Turtles All The Way Down

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Oh, my, this book did make me cry.   A good cry, and so that alone earns it five stars.  I know.  Big surprise. A John Green book is good.  Not news.

But still.  I want to talk about it, and promise no spoilers.   Here are some things I loved about this book:

A great first person narrator.  Aza is smart, too smart, and her intelligence causes her to ask a lot of questions about life, identity, self, relationships.  She also has issues, and ones that make her very difficult to friend.   I identified with this character, and reading her story reminded me of so much I had forgotten about myself that it was like finding an old box of pictures and seeing images of me from the past and thinking– wow, that used to be me, and then, that still kind of is me.

I went to a holiday party just a day ago as of this writing, and I sat down at a table with a group of people, and I couldn’t have felt more like an alien.  They were all having fun, talking about nothing, just babbling, and I couldn’t enter the conversation.  I have no small talk game at all.  It’s not something good or bad, but my mind was full of the books I was reading, books I was writing, and I wanted to ask people about them, about their work and their dreams and their lives, and when I did they just looked at me like I was the biggest weirdo in the world.

So, yeah, I get Ava.

As in many of these books, we have missing adults.  Aza and her romantic interest have both lost parents.  And it has a mystery in the form of another parent who had vanished.  But those are all just McGuffins.   What this book really explores and what hooked me is a very earnest and well bred human being searching for answers, trying to understand who she is and why and how to get through the day without freaking out.

It’s a glorious, messy and inspiring.  I’ll leave others to complain about this or that or the other.  I fell in love with the characters and their struggles to just find a way to be people, and I recommend this book to anyone who has ever stopped to wonder.

Second Nature: Sneaky Good!

 

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How would a man and a woman from our world change if they found themselves in an upside down world where women had all the privilege and men faced constant objectification?  Would they?  Are we who we are, or the products of our environments?

Amanda (Collette Wolfe) and Brett (Sam Huntington) into a world where traditional gender identity and roles are reversed.  Women are aggressive and emotionally stunted, while men are passive and sensitive.  At first, each character just finds it weird, and they search for a magic mirror which can switch them back to their own world.

But, as times passes, Amanda (notice the irony of her name?) finds she likes living in a  world where the deck is stacked in her favor.  She is now the boss at her company, and is considered a shoe-in to win her race for mayor simply because he opponent is a man.  Meanwhile, the constant barrage of sexism Brett faces wears on him, and he finds himself become more emotional and insecure in response to the way he is treated.

For a time, the movie has fun playing with the flipped world.  Amanda loves telling her male subordinates to go and get pedicures on the company, slapping men on the butt and going to Peckers, where the wait staff consists entirely of men in tiny little shorts, their outfits clearly patterned on Hooters.  Brett, meanwhile, finds he can’t go into a bar without being pestered by aggressive women, who bombard him with lame come on lines, grope him and try to get him to kiss other guys for their amusement.

Amanda also begins to confront the way the stereotypes cut both ways.  A friend asks her is she’s a lesbian because she has been “acting like a boy” and she starts to feel that winning the election just because she is a woman negates the achievement.  Ultimately, she decides that the gender flipped world is just as bad as her own, and that she is against privilege and discrimination in any form.  Did I make the sound a little too noble?  It doesn’t come across that way in the film.  It just came across as a human being who was tempted to become the thing she hated and refused.

One of the nicer moments in the film involves a scene between Amanda and Brett when they are driving together after being stuck in upside down world for a week.  Brett is frazzled, demoralized, insecure, and he complains about the way he is treated in this world.   Amanda says something like,  “Only here a week, and look at what it’s done to you.”

“Don’t,”  Brett says.  ‘This is all an exaggeration of the way things are in our world.”

“It really isn’t,” Amanda says, and she is speaking to all those who have not faced objectification.

This is a good watch.  Collette is especially fun as she finds herself on top and for a time just kind of becomes a callous dude reveling in the privilege.  She doesn’t come across as vengeful or bitter or any other stereotype, and in fact pretty much seems like the female version of a bro– content and amused and happy to have it all easy due to her sex.  Sam does well showing how his character is demoralized by the sexism.   Watch it!

Nanowrimo

Okay.  Yes.  I did decide to take the 50,000 word challenge, and no one made me do it.  However, sometimes it feels more like punishment than productivity.   So far, I have managed to generate 35,000 words toward my novel,  Manistique, and I would like to convey some of my disoveries:

  1. I have never written as unconsciously.  Now, I am far from the most self-critical author out there.  I have always felt drafts in particular should just get puked onto the page.   But I never really wrote the way I am writing now, with judgement suspended.   If a scene occurs to me, I write it, and I don’t worry about how it fits in or whether it makes.  I need words, and so I write, knowing I can go back and write later.
  2. I have never set out to write something with a very strong sense it may never see the light of day. I have always written knowing that I would put out whatever I write myself, and projects always started from a  particular passion– to explore gender roles, to investigate love.   This one started from a contest, and I have no idea if what I am producing is anything I will want my name attached to in the end.  This is liberating,  though I am not sure I would do it again.
  3. Habit.  I have published over 200,000 words this year, so i do write, but I have always allowed myself days off.  With Nanowrimo, a day off leads to a massive need to catch up, so I have written on all the days, even the busy ones where I “couldn’t find the time” in the past.  It feels good.
  4. Inspiration happens when I type.  Many of the days leading to my 35,000 words have started with me having no idea what to write and little desire to start, and yet I have churned out 2,000 words just as assuredly as on the days I am jazzed.

Bottom line takeways?  All those writing books and seminars got it right.  Write everyday whether you feel like it or not.  It’s good for the soul and the brain if not always the neck and shoulders!

Working in the genre

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My Author Page

I am asking the questions today.  You know, THE questions? Who am I as a writer?  What am I?  And, if i can’t figure that out, how am i ever supposed to target the right agent?

I wonder if I am really a YA author.  Sometimes, when I look at the books that have come out of me so far, Brother Bewitched and Brain Biters,  I shake my head and think–  I don’t know that any teens would want to read this stuff.

In both books my characters are teens, and the stories are told through their eyes.  I am not some adult lecturing them about their lives, or pounding them with cliches they are old enough to know are just things adults say to hide their lack of real wisdom.

But maybe my books are too cold?   The characters not passionate enough?  Maybe I am dealing with things in a way that is alien or foreign to younger readers?

Maybe I am just too weird for any normal teen to relate to?

I have to confess, I did not read a lot of the books aimed at YA readers when I was of the age.   I wanted to be older and more serious, and so instead of reading Robert Cormier I read Stephen King.   Now, I later read Robert Cormier, and I felt like I had really missed the boat not reading him earlier, but even as a YA kid I didn’t think I was a YA kid.

So, maybe my books will never sell well to YA readers (or anyone else).   You know what?  I am going to keep writing anyway.   When I published my first book many years ago, (not YA and under a different pen name) I told myself I would be happy if one person read it and related.   It ended up selling about 300 copies, and I waited anxiously day after day, hoping one of those readers would submit a review.  Surely, one of them would be my reader, the one I imagined would read the book and know he or she wasn’t alone.  Someone else felt and thought the same things!

Well, that very first review came, an d it was terrible.  The person HATED my book, and they hated it so much they felt compelled to tell the WHOLE WORLD how much they hated it.

I felt destroyed, and for several days I moped around, thinking I would never write again.  Then, something amazing happened: a second reviewer posted a review directly refuting the first, defending my little book and praising it.

I can’t tell you how great it felt, because this was my one reader, and not only had they related, but had related so strongly they felt angry when someone attacked our book.

Since then, I have gotten good and bad reviews, and weird reviews that made no sense.  And as I reach the end of the essay, I realize that I still don’t know what kind of writer I am, or if my books are “really” YA books, as in really, really YA books.

But it doesn’t matter.   I write and write, and someone out there gets enjoyment from my work, and feels less alone, and so I do, too!

 

 

 

 

 

Free Books!

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Hello, everybody!  In case you haven’t seen it yet, I am running a sweepstakes and giving away print copies of my new book, Brain Biters!  It’s a YA paranormal thriller with danger, romance and body swapping fun!  Click on the link to enter!  It’s free!

https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/4f4aff294908a097

Check out the Brain Biters page on Amazon!   Links below!

New YA Paranormal Thriller!!!!

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Yeeeesssss!!!  It’s here!  You can buy or sample my new paranormal thriller, Brain Biters, now!  On Amazon!  All over the world!

US    UK    Germany   Spain    France    Italy  Netherlands   Mexico 

Canada    Australia  Japan    India   Brazil

 

Synopsis

What if when we fell in love, we really did lose ourselves in the other person?

Mort doesn’t care much about anything. He finds his town lame, his high-school boring, and even though he can see that his girlfriend, Cassie, is pretty awesome, he’s just not that into her.

Then, a strange new girl with flaming red hair comes to town, and he finds himself crushing on her like he’s never crushed on anyone. He loves her smile, her laugh, and he wants to get to know her, really know her, to the point that he even starts reading the books she reads. But then, he finds out that she is what’s known as a brain biter, and to know her is to become her.

Soon, Mort finds his life descending into crazy town as more brain biters appear and two of them fight over his body, but not in the way he’d hoped! This is a paranormal action story with romance, humor and mystery!

US    UK    Germany   Spain    France    Italy  Netherlands   Mexico 

Canada    Australia  Japan    India   Brazil

The Agent Hustle

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Here I go again!   I have worked hard on a new manuscript.  I love my characters, and I am really invested in the story, which explores my favorite themes of gender and identity.  I want to share it with the world, and so full of excitement and enthusiasm for all the possibilities this big, crazy world has to offer I sit down at my computer and …   and… my head starts pounding, and I feel sick and sad and discouraged, and a little voice in my head says, “You’re wasting your time.  You’ll never find an agent, you fool!”

Okay.  It may not be quite that dramatic, but I do have to admit that the very thought of pursuing an agent is fraught with what Steven Pressfield calls resistance, and I do feel actually physical revulsion at the idea.

Now, this has nothing to do with agents.  Nothing.  This all has to do with my sometimes creepy, Gothic horror house of a brain.   Because it is my brain that starts telling me I am not good enough, cool enough, charismatic enough, lucky enough– not any enough for me to ever achieve anything in terms of mainstream success.

I have also suffered at times for Egovictimitis:  the irrational belief that a bunch of people who’ve never met me for some reason want to crush my soul.

These forces can make it impossible for me to even send out a query.  Failing that, they may encourage me to not try too hard.  After all, why bother working really hard on these letters when these agents are my enemy?  When all they want to represent are the works of their friends form college!!!!!!!  (They aren’t and they don’t.  That’s clear, right?  This is all in my head)

In fact, these thought patterns and attitudes all reflect ways I defeat myself.   Why do I do that?  I don’t know, but I do know that it’s important for me to develop healthier attitudes, and I do that by focus on the process and not the result.

As long as I am focused obsessively on whether I will get an agent or not, I am not really present for the task at hand, which consists for me of these steps:  1) research and identify agents who have shown an interest in projects like mine 2) research and refresh my awareness of proper etiquette and content for my queries 3) write the best query I can  4) send it out and forget about it.

I don’t control the outcome and I have no control over the outcome.   I do believe a hundred percent that if an agent feels my project is something they can sell, they will let me know.  If they don’t feel they can sell it, they will save us both lost time by taking a pass.   And that’s a good thing.  Neither one of us benefits from having my project sitting around in limbo.

One of the great things about our world today is that my project will find readers.  I set a goal for myself of getting an agent and a publisher, however, I also know that this is not the be all and end all of a writing career.   How many authors have gotten that publishing contract only to find their books not selling, piled on a discount table, and a publisher who did little or nothing to promote the book?   It happens all the time.

If I don’t find a publisher, I will put it out myself for the cost of no dollars.  My self-published books sell from between 150 and 2000 copies, and I am grateful for every one of those readers.   I can’t tell you how happy it makes me when one of the takes the time to write a review pr email me.   That’s the gold right there.   I sat and wrote something alone, or at America’s Cup Cafe, and someone saw it, read it, and we mind melded over these characters and their lives and struggles.

How awesome is that?

So, for all my fellow writers out there, raise the mainsail, get out there on the waters, whether they be smooth or choppy.  Maybe you will one day find a calm and friendly port, or maybe you will wander forever on the high seas as a Indie Author, proud and free!

Whatever happens, just keep writing.  Just keep writing!