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1. an ode to Wayne, in today's Inquirer

I moved a lot as a child—and then, at last, settled in.

In this weekend's Philadelphia Inquirer, I'm writing about the place that has been close to my heart ever since that eighth-grade move, the town of Wayne, PA, which has beguiled me, supported me, and, of late, returned old friends to me.

With gratitude to all those fellow Radnorites and shop owners and librarians: this. While this Wayne story and my South Street/Magic Gardens story were written too late to be incorporated into my forthcoming collection of essays and photographs, Love: A Philadelphia Affair, both essays live close to my heart.

Meanwhile, this past week I've been watching intense movies, reading an extraordinary book, talking to the esteemed editor Daniel Menaker, sharing a glass of wine with the great Debbie Levy, and learning from my Class of Spectaculars at Penn. I'll reflect on all that in the Monday edition of tomorrow's blog.

Anyone interested in receiving a free ARC of One Thing Stolen can now enter the giveaway on Goodreads.

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2. Free First Five Pages Workshop Opens on March 7!

The First Five Pages February Workshop has come to an end.  This talented group worked so hard on their revisions, and it showed! A huge thanks to our guest mentor, Chelsea Pitcher  (I adored THE LAST CHANGELING) and to Shelby Sampsel, our guest agent/editor, and of course to all of our fabulous permanent mentors! You can check out the final revisions here:  First Five Pages February Workshop 

Our March workshop will open for entries at noon, EST,  on Saturday March 7, 2015. We'll take the first five Middle Grade, Young Adult, or New Adult entries that meet all guidelines and formatting requirements. In addition to our wonderful permanent mentors, we have Patricia Dunn as our guest author mentor, and Kimberly Brower as our guest agent mentor.  So get those pages ready – click here to get the rules!


March Guest Mentor - Patricia Dunn

Patricia Dunn has appeared in Salon.com, The Christian Science Monitor, the Village Voice, the Nation, LA Weekly, and others. With an MFA in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College, where she also teaches, this Bronx-raised rebel and former resident of Cairo settled in Connecticut, with her husband, teenage son, and toddler dog.  Patricia loves visiting class rooms – for more information about virtual visits, click here 

A fresh and authentic coming-of-age story set during the early days of the Arab Spring.
All Mariam wanted was a vacation. What she got was a revolution...
It’s tough fitting in, especially when you have super-traditional Muslim parents and are the only Egyptian at your high school. So when Mariam and her best friend and fellow outcast, Deanna, get arrested after an ill-fated night of partying, she knows that she is in big trouble.
Convinced they need more discipline, their parents pack Mariam and Deanna off to Cairo to stay with Mariam’s grandmother, her sittu. But Mariam’s strict sittu and the country of her heritage are nothing like she imagined, challenging everything Mariam used to believe.

 When a girl named Asmaa calls on the people of Egypt to protest against their president, Mariam and Deanna find themselves in the middle of a revolution, running from teargas, dodging danger in the streets of Cairo, and falling in love for the first time. As Mariam struggles to reconcile her rich Egyptian heritage with her American identity, she finds that revolution is everywhere, including within herself.  

You can order here: 




We are thrilled to announce that Kimberly Brower, of the Rebecca Friedman Literary Agency, will be our guest agent for March! Kimberly fell in love with reading when she picked up her first Babysitter’s Club book at the age of seven and hasn’t been able to get her nose out of a book since. Reading has always been her passion, even while pursuing her business degree at California State University, Northridge and law degree at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles. By joining the Rebecca Friedman Literary Agency in 2014, she has been able to merge her legal background with her love of books. Although she loves all things romance, she is also searching for books that are different and will surprise her, with empathetic characters and compelling stories. Kimberly is interested in both commercial and literary fiction, with an emphasis in women’s fiction, contemporary romance, mysteries/thrillers, new adult and young adult, as well as certain areas of non-fiction, including business, diet and fitness.

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3. ABOWS nominated for a SIBA Book Award!!!!

OMG! I opened my computer today and there are dozens of "Congratulations"! Turns out A BIRD ON WATER STREET has been nominated for a SIBA Book Award! ABOWS is up against some very strong competition, so I'm just so honored to have it nominated!!! WoW! Truly, it just keeps plugging along getting such great attention. I am so pleased with how my debut novel has done!

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4. Weekend Links: Lots of Kidlit Book Goodness

Welcome to Weekend Links! As usual I have encountered some pretty amazing book-related articles, programs and links that I want to share with my book-loving readers.Enjoy!

weekend links

CCBC Stats Show Children’s Books Shifting Toward Diversity @publisher’s weekly

 

Want to learn how to change your family’s life in just 20 minutes a week? It’s easier than you think! Change Your Family’s Life in 20 Minutes Each Week @Scholastic Parents.

family-reading-time-amy-mascott-blog

My beloved Head Elf and Virtual Assistant Becky shared with me that she personally thought Big Hero 6 was the best kids movie that she’d seen awhile (she also said she would love her own personal Baymax). Here’s another person, and more reasons to love Big Hero 6: INTERVIEW: Big Hero 6 Producer Roy Conli Talks About Multiculturalism and Cool Nerds.

Big Hero 6

What Do Muslims Really Want Anyway?! 17 Books on Muslim World for Kids via @PragmaticMom

17-Great-Books-for-Kids-and-Teens-on-the-Arab-World-580x829

Are you a new author or an existing author with published works you need help promoting? I was fortunate enough to find some really good articles this week about that very topic:

011_036

Book Marketing 101: Five Things to Do Before Your Book is Released  via LEE and LOW
How Successful Authors Use Social Media to Sell More Books – The Write Life
Is Social Media a Good Thing for Writers? (Pros, Cons and My Tips)

By now, many of you know that our much-anticipated Waldorf Homeschool Handbook is HERE! Not only is it here, it’s been selling like hotcakes!

Waldorf Homeschool Handbook is perfect for homeschooling families who are looking for an all-in-one homeschooling guide filled with samples of lesson plans and curriculum, along with helpful hints and the secrets behind the three Areas for Optimum Learning. This wonderful resource for homeschoolers was written by author and homeschool expert Donna Ashton. If you have not grabbed your copy of the Waldorf Homeschool Handbook, we recommend that you do it ASAP! For extended book details and ordering information go HERE The Waldorf Homeschool Handbook

waldorf collage

The post Weekend Links: Lots of Kidlit Book Goodness appeared first on Jump Into A Book.

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5. Does marijuana produce an amotivational syndrome?

Does marijuana produce an amotivational syndrome? Whether the amotivational syndrome exists or not is still controversial; there are still too few poorly controlled small studies that don't allow a definitive answer. Most people who use marijuana don't develop this syndrome.

The post Does marijuana produce an amotivational syndrome? appeared first on OUPblog.

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6. Making Viva Frida

By Yuyi Morales - fascinating!

With spare, polished text and luscious illustrations, award-winning author/illustrator Yuyi Morales explores the passionate, imagination of the incomparable Frida Kahllo. Video with Music by Miguel Martinez.
Click the image to watch the video on YouTube.

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7. Week in Review 2/28/15




At the end of last week (and the post on speculative fiction) Amy Schaefer (who really should be dead to us living here in the cold frozen island that used to be Manhattan, since she lives in Paradise!) commented 
"I also find it funny, Janet, that you think your category post amounted to: "why I don't rep spec fic", whereas all I got out of it was: "send me everything." I'll bet you a wheelbarrow full of nuts that I wasn't alone."


You'll be perplexed to discover that the number of queries neither rose nor fell but held quite steady at about 100 a week.  Later in the week I had an opportunity to compare query stats with other agents. Some of my pals are getting upwards of 200/week.  Interesting. Unexplained, but interesting.



Also in the WIR, Kitty linked to a good article by Cheryl Strayed on how the money flows in publishing.  This prompted me to write a blog post for this coming Monday about money, specifically how advances work.





And it turns out that blog readers AJ Blythe and newcomer Sam Hawke are both in Australia. Sam mentioned the dreaded vegemite. I have a beloved client (Gary Corby) who also lives in Australia and he tried to poison the interns with vegemite on his first visit to FPLM.




Yup that's Joanna Volpe now of New Leaf Literary, the agent for Divergent and The Duff. She's the only one who sort of liked it. Given Joanna's great professional success, maybe we should all be eating more vegemite!






On Monday, the discussion turned to a writer who asked about having gotten a lot of help on her query, only to discover when agents read her pages, she was getting almost universal rejections.



No one picked up on Julie Weathers mentioning she'd entered hog calling contests. I think we need to fund a pool to pay Julie for video of that fine event.  I'm in for $100.



There was some question about whether you needed a finished manuscript to send a query to the QueryShark.   

Here's a list of the various ways to interact with me, and what you need:


QueryShark: a completed query letter that you think is ready for submission to agents. Whether the novel is done is less important.



Chum Bucket: a query and a finished novel. If you query on Chum Bucket and your novel isn't ready, I will not respond well. ChumBucket is querying for real, and you do NOT query unless your novel is ready to go out the door, that very day.



Query Questions: a question, hopefully succinct, sent to my email address with Query Question in the subject line.



Blog comments: just post away and I'll read.



And Julie also gave us the Mrs. Chicken story. Sometime soon we're going to have a book-length work of Julie Weathers hilarity, and wouldn't it be hilarious if THAT was her first published work?



MeganV told us of her experiences querying as a 12year old writer. Turns out her MamaBear wrote the query. This was very illuminating. I do get mail from writers who tell me they are 12 but the tone and syntax of the letter is very clearly adult.  It had actually never crossed my mind that MamaBear was writing the query. 


If you're wondering about whether to do that for your kid, DON'T!  A kid who sounds like an adult gets a form rejection. A kid who sounds like a kid gets a much much different reply.



S.P. Bowers had the most succinct thought on voice: "Voice is like an accent. You never hear your own. But that doesn't mean you don't have one." I like this a great deal and plan to steal the line shamelessly.



And donnaeverhart mentioned the late, great amazing Larry Brown, with whom I had the great fortune to meet briefly in my days in the publicity trenches. Gone too soon indeed.



On Tuesday, we talked about illustrations in novels, and when to mention that you envision your work including them.



Jenz commented on the cost of a good illustrator (not cheap) and from what little I know of picture books, she's right on the money.



Adib Khorram was the first to mention THE FIVE STAGES OF ANDREW BRAWLEY as an example of a novel that included a graphic novel in it.



Then we heard from the author of FIVE STAGES, Shaun Hutchinson, and what he said was very illuminating and applicable I think to all authors who want to include things other than text in their novels.

The agent I signed with (the amazing Amy Boggs) was totally on board with the graphic novel elements, but we both knew that when we went on submission that the publishers might be less receptive since they'd have to hire and artist and such, and I prepared myself mentally to redo those sections as prose if a publisher made an offer but didn't want the added burden of doing the graphic novel.

Luckily, the editor who acquired my book was enthusiastic about the graphic novel portions of the book, and they did hire an artist to turn my script into a graphic novel.

So it can be done. But I think you need to be very clear as to what you're looking for and you need to be very sure that those graphic elements are absolutely vital to the story. If the book can exist without them, an agent or editor is probably not going to want to do them.

If you want to read my query for the book, my agent did a breakdown of it over here.  



Of course I went out and bought a copy of FIVE STAGES immediately, and had a chance to start reading it on the train Friday night.  It's fucking amazing. I haven't finished yet (despite letting three trains go by at West 4th cause I didn't want to stop reading--it's impossible to read in a really crowded train) but look for more on this in the coming weeks.  Let me just say this now. The first line is "The boy is on fire."



On Wednesday we return to the question of query decorum: is it ok to query another agent at an agency where an agent has said no. (say that fast five times!)



My reply was Be Bold, and in fact I've updated the blog post to make that the latest in the Rules for Writers. [Rules for Writers are on the right hand side of the blog in a separate column.]



I liked how Susan Bonifantphrased it: "err on the side of possible success."



Dena Pawling gave us a hilarious bad query example, but sadly, writes too well for it to give off the true aroma of badBadBAD queries.



KrisM asked if the writer should mention the first agent query whilst querying the second. 

Yes you should. Here's why: you don't know the inner workings of the agency. If someone queries me, and said they queried another agent here at FPLM, I'll know if that agent is just behind on queries, or doesn't respond to queries if not interested, or is slacking off in the south of France eating lima beans and looking at kale, thus giving me a chance to scoop this treasure from under his/her nez. The querier won't know any of that, and it's better to let the agent know than run into a problem down the road.





And after that the comments just fell right off topic into a soup pot of lima beans that ended when Colin Smith exiled himself back to Carkoon.



The fact that these comments crack me up again three days later means you all really are hilarious.



Thursday, we're back to correct form in a query. Is it ok to ask questions?



Kelsey Hutton has a nice take on this: 
"I read a lot of queries on QueryShark and Evil Editor, and I find questions that boil down to "Will Jane Smith save the day??" get rather tiresome, since, after all, readers usually expect the hero to end up saving the day. There's no tension there; I already know the answer.

"How far will Jane Smith go to save the day?" is a far more interesting question to me."



Susan Bonifant (with an assist from Colin Smith) phrased it best: "One (question) rising naturally from the conflict of the character, rather than one aimed at the agent's personal curiosity seems workable to me."



Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli (a name that I just love to say aloud!) is going into the nostrum business with lima beans and kale. Felix Buttonweaver is involved (cleverly concealing his real name of Felix Buttonweezer!)



And Craig is writing lima bean thrillers, which while not as terrifying as dinosaur porn, is pretty much immediately on my This Will Not Fly list.



Christina Seine riffed on Goldilocks and questions in query which prompted Colin Smith to give us the other side of the story.



Agent Goldie Lox had only been in the program three months and already she was staking out the humble home base of the feared Bear Family. Suspecting they had hijacked the village's much-needed supply of lima beans to sell on the black market, she tears the place apart looking for evidence. However, she is seduced by Mama Bear's intoxicating porridge, and falls unconscious just as The Bears return.

Meanwhile, her hapless companion, Woodman "Woody" Cutter is investigating Lox's disappearance. But his is more than a quest of duty. He gave his heart to Lox when they were in the Academy together, though he hasn't yet revealed the truth of his feelings for her.

Does Cutter have enough courage to take on the Bears and declare his love for Agent Lox, whatever the cost?

LOX AND THE LIMA BEAN CONSPIRACY is a 70,000 word suspense fiction novel. It's truly amazing. Really.

Amazing is one word for it.




And honestly I'm getting pretty spoiled: if the comments trail doesn't have a hilarious story from Julie the world feels a little bleak. No pressure there One L.





Friday we return to query decorum: is it wise to resend after fixing what an agent said was wrong with a requested full?


Colin Smith took the shark by the teeth and wrote: 
"It really would help cut down the chattering in the forest if agents would be clear and honest in their feedback to the woodland creatures. "I liked your writing, but in the end I didn't love it enough to feel I could give it the representation it deserves. If I might, let me make a couple of suggestions that I think will help you win over another agent..."



I can tell you that's never going to happen. There are a couple reason. The first and most often is that agent's live in fear of someone quoting their rejection of a novel that went on to sell a million copies.  I've been in ballrooms where authors giving keynotes have done EXACTLY that.  Let me tell you, it's gawdawful, even if it's not your rejection, or no names are mentioned.  It's the flip side of those insanely stupid agent tweets about why a query is rejected. It may not be yours but it still makes you feel icky.



Second, unasked for advice or commentary is very seldom received well. I know this of my own experience, experience learned the hard way.  You've never seen true venom and vitriol until you offer unsolicited "help" on a query that desperately needs it.



There's a reason I limit ChumBucket to people who pay attention and know the parameters: they've signed on for feedback. Same with QueryShark. I no longer reply to a regular query with specifics.



Third, what's crap for me is gold for someone else and better to have them query on, than give up because I or another agent didn't like the project. Which is exactly what Colin Smith said better here "Just because an agent rejects your novel, it doesn't mean s/he doesn't love you. Indeed, maybe the kindest thing they'll do is say NO."




Then Bill Negotiator reminded us:

I thought I was ready for rejection when I started querying five months ago. Form responses rolled off my back, and I was proud that the process hadn't gotten to me, as it had so many others. I was all doors and windows, no means yes somewhere else, this is a breeze.

But then the partial requests came in, and the fulls. The stakes felt impossibly high when I remembered where I began, twenty-something me with a whim to write chick-lit. Chick-lit? So I tried not to think about it. I obsessed over Twitter and reassured myself when agents tweeted pitfalls I didn't enter. "No More Unicorn Samurais with Cancers" #checkmywishlist, or the very Breaking Bad pleas for us to remember their names. #I'mNotDearAgent.

It's no surprise that I got a personalized rejection on a full. But what I didn't know, what nobody had told me in this rush to stay positive, was that the compliments, the glimmers of someone almost on board with my writing, would be the hardest part to swallow.



Which was a valuable reminder for me particularly since some of you who comment here have had novels on submission with me. "Almost" is really tough.



DLM's comment was salve:



Yesterday, the light in my living room was unlike I've ever seen it. It was a snow day, and the sky was clearing, and the sun came out in that peculiarly platinum-colored glare it does over a world gone highly reflective white. I saw the paint color in a way it has never appeared, and it was an almost creative experience - the pleasure we as writers can take in seeing something a new way. Literal new light.

I chose that paint color with a lifetime's taste, expectations, some wisdom, and a lot of creative hope. I'd lived in this house and had strong ideas about what would work and what I wanted to see. Yesterday, it told me (as it always has) I made the right choice.

When you are a professional in the business of choosing creativity itself for a catalog of product you can believe in and SELL - as well as you can - it takes that combination of experience, expectation, and creativity.

I'm nothing like any of the rest of you as an author. None of you is like the rest of us. Each of us has demonstrated here - we're not merely good with words, we're good storytellers. But how many of us does Janet rep? Janet, who clearly appreciates our ways with words - she says it, with highly specific examples, over and over again, and not even only in the WIR posts. She sees and supports every one of us.

But she's not the right agent for MOST of us.

I can't wait to find out who the right agent is for me. I've had theories, some of them haven't borne out; some may still come to something. We'll just have to see. Like when the sun comes out after the snow.



On Saturday we discussed when/if a query needed to reveal previous representation. I casually mentioned that I do sniff around your websites etc if I'm interested in your work.



elisabethcrisp contributed this comment to the discussion of  what kind of blog content works:

Long term planning has helped me get back up on my blog horse. Four days a week, I write topic-based posts. One day, I post a photo. One day, I post an excerpt. One day, I write a journal-type post for the past week. I keep everything under 350 words. It works for me.



I agree. When I started this blog, it was rather haphazard. Over the months and years I developed a plan and stuck to it.  The results is an enormous increase in traffic and comment volume. I'm not sure if this is replicable for authors, but I know it worked for me.



Karen McCoy commented "Mostly, I try to remember that my writing comes first, because without it, my platform accounts for nil." which is an excellent thing for all of us to remember. Even me! (instead of writing, think clients!)







This week I'm reading THE FIVE STAGES OF ANDREW BRAWLEY, and just finished MURDER AT THE BRIGHTWELL, which I loved. It's an old fashioned British seaside, sprawling cast of suspects murder mystery. It's absolutely in the tradition of Agatha Christie, and I was surprised in the end by whodunit.



And just as a reminder that yes, I do crawl around your websites and blogs, here a post from our own Susan Bonifant that is lovely homily this cold winter morning.







My favorite story of the weekis has a terrible clickbait headline, but I love the story, want to lead three cheers for the mum who understands that HOW you tell the story is really important.



Over on my Facebook page, there were two posts with cat pictures, one with a fish movie, and two slice of life scenes from the office.



I love the fish movie so much!  




Have a swimmingly great day!









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8. Jessica Brody, author of UNCHANGED, on how writing a book is like building a house

As you can see from yesterday's large lineup of talented authors, we are very fortunate because so many generous folks are willing to stop by and share information about their books and writing processes. As a result, our Saturdays have become jam-packed with awesome interviews. We have decided to spread the wealth by opening up Sundays for author interviews, too. Going forward, we will share writing advice, inspiring journeys to publication, and behind-the-scenes info about the creation of your favorite books on both Saturdays and Sundays. Remember to swing by on both days to hear from from many wise and wonderful writers.

Kicking off the first Sunday of interviews is Jessica Brody with her latest novel UNCHANGED, the third and final book in her Unremembered Trilogy.

So, Jessica, what was your inspiration for writing the Unremembered Trilogy?

A few years ago, I read a newspaper article about a teen girl who was the sole survivor of a plane crash. I was instantly fascinated by the story. Namely because they had no idea why she survived when no else did. I started brainstorming reasons as to why she was so lucky. One particular reason (a rather intricate, science-fiction-inspired one) stuck in my mind and refused to leave. It continued to grow and blossom until I had an idea for an entire trilogy. A trilogy that starts with a mysterious plane crash and a single survivor.

What scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

Normally the scenes I’m the most proud of or really fall in love with are scenes that feel effortless. They kind of just flow out of me and I feel like I don’t have to try. Like I’m just a vessel through which the story is being told. I love when that happens. Of course, it’s not every day. I’m lucky if I get 2 or 3 of those per book.

In UNCHANGED, the final book in the Unremembered trilogy, one of those scenes was actually the very last scene of the book/series. I’d had that ending in mind since I started writing the first book and I wouldn’t let myself skip ahead and write it early. So when I finally got to that scene, I felt all this enormous pressure to make it right…not to mention STRESS that I would fail and it wouldn’t come out as good as it had been in my head for the past four years. Fortunately, I love what I wrote. I think it’s even better than I pictured it. And I hope readers love it too.

What book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or
visa versa?

The Unremembered Trilogy has been compared to some really amazing books. Some of my favorites (that I’m honored to be compared to!) are MAXIMUM RIDE by James Patterson, ORIGIN by Jessica Khoury, and THE MAZE RUNNER by James Dashner.

Hey…I just realized all of our names start with J…AND all of our names are either Jessica or James. FREAKY!

How long did you work on UNCHANGED?

UNCHANGED took longer than any other book in the trilogy. And that’s probably because I wrote 250 pages and then totally scrapped them all and started over. It was one of those crazy pivotal moments in your career when you just have to follow your gut (and my gut was telling me this wasn’t the right book) and start over from scratch. I’ve never done that before in my published career. It was really scary at the time but the book was SO much better because of it!

What did this book teach you about writing or about yourself?

That sometimes you write the wrong book. And sometimes you have to right the WRONG book (or the first 250 pages of it) before you can realize what the RIGHT book is.

What do you hope readers will take away from UNCHANGED?

First and foremost, I write my books to entertain readers. If they get something extra out of the process, then that’s just a nice bonus. To me, this book (the whole series really) is about the delicate balance between science and nature. I’m all for technological innovation and progress, but at what cost? And at what point are we just messing with something nature mastered a long time ago? I set out to explore these questions in this trilogy. And it would be a nice bonus if readers took something away about that after reading.

How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?

My road to publication was quite long and difficult. It took me five years to sell my first book. Actually my “first” book was never published. It’s still sitting on my shelf! I tried for three years to get an agent for that book and eventually started a new book that would become my first published novel. After five years, I finally landed my first agent and she sold my book in only 10 days! So I like to say my overnight success story took five years. ☺

Was there an AHA! moment along your road to publication where something suddenly sank in and you felt you had the key to writing a novel? What was it?

Actually, there was! My first book to ever sell was a women’s fiction novel called THE FIDELITY FILES, about a “fidelity inspector” who was hired by suspicious wives and girlfriends to test the fidelity of the men in their lives. I shopped that book all around town for years, constantly tweaking it and rewriting and yet I still got the same feedback. It was too dark and depressing. The main character, Jennifer Hunter, saw nothing but cheating spouses and it was a downer. Plus no one could understand why Jennifer just didn’t quit her job since she clearly hated it so much.

Then I got a rejection from my agent that changed everything. She said, “I think this would work so much better if Jennifer thought of herself like a modern superhero. She loves her job. She feels like she’s righting an epic wrong. Saving the world from infidelity, one cheater at a time.”

I nearly gasped when I read this. It was the magic ingredient that I’d been missing. The subtlest shift in the kaleidoscope to make the whole thing take shape. I instantly started rewriting the book from scratch with this note. I sent that agent the first 100 pages to see if I was on the right track. She ended up signing me on those 100 pages and we sold the book as soon as it was finished.

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

First off, I have a really cool “white noise” track that I listen to when I write. It’s a track called “Waterfall Entrainment” and it’s nothing but a constant waterfall sound that goes “SHHHHHHHH!!!!” in my ear. I loop it and play it full blast.

And second, I ONLY drink coffee when I’m writing. I’ve actually managed to trick my brain into thinking that coffee equals productivity. Plus, limiting my caffeine intake makes the caffeine more effective. So as soon as that coffee hits my blood stream, I am ready to rock!

In fact, I actually wrote a whole blog post about this. It’s called How to Trick Your Brain Into Writing. You can view it here: http://www.jessicabrody.com/2011/05/tips-for-writers-how-to-trick-your-brain-into-writing/

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

Don’t be afraid to write badly. All writers have awful first drafts. That’s why they’re called first drafts. Sometimes you have to just get through the story before you can make it pretty. I think a lot of new authors quit halfway through the book because they’re afraid that it’s not good. The first draft won’t be good. Just finish it and make it good later. The hardest part about writing a book is getting to that last page.

Writing a book is like building a house. You can’t worry about where to hang the pictures or what color to paint the walls until you actually build the house. Get the foundation down, get the story in place, then worry about whether or not it all looks pretty.

I always say, Don't be afraid to write crap because crap makes great fertilizer.

What are you working on now?

I just turned in my next book to my editor. It’s a contemporary comedy called A WEEK OF MONDAYS, about a teen girl who has to repeat the same awful Monday (in which her boyfriend breaks up with her) over and over again until she figures out how to fix it. It’s kind of like Groundhog Day meets Some Kind of Wonderful.

It was really fun to go back to something light and comedic. Especially after writing UNCHANGED, which is by far the darkest of the trilogy.

A WEEK OF MONDAYS will be out in spring 2016.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Unchanged
by Jessica Brody
Hardcover
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Released 2/24/2015

In this mesmerizing conclusion to the Unremembered trilogy, Sera will fight those who have broken her.

After returning to the Diotech compound and receiving a successful memory transplant, Seraphina is now living a happy life with another synthetically engineered human like herself, with whom she is deeply in love. She has no recollection of Zen. But the nagging feeling that something is missing from her life continues to plague her. Diotech's newest product is about to be revealed—a line of genetic modifications that will allow people to live longer, fight disease, and change any unfavorable physical attribute they desire.

As more secrets are revealed, more enemies are uncovered, and the reality of a Diotech-controlled world grows closer every day, Sera and Zen must find a way to destroy the company that created her, or they’ll be separated forever.

Purchase Unchanged at Amazon
Purchase Unchanged at IndieBound
View Unchanged on Goodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jessica has sold ten novels (two adult novels to St. Martin’s Press and eight young adult novels to Farrar, Straus, Giroux/Macmillan Children’s.) These books include Fidelity Files, Love Under Cover, The Karma Club, My Life Undecided, 52 Reasons to Hate My Father, Unremembered, Unforgotten, and Unchanged. Unremembered was recently optioned for film by the producers of The Vampire Academy, Zero Dark Thirty, Life of Pi and Slumdog Millionaire. Jessica’s books are published and translated in over twenty foreign countries including the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Czech Republic, Norway, Denmark, China, Russia, Brazil, Poland, Bulgaria, Israel, and Taiwan. Jessica now works full time as a writer and producer. She currently splits her time between Los Angeles and Colorado.

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9. A Request!

Hello, All!
 
  In my ongoing quest to run into a brick wall as many times as possible...no. That's not right.  In my ongoing quest to find out more about obscure UK comic creators of the past I have needed my nose and teeth fixed several times.....oh, there, see -THAT is where I should have typed "running into brick walls" but the moment has gone!

  Anyway, being far more serious: I have looked and dug around the internet and written letters far and wide but still have not been able to find photographs of most of these creators.

 Gerald Swan and Denis M. Reader you might think had photos taken by someone -apparently, Denis Gifford thought it was "a bit impolite" to ask if he might take a photograph (oh, Denis!!) and Jock McCail and his brother, William A. Ward Harry Banger -you'd think family at least might have a page or online images. Nothing.

 Now I know that there are quite a few knowledgeable comickers out there with all sorts of journals, books, etc.  So, my big request is this: if you have any photographs of these people or others who worked for Swan -even if only "cartoon portraits" could you please get in touch or pass the word around?

 My sincere THANKS to anyone who can help!
Cheers
Terry

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10. Diplomatic mission


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11. The Sunday Post and Stacking the Shelves–It’s March!

The Sunday Post is hosted by Kimba of The Caffeinated Book Reviewer.  This is a weekly meme where we can share news of the week and highlight new books received.

Dean and I are taking a little break this weekend, which I’ll tell you all about next Sunday.  I hope you are having a great weekend and that the weather is improving wherever you are!

I am reading Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop and it’s fantastic! What are you reading today?

Check out my current contests!  See the Contest Widget on the Sidebar to enter!

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews to share new additions to our library.  Click here to learn more about it.

New Arrivals at the Café:

Cold  Burn of Magic

No One Like You

Dark Heir

Force of Attraction

The Shattered Court

A Night Divided

Royally Ever After

My Japanese Husband (still) Thinks I’m Crazy

A great big thanks to the publishers for their continued support!

What did you get? Please leave links and share!

 Subscribe in a reader

The post The Sunday Post and Stacking the Shelves–It’s March! appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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12. Main Antagonist

Hi, my question is regarding about my antagonist, I have here antagonist A who I decide the story's main opposition. But somehow I tempted to an idea to

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13. What have you got lined up in the coming weeks and months?

Where is Jon - compressed


Aside from two days of Fun with Fiction workshops at Millington Elementary School, and my teaching gig at the GCU, I haven't done any speaking events so far this year.

I do have a couple of talks lined up,
and I'll certainly be attending some writing group meetings, but for the most part, I'm keeping my head down, having a great time working on major revisions for Abraham Lincoln Stole my Homework and the outline/first draft of Dead Doris (also middle grade).

Here are some of the talks and events I'll be giving during the coming months:

2015 SPRING SEMESTER  
EN215: Creative Writing
Georgian Court University
Lakewood, NJ


2015 APRIL 1st (Weds)   Autism in the Family (7pm - 8:30pm)
Speaking on the Spectrum (SPotS)
Camden County Library (South County Regional Branch) 35 Cooper Folly Road, Atco, NJ 08004

2014 APRIL 26th (Sun) Author Lunch

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14. Empty Mind

"Make an empty space in any corner of your mind, and creativity will instantly fill it."--Dee Hock "Once you are empty then there is no barrier for the divine to enter in you." - Osho It may sound like a contradiction to try to empty your mind when you write. After all, if your mind is “empty,” how can you possibly find the words and images you need to set down on paper? But I’d like to

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15. Swing Sisters: The Story of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm by Karen Deans, illustrated by Joe Cepeda

It's Women's History Month and this year's theme is Weaving the Stories of Women's Lives, so I thought I would begin the month with a new picture book for older readers that introduces them to the remarkable International Sweethearts of Rhythm.

Shortly after I began this blog, I reviewed a wonderful middle grade book by Marilyn Nelson called  Sweethearts of Rhythm: The Story of the Greatest All-Girl Swing Band in the World.   But where Nelson's book covers the kind of music and the places where the Sweethearts played, Swing Sisters begins at the beginning.

In 1909, near Jackson, Mississippi a school/orphanage called Piney Woods Country Life School was started by Dr. Laurence Clifton Jones for African American girls.

The girls were educated, housed, clothed and fed and in return they all did chores to help keep things running smoothly and well.  In 1939, Dr. Jones started a band that he called the Sweethearts with some musically talented girls to help raise money for the school.  The music they played was called swing or big band music, by either name it was Jazz and people couldn't get enough of it.

Dean describes how the girls stayed together after leaving Piney Woods, hoping to make a living as musicians.  They would live, sleep, eat and play music, traveling around from gig to gig in a bus they called Big Bertha.  Band members came and went, and before long the band was no longer made up of only African American women, but included many races and nationalities.  As a result, they decided to call themselves the International Sweethearts of Rhythm.

But while the band hit the big time, they still didn't get paid as much as their male counterparts nor were they taken as seriously, no matter how good they were.  Not only that, Dean points out, but in the Jim Crow south, because they were interracial now, traveling and performing became risky and she includes some of those scary, dangerous incidents they faced.

In 1945, as World War II was winding down, the Sweethearts found themselves on a USO tour thanks to a letter writing campaign by African American soldiers.  But sadly, the Sweethearts disbanded after the war and the members went their separate ways.

Dean does an excellent job of introducing the Sweethearts to her young readers and the difficulties an all-women's interracial band faced back in the 1940s balancing it with positive events and the strong bonds of friendship among all the members.

Cepeda's colorful acrylic and oil painted illustrations match the energy of the music the Sweethearts played with a bright rainbow palette of greens, pinks, purples, yellows, blues and orange.

So many wonderful books are coming out now introducing young readers to some of the greatest artists and musicians of the 20th century and this book is such a welcome addition.

This book is recommended for readers age 7+
This book was bought for my personal library

You can see for yourself just how good the Sweethearts were in their heyday:

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16. super librarian poster - in welsh!

Remember this sign? I've had so many people spot it in libraries around Britain and abroad.



And I've had requests to translate it into Welsh, so with the linguistic help of Bob Miles & friends, here's a version that you can download and print. If you know anyone who would like it, please let them know! I'm not asking for any money for it, but if you could leave a note in the comments here to let me know who you are and where you're using it, I'd love to know!



Click here to download in colour as an A3 PDF, and here as an A4 PDF.

I've also created a black and white version if you'd like to colour it yourself or have kids in the library colour it for you:



Click here to download in black & white as an A3 PDF, and here as an A4 PDF.

And here's the version in English, which you can download from my earlier blog post. Thanks to all the great feedback from Wales about last year's Mythical Maze themed Summer Reading Challenge!



Keep up the work, fabulous librarians! Your training and skills at connecting kids with reading are a backbone of our society and we think you're awesome. We hope governments and councils everywhere comes to see things the same way.

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17. Alethea Kontis, author of DEAREST, on being inspired by actors and their characters

DEAREST was released a few weeks ago, and it is Alethea Kontis's third book of The Woodcutter Sisters, her series that weaves together various fairy tales. Alethea's publisher has generously provided a copy of DEAREST for one lucky winner, so make sure to enter below.

So, Alethea, what is your favorite thing about DEAREST?

When I was 27, someone I cared about deeply committed suicide. In Dearest, I brought him back to life. That person was Jonathan Brandis. 

YES, it was a schoolgirl crush of the first water, an unrequited friendship over which I spent countless hours of my teenage youth daydreaming. But when I got the news that he'd killed himself...it hit me like a truck. I was actually surprised at how intense my reaction was. We were the same age. I had already begun to blossom into my strange and beautiful life. It was not out of the realm of possibility that we might meet one day, and wouldn't I have a story to tell him! Only now we never would. 

When Mr. Eko (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) died on the television show Lost, I was so upset that I immediately wrote him into the book I was working on at the time...and thus the character of Jolicoeur sprang forth into Enchanted fully formed. Who said I couldn't do the same for Jonathan? From this beautiful, sad, innocent, unrealized affection, came the character of Tristan Swan. While I was at it, I mentally cast the roles of Tristan's brothers, using some other star crushes of my youth. For instance: Sebastian is absolutely Noah Hathaway. I actually met Noah at Dragon Con back in 2003. I told him this fun story about Atreyu and this naming game my little sister and I used to play on long road trips. I am sure he still remembers me. 

What was your inspiration for writing DEAREST?

The "base note" fairy tale of Dearest is Hans Christian Andersen's The Wild Swans. Followed closely by The Goose Girl, Swan Lake, Tristan & Isolde, and Robert San Souci's A Weave of Words. 

What scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

The hardest scene for me is always the "kill the bad guy" scene, because I never plot it out in advance. I know it needs to happen, but once I get there I have to think to myself, "Okay...now where are we and what have we got to make this happen?" It makes me feel a lot like Danny Ocean planning a heist on the fly. 

I do rather love the Ladyhawke-type scene at the end of Chapter 3...no spoilers, but that is the scene I read out loud when I'm on book tour. It gets a fabulous response. When I finish I snap the book shut and say, "Don't worry. Buttercup does not get eaten by the sharks at this time," just like the grandfather does in The Princess Bride. (The book, not the movie. READ THE BOOK.)

I also love the scene where a certain person shows up at the end of Chapter 15. He did not originally show up there in the first draft of the manuscript, but I caught a flaw in my logic during the revision and POOF! There he was and it changed everything else, all the way to the end. You know how authors say, "This character just showed up and started talking in their voice and I couldn't do anything but go with it"? It's a rare occurrence for me, but that's exactly what happened here. Like magic. 

What book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or visa versa?

The Darkangel Trilogy by Meredith Ann Pierce. Beauty, Deerskin, and The Blue Sword, by Robin McKinley. Howl's Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones. Tamora Pierce's Alanna series. Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain. And anything Sharon Shinn wrote set in the world of Samaria.  

How long did you work on DEAREST?

One year. Most of the writing was done in that last few months, but it was SO nice to have the whole year to fully develop the characters and work out the plot devices. I was forced to write Hero in only a few months, so having a full year for Dearest was positively blissful. 

What did this book teach you about writing or about yourself?

That I really wish I had a year to write every book! But even then, the writing doesn't get done unless I sit my butt in that chair and do it. 

What do you hope readers will take away from DEAREST?

My hope for the whole Woodcutter series is that it inspires people of all ages to read (or re-read) the original Grimm, Andersen, Lang, and Perrault fairy tales, as well as all the other classic fantasy literature I reference in my books. Disney is a great storyteller, but I feel we lose much by letting our children believe that Disney invented fairy tales. 

How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?

I was born into a family of storytellers. I started reading when I was three. I started writing around the age of eight, mostly poetry. I wrote tons of poetry and short stories and essays and everything else. I started my first novel at the age of eleven (see Wattpad), but though I rewrote it in high school, I never finished it. I only finished one novel before Enchanted (which was originally published as a short story called "Sunday" in Realms of Fantasy magazine). 

But Enchanted was not the first book I sold. That book was AlphaOops: The Day Z Went First, which I wrote in eight hours and emailed to a friend who worked in the book industry. She then forwarded it to a friend of hers, and a few months later I received a surprise call from the head editor of Candlewick Press, enthusiastically telling me that the art director had read my story out loud to the entire department and they were all cracking up and could they PLEASEPLEASEPLEASE publish it?!? (I said yes.)

Was there an AHA! moment along your road to publication where something suddenly sank in and you felt you had the key to writing a novel? What was it?

I've had a couple of those AHA! Moments. The first, and biggest, came when I was about nine years old...after I wrote a poem in school called "Friendship." The world CLICKED and I knew--KNEW--I was a writer. I announced to my parents that if the whole acting thing didn't pan out (I had just starred in an 8-part miniseries on our local PBS affiliate) that I would fall back on writing. My parents didn't care for that statement...which is why I have a degree in Chemistry. 

The second biggest AHA! moment was when I working on "Sunday" as a short story. The world just kept getting bigger and bigger in my head. I'd had yet another epiphany while driving to my little sister's house in Charleston for Spoleto opening weekend, at which point I had to make a deal with myself. I was allowed to leave all these brilliant new details out of my short story, so long as I immediately turned the story into a novel when I was finished. That was one promise to myself that I was very happy to keep. 

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

I prefer silence and a comfy chaise lounge, but I will write anywhere, anytime, on anything (I have multiple scenes on Starbucks receipts and poems scribbled on the back covers of comic book digests to prove it). Here's my typical writing routine:
Step 1: Sit down with hot coffee/tea, glass of water, and laptop. 
Step 2: Write until coffee/tea gets cold. 
Step 3: Heat up coffee/tea in microwave. 
Step 4: Repeat. 
It's very glamorous, I tell you. 

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

Be Kind. 
Be Patient. 
Be Stubborn. 

What are you working on now?

That is SUCH a dangerous question to ask me. Let's see...right now I'm editing the newest Fairy Tale Rant video and waiting to hear back from Janet Lee about the release date of our Diary of a Mad Scientist Garden Gnome. I'm working on chapter six of Trixter, a Trix novella that runs parallel to the Woodcutter sisters novels. I'm plotting out Book Four of the Woodcutter Sisters (Thieftess), and revising the first of a trilogy of New Adult short contemporary romance novels set in Sand Point, Florida. GAH, as Sophie Hatter says. There need to be more hours in the day!

ABOUT THE BOOK

Dearest
by Alethea Kontis
Hardcover
HMH Books for Young Readers
Released 2/3/2015

In her third book about the delightful Woodcutter sisters, Alethea Kontis masterfully weaves "The Wild Swans," "The Goose Girl," and a few other fine-feathered fairy tales into a magical, romantic companion novel to Enchanted and Hero.

Readers met the Woodcutter sisters (named after the days of the week) in Enchanted and Hero. In this delightful third book, Alethea Kontis weaves together some fine-feathered fairy tales to focus on Friday Woodcutter, the kind and loving seamstress. When Friday stumbles upon seven sleeping brothers in her sister Sunday's palace, she takes one look at Tristan and knows he's her future. But the brothers are cursed to be swans by day. Can Friday's unique magic somehow break the spell?

Purchase Dearest at Amazon
Purchase Dearest at IndieBound
View Dearest on Goodreads


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

New York Times bestselling author Alethea Kontis is a princess, a fairy godmother, and a geek. She’s known for screwing up the alphabet, scolding vampire hunters, and ranting about fairy tales on YouTube.

Her published works include: The Wonderland Alphabet (with Janet K. Lee), Diary of a Mad Scientist Garden Gnome (with Janet K. Lee), the AlphaOops series (with Bob Kolar), the Woodcutter Sisters fairy tale series, and The Dark-Hunter Companion (with Sherrilyn Kenyon). Her short fiction, essays, and poetry have appeared in a myriad of anthologies and magazines.

Her YA fairy tale novel, Enchanted, won the Gelett Burgess Children’s Book Award in 2012 and the Garden State Teen Book Award i 2015. Enchanted was nominated for the Audie Award in 2013, and was selected for World Book Night in 2014. Both Enchanted and its sequel, Hero, were nominated for the Andre Norton Award.

Born in Burlington, Vermont, Alethea currently lives and writes in Florida, on the Space Coast. She makes the best baklava you’ve ever tasted and sleeps with a teddy bear named Charlie.You can find Princess Alethea online at: www.aletheakontis.com.

GIVEAWAY


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18. Fish House


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19. Democracy is about more than a vote: politics and brand management

With a General Election rapidly approaching in the UK, it’s easy to get locked into a set of perennial debates concerning electoral registration, voter turnout and candidate selection. In the contemporary climate these are clearly important issues given the shift to individual voter registration, evidence of high levels of electoral disengagement and the general decline in party memberships (a trend bucked by UKIP, the Greens, and the Scottish National Party in recent months).

The post Democracy is about more than a vote: politics and brand management appeared first on OUPblog.

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20. Patalosh Meaning

What is the meaning of Patalosh? In Taloshian, the word Patalosh is used to wish someone happiness.

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21. forward...launch!

As announced on Friday, I'm embarking tomorrow on a birthday month poetry challenge inspired by fellow Piscean Laura Shovan's February Poetry Projects (if you haven't, check out three years' worth here, here and here).

I got to thinking about the word "MARCH"  and all the other great words that end in -CH.  I realized that I have a particular fondness for words that end in -ch; they show up in my poems again and again.  So I'll be stretCHing myself to post five -CH poems weekly throughout March.  I'm allowed one previously published per week, but most will be brand-new.

Please join me in this CHallenge, poetry friends!  If you can't write with me every day, maybe you'll share your one or two per week, or your five-in-a-row, or your favorite poem by another author including the -CH word of the day....I welcome your participation, however you choose to do it!

I'll post my poem each evening, and you can send me yours by email or by leaving it in the comments for that post.  I'll round up as we go and on Sunday mornings, and at the end of the month there will be a PRIZE for the "StretCHiest MarCHer" who contributes the most poems!

To get us started, here's a poem from my first book, Squeeze: Poems from a Juicy Universe (2005).  I'm hoping this will encourage the crocuses that I know are out there straining against two layers of frozen snow!


Launch

Crocuses are rocketing
            inch by inch
                   out of the crumbled earth

the yellows aim for the sun
the purples push          toward deep space

         and inside
little astronauts in orange suits
    cock their ruffled helmets
                                toward spring

Heidi Mordhorst
all rights reserved

And here is the collection of -CH words, one muscular verb for eaCH weekday of MarCH, that I'll be using to enriCH my little patCH of the Kidlitosphere with as muCH poetry as I can.  It should be a cinCh, but if I find I'm parCHed of poems and miss a day, then ouCH--but I'll reaCH in and try again.   Don't believe me?  Just watCH!

Forward...MarCH CHallenge: Dates and Words

2 march
3 stretch
4 twitch
5 punch
6 fetch

 9 preach
10 sketch
11 smooch
12 pitch
13 arch

16 inch
17 lurch
18 botch
19 lunch
20 hatch

23 clutch
24 crouch
25 snatch
26 perch
27 quench

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22. MARCH ADNESS, Round 1, Day 1


Yes, it's time for March Adness. 
64 ads competing for the top prize:
an appearance in a major publication.

We have four brackets.
The Blog Bracket (ads about EE and his blog)
The Book Bracket (ads for EE's books)
The Product Bracket (stuff EE endorses or sells)
The Miscellaneous Bracket (other ads)

On each of the next eight days I'll post half of a bracket.
Vote for your faves in the comments. 
Use any criteria you wish.
I won't actually post your votes, 
as they might influence later voters, but I will compile them.
Once we're down to 32 ads, we'll start round 2.
Voting remains open on all games
until the entire round is complete.
Click on ads to enlarge them.



"BLOG" BRACKET (Top Half)

Game 1: Bubble Bath vs Magic Lamp





Game 2: Joyous Woman vs. Big Ben





Game 3: Mime Trio Vs. Water Cooler





Game 4: Smitten Kitten Vs. Sexy Dude




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23. John C. Ford, author of THE CIPHER, on being inspired by a news article


John C. Ford joins us with his techno-thriller THE CIPHER, which taps into current concerns about internet privacy.

John, please tell us about your inspiration for writing THE CIPHER.

I read a news article about a teenage boy who may have solved a math riddle known as the Riemann Hypothesis.  I knew nothing about it at the time, but the article said that the Riemann Hypothesis--which dates back to the 1850s--had important implications for modern computer encryption systems.  I couldn't believe that a math problem that was over 150 years ago could be the key to modern computer security, but as I researched more, I discovered that it is absolutely vital to encryption.  The boy's solution turned out to be a false alarm.  But then I wondered:  what if he HAD solved it, and what if that solution gave him the ability to see any encrypted material?  I was off and running with The Cipher . . . .

What scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

The opening of the book was difficult to write -- it's a prologue-type scene with an older character, which you realize the importance of later on.  I'm really pleased with the way that turned out, and I think it sets the right tone for the story to come.  Also, there's a one scene in which the two main characters, Smiles and Melanie, go out to eat and end up getting in a fight.  They are both quite vulnerable at that moment in the story, each of them feeling hurt for different reasons.  Something about that scene just worked for me, and if I had to pick one of my favorites that would be it.

What book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or visa versa?

I think The Cipher would appeal to anyone who likes the Alex Rider stories, or Cory Doctorow's Little Brother.  Fans of Ally Carter's Gallagher Girls or Heist Society books might enjoy it, too.  I hope anyone who likes thrillers or mysteries will give it a chance.

What do you hope readers will take away from THE CIPHER?

When you write a book about codes and encryption, I think the expectation is to say that you hope readers appreciate the importance of math, etc., etc.  Which, for the record, I do.  But this is not a math book; it's a thriller written for entertainment.  So I hope they come away having enjoyed the roller coaster ride that the characters went through.  And I particularly hope that they relate in some way to the characters -- the slacker Smiles, the genius Ben, and the "perfect" girl, Melanie.

ABOUT THE BOOK

The Cipher
by John C. Ford
Hardcover
Viking Juvenile
Released 2/24/2015

You think your emails are private?
Your credit card number is secure?
That stock trades, government secrets, and nuclear codes are safe?
...th1nk aga1n.

Robert “Smiles” Smylie is not a genius. He feels like he’s surrounded by them, though, from his software mogul dad to his brainy girlfriend to his oddball neighbor Ben, a math prodigy. When Ben cracks an ancient, real-life riddle central to modern data encryption systems, he suddenly holds the power to unlock every electronic secret in the world—and Smiles finally has a chance to prove his own worth.

Smiles hatches a plan to protect Ben from the government agents who will stop at nothing to get their hands on his discovery. But as he races from a Connecticut casino to the streets of Boston, enlisting the help of an alluring girl, Smiles comes to realize the most explosive secrets don’t lie between the covers of Ben’s notebook—they’re buried in his own past.

Eerily close to reality and full of shocking twists, this techno-thriller reveals how easily the private can become public, and just how dangerous it can be to encrypt our personal histories.

Purchase The Cipher at Amazon
Purchase The Cipher at IndieBound
View The Cipher on Goodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John C. Ford (johncfordbooks.com and @fordjohnc) is the author of The Morgue and Me, a YA take on the classic detective novel that was nominated for an Edgar Award and short-listed for five different state teen book awards. A former litigator who practiced in the nation's capital, he eventually returned to his love of writing fiction, and to his hometown outside Detroit, Michigan.

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24. Meet Inspector Barnaby

The Killings At Badger's Drift. (Inspector Barnaby #1) Caroline Graham. 1987/2005. Felony & Mayhem. 272 pages. [Source: Library]

I'm so glad I checked out The Killings at Badger's Drift on a whim!!! It's always a good thing to browse in the library!

The Killings at Badger's Drift is the first book in the Inspector Barnaby mystery series. Readers meet Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby and Sergeant Troy (his assistant). I definitely liked Inspector Barnaby!!!

The first character readers meet is Miss Emily Simpson, a spinster who stumbles upon something she shouldn't see in the woods. That knowledge will lead to her death...readers however are not told exactly what she saw--or WHO she saw...leaving plenty of mystery and suspense for the rest of the book.

Readers next meet another spinster, Miss Lucy Bellringer, Miss Simpson's best, best friend. She is convinced that her friend was MURDERED. And she is seeking out Inspector Barnaby. The doctor may not be convinced that there was a crime, but, she is out to convince Barnaby and Troy to investigate and see for themselves. (They do take the case).

Plenty of characters are introduced and described throughout the book, throughout the investigation. Most, if not all, are potential suspects. Some seem more obvious than others. But. All are flawed in one way or another...making it just plausible enough that they could be guilty...

I definitely enjoyed this one. It was a quick read. I definitely HAD to know what happened.

Death of A Hollow Man. (Inspector Barnaby #2) Caroline Graham. 1989/2006. Felony & Mayhem. 306 pages. [Source: Library]

Death of a Hollow Man is the second book in the Inspector Barnaby series by Caroline Graham. I definitely liked it, even though I had some reservations. Why? Well, I know I'm in the minority, but, I prefer my fiction to be on the clean side. It's not necessarily the content so much as the description involved--if that makes sense. That being said, I liked this one. I never once seriously thought of putting it aside.

Death of a Hollow Man is set in a small-town theatre world. Most of the characters--suspects and victim--are actors for their local theatre. (Inspector Barnaby's wife is among the actors--though not the list of suspects.) Amadeus. That is what they'll be performing. Over half the book occurs BEFORE the crime, setting the stage for the oh-so-dramatic on-stage murder. Lest you think I'm spoiling things dreadfully, it's mentioned on the jacket copy. I won't be mentioning WHO the victim is OR who the top suspects are. That would definitely be spoilerish. After all, I like my mysteries to stay mysteries.

I liked the writing for the most part. There are SO many characters. Some I liked, some I didn't like at all.

My library only has one more book in this series. But I've decided to start watching Midsomer Murders for more Inspector Barnaby fun.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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25. Maya Rock, author of SCRIPTED, on the agony and ecstasy of writing

Maya Rock's thriller SCRIPTED was released a few weeks ago and explores the darkness lurking in Reality TV.

Maya, what scene in SCRIPTED was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

Ugh, the um, love scene with Callen and Nettie towards the end. It wasn’t the most technically difficult, but I was way too self-conscious the whole time. No, I’m not the most proud of it. I think I’m too close to the manuscript right now to have one I’m most proud of, but I always had a certain comfort level with scenes with Lia in them. I also really always was fond of the moment in the party scene when Nettie leaves for the beach (and Callen). There are probably more little moments that I’m proud of than scenes.

What did this book teach you about writing or about yourself?

Oh my gosh. So much!!! And it continues to do so. Well, I felt I went into this book fairly humble, but it turns out I had a whole lot more humbling to go. First, I felt that my skills as an editor were almost completely nontransferable to my own writing. That was frustrating because I felt I was a confident editor and an insecure writer (are there any other kinds?)  I thought it taught me to have a thicker skin about my writing because I had been intensely shy about showing people my work and then had to show many drafts to my editor. 

What do you hope readers will take away from SCRIPTED?

Mostly I hope they have fun reading it. I also hope they like the characters.

How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?

It was haphazard. I wrote a manuscript awhile ago, but never sought to get it published. Then six years later, I wrote another one, and it got a publisher fairly quickly, but was in rewrites for awhile (four years). What to say except that everything they say about writing, the agony and the ecstasy, I have experienced. 

ABOUT THE BOOK

Scripted
by Maya Rock
Hardcover
Putnam Juvenile
Released 2/5/2015

Reality TV has a dark future in this thought-provoking thriller.

To the people suffering on the war-torn mainland, Bliss Island seems like an idyllic place. And it is: except for the fact that the island is a set, and the islanders’ lives are a performance. They’re the stars of a hit TV show, Blissful Days—Characters are adored by mainland viewers, yet in constant danger of being cut if their ratings dip too low. And no one really knows what happens to cut Characters.

Nettie Starling knows she’s been given the chance of a lifetime when a producer offers suggestions to help her improve her mediocre ratings—especially when those suggestions involve making a move on the boy she’s been in love with for years. But she'll soon have to decide how far she's willing to go to keep the cameras fixed on her. . . especially when she learns what could happen to her if she doesn't.

Purchase Scripted at Amazon
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Maya RockMaya Rock lives in New York, where she freelance writes and edits and can be found at karaoke, art galleries, parks, and pizzerias when not in front of a screen. Scripted is her first novel. You can learn more about her and her work at www.maya-rock.com.

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