Free books – and a scavenger hunt!

wildfire-graphic-2We’re in day four of the Wildfire blog tour.

You can enter to win one of 4 free ebooks in a giveaway and scavenge for clues to win an additional ebook.
 
The first to email the clues to bitnbooktours@gmail.com wins!

Below is a list of blogs participating in the tour this week – be sure to check out the author interviews and excerpts from the book!

 

Day One (April 14th, 2014): Kick Off Post & Graphic

MoonBeams Over Atlanta

http://blog.eloreenmoon.com

Day Two (April 15th, 2014): Excerpt Part One

Tome Tender

http://tometender.blogspot.com/

Day Three (April 16th, 2014): Author Interview

 Ink Of My Heart

http://azgreen786.blogspot.co.uk/

Day Four (April 17th, 2014): Graphic

The Hellvis Compendium

http://thehellviscompendium.com/

Day Five (April 18th, 2014): Author Interview

Fire & Ice Book Reviews

 http://fireandicebookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

Day Six (April 19th, 2014): Excerpt Part Two

Steampunk Sparrow’s Book Blog

http://steampunksparrow.blogspot.co.uk/ 

Day Seven (April 20th, 2014): Author Interview & Graphic

Bit’N Book Promoters

 http://bitnbookpromoters.blogspot.co.uk/

 

Happy hunting everyone!

And it begins …

wildfire graphic

The blog tour, giveaway and scavenger hunt starts today at Moonbeams over Atlanta.

 

 

Blog Tour

So, this is happening next week:

Wildifre bit'n tour April 2014

Stay tuned for details.

 

It’s all about perception

I wanted to link to a great TED talk I watched today.

Cameron Russell breaks down the perception of success in modeling and gives an honest account about the insecurity and reality of her job.

If you watch nothing else, fast forward to 5:30, when she provides real pictures of herself alongside the constructed and retouched modeling pics, and then watch at 7:25, when she gives a shocking statistic about the body image of young girls.

Actually, it’s not that shocking. Which makes it all the more terrible.

 

Sexism in young adult novels

I have this friend who is an intelligent human being.  But when discussing the issue of gender stereotypes, his acumen seems to wane.  His take on gender roles: they don’t exist.

On one hand, this is a refreshing outlook on life.  He doesn’t treat women contrarily to men, because he doesn’t see them differently.  But on the other hand, he believes this is how the rest of the world operates, and he thinks me inane when I bring it up.

Here’s a snippet from a recent conversation of ours (editorialized, I’m sure):

Him: I never read The Hunger Games.

Me: Cause it’s for girls?

Him: No, why would you say that?

Me: Because boys don’t read books written for girls.

Him: What???

Me: Or written by girls.

Him: Absurd.

Me: What was the last book you read written by a woman?

Him: I don’t remember.

Me: Uh huh.

Him: I don’t remember because I don’t pay attention to the gender of the author.

Me: Have you ever read a book with a bubble gum pink cover on it?

Him: No.

Me: Cause the pink cover is there to appeal strictly to women.  Women aren’t turned off by a black or blue cover. But a pink cover makes a man run in the other direction.

Him: Whatever. How many books with pink covers do you own?

Me: Uh – they make me run in the other direction too.

So. This is the debate.  Do men read books that are directly marketed to women?  With pink covers or a drawing of a lithe, fashionable woman holding a wine glass on the front?

Why would they? Clearly, it’s not marketed to them. Just as I am not drawn to Sports Illustrated magazine – while the articles in that publication might be very stimulating, I’ll never know, because I’m not inclined to pick up a magazine with a sweaty man in a football uniform gracing the front.

However, I don’t hesitate to read books written by men. Alexandre Dumas is one of my favorite authors of all time.  But so is Jane Austen.  John Green, I think, is one of the most brilliant writers of our generation. But I also feel that way about Suzanne Collins and Kristin Cashore. And – interestingly – the covers of their very popular books are NOT gender specific:

A recent article published in The Guardian poses this thought-provoking question:  are we encouraging sexism among young adult readers?

Interesting tidbit from this article:

Almost from birth, readers are coralled [sic] into the pink and blue worlds of sparkle for girls and adventure for boys. But, as American YA author Libba Bray points out, books have no gender – titles for young adults, she argues, should have gender neutral covers. “We have to move the needle,” she says. “If you categorise [sic] books as for boys or for girls, the message is that boys don’t need to be concerned about the female experience. And vice versa.”

Wildfire cover finalI am completely guilty of this.  The cover for my young adult novel, Wildfire, features a young girl in a whirlwind of red hair.  It’s not pink. But it certainly doesn’t say, “Dude, read me now.” This is exactly what I asked of my cover designer.  I had the vision in my head long before the release date.  And she delivered exactly what I wanted.

And my readership – in my mind – is also comprised of teenage girls.

But why?

At least a handful of men have read my book.  Most of them are related to me, or linked to me in some way, and they read the book out of support for me.  Which is fantastic and I love them for it. And I certainly want my own boys to grow up and read my books someday.

And why couldn’t they?

The themes addressed within the book (racism, classism, domestic abuse) are pretty universal across genders.  In fact, when I think about it, the main character could be a boy.  And I certainly think it would work that way. But the marketing does not appeal to the male demographic.

Gendered book marketing has particular impact upon boys. Girls, as Brooklyn-based author Gayle Forman explained at Reading Matters 2013, will read across gender. But boys are often self-conscious about reading books that might be considered to be “girly”. “Why is it acceptable for a girl to enter a boy world, but not the opposite?” Forman asked.

Interesting debate, but something that goes deeper than books, I think. As usual, the book world is just illustrating what is going on in society as a whole.

But it makes me want to experiment. I wonder, if I changed the cover of Wildfire, changed the lead character to a boy, and changed nothing else, would it sell as well as the original? Or better?  Interesting thought.  Look for Wildfire part Deux, possibly coming soon to Amazon.com.

Tris AND Hazel; Caleb AND Augustus

Buzzfeed.com recently released an article touting the 16 Books to Read Before They Hit Theatres This Year.

I’m a little ashamed to say the only two I’ve read on this list are Divergent and The Fault in Our Stars.

And I’d like to point out something interesting about the casting of those two.

Shailene Woodley is playing Tris in Divergent. I’ve only ever seen Woodley in commercials for that TV show about pregnant teenagers, so I can’t judge her ability to make this very strong character work. However, what is troubling is this: she’s also playing Hazel in The Fault in Our Stars. So not only does she have to win our hearts as Tris, she also has to take on Hazel, a very different, but equally strong character.  No pressure, Shailene.

Additionally, the guy who plays Tris’ brother Caleb in Divergent (Ansel Elgort) is also playing Hazel’s boyfriend Augustus in TFiOS.

Whaaaaat? Is there a shortage of young adults in Hollywood these days?

I think this casting decision is odd, given the scads of devoted YA fans who are looking forward to both of these films with heightened anticipation.

And, in my humble opinion, TFiOS is one of the best YA novels written in a long time.  And Augustus is the finest character I’ve seen in a while. He truly is unique and beloved.

No pressure, Ansel.

A few words on fear

I’ve written the climax for my WIP.  Finally.  And this morning, as I was scrolling through (and not reading) the words I’d written, a thought occurred to me.

I don’t want to read it.

I’ve been telling myself it’s because the scene is too intense. But that’s ridiculous.  The climax I wrote for Wildfire was intense.  And I don’t remember avoiding it. In fact, I relished the action.  It’s fun to put your characters in treacherous situations to see how they’ll fare.  (Sadistic, but fun.)

But this time, the danger was too hard for me to handle. I skimmed over the scene I knew was too extreme and intended to just move on. Until I stopped myself.

And said, “self, what’s up? Why so avoid-y with this particular passage?”

Well, if you’re a regular reader, you know I avoid for one reason and one reason only: fear.

Damn stupid fear.

Writers everywhere are familiar with fear.  It’s an enduring staple of our daily routine.

Wake up, Make Coffee, Write, Fear no one will understand it, Edit, Fear it’s not good enough, Send off to First Readers, Fear they are just humoring you, Edit again, Fear it’s obsolete, Publish, Fear it will receive bad reviews (or, worse, NO reviews), Start the next book, Fear the first one isn’t as “finished” as you thought, Sleep, Have nightmares about obscure character arcs and archaic plot lines.

This is the method. And fear is the constant companion.

But usually, I’m okay with fear.  We snuggle up together in front of the computer screen on a daily basis. I’m aware of its existence and I write through it. Because I have to. I don’t really have a choice.  I can let the fear win or I can beat it down until it’s just a whisper in the back of my mind.

Don’t get me wrong.  Some days, the fear does win.

But that is why I have a writing partner.  To help me through the bad days. And I read other writer’s blogs, to feel supported – and not so alone – in this struggle.

But today, as I skimmed over the scene, I was able to answer my own question.

This fear is more imminent than usual.

And when I asked myself why, myself answered swiftly and with the most obvious response possible.

Because I am going on vacation in January. Some friends and I are going skiing in the mountains of Colorado. Just like we used to every year in high school and college.  I’m looking forward to it, not just because I love skiing, but also because of the nostalgia we are bound to strum up over a roaring fire and a glass of wine.

Why is this important to the WIP?

Well, the climactic scene I’ve written, and seem unable to read at the moment, is about a young girl trapped in the thrashing of an avalanche.

English: I took this picture on May 2006, on m...

Ahhhhhhh! (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

As my six-yer-old would say, Duh.

Of course I’m afraid.  I’m going skiing in the mountains.  No wonder I’d like to avoid stories of a girl trapped under the snow-packed menace of an avalanche.

The fear I’m experiencing doesn’t stem from self-doubt. It’s a very realistic what-if-I-smother-under-a-packed-pile-of-snow brand of terror. Nobody wants to read about that right before they put themselves in a potentially dangerous situation.

This realization is interesting, partially because I had planned on giving my friends copies of the WIP to read on their way to Colorado (some of us are flying, others are driving). And now I feel the need to rethink that. Or at least warn them of it. In case their natural defense mechanism is also avoidance. (I’d feel a little smug if my writing made them huddle up inside the condo for the whole trip, but I’d probably feel some guilt about it too.  So I’d like to avoid that. Since, you know, avoidance is my thing.)

What I do feel good about, however, is the amount of research I’ve conducted on the nature of avalanches in order to write the scene.  While knowledge of the hazardous aspects of snow increases the fear (what I didn’t know wasn’t scaring me before), the newly-attained awareness of how to increase my chances of surviving an avalanche gives me hope.

Fear or no fear, I’m going skiing.  Because I can’t allow the natural anxiety about a conceivably perilous situation keep me from having that experience.  I wouldn’t want to be ruled by the fear, or let it dictate the quality of my life.  And perhaps the fear I’m working through now will make me a stronger, more aware skier.

In the same vein, I’m going to edit that scene in the WIP.  Fear or no fear.  Because it has to be done. Because the writing fills me up and enhances the quality of my life.  And maybe, just maybe, facing the fear will make me a stronger writer.

Wildfire is FREE today!

I just felt like giving away books today.  (And … *cough* boosting my Amazon sales ranking *cough*.)

As of noon, I’m at #26 in the Young Adult Contemporary category.  John Green, of course, is #1. And I’m pretty sure that ranking cannot be ousted.  (Have you read The Fault in Our Stars? Amazing.)  But.  A girl can try.

Here’s a link to my (free!) book for your convenience:

Wildfire cover final

The Courage – and Motivation – to Write the Climax

It’s crisp outside this morning.  I’m sitting with my office window open, the chirping of the birds floating in on the cool, soft autumn air.

I’ve made myself a second cup of coffee and dug out my fluffy house shoes from the back of the closet.

And I’m writing.

Coffee cup

Grazie, il caffè buonissimo.

Unlike the end of summer, when the heat sank into my bones and exhausted the ideas in my head before they had the chance to move out onto the page, the fall has brought with it a renewed sense of inspiration.

Today, I’m feeling strong enough to write the climax.

I had coffee with my writing partner a few days ago. The velocity of life has hammered at us both recently, and we’ve been skipping our meetings in favor of coping with that haste. But yesterday, amid a bustle of deadlines and obligations, we carved out some time to talk.

And it was the most important thing I’ve done for myself in a while.

Just like the cool, calm stimulus of fall, I can count on my friend to gently nudge me forward.

And she reminded me that, on the cusp of the climax, I always doubt myself.  This, apparently, is my process.

I linger on everything that is wrong with the work, allowing it to tire me out, to slow me down.  Because, once the climax hits, everything I’ve built up to this point will scatter out in all directions, then hit a peak of tension, before the falling action eases the story into closure.

At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work.

But the problem is this: I’m not confident I’m ready for it.  There is building tension, to be sure.  Characters have been established, as they collide with each other in moderate conflict.  Motivations have been suggested.  But I’m not sure the characters are prepared enough for the climax just yet. I’m worried the scattered pieces won’t all fall back into place correctly.

It’s like nursing an animal, raising it and loving it, and then releasing it into the wild.

And clearly I’m scared.

And I have to work through that.

But, as my writing partner reminds me, I always do.  (Have I mentioned how much I adore this woman?) I always get scared and back off for a bit. And then, something happens.  The weather changes, the pressing on my chest lifts, and I’m able to push through it.  But my process dictates I cower in the wings for a while before I can power through.

This stage of the process lasted a lot longer the first time around, when writing Wildfire.

I remember thinking my characters were dry and flat, with no real sense of purpose.  They disappointed me because I wanted them to be more than what they were.

But you can’t display a character’s strength without putting them in a position to discover it.

But, of course, I was scared.  Diving into the pinnacle of conflict is never easy.

And then, at the beginning of September two years ago, a record-breaking wildfire broke out, engulfing the nearby town of Bastrop, TX.  By the end of that month, the fire had claimed over 1,600 homes, more than 34,000 acres of land, and the lives of two volunteer firefighters.

As it usually is, the shock of natural disaster was quickly followed by a rising of community to action. Firefighters came from surrounding metros and states to help fight a fire they couldn’t seem to conquer. The newspapers were filled with stories of volunteers bringing food and supplies to the victims, of neighboring towns offering shelter to the thousands of now-homeless fire victims. A collection station was set up in our town square – and I imagine most of the town squares around us – and for weeks, moving trucks and trailers were weighed down with supplies. At some point, they had to start turning away donations and instead were asking for monetary contributions.  They just couldn’t handle the volume.

The stories of these people – the victims of the fire and the people who took it upon themselves to reach out and help – inspired something new in the book. I wanted to share these stories – to illustrate the courage that is possible in human beings.

What is the courage to write, I thought, compared with the courage to fight against a menacing threat that cannot be contained or predicted?

What a pansy I was.

So I sat down and wrote the climax.  The initial draft of Wildfire, which did not yet bear that name, did include a damaging fire, but its origin was not certain. Because I hadn’t figured it out yet.   I considered arson, but I couldn’t find the motivation for that.  I considered freak accident, but the details were not immediately apparent to me.  All I knew was the fire was important.

And it was. In fact, it turned out to be so important; I named the book after it.

So what if we aren’t ready?  No one is ready when disaster hits.  That’s kind of the point, isn’t it – to find out what you are made of when you aren’t prepared?

So I’m going to suck it up and dive in.  And see what strength my own character holds.

Life is too short to read bad books

Recently, Goodreads polled its members, asking what books they walked away from and why.

Here is the fruit of that survey (comments below the infographic):

goodreads

As a reader, I could start a discussion here about what books I’m surprised are in the top five (Wicked) and which ones I whole-heartedly expected (Fifty Shades of Grey).  But, as a writer, I’m more interested in WHY people didn’t finish the books they started.

46.4% of respondents said they stopped reading because the book was SLOW and BORING.

18.8% said they stopped because of WEAK WRITING.

The rest of the responses were scattered.  The two above seem to be the most impassioned.  For good reason.  If you don’t capture the reader in at the very beginning, then there’s no reason for them to stay.  If your writing does not draw them into the story, or if they cannot become emotionally attached to the characters, they won’t be invested. And if they aren’t invested, there are a lot of free or cheap alternatives out on the market for them to try instead.

It’s all about supply and demand, people.

2.7% said they stopped because of bad editing.

I find it interesting this statistic is so low. Perhaps I’m old fashioned, but I expect a well-edited manuscript.  Especially if I’m wavering on a story line.  If I’m feeling the writing is not engaging enough, and I come across a typo, especially in the first chapter, I’m guaranteed to roll my eyes and toss the book aside.  Because, in my mind, if the writer is not dedicated enough to ensure at LEAST the first chapter is typo free, then that is a good indication they will not focus on character arcs or story development either.

Now, here’s where the survey results take a weird turn:

When asked, “What keeps you turning the page?”

36.6% of members polled said “As a rule, I like to finish things.”

I don’t know what to make of that.  You continue to read it, even if it stinks? That’s some class-A OCD craziness happening there.

25.2% said, “I have to know what happens.”

Now that is a sentiment I can get behind.  Except, it’s not enough to keep me actually reading.

I was recently forced to scan through a book, reading only the dialogue and important tidbits, just to get to the end.  Because the writer set up a brilliant scenario, but the writing itself was not captivating enough to keep me going.  When I got to the end, I nearly threw the book across the room.  Because it ended on a cliffhanger, a cheap ploy intended to force me to read the next book in the series.  But, while I wanted closure, I didn’t want to waste any more time scanning for answers.  So, instead, I had brunch with a friend who had read the whole series.  And, in a matter of 30 minutes, over coffee and frittatas, she answered all my questions.

13.4% said they finished a book they didn’t like because, “It’s a compulsive habit.”

Again with the OCD.

So, on the flip side of that, when does a reader abandon a book?

38.1% of respondents said they always finish. NO MATTER WHAT.

Those poor people.  They need to know they don’t have to settle.  Don’t do it, friends, just don’t do it!  There is better literature for you out there.  And you deserve it.

27.9% jump ship at 50-100 pages.

This is the category I usually fall into (if I haven’t found a typo to make me quit sooner).

The best thing about reading is there are so many options out there. There are some books that will blow you away, make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside – books you add to your collection so you can look at them years later and feel those emotions all over again.  Books that are like old friends.

But just as some friends are not for everyone, not all books are beloved by all their readers.  Sometimes, those books are abandoned, in favor of literature that will better serve the individual reader.

And it’s okay to put down a book that isn’t working for you. Because life is short.  Too short to keep reading something you hate.

Here’s a link to the full list for your perusal.

Happy reading (or not).

 

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