Thursday, November 19, 2015

We Read What We Want

We Read What We Want


Kitty Felde
Host/executive producer of Book Club for Kids

I remember when I was 12 or 13, I couldn’t understand how clueless adults were about everything. Whatever it was they thought was “appropriate” or “good for me” was just the opposite of what I thought was cool and interesting.
            Flash forward to now, when I’m the lame adult. I’ve discovered that nothing has changed – at least when it comes to books.
            I’m the host/executive producer of the Book Club for Kids podcast. It’s a conversation between myself and a trio of kids about a middle grade novel, an interview with the author, and a celebrity reader who gives us a taste of the book under discussion.
When I first started the show, back when it was a regular monthly feature of my public radio talk show, I picked the books. I'd spend a mint on paperbacks at my local bookstore and stuff a suitcase of middle grade novels to take with me on vacation. My favorites ended up on Book Club for Kids.
Now that the show is a free podcast, I decided to get out of the book-picking business and let the kids pick the books.
One problem: it's usually the adults wrangling the kids (librarians and teachers and parents) who end up doing the picking. And they usually choose wonderfully written historical fiction or contemporary "problem" novels – the kinds of books that interest them.  The kids often view these lovely books as literature that is “good for them” or complain that reading history is too much like school. 
We always end the show by asking the kids, “What’s your favorite book?” We keep a growing list of those recommendations on our website. But I wanted to expand this conversation about the books kids themselves love best. So I took to the streets – or rather, to the DC Convention Center and Baltimore’s Inner Harbor – where I talked to kids at the National Book Festival and the Baltimore Book Festival. I kept asking, “What’s your favorite book?”
You already know what I discovered: the books the kids love to read aren’t the same ones beloved by the adults in their lives.
The one word that kept coming up over and over again with these younger readers: adventure. These kids LONGED for books full of action and mystery and other worlds and danger, the kind of book that kept them turning pages, the kind of book that turned a reluctant reader into one who read not just one 300 page tome, but kept reading the entire series. The Percy Jackson series was mentioned over and over again. Phillip Pullman and Rick Riordan were favorites. So were “The Giver” and “Spy School” and even Nancy Drew.
Why such different literary tastes?
Have we adults already experienced enough drama and adventure in our lives? Do we find it exhausting to puzzle out strange new fictional worlds when we’re constantly puzzling out the actual reality of open enrollment choices and changes in credit card agreements?  
Does growing older give us context lacking when you’ve lived less than a dozen years on this earth? As we add years to our life experiences, does history start to make sense to us in a way that it all seemed jumbled together when we were kids? (I confess, I always thought Napoleon was leading his French army in the 1500’s and was shocked to find him a contemporary of Jane Austen.)
Or is it simply that school is hard these days – certainly harder than I remember. Just like us, kids want a break. Their own guilty pleasure. Perhaps just like us, when we choose the book we take to the beach or read on a plane or look forward to picking up during the last moments of the day before falling asleep, kids want something fun, delicious, something decidedly not taught in the classroom.
They deserve their guilty pleasures.
The difference between us lame adults and cool kids, I think, is that younger readers are simply honest enough to confess to the world what it is they really want to read.
Okay, I’ll confess my guilty pleasure. I can’t wait for the latest Alexander McCall Smith “#1 Ladies Detective Agency” or Kerry Greenwood Miss Fisher mystery. There. I’ve said it. Now I’ll go back to reading Proust.

The Book Club for Kids is a free podcast, available on iTunes, Stitcher, or online

Monday, November 16, 2015

7 actual reasons to write YA

Last week, I stumbled upon a listicle that got my blood boiling. This author wrote about seven reasons to write YA, and they were all so... mercenary. Basically, she framed writing YA as a way to get rich quick. Which is not only insulting, but also wrong, wrong, wrong. If you're counting on books, YA or otherwise, to make you rich, then you're barking up the wrong tree. Everyone knows that the vast, vast majority of writers couldn't afford to buy coffee on what they make from selling books.

So here are seven actual reasons to write YA, some illustrated through Canva because... because pretty.

To speak to teens in a voice they can relate to and see themselves reflected in.

To explore characters who grapple with the transformations that come with growing up

Because the impulsiveness and bravado of teens -- both internally and externally -- is wicked fun to write

Because YA isn't afraid to push boundaries, whether through out-of-this-world spec fic or edgy real-world topics

And a bonus...

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

My typical weekday...

8AM: UGH I should NOT have stayed up so late writing. Need... caffeine...

9AM-5PM (or thereabouts): *workworkwork* ooo I'm so excited to write this new scene! Can't wait to get home! *workworkwork* Is the day over? I wanna write! *workworkwork* OMG nearing the end of the day, which means I can write soon! *workworkwork*

6PM (or thereabouts): Well, I can't start writing now. Girl's gotta eat. Hmm, I should watch TV while eating...

7PM: Done eating but my brain is tired from work... maybe just a little more TV?

8PM: Okay, it's getting into the evening. I should start work. *opens laptop* *stares at Facebook/Twitter*

9PM: Ah hell it's 9PM, I gotta start for real now! *opens Scrivener* *goes back to Facebook/Twitter* *runs out of interesting distractions and starts staring at the wall*

10PM: *incoherent cursing* All right, I can at least get a page or so in! *stares at outline* *adds more details to outline* *drinks wine*

11PM: *more incoherent cursing* OKAY LET'S DO THIS THING! *spews words out of fingers* *drinks more wine*

1AM: Huh, it's late. But I'm almost done with this scene... *keeps writing*

8AM the following day: UGH I should NOT have stayed up so late writing. Need... caffeine...

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

REVIEW & AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Splintered Souls / Erica Lucke Dean

Paranormal Romance

Disclaimer time! Erica and I share a publisher (Red Adept Publishing), but this in no way affected my review. I received a free pre-release copy of Splintered Souls in order to offer my honest opinion, and I liked the book enough to blurb it. What follows is basically the review to back-up that blurb.

In Erica Lucke Dean's New Adult paranormal romance Splintered Souls, a centuries-old curse envelops a contemporary college student in the love triangle of love triangles. When college freshman Ava Flynn begins seeing a mysterious, leather-clad hottie hanging around campus, she's instantly intrigued. Little does she know that Maddox is bound to her by forces beyond this world... and that he's not what he appears to be.

Splintered Souls is a romance novel at its heart, centering on the delicious drama that ensues when Ava finds herself at the center of a conflict begun before she was even born... with two hotties who would each do anything to win her heart. The magic and time travel add and element of intrigue and adventure, sending Ava on an unexpected journey across decades as she tries to unravel the truth.

As a protagonist, Ava is easily sympathetic and relatable. Flawed in her own ways yet fiercely independent, she's determined not to let anyone decide her fate for her. As for the two love interests... They're the kind of shameless romance novel bad boys readers swoon over. And to those of you naysayers who dismiss romances novels, I say WHATEVER. Women are allowed to like what we like, and there's nothing you can do about it! And sometimes, what we like involves leather-clad hotties with superpowers going out of their way to impress the heroine. This book is sexy and addictive... lovers of epic romance, prepare to eat this up!

While the setting is mostly contemporary, there are some elements of historical fiction through the time travel aspect. I can't say too much without spoiling the plot, but let's just say we get to see the initial curse that envelops Ava (and Maddox and the other love interest, whose identity I won't reveal because that would be a total spoiler) and travel into the past. And future books promise more time travel to come, so yay!

My one beef with Erica is that the book ends on a devastating cliffhanger, and she's not yet done with Book 2! Erica... how dare you do this to me! Of course, the story ended where it needed to, but you don't expect me to be PATIENT about it, do you? ;-)


When Ava Flynn walks away from a scholarship to Georgetown and moves into her grandmother’s abandoned summer home in coastal Maine, she steps into the center of a centuries-old curse. On her first night, she notices a mysterious leather-clad stranger looking up at her third-story window. For weeks, everywhere she goes, Ava catches more
glimpses of him, but she can never get close enough to find out who he is. 

Over three hundred years ago, Lady Catherine Fairchild risked everything to protect her unborn child, sending a ripple through time that would change Ava’s future. As the mystery unravels, the horrifying consequences of Lady Catherine’s choices drag Ava deeper into a world she never knew existed, trapping her in a conflict that’s been raging since before she was born. A winner-take-all battle for her soul.

10 questions for Erica Lucke Dean

Hi Erica! Welcome to Zigzag Timeline! You’re a very prolific author with a number of romance titles under your belt, both contemporary and paranormal. Can you tell us a bit about your publishing road so far?

It’s been a long and winding road, littered with potholes and detour signs, but somehow I’ve managed to travel this far. Thankfully, Red Adept Publishing saw something in To Katie With Love (my first book) and ours has been a beautiful relationship ever since. RAP will be publishing my 9th book in early 2016, so I guess their opinion of me hasn’t changed… yet. LOL

Your latest release, Splintered Souls, is a New Adult paranormal romance about a girl who discovers she’s at the center of a centuries-old curse. What inspired this story?

I have a fascination with time travel. I think it has to do with getting older and trying to relive my youth. Maybe a bit of a desire to change events of the past. I guess that fascination (obsession, whatever) led to this story. 

Can you tell us a bit about your protagonist, Ava? What was the inspiration behind her character?

There’s a little bit of me in all my characters, and Ava is no exception. I basically dream up things I wish I’d done or said and create entire stories around it. LOL. Ava’s a little more sure of herself than I was at that age. 

What was it like writing in the New Adult category and having your story take place on a college campus?

I’ve actually written a few books that centered around college age characters. The novellas in my Jewels of Desire series are all New Adult romance, so I did have some experience with that. And as the mother of a trio of girls in that age group, I consider myself an expert on the warped mind of the teenage girl. I’m kidding about the warped mind. Sort of. My kids always had friends around when they lived at home, and I’m a good listener (eavesdropper, whatever.)

What drew you to writing romance? What’s it like writing paranormal vs contemporary romance?

I don’t think there’s much difference between paranormal and contemporary romance at all. Love is at the core, you’re just changing the details. With romance, the key is to create believable characters. If people connect with the characters, you can do just about anything to them. 

Let’s talk about guys. How do you go about craftingyour dudely romantic leads?

I basically create the guy I’d like to fall for. Sometimes that’s realistic and sometimes not so much. But this is fiction, right? If we were creating real guys, they’d all be sitting around in ripped boxers playing video games and eating wings out of take-out containers. 

I’m going to get a little mean now… Of all your books, which one was the most fun to write, which one’s your personal favorite, and which one was the most challenging to tackle? And yes, you have to pick!

Is this like Marry, Fuck, Kill the book version? LOL. Ok, most fun was Suddenly Sorceress (who wouldn’t want to turn their cheating ex into a skunk?) Most challenging was Ashes of Life (anything with that much heartache requires you to dig deep and feel things you might rather leave in the past.) And my personal favorite would still be To Katie With Love (Katie James is totally my alter-ego. And I love Cooper. Seriously. L. O. V. E. him.)

Of all your protagonists, which one was the most fun to write, which one do you relate to the most, which one was the most challenging to get right? 

As much as Suddenly Sorceress was my most fun book to write, Katie James from To Katie With Love takes the cake as most fun character. I got to be more myself than with any of my other characters. The most challenging to get right would be Maddie from Ashes of Life. She was basedon my 17-year-old stepdaughter, but she isn’t my stepdaughter. She’s actually a mash up of all three of my girls, so walking that thin line was a huge challenge. 

You’ve got a fine stable of romantic leads in your titles. Of all your boys, which one was the most fun to write, which one is your personal favorite, and which one was the most challenging? 

You like to ask the tough questions, don’t you? Most fun is Jackson Blake. He isn’t quite as perfect as my personal favorite, Cooper Maxwell, but he’s easily as hot. And most challenging would be Maddox and Laith in Splintered Souls. They’re twins so they have to be alike, but different, and that can be challenging to show those subtle differences. 

What’s next? Working on anything new?

My next book is Suddenly Spellbound, the sequel to Suddenly Sorceress, due out in early 2016. After that, hopefully we’ll see the next in the Flames of Time series (tentatively titled Scattered Souls.) After that? Who knows. It really all depends on what I can come up with. Something brilliant, I hope.

After walking away from her career as a business banker to pursue writing full-time, Erica Lucke Dean moved from the hustle and bustle of the big city to a small tourist town in the North Georgia Mountains, where she lives in a 90-year-old haunted farmhouse with her workaholic husband, her 180lb lap dog, and at least one ghost. When she’s not writing or tending to her collection of crazy chickens and diabolical ducks, she’s either reading bad fan fiction or singing karaoke in the local pub. Much like the main character in her newest book, To Katie With Love, Erica is a magnet for disaster, and has been known to trip on air while walking across flat surfaces. How she’s managed to survive this long is one of life’s great mysteries.

Red Adept Page: 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Make Time for Reading

Make Time for Reading

by Traci Borum

I’ve always been a reader, for as long as I can recall. My entire life, I’ve loved the printed page—the smell of books, the worlds found inside them, the poetry and music of language. 
I’m not sure when it happened, but sometime in the past few years, a dramatic shift occurred. I began to read differently. I began to read as a writer. Instead of relaxing into a novel and letting the author take me away, I found myself paying attention—to technique, to craft, to things like pacing and dialogue and characterization. I started to peek behind that Wizard-of-Oz curtain, to see how the “magic” was happening. And although it forever changed (and in some ways, diminished) my experience of reading strictly for pleasure, reading as a writer has becomeone of the most valuable tools I possess. Right there in my hands is a textbook, a writing lesson, a master class from another author. If I pay close enough attention, I get to watch writers at work. And to learn from them.
The superbly-written books can intimidate my writer’s self,if I let them (“I can never be as good as this author! I could never write a book this well!”). But if I rein those insecurities injust enough, I can allow superbly-written books to inspire me,instead—to encourage me to reach new heights as a writer, to find my own personal-best potential.
Ironically, the poorly-written books can also be a valuable lesson—of what not to do. I’ve found myself sometimes reading poor dialogue or confusing storylines or slow pacing and thinking, “Aha! This is definitely something to avoid.” When something isn’t “working” as I read, I don’t automatically close the book and dismiss it. Part of the studying process is to dig deeper, find out precisely why the book isn’t working, so that I, as a writer, can avoid those mistakes in my own writing.
In my creative writing classes, I assign a “book report” for the students, hoping that, if they don’t already read as writers, their eyes will be opened to start doing so. The book report contains a questionnaire that highlights specific qualities of any novel—questions regarding characterization, overall themes, pacing, dialogue, symbolism, etc. Students are forced to read deeper, to dig around for elements they might not ordinarily seek, as a passive reader.
As I present the book report assignments to students, I first read this wonderful William Faulkner quote: “Read, read, read. Read everything -- trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You'll absorb it. Then write. If it's good, you'll find out. If it's not, throw it out of the window.”
Faulkner is absolutely correct. Reading, for a writer, should never be a passive activity. Writers should, in my opinion, always be in “studying” mode – paying careful attention to the dialogue, the pacing, the characterization, the techniques of the author they’re reading. 
Even during a busy semester, when I’m grading hundreds of essays and don’t have the time (or creative energy!) to write a novel, I at least still know that I’m learning something, just by reading. And that is why I will always make time for reading.

Seeking the Star
By Traci Borum
Genre: Women's/Christian Fiction
Publisher: Red Adept Publishing

One December night, in the sleepy Cotswold village of Chilton Crosse, a drifter named Ben collapses on George and Mary Cartwright’s snow-covered doorstep. As Christmas cheer spreads throughout the village with a Dickens-themed festival, Mary nurses Ben back to health, but she becomes curious about the secrets he seems to carry. 

On Christmas Eve, one of Ben’s secrets accidentally comes to light, forcing him to confront the darkness of his past and to rediscover the faith he once knew. 

Book trailer:

Author Bio
Traci Borum is an insatiable bookworm whose first love is fiction.  As a little girl, she became mesmerized with books—with the textures, the smells, and most especially, the worlds created between the pages.  Years later, she discovered she could create her own worlds by writing.  She’s been scribbling away ever since, writing bits of poetry, articles, and especially fiction.

Traci has been a Creative Writing teacher at a community college for the past ten years.  She's a native Texan and an Anglophile at heart.  She owns two "British" dogs—a Corgi and a Sheltie—and she’s completely addicted to Masterpiece Theater (must be those dreamy British accents!).  More than anything, she treasures the friendships in her life and adores her supportive family.

Red Adept Publishing:

Friday, October 30, 2015

REVIEW: Blitzkreig (Origins of the Prime, #1) / Christopher Vale

TITLE: Blitzkreig (Origins of the Prime, #1)
AUTHOR: Christopher Vale
PUBLISHER: Self-Published

Science Fiction - Superhero

Sometimes, all you want are superheroes who do awesome things, and man, does Blitzkrieg deliver! The story tells the origins of a group of superhumans, the results of Nazi experimentation during World War II. After a harrowing opening that describes the merciless Nazi experiments that led to the creation of the superpowered children, the kids' lives take an unexpected turn when the Americans invade and whisk them off to a new life. Afraid that the Soviets might be creating their own race of superhumans, the Americans train the rescuees from the Nazi experiments to fight for them. A few years later, the kids have grown into newbie superheroes-to-be and are then thrown into a world of secret missions and thrilling intrigue. Our heroes eventually learn of a long-lost Nazi secret that could unleash great power... and must get to it before the Soviets do.

I don't want to say too much more because that would ruin all the twisty-turny action that takes place, so suffice it to say that there's LOTS of action and mayhem throughout. The plot barrels forward like a bullet train, whisking you from thrill to thrill. The universe reminded me somewhat of X-Men: First Class (in the whole starting with Nazis and leading to superhumans battling evil during the Cold War thing), but is unique in its own ways. Also, X-Men: First Class is one of my favorite things ever, so anything that evokes that is awesome in my book.

The characters are forced to deal with a variety of issues... demons from the past, questions of allegiance and loyalty, learning to work as a team... the push and pull that comes with finding yourself and your place in the world while also trying to save the day. Much of the story evokes classic comic book themes and action scenes, which totally come alive in your head. Lovers of superhero fiction and comic books will eat this up.

Christopher Vale has lived in seven states and three countries. He has stared across a minefield in Guantanamo Bay, traversed steamy jungles in the South Pacific, and survived twin babies. Now he embarks on his newest adventure as he and his wife raise their three beautiful boys while developing their own self-publishing brand, creating fun, fast-paced novels of imagination and wonder.