? Do any of them influence your writing?
LM: This is a throwback, I just finished binging the Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter. I checked out all six books from the library and read them in under two weeks (which is pretty fast for me these days, what with chasing a toddler around). They’re shippy and funny, which is my favorite kind of read, while also totally thrilling. They made me want to write a teen spy novel for sure. I’m also always trying to get people to read Vivian Apple at the End of the World by Katie Coyle and its sequel, Vivian Apple Needs A Miracle. Those books are so funny and so subversive and so unlike anything else on the shelves right now. I’m always here for a book with some seriously witty snark (so if anyone has any recs, please let me know!).
JM: I hear you are active in roller derby. Could there be a story surrounding roller derby in the future?
LM: Funny you should ask that, because I *might* be writing a roller derby novel as we speak … we’ll see if it ever sees the light of day, but I’m having so much fun writing about a world I’ve spent the last eight years immersed in as a player, a coach, and a league owner (I was a co-owner of the Boston Derby Dames for 3 years before I moved to Georgia). I love writing tough female characters (like the Sloanes from Being Sloane Jacobs), and you’ll find no one tougher than the girls and women who strap on skates and play one of the most intense contact sports out there.
JM: Do you have any current book projects you can tell us about?
LM: I’ve got a 4th YA contemporary romance coming out in October 2016 called My Unscripted Life that’s inspired by my time working as an extra on The Vampire Diaries and The Originals. It’s really swoony and fun, and I can’t wait for everyone to read it. I’m hoping I’ll get to reveal the cover soon!
A big thank you to Lauren Morrill and Joanne Mumley for this enlightening interview! Now read on for the latest giveaway below!
One winner will receive a signed copy of The Trouble With Destiny plus swag, US only.
Entering is simple, just fill out the entry form below. During this giveaway, Lauren has a question for you to answer in the comments below for more chances to win her book! In the Trouble With Destiny, the band kids love a good round of karaoke. What’s your karaoke song of choice?
*Click the Rafflecopter link to enter the giveaway*
Joanne Mumley is a middle school Language Arts teacher, who loves tweeting about the things she loves; books, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Marvel movies, and Pop Culture, and how to make reading a passion not something tedious you do in school. Back in high school, Joanne loved going to sports events, being a percussionist in the school concert band, and making memories with friends. Now, outside of work, she loves performing music, playing video games, and archery. Joanne especially loves having the opportunity to go to San Diego Comic Con this year and finding out more about favorite authors and sharing all the cool information with my students!
I’ve neglected the blog of late, but to quote Vito Corleone, “I don’t apologize, that’s my life!”
“I refuse to be a fool dancing on a string!”
Just kidding about that. I am sorry. And I do apologize, Dear Reader. I’m horrible, frankly. The letters have been piling up, but I’ve been hunkering down with a deadline. And yes, that’s right, I nailed it! Thank you, thank you very much.
This letter came with a fabulous note from Calloway’s mother, who seems lovely and kind. She asked for my address, and I’ll give that to everyone here, even you crazy stalkers: James Preller, 12 Brookside Drive, Delmar, NY 12054.
Now, here’ s Calloway, unedited, from Illinois:
“Hi mr james preller. I love jigsaw Jones books. I read them all the time. Would you send me more? I drew a pictue of the ones i already have. I need the rest. I am a brownie girl scout. Did you know that i have diabetees to? i was born with it when iwas 2 years old. IT Meansxmy pancreeas doentst work. And then my brother stabbed me with a pencil last week and my mom got mad at us and made us collect food for hungry people and give away our halloeeen candy. and my mom got cancer this year snd she lets me use her new pink blankets and pillows. They are so fun to lay on. And i love the movie annie. But jigsaw Jones are my favorite books.. my teacher mrs. Garretson told me to read them. And my brother plays baseball and my dad teaches gym! He makes us do push ups and sit ups when we are bad. And i am in love with ______, a 5th grade boy. But you cant tell anyone that.
Ok. So send me my books. Hope you have a happy day!!! Lalalalala. Oh and i was elvis Presley for Halloween. He is my favorite.
Ok bye, love Calloway”
My goodness, your letter just made my heart explode a little bit. Now it’s all over the floor and in my hair and yuck, gross. You have such an exciting life! I’m so sorry about the pencil stabbing, but it sounds like your good mother handled it “astutely,” which means, in this case, with wisdom and grace.
No offense to your father, who I am sure is a great guy, but the thought of a tough gym teacher as a dad would have terrified me as a kid. “What, ten thousand more push-ups? YIKES!”
Don’t worry about your crush. Your secret is safe with me. (See how I removed his name?)
I am not always able to send books in the mail to every fabulous kid who writes to me. It would get expensive. But in your case — the most fabulous kid of 2015 — well, keep checking your mailbox.
True story about cancer: My oldest son, Nick, is a two-time cancer survivor. He got sick when he was 2 years old, then again when he was 10. Hard times. But you know what? He’s 22 now and perfectly, wonderfully, terrifically healthy! I wrote about it, in a sly way, in the book SIX INNINGS, which your brother and father might like. Anyway, Mom, I’ll keep you in my thoughts.
My best to your whole big beautiful family!
P.S. Is there any chance you could send me a photo of you dressed up as Elvis Presley? Somehow my life feels incomplete without it.
P.P.S. Tell Mrs. Garretson that I love her (but don’t tell my wife)!
Many of the folks who utilize BookBub are self-published, and because we hear over and over the need for self-published authors to have their work edited, It seemed to me that it could be educational to take a hard look at their first pages. If you don’t know about BookBub, it’s a pretty nifty way to try to build interest in your work. The website is here.
I’m sampling just the books that are offered for free. Following are the first page and a poll. Then my comments are after the fold along with the book cover, the author’s name, and a link so you can take a look for yourself if you wish. At Amazon you can click on the Read More feature to get more of the chapter if you’re interested. There’s a second poll concerning the need for an editor.
Let me know how this works for you. Here’s a book titled Death's Hand.
James spotted a splatter of blood through the tree boughs. It marked the snow like an ink stain on paper.
He pushed through the pine needles, and her bare feet appeared, blue-toed and limp. He saw the curve of a calf and a knobby, bruised knee. He saw the jut of ribs under her skin and an arm thrown over her face. And the next thing he saw was the twelve other bodies.
Nausea gripped James, but he covered his mouth and maintained composure. His guide was not so lucky. The other man dove behind a bush, gagged twice, and vomited across the frozen earth.
Elise was already dead. He was so certain of it that he almost walked away at that moment. But what would Isaac think of James abandoning his daughter’s body? The indignity of leaving her naked on the ice for the birds to devour was too much, and he came so far to find her remains.
Yet he couldn’t bring himself to step foot in the clearing. Elise looked peaceful, but the others were twisted in agony. Blood marked their fingernails. They had gone out fighting.
Each of the twelve other bodies could have been siblings. They had pale skin, slender forms draped in white linen, and white-blue eyes— he could tell, because they were frozen open. The snow around them looked fluffy, as though it were freshly fallen. Something about that (snip)
Have a vote, then go to my editorial notes and vote again after the break.
And don’t forget to let me know if you like this new feature. Thanks.
The book is part of a trilogy, The Descent Series, by SM Reine. The entire trilogy is offered for free here. My thoughts, and then my notes.
The voice is strong and the writing clear. There are a couple of little editorial notes that I would make, but this opening page does a good job of raising story questions, mostly "what happened here?" Who were these people? Who is Elise? While those latter two are close to being “information” questions and not story questions, the question of who were they fighting and why turns them into story questions as well. And, subtly, there’s a hint that Elise could be alive. For me, I think the line about the guide throwing up could be much shorter. But, still, I turned the page.
Lancaster University has appointed French graphic novelist and critic Benoît Peeters as Visiting Professor in Graphic Fiction and Comic Art, the first university in the UK to hire someone with this title.
Peeters, a well known scholar on Hergé and Tintin, will hold the position for three years. The author of Tintin and the World of Hergé and Hergé’s biography, Hergé, Son Of Tintin will give lectures, run creative writing workshops, and supervise post-graduate students.
“The appointment will bring a new dimension to our University and, in particular, to our English and creative writing courses,” stated Simon Guy, professor of arts and social sciences at Lancaster University. “It will also demonstrate strong commitment to our collaboration with the increasingly popular and fast-expanding Lakes international Comic Art Festival.”
People are always on the lookout for the silver bullet of social media: that one foolproof thing that effectively promotes a book. There isn’t one, and the fact is, you’re far more likely to shoot yourself on the foot than strike it lucky. Unfortunately, 2015 has been the year of the gaffe, the pile-on, the career-toasting debate. High-profile writers such as John Green, Andrew Smith, and Meg Rosoff have found themselves in the social media red zone, and it’s been awful.
Part of the frenzy—which started with content in books, comments to a newspaper, and a reply to a detractor’s Tumblr post—is due to the fame of these writers. But another part is the nature of the beast. Social media is a terrible place for complex, nuanced discussions. Twitter is especially bad, because character count is limited and angry tweets pile up like astonishingly fast. For controversial stuff, Facebook and Tumblr are better, as long you take the same care you’d use in a face-to-face discussion.
What’s more, as social media has evolved into a sometimes-rude marketplace of ideas, it has diminished as a marketplace for stuff, and probably for the best. No one wants thinly veiled book ads, spammy direct messages, or repetitive self-promotion. No one wants to be friended by anyone on Facebook only to receive an immediate request to “like” their author or illustrator page.
What does work? Cultivating relationships the same way you do in real life: Be interesting, be interested, be useful, be positive.Be smart, too. It’s not just readers you’re reaching out to. It’s booksellers, teachers, librarians, bloggers, and other people who connect to many people at once. Think of these as your power connections. Over the years, key ones can put your books into a lot of young readers’ hands.
Some effective things to do:
- Establish a clear, concise identity. Mention your work and your website in your profile, and use your book cover or a good photo. Make it easy for people to know who you are and what you do.
- Be useful.I’ve created common core-focused guides for two of my books, and I share these both on social media and on my website so teachers can easily use my books to support classroom work. Offer Skype visits of varying lengths to round this out.
- Be visual. Use a service like picmonkey.com to turn favorite book quotes (from your work the work of others) into graphics. Did a reader make fan art for your book? Share it and praise that talented soul.
- Be interesting—and be interested. Talk with other writers and with your power connectors about books you’re loving, your pets, or even fascinating articles you’ve read. Make yourself a source of support and cheer, and people will be glad to cheer you on when it’s time.
Martha Brockenbrough’s latest young adult novel, The Game of Love And Death, was a finalist for the 2015 Kirkus Prize, a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2015, and an American Library Association Booklist Top 10 YA Romance. She is on SCBWI’s Team Blog, is the founder of National Grammar Day, is the former editor of MSN.com, and has been a media strategist for fifteen years. More at www.marthabrockenbrough.com.
4 yummy chocolate chocolate chip cookies. Cover Love: Oh my yes!! I love this cover so very much. It is what definitely attracted me to the book.
Why I Wanted to Read This: The cover drew me in, the synopsis kept me interested. Here it is from GoodReads:
In a small river village where the water is cursed, a girl’s bravery—and the existence of magic—could mean the difference between life and death in this elegant, luminous tale from the author of Parched and Audacity.
Along a lively river, in a village raised on stilts, lives a girl named Luna. All her life she has heard tales of the time before the dam appeared, when sprites danced in the currents and no one got the mysterious wasting illness from a mouthful of river water. These are just stories, though—no sensible person would believe in such things.
Beneath the waves is someone who might disagree. Perdita is a young water sprite, delighting in the wet splash and sparkle, and sad about the day her people will finally finish building their door to another world, in search of a place that humans have not yet discovered.
But when Luna’s little sister falls ill with the river sickness, everyone knows she has only three weeks to live. Luna is determined to find a cure for her beloved sister, no matter what it takes. Even if that means believing in magic…
My Thoughts: This book was written from two points of view, Luna and Perdita. The chapters for each were short and wonderfully written. Each of the stories, at their core, were about sisters. Luna's sister gets sick and she has to find a way to save her. Perdita loses her sister and needs to find her. I loved the writing in each chapter. It flowed so beautifully, it reminded me a bit of The Underneath by Kathi Appelt. I knew the stories would come together, and was pretty sure how, but the journey to that intersection was wonderful.
I was rooting for both sets of sisters the whole time. I wanted Luna to find a cure for her sister and I wanted Perdita to find hers. I felt touched by both Luna and Perdita. The story moved along so easily, it was impossible not to be caught up in their stories.
I think this has the opportunity to be very popular for it's intended audience. There are a lot of elements that are attractive to middle school readers--the length of the story, the writing, two main characters you root for, magical elements, and an interesting setting. I know several readers that will enjoy this story and will passit along to their friends.
To Sum Up: Magical, lovely short story that will be attractive to middle grade readers. The copies I bought for my library have already been circulated a few times. And an amazing cover to boot!