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26. The New Phone Book’s Here

In the immortal words of Navin R. Johnson:

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Things are going to start happening to me now!

Yes, due to life, it took a long time to arrive, but that lovable scamp Virgil Creech is back in Virgil Creech Sings for His Supper.

 Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00063]

 

 

Even the idyllic little town of Portsong isn’t immune to the coming depression. What will our favorite family of eleven do when their chief bread-winner is left without a job? Enter the youngest son, Virgil Creech, who discovers an unlikely talent that may just keep the family afloat.

Meanwhile, half the world away, town grocer Harland Gentry discovers the truth of the ancient proverb, Pride goes before a fall. On the vacation of a lifetime, Harland decides to reinvent himself as a man of means, hoping to leave the small town behind. But he is not prepared for what he discovers on his unpredictable African adventure.

Of course, Virgil Creech Sings for His Supper contains a healthy dose of the lovable Colonel Clarence Birdwhistle, as he and Henry begin to rebuild the Lee family farm. All of these stories come together for another delightful romp through Portsong, the southern town halfway between Savannah and heaven.

 

From the back of the book, here is our new friend, Harland Gentry as drawn by Aprilily.

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It is always rewarding to have someone read one of my books. But I was particularly excited to get a Five Bookworm Review on the first book in the series because it came from a kid, which is my target audience.  He is also not a family member!

You can read his take here.

 

If you haven’t had a chance to read Virgil Creech Takes a Swipe at Redemption, the ebook version is going to go free for a week sometime soon as publicity for the sequel. Of course, I’ll announce it here.

I wrote the final piece of the Portsong Series last year hope to release it fairly soon. I am now working on my first piece of adult humor and would love to put it out in 2015. We shall see if life gets in the way of that one as well.


Filed under: From the Writer

4 Comments on The New Phone Book’s Here, last added: 8/14/2014
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27. Shark Week Is for Readers, Too: 10+ Books to Read this Week

JAWSEach year for one week, The Discovery Channel takes over the airwaves with a seven-day onslaught of movies, documentaries, survivor tales and semi-factual mockumentaries about sharks. As fascinating as it all is, readers are left high and dry—where are all the books about sharks? I’ve rounded up several—some classic, some campy, some for kids, some nonfiction—for those of us who want all the thrill of Shark Week, but with somewhat less screen time. (Or supplement your Discovery marathoning. There are no rules in Shark Week.)


1. Jaws

It wouldn’t be a list about shark books without the one that started it all. Peter Benchley’s classic inspired Steven Spielberg’s film, and 40 years later it’s still deeply, relentlessly terrifying. Hank Searls’ followup novelizations of Jaws 2 and Jaws: The Revenge and Benchley’s The Deep are also highly encouraged reading for the week.

2. The Old Man and the Sea

Hemingway’s tale of a Cuban fisherman going head-to-snout with a marlin is remembered for many reasons, none of which pertain to Shark Week. We should change that. The Nobel Prize in Literature is nice and all, but this week is a big deal right now, and an entirely unscientific survey I just conducted reveals that only one in several readers outside of high school has bothered to pick up The Old Man and the Sea, except when rearranging bookshelves. (That one is me. This book is worth reading any week of the year.)

Megbook3. The Meg series

You don’t have to be an especially well-read fan of megalodon lore to enjoy Steve Alten’s bestselling undersea thriller series featuring the rediscovery of the largest shark species in history. Begin at the beginning with Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror, then dare yourself to tear through the next five Meg novels (The Trench, Primal Waters, Hell’s Aquarium, Nightstalkers and Origins) before you have to enter a body of water larger than a bathtub.

4. In Harm’s Way: The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors

Technically, Doug Stanton’s harrowing story of the 317 men who survived the sinking of the USS Indianapolis isn’t specifically about sharks. But it’s damn good reading, and a sufficient quantity of sharks are involved in the story to include it on this list.

5. Sharks! by National Geographic Kids

Sharks are scary, but they’re also super-cool. If you have a small person who enjoys reading, consider picking this title up on your next trip to the library. Or check it out for yourself—no one dislikes 32 pages of cool facts about sharks.

Nugget and Fang6. Nugget and Fang: Friends Forever–or Snack Time?

So maybe stories about vicious attacks or details about shark migration are a little too advanced for some kids. Fortunately for them, there is Tammi Sauer and Michael Slack’s adorable little story about vegetarian sharks who make friends with a school of minnows.

7. Shark Girl 

Kelly Bingham’s debut young adult novel chronicles the life of a girl who has lost her arm to a shark attack, and then must return to high school with a prosthesis to face the potential mockery of her fellow classmates. Shark Girl is less shark-centric than, say, Meg, but more personal and introspective than most other books on this list. And as a young adult novel in verse, it’s possible that Shark Girl is the only book (so far) about a shark-attack-survivor in high school that also rhymes. (Joking aside, Bingham’s work here is impressive and award-winning, and worth reading even outside the brief moment that is Shark Week.)

BAIT8. Bait

If you put four drug addicts on an island, heroin on a nearby island, and a shiver of sharks between, what happens? This is the premise of J. Kent Messum’s award-winning first novel, Bait. You’ll have to find out for yourself what happens after that.

9. The Secret Life of Sharks

For every myth Jaws perpetuated, Pete Klimley debunked three in his celebrated collection of real facts about sharks—what they eat, when, how they raise their young, when and how they migrate. From hammerheads to great whites, there are few books as full of firsthand data on shark behavior.

10. Shark Fin Soup

There are few books more appropriate for this week than Susan Klaus’ thriller about a man who avenges his wife’s murder at the hands of shark finners by becoming an ecoterrorist called Captain Nemo. Nemo’s methods may be suspect, but his heart is in the right place.

There’s no way to include every book about sharks on this list. What are your favorites?


headshotWD

Adrienne Crezo is the managing editor of Writer’s Digest magazine. You can follow her on Twitter @a_crezo.

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28. Call for Submissions: pluck! The Journal of Affrilachian Arts & Culture

pluck! The Journal of Affrilachian Arts & Culture is now accepting submissions for its 12th issue themed, “From the Holler to the Hood.” We invite poetry and prose (both scholarly and creative) that illustrates the experience in transitioning between urban and rural environments. We also invite digital collage and photography that interprets our theme visually. All submissions will be considered for both print and web editions of the issue.

General Call for Submissions:
pluck! The Journal of Affrilachian Arts & Culture is looking for voices of color from the thirteen states touched by the Appalachian Mountains (Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia) and work with a strong sense of place that addresses the writer’s unique experience in this physical and spiritual diaspora. We ask that potential contributors please read at least one issue of our journal before submitting their work so they can get a feel for the material we accept. Normal response time can range from 6-12 weeks.

Please submit work by September 8 in one of the following categories in an attachment of .doc or .rtf format (.jpg for images) and a bio of no more than fifty words to:

pluckjournalATgmailDOTcom (Change AT to @ and DOT to . )

POETRY: Up to five previously unpublished poems.

FICTION: Up to 1500 words.

PHOTOGRAPHY: Up to five attached photos at 300 dpi or better. Dropbox links accepted. Accepted photos will be printed in B&W, Color on the web

ESSAYS: Creative non-fiction or academic essay of up to 1500 words

Multiple submissions accepted. Please advise if your submission is accepted elsewhere.

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29. Call for Submissions: Helen: A Literary Magazine

Helen: A Literary Magazine is still accepting submissions for our inaugural issue. We're based in Las Vegas, Nevada and are looking for work that honors our city and state.  

We are seeking short literary fiction between 500-5,000 words, flash fiction between 50-1,500 words, poems (12 pages MAX), creative nonfiction between 1,500-5,000 words. Please send us work that honors our theme: "Strong Female Lead."  

Our guest fiction editor for our inaugural issue is Michael Czyzniejewski and our guest poetry editor is Karen Craigo.  

For more information on guidelines, please visit here our website.  

To submit your work, please use our Submittable page.  

We are a semi-pro market and pay $20 upon acceptance.

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30. Call for Submissions: NonBinary Review

NonBinary Review, the quarterly literary publication of Zoetic Press, wants art and literature that tiptoes the tightrope between now and then. Art that makes us see our literary offerings in new ways. We want language that makes us reach for a dictionary, a tissue, or both. Words in combinations and patterns that leave the faint of heart a little dizzy. We want insight, deep diving, broad connections, literary conspiracies, personal revelations, or anything you want to tell us about the themes we’ve chosen. Literary forms are changing as we use technology and typography to find new ways to tell stories—for work that doesn’t fit neatly into any one genre, we’ve created a separate category to properly evaluate submissions of a hybrid or experimental nature.

Each issue will focus on a single theme.
 

Issue #1 (June 2014): Grimm’s Fairy Tales is available for free download from the Apple store.


Upcoming themes:
 

Issue #3 (reading period closes Oct. 31, publication December 2014): L. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz
 

Issue #4 (reading period closes Jan. 31, 2015; publication March 2015): Bulfinch's Mythology: The Age of Fable 

We are a paying market--1 cent per word for prose/hybrid work, $10 flat fee per poem, and $25 flat fee for art.

Please note that at present, the Zoetic app is accessible through iPad only, with future updates to include iPhone and Android versions. When submitting your work, please note that if selected for publication, your work will appear in electronic form only.

For more detailed guidelines, please expand the guidelines box of the genre you’re submitting to on our Submittable page.

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31. Call for Submissions: If and Only If: A Journal of Body Image and Eating Disorders

If and Only If: A Journal of Body Image and Eating Disorders seeks submissions of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and art work for our inaugural issue to be published in Fall 2014. We are seeking works related to body image, the body, and eating disorders in all of their various definitions. 

Send up to five (5) poems, 6000 words of fiction/nonfiction, or three (3) images to the editors at:  

iffjournalATgmailDOTcom (Change AT to @ and DOT to . )

by October 1, 2014. Please include a brief bio and your contact information along with your submission. All work should be submitted as an attachment. Written work should be submitted in .doc, .docx, or .pdf format. Visual submissions should be in .jpeg or .gif format. 

More information and full submission guidelines at our website.

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32. Call for Book-length Fiction on the Jewish Experience: Fig Tree Books

Fig Tree Books is a new press focused on publishing original high quality and mainstream fiction and reviving classics that speak strongly to the American Jewish experience. (AJE) 

Fig Tree is passionate about discovering new voices as well as expanding the audience for established authors. They accept agented and unrepresented manuscripts and pay competitive advances and standard royalties.

All of their books will be available in print and e-format, backed by PGW and Constellations to both retail and online accounts, and promoted using a combination of traditional and social media approaches.

Their first titles will be published in the spring/summer of 2015. You will find them listed on our website soon.

Please submit a query, manuscript as PDF, synopsis and bio directly to the editor-in-chief Michelle Caplan:


MCaplanATFigTreeBooksDOTnet (Change AT to @ and DOT to . )

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33. Call for Submissions: Illuminations: An International Magazine of Contemporary Writing

Illuminations: An International Magazine of Contemporary Writing is pleased to announce that it will resume publication after a one-year hiatus. The next issue, #30, will appear in May/June 2015.

lluminations made its first appearance in Columbia, South Carolina in 1982 under the editorship of Peter McMillan. The issue featured poems by Seamus Heaney, Stephen Spender, and newcomer Sam Boone. Subsequently edited from England, Japan, and Tanzania, the magazine returned to South Carolina in 1996 where it was edited by Simon Lewis and most recently by Meg Scott-Copses at The College of Charleston until 2011. Over these many years Illuminations has remained consistently true to its mission statement to publish new writers alongside some of the world’s finest, including Nadine Gordimer, James Merrill, Carol Ann Duffy, Dennis Brutus, Allen Tate, interviews with Tim O’Brien, and letters from Flannery O’Connor and Ezra Pound. A number of new poets whose early work appeared in Illuminations have gone on to win prizes and accolades, and we at Illuminations sincerely value the chance to promote the work of emerging writers.


As of August 1st, 2014, Illuminations is again accepting submissions of poetry. Please send no more than six poems at a time.


As a magazine devoted primarily to poetry we publish only one or two pieces of short fiction and/or non-fiction in any given year, and sometimes publish none at all.


Please make sure that anything you send us has not been published elsewhere already and is not currently under consideration elsewhere.


In the case of a piece translated from a language other than English, please send us the original along with your translation (this is for review purposes only; we generally publish the translation only).


Mailed submissions should be sent, with an accompanying SASE for response, to:


Simon Lewis, Editor, Illuminations
Department of English
College of Charleston
66 George Street
Charleston, SC 29424-0001

We also accept e-mailed submissions via Submittable. There is a $2:20 fee for e-mail submissions. 


For further information, please contact the editor Simon Lewis at:


lewissATcofcDOTedu (Change AT to @ and DOT to . )

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34. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Last Gleaming

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight Volume 8: Last Gleaming Joss Whedon, Georges Jeanty, Scott Allie

So, Twilight would have been a logical conclusion to the season, but no, this one’s all about consequences, so it takes a bit of a left turn here in a way that actually works.

So, Buffy and Angel can never just be happy--no when they had superpower sex they created an entire universe, and Buffy then abandoned it to return to Earth. But nature, even on other planes, abhors a vacuum and, well, there are consequences to creating a universe, and there are consequences to abandoning it. It all ties back to the seed of wonder--the root of magic on Earth that turns out is physical object… and it’s in Sunnydale.

The question is what to do with it--protect it? Destroy it? Give it away? The gang goes back to the beginning--back to Sunnydale and back to the Protector, who is an awesome bit of “casting” on the part of Whedon et. al. Some very nice parallels with the beginning of the series (and by that, I mean the first season that was on TV beginning of the series).

And of course, at the end of Twilight, we had Spike show up in a goddamned spaceship piloted by giant cockroaches because OF COURSE SPIKE NOW HAS A GODDAMNED SPACESHIP PILOTED BY GIANT COCKROACHES. (This makes me joyously happy, both for the WTF?! factor, but also because I just love Spike. Who doesn’t love Blondey-Bear?)

Things never go right in Sunnydale, and what happens there is devastating on so many levels, making it surprisingly satisfying end to the season, and perfectly setting up the Angel & Faith spinoff.

And oh man, I thought this season dealt well with the consequences of creating a slayer army? There are MAJOR consequences to what goes down in Sunnydale--ones that are going to haunt Buffy & Co. for a long, long time.

Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

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35. The Fourteenth Goldfish: Review Haiku

Deeper than it looks
and expertly wrought.
Give that fish a sticker, eh?

The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm. Random House, 2014, 208 pages.

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36. Review of A Creature of Moonlight

hahn creature of moonlight Review of A Creature of MoonlightA Creature of Moonlight
by Rebecca Hahn
Middle School, High School    Houghton    314 pp.
5/14    978-0-544-10935-3    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-0-544-11009-0    $17.99

Marni is the daughter of a princess and the powerful dragon who presides over the kingdom’s magicked woods. When she was a baby, her grandfather surrendered his throne to his son to save her life. Marni has grown up in relative obscurity with Gramps in a hut on the kingdom’s outskirts. Now she is almost seventeen, and the woods are encroaching on the kingdom — her dragon father’s attempt to call her to him. After tragedy strikes, Marni (the king’s only heir) leaves home to make a life for herself at court — and to seek vengeance on her uncle for her mother’s murder. But the king’s increased fear and hatred eventually drives Marni to seek out her father. While in the woods, she finally chooses who she will be and where home truly lies. Full of court intrigue, family secrets, marriage proposals (several by a beguiling and bewildering lord), fantastical creatures, legends, and magic, Hahn’s debut novel is first and foremost a journey of self-discovery. Marni, like Katsa in Graceling (rev. 11/08) and the eponymous Seraphina (rev. 7/12), is a strong, plainspoken protagonist who learns to embrace her uniqueness and power with newfound confidence and fierce independence. Hahn’s poetic style gives the narrative depth and beauty with vividly rendered settings and sophisticatedly complex characters. It’s an eloquent story about free will, the meaning of home, and love’s varied forms.

From the July/August 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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37. Hollywood Sisters: Caught on Tape

Here's another reprinted review from the much-missed Edge of the Forest

The Hollywood Sisters: Caught on Tape Mary Wilcox

Life in Hollywood can be crazy, but for Jessica Ortiz, it’s not tabloid party-girl crazy. In this third installment of The Hollywood Sisters, Jess’s romantic complications continue, an overzealous tour company is eluding the police, plus there’s always drama on the set, and not just the scripted kind.

Jess’s TV star sister, Eva, has decided that, in order to speed things up on the Jeremy front, it’s time for fake-boyfriend Heathcliff to appear in person. Only she cast the brother of Jess’s creepy ex-boyfriend.

Not only has the Golden Tours bus company figured out where the Ortiz’s live, they’ve been pulling into the driveway! And it’s not just the Ortiz’s house—somehow this tour group even knows when gated houses are open, and always when the police are on the other side of the neighborhood.

Meanwhile, on the set, Lavender’s ex-boyfriend is pulling some very nasty, and very public, practical jokes on her. Jess knows it’s Murphy, but how is he getting onto the set? And how will she find out when she’s spending all of her time avoiding this week’s Very Special Guest Star?

A light, quick read, Caught on Tape shows the craziness of life in Hollywood, while featuring well-grounded characters that non-starlets can identify with. Jessica solves mysteries through observation and quick thinking. I also appreciate that her frequent poems read like they were written by the teenager she is. Overall, Hollywood Sisters is a very entertaining and fun series for tweens and teens.


Book Provided by... The Edge of the Forest, for review

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

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38. Go your own way

Teen boys go on journeys both physical (road trip!) and psychological in these affecting YA novels.

smith 100 sideways miles Go your own wayFinn Easton, protagonist of Andrew Smith’s 100 Sideways Miles, has unusual scars on his back, products of the freak accident that also killed his mother when he was a kid. He has a pretty good life otherwise: his sci-fi novelist father loves him; his best friend Cade makes him laugh; and he has recently met Julia, the girl of his dreams. After Julia moves away, crestfallen Finn embarks on a college visit with Cade, a trip that turns the boys into heroes. Finn has a funny, fluid narrative voice, and his banter with Cade is excellent — and often hilariously vulgar. (Simon, 14 years and up)

willey beetle boy Go your own wayAs Charlie Porter convalesces from a ruptured Achilles tendon, his past — years of being paraded around in a beetle costume by his opportunistic father as the child author of the Beetle Boy series — resurfaces in nightmares in which he’s tormented by a giant beetle. Charlie wrestles with anger regarding the exploitation and abandonment he suffered as a child, guilt for escaping that suffering while leaving his little brother behind, and gratitude toward the crotchety children’s book author who cared for him. In her relentlessly honest but hopeful novel Beetle Boy, author Margaret Willey crafts a delicate psychological landscape through carefully timed flashbacks. (Carolrhoda Lab, 14 years and up)

sheff schizo Go your own wayTwo years ago a family outing to the beach ended in trauma when fourteen-year-old Miles experienced a psychotic break. While recovering in the psych ward, Miles received a life-changing diagnosis of schizophrenia along with some devastating news: during the commotion of his episode, Miles’s little brother went missing and is presumed drowned. Miles begins a risky investigation into his brother’s disappearance shortly after ditching his cocktail of medications. Some readers will guess the twist ending of Nic Sheff’s Schizo, but will nevertheless hope for Miles to find peace with his life and with his illness. (Philomel, 12 years and up)

hiaasen skink no surrender Go your own wayAs Carl Hiaasen’s farcical Skink — No Surrender opens, teen narrator Richard’s cousin, Malley, runs away from home, and Richard is certain that she’s with a chat-room acquaintance almost twice her age. He tells Clint Tyree, a.k.a. Skink (the unkempt and unwavering former Florida governor who stars in several of Hiaasen’s adult novels), and the pair immediately takes off on an event-filled road trip to rescue Malley. Hiaasen smoothly integrates Skink’s vulnerabilities with his larger-than-life behaviors — including eating roadkill and wrestling an alligator — and Richard’s naiveté plays nicely against Skink’s extremism. (Knopf, 12–15 years)

From the August 2014 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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39. Martin Bridge: Out of Orbit

This review originally appeared in the sadly long defunct Edge of the Forest. I'm reprinting my last few reviews there so they're still available

Martin Bridge: Out of Orbit! Jessica Scott Kerrin, illustrated by Joseph Kelly

The latest volume in the adventures of Martin Bridge gives the reader another two tales about Martin, a sort of elementary-aged every-boy. In the first, Martin’s classmate Harper, is always telling outlandish lies that Martin’s friends actually believe—things like Harper is getting a jet pack bike or that his father is really a spy. Although it is not explored in the context of the story, Martin’s main annoyance with this is that Harper’s stories often steal attention away from Martin. However, we do explore why Harper tells the tales he does. In the end, Harper’s story-telling is as very useful skill to have.

In the second story, Martin gets hurt while trying to emulate his favorite superhero, Zip Rideout. This prompts much soul-searching as to why comic book heroes and TV characters never get hurt, although they are often involved in situations where injury is bound to happen. Luckily, the creator of Zip Rideout is coming to school, so Martin can ask him some very pointed questions.

Kelly’s black-and-white graphite and charcoal illustrations break up the text nicely and add to the story—especially when illustrating how Martin pogo-sticks out of his tree house.

Martin’s problems and achievements are ones that kids will easily be able to relate too. Although he learns some good life lessons, the stories do not read as didactic—they are fun and enjoyable. Sure to be a hit with boys and girls alike.

Book Provided by... Edge of the Forest, for review

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

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40. The Great Greene Heist: Review Haiku

Is it creepy that
I want Jackson to be my
boyfriend? Probably.

The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson. Scholastic/Levine, 2014, 240 pages.

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41. Call for Submissions: Raleigh Review

We believe that great literature inspires empathy by allowing us to see the world through the eyes of our neighbors, whether across the street or across the globe. Our mission is to foster the creation and availability of accessible yet provocative contemporary literature.

We are looking for poetry, flash fiction, and short fiction that is emotionally and intellectually complex without being unnecessarily “difficult.”

Find our submission guidelines at our website.

Please submit by October 31, 2014 for our Spring 2015 issue. We look forward to reading your work!

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42. Call for Submissions: Lunch Ticket

Lunch Ticket is now accepting submissions for its Summer/Fall 214 issue. Starting August 1, 2014, the following genres are encouraged to apply: Fiction, Flash Fiction, Poetry, Writing for Young People, & Visual Art. 

The deadline is set for October 31, 2014. 

Send us your best work! For guidelines and submission manager, visit our website.

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43. Call for Submissions: Portland Review

Portland Review is now open for a new batch of submissions. Our submission period for our upcoming Fall 2014 issue spans from Aug. 1st to Sept. 1st. We are looking for well-crafted fiction, nonfiction, poetry, art, and blends of these to publish in our print issue and on the web. Accepted authors and artists receive one free issue, discounts on additional copies, and our unending gratitude.

At this time, we do not accept unsolicited, previously published work or submissions sent by mail or email. All submissions must be sent through Submittable. General and genre specific guidelines can be found on our Submittable page. Simultaneous submissions are welcome.

Established in 1956, Portland Review publishes collections of exceptional work by local and international talents. Portland Review is a quarterly journal produced by graduate students in Portland State University's English department. We look for quality pieces with unique visions, regardless if they fit with traditional or estranged forms.

Questions, comments, or other requests can be sent to:

editorATportlandreviewDOTorg (Change AT to @ and DOT to . )

We look forward to reading your work!
Sincerely,
Portland Review

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44. The Summer I Saved the World . . . in 65 Days: Michele Weber Hurwitz

Book: The Summer I Saved the World ... in 65 Days
Author: Michele Weber Hurwitz
Pages: 272
Age Range: 10 and up

The Summer I Saved the World ... in 65 Days is about a thirteen-year-old girl who decides to do "one good thing every single day", anonymously, over the summer before starting high school. This would not ordinarily be my sort of thing. But The Summer I Saved the World ... in 65 Days is about much more than the good deeds themselves. It's about that awkward stage in life when you start to grow in different directions from your childhood friends. It's about neighbors, and family, and the very early stages of adolescent attraction. And of all of this is exactly my sort of thing. I liked this book very much. 

Nina is someone who most readers will be able to relate to on one level or another. She likes playing basketball (though she's not sure she can make the high school team). She's exploring a new interest in art. She has a group of friends that she's spent time with because of common activities, but isn't sure she really belongs with them. She plays cheerfully with the little boy next door. She feels frustrated by her work-obsessed parents, and mourns a time when her family was different. And she both loves and is frustrated by her long-time best friend, Jorie. She declares herself "in beween everything". So many of us have been there at one point or another. 

The Summer I Saved the World ... in 65 Days could almost have been written about a girl about to start middle school, instead of high school. It is definitely age-appropriate for middle schoolers - there are a couple of kisses; even the rebellious older brother sits around with his friends and plays poker and drinks root beer.

It's also relatively timeless. Much is made of Nina's not-very-functional cell phone. To me this seemed to be a device to keep Nina focused on the real world, and real conversations. There's plenty of playing ball in the cul-de-sac, gardening, and going to the playground. 

One thing that I really liked about this book was the way that the author highlights everyone in Nina's small neighborhood. This includes people of all ages, and at least a bit of ethnic diversity. There's a little map of the cul-de-sac at the front of the book, adding to cozy feel of the setting.

There's no question that The Summer I Saved the World ... in 65 Days is a feel-good, coming of age story. Nina learns to "step up", instead of waiting for other people to do things. Her actions help to draw the neighborhood together (despite the suspicious reaction of one resident). But Michele Weber Hurwitz keeps the book from feeling message-y by focusing on Nina's first-person voice, and by making it clear that everything Nina does is self-directed. Here's what Nina has to say about it:

"I've never been terrific at finishing projects. This past year, I started a scrapbook, a journal, three books, daily yoga stretches, and a beauty routine involving a weekly mask and blackhead strips. I didn't continue any of them. I got bored, distracted. But the sixty-five things are something I want to finish. I have to. They're sneaky and fun and exciting--thinking of them, figuring out how to keep them secret. Every time, I get this filled-up, kind of powerful feeling. Strong. Hopeful." (Page 53)

The Summer I Save the World ... in 65 Days is a very nice read for middle schoolers, more girls than boys, I think (particularly given the pink and yellow cover). It addresses that yen that kids get sometimes to be a better person, and also explores the "in between" times that arise as kids grow up, and sometimes grow away from other people. There's a light romance and a smidgen of family drama to keep things interesting. The Summer I Saved the World .. in 65 Days is a fun book with heart. Recommended!

Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books (@RandomHouseKids
Publication Date: April 8, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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45. Timmy Failure: Now Look What You've Done: Review Haiku

Better than its
predecessor, but still -- it
coulda been funnier.

Now Look What You've Done (Timmy Failure #2) by Stephen Patsis. Candlewick, 2014, 288 pages.

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46. Fool

Fool: A Novel Christopher Moore

What Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal did for the gospels, Fool does for King Lear.

I originally picked this up because when I saw Moore had a new one out, The Serpent of Venice*, I put a hold on it, only to discover it was a sequel. So, of course I went back and read Fool.

Now, I’ve never read Lear, but that’s ok. Moore’s book might have been smarter and funnier if I were more familiar with the source material, but it’s plenty smart and plenty hilarious without it.

Basically, Fool is a hilarious retelling of King Lear form the Fool’s perspective. The Fool sees everything around him, and in Moore’s version, ends up driving most of the plot (with some help from the Weird Sisters, on loan from MacBeth.)

Much like Lamb, while the commentary and the book are very smart and well done, it’s also super-raunchy and full of swearing, sex, and anachronism. This is Moore at his best. Slightly offensive, very “earthy” and extremely smart. This reminds me that Moore is one of my favorite authors for a reason.

*If Fool = Lear, I assume Serpent of Venice = Merchant of Venice

Book Provided by... my local library

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47. This One Summer: Review Haiku

Transitions and grief
mark a pivotal summer
for two old best friends.

This One Summer by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki. First Second, 2014, 320 pages.

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48. Lover's Dictionary

The Lover's Dictionary: A Novel David Levithan

Levithan makes the jump from YA to adult with something breathtaking in its simplicity and originality.

The story is basic enough, a couple, you and me, how we met, how we fell in love, how we moved in together, how we met each other’s friends and families, how we spend our time. You drink too much. You cheated on me. I don’t know if I can get past it, how we get past it.

But it’s not told in a basic manner, rather it’s a dictionary, in alphabetical order, with parts of the story coming out for each definition. Some definitions are a sentence or two. Some last for a page. What I really love is when the same part of the story is used for different words, with the story continuing, or emphasizing details that changes the meaning, and our understanding of it.

deciduous, adj. I couldn’t believe one person could own so many pairs of shoes and still buy new ones every year.

fluke, n. The date before the one with you had gone so badly --egoist, smoker, bad breath--that I’d vowed to delete my profile the next morning. Except when I went to do it, I realized I only had eight days left in the billing cycle. So I gave it eight days. You emailed me on the sixth.

It’s a short book-- only 211 pages, with most pages only have a paragraph on them, but it takes awhile to read. There are lines you have to read between and fill in, the story is out of order, and part of you just wants to savor the way it unfolds before you.

Ever since Boy Meets Boy, I’ve loved Levithan’s love stories, and this one is no different, even if it is between adults and is a bit more cynical (but just a bit--there’s still the wide-eyed exuberance, even if it’s a little quieter--it’s just hiding under the surface a bit.)

I love the craft of this one, but it’s Levithan’s writing and story that make it go beyond gimmick into something worth taking the time to savor. (Seriously--there’s a reason it’s an Outstanding Book for the College Bound)

Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

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49. Profanity



Oh, the hellish question! Dare you use profanity in your writing? 

1) It depends on your target audience.

Will they be offended? Do you care? The more explicit terms should be left out of cozy mysteries.

2) Does it fit the context of the plot?

If you are writing about nuns in England in 1300, I doubt they used the F-bomb. You might have a salty old nun who muttered the occasional "bloody hell" but only after the reign of Bloody Mary I (queen regent from 1553 to 1558).

I wrote a series set in 3500 BC. Trying to write without some form of expletive, insult, or curse word was painful. I had to resort to them calling each other names of animals etc. Some form of exclamation is needed, but not every other paragraph. I had to stringently edit it.

3) Is it appropriate for your target audience? 

If you write children's picture books or Christian romance, I'd leave it out.

4) Are you using it to define character?

Some characters swear like sailors. Others never would. Do your space aliens have potty mouths? Are your characters living in the ghettos of New York City? If so, drop the F-bomb a few times. Don't use it for shock value. The F-bomb has lost its impact by overuse. It isn't shocking anymore. The F-word is versatile. It is a noun, adjective, and verb, even though it stands for "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge" and did not exist prior to England adopting the acronym in roughly the 1400s. Modern television and film scripts overuse it and it becomes redundant.

5) Are you using it effectively?

A rare profanity inserted for effect is better than twenty in a row. Profanity offends many. They are red words and imply anger, even if the person isn't angry. It may limit your audience. It's important to ask how your agent or editor feels about it. If she hates it, she might insist you take it out. If you stand your ground, you may have to find another agent or editor, or publish it yourself.

If profanity is inserted into every sentence, it feels abusive. No one likes listening to abusive people rant, even in fiction.

6) Can you make up new ones?

This is a serious challenge for fantasy and science fiction writers. Come up with a few, carefully selective, highly descriptive swear words for your characters. We'll love you for it. It may even get included in the English lexicon. For historical fiction writers, make sure the word was used in the era you describe. Make sure the word is something your character would have come into contact with. If you don't do this well, it is a speed bump.

REVISION TIPS


? Do a search and kill for all swear words, especially the ones you make up. How many times have you used them? Can you minimize them for better effect?
? Have you committed profanity abuse? Should you trim them?
? Does the profanity fit the time and place?
? Does the profanity fit the background and personality of the character uttering it?




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50. Interesting blog posts about writing – w/e August 8th, 2014



Here’s my selection of interesting (and sometimes amusing) posts about writing from the last week:

8 Writer Tips To Keep Your Butt in the Chair (Jordan Dane)
http://killzoneauthors.blogspot.com/2014/08/8-writer-tips-to-keep-your-butt-in-chair.html

Avoid Backstory Plot Holes (Diana Hurwitz)
http://bloodredpencil.blogspot.com/2014/08/avoid-backstory-plot-holes.html

Writer Beware's Self-Publishing Page Renovated and Updated (Victoria Strauss)
http://accrispin.blogspot.com/2014/08/writer-bewares-self-publishing-page.html

The Reader’s Emotional Journey (Donald Maass)
http://writerunboxed.com/2014/08/06/the-readers-emotional-journey/

Balancing Your Writing Career (Stina Lindenblatt)
http://querytracker.blogspot.com/2014/08/balancing-your-writing-career.html

Keep an offhand remark on hand (Joe Moore)
http://killzoneauthors.blogspot.com/2014/08/keep-offhand-remark-on-hand.html

13 Ways to Impress an Agent (Rachelle Gardner)
www.booksandsuch.com/blog/impress-an-agent/

Character Buy-In (Mary Kole)
http://kidlit.com/2014/08/04/character-buy-in/

Agents Behaving Badly (James Scott Bell) Jon’s Pick of the week
http://killzoneauthors.blogspot.com/2014/08/agents-behaving-badly.html

Where is the best place to put worldbuilding exposition in my story? (Juliette Wade)
http://talktoyouniverse.blogspot.com/2014/08/where-is-best-place-to-put.html

The fight over Sherlock Holmes and how copyright changes pop culture (Alyssa Rosenberg)
www.washingtonpost.com/news/act-four/wp/2014/08/05/the-fight-over-sherlock-holmes-and-how-copyright-changes-pop-culture/
By way of Christopher Roden


If you found these useful, you may also like my personal selection of the most interesting blog posts from 2013, and last week’s list.

If you have a particular favorite among these, please let the author know (and me too, if you have time).  Also, if you've a link to a great post that isn't here, feel free to share.

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