Friday, March 30, 2012

Book Review Blogs

There are so many book bloggers I love, I can't possibly name them all. Anyway, when I was at a speaking engagement recently to college students, book review blogs came up, and a large number of people in the room did not seem to know they existed.  They asked for examples, and while I named only a couple in passing, in case any of the people that were in that room are reading, I thought I'd list a few more here:

Narratively Speaking
The Story Siren
Book Chic
Hippies, Beautys, and Books
Mundie Moms
The Midnight Garden
Books with Bite
WhatchYA Reading?
La Femme Readers
Windowpane Memoirs
Steph Su Reads
Lauren's Crammed Bookshelf

Oh, gosh, I could go on forever! Like I said, there are so many blogs out there, one simply can not read them all. These are not all the blogs I read, but they're the ones that come to mind right now. And while not all of them may have reviewed my books favorably, they are known for giving very fair, thoughtful, professional reviews. I can usually nod my head and "get" where they're coming from.

YA book bloggers are some of the most passionate people around, and I they are one of the reasons why YA books are so popular right now. So they are vital to this industry. And people who love books are the best people in the world, hands down.

(On a side note, I love books like crazy, but I can not imagine how much work must go into maintaining a successful book review site. My little blog here makes me want to pull my hair out. But some of the bloggers above have been running their sites for years, and have managed to make multiple posts every week. I don't know how they do it.  I think some people might think that if you like books, it's simple to have a book blog... but that's wrong. It takes serious work! Keeping up with all the new releases, industry info, getting the books in, reading the books, keeping the lists of books organized, writing thoughtful reviews... all an exhausting labor of love, since most bloggers only get paid in books and comments.  I think I have the easy job, as an author.)

So who are your favorite book bloggers?  Give them a hug today!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The One Moment that Changed Everything

Do you have one?

When you think about it, you must have at least a few of them.... apart from the obvious (getting accepted to the college of your dreams, getting a new job, getting married, having a baby)... some moments, you can just look back on and think, "That moment changed absolutely EVERYTHING in my life." 

But it may be something simple. Like the alarm not going off.  Or having a knot in your shoelace. Those things alone may not mean much, but  even the smallest things can have the most enormous consequences.  What is a few minutes to a teen with a tyrannical first period teacher? a person who worked at the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001? 

It is true for Nick Cross in TOUCHED. One moment in his life, one seemingly inconsequential decision, and everything begins to unravel.

And even worse, he knows exactly what would have happened had he made a different decision.

Because he can see the future . . .  sometimes. Not just one version of it, either... he can see glimpses of all of the versons, melded together, an incomprehensible mystery. And yet sometimes, too late, the pieces begin to make sense.

This is a little bit of Nick's story, TOUCHED, releasing this summer. I hope you enjoy it.

I clenched my teeth. "Green elephant. Green elephant. Green elephant."

I figured if anything could send her away, me muttering nonsensical phrases would be it. The phrase "green elephant" didn't mean anything to her, but I'd invented it when I was 9 or 10, and it meant everything to me.

"Do you want me to get you some water or something?"

Why did she have to be so damn nice? I pulled my head up and stared into her eyes, blue and endless, and

Blood on the staircase

I knew right then I was going to be sick. "Look." I tried to keep my voice even, but it came out as more of a growl. "I don't want anything from you, so just get the hell away from me."

I was surprised by two things. First, at how I could bring myself to sound like a total jerkwad, which is what I probably was. And second, at how she just nodded, as if it all made sense. She hurried up the ramp and jogged off, fastening the headphones over her ears as if we'd been chatting about the weather.

I sat alone for a moment, eyes closed, green-elephanting until the pain subsided and my mind slowed to a peaceful lull. A thousand new memories of the future bubbled under the surface of my eyes. On the bad side, there was something about blood on the staircase, and I had this strange ache in my chest. On the good side, there was kissing that girl. The rest I'd have to sort out later. I felt like I'd gone ten rounds of a heavyweight title match. I couldn't tell if it was because of the cycling or because the new memories would prove too horrifying to bear. I could change them. I could change the bad things, sometimes, by going off script.

You will climb up to the boardwalk and smile at Jocelyn. She will eye you up and down, and a couple of children and a man with a boogie board will step aside to let you pass.

Crazy Cross. That was what they called me at school, and as I felt the eyes of all the beachgoers on me, I knew it wouldn't be too long until they thought the same. As I climbed the ramp, quickly, trying my best to ignore the stares, that same sinking feeling resurfaced. For three months, I'd shed it, but now, it wrapped around me, heavy, like a winter coat.

You will bury your feet in the sand and hurry down the beach.

I groaned and stepped off the boardwalk, sinking ankle-deep into the hot sand.

You will hear the radio crackle with "Ambulance, Seventh Avenue." You will see the crowd gathered at the waterline. Chaos. Shouts. Pedro will narrow his eyes at you when you break through, and scream, "Where the hell were you?"

They will tell you there's no hope of saving the girl in the pink bikini. And you will know it is because of you. 

I have three moments in my life (other than the obvious) that changed my life completely. In my next blog entry (whenever that might be!), I'll tell you them!  And if you have any, I would love to hear them.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Bad Blogger! And a Tip for Writers, #1

Wow, it's been a long time since I posted. I guess because not much is going on. Well, to be more accurate, not much has been going on that I think you'd all be interested in.  Big difference.

I've been doing some small things, preparing for a visit with students at a local University, judging YA entries in a contest, and thinking about writing my next book. As I've been looking at entries from that contest, though, I noticed something coming up quite a lot.  And here it is:

Really, really dull dialogue.

I can't say I'm not guilty of this, too. I used to consider dialogue to be the EASY part of writing. But while reading other people's work, I realized there are a lot of dangers in assuming that you can just gloss over your dialogue.  Especially when you read stuff like this:

"How was school today, dear?"


"Learn anything new?"

"Not really."

This is so boring and cliche and it kills. And yet this is a conversation that happens in probably every household. But that's the problem. There's nothing memorable about it.

In pretty much every entry I saw, there was a bit of cliche in the dialogue. For example, if I read one sentence, I could close my eyes and picture EXACTLY the next line, the other character's reaction.

But you WANT it to sound natural, don't you? They tell you to just write the thing that sounds most natural.

Still, I don't think it's a good idea. Because much like reading a book when you know what is going to happen sucks a lot of enjoyment out of it, reading dialogue when you know a character's response to it isn't very fun, either.

This is what I do: if a piece of dialogue, a response to my dialogue, comes too easily to me, I figure it's likely a cliche.  The next response, the idea that comes to mind 2 seconds after the most natural response, is the one that I try to use.  So the answer to "How was school today?" is not "Fine," it's "I didn't go to school. I robbed a bank, instead." 

Sometimes it might not fit, but sometimes it might reveal something about the character saying it that even YOU didn't know. It's the age-old question. How to keep dialogue both natural and interesting?