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26. Interesting blog posts about writing – w/e April 24th 2015



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

Deciding What to Put in Your Query Letter (Janice Hardy)
http://blog.janicehardy.com/2009/08/query-week-step-one-what-heck-do-i-say.html

Wake Up and Stop Writing Dream Sequences (Max Booth III)
https://litreactor.com/columns/wake-up-and-stop-writing-dream-sequences

Be a More Productive Writer While Also Achieving Balance (Jordan Rosenfeld)
http://janefriedman.com/2015/04/23/productive-balance/

Check, Recheck, and Then Check Again (Mary Keeley)
www.booksandsuch.com/blog/check-recheck-and-then-check-again/

10 Tips For Agents (Rachelle Gardner)
www.booksandsuch.com/blog/tips-for-agents/

When It Feels Like Everyone Is Getting What You Want (Natalie Whipple)
http://betweenfactandfiction.blogspot.com/2015/04/when-it-feels-like-everyone-is-getting.html

Taking Care of Business: The Author Biography (Ash Krafton)
http://querytracker.blogspot.com/2015/04/taking-care-of-business-author-biography.html

Confessions of a Serial Non-finisher (Jan O'Hara)
www.writerunboxed.com/2015/04/20/confessions-of-a-serial-non-finisher/

Pathetic Level of Optimism (Laurie Boyle Crompton)
http://yaoutsidethelines.blogspot.com/2015/04/pathetic-level-of-optimism-laurie-boyle.html

That Awkward Moment When… (Erika Mitchell)
http://writerunboxed.com/2015/04/19/that-awkward-moment-when-2/



If you found these useful, you may also like my personal selection of the most interesting blog posts from 2014, 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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27. Lumberjanes: Review Haiku

Kicka$$ girls go camping,
fight monsters, and set up
for new adventures.

Lumberjanes Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, and Brooke Allen. BOOM! Box, 2015, 128 pages.

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28. Hold Me Closer: Review Haiku

I really need to
see someone put this show on
for real. Curtain up!

Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story by David Levithan. Dutton, 2015, 208 pages.

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29. Review of Shadow Scale

hartman_shadow scaleShadow Scale
by Rachel Hartman
Middle School, High School   Random   600 pp.
3/15   978-0-375-86657-9   $18.99
Library ed. 978-0-375-96657-6   $21.99   g
e-book ed. 978-0-375-89659-0   $10.99

With the dragon civil war closing in on Goredd, Seraphina (Seraphina, rev. 7/12) begins an uncertain mission: she and Abdo, a fellow half-dragon, embark on a journey to recruit other ityasaari like themselves, hoping that if they can learn to thread their minds together, they will be able to defend Goredd by forming a trap to stop a dragon in flight. Seraphina has misgivings — what if the attempt leads to another ityasaari taking over her mind? Jannoula, a half-dragon whom Seraphina contacted telepathically in a time before she knew there were others like her, once usurped Seraphina’s consciousness, and it was only by great effort and luck that Seraphina managed to fight her off. However, as Seraphina and Abdo travel through the neighboring lands, they are horrified to learn that Jannoula already controls the other ityasaari. The author’s generous and self-assured world-building effortlessly branches out to the different cultures the pilgrims encounter, unveiling fresh customs and new folklore with consummate ease. A subplot involving Seraphina’s hopeless romance with Kiggs, the man affianced to her friend and monarch, Queen Glisselda, takes on a love-triangle twist that most won’t see coming. From graceful language to high stakes to daring intrigue, this sequel shines with the same originality, invention, and engagement of feeling that captivated readers in Hartman’s debut.

From the March/April 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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30. These Are The Names

It never ceases to amaze me that every so often you come across a cultural product (in this case, a writer) you’ve never heard of, but that’s (who’s) immensely popular and bestselling in another country. Tommy Wieringa is an award-winning Dutch writer. He’s published many books to critical and award claim, and the book most […]

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31. Read Between the Lines: Review Haiku

Everyone you meet
is fighting a battle you
know nothing about.

Read Between the Lines by Jo Knowles. Candlewick, 2015, 336 pages.

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32. Interesting blog posts about writing – w/e April 17th 2015



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

6 POV Hacks for Fiction (Susan DeFreitas)
https://litreactor.com/columns/the-minds-of-others-6-pov-hacks-for-fiction

Common Writing Pitfalls that Sabotage Your Book (Mary Keeley)
www.booksandsuch.com/blog/common-writing-pitfalls-that-sabotage-your-book/

Sponsorship At Writers’ Conferences: A Question of Awareness (Porter Anderson)
www.writerunboxed.com/2015/04/16/sponsorship-at-writers-conferences-a-question-of-awareness/

Writer's Retreat (Matt Q. McGovern)
https://authorchronicles.wordpress.com/2015/04/15/writers-retreat/

Making “Sense” of Your Characters (Janice Hardy) [Jon’s Pick of the Week]
http://blog.janicehardy.com/2015/04/description-tip-making-sense-of-your.html

The Story You Tell Yourself (Rachelle Gardner) [Jon's other Pick of the Week]
www.booksandsuch.com/blog/story-you-tell-yourself/

Taking Care of Business: Making Friends (Rochelle Deans)
http://querytracker.blogspot.com/2015/04/taking-care-of-business-making-friends.html

Amazon Takes On Fake Review Services (Victoria Strauss)
http://accrispin.blogspot.com/2015/04/amazon-takes-on-fake-review-services.html

Fooling Yourself (Tracy Barrett)
http://yaoutsidethelines.blogspot.com/2015/04/fooling-yourself-april-theme-fools.html

The Key Book Publishing Paths in 2015 (Jane Friedman)
http://janefriedman.com/2015/04/17/key-book-publishing-path/

The Hidden Meaning Behind a Rejection Letter (Rachel Kent)
www.booksandsuch.com/blog/the-hidden-rejection/

If you found these useful, you may also like my personal selection of the most interesting blog posts from 2014, 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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33. The Last Polar Bear – Perfect Picture Book Friday

This is my last picture book in the series of books I wanted to suggest as part of your Earth Day celebrations next Wednesday. Title: The Last Polar Bear Written by: Jean Craighead George Illustrated by: Wendell Minor Published by: Harper, 2009 Themes/Topics: polar bears, … Continue reading

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34. Moonpenny Island: Review Haiku

More than your garden-variety
quirky middle-grade.
Trilobites!

Moonpenny Island by Tricia Springstubb. Balzer + Bray. 2015, 304 pages.

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35. What's Next?

I'm a bit behind on blogging about all the books I put stars next to when I'm doing collection development work. They're the books I want to read myself.



Sisters of Heart and Snow by Margaret Dilloway. It's a novel that explores the relationships between adult sisters and aging parents while weaving in the (true!) story of a female samurai. It pubbed last week.


She Will Build Him a City by Raj Kamal Jha. 3 stories (that I assume bump and touch against each other) in today's New Delhi in a style that Booklist compared to Gabriel Garcia Marquez's magical realism. Out now.

Black Diamond by Zakes Mda. A biting social commentary that examines race, gender, and class in contemporary South Africa, in a package with an enjoyable plot? Yes please! Out now.




God Help the Child by Toni Morrison. Um, it's by TONI MORRISON. Pubs on April 21.

Prudence by Gail Carriger. A new series about Alexia and Conall's daughter? That takes place in India? It's out now, and my hold just came in on it. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, start with Soulless.

All Involved by Ryan Gattis. Gangs use the 92 LA Riots as chaotic cover to settle old scores. Intriguing. It pubbed last week.



Diamond Head by Cecily Wong. Family secrets. Multi-generational saga. Wealthy shipping family in China and Hawaii. 3 catnips, 1 book. Out on the 14th.

Madam President by Nicolle Wallace. Awful cover aside, it's about what happens when major terrorist attacks happen while a crew is filming a day-in-the-life thing on the President. I'm hoping it's like the Access episode of West Wing, but cooler. Plus, it's by a former White House communications director. Pubs on April 28.

Garden of Lies by Amanda Quick. It's a romance that involves solving a murder among the wealthy elite. Nice. Pubs on the 21st.




Perfect Match by Fern Michaels. A former NFL player takes over a matchmaking business? I assume hijinks and smooching ensue. Out on April 28th.

The Thunder of Giants by Joel Fishbane. In 1937, Andorra stars in a biopic about Anna, who lived 100 years before. Both are giants, but led very different lives. Pubs on the 14th.

Meadowlands: A World War I family saga by Elizabeth Jeffrey. Aristocracy in WWI. Pubbed at the beginning of the month.



The Jazz Palace by Mary Morris. Jews and mobsters in Jazz Age Chicago. And all the catnip! Out now.

Orhan's Inheritance by Aline Ohanesian. A PEN finalist and debut about the Armenian genocide and family secrets. Out now.

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen. A Viet Cong agent in LA int he 70s spies on refugees. I love stories that explore how wars never really end. Out now.



What's new or coming out this month that you can't wait for?

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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36. List of books with the word ‘boy’ in the title

I enjoyed writing the blog post Books with the word ‘Girl’ in the title so much, I thought I’d do one for books that have ‘boy’ in the title. At first glance, I thought this one might be easier, but let’s see how I go. The first book that comes to mind for me is […]

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37. Sass and Sorcery

Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass & Sorcery Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch

Palisade is a prosperous commerce town with several marauding gangs that keep the bad things away. Only, when the gangs get drunk, they have a habit of trashing the town. After a town meeting of angry merchants, the gangs are each given a minor quest to keep them out of jail--only the tasks are all set-ups and not all them survive.

The Rat Queens are one of the gangs--4 women--Betty's a Smidgen who likes candy and drugs, Hannah grew up in a squid worshiping cult and might be a goddess, Hannah's a bitter necromancer, and Violet just wants some blood on her sword. They fight, they drink, they party and hook up, and lovingly send up or subvert a lot of fantasy tropes. And they try to figure out who set them up and why.

Lots of wise-cracks, magic spells, and sword play, and a hell of a lot of fun. So much fun. I love these women and want to party with them and watch them kick a lot more ass.

The saddest thing about this is that a lot of the press and reviews are like “YAY! GIRLS!” (including several of the blurbs on the back of the omnibus, and bonus points for how they’re drawn) and given the state of the comic industry, yes, YAY! GIRLS! It’s an exciting breakthrough, but this isn’t a token volume and I fear it will become “oh, that girl comic” and it’s more than that. Read this book because it’s girls being awesome, but really, read this book because it’s just fucking awesome.

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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38. Girls Like Us – 2015 Diversity Reading Challenge

I read and review a lot of books each year, and this one stands out for me as a story that changed me. I am telling you, it is a must read. If it is on your TBR list, shuffle … Continue reading

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39. Interesting blog posts about writing – w/e April 10th 2015



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

Do You Love Your Publisher? (Jane Friedman)
http://janefriedman.com/2015/04/10/author-survey-results/

Eleven Things You Should Know About Query Letters (Colby Marshall)
http://elizabethspanncraig.com/2954/eleven-things-you-should-know-about-query-letters/

Writing From A Place of Fear (Catherine McKenzie)
http://writerunboxed.com/2015/04/09/writing-from-a-place-of-fear/

Tips for Healthy Professional Relationships (Mary Keeley)
www.booksandsuch.com/blog/tips-for-healthy-professional-relationships/

The Freelance Scramble (Kristine Kathryn Rusch)
http://kriswrites.com/2015/04/08/business-musings-the-freelance-scramble/

When Your Premise is as Vague as a Campaign Promise (Larry Brooks)
http://storyfix.com/case-study-when-your-premise-is-as-vague-as-a-campaign-promise

Mirroring: An Easy Way to Deepen Your Novel (Janice Hardy)
http://blog.janicehardy.com/2015/04/mirroring-easy-way-to-deepen-your-novel.html

Thoughts on Backstory (Heidi M. Thomas)
http://bloodredpencil.blogspot.com/2015/04/thoughts-on-backstory.html

Ten Reasons Why You Should Write Historical Fiction (Stacey Lee)
http://blog.janicehardy.com/2015/04/ten-reasons-why-you-should-write.html

Four Questions To Ask When Your Writing Is Stuck (Cathy Yardley)
http://writerunboxed.com/2015/04/03/four-questions-to-ask-when-your-writing-is-stuck/

Some Query Tips from Victoria (Victoria Lowes)
http://jennybent.blogspot.com/2015/03/from-archives-some-query-tips-from.html


If you found these useful, you may also like my personal selection of the most interesting blog posts from 2014, 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.

Add a Comment
40. The Terrible Two: Review Haiku

This avowed prank-hater
still found these guys kinda
charming. (But trouble.)

The Terrible Two by Jory John and Mac Barnett, illustrated by Kevin Cornell. Abrams, 2015, 224 pages.


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41. Lucky Strike: Review Haiku

A sturdy middle-grade
with wacky characters
and some light magic.

Lucky Strike by Bobbie Pyron. Levine/Scholastic, 2015, 272 pages.

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42. Review of The Penderwicks in Spring

birdsall_penderwicks in springThe Penderwicks in Spring
by Jeanne Birdsall
Intermediate   Knopf   339 pp.
3/15   978-0-375-87077-4   $16.99
Library ed. 978-0-375-97077-1   $19.99   g
e-book ed. 978-0-307-97459-4   $10.99

In this fourth Penderwicks book, time has passed and the family landscape has changed. Mr. Penderwick has married the lovely Iantha; Rosalind is away at college; and Skye is fending off best friend Jeffrey’s romantic advances. (Aspiring author Jane, however, is as dreamy as ever.) And Batty, the impish little girl with butterfly wings, is now ten and the “senior member of the younger Penderwick siblings” — stepbrother Ben (seven) and half-sister Lydia (two). The story mostly belongs to Batty: already an accomplished pianist, she’s discovered a talent for singing. To raise money for (secret) voice lessons, she starts a neighborhood odd-jobs business. She’s employed as a dog walker, which sadly reminds her of her dear departed Hound. There’s a lot of melancholy (and some melodrama) in this book, with poor Batty suffering benign neglect from favorite-sister Rosalind (temporarily boy-crazy, and an insufferable boy at that) and bearing the brunt of some particularly hurtful words from Skye. On the plus side, Ben and Lydia, in their cheering-up efforts, emerge as formidable Penderwicks; across-the-street neighbor Nick (on leave from the army, older brother of Rosalind’s true love Tommy) provides no-nonsense advice; best friend Keiko remains true blue; and lovelorn Jeffrey finally snaps out of it enough to resume his role as Batty’s musical mentore. And at her climactic Grand Eleventh Birthday Concert, Batty rewardingly finds her voice.

From the March/April 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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43. Five questions for Nikki Grimes

nikki grimesApril is National Poetry Month, and what better way to celebrate than by talking with acclaimed poet Nikki Grimes? Her many books include narratives in verse, prose fiction, poetry collections, and nonfiction, frequently featuring African American characters and culture. In Grimes’s latest picture book, Poems in the Attic (illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon; Lee & Low, 5–8 years), a girl describes, in free verse, an exciting discovery: a box of poems her mother wrote during her own youth. Like a diary, the poems offer the daughter an intimate first-person perspective of her mother’s world travels as the child of an Air Force captain.

1. Your author’s note for Poems in the Attic says that you moved around a lot as a child. Did you have adventures similar to your characters’? What were some of your favorite places?

NG: My life was very different my characters’, I’m afraid. My frequent moving had to do with being in the foster-care system, and my adventures primarily took place between the pages of books! However, the challenges that result from a child frequently being uprooted, no matter the cause, are challenges I can relate to. As for favorite places of my childhood, I would have to say the public library, the planetarium, and Central Park. All three were magical.

2. How did you come up with the idea of having the mother write in a different poetic form than her daughter?

grimes_poems in the atticNG: I’d been wanting to do a collection of tanka poems for young readers for some time. I’d originally considered creating a collection of paired poems similar to A Pocketful of Poems (illus. by Javaka Steptoe; Clarion, 5–8 years), in which the character introduced haiku poetry, but using the tanka form. However, I came up with the idea for this story and realized it provided me a perfect opportunity to use two different forms to capture the voices of mother and daughter. I had tanka on the brain at that point, so it was an easy choice for me.

3. The daughter reflects, “My mama glued her memories with words / so they would last forever.” How does poetry help to glue down memories?

NG: Poetry is the language of essence. Through the use of metaphor, simile, and the rest, the poet paints a picture, catches the essence of a subject, and plumbs all of the senses connected with that subject. What better genre is there for capturing a memory?

4. As you travel and engage with children, how do you inspire in them an interest in reading and writing poetry?

NG: That interest is already in them. Poetry is a huge part of their childhood, from the ABC song to jump-rope rhymes to “Ring Around the Rosie.” Stoking that interest only requires sharing poems with them to which they can relate. One whiff of poetry about the stuff of their own childhood, their own lives, and they are off and running. Once they’ve gotten a good taste of poetry, just try and stop them from reading and writing it!

5. Which poets inspire you?

NG: Oh, my! That list is long. My library includes Lucille Clifton, Naomi Shihab Nye, Wendell Berry, W. B. Yeats, William Stafford, Jane Yolen, Pablo Neruda, Natasha Trethewey, Gary Soto, Helen Frost, Mary Oliver, Marilyn Nelson, Shakespeare (sonnets, anyone?), Langston Hughes, Mari Evans. Yikes! Okay, I’ll stop.

From the April 2015 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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44. The Question of Miracles: Review Haiku

Grief in tangible and
intangible forms: a
deft meditation.

The Question of Miracles by Elana K. Arnold. Harcourt, 2015, 240 pages.

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45. Poisoned Apples: Review Haiku

A little repetitive,yes,
but a powerful
read nonetheless.


Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty by Christine Heppernan. Greenwillow, 2014, 128 pages.

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46. Persuasion Tactics Part 1


Last week, we introduced the persuasion plot hole. Over the next few weeks, we will add persuasion tools to our plot toolkit.


1. Ask for More: If Dick wants something, he can start off intentionally asking for too much so he can settle for something in the middle. This makes him seem like a reasonable kind of guy, except the part where he manipulated Jane by asking her to do something she'd never allow to get her to agree to something she mildly objected to. Children are masters of this technique.

2. Appeal to Authority: Dick may be getting nowhere in his conversation with Jane. He can play the authority card. The authority can be real or imagined. "They say" is so random. Who are they? "Authorities on the subject state..." Who are the authorities? Jane won't have time to verify them. Adding jargon and psychobabble gives his argument more power. Dick can flip this tactic and discount the authority Jane uses to support her argument. He can press her to come up with an answer as to who "they" are. He can refute the validity of the authority.

3. Assume Concession: Dick can circle around the point he is trying to make or the consensus is he trying to achieve. He can talk at cross purposes and end the conversation with, "Well, I'm glad we all agree then." Except no one really agreed, but they will doubt themselves. Did we agree? Maybe we did. If Dick pushes on in a confident manner, they may be bluffed into silence.

4. Attack the Posse: Dick can tear down Jane's objectives by attacking the basis for her assumptions. He can attack her friends, her coworkers, her group members or the social, political or religious body as a whole. He can deride her documents or the source of her information. Jane will be derailed into defending herself as apart from the group or into defending actions by the group she does not agree with. She will be sidelined into defending her source rather than her point.

5. Baffle them with Bull: If Jane seems unconvinced, Dick can bring in random and completely unrelated evidence to bolster his argument. Jane will be forced to respond to each unrelated thread, rather than arguing the main point. He can sum up his argument as if everything he just said supported it. Jane will either be confused enough to give in or will call him on it.

6. Bait and Switch: Dick wants to achieve C. He argues the merits of A. Jane fights back with B. Dick offers C as a compromise, which was his intention all along. Dick wants Jane to agree to a vacation at a golf resort. He starts off with suggesting they go fishing. Jane says, uh, no. She suggests they go to a bed and breakfast in Amish country. Dick says, uh, no. Dick suggests a spa resort in Arizona. Jane agrees to the compromise. Dick had already planned to meet up with his buddies in Arizona so it's a darn good thing Jane agreed. He doesn't tell her about that until they are on the plane or happens to run into his buddies at the hotel, setting up a new conflict.

7. Call Their Bluff: Characters all make blanket statements and threaten things they'd never back up. Dick has a date with Jane for dinner. He needs to get out of it. He suggests Hooters. She reacts negatively and says she'd rather eat at a motorcycle dive bar. Since the motorcycle dive bar is exactly where Dick needs to meet his contact, he calls her bluff. Jane is forced to either go with him or refuse to go with him, which suits him just fine. The date is called off. Next time, Dick needs to make a reservation at her favorite five-star restaurant to make up for it. Jane may bravely state that she is willing to do something against her better judgment to exaggerate a point. Dick agrees to do it. Jane has a problem. She has to wriggle out of it, change her tactics, or end or derail the conversation entirely.

8. Change the Name: Changing the name of a thing can render it less objectionable because it changes the set of objections that accompany it. Dick asks Jane to steal something. She objects, naturally. So he convinces her it isn't really stealing. It's borrowing. Or it's returning something to its rightful owner. Fanaticism can be religious freedom. Anarchists become freedom fighters. This is used rampantly in terms of political correctness and to justify what would otherwise be considered psychopathic behavior. Jane is likely to object to some things more than others. This also works if Jane refuses to grant Dick any ground and he switches to getting her to disagree with his point's polar opposite. It might confuse her into agreeing with him.

Next week, we continue to add persuasion tools to our writing kit.

For these and other fiction tools, you can pick up a copy of the Story Building Blocks: Crafting Believable Conflict in paperback or E-book.

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47. Interesting blog posts about writing – w/e April 3rd 2015



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

I've Revised My Novel. Now What? (Janice Hardy)
http://blog.janicehardy.com/2015/04/ive-revised-my-novel-now-what.html

How to Improve Your Amazon Book Description & Metadata (Penny Sansevieri)
http://janefriedman.com/2015/04/02/amazon-book-description/

No April Fools Here (Elspeth Futcher)
http://bloodredpencil.blogspot.com/2015/04/no-april-fools-here.html

Book Proposals (Wendy Lawton)
www.booksandsuch.com/blog/book-proposals/

It’s Their Party (Sarah Crsyl Akhtar)
www.everydayfiction.com/flashfictionblog/its-their-party/

The 5 Essential Steps to Getting a Literary Agent (PeterHogenkamp)  Jon’s Pick of the Week
http://querytracker.blogspot.com/2015/03/the-5-essential-steps-to-getting.html

The 6 Most Common Problems in a Rewrite (Art Holcomb)
http://storyfix.com/art-holcomb-on-rewriting-your-novel-or-screenplay

The Five Stages of Querying Grief (Kim English)
http://querytracker.blogspot.com/2015/03/the-five-stages-of-querying-grief.html

Second Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Author Solutions Inc. (Victoria Strauss)
http://accrispin.blogspot.com/2015/03/second-class-action-lawsuit-filed.html

The Basic Components of an Author Website (Jane Friedman)
http://janefriedman.com/2015/03/26/author-website-components/

First Pages that Shine (Mary Keeley)
www.booksandsuch.com/blog/first-pages-that-shine/

Controlling The Creatives (Kristine Kathryn Rusch)
http://kriswrites.com/2015/03/25/business-musings-controlling-the-creatives/

7 Ways You’re Giving Away Your Power (Rachelle Gardner)
www.booksandsuch.com/blog/giving-away-your-power/

Query Lessons Learned the Hard Way (Adriana Mather)
http://querytracker.blogspot.com/2015/03/query-lessons-learned-hard-way.html

How to Win a Literary Feud (Bill Ferris)
http://writerunboxed.com/2015/03/21/how-to-win-a-literary-feud/


If you found these useful, you may also like my personal selection of the most interesting blog posts from 2014, 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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48. The Shadow Cabinet: Review Haiku

CRAZY HOT GHOST ACTION!
Or, Why You Might Not Want
to Visit UK.

The Shadow Cabinet (Shades of London #3) by Maureen Johnson. Putnam, 2015, 400 pages.

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49. Life, death, and football

Gritty and intense but also full of heart and hope, each of these four YA novels stars a teenage boy facing some of life’s most serious challenges.

smith_alex crowAndrew Smith follows his 2014 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award–winning Grasshopper Jungle with the similarly multilayered, ambitious novel The Alex Crow. Fifteen-year-old war refugee Ariel lived through the bombing of his village by hiding in a broken refrigerator. Ariel’s emotionally raw account of his year surviving various atrocities alternates with an often darkly funny account of his six-week stint at the disciplinary Camp Merrie-Seymour for Boys, which he attends with his American adoptive brother Max. Two other story lines converge with Ariel’s: that of a deranged man’s U-Haul road trip and of the ship Alex Crow‘s ill-fated nineteenth-century Arctic voyage. The multiple narratives and original sci-fi elements are anchored by strong prose and a distinct teenage-boy sensibility. (Penguin/Dutton, 14 years and up)

reynolds_boy-in-the-black-suitHigh-school senior Matt, the eponymous Boy in the Black Suit, is mourning the mother who died just before the book begins and the long on-the-wagon father who has returned to drink. At his funeral-parlor job he looks for “the person hurting the most,” hoping that his or her expression of grief will help him deal with his own. While all this sounds like heavy problem-novel territory, it isn’t. Just as in his previous novel When I Was the Greatest, Jason Reynolds writes about urban African American kids in a way, warm and empathetic, the late Walter Dean Myers would have applauded. (Atheneum, 14 years and up)

gardner_deadIknowIn The Dead I Know, another mortuary-set story, Aaron Rowe begins his first job at JKB Funerals. A young man of few words, Aaron takes to his work readily, assembling the coffins and washing the hearse, which helps him temporarily escape the disturbing events at home in the caravan park. After tragedy strikes, he is finally able to accept desperately needed help from the funeral home’s proprietors, who reach out to him through their own pain and loss. Moments of warmth and humor lighten the psychological suspense and frank depiction of death in Scot Gardner’s engrossing novel. (Houghton, 14 years and up)

lynch_hit countFreshman football player Arlo Brodie, star of Hit Count, sets his future goals: varsity linebacker by sophomore year, then college ball for a Division One team, then the pros. Arlo works out like a fiend, gets in super shape, makes varsity, and plays like a man possessed. An alarmingly high hit count, or number of hard blows to the head, forces the coach to bench him, but by that point, the adulation, the workouts, and the thrill of sanctioned combat have become Arlo’s drug, and he’s addicted. Chris Lynch’s unflinching examination of the price of athletic power, with plenty of bone-crunching play-by-play action, is both thought-provoking and formidable. (Algonquin, 14 years and up)

From the April 2015 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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50. Fearless females

From an aspiring journalist to an up-and-coming roller derby grrl, the determined and curious female protagonists of these intermediate and middle-school books are ready to take on the world.

springstubb_moonpenny islandIn Tricia Springstubb’s Moonpenny Island, the titular tiny Ohio vacation spot is lousy with fossils — specifically, of trilobites from the Cambrian period. Sixth-grade townie Flor becomes fascinated with trilobites’ eyes after learning they were “among the very first creatures” to develop them. Flor herself is, in some ways, as sightless as early trilobites, for she misses much of what’s going on in her family and in her interconnected island community. Flor’s growing awareness of those around her results in a unique protagonist who, like a fossil, creates an imprint that remains after her story is finished. (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, 9–12 years)

birdsall_penderwicks in springJeanne Birdsall‘s fourth Penderwicks book, The Penderwicks in Spring, focuses on Batty, now ten and the “senior member of the younger Penderwick siblings.” To raise money for singing lessons, she starts a neighborhood odd-jobs business. There’s a lot of melancholy here: dog-walking sadly reminds Batty of her dear departed Hound, and she suffers benign neglect from one big sister (Rosalind is temporarily boy-crazy) and hurtful words from another. On the plus side, stepbrother Ben (seven) and half-sister Lydia (two), in their cheering-up efforts, emerge as formidable Penderwicks themselves, and Batty rewardingly finds her voice at her climactic Grand Eleventh Birthday Concert. (Knopf, 9–12 years)

vaught_footer davis probably is crazyAt the start of Footer Davis Probably Is Crazy by Susan Vaught, eleven-year-old Footer Davis’s mother, who has bipolar disorder, is admitted to a psychiatric hospital after shooting off an elephant rifle in their backyard. To distract herself from her mother’s worsening condition, budding journalist Footer (with aspiring-detective best friend Peavine) investigates a dramatic unsolved local crime. Footer’s lively narrative voice and irreverent sense of humor add levity to the heavy subject matter. Like its heroine, the book itself is compelling, offbeat, and fearless. (Simon/Wiseman, 9–12 years)

jamieson_roller girlWhen her best friend Nicole starts harping on about ballet, fashion, and dating, twelve-year-old Astrid, star of Victoria Jamieson’s graphic novel Roller Girl, is left behind (read: not interested). She’s behind on the roller derby track, too, where she has signed up for summer boot camp even though she can’t skate five seconds without disaster. Astrid faces the challenges of derby as well as tweendom, and when the time comes for her big end-of-summer bout, “Asteroid” is brimming with confidence and ready to roll. Readers will identify with Astrid’s journey to find her authentic self. Have this book at the ready for Telgemeier fans racing to find something new. (Dial, 9–12 years)

From the April 2015 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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