Thursday, April 30, 2009

A day turns into a week...

Wow, a week away from my blog. I haven't done that in over a year.

The next issue of The Prairie Wind comes out tomorrow (May 1st). It has lots of great articles and information, including the News Roundup (written by yours truly). :) Check it out of you get the chance.

Other than that, enjoy the day and get lots of writing done! I'm heading out in a few to take my kids to school, and then I intend to get lots of work done this morning. And this quote reminds me of my WIP:

There are some books that refuse to be written. They stand their ground year after year and will not be persuaded. It isn't because the book is not there and worth being written — it is only because the right form of the story does not present itself. There is only one right form for a story and if you fail to find that form the story will not tell itself.
- Mark Twain

I've kept going on this story for seven years, and I've finally found the right way to tell it. Yay!! :)

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Day Off

I've been quite busy these days - busier than usual anyway - so I'm taking a day off to go lounge around and have fun with my kids. So, I leave you with this video of cats doing very silly things. I think this has been around for quite some time, but it still makes me laugh. :)

And then there's this dog, who I think has the right idea. :)

Have a great day, everyone!!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Cakes for a Luau themed party

My oldest son's school is throwing a party for their teachers, and they ask the parents to donate what they can. So, I did what I love to do (besides writing) and made a couple cakes.

I loved that the theme was for a luau, because I got to have fun with bright, summery, warm-feeling decorations. Chicago has had quite the frigid spring, so making these cakes was like putting a breath of fresh air in the house. :)

Lemonade Stand Award

A while back, Bish nominated me for the Lemonade Stand Award. Thanks Bish!! This is definitely one of my favorites since it's for great Gratitude and /or Attitude. :)

Now it's my turn to pass it on! Here's the rules:
1. Post the logo on my blog.
2. Nominate up to 10 blogs with great gratitude/attitude.
3. List and link my nominees.
4. Alert them of their nomination on their blog.

There are so many blog to choose from, ahhhhhh!!!!
Anyway, here's my attempt at a list.

Mary at Resident Alien
Jacqui at Jacqui's Room
Shelli at Market My Words
Robin and Mary at The Shrinking Violets
Marcia at Marcia Hoene (even though she's still on blogcation)
Lady Glamis at The Innocent Flower
Angela at The Bookshelf Muse

Thanks again, Bish, for passing on the lemonade. Now it's time for the rest of you!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

April Book Winners!!

There were even more entries this month!

Like last month, I wrote everyone's names out (more than once if you posted a link or became a follower), then assigned each a number. I used to generate two random numbers, for our two winners....and here they are!

For BRALESS IN WONDERLAND: Christina Farley!!!!

And for SHIFT: bridget3420!!!!

If each of you could email your address to tabitha at tabithaolson dot com, I'll get those books in the mail. :) Congratulations!!! :)

Be sure to stop by next saturday to see what books I'm giving away. There will be THREE this time!!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

Plot Summary: Born mute, speaking only in sign, Edgar Sawtelle leads an idyllic life with his parents on their farm in remote northern Wisconsin. For generations, the Sawtelles have raised and trained a fictional breed of dog whose thoughtful companionship is epitomized by Almondine, Edgar's lifelong friend and ally. But with the unexpected return of Claude, Edgar's paternal uncle, turmoil consumes the Sawtelles' once peaceful home.

Though I don’t usually have the patience for adult books, I’ve been trying to read more of them. So I picked up the one with the most buzz, THE STORY OF EDGAR SAWTELLE. I had no plans to review it since it’s adult and not really a crossover, even though the protagonist is a boy. But, after finishing it, there were so many things running around in my head that I had to sit down and sort it out. It turned itself into a review. :)

Throughout most of this book, I was glued to the pages. The characters were rich and interesting, the setting was vivid, and the plot had me on the edge of my seat at times. This is one of the best examples of multiple viewpoints I’ve seen, especially in a story where there’s clearly one main character: Edgar. The title even tells us that it’s his story. The additional perspectives added a rich layer to the plot, which is no easy feat.

The prose is beautiful, disguising the somewhat slow pacing. And the dogs were amazing. I’m not a huge dog person, but I loved reading about the Sawtelle dogs. Also, Edgar is a great main character. I loved following him through the story, watching him grow and learn, and finally become a stronger person because of it.

The ending, however...

As with all my book discussions, there are SPOILERS below. Major ones.

This book has a heavy parallel to Hamlet. Some of the names are even similar. And what happens at the end of Hamlet? Everyone dies. Well, pretty much the same thing happens at the end of EDGAR SAWTELLE. But was it the right ending for Edgar’s story?

If Wroblewski set out to write a complete retelling of Hamlet, then he succeeded. But at what cost? I think he sacrificed his story in order to stay true to someone else’s, and that just killed the whole experience for me.

Wroblewski led us through Edgar’s story, made us care about him, gave him growth and understanding so that he knows how to do the right thing, even when there’s high risk. And it was all natural and realistic. That’s amazing! He created a hugely inspiring character in Edgar. Who wouldn’t want to find that kind of strength within themselves?

But then, almost as soon as Edgar figures it all out, he is killed by Claude, the person who killed Edgar’s father. Edgar even suspects Claude is up to no good, yet he turns his back to him? I realize he’s still a kid, but this kid has just grown leaps and bounds. I can’t believe that he’d say “I know what Claude is up to” one minute, then turn his back to him the next minute. It cheapens all of Edgar’s growth, and makes his death seem contrived and senseless.

Another thing that bothered me was the manner of Claude’s death. If the ghost of Gar could kill Claude, why did he wait so long to do it? Granted, the barn was on fire so it was easier, but surely a determined ghost could have taken other opportunities. So why didn’t he? Again, seems contrived and a bit too convenient.

Trudy’s situation, however, had me reeling in shock. She’s the only one who survives with no physical injuries, and yet she’s the most injured of all. Her husband is gone, her son is gone, even her future with the dogs is taken away. She is punished so far beyond anyone else that I’m stunned. Being a wife and mother myself, there is no way I’d be able to survive losing my husband and sons. Especially if I had to watch my sons being taken away from me, knowing there was nothing I could do about it. There would be nothing left of me except a hollow shell – that is, if I hadn’t killed myself in the process of trying to save my sons. Trudy did nothing to deserve such a fate! Why should she suffer more than Claude, who had taken her entire world away from her?

The last thing that bothered me was the dogs. In the end, Essay takes the dogs who will follow, meets up with Forte, and they go off together. But go off where? To Henry? To grow wild and forget that amazing connection they’ve made with humans? It doesn’t make sense. The connection with humans is what makes them Sawtelle dogs. Take that away and they’re ordinary. If Essay’s choice was to show that she can make choices on her own, then it turns the whole story around so it’s not about Edgar. It’s about her and the other dogs. But the book is called THE STORY OF EDGAR SAWTELLE, not THE STORY OF THE SAWTELLE DOGS, so that didn’t make sense either.

I guess what really bothered me the most was that the author stuck so closely to Hamlet. I have no problem with re-tellings. I love them, actually. But a writer still needs to stay true to his own story, not someone else’s. When re-telling someone else’s story, the writer has already taken something that belonged to someone else and made it his own. So, if his story doesn’t fit with the original, why stick with it? To stay true to someone else’s story is easier. But easy isn’t always right, just as Edgar figured out. The writer needs to find his own path, which is much harder, scarier, and frustrating. But, in the end, it’s worth it. For everyone.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Interview with Debbie Reed Fischer!

Welcome to an interview with author Debbie Reed Fischer! Her first book, BRALESS IN WONDERLAND, hit the shelves on April 17 last year. Her second book, SWIMMING WITH THE SHARKS, hit shelves the following September.

Thanks for joining us, Debbie! Tell us about BRALESS IN WONDERLAND.
BRALESS IN WONDERLAND (Dutton) is centered on Allee, a feminist-minded, small town-town girl who gets discovered by modeling scouts at her local mall and whisked away to Miami to model. She thinks models are shallow and brainless, but since it’s her only hope at getting the extra money she needs for college, it’s an opportunity she can’t refuse. By the book’s end, many of Allee’s beliefs are turned on their head. Like Alice in Wonderland, BRALESS IN WONDERLAND is a crazy adventure full of transformation and self-discovery, with a lot of glamour and fun along the way.

What was the inspiration behind your idea?
I know it’s hard to believe when you hear these stories about small-town girls who have no idea that they’re beautiful, then suddenly get discovered and voila, they become stunning divas in front of the camera, but it happens all the time. I witnessed many young women walk into the agency lacking confidence, slouching their shoulders and speaking in these barely audible voices. Then, over the course of weeks or a few months, this transformation would happen. It always intrigued me and I knew I wanted to write about it some day. Some of my personal experiences inspired BRALESS as well. Once, when I was still interning and not a full-fledged booker yet, the agency sent me out on a casting for a drink commercial. To my surprise, I booked the job. What I didn’t know was that I would have to dance the Lambada. (Some of you reading this may not remember the Lambada, but it was THE dance at the time and was considered so racy, it was known as The Forbidden Dance. By today’s standards, it’s about as racy as the Hokey Pokey.) After exactly thirty seconds of seeing me “dance” (or what I thought was dancing), the director managed to stop laughing long enough to hire an extra as my replacement. In the end, they only used my hands in the commercial. I’m probably the reason The Lambada was forbidden. Anyway, that incident inspired a scene in the book.

Did you already know so much about the modeling world, or did you research it all?
I didn’t have to research, really. I just fact-checked a few things and checked with a couple of stylists to make sure my on-set scenes were accurate. I was a model booker for years, which gave me lots of material for the book. I worked at two busy agencies, but I was always scribbling down story ideas onto notepads instead of working. Sometimes I’d be interviewing a model, looking at her portfolio, and a detail about her photos would strike me as interesting or funny, so I’d say, “’Excuse me just a sec,” then I’d whip out my notepad and start jotting away while the poor girl had to wait. I also took notes when models made comments I liked, usually something like, “I’m an excellent actress, as long as there’s no dialogue.” Years later, I referred to all those notepads when I sat down to write BRALESS. I guess I only pretended to be a model booker. I spent most of my time scribbling. I should probably give my ex-boss her money back
SPOILER QUESTION: What was going through your mind as you were writing Allee’s choice between Japan and Yale?
That I couldn’t reveal even a clue until the very last page. I knew I had to create suspense and leave the reader guessing until the end, so that’s what I was conscious of when I wrote the last twenty pages. I also wanted to leave the reader with the idea that new experiences don’t present limitations; they present opportunities. Allee comes to see modeling as a way to explore a new side of herself, rather than just a means to make money for Yale.

How did you come up with your title?
I wanted elements of Alice in Wonderland to be woven throughout the story, so the title had to reflect that. Miami Beach is very Wonderland-esque. It’s surreal. Pink sidewalks, lime green buildings, plastic flamingos, art deco hotels shaped like cruise ships. graffiti and wrought iron balconies. It’s dream-like, nonsensical, yet weirdly beautiful. Plus, South Beach has undergone a makeover from the faded, run-down area it was in the early eighties to the dazzling neon Riviera that it is now. It’s the perfect metaphor for a transformation story. The word “Braless” refers to feminism, and also a scene in the book that explains what a model has to go through with her undergarments to make an outfit fit correctly. Two words: chicken cutlets. And I don’t mean Perdue, people. Read the book if you don’t know what I’m talking about . . .

How many drafts did you go through?
Two or three

How many drafts did your editor go through with you?

How long did it take to find your editor?
I met my editor at an SCBWI conference, and he turned out to be the editor that bought my book two years later. Synchronicity is awesome.

How about your agent?
I was fortunate. I met my agent, Steven Chudney, at an SCBWI conference and he read ten pages of my novel SWIMMING WITH THE SHARKS, had me send him the rest of the book, and he’s represented me ever since.

How do you get to know your characters?
My books are character-driven, so their personalities take shape in my head before I even sit down to write. Allee is a shout-out to both Lewis Carroll’s Alice as well as my close friend Allee, who is a booker at a modeling agency in Miami.

What was your favorite part of writing this book? Least favorite?
Favorite: Remembering some of the people and things that happened at the agency.
Least favorite: Remembering some of the people and things that happened at the agency. Also revision deadlines suck. Just when I thought I was done, turns out I wasn’t . . . but, hey, that’s the biz . . .

How does it feel to have your books on the shelves?
Validating. Thrilling. Trippy.

How did you get in to writing for kids?
I’ve always loved reading YA, and I’m a major Judy Blume fan. Somehow, the young adult genre/ age level always resonated with me, even as an adult. I also had a lot of contact with teens at the agency, and later as a high school teacher. I’ve always been very close to the teen world, through books and in real life.

What are you working on now?
A novel I’m hoping to finish in the next few weeks. It’s about a girl who wants to be a stand-up comic but no one in her family thinks she’s funny. My husband says it’s an autobiography. :)

Do you work on one project at a time, or multiple?
One at a time, but I cheat on my book with other book ideas. I map out books that blow into my mind while I’m busy writing something else, but I don’t start seriously writing them until I’m finished with the project I’m working on.

Are you a planner, or do you write by the seat of your pants?
I plan my plot points, but all the in-between stuff happens moment to moment when I’m writing. I also don’t always stick to my plot points. Writing is a funny thing because it’s like you’re asleep, yet you’re awake. You can only plan so much. Sometimes the dream just takes you on a ride.

Are you a paper person, or the computer-only-type?
Both. I notebook scenes that come to me spontaneously, but I also sit down at the computer and piece my scribblings together.

What are your favorite reference books? And why?
Don’t have any. Stephen King’s ON WRITING always motivates me to write, although that’s probably not a reference book. It’s one of the few non-fiction books that doesn’t feel like a chore to read. He combines a lot of practical advice, as well as autobiographical information that I find really inspirational.

Thanks again for joining us for this interview! If you'd like to know more of what Debbie Reed Fischer is up to, check out her website at Or, visit her blog. For a chance to win a copy of BRALESS IN WONDERLAND, go here and leave a comment.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

Plot Summary: Boys don’t keep diaries—or do they? It’s a new school year, and Greg Heffley finds himself thrust into middle school, where undersized weaklings share the hallways with kids who are taller, meaner, and already shaving. Greg is happy to have Rowley, his sidekick, along for the ride. But when Rowley’s star starts to rise, Greg tries to use his best friend’s newfound popularity to his own advantage, kicking off a chain of events that will test their friendship.

This book was originally rejected by nearly the entire publishing world. Jeff Kinney tried and tried to get a publishing house to pick it up, but no one was willing to take a chance on him. So he made it available for free as a web-comic on his website. It grew in popularity so much that the publishing world took notice, then offered him a contract.

I just love the history of this book.

I’d been meaning to read this book for forever. I finally did, and finished it in an afternoon. I absolutely loved the format, the whole diary (sorry, journal) feeling, and loved the accompanying pictures. It’s hard for me to imagine a house not wanting to pick this up.

The story itself is a great example of how difficult middle school is – that stage between cooties in elementary school and the coolness of high school, how selfish and clueless kids can be, and that it’s what everyone goes through.

The only thing I didn’t care for was the story’s arc, or shape. It was pretty consistent throughout, and I would have preferred more ups and downs. But I think that’s just personal taste, because Kinney’s story fits well with his format and main character. I can see kids loving this book, and I’ve already got my copy set aside for my boys when they reach middle school age. Definitely recommended.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Where Is Technology Taking Books?

I usually talk about the craft of writing on Mondays, but today I’m going to talk about different forms of books, such as audio books and digital books. Which, I think, have excellent uses. So, forgive me as I ramble on here...

I recenly drove to my mom’s house and back, and listened to the audio version of THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN while the kids watched WALL-E in the back seat. I loved the entire experience, and it made the drive so much better. Time passed quickly, and I was actually sad when we reached our destination because it meant I had to turn the story off. Then, after the kids were in bed, I finished listening to it while I folded laundry – a chore I absolutely hate, but was made palatable by this great story playing in the background. That right there makes audio books worth it for me.

As for digital books, I also think this has excellent uses. You can carry 100 books in a paperback-sized device, which makes traveling much lighter. You could read a book on your computer, if you’re so inclined, or even on your iPhone. ePublishing makes it easy to carry around your books and read whenever you like, rather than when it’s convenient to have the book with you. I tend to carry a book wherever I go, just in case I get a spare minute to read. For now, it works fine because I have to carry a huge bag for kid stuff as well as my own. But when I no longer need to carry kid stuff, I really want to go back to an actual handbag. And not all books will fit in that. So it would be nice to have a small device that fit nicely inside.

I’m technically savvy. I’ve got a bachelor’s degree in Math and Computer Science, and worked in the computer field for nearly ten years. I like gadgets and internet and wireless connections and all that fun stuff. But, I don’t read ebooks. Even if I didn't have to carry around a huge bag, I still wouldn't have an electronic reader. It obviously has nothing to do with the technology, since I like it. So, what's my problem? Quite plainly, it’s the price.

For those of you who don’t like math, I apologize right now because there’s plenty below. : )

I looked up the list prices of several editions of THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN, which contains 336 pages:
Hardback list price: $23.95
Paperback list price: $14.99
Audio CDs: $34.95

These prices are all fine and dandy, since there’s production and print costs for each. Plus, the publishing house needs to make money, and the author needs to make money, so I’m willing to pay for these things (or get them from the library).

Next, I looked at the cost of the digital edition. According to both Amazon and Sony, the suggested retail price is $18.95. Um, that costs more than the paperback version, yet there’s no print cost. *scratching head*

Granted, $18.95 isn’t what either Amazon or Sony charge. They offer a discount:
Sony eReader price: $13.26
Amazon’s Kindle price: $9.99

These prices are less than the list price of the paperback edition, but by how much? For Sony, it’s $1.73. For Amazon, it’s $5.00. So Amazon is the better deal, right? Nope. Amazon offers pretty deep discounts on its printed books, and their price for the paperback edition is $10.19. Which means the real savings between the Kindle and paperback is $1.18.

So, you’re saving either $1.18 or $1.73, depending on which eReader you own. But for what? A digital book is not tangible, and people like to see what they’ve just bought (especially when they’ve just paid nearly the same as the tangible edition). In fact, your digital book is at higher risk because it could be lost if your computer decides it’s done with life, or if your device is damaged or stolen. Sure, you could lose all your books if your house catches fire, but, let’s face it, it’s far more likely for an electronic device to quit on you than for your house to go up in flames. :)

In my research, there was only one digital version that I thought was fairly priced: the audio download on Amazon, which is $18.35. It costs money to make the audio edition of a book because you have to hire a reader, record him/her in a studio, and edit the recording. Then, you can either put it on CDs, or sell it as a download. The CDs cost $34.95, but the download is nearly half that. Which makes sense, since there was still some cost in creating the audio version.

But for digital books, converting files is easy. You don’t need to create anything new, you’re just taking the existing text and making it available for different digital readers. There are computer programs that do this conversion for you, so you don’t even need to hire someone. The only cost is to make it available for download in a secure environment. But there is certainly not $18.95 worth of work involved. If there is, I'm skeptical of the process being used.

For me to willingly purchase digital books (and I would love to do this), the price would need to be half the price of the print versions. Which ultimately means it would need to be half the price of the paperback edition – not the hardback edition. I think that if ebooks were priced this way, there would be a lot more people interested in digital. Not enough to make the printed book obsolete or anything, but enough to maybe bring down the price of the digital readers.

Anyway, I have gone on far too long, and all of this is just my opinion based on my limited view of the publishing world. But thanks for listening. :)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Article on Showing vs. Telling

I have no idea why I didn't share this long ago. I should have, because I'm proud of it. But apparently my writing, kids, blog, house stuff, and countless other things made me forget about that. Plus, I'm a terrible self-promoter. :)

Earlier in the year, I was invited to write an article about revision for NaNoEdMo, or National Novel Editing Month. My article is proudly displayed with the likes of JA Konrath (author of 8 novels and over 60 articles and short stories, and his blog is the fabulous A Newbie's Guide to Publishing) and Dave King (co-author of Self Editing for Fiction Writers). I'm quite proud to be in such company. :)

I wrote about showing vs. telling regarding revision. Go here if you'd like to read it.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Plot Summary: Abandoned by her mother on Jellicoe Road when she was eleven, Taylor Markham, now seventeen, is finally being confronted with her past. But as the reluctant leader of her boarding school dorm, there isn't a lot of time for introspection. And while Hannah, the closest adult Taylor has to family, has disappeared, Jonah Griggs is back in town, moody stares and all.

I picked up a copy of this because it one the Printz award. Until it won, I hadn’t heard of it. The libraries didn’t even have a copy yet. So I picked one up, then settled down to read.

For the first two chapters, I had no idea what was going on. I’m a very determined reader, and it’s rare that I set aside a book without finishing. Especially so early in the beginning. But, if this book hadn’t won the Printz, I would have set it aside. It was hurting my head trying to sort everything out – and I love a intricate and twisty plot, so this is saying something.

As with all my book discussions, there are SPOILERS below.

The story opens with two separate stories being told at the same time. Taylor’s story was clearly the main story, and it took me three chapters to figure out that the other story was even a story. Then, it took a few more chapters to figure out that this second story is where the “wars” came from, and that it started among friends as a fun thing to do. This information would have helped me tremendously in the beginning. Instead, we’re dropped into a hostile environment where everyone knows the intricacies of a vicious and violent territory war.

I get that the author was staying within Taylor’s head, and not “telling” us what she knows. Rather, she attempted to show us by showing us the situation and characters. It gave me a clear picture of the characters, but I was confused about the situation for a long time.

First confusing point: Taylor is the head of her House (dorm) at the Jellicoe boarding school. And, Taylor is made the school’s leader in the territory wars. It took me forever to sort out the difference between them, and what each role entailed.

Next confusing point: I had no idea who Hannah was, or how important she was to Taylor until well into the book. A little bit of pondering on Taylor’s part would have helped this a lot. All she would have had to do was wonder whether Hannah was her legal guardian, since she sometimes acted like it and sometimes not. That would have made their relationship clear from the start.

Once the story gets going and these things are made clear, however, it’s gripping. Taylor sometimes jumps to conclusions a bit too easily and quickly, but her character is still strong and likable. She’s on a self-exploring journey, and we’re along for the ride.

In the end, all the plot points are tied together nicely. But not in a neat little package – the ending is realistic and enjoyable. The only thing that seemed plot device-y was the serial killer, and how he was tied to Taylor.

Overall, this was an enjoyable book, despite the confusing beginning, and worth the read.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Interview with Jennifer Bradbury!

Welcome to yet another author interview, this time with Jennifer Bradbury! She's the author of the truly fabulous SHIFT. As with everything else on this website, the interview is more about the writing aspect of things. So let's hear what she has to say!

Tell us about your book.
SHIFT explores what happens after two best friends go on a cross-country bike trip and only one returns.

What was the inspiration behind your idea?
My husband and his best friend took a cross-country trip after they graduated high school. And then for our honeymoon, my husband and I rode from SC to CA. The book grew out of searching for something to hang the anecdotes and funny stories from the trip on, but once I found the characters and conflict, those elements sort of took over.

Did you need to research bicycle touring, or did you already know enough about it?
The cross-country trip we did taught me most of what I needed to know, but my husband was always around for technical consulting.

How many drafts did you go through?
Hmm. . . Before I sold the book I rewrote it three times. And then my editor and I went through a couple more good rounds. Interestingly enough, the book grew from about 40,000 words in the draft that sold to about 58,000 in the final.

How long did it take to find your editor? Your agent?
I'd queried my agent earlier on another manuscript that she ended up rejecting after a round of revisions. Even though she didn't feel like that book was one she wanted, she was really encouraging and gave me a lot to think about. So when SHIFT was ready, I came back and tried her again. She had it about six weeks before calling to offer representation, and then sold it within a week to Caitlyn Dlouhy at Atheneum.

How do you get to know your characters?
I'm finding it varies from book to book. With Chris and Win, it was very much getting to know them as I went along on the journey with them. And they suprised me a lot. But with the book I'm about to start drafting, I've been trying to just write several pages about each character, doing snippets in their voices. And its really eye opening--I hope it ends up being effective.

What was your favorite part of writing this book? Least favorite?
I love the mechanical nature of the story, and how it sort of reflects the way a bicycle operates. It was really satisfying to make the plot and all the back and forth stuff mesh together. And my least favorite? Can I say copyediting? Because it was painful to read it again that way and we still missed stuff.

How does it feel to have your first book on the shelves?
Great! And terrifying--but that part's fading a bit.

How did you get in to writing for kids?
I hadn't read much YA before I started teaching high school. So in my first couple of years, I had a lot of catching up to do in order to have ready reading recommendations for my students. So over a few years, I read hundreds of YA novels. And pretty soon I had this sort of itch to try it. I came across a quote by Donald Graves when I was doing my thesis for my MA that talked about his reason for writing. He likened it to watching baseball played so incredibly well that you find yourself so inspired that you can't help but want to jump in there and play yourself. This sort of captures how I fell into writing.

What are you working on now?
Too many things! I'm on revisions for my second book (2011), preoccupied thinking about the revisions on the two after that one (2012 and 2013), and doing some character work on a brand new book.

Do you work on one project at a time, or multiple?
I used to stay really focused on just one at a time. But I find myself fragmenting lately. :)

Are you a planner, or do you write by the seat of your pants?
Planner! I love to map out where things are going in pretty specific detail. It helps me commit to the book before I start the actual draft. But there are always surprises along the way.

What does your writing space look like?
We've got a room in our house that is sort of a converted garage. Before we had our daughter, we never even used the space, except for storage and a place to paint a table or something. But now part of its cordoned off for our offices, and the rest of it is the playroom/den. At the moment, I'm sitting in the recliner where most of my writing happens. To my right is my daughter's plastic kitchen. At my feet, is a coffee table, with a wooden train set, and across the room is the castle--complete with the my little pony unicorn my sister just sent as a birthday present for my daughter. It frightens me.

Thanks, Jen, for taking the time to share all this great info with us! Looking forward to future books... :)

If you'd like to see more of what Ms. Bradbury is up to, check out her website at To read my raving review of SHIFT, go here. For a chance to win a copy of SHIFT, go here. The contest ends April 25th, so good luck!

Saturday, April 04, 2009

April Book Giveaway

Good morning, all!

This month, I'm giving away two books. Yes, you heard right - two books! And they are BRALESS IN WONDERLAND by Debbie Reed Fischer and SHIFT by Jennifer Bradbury. Also, look for interviews with both authors later in the month!

-To enter, leave a comment on this post.
-For one extra entry, post a link to this contest on your website or blog (or some other public forum), then let me know about it here. One entry per link, which means you can post a link to multiple locations and get multiple entries.
-For another extra entry, become a follower and then let me know about it here (or let me know you already are a follower).

I'll draw two names out of a hat on saturday, April 25th.

Good luck!!

Thursday, April 02, 2009

The City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

Plot Summary: When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder -- much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Clary knows she should call the police, but it's hard to explain a murder when the body disappears into thin air and the murderers are invisible to everyone but Clary.

I’ve heard lots of buzz about this book. The whole series, actually. And the premise is right up my alley, so I picked up a copy from the library. And? Well...I really like the premise. But I just couldn’t get into the characters.

When I read a book, I need the characters to be important to me. I need to understand why they do what they do, think what they think, and like who they like. In CITY OF BONES, I didn’t get that with any of the characters.

As with all my book discussions, there are SPOILERS below.

Clary’s mother was a Shadowhunter, that is, a demon hunter. She could see fairies and demons, and, therefore, Clary can, too. But Clary has grown up in the human world, her best friend is a human named Simon, and they’ve been best friends for ten years or so.

And yet, she ditches her best friend at a coffee house to chase after the invisible murderer, ditches him further by running home when she thinks her mom is in trouble, then is taken from her house after a demon tries to kill her. After all this – her house nearly destroyed, and no one knows where Clary or her mother are – she doesn’t even think to call Simon and tell him she’s okay. Is this what best friends do? Nope. That’s what acquaintances do. If my best friend did that to me, I’d kill her and then never speak to her again.

On top of this, Clary meets other Shadowhunters: Jace, Isabelle, and Alec. They call regular humans ‘mundanes.’ When these Shadowhunters call Simon ‘the mundane’ instead of using his name, Clary doesn’t stick up for him. She doesn’t even get annoyed on his behalf. What kind of a friend is that?

Because of this, I didn’t feel anything when Clary got annoyed with Isabelle for her interest in Simon. I thought the clash between the girls was merely derive to create tension – except there wasn’t any tension because the emotions didn’t seem real.

Also, I didn’t buy it when Simon came back as the chauffeur. That he would let Clary treat him with such indifference didn’t make me like him too much. I didn’t like Jace because of his arrogance with little else to him, and even less when Clary kissed him. Isabelle wasn’t explored at all so I had no opinion of her at all. Alec could have been an amazing character, but he wasn’t explored either. He felt like a template of repressed homosexuality.

I think this could have been an amazing book, but the characters just weren’t explored enough for me. As a result, they didn’t seem real, and I just couldn’t make myself care about them.

I’ve decided to read the next book in the series, just to give it one more try. And I’m hoping there’s a bit more to the characters. : )