October 24 2014

Book Review: GRACEFULLY GRAYSON by Ami Polonsky

        This is the story of a brave child who goes through a transformational journey of self-discovery through theatre and good people.

        Sixth-grader Grayson lost his parents at a young age, and now lives with his aunt and uncle. He never felt like he belonged anywhere, so he stays quiet and uses his imagination to draw hidden princesses in his notebook and pretend he is wearing different clothing. When a new girl joins his class, Grayson thinks he’s finally found a friend. He decides to try out for the upcoming play, The Myth of Persephone. But when Grayson auditions at the last minute for the role of Persephone, he is unprepared for what lies ahead, both at home and at school.

        This book should be on every required reading list for middle school. It should blow up the bestseller lists. It is WONDER for the LGBT community and should be shared nationwide. Grayson’s story needs to be heard.

GRACEFULLY GRAYSON will be released on November 4th of this year.

5 out of 5 stars

Learn more via Goodreads

Purchase from your local independent bookstore

Update:

My review of GRACEFULLY GRAYSON will be featured in the Winter IndieNext Children’s Picks List! 

October 16 2014

Review: ROOMS by Lauren Oliver

“The fire begins in the basement.”

Lauren Oliver’s first foray into adult fiction is both complex and impressive. I never would have guessed that her roots were in juvenile fiction had I not read several myself.

When Richard Walker dies, he is alone. His estranged ex-wife and children show up after the fact only to settle his estate and plan the funeral. Caroline, the mother, relies on the warmth of vodka to quell her bitterness. Teenage son Trenton is troubled, friendless and on the brink of suicide. Minna, there with her five-year-old daughter, battles her own demons with anger and sex.

Unbeknownst to the Walkers, they are not alone. Two ghosts reside in the structure of the old house. Alice and Sandra reveal the secrets of their own (former) lives even as they observe the secrets of the Walker family.

Out of nowhere, a new ghost appears in the house, and neither Sandra nor Alice knows why, who, or from where. Even more curious — she can communicate with Trenton. The mystery of this new ghost intertwines with the mysteries of the past, for both the living and the dead.

Though a “ghost story”, this book is much more literary than supernatural. Oliver lets the reader know her characters intimately, no holds barred, with a lot of aspects that definitely make Rooms a solid adult novel.

The pacing was excellent, quick without feeling rushed. I sat down to read and had finished half the novel before looking back up. The writing is straightforward but still eloquent, with each character having a clear and unique voice, especially the ghosts.

I will say, Alice’s timeline gets confusing sometimes. She has so many revelations that it is difficult to ascertain the order of events in her past. There were also a few parts that were unnecessarily graphic — they felt more like shock value than advancing the plot.

If you’re seeking a novel similar to the Delirium trilogy or Before I Fall, this is not the book for you. If you want an adult novel with good writing and interesting characters that reads quickly but still makes you think, then Rooms is a great pick.

4 out of 5 stars

Learn more via Goodreads

Purchase from your local independent bookstore

October 9 2014

TBT: Great Online Resources for Writers and Editors

    • New Pages: Good Reading Starts Here. News, information and guides to independent bookstores, independent publishers, literary magazines, alternative periodicals, independent record labels, alternative newsweeklies and more.
    • Duotrope. Duotrope is an established, award-winning writers’ resource, and we’re here to help you spend less time submitting so you can focus on writing.
    • Publishers Marketplace. The biggest and best dedicated marketplace for publishing professionals to find critical information and unique databases, find each other, and to do business better electronically.
    • Publishers Lunch. The industry’s “daily essential read,” now shared with more than 40,000 publishing people every day. Each report gathers together stories from all over the web and print of interest to the professional trade book community, along with original reporting, plus a little perspective and the occasional wisecrack added in.
    • Publisher’s Weekly. The what’s-what for the publishing industry. There are several free newsletters to sign up for that are sent to your inbox.
    • Literary Rambles. Spotlights children’s book authors, agents, and publishing.
    • Figment: Write Yourself In. A community where you can share your writing, connect with other readers, and discover new stories and authors. Whatever you’re into, from sonnets to mysteries, from sci-fi stories to cell phone novels, you can find it all here.
    • Local Lit. Literary events & resources in the Philadelphia area — and beyond.

 

(Note: All of these resources were recommended by literary agents and published authors that spoke at Push to Publish 2012)

October 6 2014

Writing a query? Remember these tips!

  •  You NEED a hook! Editors get dozens, possibly hundreds, of queries each week. If yours doesn’t stick out, you won’t be chosen.
  • Don’t bother suggesting a title (for an article) — the editor will take care of that part.

  • Brag about yourself! If no one knows your credentials, why would an editor choose you out of everyone else to write an article for them?

  • Make certain to include a word count and time-until-completion.

  • Write your query in the same tone and style as your article.

  • Why is this topic relevant now, or why will it be relevant at time of publication?

  • Keep your audience in mind, and address anything they may want to know or learn.

Notes taken during Introduction to Publishing Industry class. 

October 3 2014

Assignment: Interview with a Published Author

Class: Writing in the Publishing Industry

I don’t know any traditionally published authors, and I’m pretty shy so if I can avoid talking to strangers, I probably will (a major problem in my professionalism that I am working hard to rectify).

My friend Robert wrote and self-published a novella last year called The Anzhelin Legacy: Fire, which I edited. It made the most sense to interview him. I’m certainly glad I did; as expected, he gave some extensive, well-thought-out responses to my questions.

Some highlights:

A: Why did you decide to self-publish instead of go the traditional route?

R: I’ve read and seen the success stories of several self-published authors—Amanda Hocking, David Dalglish—and looked at their work, and thought that I could do a comparable job. I’m intrigued by the direct connection authors can build with their fans through 21st century social media, and I must admit that I’m attracted to the concept of having direct control over my work. Also, for me—ironically, due to my educational background – it isn’t about the money. It’s about creating a world for people to venture into and forget their own realities for a while. Traditional publishing doesn’t guarantee economic gain, of course, but it has more money behind it under normal circumstances. Beyond that, I’m interested in the economics of price points and what consumers will buy—do consumers want to spend $12.95 on a paperback at Barnes & Noble, or do they want to spend $3.99 for an electronic version of the same book?

A: Does this mean that you believe the printed books are going out of style?

R: No, not really. I actually just bought 20 or so books at a thrift store on Monday, for $3.61. I don’t believe it’s about sides, per se. I read physical books as frequently as I read digital books. It’s about convenience, really. When I’m out and about, being able to use my phone or e-reader to read thousands of books is much more convenient than carrying those books with me. When I’m at home, seeing a library of books physically present in a room can be quite a lovely sight. There’s room for both mediums, but the electronic market is torpedoing the paper market.

I do think that we could see physical books taking on more of a special significance—perhaps presents and such—as opposed to the everyday form of reading.

A: Do you have any advice for those interested in self-publishing?

R: In fact I do—and it’s something I became lax on myself—Amazon’s Kindle boards, their forums, are a place an author, or even just someone who wants to learn more about self-publishing, should visit. Many discussions go on there, especially in the Writers’ Cafe, and many self-published authors post there. I used to post there but have not been on in a while. You’ll probably see me there again soon as I get back in the swing of things.

Perhaps, also, decide what you want from your writing. Do you want to make a career out of it? If that’s what you want, doing it as an author via any route is an uphill battle, and self-publishing has its own unique backdrop: You have to be your own advertising department, your own marketing department, and your own public relations department. You have to spread the word about your work through any means you can find, and it is something that I started doing, but as my writer’s block hit, it permeated every other aspect of my publishing.

October 1 2014

“What’s the difference between literary fiction and popular fiction?
Some would say that literary fiction is for merit and popular fiction for profit,
but that’s pretty elitist isn’t it?  
I would propose that popular fiction is plot-driven, and literary fiction is character-driven.”

~Professor Richard Bank~

September 29 2014

My First Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books That Were Hard For Me To Read

I love this weekly idea from The Broke and the Bookish, so I decided to participate!

It was hard to come up with 10 different titles with the same theme, so I split them up: 5 books I had a hard time with thematically, and 5 that were just difficult for language and writing style.

THEMATIC STRUGGLES

    1. Identical by Ellen Hopkins
      After reading Crank in high school, I really enjoyed the poetry format of Hopkins’ writing, so I picked up another of her young adult novels. Unfortunately, I did not read up on it beforehand. The book is about twin sisters, only one of whom is being molested by their father. The narrative is told from the perspective of Raeanne, the twin who is not being molested, but is jealous of her sister getting all of the attention. The story itself was unique, and I still enjoy Hopkins’ narrative verse, but I had to stop reading halfway through; the molestation scenes got to be too graphic for me to handle.
    2. Inexcusable by Chris Lynch
      When I finished this book, I threw it in the trash. I have never had such a vehemently negative reaction to a book. Inexcusable is told from the perspective of a teenage rapist who insists he did nothing wrong. The narrative is a long flashback that brings the reader up to the point of the rape, and it is clear that Keir, the main character, is delusional and despicable. I recognize that the entire purpose of the book was to show an unreliable narrator, but I spent all the reading time too angry to get anything out of it.
    3. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
      This one probably isn’t a big surprise. As much as I enjoy unreliable narrators, I have a really hard time when the narrator is a terrible person. Having to read about Humbert Humbert blaming his pedophilia on the child was no easy task. Despite that, I’m glad I read it. Nabokov is a great writer.
    4. Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick
      Arn is a Cambodian boy living a simple life until the Khmer Rouge evacuate his village. This is a novel based on the first-hand accounts of a boy who witnessed the atrocities committed under a Communist regime led by Pol Pot. While I can definitely appreciate McCormick’s novel as historically significant and well written, I hated every moment I had to read it. It gave graphic descriptions of violence, illness, death, murder, and many things that made me sick to my stomach.
    5. Big in Japan: A Ghost Story by Thomas Gammarino
      The flap copy of this book describes it as “erotic and grotesque”, and I should have taken that warning more seriously. It had excellent writing, but I could not get behind the plot at all. Brain, the main character, makes a lot of very bad and pretty disgusting decisions, such as scat play and proposing to a prostitute by putting a ring made out of guitar string inside her body.

 

WRITING STYLE/LANGUAGE

    1. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
      In 12th grade, I decided that I might not be smart enough to understand this novel in my lifetime. I might try again in ten or twenty years, but as a 17-year-old, I could not comprehend Faulkner’s stream of consciousness.
    2. The Declaration by Gemma Malley
      I bought this book back when Hunger Games was the big seller, and I thought it might be comparable. The premise of science creating immortality and subsequently restricting reproductive rights interested me, but the result was less than impressive. I only read half of it because I got bored so quickly with the writing.
    3. Dork Diaries by Rachel Renee Russell
      This book was just godawful. The ‘protagonist’ was a whiny brat who could’ve benefited from a smack upside the head as opposed to an iPhone. She also broke my literary heart, saying A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a “teen chick lit” about Puck, who “tries to break up a really cute couple”. Not only does the dismissal of true literary art somewhat offend me, but the description is grossly inaccurate. My three main thoughts throughout this severely painful 282 pages were “What the hell”, “Jeez what a brat”, and “OH MY GOD SHUT UP ALREADY I HATE YOU.”
    4. Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
      This is a play that probably translates much better on stage than it did in book format. I had a hard time recognizing the jokes and purpose of this play when I read the text only. I would definitely go see it, though, if it came to a theatre nearby.
    5. 1984 by George Orwell
      1984 is an example of a book that was difficult to read, but I still loved it. The only part that was difficult was the direct text from which Winston read. It was just very technical and detailed; however, it was worth the extra effort for the world-building, as well as enhanced experience and knowledge.

What are some books you struggled to get through, either for content or writing?

September 25 2014

FINALLY!

 

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After much hardship and tears, my WordPress is finally LIVE!
I have a lot of transferring, shifting, and customizing still to do, but this is an important project over the next several days (except while I’m on my anniversary trip).

Welcome, and please stick around. <3

~Amber

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