Monday, April 21, 2014

Memoirs: Love 'em or Leave 'em?

I don't often read memoirs but this past week I've been on a memoir-reading kick, wanting to take a break from my usual escapes to read more reality-based narratives. It goes in spurts for me.  When the mood hits, I tend to grab and hold on.   

I've recently read two that struck home:  Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed and The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion.  I liked parts of them for various reasons and mostly read (versus skimmed, which I tend to do with memoirs). 

With regard to Wild, I appreciated that the author took to hiking and nature to repair herself after the untimely death of her mother.  Although a lot of the detail about the trail itself and the people she met along the way felt more caricature than real, I totally got her message and could relate to her thoughts, although not so much with many of her actions, but I understood them.  I felt empathy for this author.  With Didion's memoir, there was so much that she remarked about grief that I found myself nodding throughout most of the book.  I remember when Didion's book first released too.  I discounted it then because I never imagined that I could understand the narrative (or even be interested in it!).  This book was written for other people, not me.  My oh my how life changes and throws you a curve ball.  How wrong and naive I was and thank you Ms. Didion for sharing your very personal story.

The common denominator for both of these memoirs is that people who are grieving often behave, say, and think things that they once never imagined.  When you're grieving, it's almost like you're on the outside looking in, watching everything unfold, feeling very helpless and even frantic.  Like a dream.  A bad crazy mixed up dream.  And, wow.  I totally get that and appreciated both books for that very reason.  I also read both books wondering if the authors would answer the million dollar question: does grieving ever end?  Does that very dark and raw hole in your heart ever heal?  Not sure I got my answer but I'm unsure whether there is an answer either.  Maybe it's important that there isn't?  There, I digress.

If you've lost someone, especially unexpectedly, I highly recommend both of these memoirs.

Monday, April 14, 2014

This and That and Life Goes On

I lost another family member to Alzheimer's this month.  How I'd like to take that disease into an empty field and shoot it full of holes.  And then kick it where it hurts a few thousand times.  It's the cruelest of diseases but I know I've said that many times before.

Anyway, life does go on. 

The past few weeks have been crazy.  Lots of fun bookish things so that has helped lift my spirits.  But for writing and bookish things, I'm pretty sure I'd be lost. 

Here are a few things to share:

My e-novella You are Here released on April 1! It's currently being offered for free from the publisher.  Check out Amazon and Barnes and Noble and I'm sure it's offered in lots of other places too.  Choose your favorite e-place and go there and download and read and enjoy.  It's part of an anthology that's for a really good cause too. :)

Played was included as a Recommended Read in Glitter Magazine's special Prom edition.  Cool!

Finally, a bunch of my Phoenix writer friends alerted me to the fact that I got a sweet mention in yesterday's Arizona Republic which did a terrific story about YA writers in the Phoenix metro area and the awesome booksellers who are behind all of the support.  Hooked even got it's own pic--at least in the hard copy edition.  Sweet!

It has been a busy and emotional 30 days.  I'm looking forward to getting back to a normal writing schedule this week and returning to normal programming. 

Hope you have a great week! If you've got good news to share, please do so in the Comments below!! I'd love to hear it.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Thank you, Kirkus!

Played got a really nice review from Kirkus last week.  Thought I'd share.  Click here.

It was a nice surprise in what turned out to be a week filled with crazy.

When it rains, it really does pour.


Monday, March 24, 2014

PLAYED is on NetGalley!

Attention book bloggers and reviewers: Played is now available on NetGalley.

Getting your book reviewed is always a scary and exciting time.  I've said in the past that it feels a lot like standing in the middle of traffic, naked. 

Go forth and review! And enjoy.

Click here to request.

Monday, March 17, 2014

YA Revolution: Book Spotlight

It's the March spotlight! Um, yeah.  I said March.  March?  As in Spring.  Hard to believe.

Three great books with diverse characters to spotlight and recommend this month, along with an interview with young adult author Amanda Sun below.  Remember that if you want to join the Crew and help promote diverse literature, click here.  In the meantime, don't forget to comment, share, or recommend other books in the comments below.

Here are this month's featured books:

Rogue by Lyn Miller-Lachmann. 

This is the story about eighth-grader Kiara who wants nothing more than to have a friend but she has a hard time fitting in with the other kids at school. She thinks it's because of her Asperger's and a mutation gene she believes she carries. One day Chad and his little brother move in across the street with their meth-making parents and everything changes, sometimes not always for the better.

A story that packs a lot of emotional punch, along with a character battling very real issues. I loved it.

Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber.

The title alone promises something different and, boy, did it deliver.  This is the story about Perry, high school student senior, and Gobi, his family's Lithuanian exchange student on Perry's prom night.  Think Die Hard meets Adventures in Babysitting.  There is so much genre-bending in this story, it's hard to know where to begin.  There are assassins and car chases and crazy attorneys and money-laundering and human trafficking--are you hooked yet?! One of the most unique YA stories I've read in a long time.  Kind of like, hang on and enjoy the ride (and the writing).

The last recommendation for this month is Ink by Amanda Sun.  I also had an opportunity to ask Amanda a couple of bookish and writerly questions too.  See my interview below.

Ink is the first book in the Paper God's series.  It's about Katie Greene who gets shipped off to Shizuoka, Japan, to live with her aunt and Tomo, star of her high school's kendo team.  In this story, there are cultural clashes, ancient Japanese gods, and drawings that move.  Yes, move! It's fast-paced with an intriguing setting and plot. 

I'm really looking forward to the next book in this series.

Bonus: Here's my interview with Amanda...

1)      INK takes place in Japan and the hero, Tomo, is Japanese.  Have you lived in Japan?

I have! I lived in Osaka many years ago as an exchange student. I kept a daily journal of all my activities, meals, and emotions I went through at that time. I came back changed by the experience, and I knew I wanted to make it accessible to those who haven't been or want to go. I wanted to present a Japan that was as real and immersive as possible, without hitting the reader over the head with cultural differences or falling into stereotypes. I was hoping to show with so many Japanese characters that everyone is an individual, just as they are here, and to think about people individually instead of as a culture. 

2)      What research did you do for INK?  Was it hard getting inside the head of your Japanese characters? 

It definitely helped to be able to refer to my notes from living there! I read and watched a lot of material set in Japanese high schools, not so much for the drama but for the background information--what the bells sound like, uniforms, how students interact with their teachers, and so on. I have hosted exchange students from Shizuoka before, and I went to visit them while writing INK, walking through the places mentioned in the novel and touring the schools to make sure everything was as accurate as possible. I also have a good friend in Japan who checks the Japanese slang and phrases I use in my books, and helps keep them in character.  

3)      What books are you currently reading?  Are there any with diverse characters that you would recommend?

Right now I'm reading Drowned by Nichola Reilly and the latest Attack on Titan manga. For diverse characters, I definitely recommend Hiromi Goto's Half World and Darkest Light. They pull on Japanese and other mythologies and have a gritty, cinematic feel to them (think Studio Ghibli). Also The Walled City by Ryan Graudin is one to watch for, and for some fun martial arts action, Relax, I'm a Ninja by Natalie Whipple.

Thank you so much for having me on the blog! It's a pleasure to chat diverse YA with you ^_^

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

New Reality Television Show: THE WRITER

Have you heard about the new reality show, THE WRITER coming to Bravo?

Yeah, it starts out with The Writer getting up at around 3 am because she has a story idea and can't get it out of her head.  Sleep is overrated.  Somewhere around 11 am, she remembers that she hasn't had breakfast, even though it's approaching noon and lunchtime.  She's had two pots of coffee already, though.  There's some healthiness in caffeine, right? Something about antioxidants?  Mixed with chocolate, it's downright cancer-fighting.  The Writer puts a post-it note on her laptop to buy more dark chocolate with sea salt.

Cameras pain to the luxurious writing space.  Don't mind all the books and paper and post-it notes and the green lava lamp.  Camera pans back to The Writer who finds another gray hair in her head along with a new wrinkle between her eyebrows.  Dammit.

Wait.  It's noon.  The Writer should probably shower and comb her hair (and pluck out that gray hair)--but--wait a minute.  It's 3 pm already.  Where did the time go?  And--oh, no--has she changed out of her yoga pants and hiking t-shirt from the day before?!  Yuck. No time for that.  Must get edits done and start a couple of new chapters in the new manuscript. 

Wait.  There's book promotion and online chatting with writerly friends.  And email.  Lots and lots of email.  The Writer logs onto Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr.  The damn dinner can wait.  In fact, is there anything in the frig for dinner?  Oh, well.  The Writer finds that cute pizza delivery guy's number.  Pizza makes for great leftovers--when The Writer remembers they're in the frig.  Hopefully there's still a bottle of wine left.  Or two.

Somewhere in all of that, The Writer says hello to her husband and remembers that the house does need vacuuming and dusting every once in a while.  But cleaning can wait too.  Just need to jot down another idea.  Another page.  Another chapter.

Cue the first commercial.

The ratings will be phenomenal for this glamorous and riveting reality show, n'est-ce pas?  Anything would be better than that atrocious THE BACHELOR reality show and don't get me started on that final episode with Juan Pablo...  

Monday, March 3, 2014

Free Novella!

In case you missed the other 10,987 tweets, Tumblrs, Facebook posts and general shout-outs across the Interwebz, You Are Here is currently being offered FREE on Amazon and the download will soon be offered free on the Harlequin More Than Words web site as well for a limited time. 

Each story that's part of the anthology, including You Are Here, features one of the winning recipients from the More Than Words program, which supports and promotes women who make significant contributions in their communities.  My story gives a hat tip to the awesome Cheryl Sesnon, Executive Director of the Jubilee's Women's Center in Seattle, Washington.  While You Are Here is fiction, the plot is sadly all too real.  It's a contemporary story about a teen girl and her family who hit rock bottom and struggle to return to "normal."

By downloading the free novella, you are supporting More Than Words and the promotion of these women, including women like Cheryl Sesnon. 

Plus, did I mention that there will be a free excerpt for Played included with You Are Here?  Yes, indeedy. 

Free novella + great story + supporting a worthwhile cause = WIN!

Download the free novella here.