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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Reading, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 26 - 50 of 2,140
26. How to Read More Than 3 Books a Month

Behavioral specialist Sam Thomas Davies reads more than 42 books a year. His trick? He relies on “the 10% rule.”

That is, he recommends that you “commit to reading your new book in its entirety” by reading 10 percent every day, he explains in a piece published on HighExistence.com. It also helps to own a Kindle, he says, because you have access to so many books and it is easy to read books on the go.

Davies points out that the longer the book, obviously the more pages you’ll have to read. Still he’s got a work around. Check it out:

If 10% is a lot because of the size of the book, split it in half and read 5% in the morning and 5% in the evening. This is easy if you commute to work via public transport. You’ll learn a lot of Kindle books aren’t even 100% long. Once you’ve excluded the acknowledgements, appendix, prefaces, recommendations and sources – in other words, the parts that aren’t as interesting – a book only ends up being between 70-80% in length.

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27. Friday Feature: Super Bad by Kai Strand




It's hard to be good when it's so much fun to be bad

Excerpt from Super Bad:

After sliding the card out of the envelope, she stared at it for so long Lexa finally said, “Well?”
Sandra glanced at her friend before frowning again at the card. Finally she handed it to Lexa and stared at the flowers.

Seeing you last night was as refreshing as the clean smell after a rainstorm.
—Set

Lexi’s lip curled up. “What does this mean?”
“I’m not sure.” Sandra spoke tentatively. “He obviously has a thing for weather.”
“And you,” Lexa said.
“Maybe.”
Lexa rolled her eyes. “What do you mean, maybe? He became a stalker at the party last night, and now he’s sent you your very first flowers.”
Sandra shook her head. “There’s something…I don’t know.”
A thought somewhere deep in her gray matter teased her, but kept getting overridden by images of Set’s beautiful face lowering toward hers in the dark of the hedge cave. She mentally scolded herself to focus, but then she remembered the feel of his power pulsing from him and making her skin thrum when he came within a few inches of her, and her concentration scattered.
She shook her head not wanting to relive those memories. “I don’t know. I don’t really think it’s me he wants.”
Lexa smelled an oversized rose unfurled in full bloom in the middle of a bouquet that somehow looked like a summer storm stuffed into a vase—all whites and lavenders, purples and deep blues. “It sure looks like he’s focused on you, Sand.”

SUPER BAD The unexpected conclusion to the Super Villain Academy series.

The world is in chaos. Violence and thievery reign. And with the supers still balanced, it’s only getting worse. Without good versus evil, the supers care less and less. In order to restore purpose, the world needs its super heroes and its super villains, but the one who balanced them in the first place is missing.

Sandra’s concern over finding her brother, Jeff, isn’t her only problem. Her pathetic excuse for super powers has left her needing a new ankle. And though she’s still very much committed to her boyfriend, Source, she’s growing unreasonably attracted to Set, the boy who double crossed Jeff by stealing his girlfriend.

When Sandra is taken and held as bait by kids who want to unbalance the super world, it becomes the inciting event that changes things for supers everywhere and forces them to answer the question, “Hero or villain?”
***
Super Bad is scheduled for release in June, but there have been whispers of it releasing sooner. Don’t miss out. Subscribe to Kai’s mailing list and be among the first to know.
***
King of Bad - Jeff Mean would rather set fires than follow rules. He wears his bad boy image like a favorite old hoodie; until he learns he has superpowers and is recruited by Super Villain Academy – where you learn to be good at being bad. Is Jeff bad enough for SVA?

Polar Opposites - Heroes and villains are balanced. After Oceanus is kidnapped, Jeff learns the supers are so balanced, they no longer care to get involved. Ironically Jeff’s superpowers are spiraling out of control. Will they find Oci before he looses it completely, and will they find her alive?
***
Win a $10 Amazon gift card or an ecopy of either King of Bad or Polar Opposites. Plenty of chances to win. Open internationally. Enter here:
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About the author:

When her children were young and the electricity winked out, Kai Strand gathered her family around the fireplace and they told stories, one sentence at a time. Her boys were rather fond of the ending, “And then everybody died. The end.” Now an award winning children’s author, Kai crafts fiction for kids and teens to provide an escape hatch from their reality. With a selection of novels for young adult and middle grade readers and short stories for the younger ones, Kai entertains children of all ages, and their adults. Learn more about Kai and her books on her website, www.kaistrand.com.
Want your YA, NA, or MG book featured on my blog? Contact me here and we'll set it up.

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28. Reading Insecurities

Recently I was feeling like my credentials as a reader of science fiction weren’t up to snuff. There are certain books and authors that are classics in the genre that I haven’t read and sometimes, especially being a female who likes to read a genre that has been dominated by males for a very long time, I feel like I’m not quite legit. My latest feelings of insecurity did not come from anywhere specific, they just sort of bubbled up from who knows where. But I think they are feelings we can all relate to as readers because no matter what we read there are always going to be books we have not read, big gaping holes even, that will leave us insecure about whether or not we can consider ourselves well read. It’s like saying you love Victorian literature but you’ve never read Wilkie Collins, that sort of thing.

From insecurity and curiosity, I decided it was about time I read Isaac Asimov’s first Foundation book. I’ve read one Asimov book before, Fantastic Voyage, and quite liked it. So with Foundation I was expecting something adventure-y. I was also expecting a novel. The book is neither. It is a collection of short stories. Okay, I can adjust to that. But instead of adventure we get politics and the collapse of an empire and lifting up of science into a religion.

The political maneuverings are really the only thing keeping me going. The book was published in 1951 and the stories had appeared in a magazine at various times before making it into a book. The science is amusingly dated. Psychology has been elevated to the heights of being able to predict the future. Nuclear power is considered clean energy. And this group of scientists have been tasked with writing an encyclopedia and a good deal of their research is done using microfiche which is supposed to be the gold standard for reading and research technology. And back in the day it was. But this book takes place so far into the future that humans have spread out to the farthest reaches of the galaxy and Earth either no longer exists or is uninhabitable and has become a mythical place lost in time and history.

All that is just fine and kind of amusing. What is not amusing is that there are no women in the book. All the scientists are men, all the politicians are men, every single character is a man. Women aren’t mentioned as wives or mothers to sons or even buxom love interests. It’s like they don’t exist. As I am reading along and trying to not grind my teeth I am suddenly reminded, oh yeah, this is why I haven’t read a lot of the “classic” SF books! And this is why women have felt left out of the genre for so long.

I’m about halfway through the book and I can tell you right now that I won’t be reading the rest of the books in the series. I’m not going to let myself feel insecure about that either. Because really, it doesn’t matter whether I have read them or not. What matters is that I enjoy the books I read and not worry about what others might think.


Filed under: Books, Reading

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29. The Neuroscience of Learning to Read

The New Yorker online has an interesting article on How Children Learn to Read. The information in it comes from a study cognitive neuroscientist Fumiko Hoeft published last fall. In 2008-2009 she recruited a group of five and six-year-old children from a variety of backgrounds, ran a bunch of tests and then had them all back three years later and ran more tests. Her goal was to study the neuroscience of reading development and she discovered some interesting things. For one, over-all intelligence and IQ did not matter when it came to learning to read. Instead, it has everything to do with a specific organizational pattern in your brain:

When Hoeft took into account all of the explanatory factors that had been linked to reading difficulty in the past—genetic risk, environmental factors, pre-literate language ability, and over-all cognitive capacity—she found that only one thing consistently predicted how well a child would learn to read. That was the growth of white matter in one specific area of the brain, the left temporoparietal region. The amount of white matter that a child arrived with in kindergarten didn’t make a difference. But the change in volume between kindergarten and third grade did.

White matter is like a series of roads that that allow communication between various parts of the brain. The more roads you develop, the better the communication, the better your reading ability. White matter apparently has a particular window for development, and if it doesn’t happen, or it happens incompletely, children will have a hard time turning letters into words that mean something.

Of course there are all kinds of things that can go wrong but Hoeft also discovered some fascinating things the brain can do to compensate. Development of the white matter is a combination of genetics and environment which is a help to fretful parents who might worry they have failed their child in some way.

Read the article for all the details. It isn’t super long. One thing I am disappointed she didn’t talk about is early readers. If the white matter develops between ages 5 to 9 and this is what spurs reading development, what about those of us who could read before the age of five? Are we freakish outliers? Or is there something else going on, and if so, what? I know studies like these are expensive so of course you are going to study the group that is the most typical age for reading development, but gosh darn it, I want to know about what my brain was up to when I was four. What was going on that allowed me to read early instead of beginning the process in kindergarten with my peers?

Isn’t neuroscience interesting, especially when applied to one of our favorite subjects? That our brains are so much alike yet at the same time so different is fascinating. At least I think so!


Filed under: Reading

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30. Badass Women Back Before the World Knew About Badass Women

In celebration of the release of BOOK OF EARTH, the first book in my medieval fantasy warrior girl series THE BRADAMANTE SAGA, I thought we’d all like a little extra dose of some badass women. Enjoy!

0 Comments on Badass Women Back Before the World Knew About Badass Women as of 2/14/2015 12:03:00 PM
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31. Friday Feature: Elemental Series by Elana Johnson



About ELEMENTAL RUSH: Eighteen-year-old Adam Gillman has trained for twelve years to earn a coveted spot on the Supreme Elemental’s elite sentry squad. His brother, Felix, is the commander, but Adam is still thrilled when his official assignment to serve Alexander Pederson comes.

He moves into nicer quarters and can stop getting up at four a.m. to complete his mandated work out time. He still rises early though, because he needs the solitude of early morning to practice his airmaking Element—something that Adam has kept secret from everyone, even Felix, because he can’t be both an Airmaker and a sentry.

When Alex assigns him to kill a group of rogue Elementals, he balks at completing his mission for the first time. See, his only friend is Isaiah Hawking, and he’s the Earthmover on the accused Council. When faced with the prospect of killing him, Adam finds he can’t do it.

He’s well trained in assassination, but he thought he’d be murdering bad guys—not innocents.

When Alex buries the Elemental Academy—and kills over one thousand Elementals—in a fit of rage, Adam’s loyalty cracks. When he discovers that Alex is really a woman, and his brother’s lover, he defects. He hops from city to city, from Elemental school to Elemental school, always escaping only minutes before Felix can embed a knife in his heart or a tsunami can make a classroom his watery grave.

He tries to fight back, but he’s just one Airmaster with exceptional tracking skills. He does his best to warn those in danger, but as the last Elemental school goes up in flames, he knows he needs to get some real firepower on his side.

ELEMENTAL RUSH is a prequel novella to the full-length futuristic fantasy novel, ELEMENTAL HUNGER.



Buy Links:

About ELEMENTAL HUNGER: The second installment in the Elemental series, a new futuristic fantasy for young adults and new adults from acclaimed author Elana Johnson, ELEMENTAL HUNGER is a full-length novel that continues the story that began in ELEMENTAL RUSH, an Elemental novella.

Sixteen-year-old Gabriella Kilpatrick can shoot fire from her hands, which would be great if she didn’t get blamed for a blazing inferno that kills 17 schoolmates. When Gabby is commanded to Manifest her Element, everyone knows what she is: a genetic abnormality. Not to mention guilty.

So she does two logical things to survive.
1. She runs.
2. She hacks off her hair to assume a new role—that of “Gabe”, because in her world, only boys are Firemakers.

Not only does she have to act like a guy, she has to pretend to know everything a Firemaker should know. When Gabby meets Airmaster Adam Gillman, he believes her act and pledges to serve on “Gabe’s” Council. But Adam has the mark of a sentry and spent years obeying Alex, the Supreme Elemental. And Alex wants Gabby-the-genetic-freak dead and gone before she can gather the magical protection of a full Council.

With Adam’s lies that sound like truths and rumors that Alex isn’t really a Firemaker—or a man—Gabby sets out to charter a Council of her own. In order to uncover the truth, Gabby will have to learn who she can trust, how to control her own power, and most of all, how to lead a Council of Elementals, most of whom have more control over their power than she does. If she can’t, she’ll find herself just like those 17 schoolmates: burned and six feet under.

Look for the third and final installment, ELEMENTAL RELEASE, the final Elemental novella.


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About ELEMENTAL RELEASE: Two months after returning to the capital city of Tarpulin with a Council of his own, Airmaster Adam Gillman is ready to start repairing the relationships in his life. Up first: his Councilman and the girl he’d like to be more than friends with, Gabriella Kilpatrick.

But first, he has to figure out how to be the Airmaster his Firemaker needs. In order to do that, Adam attends Elemental training and discovers that to truly command the air, he must first be in control of his emotions. And in order to master those, he has to grieve for the loss of Hanai, make amends with his brother, and earn the trust of Gabby.

Amidst all that, Adam must also learn how to grapple with the jet stream, because a dangerous Airmaster is loose in Tarpulin. And Adam will need to find his emotional center in order to work with the atmosphere and defeat the threat.


Buy Links:


About Elana Johnson: Elana Johnson’s work, including Possession, Surrender, Abandon, and Regret, published by Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster), is available now everywhere books are sold. Her popular ebook, From the Query to the Call, is also available for download, as well as a Possession short story, Resist

Her self-published novels include two YA contemporary novels-in-verse, Elevated and Something About Love, as well as a YA/NA futuristic fantasy series, which includes Elemental Rush, Elemental Hunger, and Elemental Release.

School teacher by day, Query Ninja by night, you can find her online at her personal blog or Twitter. She also co-founded the Query Tracker blog and WriteOnCon, and contributes to the League of Extraordinary Writers.


Social Media Links:
League of Extraordinary Writers: http://leaguewriters.blogspot.com/

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Want your YA, NA, or MG book featured on my blog? Contact me here and we'll set it up.

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32. Centireading

Centireading. Have you heard of it? Me neither but it’s officially a thing now because it’s on the internet. A gent in the UK named Stephen Marche invented the word and you can read all about it at the Guardian (via).

What is centireading you ask? Why reading a book one hundred times of course. Since my response was why on earth would anyone want to read a book 100 times, I am not a good candidate for centireading. Marche says that it

belongs to the extreme of reader experience, the ultramarathon of the bookish, but it’s not that uncommon. To a certain type of reader, exposure at the right moment to Anne of Green Gables or Pride and Prejudice or Sherlock Holmes or Dune can almost guarantee centireading.

Extreme sports I can understand, but extreme reading? Nope (unless it involves reading in strange, possibly dangerous, places then extreme reading makes sense to me). I’m not much of a rereader to begin with. I only ever reread one to three books a year and sometimes none. The most I have ever read a book is six times. The honor belongs to Pride and Prejudice. I can imagine reading it again one day, but I would be surprised if, at the end of my life, the total times I’d read it reached ten. Still, I suppose one never really knows. Perhaps one day I will be snowed in somewhere for days and have only one book to read and one thing will lead to another and before I know it I’ve read it 99 times and once you get that far you have to read it one more time just so you can say you read it 100 times.

Marche has only read two books 100 times, Hamlet and The Inimitable Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse. Yes, after reading a book so many time you are on the verge of having it memorized. And yes,

By the time you read something more than a hundred times, you’ve passed well beyond “knowing how it turns out”. The next sentence is known before the sentence you’re reading is finished. […] Centireading reveals a pleasure peculiar to text lurking underneath story and language and even understanding. Part of the attraction of centireading is that it provides the physical activity of reading without the mental acuity usually required.

So it seems eventually after a certain point, even Hamlet becomes a sort of comfort read. Still, you’d have to really like a book a lot to read it that many times. And what about all those other books you don’t read because your are reading that book again?

A faint tang of guilt can sometimes follow a bout of centireading. Life is brief and there is so much to read. But I cannot imagine that I will find another book to read a hundred times in my life. You can be acquaintances with many books, and friends with a few, but family with only one or two.

What is the most times you have ever read a book? How likely is it you will ever be a member of the centireading club?


Filed under: Books, Reading, Rereading

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33. Monday Mishmash 2/9/15


Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.

Here's what's on my mind today:
  1. Editing  Still working on client edits. My clients are keeping me busy.
  2. Looking For Love Cover Reveal  This Friday is the cover reveal! If you requested an ARC, you'll also receive that on Friday. Want to take part in the reveal and/or sign up for an ARC? Click here.
  3. Reading  With all the editing I'm doing, my reading is taking a hit. Yes, I know I'm technically reading in order to edit, but I have a ton of books staring at me from my shelf wanting to be read.
  4. Castle of Sighs Cover Reveal Countdown  I've seen the cover already and I can tell you it's amazing. I'm helping Jennifer Murgia countdown to reveal day. 
  5. The Darkness Within Trailer Reveal March 6th  Along with Spencer Hill Press, I'll be revealing the trailer for The Darkness Within on March 6th. Want to participate? Sign up on the form here:

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That's it for me. What's on your mind today?

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34. And Now For Something Completely Different: BOOK OF EARTH

You know how I’ve been writing contemporary all these years?

I’ve secretly always been a medieval warrior girl in my heart.

Time to see what that’s all about.

Book of Earth

One rash act: anything to finally protect herself from her mother’s abuse.

One rash act: and young Bradamante unlocks a future where she’s destined to become a warrior.

With the help of a mystical teacher, Bradamante and her brother Rinaldo learn the skills they’ll need to survive in a brutal kingdom. They’ll also learn that destiny can demand giving up the one that you love.

Loyalty and betrayal, danger and triumph, the magic of mystics—

The Bradamante saga begins.

BOOK OF EARTH, coming February 14, 2015. It’s my Valentine’s Day present to you.

You can pre-order it for the special price of $2.99 from:
Kindle
iBooks
Kobo
Barnes & Noble (link to come)
Scribd (link to come)
Page Foundry (link to come)

Want to know more? Read the opening chapters here.

0 Comments on And Now For Something Completely Different: BOOK OF EARTH as of 2/3/2015 9:22:00 AM
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35. Monday Mishmash 2/2/15


Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.

Here's what's on my mind today:
  1. Editing  I'm booked with edits again this month. The end of 2014 must have been very busy for a lot of writers because I'm editing book after book. :)
  2. Scholastic Book Fair  It's still going on thanks to all the snow days last week. I was a little sad because books I was looking forward to weren't there. My daughter's school only goes to fifth grade so some of the MG books weren't at our fair. :(
  3. Making Book Trailers  I'm working on the trailer for The Darkness Within. This one is proving to be tough! Wish me luck, please.
  4. Busy Month  With Looking For Love (Ashelyn Drake NA romance title) releasing March 17th, I'm busy getting everything ready. Look for a cover reveal on February 13th.
  5. Free Monthly Newsletter  My free monthly newsletter goes out today. If you aren't signed up but would like to receive one, click here.
That's it for me. What's on your mind today?

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36. Friday Feature: Crow's Rest by Angelica Jackson





Avery Flynn arrives for a visit at her Uncle Tam's, eager to rekindle her summertime romance with her crush-next-door, Daniel.

But Daniel’s not the sweet, neurotic guy she remembers--and she wonders if this is her Daniel at all. Or if someone--or something--has taken his place.

Her quest to find the real Daniel--and get him back--plunges Avery into a world of Fae and changelings, where creatures swap bodies like humans change their socks, and magic lives much closer to home than she ever imagined.

Coming out May 12 through Spencer Hill Press.

Check out the trailer!



Find the book on Amazon, B&N, and Goodreads.

In keeping with her scattered Gemini nature, Angelica R. Jackson has far too many interests to list here.
She has an obsession with creating more writing nooks in the home she shares with her husband and two corpulent cats in California's Gold Country. Fortunately, the writing nooks serve for reading and cat cuddling too.
Other pastimes include cooking for food allergies (not necessarily by choice, but she’s come to terms with it), photography, and volunteering at a local no-kill cat sanctuary.

Twitter  |  Facebook  |  Goodreads  |  Photo Galleries  |  Blog  |  Website

Want your YA, NA, or MG book featured on my blog? Contact me here and we'll set it up.

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37. 10 Editorial Steps From the Agent “Call” to Published Book

I am ever so excited to hand the reins over to the fabulous Martina Boone, author of Compulsion, book 1 in the Heirs of Watson Island trilogy. There’s a few reasons for this. First, if you don’t know Martina, well, she’s brilliant. Not only is she an uber talented author with a head full of writerly advice which she dispenses at her blog, she is also a very compassionate and supportive friend who is always thinking about how to help other succeed. I love that.

Second, having her here gives me a chance to gush about her YA debut, Compulsion. You might remember how Becca recently blogged about her favorite reads of 2014. Well, GUESS what book tops my own 2014 list?  You bet your bananas it’s Martina’s Compulsion. There is SO MUCH I want to say about this book, but I really should zip it for now so Martina can give us a rare window into what happens between signing with an agent and holding the beloved book in your hands.

martina booneThe Ten Editorial Steps From the Agent “Call” to Published Book

Like most writers, I’ve dreamed of “being a writer” most of my life, but it wasn’t until 2010 that I decided to throw everything I had at learning to write and getting an agent and getting published. At that point, I read all the books and blog posts that might help me get “there,” and I found so much material that a friend and I started AdventuresInYAPublishing.com to collate all that information and share it with other writers.

Once I signed with an agent, though, I felt like I’d suddenly plunged into an information void. Even with COMPULSION out in the world and PERSUASION well on its way, I still constantly feel like an idiot pestering busy people with questions, or keeping the questions to myself because I’m too embarrassed to ask them.

When we’re starting out as writers, we rarely look beyond the process of getting an agent. That hurdle on its own seems so huge, but truly, it’s just the beginning of the editorial journey our books will take. No, wait. Don’t groan. That’s a GOOD thing, because once your book is out in the world, readers and reviewers are going to pick apart every choice you made. They’ll love them or they’ll hate them, but in your mind, you’ll need to be able to defend those choices knowing exactly why you made them.

After the agent call, here are ten more editorial steps your book will take:

Revising with Your Agent: Even after you’ve polished your manuscript enough to snag an agent, that agent will probably do a round or two of revision with you before sending your book out to editors on submission.

On Sub: While you’re revising, your agent is making lists of editors and putting together a submission packet that will contain the pitch as well as any supporting information that will help “sell” your book to an editor and acquisition panel. The pitch has its genesis in your query letter, and you may find that big chunks of your query eventually end up on your book jacket. You and your agent will probably work on the pitch together before submitting to the editors most likely to love your book.

The Offer: Before you get an offer, your editor may speak to you and share any editorial vision he or she has for your book or query you about follow-on ideas. Both the dollar amount and the supporting information the editor provides will tell you whether they see the book as a mid-list or lead title and how important it will be for their “list.”

EditorialLetter The Editorial Letter: Usually even before your agent and the publisher’s legal department have finalized the contract and the check for the first third of your advance is in the mail, your editor is busy reading your book and preparing the overview what’s needed to bring it to full potential. An editorial letter can range from a couple pages to many pages addressing the manuscript’s strengths and areas for improvement. You may go through one or several rounds of developmental edits.

edits The Line Edit: Once the structure is in place, your editor will go through the manuscript line by line, looking for ways to strengthen the writing, clarify meaning, make images more specific, eliminate cliches and writing ticks, eliminate wordiness, etc.

The Pass for Press: Your editor will review the line edits once you turn them in and she or he will “accept” the manuscript. That’s the trigger for releasing the second third of your advance payment. At this stage, if not before, the book goes to the production department, which schedules out the production process. The book designer starts developing how the interior pages will look, and the cover designer has probably already been working on the exterior jacket in the meantime.

The Copy Edit: The managing editor will turn the book over to a copyeditor. This may be someone in house, or an outside freelancer. It may occur in track changes in Word, or as physical marks on paper. The copyeditor will correct any grammar issues, check for continuity, clarity, and consistency, and pose any queries on facts, timeline, etc. for you in the margins. When you get the Copy Edited Manuscript (CEM) back to review, it’s usually due to your editor very quickly. As I’ve learned the hard way, you need to make sure that this isn’t the first time you see your manuscript printed out on paper, because it will read very differently than it does on your computer screen. CEMs are not the place to make a ton of changes, but they’re a better place to make changes than any point further in the process.

Galleys/ARCs: Once your manuscript is copyedited, it will be changed from an electronic Word file into a typeset file within the publisher’s design program, where it is printed out into page proofs for further editorial scrutiny and distribution to reviewers, booksellers, and power readers—people who can help spread the word about and build excitement for your book. Depending on the publisher and the timeline, you may get to review the proofs before Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) are printed and bound, or you may see the ARCs first and get a few copies for yourself at the same time that they are prepared to go out for review. Don’t fret either way, ARCs are expected to contain errors.

1st Pass Pages: When you get the proofs of the typeset pages, it’s your first chance to see what your book will really look like, how the fonts look, how the paragraphs flow on the page, and how the pages and chapters lay out. You’ll also review for remaining typos and any inadvertent errors introduced when the file and edits were keyed in. Making changes at this stage is expensive, especially if they change pagination. If you make too many changes, your publisher could charge you for the expense, so you’re looking only for things that *must* be changed or corrected.

2nd Pass Pages: Whatever changes were made in the first pass will be reflected in the second pass, but your publisher may not send 2nd PPs to you. At this stage, your job on the manuscript is essentially done, and it’s a surreal feeling to know that there’s nothing more that you can do.

At this point, all of you—your agent, editor, production team, art department, marketing, sales, and publicity team, everyone at your publisher—have done their best, and it’s time to to turn the book over to your readers.

Getting a book to print is truly a gargantuan effort, and it’s a leap of faith and love on everyone’s part. The process is not for the faint-hearted, and there are times when I wanted to crawl in a hole and weep with the pressure and the stress and the sense that I couldn’t possibly make the book good enough. The first letter I received from a reader reminded me of why we do this though—because it was a letter very much like one I would have liked to have written to my favorite author about a beloved book. And hearing that my characters, world, and words have meant that much to someone is an amazing and energizing feeling.

(We often think that hardest part is writing the book, but this post shows how much more still needs to be done after the yes. And then there’s marketing, promoting…as Martina says, not for the faint-hearted. But the product of ALL that hard work? Right here. Trust me, you NEED this book! ~ A)

CompulsionThree plantations. Two gifts. One ancient curse.

All her life, Barrie Watson has been a virtual prisoner in the house where she lives with her shut-in mother. When her mother dies, Barrie promises to put some mileage on her stiletto heels. But she finds a new kind of prison at her aunt’s South Carolina plantation instead–a prison guarded by an ancient spirit who long ago cursed one of the three founding families of Watson Island and gave the others magical gifts that became compulsions.

Stuck with the ghosts of a generations-old feud and hunted by forces she cannot see, Barrie must find a way to break free of the family legacy. With the help of sun-kissed Eight Beaufort, who somehow seems to know what Barrie wants before she knows herself, the last Watson heir starts to unravel her family’s twisted secrets. What she finds is dangerous: a love she never expected, a river that turns to fire at midnight, a gorgeous cousin who isn’t what she seems, and very real enemies who want both Eight and Barrie dead.

IndieBound | Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Walmart | Target | Book Depository (free worldwide shipping)

The truth? I devoured this book. You ever wish a fictional world was a real place, and its characters living, breathing people that you could sit with and talk to? That’s the effect this book had on me. I loved Barrie and Eight, the push and pull of their personalities, and most of all, the love and loyalty they have for family. Watson Island felt as real and authentic to me as my own backyard. Reading this book was an experience in the truest sense. I loved discovering how magic compulsions, curses and feuds played out between the three families, and the secrets and danger that ties them all together.

A GIVEAWAY? HECK YES!

I feel utterly COMPELLED to make sure others experience this book, so Becca and I will be giving an ebook copy away to one commenter!

Please, do check this book out, and add it to your Goodreads listI can’t recommend it enough. You can find Martina all over the place, so reach out and say hello:

Martina’s Website | Blog | Tumblr | Facebook | Pinterest | Instagram | Twitter

Questions about the Publishing Journey? Fan of Compulsion like me? Tell us all about it in the comments!

 

The post 10 Editorial Steps From the Agent “Call” to Published Book appeared first on WRITERS HELPING WRITERS™.

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38. Books I Won’t Read

Back in the distant past, about two or three months ago, someone commented on a book review about not reading books on certain topics and perhaps that might be something I could write about sometime. This being in the murky past, I have no recollection of who made the comment nor on what book review post it was made. I thought it was a great idea at the time but had so many other fascinating things to write about I never got around to it and soon forgot about it. Until this morning when I was dredging my brain for something to post about besides links to interesting articles. So tonight’s the night! Avoiding books because of subject matter.

I’m not talking about book genres here so there’s no, “I never read romance novels” or some kind of blanket thing like that. It’s more like, “I can’t read books with child murders in them.” There’s a difference, yes? My first thoughts were that there is absolutely nothing I wouldn’t read about. But of course, that’s not true. Nonetheless, I had a hard time with it because it is such an automatic response I am not even aware of it most of the time. And sometimes I might make exceptions for one reason or another.

This list then, I’m not sure how accurate it is. I might have left something off. But I can say that this is a list of topics/plots/things I tend avoid when reading:

  • Books about women whose main goal in life is to shop their way to happiness or find the perfect husband. I never read The Devil Wears Prada because I thought it was this sort of book. I never saw the movie either until this last fall after a coworker told me it was totally not what I thought. And she was right. I liked the movie quite a lot. I have no plans to read the book because it seems the movie covered it all and I didn’t like it that much.
  • Books that will give me nightmares. This is one of those “I know it when I see it” sorts of things. It’s usually a horror-type novel. I will never, for instance, read The Shining. But it’s not a blanket horror ban because I really liked Peter Straub’s Ghost Story. I can do psychological horror such as Shirley Jackson’s Haunting of Hill House. Loved that book. I guess it’s more of the graphic supernatural violence/horror that gives me problems. But not only that. It’s also the idea of a threat without having any kind of predictability. If there are rules like “don’t blink” I can handle it. But if it is random or unexplainable, no way will I go there. You are all welcome to psychoanalyze me now.
  • Books that are overtly misogynist and deliberately degrading and cruel to anyone, especially to women.
  • Books with dogs. These tend to fall into two categories. The worst are the emotionally manipulative smarmy ones. If it’s not one of those I still won’t read it because I will at some point during the book break down into a sobbing mess usually in the last chapter when the dog inevitably dies. My trauma around this began when I was in third grade and read Where the Red Fern Grows. Twice. And then the second time having my mom walk into my room when I was in the midst of a glorious sobfest and she was, briefly, very concerned and a bit scared about why I was crying. So perhaps it’s not about the dogs at all but a personal concern about scaring people who might find me sobbing. Because I do sometimes make an exception. However, while reading those exceptions when I come to the crying part I try really hard to make sure I’m alone.

There you have it, the books I will pass by if they are any of these things. I think I got them all but as soon as I push the “publish” button I will probably remember one I forgot. Or Bookman will read this and say, “and what about …?” That’s what updates and comments are for, right?

What about you? Are there topics or plots or other things you will not read?


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39. KidLit Author/Illustrator Events Jan. 27-Feb. 2

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This week we have an exciting one-a-year event for the younger set! Bookworm Festival!

January 31, Saturday, 9:30-12:00A Moose That Says Moo THE STORY OF FISH AND SNAIL by Deborah Freedman
Spring Oaks Middle School, 2150 Shadowdale
Bookworm Festival

Bookworm Festival is a celebration of reading and a chance for primary grade children to meet several authors who create books for them. Dan Santat, illustrator of countless A CRANKENSTEIN VALENTINE by Samantha Berger; Illustrated by Dan SantatDUCK & GOOSE COLORS by Tad Hillbooks including his newest, A CRANKENSTEIN VALENTINE, will give the keynote speech. He will be joined by nationally known authors and illustrators of picture books and early chapter books including Tad Hills, Deborah Freedman, Jennifer Hamburg and Dan Hanna.
Librarians and language arts teachers from across Houston comprise the steering committee for the Bookworm Festival. Their goal is to connect emerging readers with authors to foster the joy of reading. SWEET DREAMS, POUT-POUT FISH by Deborah Diesen; Illustrated by Dan Hanna

Please visit their site for exciting information about the day. Books by the festival’s speakers will be available for purchase though Blue Willow Bookshop.

Enjoy the trailer for CRANKENSTEIN VALENTINE!

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40. Review: What We See When We Read by Peter Mendelsund

I read this after listening the fabulous Bookrageous Podcast which read and discussed the book for their book club and then interviewed the author. It is a fascinating look at what is happening inside our minds when we read. The author, Peter Mendelsund, is a book designer for Knopf in the US but also has […]

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41. Monday Mishmash: 1/26/15


Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.

Here's what's on my mind today:
  1. Scholastic Book Fair  I'm working the Scholastic Book Fair this week at my daughter's school. I know Stephanie Farris's book will be there, so I'll be talking it up to the kids. Anyone have a book that's part of the fair? I'll be sure to showcase it if so. :)
  2. Editing  I'm working on client edits this week.
  3. Snow  This stuff needs to go away for good. I'm done with winter.
  4. Drafting  I'm doing something I rarely do. I'm slowly drafting a book here and there between other projects. I don't really like to work like this but sometimes it's necessary, and to be honest, I love what I've written so far, so maybe this is what this book needs.
  5. Looking For Love Cover Reveal Signups  I'm looking for people to sign up for the Cover Reveal of the final installment of the Campus Crush companion series (New Adult contemporary romance). Interested in helping out? Oh, and the form has a spot if you're interested in reviewing an ARC. Sign up here: 
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    That's it for me. What's on your mind today?

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42. The Power of Reading Aloud

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YOUR MIND WHILE LISTENING TO A BOOK

 

I have always loved reading books aloud. When I was a teen I spent an awful lot of time on the phone. Actually talking . . . it was a landline phone. And it was in my room. With unlimited local calling for $17 a month. I held down a few babysitting jobs so I could afford that phone and one of the magical things I did on it was read books, aloud, to my friends.

I know right? I have great friends. They would humor me as I did different voices for all the characters. I remember reading Stephen King’s Night Shift to one friend in particular, story by creepy story, until one night my friend casually asked, “How about you read something that won’t prevent me from sleeping after we hang up?”

Reading aloud continued through my adult years except my new captive audience was my kids. From Sandra Boynton to EB White, I was the one who had a hard time stopping so the kids could finally go to bed. My oldest, bless his heart, let me read the entire Harry Potter series to him, even though the last book was published the year he turned eleven and he was fully capable of reading it on his own. BTW, I do a horrifying Voldemort and a kick-butt Hermione.

Now I have a new reason for reading aloud beyond the entertainment factor: EDITING my own WRITING. There is nothing so powerful as stumbling over your own words to make you realize more polishing is required. Reading aloud forces my mind to slow down and see each and every word. When I read silently, I miss typos, grammar errors, and missing words becuase my mind will fill in the gaps– it just hums along without recognizing I just had my protagonist pee around the corner instead of peek around the corner.

Even better, is listening to someone else read your words to you. My very first novel, the one that garnered me two offers of representation and an agent, was read to me by my son. He would stop and tell me when he didn’t understand something so I could put it into simpler language. I would stop him when I heard a sentence fail and fix it before he went on. It was a great partnership, but alas, he is eighteen now and has a life.

However, I have discovered how to let my computer read my words to me. Granted, my lovely Macbook can’t put the emotional nuance into the words that a human being can, but hearing someone else’s voice (Okay, someTHING else’s voice) read my work back to me continues to be eye opening. And I have become very fond of “ALEX”, especially when he reads one notch above Normal speed.

This is how you do it on a Mac:

  1. Open the system preferences
  2. In the System grouping, open SPEECH
  3. Click on the Text to Speech tab
  4. Choose your system voice with the drop down arrow, male or female (I prefer Alex or Kathy depending on if I have a male or female POV)
  5. Choose the voice speaking rate
  6. Test your choices with the Play button and alter as needed
  7. Click the check box for “Speak selected text when the key is pressed”
  8. Click the set key button to set up a keyboard command, I use Command + H which means to get Alex talking I press the Command key and the H key on my keyboard at the same time, but you can choose any combination of keys that makes sense for you that isn’t already in use, you know like CTRL + P which sends your work to the printer…
  9. Click the OK button
  10. X out of the System Preferences window and you’re good to go

Now when you have your book open in Word or Scrivener or whatever program you use, you’ll need to highlight the text to be read (click your mouse button at the top of the passage, hold the mouse button down, drag through the selection, release the mouse button) and then press Command + H.

Oh, make sure your speaker is turned on too!

What are the directions for doing this on a Windows-based computer? Why would you want to write a novel on anything but a Mac? :)

Photograph © Ruslana Stovner

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43. Friday Feature: Racing Hearts by Laura Lascarso




He wants to honor his father’s legacy; she wants to prove her father wrong. 

18-year-old Jesse is still grieving from the loss of his father to cancer when he learns his mother has lost her job. All too soon, Jesse, his little sister, and his mother might be put out on the streets. 

Jesse hears of a local car race sponsored by his father's nemesis, Shep Bradley, and the prize money might be enough to keep Jesse’s family from losing their home - if he can win it.

When Shep’s own daughter Brooke asks Jesse to build her a racecar against her father’s wishes, Jesse accepts. After all, he needs the money.

Coming February 10 through Leap Books.

Here's a teaser pic to get you ready for this book:


Want your YA, NA, or MG book featured on my blog? Contact me here and we'll set it up.

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44. Canons and Classics and Henry James

It’s one of those posts filled with a variety of goodness — or badness depending on how you look at it. Maybe not filled, maybe only partially filled. And maybe not a lot of variety but only some. And — oh heck, you’ll see.

Under the heading of blame it on postmodernists, the internet and book bloggers, comes an essay at the Chronicle of Higher Education What We Lose if We Lose the Canon. Yes, apparently the cannons are still firing on the canon war. There is still a canon to lose according to Arthur Krystal who worries that without it our poets and novelists will have no one to test themselves against, no one to supplant, no inspiration to work out new “aesthetic or philosophical precepts.” And somehow the “dismantling of hierarchies is tantamount to an erasure of history.” I’m not quite sure how that is the case since I’m pretty sure history of any kind isn’t bound exclusively to hierarchies unless of course you mean the history of literature as written by white western men.

Everything was hunky-dory until the postmodernists committed murder:

A few decades ago the modernists themselves became precursors when a loose confederation of critics and philosophers decided that modernism consisted of work that was too oblique and too self-consciously “high art” while remaining at the same time innocent of its own socio-semiotic implications. But what made the postmodern charter different was its willingness to discard the very idea of standards. Starting from the premise that aesthetics were just another social construct rather than a product of universal principles, postmodernist thinkers succeeded in toppling hierarchies and nullifying the literary canon. Indeed, they were so good at unearthing the socioeconomic considerations behind canon formation that even unapologetic highbrows had to wonder if they hadn’t been bamboozled by Arnoldian acolytes and eloquent ideologues.

That heretofore inviolable ideal of art, as expostulated by Walter Pater and John Ruskin, by T.S. Eliot and Lionel Trilling, by the New Criticism, was shunted aside.

I dunno, I’m not an expert in postmodernist theory, but I suspect that it wasn’t standards that were tossed overboard, but the values behind those standards that were brought into question and revealed to be constructed of the subjective opinions of a few rather than the universal objective truths everyone was pretending they were.

Then — horrors! — without the canon and aesthetic standards “every reader could become a person with unimpeachable taste” as if that’s why people read in the first place. Ok, some people read certain books to prove they have good taste, but I’m pretty sure most people who love reading don’t give a fig about taste. Into this wild devil’s brew add the internet and blogs and Amazon book reviews and suddenly “every autodidact with a bad teacher [is able] to address the world.” General readers have the audacity to express their personal opinions on how they thought Fifty Shades of Grey was the best thing since sliced bread. This causes the world to tilt, the poles to flip-flop, fire to rain down from the sky because literature has become “what anyone wants it to be.”

It’s okay to read authors like P.G. Wodehouse and Raymond Chandler for a little light fun now and then, to call them Literature with a capital “L” just won’t do. And for books like George R.R. Martin’s to even be mentioned in a classroom let alone seriously discussed just reveals how low we have sunk.

As Krystal says, “Some books simply reflect a deeper understanding of the world, of history, of human relationships” than other books. To that I say yes, yes they do. And those books will continue being read even without there being a canon to shove them down a reader’s throat. If he spent any time reading book blogs at all he would know that book bloggers are really into the classics. Our definition of a classic is broader and more inclusive than his, I’m sure, but he will still find plenty of readers eagerly reading Austen, Dickens, Tolstoy, Hugo and a boatful of other superstars. That we dare read them for pleasure and share our opinion, isn’t that what readers are supposed to do?

With so many things we could be doing besides reading, it seems to me that those who are still so tied to there being a canon created by mysterious and unknown literary gatekeepers are doing literature a huge disservice. No, George R.R. Martin is not James Joyce but I can see how there is value in teaching Game of Thrones in a literature class on the genre of fantasy. I can see there is value in teaching a class on the fantasy genre. Genre is an important part of literature and literary history. If you want to talk about erasing history, let’s have a conversation about how hierarchy and the canon of dead white men erased quite a lot of literary history that we are still in the process of rediscovering.

Well okay, sorry about the soapbox rant there. Here are a couple of things to lighten the mood:

  • The American Scholar has a list of Ten Neglected Classics (via A Different Stripe). Angela Carter and Elizabeth Gaskell made the list as did several books I have never heard of before. What fun! Take that literary canon!
  • For something a little silly, at The Toast, How to Tell If You are in a Henry James Novel. I laughed out loud several times while reading the list but I think my two favorites are the first one, “You’ve done something in a piazza that renders you unfit for polite company,” and number 21, “You may be someone else who the narrator is referring to and you may also be yourself; it is impossible to say at this junture just who ‘you’ are.” Though number 18 is pretty awesome too: “If only someone would die, you’d get everything you’ve ever wanted.” Heh, if only.

That’s enough fun for one blog post, I don’t want to over do it.


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45. Friday Feature: 52 Likes by Medeia Sharif



After a brutal rape and near-murder, Valerie wants to get past feelings of victimhood from both the assault and her history of being bullied. She’s plagued by not knowing the identity of her rapist and by the nasty rumors in school about that night. Valerie follows clues from ghostly entities, past victims of the rapist-murderer, contacting her through a social media site—why do all of their eerie photos have 52 likes under them? Their messages are leading her to the mystery man, although he’ll put up a fight to remain hidden.

My thoughts:
After reading Vitamins and Death in one sitting, I knew Medeia could write edgy and dark YA really well, so I jumped at the chance to read 52 Likes. Once again, I couldn't put the book down. The book begins with Valerie being raped. I wasn't sure how I'd endure reading a rape scene, but it was handled really well. I felt Valerie's emotion without being overwhelmed by the horrific act. What I loved about this book was that Valerie doesn't allow herself to sit back and become the victim. She fights. Even when everyone around her is making her feel like she is the one who did something wrong, she continues to seek out her rapist and reveal his identity to everyone.

The ghosts of the rapist's victims appear to Valerie, encouraging her to fight for them, too. Valerie was supposed to die like they did, only a passerby saved her life. And that means her rapist is set on finishing what he started. The mystery behind who the rapist is and the race to reveal him and have him locked up before he gets to her again is what made me keep turning the pages. 

If you like darker YA with mystery and some ghosts thrown in, this is the perfect read. I dare you to put it down once you start reading it. ;)

Want your YA, NA, or MG book featured on my blog? Contact me here and we'll set it up.

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46. Join the QUEST! Win the TREASURE!

URQ Poster3What do pirates, explorers and children have in common? They all love treasure hunts!
THE ULTIMATE READING QUEST will end on Monday, January 19th, at midnight. This is your last chance to explore new books and authors, and to take home free prizes and books. Plus, one lucky winner, will get a
MYSTERY BONUS TREASURE!
To enter your name for this SPECIAL TREASURE you must prove yourself worthy by collecting the 49 letters of a secret message! Just by reading this post you already have two of the letters (A and B).
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Find the rest within the Quest, writing them down as you go. When you have all 49, unscramble them to decode the secret message. Enter the exact words of the message in the Mystery Prize Rafflecopter right here: a Rafflecopter giveawayAs you're searching for the letters, be sure to leave a comment for each and every author. Not only will you get to chat with the amazing Quest authors, but each comment will earn you extra entries in the general Quest prize giveaway that includes an astonishing 124 free prizes and gifts! a Rafflecopter giveaway
What are you waiting for? Click this button to start collecting the rest of the letters. Then return here and enter to TAKE THE TREASURE!
CLICK ON THE BUTTON TO START THE QUEST
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47. Because Waiting Is So Boring

Parallelogram 4

I know I said Parallelogram 4 (Beyond the Parallel) wasn’t coming out until next Tuesday, January 20.

Weekends are for reading. It’s out now. Enjoy!

Kindle
Nook
iTunes
Kobo
Smashwords
Paperback

And the prices for the first 3 installments will still stay nice and low until next week, so if you haven’t read Parallelogram 1, 2, or 3 yet, you can scoop them up at a bargain!

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48. Becca’s Favorite Reads of 2014

For some unfathomable reason, my library keeps no list of the books I’ve checked out—which is really annoying when I want to reference a book in a blog post or refer a good read to someone else and I CANNOT REMEMBER THE TITLE. So I have to keep my own records. Goodreads is my preferred site for this, since my READ (past tense) list not only keeps track of the books I’ve finished, it also includes the date and my rating.

I love Goodreads. If I was Oprah, I’d give it away as one of My Favorite Things. *cue shrieking*

So now that another year has passed, I’d like to share my favorite books of 2014— ’cause when I find an excellent story, I want to give it some love. Maybe some of these will tickle your fancy. Here they are, in no particular order:

Title and Author: The Real Boy, Anne Ursu
Genre: Fantasy
Synopsis:
On an island on the edge of an immense sea there is a city, a forest, and a boy. The city is called Asteri, a perfect city that was saved by the magic woven into its walls from a devastating plague that swept through the world over a hundred years before. The forest is called the Barrow, a vast wood of ancient trees that encircles the city and feeds the earth with magic. And the boy is called Oscar, a shop boy for the most powerful magician in the Barrow. Oscar spends his days in a small room in the dark cellar of his master’s shop, grinding herbs and dreaming of the wizards who once lived on the island generations ago. Oscar’s world is small, but he likes it that way. The real world is vast, strange, and unpredictable. And Oscar does not quite fit in it.

But it’s been a long time since anyone who could call himself a wizard walked the world, and now that world is changing. Children in the city are falling ill, and something sinister lurks in the forest. Oscar has long been content to stay in his small room in the cellar, comforted in the knowledge that the magic that flows from the trees will keep his island safe. Now, even magic may not be enough to save it.

Why I Loved It: Anne Ursu is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors due to her impressive world building and her ability to turn a unique phrase. I also had no idea that this story was a fairy tale retelling until I was halfway through the book. The story is complex and engaging enough to stand on its own.

 

Title and Author: Clariel, Garth Nix
Genre: Fantasy
Synopsis:
Award-winning author Garth Nix returns to the Old Kingdom with a thrilling prequel complete with dark magic, royalty, dangerous action, a strong heroine, and flawless world-building. This epic fantasy adventure is destined to be a classic, and is perfect for fans of Game of Thrones.

Clariel is the daughter of one of the most notable families in the Old Kingdom, with blood relations to the Abhorsen and, most important, to the King. She dreams of living a simple life but discovers this is hard to achieve when a dangerous Free Magic creature is loose in the city, her parents want to marry her off to a killer, and there is a plot brewing against the old and withdrawn King Orrikan. When Clariel is drawn into the efforts to find and capture the creature, she finds hidden sorcery within herself, yet it is magic that carries great dangers. Can she rise above the temptation of power, escape the unwanted marriage, and save the King?

Why I Loved It: I’m a huge Garth Nix fan. HUGE. His Abhorsen trilogy is one that I look back on as forming my early ideas as an author. His world building is second to none. So when I heard that he’d written a prequel for this series, I was super excited and also more than a little nervous, believing it couldn’t live up to the rest of the series. Thank goodness I was wrong.

 

Title and Author: Dreams of Gods and Monsters, Laini Taylor
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Synopsis of the First Book in the Series (Daughter of Smoke and Bone):
Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”; she speaks many languages–not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When one of the strangers–beautiful, haunted Akiva–fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

Why I Loved It: Angels and demons, a celestial war, an urban fantasy partially set in the fascinating Prague…what’s not to love?

 

Title and Author: If You Find Me, Emily Murdoch
Genre: Contemporary
Synopsis:
A broken-down camper hidden deep in a national forest is the only home fifteen year-old Carey can remember. The trees keep guard over her threadbare existence, with the one bright spot being Carey’s younger sister, Jenessa, who depends on Carey for her very survival. All they have is each other, as their mentally ill mother comes and goes with greater frequency. Until that one fateful day their mother has disappeared for good, and two strangers arrive. Suddenly, the girls are taken from the woods and thrust into a bright and perplexing new world of high school, clothes and boys.

Now, Carey must face the truth of why her mother abducted her ten years ago, while haunted by a past that won’t let her go . . . a dark past that hides many secrets, including the reason Jenessa hasn’t spoken a word in over a year. Carey knows she must keep her sister close, and her secrets even closer, or risk watching her new life come crashing down.

Why I Loved It: This one grabbed me with the premise: an isolated teenager raised in the woods who’s forced to assimilate into modern-day society. What kept me reading was the achingly real and empathetic main character.

 

Title and Author: The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman
Genre: Fantasy
Synopsis:
In this Newbery Medal-winning novel, Bod is an unusual boy who inhabits an unusual place—he’s the only living resident of a graveyard. Raised from infancy by the ghosts, werewolves, and other cemetery denizens, Bod has learned the antiquated customs of his guardians’ time as well as their ghostly teachings—such as the ability to Fade so mere mortals cannot see him.

Can a boy raised by ghosts face the wonders and terrors of the worlds of both the living and the dead? And then there are being such as ghouls that aren’t really one thing or the other.

Why I Loved It: Um, it’s Neil Gaiman?

 

Title and Author: The Sea of Tranquility, Katja Millay
Genre: Contemporary
Synopsis:
I live in a world without magic or miracles. A place where there are no clairvoyants or shapeshifters, no angels or superhuman boys to save you. A place where people die and music disintegrates and things suck. I am pressed so hard against the earth by the weight of reality that some days I wonder how I am still able to lift my feet to walk. 

Two and a half years after an unspeakable tragedy left her a shadow of the girl she once was, Nastya Kashnikov moves to a new town determined to keep her dark past hidden and hold everyone at a distance. But her plans only last so long before she finds herself inexplicably drawn to the one person as isolated as herself: Josh Bennett.

Josh’s story is no secret. Every person he loves has been taken from his life until, at seventeen years old, there is no one left. When your name is synonymous with death, everyone tends to give you your space. Everyone except Nastya who won’t go away until she’s insinuated herself into every aspect of his life. But as the undeniable pull between them intensifies, he starts to wonder if he will ever learn the secrets she’s been hiding—or if he even wants to.

The Sea of Tranquility is a rich, intense, and brilliantly imagined story about a lonely boy, an emotionally fragile girl, and the mira­cle of second chances.

Why I Loved It: The main character was utterly unique and intensely flawed. And what started as a possible love triangle turned into something unpredictable, which was a refreshing change. Also, it has possibly the BEST ENDING LINE OF A NOVEL EVER.

So those are my top picks for 2014. What about you? Care to share which books you loved and why?

The post Becca’s Favorite Reads of 2014 appeared first on WRITERS HELPING WRITERS™.

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49. Easy or Difficult?

Did anyone catch the recent Atlantic article Readability is a Myth? It’s an interesting take on what constitutes an easy or difficult book. The author, Noah Berlatsky, suggests that difficult and easy are not good terms to describe books because, as we have all likely experienced, a book I find difficult you might have found easy and vice versa. It’s completely subjective.

Plus, these descriptions often come laden with value judgments. Literature is difficult and because it is difficult, or rather, can be, it is worth our time and effort. It’s the take your vitamins approach in disguise. The books we label easy often fall into the commercial fiction category, who could possibly find The Da Vinci Code difficult to read? Easy means fluff, means a waste of time, means if you find easy difficult then you must be braindead. I imagine we have all made value judgments about people based on our perceived difficulty of their reading material of choice.

I used to work with a woman who was one of the nicest people I have ever known. She tended to like Dan Brown sorts of books and it was so very hard to not hold that against her. It’s not that I thought she was dumb, I just couldn’t understand why she would want to spend her time reading thrillers and conspiracy theory kinds of books. She always asked me what I was reading and once, out of her mouth popped, do you ever read anything that isn’t hard? And I was so surprised because I didn’t think the books I mentioned were hard at all and I didn’t know how to respond to her question.

Recently someone asked me if I like music and if so what kind of music I liked to listen to. When I replied that I like a lot of different kinds of music but mostly rock and pop she was surprised. She thought given the kind or things I like to read that I was too highbrow for Katy Perry and she expected me to say I only listened to Mozart and Vivaldi. And then I worried all day whether people think I am a snob.

Berlatsky asks us to try and remove the value judgment from easy and difficult and try to think of them differently. He, for instance, says that Fifty Shades of Grey is one of the most difficult books he has ever read. Now we can say, yeah, that’s probably because it is such a bad book, but is that fair to all those readers who loved it? I don’t like it when someone sneers at a book I loved, I need to really work at being better about not sneering at books other people like. We all readily admit that “good” is a subjective opinion but for some reason it is harder to agree that difficult is also subjective even though we all know that it is.

Berlatsky makes a good point even though his argument is a bit weak in the end. To equate easy with bad and difficult with good is downright silly. Yet maybe because it has been so ingrained it’s hard to separate them, at least it is for me. It will take work, but it seems worthwhile to try and break it all apart.


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50. Don’t Tell Kids What to Read

There have been some really interesting articles on reading around the internet lately. I’ve seen one on reading ebooks, there was the one on the canon and the one about easy and difficult books. I’ve seen articles on YA books and several on books and children. The ones on books and children could be playing a match at the Australian Tennis Open for all the back and forthing. Do we crack down on kids and make them read? Do we let kids choose their own books?

Has there always been so much anxiety about children and reading? I don’t have kids so I generally don’t pay attention, but at the moment is seems to be particularly volatile. Personally, I agree with Max Ehrenfreund’s blog post at the Washington Post, If we stop telling kids what to read they might start reading again. There have been some recent surveys that suggest kids who get to pick their own reading material enjoy reading more and as a consequence, spend more time reading. Kind of a no-brainer, really. As an adult I wouldn’t want anyone telling me what to read, why do adults think kids would like it?

Now and then when I read one of those bookish memoirs of people who grew up with the gentle guidance of adults directing them toward The Iliad or Jane Eyre at the tender age of ten, I sometimes wish that had been my experience. But if I think about it longer than a few minutes and I consider what I was reading when I was ten, I’m glad I was left to my own devices.

About that time is when I began venturing out into fantasy and science fiction. I loved all things unicorn and Peter Beagle’s The Last Unicorn was totally awesome. And then I discovered science fiction with A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle and read it because it had a unicorn on the cover. But it turned out to be the third book in a series so after I read it I started at the beginning and wow science and space travel and time travel! I found these books on my own because my mom let me wander around in a bookstore and choose them for myself. Never once did my parents tell me what I could and could not read; never once did they frown at my choices and tell me I should be reading something else. They let me explore on my own and discover for myself what I liked and didn’t like to read. I got plenty of assigned reading at school, they didn’t need to give me assignments too.

My reading choices were an eclectic mix of age appropriate teenage angst novels by Judy Blume and generally adult fantasy and science fiction. Being able to choose my own books helped me develop into a self-confident reader willing to try any kind of book at least once. If my parents had ever told me I couldn’t read something because it was too easy or too hard or silly or any other way not right or good or appropriate, if they had put limits on me I suspect I would be a very different kind of reader today.

I appreciate what my parents did for me. I want kids these days to be allowed to have the same opportunity. Let them choose their own books no matter what those books might be. Let them explore and discover. It will help them love reading and it will help them be better readers because of that love.


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