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26. Spotlight and Giveaway: Jagged by Kristen Ashley

Jagged is releasing in paperback, so I have a treat for you!  Check out the excerpt, and then enter the awesome giveaway below!

JAGGED by Kristen Ashley (September 30, 2014; Forever Mass Market; $7.00)

An old flame rekindled . . .
Zara Cinders always knew Ham Reece was the one, but he wasn’t interested in settling down. When she found someone who was, Ham walked out of her life. Three years later, Zara’s lost her business, her marriage, and she’s barely getting by in a tiny apartment on the wrong side of the tracks. As soon as Ham hears about Zara’s plight, he’s on her doorstep offering her a lifeline. Now, it will take every ounce of will power she possesses to resist all that he offers.

Ham was always a traveling man, never one to settle down in one town, with one woman, for more time than absolutely necessary. But Ham’s faced his own demons, and he’s learned a lot. About himself, and about the life he knows he’s meant to live. So when he hears that Zara’s having a rough time, he wants to be the one to help. In fact, he wants to do more than that for Zara. A lot more. But first, he must prove to Zara that he’s a changed man.

Buy Links:






About the author:

Kristen Ashley grew up in Brownsburg, Indiana, and has lived in Denver, Colorado, and the West Country of England. Thus she has been blessed to have friends and family around the globe. Her posse is loopy (to say the least) but loopy is good when you want to write. Kristen was raised in a house with a large and multigenerational family. They lived on a very small farm in a small town in the heartland, and Kristen grew up listening to the strains of Glenn Miller, The Everly Brothers, REO Speedwagon, and Whitesnake. Needless to say, growing up in a house full of music and love was a good way to grow up.  And as she keeps growing up, it keeps getting better.

Social Media Links:





“You’ve been waiting for me to come to you?”

“Babe, you’re my Zara, my cookie, so fuck yeah, I’ve been bidin’ my time, givin’ you space to sort your head out, but waitin’ to get you back, as in”—his hand slid up to cup my jaw and his face dipped closer—“back.”

Was he serious? Two months…no seven, if you counted when he came back after hatchet man got to him, I’d been in misery and he’d been waiting to get me back?

I felt my eyes narrow.

“Last night, you rolled off me and didn’t say a word about a chat before you went to the bathroom,” I reminded him.

“Zara, what we shared, so good, so hot, so close, us bein’ back to us, didn’t feel I needed to say a word,” he replied.

Was he for real? “Back to us” and he didn’t feel he needed to say a word?

“Well, you did,” I stated.

“I see that now,” he returned.

Okay, then, time for a different subject.

“You said you didn’t want my body,” I accused.

“I lied, Zara. Fuck, when have I ever not wanted in there?” he asked, a question that had one answer, that being never. But he didn’t give me the chance to give that answer, he kept talking. “I would have said anything to get you out of that shithole, get you safe, and get you with me.”

“You lied?” I asked.

“I lied,” Ham answered.

“Lied?” My voice was getting higher.

“Asked and answered, darlin’,” he clipped.

“So you thought it was a good idea to lie,” I noted unhappily.

“Babe, I came to you, we almost instantly got up in each other’s shit. You had a lot you were dealin’ with and one of those things didn’t need to be me. You weren’t lettin’ anyone do anything for you. You needed time to deal. I wanted you with me. I did what I had to do to give you that and make that happen for me.”

My head gave a jerk as what he said tardily hit me.

“You wanted me with you?”

He was beginning to look impatient.

“You’ve known me years. I ever go back?” he asked.

“Go back to what?”

“Go back anywhere.”


“I don’t go back,” he declared.

“I don’t get—”

“Now I’m back in Gnaw Bone, back at The Dog, babe, why do you think that is?”

I didn’t speak. I was back to staring.

Because I knew why I wanted that to be.

I just rarely got what I wanted.

Then Graham Reece finally gave me what I wanted.

“Because you’re here.”

“Holy shit,” I whispered.

He stopped looking impatient, his eyes warmed, his face went soft, and his lips twitched.

But, “Yeah,” was all he said.


One winner gets a copy of JAGGED with a signed bookplate plus a Vera Bradley wristlet. Five winners get a copy of the book with signed bookplate. This giveaway runs through October 21 and is open to US/Canada only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The post Spotlight and Giveaway: Jagged by Kristen Ashley appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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27. Compulsion for Writing Party and Prize-Fest with Giveaway of EIGHT Amazing YA Books, Necklace, Tote Bag and more . . .

It’s a VERY special month here at Adventures, and we’re beyond thrilled to be able to share it with the writers who’ve been with us since the beginning, and with the new writers and readers who have joined us along the journey. And it really is a journey! Four years ago, I started this blog with a friend as we started to think about getting our books published. In less than a month, on October 28th, COMPULSION will finally emerge into the world as a published really-truly book. There are lots of fun things in store to celebrate the kick off, but wait . . . There’s even MORE to celebrate.

Our very own Lisa Gail Green has a fabulous new agent, and a slew of incredibly awesome new book deals, and our lovely Erin Cashman is brewing some wonderful news as well!

In the next couple of weeks, they are going to tell you their stories, and I’m going to tell you mine. What stories you ask? The stories of how we almost quit writing and ended up turning it around.

Have you ever felt like that? Like you were DONE? You just couldn’t face rejection or take coming “close" any more? Have you thought about giving up?

We all have! I did. Lisa did. Erin did.

But we kept going because we loved to write. You could almost say we had a Compulsion for Writing? :D

We’d love to hear about YOUR Compulsion for Writing. We want you to tell us your stories, and we’re going to host a giveaway and a celebration of persistence.

Here’s how it’s going to work.

1.) You write your story — a paragraph, a page, whatever you want — about how your Compulsion for Writing kept you going at a time when you got discouraged and thought about quitting.


2) You write about how to feed your Compulsion for Writing and keep the joy through the hard times.

3) Post what you've written on your Blog, Pinterest, Tumblr or Facebook Page and share it to the contest event page on Facebook, or write it directly on the Compulsion for Writing Party and Prize-Fest event page.

4) Get everyone you know to “Like" the Compulsion for Writing Page and their favorite posts people have shared there. Here's a nifty banner you can use to help spread the word!

We’ll review the posts with the greatest number of "likes" and Lisa, Erin, and I will each pick winners. We’ll send the winners special gift packs, but we’ll also each provide half-hour long phone calls to discuss your writing in general, your book or WIP, querying, agents, the book business, publishing, promotion and marketing, our books, social media, or whatever else you want to talk about.

And, because sometimes all it takes is a bit of a push, but the people who need the biggest push are often the ones who don’t get it by querying or by entering contests, we’ll have some agent critiques for a few lucky winners, too.

On 10/21/28 at 6:00 PM eastern, we will join everyone for a live Facebook Party where we can all trade stories and answer questions. That’s also when we’ll announce the winners and throw in a few extra and spectacular live giveaways as well! So mark your calendars.

Oh, and for those who are voting on stories? We'll add giveaways as we go along, and we'll announce winners for those on the 22nd, too. The first will be posted on the Facebook page later today. Stop by and check it out. : )

More details are posted on the Facebook page, and stay tuned for our stories and prize packages coming in the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, here’s a bit of photo inspiration for what can happen if you don’t give up! : ) Last year, I was down at YALLFEST as a fan with some friends. They had stacks and stacks of Justine Magazines with the coolest Teen Read Week feature showcasing some great YA books. And tomorrow, the Justine Teen Read Week issue hits the stands, and guess what's in it?

And did I mention that Melissa Marr and I happen to be doing an event together to kick off the Compelling Reads Tour? That's total coincidence, but it's another example of what can happen.

It CAN happen. You just have to believe! (And be compelled to write!)

And now for the first of the HUGE giveaways! : ) 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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28. One Thing Stolen: the cover reveal

So much love and thought and artistry has gone into the cover for the Florence novel that will be released next April from Chronicle Books. My deep thanks to everyone who read this story, who cared about its characters, who thought out loud about every option, and who put their art and magical way of seeing on the page. Particular thanks to Kristine Brogno of Chronicle Books, whose work is so wholly representative of the story itself, described below. And thanks, as ever, to Tamra Tuller, my editor, who saw this project through with conviction and heart. Thanks, finally, to my Penn students—Katie Goldrath and Maggie Ercolani—who inspired two primary characters in this novel, and who inspire me, still, and to Gregory Djanikian, who is in these pages, too.

Something is not right with Nadia Cara.

She’s become a thief. She has secrets. And when she tries to speak, the words seem far away. After her professor father brings her family to live in Florence, Italy, Nadia finds herself trapped by her own obsessions and following the trail of an elusive Italian boy whom no one but herself has seen. While her father researches a 1966 flood that nearly destroyed Florence, Nadia wonders if she herself can be rescued—or if she will disappear.

Set against the backdrop of a glimmering city, One Thing Stolen is an exploration of obsession, art, and a rare neurological disorder. It is about language and beauty, imagining and knowing, and the deep salvation of love.

One Thing Stolen was born of Beth Kephart’s obsession with birds, nests, rivers, and floods, as well as her deep curiosity about the mysteries of the human mind. It was in Florence, Italy, among winding streets and fearless artisans, that she learned the truth about the devastating flood of 1966, met a few of the Mud Angels who helped restore the city fifty years ago, and began to follow the trail of a story about tragedy and hope.

Beth is the award-winning author of nineteen books for readers of all ages, including You Are My Only, Small Damages, Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir, and Going Over. She also teaches creative nonfiction at the University of Pennsylvania.

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29. The Garbage Truck

On Mondays when I babysit,
There's one thing that's a certain hit - 
A visit from the garbage truck
(Unless the need for naptime's struck).

We hear the truck as it draws near
And Henry makes it very clear
We'd better get ourselves outside.
(Such passion cannot be denied.)

We race out to the driveway's end
To greet our Monday morning friend.
The worker waves a friendly hi
But Henry's serious and shy.

He watches, though, with great intent
And gazes at me, quite content.
I understand, though he can't speak,
That we're all set until next week.

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30. Blog Tour: The Young Elites by Marie Lu #TheYoungElites


Hello, YABCers! Today we welcome THE YOUNG ELITES teaser tour to the blog! We're thrilled to be a part of the blog tour and to introduce a character from the novel!  


Ready to meet the new character?

Scroll, YABCers! Scroll!


































Here she is!





Tall, pale and lean, Lucent is known as the Windwalker. Gifted by the blood fever with the ability to mimic the wind, she is a force to be reckoned with. Her arms are covered in dark, swirling lines that perhaps speak to her abilities—she can conjure the wind, from its howls and painful shrieks to its powerful gusts.


About the Book

Some hate us, think us outlaws to hang at the gallows.

Some fear us, think us demons to burn at the stake.

Some worship us, think us children of the gods.

But all know us.


I am tired of being used, hurt, and cast aside. 

Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites. 

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all. 

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen. 

Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her. 

It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt.


b2ap3_thumbnail_Marie-Lu-1.JPGAbout the Author

Marie Lu is the author of the New York Times bestselling Legend series. She spends her spare time reading, drawing, playing Assassin’s Creed, and getting stuck in traffic. She lives in Los Angeles, California, with one boyfriend, one Chihuahua mix, and two Pembroke Welsh corgis.

 Learn More at her Official Website


Twitter | Goodreads | Web | Pre-order Amazon | Pre-order Barnes & Noble | Pre-order IndieBound


Tour Schedule

Follow the teaser tour for character profiles and a brand new excerpt from THE YOUNG ELITES!

September 28: ForeverYoungAdult.com

September 29: DefectiveGeeks.com

September 30: YABooksCentral.com

October 1: CandacesBookBlog.com

October 2: Parajunkee.com

October 3ALifeBoundbyBooks.Blogspot.com

October 4: Hypable.com


Read More

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At very long last, Dictionaries Out of Order is here. Sort of. 

The ebook is now available, two weeks ahead of the 

hardcopy. I hope you will have a look!

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32. Fall forward - plays take cyber trips

Perhaps it's the result of the ending of summer and the arrival of autumn, but it's play submission mode time. Somehow, the summer heat plus the sun shining down prompts the brain to enter into a state of lethargy, at least it does mine. All this is to say or write that now it's time to actively seek out homes for my literary 'babies."

Before the actual act of hitting the key that will send them off to parts unknown, they've been receiving a once-twice-and more evaluation for any necessary changes or modifications. Frequently, this assessment results in a re-examination of a/some play(s) followed by muttering of bad words, the end result of which is yet more revisions. Some of the plays have been updated to the point where it's difficult to recognize the original story line and conduct an objective assessment as to which version works best.

So where is all this sharing of inner angst and trepidation leading you may well be asking yourself. Came across a competition for a ten-minute play with the focus being "The Urban Jungle." A while back I wrote a piece entitled, "Waiting for Roach" featuring the end result of a meeting up of a young punk-mode adult male and a female senior citizen, which will work perfectly. The play-ette as I call short offerings, has never been submitted anywhere before having waited for the right occasion and right opportunity to share it with the world, or at least with the people running the competition.

In addition, I decided to share one of my favorite plays, "Neighbors" now re-named "The Shrubs" with a theatre. Upon reflection and somewhat interesting, this two-act play started out as a short 10-minute play as many of them do. After years of ignoring it for the most part, I was scanning over some of the file titles and this play jumped out at me. Somehow, in the shorter version, something seemed to be lacking and after reading it through, a story began to develop resulting in a re-working and its development into a full play. In any case, it has left home with my best wishes and hopes not to mention prayers, that others will enjoy the contents as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Meanwhile, my wedding play, "Make Me a Wedding" has also taken a few cyber trips. A comedy, this was my first endeavor in playwriting and my favorite but then I say that about all my plays. It was almost performed a while back but had to be abandoned due to a breakdown in the production. Let's just say that the undertaking was akin to "Noises Off" and leave it at that. To get back to the play, it elicits laughter every time I read it through and I do frequently. Here's hoping.

Last but certainly not least, my second-favorite play, "Gin: an Allegory for Playing the Game of Life" is still seeking new digs as they say. A comedy, the two-act play focuses on the long-time friendship of three women who discuss their lives and those of people their lives touch upon, during their weekly card game. When writing plays, I always envision the actors who would best suit the various roles and today decided that Barbra Streisand, "the" famous singer/actress would be ideal for the role of Becky. Barbra if you're reading this, the role is yours for the taking when it finds a new home.

It all starts with a dream and if you're gonna dream, you have to dream big. Barbra would understand.

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33. On This Day: September 30 Meme

What happened:

Lots of battles! Too many, in my opinion. Never mind

1399: Henry IV, the subject of a lot of literature(Three plays by Shakespeare, if you count Richard II, plenty of novels) is proclaimed King of England.

1791: First performance of Mozart's gorgeous opera, The Magic Flute. There's also a Marion Zimmer Bradley novel inspired by it.  Being MZB, of course, she had to be terribly serious about it. Can't recall the title.

1955: Death of young actor James Dean, at the start of a promising career. Jack Dann's novel, The Rebel, is an alternative universe tale in which he survived.


1913 Screenwriter Bill Walsh. Never heard of him? Well, if you saw Walt Disney movies in your childhood, you've probably seen at least one of his films. The Absent-Minded Professor and its sequel, Son Of Flubber. Mary Poppins. The Love Bug. Bedknobs And Broomsticks. And more.

1924 Truman Capote. I bet you've heard of him, even if you've never read his work. I have just learned that he was not only a childhood friend of Harper Lee, he was the inspiration for the character of Dill in To Kill A Mockingbird and some of his experiences were written into the novel.

There are some writers, including a number of spec fic writers but I haven't heard of them, so I'll add one death, in 1987, Alfred Bester, a big name spec fic writer, who was honoured in Babylon 5, by having a villain named after him, the Psi-Cop Alfred Bester. The telepath situation in the series is similar to that in his fiction.

And today, never mind what the Blogger date says, is International Blasphemy Day, when you are encouraged to go and say something rude about religion! :-)

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34. The strange things children’s writers do – Lari Don

Yesterday, I helped dress a dragon in a car park.

The dragonmobile, at Pirniehall Primary in Edinburgh

But it’s not the strangest thing I’ve done as a children’s writer.

I've recce'd a castle, going in undercover as a tourist, to discover the best way to steal their most famous artefact.

I've interviewed a vet about how to heal a fairy’s dislocated wing, and a boat builder about how to fit a centaur on a rowing boat.

I've lost half a dozen journalists in a maze. (I guided them out again eventually. Most of them.)

I've told Celtic legends on an iron age hillfort, fairytales in an inner city woodland, and Viking myths in a cave.

And all of these things have been an integral part of my job as a children’s writer. Because writing is not just sitting at a keyboard and tapping out chapters.

The research (chatting to vets about fairy injuries and sneaking about castles) is often as much fun as the writing. And the promotion (dragon dressing and outdoor storytelling) is almost as important as the sitting at my desk imagining.

I suspect that as a children’s writer, you have to be just as imaginative in your research methods and your promotion ideas as you do in your cliffhangers and your characterisations.

But I can’t take credit for the dragon in the carpark. I did create a shiny friendly blue dragon, as one of the main characters in my Fabled Beast series. However, I had moved onto creating other characters in other stories, when my publishers decided to give the Fabled Beasts Chronicles new covers, and announced that they were going to promote the covers with a dragonflight tour.

Then the very talented marketing executive at Floris Books designed a dragon costume for her own car. And she’ll be spending most of the next fortnight driving me round beautiful bits of Scotland and the north of England (yesterday Edinburgh, today Perth, then Aberdeenshire and Penrith, as we get more confident and stretch our wings!) in a car which we dress up as a dragon in the carpark of various primary schools, then invite the children out to ooh and aah at our shiny blue dragon and her shimmering flames, before I go inside to chat with the pupils about cliff-hangers and quests.

So, this week, I’ve already learnt how to put a dragon’s jaws on at speed. And I’ve discovered that if the engine hasn’t cooled down yet, those flames coming down from the bonnet are actually warm!
Very brave Forthview Primary pupils sitting on dragon's flames!

So, yes, I do strange things. But I have fun! And I hope that my enjoyment comes across in my books, and in my author events.

I don’t think the adventures I create would be nearly as interesting without the odd conversations I have while I’m researching them, or the weird things I do to promote them.

So – what do you think? Should I just be sensible and stay indoors writing? Or is a little bit of weird now and then an effective way to make books, reading and writing more exciting for children?

Lari Don is the award-winning author of 22 books for all ages, including a teen thriller, fantasy novels for 8 – 12s, picture books, retellings of traditional tales and novellas for reluctant readers. 

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By now, if you’re even peripherally aware of literary Twitter-land, you’re up to speed of the latest mess involving book blogger Ed Champion.

Last June, Champion published a vile, 11,000 word takedown of Emily Gould and the “middling Millenials,” which was less a review of Gould’s first novel, FRIENDSHIP, than a review of Gould herself.

It was not a good review. Champion reduced Gould to an animal, describing her as “a dim bulb,” “a torrid hoyden hopped up on spite,” and, most infamously, a “minx” with her “head so deeply deposited up her own slimy passage, it’s often hard to see the sunshine.”

The response was loud and almost unanimous. Champion, the public agreed, had gone too far. He threatened suicide, pledged to go off-line, disappeared for a while, then came back and appeared to be on good behavior…until late last Thursday, when he unleashed a manic stream of tweets at author and former friend and supporter Porochista Khakpour, threatening to reveal the name of the man who’d allegedly taken nude photos of Khakpour without her consent.

Khakpour tweeted about the threats. Champion published, then quickly deleted the man’s name, and again threatened suicide. Twitter suspended his account. He hasn’t been heard from since …and, again, the Twitter response has been loud, and heartening, with dozens of people coming forward to share their stories, and trying to figure out how to keep this from happening again.

It’s a great illustration of social media doing exactly what social media at its best should do – defending the victims, punishing the wrongdoers, giving people a platform to talk about what they’d suffered and what steps should be taken.

But, while we look at the specifics and the individuals, let’s also consider the general, and the big picture. Ed Champion’s words and actions did not appear in a vacuum. They exist in the context of literary criticism as it is now.

I’m not defending what he wrote or what he did, because it’s indefensible. The minute you threaten someone with the release of personal, private images or information, the minute you start likening a woman to a thing – a bird, a bulb, a minx, whatever – any valid points you might be making are lost. They’re gone. You’re through.

However, Champion’s rants appeared in a continuum – in a climate, and at a moment, where it is acceptable for mainstream critics to conflate characters with their female creators, to review not just books but women, and to find them wanting.

We saw it when Alessandra Stanley clumsily tried to praise television producer Shonda Rhimes, first by calling her an angry black woman and then assuming that all of the characters that bore a superficial resemblance to Rhimes (that would be the black ones) were merely versions of their creator.

In his review of Caitlin Moran’s HOW TO BUILD A GIRL Dwight Garner assumed the book’s heroine was a version of Moran herself, an “uncool girl from the hinterlands” who used pluck and smarts to pull herself up and out. Even in a largely positive review, Garner couldn’t resist swiping at Moran for not being Jennifer Egan or Zadie Smith,the same way James Woods seems powerless to resist telling Donna Tartt that it’s not too late for her to put away her childish things and become "the very different writer she might still choose to become."

In a review of Anya Ulinich’s LENA FINKLE’S MAGIC BARREL, we get author = protagonist again, with Claudia la Rocca noting that Ulinich’s “life on paper bears a striking resemblance” to her heroine’s, and telling us that Finkle is “nothing if not a narcissist,” deluded enough to believe that there’s an audience for a 361-page illustrated exploration of her sex life. The book gets praised, faintly – “it’s a fast read but not a dumb one…pitched toward the same pop culture consumers who are drawn into the best serial shows.”

(Side note: there’s a dissertation, or at least a listicle, to be written about book critics who truly believe that comparing someone’s novel to TV is absolutely positively the most damning insult you could deliver).

Author-as-protagonist showed up again and again in reviews of Gould's FRIENDSHIP, where the working assumption was that the blogger heroine of the book was a slightly-altered version of Gould. This gave reviewers permission to write about Gould’s life, to quote from her blog posts and interviews, not the book, to make it all about her instead of about what she’d created.

And It Happened To Me. In a “close reading” of my work – the kind of critical attention that Salon book critic Laura Miller sneered I somehow believe I “demand” Miller wrote that an “obsession with prestige and exclusion haunts (my) characters” and is mirrored by my own “craving’ for the NYT’s “validation.” She wrote that she “found (her)self praying” that a character “portrayed with…cruelty” wasn’t based on anyone real. She slammed my “fictional alter ego” for “ingratitude and selfishness,” and wrote that Cannie Shapiro, “like Weiner herself” resents all the people they imagine to be looking down on them.” There’s not even a question that Cannie might be fictional. Nor is there any sense that the point of a book review is to review, you know, the book, instead of asking whether or not you’d enjoy hanging out with its heroine and whether you find her likable. Miller’s point wasn’t just that I write bad books and that they’re about bad people, but that I, myself, am ungrateful, selfish and cruel.…and, look out, because she’s got the nine-year-old blog posts to prove it!

If women aren’t really writers, just reporters; if their characters aren’t really characters, just lightly fictionalized version of themselves, it stands to reason that critics review not the books but the women themselves. Female authors cease to exist as people and become merely text, and, once they’re no longer people, they can be dissected, investigated, critiqued, picked over and pulled apart, without fear of consequence. They are fair game. They are things. Shonda Rhimes isn't Shonda Rhimes, she's the Angry Black Woman. Anya Ulinich isn't Anya Ulinich, she is a Great Female Narcissist, and I am a status-obsessed mean girl, and Emily Gould isn't Emily Gould, she is a “snarky little trollop” (this, from an anonymous blog comment quoted in Michiko Kakutani’s review of FRIENDSHIP).

A bad review is a review of a book. As scathing as it was, William Giraldi’s much-discussed review of Alix Ohlin confined itself to the work, not the woman.

Compare that piece to Giraldi’s attack on FIFTY SHADES OF GRAY, which was really a bad review not of the books but of EL James, and, to a lesser but still troubling extent, her readers. Romance as a genre is a “mind-stinging preponderance of crap,” and James is a “charlatan amorist” who doesn’t have a right to her nom de plume. “I’m made distinctly queasy by uttering the sacral American surname when referring to this empress of inanity,” sniffs Giraldi, “so let’s use her real name, Erika Leonard. She who has done so much to help debase our culture should stand revealed.”

Why do critics write book reviews?

John Updike believed that the critic and the writer share a role and social responsibility – “to life people up, not lower them down.” “Thoughtful criticism,” Updike wrote, “is in itself an art and a creative act.”

Daniel Mendelsohn, one of the modern era’s most respected critics, agreed. In “A Critic’s Manifesto,” he wrote that that the critics he read growing up were not “trying to persuade me to actually see this or that performance, buy this or that volume or take in this or that movie... all of these writers above all as teachers, and like all good teachers they taught by example; the example they set, week after week, was to recreate on the page the drama of how they had arrived at their judgments.”

Clearly, there’s a gap between what criticism is supposed to be and what it’s become. Whether it's Giraldi’s take on the “moronic craze” and “drooling enthusiasm” for the FIFTY SHADES OF GRAY books, Michiko Kakutani’s assessment of Gould's heroine as “narcissistic, entitled, self-dramatizing, snide, self-pitying and frequently petty, prideful and envious, “ Miller’s reading of me as resentful and ungrateful and my heroine as “obsessed with prestige and exclusion,” Champion’s calling Gould a “torrid hoyden hopped up on spite” – there’s something else going on.

These are not reviews as art. These are not reviews meant to enrich or enlighten, or steer readers toward or away from a purchase, or to demonstrate or reenact how the critic arrived at his judgment.

These are reviews meant to shame and silence. When William Giraldi writes that E.L. James “she should stand revealed” or Miller tweets her review at me to make sure I saw it, or Ed Champion threatens to release the name of the man who took nude pictures of Khakpour, the intent is the same – I see you for what you really are, and I will reveal you. I will expose you. I will shame you. I will shut you up.

And you know what? It works.

In yesterday’s New York Times, Tara Mohr described a study about performance reviews given to men and women. “Across 248 reviews from 28 companies, managers, whether male or female, gave female employees more negative feedback than they gave male employees. Second, 76 percent of the negative feedback given to women included some kind of personality criticism, such as comments that the woman was “abrasive,” “judgmental” or “strident.” Only two percent of men’s critical reviews included negative personality comments.”

The bottom line? “If a woman wants to do substantive work of any kind, she’s going to be criticized – with comments not just about her work but also about herself,” Mohr wrote. Those comments can have a devastating impact. “Criticism stings for all of us, but women have been socialized to not rock the boat, to be, above all else, likable. By the time a girl reaches adolescence, she’ll most likely have watched hundreds of films, television shows and advertisements in which a woman’s destiny is determined not by her own choices but by how she is perceived by others. In those hundreds of stories, we get the message: What other people think and say about us matters, a lot.” In the Age of the Internet, where everyone with an Internet connection has a soap box, “this criticism often also becomes vulgar, sexualized and angry.”

Vulgar, sexualized and angry. Sound familiar?

What happens when a woman writes a book and finds not her work but herself on the reviewer’s chopping block? What happens when you get called a “torrid hoyden” or a big fat meanie, or when someone says, “apologize or I’m going to expose you?”

Porochista Khakpour spent a chunk of her weekend in a police station. She cancelled a class she was going to teach.

Emily Gould wrote, “I have a hard time even talking about how terrible the week that he published that rant was for me. A lot of people have tried to tell em that the net effect was positive for my book, but it put me in a position of talking about that rant instead of talking about the book. I hate that. I hate that that happened. I’ll never get that week or month or set of opportunities back; he poisoned them all. The worst part is that as cartoonishly evil and misogynistic and mentally ill as he is, there are still people are are like “well, it was a book review.” “Critics are allowed to call someone a bad writer.” Or worse, that it was a “subtweet war” or a “literary fued.” It was none of those things. It was an attack on women, meant to make us feel threatened and fundamentally unsafe in the online and physical spaces we inhabit. It is so bonkers that we even have to point that out or defend that point of view still, now, in 2014.
I felt fear doing events around publication. Not stage fright, fear for my physical safety. Instead of planning celebrations I was arranging with bookstores and my publisher for adequate security at events. I felt worried that the location of my apartment had been revealed in so many profiles. It’s not like I experienced physical trauma or was tortured but I felt under attack. This wasn’t something that “happened on the Internet” or something that could have been avoided by “just unplugging.” Talking to readers, doing events, and promoting books online is my job. I still haven’t sorted out what kind of damage was done.”

As for me? I wish I could tell you that I was savvy enough to recognize a review that was so clearly meant to shame and silence for what it was and thick-skinned enough to not take the bait, even as respected critics and writers gleefully retweeted the piece, and Miller accepted giddy Twitter high-fives for writing it. But I’d be lying.

I wasn't afraid that someone was going to show up at a reading and do me harm. I was ashamed. I felt awful. I felt like canceling my upcoming book tour.

I felt like every kind thing I’d ever done had been erased, swept away, like someone had slopped a bucket of sewage on a chalk drawing on the sidewalk; like none of the good stuff that happened last spring – the Philadelphia Inquirer calling ALL FALL DOWN the best book I’ve written, the New York Times giving it a positive review – ended up mattering, because everyone knew what an awful, terrible, horrible, no good, very bad person I was.

In the months since Miller’s piece came out, I’ve written essays about meeting Jill Abramson three weeks before she lost her job, about the YA dust-up, and how our culture continues to devalue work about girls and women, about why anger remains off-limits to ladies.

I’ve written them and rewritten them, and had people read them, and edited them, and rewritten them and then eventually talked myself out of submitting them anywhere and deciding that I don't want to open myself up for more name-calling.

Not afraid. Ashamed. But the end result is the same. Whether it’s an enraged blogger likening you to an animal, or a well-connected book critic calling you a bitch, the story ends with another woman not giving the talk, not teaching the class, not hitting “publish” on the blog post.

There's no easy answer. Paying attention is a start. If you see something, say something. If you see a book review that veers into a review of the author, or a critique that seems intended not as art but as a steamy serving of shut-up juice, ask the critic what’s going on. Then ask her editor.

Believe that women have the ability to create characters distinct from themselves, not just publish gussied-up journals. Believe that women who use events from their own lives in fiction deserve to be treated with the exact degree of scrutiny and cynicism as men who do the same thing. Believe that women's books deserve to be evaluated as books, not as something that comes with a lock and a key and the words MY DIARY written in gilt on the cover. As as if women writers are people, not things, and deserve the same regard as their male counterparts, and maybe, someday, it'll actually be true.

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36. Spotlight and Giveaway: He’s So Fine by Jill Shalvis

Book Summary:

For Olivia Bentley, Lucky Harbor is more than the town where she runs her new vintage shop. It’s the place where folks are friendly to strangers-and nobody knows her real name. Olivia does a good job of keeping her past buried, not getting too cozy with anyone . . . until she sees a man drowning. Suddenly she’s rushing into the surf, getting up close and personal with the hottest guy she’s ever laid hands on.


Charter boat captain Cole Donovan has no problem with a gorgeous woman throwing her arms around his neck in an effort to “save” him. In fact, he’d like to spend a lot more time skin-to-skin with Olivia. He’s just not expecting that real trouble is about to come her way. Will it bring her deeper into Cole’s heart, or will it be the end of Olivia’s days in little Lucky Harbor? 

Jill’s Bio:

New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis lives in a small town in the Sierras full of quirky characters. Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is, um, mostly coincidental. Look for Jill’s bestselling, award-winning books wherever romances are sold and visit her website for a complete book list and daily blog detailing her city-girl-living-in-the-mountains adventures.
You can learn more about Jill at:
Twitter @jillshalvis



HE’S SO FINE is available in mass market paperback, ebook and audio book formats wherever books are sold

Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/1B0Lc5P

iBooks: http://bit.ly/1p1HaDH

IndieBound: http://bit.ly/1qL9GMO

Kobo: http://bit.ly/1n3cobU

Google Play: http://bit.ly/1vUlsVJ

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1lkIft2

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/1qbcfrn

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The post Spotlight and Giveaway: He’s So Fine by Jill Shalvis appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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37. Call for Nonfiction: Passing Through Publications

We are seeking nonfiction submissions about "the road less traveled," however interpreted, for an inaugural issue which will go live in late 2014.

Your piece should be anything related to travel, travelers, wanderlust…a homage to a city or a town… a piece featuring a home, whether attached to the ground or carried on your back… places out of the way and unexpected, the road less traveled but perhaps more loved, and definitely more intriguing.

Submissions should range between 250-1000 words, with a preference for 500 words. Art and photo submissions also welcome. 

Please embed and attach your submissions to emails directly sent to Jessica, the Editor:

jericahahnAThotmailDOTcom (Change AT to @ and DOT to . )

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38. Call for Submissions: Barking Sycamores

A journal for neurodivergent literature and its craft-- 
Barking Sycamores is a literary journal publishing poetry, short fiction (1000 words or less), and art by neurodivergent (autistic, ADHD, bipolar, dyslexic, etc.) writers and artists. 
We seek poetry, short fiction, and art for Issue 4, Winter/Spring 2015. Theme: “The Doors of Perception”. Pieces about doors, perception, and vision are welcome as well as ekphrastic work based on the works of William Blake, Aldous Huxley, or the American rock band The Doors. However, in the end, artists may submit poetry, short fiction, and visual art that interpret the theme as broadly or as narrowly as desired. We also seek essays on neurodivergence and how it impacts the creation of literary works. Artwork submitted may be considered for use as cover art. 
The philosophy of our journal is unique, so we ask that interested writers consult our submission guidelines before sending any work to us.  
Submission period: October 1 – November 30, 2014.

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39. Guest Post: Larissa Ione, Author of Chained by Night

Please give a warm welcome to special guest Larissa Ione!  I’ll have a review of Chained by Night soon, but in the meantime, check out what she has to say about hunky hero Hunter.

Hi everyone!

So…Julie asked an interesting question about the hero of Chained By Night, one I’m going to have fun answering. She asked:

What five things would Hunter never do on a date?

Hmmm…I think telling you what he would do on a date would be easier, but for starters, he would never get drunk. Yes, he enjoys his alcohol, but when he’s with a female, his instinct is to keep her safe, which means drinking in moderation and never losing his situational awareness. With vampire hunters around every corner, he needs to be alert.

He would also never look at another female while on a date. That’s just rude.

Hunter isn’t much for dating in the traditional sense, given that vampires aren’t exactly welcome in human establishments, but if he were to take a female out for dinner and a movie, he’d never let her pay. Unless she was evil. Or human.

The fourth thing he would never, ever do on a date is demand sex. No, this boy can read the opposite sex with the skill of a predator on the prowl, and he knows when she’s ready. But no means no…and he’s very, very patient…

Finally, Hunter would never talk about his ex-lovers. It’s just bad form. Plus, a lot of them are dead. Wouldn’t want to scare off the new lover! ?

THE FUTURE OF HIS TRIBE: Leader of the vampire clan MoonBound, Hunter will do what he must to save his people from extinction—or worse, a torturous eternity as vampire slaves and subjects of human experimentation. To keep his enemies at bay, he has agreed to mate a rival clan leader’s daughter in return for peace between the clans and an ally in the looming war with the humans.
THE LOVER OF HIS SOUL: But survival comes at a price. First, Hunter must break an ancient curse by successfully negotiating three deadly tests. Then he must resist the searing passions of the gorgeous vampire warrior he despises but is bound to mate. Will Hunter stay true to his word? Or will he risk everything for the woman he really loves: the vampire seductress’s identical twin sister?

The post Guest Post: Larissa Ione, Author of Chained by Night appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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40. UNLOCK YOUR LOVE & George Clooney Wedding in Venice

Amal Alamuddin & George Clooney wed in Venice

(Venice, Italy) Venice was truly the City of Love this weekend as George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin married at the Aman Canal Grande. Photos of the wedding were tightly controlled, so the only opportunities for the paparazzi and the public to snap a shot were as the couple traveled by water-taxi, or entered and exited venues. People lined the Grand Canal for hours hoping for a glimpse of the couple, cheering and waving whenever they appeared. The sunlight sparkled on the water, liquid diamonds that set the backdrop for a long weekend of glamour and romance.

Palazzo Papadopoli - Clooney wedding night
I think it is terrific that the power couple married in Venice; it is the kind of energy that spotlights Venice at her best. George Clooney comes regularly to the Venice Film Festival, so I've had the good fortune to see him at press conferences, and think he is an honorable, intelligent man with a great sense of humor and charm. I've also written about the Aman Canal Grande for CNN Travel, and think it was the perfect spot for the wedding -- Palazzo Papadopoli is more like an impressive home rather than a hotel; in fact, the family who owns the palace still lives on the top floor.

UNLOCK YOUR LOVE crew at the foot of the Accademia Bridge
As the Clooneys celebrated their new life together, Venice also was busy starting anew. In support of NATIONAL CLEANING DAY 2014, a day that civic-minded groups throughout Italy come together to tidy up the country, citizens in Venice spent Sunday painting over graffiti, cleaning the trash from the waters of the canals and chopping off the unattractive "love" padlocks that couples have clamped onto bridges throughout the city.

Venetian writer Alberto Toso Fei cutting off a "love" lock
I was part of the UNLOCK YOUR LOVE group, coordinated by Alberto Alberti, and spearheaded by the Venetian writer, Alberto Toso Fei, who also seems very adept with a pair of bolt-cutters.

#UnlockYourLove in Venice
We began at the Accademia Bridge, which has been covered with unsightly padlocks for years (a personable photographer who was waiting for an exclusive shot of the Clooney wedding party was perched at the top with a very long lens). As a portion of the UNLOCK YOUR LOVE group sliced off the padlocks with gusto, and another part explained what we were doing and handed out flyers, I asked couples from all over the world to express their love with photos instead of locks. People were happy to oblige as I snapped away with my very old cell phone.

#UnlockYourLove in Venice

#UnlockYourLove in Venice
The larger group that coordinated Venice's CLEANING DAY activities is called the Associazione Masegni & Nizioleti Onlus, which is headed by the divine Cecilia Tonon. "Masegni" are the paving stones you walk on when you come to Venice, and "nizioleti" are the black and white rectangular street signs you see all over the city that indicate the names of the squares and streets.

#UnlockYourLove in Venice
#UnlockYourLove in Venice
This is what the Associazione Magesni & Nizioleti Onlus group does:

"We are a group of citizens who care for Venice, its cleanliness, its livability."

#UnlockYourLove in Venice

#UnlockYourLove in Venice
"We keep an eye on our streets and intervene where there is graffiti, padlocks (lovelocks), evidence of lack of respect for Venice and for those who live in this city and love her."

#UnlockYourLove in Venice
#UnlockYourLove in Venice
"We gather together those of us who love Venice and want to improve her."

#UnlockYourLove in Venice

#UnlockYourLove in Venice
"We have removed padlocks from the bridges, and we have pushed the City Council to take action against this anti-ecological fad."

#UnlockYourLove in Venice

#UnlockYourLove in Venice
"We remove graffiti tags and degrading treatments from the walls and the Istrian stone."

#UnlockYourLove in Venice
#UnlockYourLove in Venice
"We promote the restoration of chipped and damaged nizioleti." 

#UnlockYourLove in Venice
To find out more information about the group, go to their website, or find them on Facebook HERE or HERE.

And when you come to Venice, be sure to express your love with a photo, instead of a padlock. Upload the photo to the internet, and it will last forever. But the padlock will be cut off. As one visitor said, "It's bad karma."

Severed "love" locks in the trash
I rarely have a reason to interact with the visitors who come to Venice, so it was a lot of fun to talk to people from all around the world. Most people were pleasant, and seemed to genuinely be having a good time. With the sun dazzling the waters, and the Clooney wedding playing in the background, it was another magical moment in Venice, the City of Amore.

George Clooney & Amal Alamuddin after civil ceremony
Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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41. [PR] Viz Media to Release Honey Blood!

I’m looking forward to reading this series. It’s the perfect time of year for to start a new supernatural romance!




A Beautiful Girl Falls For The Old-World Charm Of A Mysterious Vampire Romance Writer—With His Own Taste For Blood!

New Shojo Series Launches In Print And Digitally!

San Francisco, CA, September 25, 2014 – VIZ Media, LLC (VIZ Media), the largest distributor and licensor of manga and anime in North America, opens Fall with a fiery mixture of bloodthirsty romance and supernatural intrigue in Miko Mitsuki’s shojo manga series – HONEY BLOOD. Set for release under the Shojo Beat imprint, Volume 1 of the 3-part series launches on October 7th and is rated ‘T’ for Teens. Print volumes each carry an MSRP of $9.99 U.S. / $12.99 CAN.

In the opening volume, everyone is on edge when a girl at Hinata Sorazono’s school is attacked by what seems to be a bloodsucking vampire. Hinata refuses to believe that vampires even exist, but then she meets her new neighbor, Junya Tokinaga, the author of an incredibly popular vampire romance novel. Dressed in a kimono with an old-world air about him, Junya has a taste of Hinata’s blood and tells her it’s sweet… Hinata can’t help but be drawn to Junya, but could it be that he’s actually a vampire—and worse yet, the culprit behind the attacks?!

“Junya Tokinaga is a mysterious and handsome man, so readers will swoon along with Hinata and become captivated by his complicated past and the bloodthirsty secret he hides,” says Amy Yu, Editor. “The stage is set for charged passion and love in this sultry series from Miko Mitsuki.”

HONEY BLOOD creator Miko Mitsuki hails from Kagoshima Prefecture in southernmost Japan and debuted with the manga title, Utakata, in 2003. She is currently working on projects for Sho-Comi magazine.

For more information on HONEY BLOOD, or other shojo manga titles from VIZ Media, please visit www.VIZ.com.

About VIZ Media, LLC

Headquartered in San Francisco, California, VIZ Media distributes, markets and licenses the best anime and manga titles direct from Japan.  Owned by three of Japan’s largest manga and animation companies, Shueisha Inc., Shogakukan Inc., and Shogakukan-Shueisha Productions, Co., Ltd., VIZ Media has the most extensive library of anime and manga for English speaking audiences in North America, the United Kingdom, Ireland and South Africa. With its popular digital manga anthology WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP and blockbuster properties like NARUTO, BLEACH and INUYASHA, VIZ Media offers cutting-edge action, romance and family friendly properties for anime, manga, science fiction and fantasy fans of all ages.  VIZ Media properties are available as graphic novels, DVDs, animated television series, feature films, downloadable and streaming video and a variety of consumer products.  Learn more about VIZ Media, anime and manga at www.VIZ.com.

The post [PR] Viz Media to Release Honey Blood! appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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42. Meet Deadly D and Justice Jones

Thanks for talking to Boomerang Books, Deadly D/Dylan and Justice about your Deadly D and Justice Jones books (Magabala Books). Kids who like rugby league and sport are going to love these books. Questions for Dylan/Deadly D and Justice - What are your favourite football teams and players? Dylan: Growing up in Mount Isa and being a North Queensland […]

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43. Fairy Magic Monday: New Class


For Fairy Magic Monday, I offer a new class for October. When polled, students hands down wanted this class plus more fairy healing. A must for all part fairies.

Heal with Nature and reconnect!

As I was putting together the Fairy Beginner Class, the notes I gathered were extensive. Only some pieces were included and the rest was put away for further classes, with much of the pieces forgotten, until now. Let’s jump back in to the Fairy World and learn more healing tools and lessons from the Fairies, the Gnomes, Water Spirits, and the Cactus People. These aren’t the creatures of fairy tales, but are the energies of THIS world, right now, in Nature. Learn about Balancing with Water energies, Healing & Boundaries with Cactus People, Grounding with Gnomes and Filling in Holes, while communicating with different types of Nature beings. We end with a trip deep into the Forest to retrieve special gifts for each of us for our journeys. To read more and sign up go here.

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Fascinating and insightful. With her usual skill, Katherine Howe navigates the winding path leading to Salem’s hysteria and beyond. A must-read for anyone who wants to know not only what happened but also how and why.

—Brunonia Barry, New York Times-bestselling author of The Lace Reader

Enter here for a chance to win a copy of this book until October 7.

USA and CANADA ONLY please


Edited by Katherine Howe

Publishing in time for Halloween, Penguin Classics is proud to present an original collection of chilling real-life accounts of accused witches, from medieval Europe through colonial America

THE PENGUIN BOOK OF WITCHES (A Penguin Classics Original; On-sale September 30, 2014; $17.00; ISBN: 978-0-14-310618-0), edited and with an introduction by Katherine Howe, the New York Times-bestselling author of several novels about witches and a teacher in the American Studies program at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

From a manual for witch hunters written by King James himself in 1597, to court documents from the Salem witch trials of 1692, to newspaper coverage of a woman stoned to death on the streets of Philadelphia while the Continental Congress met, THE PENGUIN BOOK OF WITCHES is a treasury of historical accounts of accused witches that sheds light on the reality behind the legends.

Bringing to life stories like that of Eunice Cole, tried for attacking a teenage girl with a rock and buried with a stake through her heart; Jane Jacobs, a Bostonian so often accused of witchcraft that she took her tormentors to court on charges of slander; and Increase Mather, an exorcism-performing minister famed for his knowledge of witches, THE PENGUIN BOOK OF WITCHES provides a unique tour through the darkest history of English and North American witchcraft.

Ideal for fans of the All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness, the Harry Potter series, and Half Bad by Sally Green, THE PENGUIN BOOK OF WITCHES is sure to thrill, fascinate, and perhaps even frighten readers of all kinds.


This comprehensive collection of carefully selected documents and published primary materials, coupled with judicious and informative introductions, will help modern readers understand the seemingly inexplicable and persistent popular phenomenon of belief in witchcraft from the seventeenth century into more modern times.”

—Mary Beth Norton, author of In the Devil’s Snare

An informative and engaging series of texts that Katherine Howe introduces in a crisp and well-informed manner. The chronological breadth is unusual, but it allows us to grasp more fully the continuities that mark the history of witch-hunting on both sides of the Atlantic.

—David D. Hall, Harvard Divinity School

About the Editor: 

KATHERINE HOWE, the direct descendant of three accused Salem witches, is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, The House of Velvet and Glass, and the young-adult novel Conversion, a modern-day retelling of The Crucible set in a Massachusetts prep school. She teaches in the American Studies program at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. You can visit her website at www.katherinehowe.com.

Katherine Howe ▪ A Penguin Classics Original ▪ $17.00
On-sale September 30, 2014 ▪ ISBN: 978-0-14-310618-0


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As you know, I was a HUGE fan of the first of the Stoker & Holmes novels, and for me it felt genuinely "Holmesian" (Sherlockian? That's even worse. Forget it), with its Victorian rigidity and bleak stratification of London society. I was was both... Read the rest of this post

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46. Literary vs. Commerical Fiction

Don’t be afraid of the difference between literary and commercial fiction like these Scaredy Scouts illustrated by B.L. Bachmann below. B.L. is a writer and illustrator living in Los Angeles. Her mission is to make people smile, and even giggle :) See more at http://www.blbachmann.com

scardeyscoutsI spent last week running two writer’s retreats in Avalon, NJ. The agents at the first retreat were Sarah LaPolla from Bradford Literary and Carly Watters from P.S. Literary. The agents at the second retreat were Ammi-Joan Paguette from Erin Murphy Agency and Heather Alexander from Pippin Properties. 

It was a gorgeous week. Everyone received a full manuscript critique with an agent and a full manuscript critique from everyone in their group. I have to say, I think both of the sessions were the best retreats I have put together. The agents were top notched and each writer  in each group took extreme care with their critiques, so we walked away with lots of ideas for revisions and with many doors open with the agents. On top of that, everyone meshed well and we had a tons of fun. Can’t think of anything that was missing. 

Sarah-Bradford-Lit-photoDuring the week the question came up about the difference between Literary Fiction and Commercial Fiction. Lucky for us, Sarah LaPolla had written an explanation  on her blog and gave me permission to post it on Writing and Illustrating.

Here is Sarah:

I don’t think writers should get too hung up on labels, but it’s important to know what genre you’re writing. You’re expected to give an agent an immediate sense of where they can sell your book, but even more than that you should be able to know who you’ll be next to on a bookshelf so that you can read your comparison titles accordingly.

Figuring out thriller vs. mystery vs. suspense or paranormal romance vs. urban fantasy vs. supernatural horror can be difficult, I know. In these cases, it’s best to just choose the closest and let a professional decide the best way they can sell it. But the line between literary and commercial isn’t as vague. You shouldn’t claim your book is literary fiction if it isn’t. For one, it’s rare you’ll find an agent who looks for literary fiction and genre fiction with the same fervor, if they take on both at all. You don’t want to get a rejection based on a mislabel. Secondly, literary fiction is quite different than genre fiction, and not learning the difference can reflect a lack of research on your part.

The common argument, however, is that all books are technically literary. Right? Well, yes and no. Saying all books are literary is like saying all Young Adult novels are about characters under 25. The genre labels can be misleading, which is why it’s important to know what they mean.

If you’re unsure about which you’ve written, here’s a quick definition of each:

Literary fiction: The focus is on character arc, themes (often existential), and the use of language. I like to compare literary fiction authors to runway designers. The general public isn’t mean to wear the clothes models display on the runway. They exist to impress the other designers and show the fashion industry what they can do. Literary writing is a lot like that, but on a more accessible level. Many dismiss literary fiction as “too artsy” and “books without a plot,” but this isn’t true. At least not most of the time. The plot is there; it’s just incidental. Literary fiction is meant to make the reader reflect, and the author will almost always prefer a clever turn of phrase over plot development.

Commercial fiction: For the purposes of this blog post, I’ve been using this interchangeably with genre fiction. Basically, all genre fiction is commercial, but not all commercial fiction is genre. There is also “upmarket” commercial fiction, which I’ll get to later. Unlike literary fiction, genre fiction is written with a wide audience in mind (aka “commercial”) and always focuses on plot. There is still character development in genre fiction, but it is not as necessary. Characters get idiosyncratic quirks, clever dialogue, and often learn something new about life or themselves by the end. The difference is that their traits are only skin deep. The reader stays with them in the present. Rarely do we see a character’s past unless there is something pertinent to the plot back there. Genre fiction has a Point A and a Point B, and very little stands in the way of telling that story.

Keep in mind that an agent or editor will rarely prefer you to play with these formats, especially if you’re a debut author trying to find (and build) your audience. If you’re writing a plot-driven genre novel that adheres to a sci-fi, romance, or thriller structure, don’t try to load it with literary devices and huge character back-stories that aren’t relevant to the plot. It won’t impress an agent if you have a super literary genre novel. It will more likely confuse us and make your book harder to sell.

“Upmarket” fiction is where things get tricky. Books like The Help, Water for Elephants, Eat, Pray, Love, and authors like Nick Hornby, Ann Patchet, and Tom Perrotta are considered “upmarket.” Their concept and use of language appeal to a wider audience, but they have a slightly more sophisticated style than genre fiction and touch on themes and emotions that go deeper than the plot.

With debut authors, I think the main source of uncertainty tends to come from what they set out to write vs. what they actually write. Genre fiction is written with a clear purpose. The author has an idea and writes a story to accomplish their goal. Literary fiction can be more accidental. A writer may start with an idea, and then discover along the way that they don’t want to write about that anymore. They’ve fallen for their character’s personal tale or the images they want to evoke within the reader. If the writing ends up falling somewhere in the middle, then it might be considered “upmarket.” Or, it could mean it needs more focus one way or the other.

What’s important to remember is that none of these types of fiction is better than the other. It’s all about personal preference, based on what you like to read and how you write. If an agent doesn’t represent a certain genre, it doesn’t mean he or she think it’s bad. It just means you’re better off with someone else. Be aware that a genre label can influence an agent, but be honest about what your genre is. It wastes everyone’s time – most importantly, yours – if you try to guess what you think agents want. We want books we can fall in love with that fall under in genres and styles we represent, whether they’re young adult, adult genre fiction, or literary to a Proustian degree. That’s all.

You should drop by and take a look at Sarah’s blog: http://glasscasesblog.blogspot.com/ Sarah has agreed to be a Guest Blogger in the near future on a different subject, but another enjoyable post that will broaden your knowledge.

Thanks Sarah for sharing.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Advice, Agent, article, demystify, need to know, reference Tagged: Bradford Literary, Commercial Fiction definition, Literary Fiction definition, Sarah LaPolla

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47. TWEENS READ 2014

Last weekend, I had an awesome time being a panelist at the Tweens Read Book Festival, held at South Houston High School in Pasadena.  In all, more than 1700 tween readers showed up to hear keynotes by Jacqueline Woodson and Margaret Peterson Haddix, as well as any three of five panels of authors.  For the complete list, click here.

My panel was called "Houston, We Have Problems," and featured six authors in a lively discussion of science fiction for tweens:  

Greg Leitich Smith - Little Green Men at the Mercury Inn
Stu Gibbs - Space Case
Jennifer Brown - Life on Mars
Will Alexander - Ambassador
Jessica Brody - Unforgotten
Matt London - The 8th Continent

Check out some pictures:

The students gather for the opening keynote

Jennifer Holm, Jennifer Ziegler, Varsha Bajaj

Megan Frazer Blakemore, Kirby Larson, Jenni Holm, and me

Me and Bruce Hale, with Jonathan Auxier (background)

Authors gathered onstage for introductions

Matt London, Jessica Brody, Jennifer Brown, and me

Signing stock

Natalie Lloyd, Varian Johnson, Jennifer Holm, Jennifer Ziegler, Varsha Bajaj

Cynthia Leitich Smith and Jacqueline Woodson

Megan Frazer Blakemore, a South Houston Trojan, and me
Many thanks to all the organizers, sponsor, and volunteers, especially Blue Willow Books!

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48. Setting Your Characters Free - From Book to Film and back again

Bindi Irwin as Nim, from Return to Nim's Island movie poster
I know that tying in a film to a book sequel sounds like the writer’s equivalent of a first world problem, but in fact we always need to be aware of how much we are, or want to be, swayed by other people’s comments and interpretations, from editors to illustrators, cover artists and even readers. I didn’t actually plan Nim as an eco-warrior, but the way that she and Jack live means that she’s interpreted as one. It seems so logical to me now that I have to remind myself it simply evolved naturally, as it probably would have if she were real.

My only physical description of Nim in any of the books is ‘her hair is wild and her eyes are bright.’ But of course I have my own vision of her:  a wiry, dark haired, almost elfin girl, and I kept that through the first two books, even though I enjoyed imagining how Kerry Millard might illustrate something.

Kerry Millard's interpretation of Nim

Wendy Orr, Abigail Breslin, Kerry Millard
Then the films came, and there were real people, in flesh and blood, both the people I met off camera, and the way they were portrayed on screen and covers. By the time I started Rescue on Nim’s Island, I’d had 5 years of seeing Abigail Breslin being so completely Nim that it was difficult to return to my own vision.  
Abigail Breslin as Nim

It was only when I’d seen Bindi Irwin on location, portraying Nim differently but equally convincingly, that I could free myself up and remember my mantra that characters are however you interpret them: if they could both be Nim, my own vision could be too.

Bindi Irwin, Wendy Orr

It took me a while to find my way with Rescue on Nim’s Island  and that’s what I think is relevant to all of us. I had to really go back to basics instead of planning plots that I thought were terribly filmic, to which the film producer kept saying, ‘But that doesn’t really sound like you, or Nim.’ 
Geoff's Kelly interpretation of Nim

I had to slow down, dream around it, and gradually discover the story in the usual organic way that I work. I reread the first books and got into the rhythm. Nim is a year older in each book, and I felt that she was growing naturally. She’s still herself. She’s more quick-tempered than either Abbie or Bindi are in real life, though slightly less pugnacious than the Nim of the second film. She’s the girl that was obviously born of some part of me, when I started writing her in 1998. Or maybe further back, when I wrote the prototype when I was 9. So if there’s a moral, I think it’s simply, let your characters grow and develop, but always be true to who they are at core.

*This is an edited excerpt of a talk I gave at the SCBWI meeting at Flinders on 6 September, 2014.

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49. Poetry Competition: Philadelphia Stories

Philadelphia Stories Presents:

Judge for 2015 is Jeffrey Ethan Lee

Deadline: November 15, 2014

Open to all poets residing in the U.S.

$12 reading fee includes a year's subscription to Philadelphia Stories (4 issues) 

Philadelphia Stories hosts the annual “Sandy Crimmins National Poetry Prize” to celebrate poets of all backgrounds, experience, and styles. Thanks to the generous support of Sandy’s family, we are proud to offer the following contest prizes:

The first-place winning poet will receive a $1,000 cash award for an individual poem, an invitation to an awards event in Philadelphia and publication in the Spring issue.
● Three runners up will receive $100 cash awards for individual poems as well as publication in our Spring issue.
● The winning poet and runners up are invited to submit chapbooks to be considered for publication by PS Books.
● All submitted poems may be selected by the editors for publication in our Spring issue.

Visit PhiladelphiaStories.org for more information and to submit!

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50. 50 States Against Bullying: Pre-Tour Thoughts

I didn’t think I was writing about bullying. But after Thirteen Reasons Why was released, I began to hear from students who experienced things similar to what I wrote about. They often referred to it as bullying and said it helped to see their emotions expressed in a novel. I also heard from students who treated others in ways similar to those in the book. They said they would be more conscious of not bullying from now on. And I heard from teachers who used the book to help address the topic of bullying.

So I guess I wrote about bullying. My definition had simply been too narrow.

It also made me realize that I had experienced bullying when I was in school. And sadly, I realized that I sometimes bullied. Does a new understanding of the definition change the past? No. But it helps me understand the past. And the power that comes from a better understanding of ourselves and others is one thing I was trying to discuss within the book.

This October, Thirteen Reasons Why turns seven years old. It has become more successful than I thought possible and has been used in more beautiful ways than I imagined. I receive daily messages from people who are using it to deal with bullying, either personally or as a community. And my publisher has read many similar messages left at thirteenreasonswhy.com.

So, earlier this year, they asked if I wanted to take this anti-bullying message into schools personally with a 50-state tour. And I said, “Um…”

One thing that terrifies me as an author is coming across as preachy. When I wrote the book, I was afraid people would find it too sad or too serious or too message-oriented, so I focused on making it suspenseful. I wanted readers to have a hard time putting it down even when it got sad and serious and the message was right in front. When I began speaking at schools, I used humor as a way to avoid sounding preachy even when discussing the serious topics in Thirteen Reasons Why.

My publisher now wanted me to tour the country and speak at schools, not merely as an author of a book, but as someone discussing an issue because of that book.

After initially saying, “Um…,” I said, “Yes.”

If a school wanted to bring me in to help their discussion about bullying, an issue that has become important to me, I couldn't say no. And schools jumped at the chance to use this as a way to further those discussions. On average, for every school I visit on this 50-state tour, there are 13 more schools who nominated themselves as a tour stop (yes, of course it was 13!). While I would still love to hide behind my book and have it do the talking, there are certain things only an author can say.

I have been bullied, and I have bullied. Like everyone, I have learned, and I am learning. As communities try to discuss and have a better understanding of the complexities of bullying, it is one of the greatest honors of my life to be a part of that.

On October 1st, for my first tour stop, I will speak at my old high school in California. That afternoon, I will fly to Texas. From there, and throughout the school year, I will speak at a school in every state. You can follow along and be a part of the discussion at 50statesagainstbullying.com and help spread hope using #REASONSWHYYOUMATTER.

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