Tis the Season of Giving - Contest Time!!!

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): The Call by Reinga Spektor.

It has been a while and since you all have been so incredible and a pure delight to blog for, in this Christmas season, I want to give you something special. Something that will really make your eyes shine. Taking a cue from Shannon Messenger, I am going to let YOU pick the prize. I have in my hands three very valuable signed books up for the taking.

Rapunzel's Revenge
by Shannon Hale, Dean Hale, and Nathan Hale (no relation). This is signed by ALL THREE of the authors/illustrators. That was not an easy feat to accomplish I'll tell you.
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
The Lightning Thief
by Rick Riordan.

Again, every one of these is SIGNED by the authors. And you get to pick which one you want. So, what do you have to do?

It is simple, really. You do a kind deed. It is the time when we really start to think of other people and I love this time of year for that. Do a conscious kind deed, put it up here what you did on this post and that counts as a point. It doesn't have to be big. Not tripping your sister in the hall could count for one. :) Even just smiling at someone that doesn't usually get a smile would be one (and it can be so huge). So you will be earning these books, but in very simple ways. You can get as many points as you want. I will be going off of the honor system here. [EDIT]: But make SURE you post what you've done here, especially if you've done the Tu Publishing link

One idea to earn points is to help spread the love about Tu Publishing, an independent publisher starting out. They want to publish multicultural sci-fi and fantasy for teens. You can learn more about them in my post here. I will be giving 5 points for posting an individual post about them, or if you make a direct donation. I really want to see them become a reality.

With these books, I really think I could get a lot of subscribers, but I don't feel offering more points for that is in the spirit of what I am asking for. It's about giving of yourself (but spreading word of this contest would greatly be appreciated. Kindness begets kindness I've discovered).

You all are more than fantastic, thank you. You rock.

Contest is open until Sunday Dec 13th at 11:59 PST. (no international this time, sorry). Have at it, and Merry Pre-Christmas. :)

Tu Publishing - Multicultural Sci-fi and Fantasy

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): All The Right Moves by OneRupblic

What a wonderful holiday. Sorry for the half week absence, but you know, family first. And pie, can't forget pie. ^_^

To make up for a missed Feature Fun Friday, here is something quite extraordinary - a publishing house specifically made for multicultural YA science fiction and fantasy

The thing is... they haven't started yet. They are not yet open for operation. New businesses need backers to get off of the ground and for the publishing industry (namely independent publishers like this one) it is especially hard. What they are trying to do is incredible beyond words to me. Books like Silver Phoenix, The Hunger Games, Little Sister, Dragonfly, Julie of the Wolves, Island of the Blue Dolphins are transportive and have taught me so much. And you know what? I didn't care one whit that the character wasn't the same ethnicity as me. In fact, it enhanced the experience more because I truly got to go some place I had never been before.

"Tu" means "you" in many languages, so you can see their goal just in their name. They want to write books for us, open a world that has been closed for too long. Many publishers believe, to one degree or another, that books of characters of ethnicity will not sell. This is not true.

I believe this idea is as important if not more so that the LIAR cover controversy. Bloggers moved mountains with that campaign and this publishing house aims to bring more books like that to us. They need our help. And I want to do everything I can to help make this a reality.

There are 14 days left on the fund-raising project and there is a lot of ground to cover. And the cool thing is, if you donate, you get stuff back. Please, spread the word. Donate. Contact others who might be interested. There is a fabulous auction going on. There is so much we can do, and not a lot of time left to do it. Please, I want to move another mountain.

Tu Publishing
Kickstarter Donation Site
Kickstarter Auction
Tu Publishing on Facebook
Tu Publishing on Twitter
Stacy Whitman

Secrets of WriterGirl

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Scarborough Fair by Leif Shires.

This has been a long time in coming, but I didn't forget, I promise. I asked what you wanted to know about me. I got some good questions, but not enough to equal ten. So I had to make up some of my own. So away we go!

1. I love records. You know, the old LPs. I think they just rock. I love the nostalgia and the quality and the fact that a needle can produce sound. So cool.

2. I really like the "out there" movies, like Mirrormask, The Neverending Story and The Labyrinth.

3. I have ridden on the back of an elephant. No lie. See?

4. I love the sound of rain and the ocean almost more than any other sound.

5. I have never kissed a boy. Ever.

6. I am a twin. Yes, there are two of me out there - bwa ha ha ha!

7. I can be fascinated by most everything. Once I was late for a class in college because I was watching a spider jump across the sidewalk. I got some strange looks for that one.

8. I love my family more than life itself.

And the two questions posted by readers:

9. Shannon Messenger: What is the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you? Thanks Shannon, love you too. That would have to be the third grade when during a kickball game in our gym I kicked a home run of a kick and in the midst of rounding third base I turned to look to see where the ball was... and knocked myself unconscious. Honest to goodness knocked out. I woke up and everyone was standing over me. I still flush scarlet thinking about it to this day.

10. Charlotte (Book on the Hill): If you could transform yourself into a bird, what would it be any why? Once upon a time, that would have been a peregrine falcon or a phoenix, but know I think it would have to be a kestrel. They are a much smaller and often overlooked bird of prey. But they are beautiful. And I think there is a freedom in being unknown or underrated. Plus, that is just a really cool name. I've wanted to use it in a book.

Why may you ask have I revealed these things about my super secret life? (yeah right). Well besides keeping a promise, I have received MORE awards. Goodness. You are going to swamp me. And I received the Honest Scrap award no less than two times by two separate people. That must mean I DOUBLY scrappily honest. Yay to Frankie and Shannon. Here are my ten picks for their honest scrappiness ^_^

1. Finding Wonderland
2. Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
3. Today's Adventure
4. Bookworming in the 21st Century
5. Neverending Shelf
6. Serenehours
7. Pages
8. Mitali's Fire Escape
9. Words and Wordances
10. Polenth's Quill

Go forth and spread the love.

And this one is long overdue. Thank you to Kirthi from Pages for this One Lovely Blog award. Here are my contributions to 10 seriously (and "recently" discovered) lovely blogs:

1. Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe
2. Frankie Writes
3. The Spectacle
4. Maw Books Blog
5. Abby the Librarian

Sorry, I only did five because of my limited time, but there are so many out there I love! If you weren't nominated, please insert your name in the remaining slots. ^_^

Monday's Muse, 4th edition.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Living On A Prayer by Bon Jovi.

This was originally an idea from Au Courant started in March, an idea she has graciously let me run with.

The idea is to introduce you to unknown, forgotten, or overlooked fiction that has been lost from regular radar. I am WriterGirl. I am in the business of saving lives, one book at a time.

What I do is go to amazon, narrow it down to a YA field and type in a random word, any word that comes to mind. I then take a sampling of some I have never heard of before, or only vaguely heard of (and hopefully you as well). No infringement is intended for any description I take for the books. It's purely for promotional reasons. I will try and cover as many genres as possible that are fitting for the random word. Simple but it really uncovers some incredible gems. I will be doing this every other Monday. If there are any words you want to prompt me with, go ahead and fire away.

Today's random word:

Hit and Run by Lurlene McDaniel

Up one night, too many drinks and a tragic car accident in Ashville, NC, forever change the lives of four people. Quinn is BMOC, a promising athlete with a driven father pushing him to succeed at all costs. On this particular evening, he hits a bicyclist on the side of the road and covers up the crime. Laurie is on the fringe of the A-list crowd, and considers using her knowledge of what Quinn did to blackmail him into dating her to boost her popularity. However, compromising her morals could be an even bigger atrocity. Analise is the innocent victim, trapped in her own mind. She doesn't know whether to hang on or let go. And Jeremy is the boy who loves her and hopes she can find her way back, because he can't imagine life without her. Hit and Run demonstrates the power of love and making choices.

Elephant Run by Roland Smith

In 1941, bombs drop from the night skies of London, demolishing the apartment Nick Freestone lives in with his mother. Deciding the situation in England is too unstable, Nick's mother sends him to live with his father in Burma, hoping he will be safer living on the family's teak plantation.

But as soon as Nick arrives, trouble erupts in the remote Burmese elephant village. Japanese soldiers invade, and Nick's father is taken prisoner. Nick is left stranded on the plantation, forced to work as a servant to the new rulers. As life in the village grows more dangerous for Nick and his young friend, Mya, they plan their daring escape. Setting off on elephant back, they will risk their lives to save Nick's father and Mya's brother from a Japanese POW camp.

In this thrilling journey through the jungles of Burma, Roland Smith explores the far-reaching effects of World War II, while introducing readers to the fascinating world of wild timber elephants and their mahouts.

On the Run by Michael Coleman

Luke is a petty thief with a talent for picking locks. While breaking into a car, the 15-year-old is shoved aside by two schoolmates who steal it. In the melee, the owner's family returns and the daughter is nearly run down by the vehicle but Luke has the presence of mind to push her to safety. The thieves drive away, but Luke is chased and then tackled by the girl's father. The ensuing arrest lands him back in the juvenile justice system, which is more familiar to him than his own family, particularly his father, who is in prison for fraud and burglary. Honor among thieves prevents Luke from ratting on his schoolmates, but a sympathetic parole officer arranges an unusual community service project involving the girl he rescued. Luke learns that Jodi is blind and wants help training to run a mini-marathon. The unlikely partnership is awkward as Luke guides her along the track using voice commands, but her confidence and determination transform him, and give him a purpose that is no longer self-serving. Fans of British fiction will enjoy the urban dialect, and Jodi's triumph over her disability is inspirational, adding depth to the story. In a page-turning climax, Luke is blackmailed by the car thieves to help break into a garage on the day of the marathon and predictably outruns his demons for a somewhat sentimental but satisfying ending.

Grab Hands and Run
by Frances Temple

Twelve-year-old Felipe and his sister Romy, eight, have never grown accustomed to the intricacies of their life in El Salvador. Children must not play in certain areas or ever go out alone, as their city is in the grip of a civil war that is to blame for murders, disappearances and the drafting of boys into the army. They live with constant worry, compounded by their father Jacinto's secretive involvement in a resistance movement. When Jacinto turns up missing, Felipe, Romy and their mother, Paloma, follow the patriarch's oft-spoke instructions to "grab hands and run" all the way to freedom in Canada. The arduous and uncertain journey that follows forms the bulk of the novel. Temple's characters are wholly credible, expressing common human emotions while retaining a specific cultural identity. Details of the brutal realities in El Salvador are dexterously woven into the story of one family's struggle to beat the odds.

Run Far, Run Fast by Timothy Decker

The Pestilence has arrived. With it come death and fear, hiding and desperation. A young girl is hastened out of her dying town and told by her mother, "Run far, Run Fast." The child obeys and travels from village to castle, castle to countryside, in search of shelter. Wherever she turns, the Pestilence has already appeared. Scared and tired, she finally meets a stranger who knows something of this plague. He is kind and learned, but the girl cannot know whether his knowledge will be enough to save her family.Timothy Decker explores the bleak yet breathtaking world of fourteenth-century Europe in this quiet story of hope during desolation. Stark pen-and-ink drawings emphasize the realism of this romanticised period, and straightforward prose creates a truly haunting tale.

Feature Fun Friday - President Bartlet Pardons a Turkey

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Greensleeves by Blackmore's Night.

Okay I admit it, this has nothing to do with books, but it is almost Thanksgiving and this is hilarious. It is from the now-ended series West Wing. You know that the President pardons a turkey every year, right? Well... what happens to the runner-up? I won't say any more, you will just have to watch and enjoy. So many priceless one-liners here. Have a great weekend everyone!

Copyediting Hamlet

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Reign of the Septims by Jeremy Soule [Oblivion soundtrack].

I've grounded myself from the internet for the past two days so that I could be, you know, useful to society, and maybe get some writing done to boot. Guess how long I lasted? You're looking at it.

I will conquer it yet I say! Just not cold turkey (hey, which reminds me, tomorrow's FFF is going to be fantastic).

Now, have you ever wondered what would happen if some of the literary "greats" came under modern publishing practices? What about the great bard Shakespeare himself? No, not even he has been spared. Here is a glimpse at what might happen if "Hamlet" ever came under a modern copy editor's microscope:

To be, or not to be: {COMMENT: Weak, confusing opening. Is something missing here? The thought seems unfinished.} that is the question: {COMMENT: Indirect. Why not get right to your main point?} Should I exist?
Is it Whether 'tis nobler in the mind {COMMENT: Where else would it be noble?} to suffer endure
The slings pellets and arrows {COMMENT: Not parallel. A sling is a throwing device whereas an arrow is something thrown}of outrageous {Right word? Did you mean “raging”? or just “bad”?}fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea troop of troubles {This metaphor is just silly. How can one “take arms” against a “sea”??}

You can click here to see the whole transcript of the brutal gentle editing. I hope you get a chuckle out of like I did.

Look forward to more adventures next week, and you know, methinks it is time for another contest. Anyone in? :D

My reviews, an explanation

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Heartbeats by José González.

If you happen to Look back over the weekend at my review of Dragonfly by Julia Golding you may think that I almost didn't like the book because of my comments. That isn't true.

My reviews are a bit different than many blogs. My goal is to feature great books that have been lost to obscurity. I want people to find these treasures and grow in whatever way they do when they read a story. But the key word there is great. A bad obscure book can doesn't need to be brought to attention.

So that is why I have set such strict guidelines for myself, such as "I will not review any book within the top 25,000 best-selling, according to amazon ranks." This has been hard on me a couple of times (who am I kidding? It's hard almost anytime I find I book). That is why you won't find a review for Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon on here, even though I have interviewed her. There are many others that you may have loved that I incidentally love just as much. But you already know about them.

I also do not give stars on my reviews. While easy to glance at, I really feel that such a system is too vague to ever adequately describe a book. So I discuss what I loved and why, as well as what didn't fit well with me and why. Then you can judge for yourself if it is worth reading. Of course it is all opinion. That's why I call it "My Take." :)

Every review here I wholeheartedly recommend. (This is also another reason why my reviews are few and far between. I read many excellent books that just don't quite make the cut). Now and then I have more gripes with certain books than others, but my goal is to be completely upfront and honest. If a villain is flat, I will tell you. That is the most important thing about any of my reviews. I will be honest with you, I can promise that.

And there are some amazing books I simply cannot review because they are so popular already *cough cough The Graveyard Book! Shannon Hale! Nancy Farmer! Mistborn Trilogy! Suzanne Collins! cough cough* Trust me, I cry (more than a little inside) because I cannot review them.

But that is not my purpose. My purpose is to bring to light great fiction that has fallen by the wayside. I look around and pick them up and dust them off (usually causing a severe coughing fit on my part). I am WriterGirl. This is what I do.

Feature Fun Friday - If Buffy Were Bella

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): I Still Remember by Blackmore's Night.

So I've seen the Twilight parody from Saturday Night Live with Taylor Swift floating (or soaring) all over the internet lately. And since New Moon comes out in just a week, I thought it quite appropriate to show this little remix I found a while back. Just to show how different everyone is, this is what might have happened had Edward met Buffy instead of Bella Swan. Enjoy Buffy vs. Edward. Happy Friday the 13th everyone. :)

Review - Dragonfly by Julia Golding

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Undisclosed Desires by Muse.

I will focus on YA and Children's literature (with very rare exceptions).
I will not review any book that is one of the top 25,000 selling books (based on Amazon ranks).
I will try and aim for books 100,000 or larger.
I will not review books before 2005 (with very rare exceptions).

Here is story quite interesting that is quite ambitious in its scope, on many levels, it's Dragonfly by Julia Golding.

Dragonfly by Julia Golding
Current Amazon Rank: # 286,336
Published: October 2009
Pages: 390

First Line: The Fourth Crown Princess of the Blue Crescent Islands had sixteen rituals to observe from the moment of waking to when she broke her fast.

My Take: Like the first line suggests, this story is all about culture clash. An arranged marriage and culture clash to be precise. Plus and the fact that they hate each other on sight. Oh, and there are kidnappings, daring escapes, and overthrowing an empire. Sounds like a romp of fun, eh? :) It is.

I do not think enough fantasy stories truly delve into the complexities of their own world. Julia Golding does a valiant attempt at many such overlooked things as language barriers, different gods and belief systems, cultural traditions, and even names are addressed. The princess is named Taoshira and the prince is Ramil ac Burinholt. There is no mistaking that they are from very different parts of the world.

It was refreshing to see these aspects common to our world addressed. She also covered many heavy subjects such as war, slavery, brainwashing, responsibility over an entire nation, loyalties, and many others. However, because of all these things are packed into a 400 page novel, none of them were really touched with real depth. The "evil" kingdom's religion was the saddest disappointment, as she mentioned several times that their god looked very similar to the conquering king. I appreciate it when as a reader you can see from all perspectives believably. Their religion was barbaric with very few "true" believers. I would have loved to see what could have happened if those people truly believed in that religion. She also writes in a third person omniscient perspective that jumps to a variety of characters and it made it difficult to get attached to any one in particular. However, I really appreciated that she showed that war was not easy and Ramil's first kill affected him quite a bit. Again though, it was not touched with enough depth to really impact me. But I am glad it was there. The story flowed well but tried to cover too much ground for a single novel. This could easily have been a trilogy and allowed for all these fascinating aspects to be covered in much greater detail.

Tashi's and Ramil's growing love did not quite feel organic. It resolved and unresolved itself quickly. Each new problem became an absolute shift with no natural progression. She never managed to touch on their deep feelings for each other. But my favorite line of the novel came from their relationship:
She smiled: trust the son of a Horse Follower to woo in the saddle.
That seriously made my smile. The supporting characters were engaging and for how many she managed to put in, I was surprised how well I got to know them and like them. Again, I think the omniscient perspective the greatest hindrance in getting close to them. The characters were fun and engaging and I liked a side blossoming relationship as much as our two main heroes. However, the final scene between Ramil and Tashi (the last paragraph) takes the cake will almost assuredly make you smile.

The Last Word: This is a book that covers a lot of material lightly. It never becomes complex enough to be real, but that does not make it unworthy of reading, quite the opposite. It was fun and different with many unique aspects. Quite recommended.

(By the way, finding the reason behind the dragonfly was terribly sweet. Look out for paper, that's all I can say. It was my favorite part of the entire novel).

Post de Miscellani

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): I've Got A Date With A Dream by Benny Goodman.

This is a post of pure randomness. I have links, but not enough to make a linky love. But I can't just leave them out in the cold. That would be sad. And of course I have me jumping into a pile of leaves. You just can't miss out on that. ;)

First, more costumes! Yes yes Halloween is over, but if they can put Christmas trees up in August, I can post links for Halloween coolness up two weeks late. When I asked for literary costumes I can honestly say I didn't think of the publishing industry, but really, who would be more gung-ho than them? Luckily, Publisher's Weekly has very kindly provided me with a post with more literary Halloween costumes than I could shake a dead foot at. I think the vampire Alice in Wonderland has to be on of my favorites. Although, dressing up as the districts of Panem in The Hunger Games? That just reaches a whole new level of awesome.

The second one I honestly don't want to share, but it's for a good cause, so I must. You see, there is an auction going on at Leave A Mark for a marked-up copy of If I Stay by Gayle Forman. This is a seriously one-of-a-kind book because it contains notes, hidden inspiration for scenes or whatever else the author decided to put in there. Yes, handwritten by the author. I want it. I didn't want to tell you about it. But all the money goes to charity. So go ahead, steal it from under me. :)

And now for my lovely praise to fall. I love fall, I love the colors and how everything looks so bright and beautiful and ready to sleep all at once. And guess what? I raked leaves for the first time in years. College without a yard (or a rake for that matter) will do that to you. I'm sure many of you are shouting that I can come do yours too, but really, it was wonderful. I keep discovering over and over that it is the simple things in life that make everything so wonderful. That became the highlight of my day. And yes, I totally jumped in those leaves.

Happy late Veteran's Day and fall of the Berlin Wall!

WriterGirl plays Mulan

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Miracle by Sally Shapiro.

Remember when I said last month that I couldn't dye my hair for my ubercool Katniss costume? Well, I said there was a reason for it and that reason is going to be revealed... now.

*Cue suspense music*





I cut my hair! And not just for any reason, I wanted to donate my hair to Locks for Love, an organization that makes and gives real hair wigs to kids with cancer so that through their chemo therapy they feel as normal as possible. You can't have it color treated or permed in any way (hence the no dying bit). Mine was long enough (you need at least ten inches) and I've done it once before. I will be honest. I miss my hair. I really really miss my long hair, but thinking about how much good it can do makes it all completely worth it. And it will grow back. There is nothing really to be sad about. So here is to the new WriterGirl look! :D

Goodbye old friend.

P.S One of my little sisters cut my hair. Isn't she incredible?!

P.P.S That song above ^ is free at amazon right now. It is really good and totally worth a download.

Monday's Muse, 3rd edition

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Waves of Rush by Tabache.

This was originally an idea from Au Courant started in March, an idea she has graciously let me run with.

The idea is to introduce you to unknown, forgotten, or overlooked fiction that has been lost from regular radar. I am WriterGirl. I am in the business of saving lives, one book at a time.

What I do is go to amazon, narrow it down to a YA field and type in a random word, any word that comes to mind. I then take a sampling of some I have never heard of before, or only vaguely heard of (and hopefully you as well). No infringement is intended for any description I take for the books. It's purely for promotional reasons. I will try and cover as many genres as possible that are fitting for the random word. Simple but it really uncovers some incredible gems. I will be doing this every other Monday. If there are any words you want to prompt me with, go ahead and fire away.

Today's random word:

Freefall by Anne Levine

Abigail Jacobs is preparing for high school graduation and compulsory service in the Israel Defense Forces. While her friend Shira is trying out for the entertainment troupe, Abigail has her sights set on the elite women's combat unit. Although she is discouraged by her family, she gains much-needed confidence and inner strength from Shira's older brother, Noah, a combat soldier himself. She survives a physically and mentally grueling boot camp and is inspired to help rescue stranded animals as bombs fall in northern Israel. When Noah is wounded and Aggie encounters him in the hospital, their relationship intensifies. Unlike Levine's Running on Eggs (Front St., 1999), this book is nearly devoid of politics, and the story could easily take place in any war-torn country where military service is a way of life for young people.

Seven Tears into the Sea by Terri Farley

Beckon the sea,

I'll come to thee....

Shed seven tears,

perchance seven years....

At the age of ten, Gwen Cooke had a strange encounter with a boy with dark, slightly tilted eyes. He came to her on the beach, whispered strange words in her ear, and then disappeared. Shortly thereafter, her family moved away from their seaside home and Gwen never saw the boy again.

Now seventeen, Gwen is returning to her childhood home. Her nana asked her to come. But Gwen knows it's time to go back for another reason: She yearns for the sea. Perhaps the sea itself is calling to her. Perhaps the memory of the boy and his haunting words are drawing her back to the place they met. Perhaps it's time for her to face her destiny.

The Executioner's Daughter by Laura E. Williams

historical novel set in England in 1450. Gentle, sensitive Lily has the misfortune to be the daughter of the village executioner. The other children taunt and torment her and her only friends are the wounded forest animals that she nurses back to health. When her mother dies, Lily knows that it is her destiny to replace her as the executioner's assistant. Suddenly the ugliness from which she has been shielded all her life becomes all too real. She faces the difficult choice of remaining loyal to her loving but remote father or leaving to try to make a better life for herself. Ironies abound in the deceptively simple story. Lily's parents also earn a living by selling herbs and are expert healers. Her father is reviled by the citizens of the town, but they turn out in droves to watch him work. He is viewed by all as a brute, yet he must drink heavily in order to carry out his duties. Lily is a strong, insightful child, wise beyond her years yet still vulnerable. This well-written story is an excellent vehicle for demonstrating the harsh realities of life in the Middle Ages.

The Foreshadowing by Marcus Sedgwick

It is 1915 and the First World War has only just begun.

17 year old Sasha is a well-to-do, sheltered-English girl. Just as her brother Thomas longs to be a doctor, she wants to nurse, yet girls of her class don't do that kind of work. But as the war begins and the hospitals fill with young soldiers, she gets a chance to help. But working in the hospital confirms what Sasha has suspected--she can see when someone is going to die. Her premonitions show her the brutal horrors on the battlefields of the Somme, and the faces of the soldiers who will die. And one of them is her brother Thomas.

Pretending to be a real nurse, Sasha goes behind the front lines searching for Thomas, risking her own life as she races to find him, and somehow prevent his death.

The Seven Towers by Patricia Wrede

They are seven players in a game of deadly magic— Eltiron, Prince of Sevarin; Crystalorn, Princess of Barinash; Ranlyn, the desert rider; Jermain, the outlaw; Vandaris, the soldier; Carachel, the Wizard-King; and Amberglas, the sorceress. Each of them has a secret, and each fights his or her part in the thrilling battle that has put seven kingdoms on the very edge of destruction. Filled with wit, swordplay, humor, and intrigue, this early novel is one of Patricia C. Wrede’s best.

A Matter of Profit by Hilari Bell

The Vivitare are warriors-at least, the men are. Women have little power. Ahvren, 18, is a decent fighter, but dreads the thought of heading off to conquer another planet, while his foster sister, Sabri, who would actually make a brilliant warrior, dreads the thought of marrying the emperor's heir, who is weak and abusive. Ahvren and his father make a wager. If Ahvren can figure out who is behind the plot to assassinate the emperor, he will have a year to figure out what he wants to do with his life. He will also, he thinks, be able to convince the emperor to stop the wedding. It doesn't seem that difficult-obviously members of the conquered T'Chin Confederation are behind the plot. But there is something strange about this group. All but one of its 40 planets simply surrendered to the Vivitare. They are cowards--or are they? And what is the real difference between an informagoth (one who sells information) and a bibliogoth (one who figures out what information is needed, where to get it, and how to organize it)? As Ahvren learns more about the various species who make up the T'Chin Confederation, he also learns more about himself and his own people.

Feature Fun Friday - Libba Bray Goes Bovine

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): The Reel by Secret Garden.

This has been around before, but I think it is worthy of a re-visitation. And really, who doesn't want to see Libbra Bray walking around New York City in a cow suit? (And yes, at one point she actually forgot she was wearing it). Have a great weekend everyone!

Interview - Lisa Ann Sandell, author of Song of the Sparrow

Current Theme (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Speed of Sound by Coldplay.

I can't tell you how much I love interviewing these amazing authors whose work I discover. Lisa Ann Sandell is no exception. Sweet, smart, endearing, and intelligent, she is a joy to get to know. Her verse novel, Song of the Sparrow is lovely, and I sincerely hope that she continues to delve into her wonderful re-imaginations of Arthurian legends (yes, that is a nudge on your part Lisa). Without further ado, I quite happily present Lisa Ann Sandell!

[Me] You wrote your college thesis on Lancelot. Do tell! What made you pick him in particular and what did you find out in all of your research on him?

[LAS] I think Lancelot is such a fascinating character. Here’s a man who wants so badly to be good, to do good, to be loyal to his king. But he just can’t keep himself away from Gwynivere, his king’s wife—and ultimately his betrayal helps to bring about the downfall of Camelot. Lancelot is filled with complexity and contradictions. What writer can resist that?

Your reinterpretations were fantastic (like Merlin putting the sword in the earth for the "sword in the stone"). What made you come up with such believable renditions for these nearly mythological elements of this famous legend?

Well, thank you so much! I’m very happy to hear it. J As I thought about how to work the more mystical and mythological elements of Arthurian legend into my story—and I knew I wanted to include these very well-known and well-loved moments — I tried to somehow avoid overt magic and, rather, to incorporate these scenes in a more organic and realistic way that portrayed the characters’ deep connection to the earth, rather than an outside force of magic.

You wrote this in free verse poetry, but you worried about how it would be received. What were you most nervous about?

I never doubted that verse was the right way to tell the story, but to be perfectly honest, I was worried that the notion of an Arthurian novel in verse would just sound downright unappealing. I’m glad it didn’t turn out that way!

I will let you know, I have hated Gwynivere in almost every rendition she has been put through. Your Gwynivere's personality really shocked me, but pleasantly so. She seemed so believable, while still staying true to all her original source material, you managed to truly flesh her out. Tell us more about what went into crafting her personality. She became very real to me at the end, and a favorite character even, which was not something I was expecting at all.

It’s funny, I’ve pretty much hated Gwynivere in my past readings, too! She always seemed whiny, spoiled, and manipulative to me. But, as I thought more and more about her and her situation, I began to sympathize with her. I mean, she didn’t ask to be Arthur’s betrothed, and she certainly didn’t ask to live in the dirt with the soldiers, as I’ve placed her in Song of the Sparrow. So, I could start to imagine a depth to her, a reason for her to behave as abominably as she does in the beginning of Song of the Sparrow. Most people have different facets to their personalities, and I wanted to try to portray Gwynivere as fairly and fully as possible.

Morgan's character also intrigued me. How did you chose to write about her as you did?

I wanted to move past the typical portrayal of Morgan as a scheming and devious and wicked witch. Frankly, part of my motivation in writing this story was to get away from the stereotypes the female characters have traditionally assumed in these stories—of either being helpless females who need a man to rescue them or villainous women who bring destruction down upon the men. I tried to maintain the mystical elements of Morgan’s character; I wanted to depict her as a wise woman with a very deep connection to the land.

How did you truly "dig into and understand" these famous characters? What was your method, so to speak? :)

Oh, my method. J I started by reading and rereading as many texts as I could, from Le Morte D’Arthur to Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain to Tennyson’s poem “The Lady of Shalott,” among other stories and books. Then, once I knew that I wanted to focus on the pre-Camelot period, I took many walks around my neighborhood and just tried to think what these young adults would do, how they would feel and behave and react in the settings and all of the situations that I constructed for them, based on the histories and stories that I read.

You wrote about the rise of Camelot, do you think will write about the fall?

Oooh, I would love to revisit all of these characters again and to explore the building of Camelot. Then, the fall would be truly amazing— heartbreaking and thrilling and rich—to write about. I would like to…very much.

If you do continue your beautiful additions to this remarkable cannon, will it still follow Elaine's story, or will you have someone new take the helm? Will Nimue or the Lady of the Lake ever make an appearance?

You know, this could be a fascinating time to write from Gwynivere’s perspective. What do you think?

Is there anything you had to cut (editors or otherwise) that you did not want to cut?

I pretty much agreed with all of the changes that my editor suggested. She’s a very smart lady, my editor—who, by the way, is the fabulous YA author Aimee Friedman. One of her brilliant suggestions was to cut out a romantic tension between Elaine and Arthur that I had written into the story. I did this because I had a giant crush on Arthur myself and sort of projected that into the book and onto my characters. It was weird and it muddied the plot in a pretty nonsensical way. I knew Aimee was right to direct me to take that out of the story, but it was hard, because it meant curbing my own feelings.

What is your favorite scene in the book, personally?

This is a tough question. There are moments in this story that touch me: I love the scene when Elaine and her brother Lavain sit together in silence after the first battle portrayed in the book. I also love the first Round Table meeting, when the majesty of the Round Table, the mystery of the Merlin, the potential for Camelot, and the love for Arthur are introduced. But I think my most favorite scene is the one following the Round Table meeting, when Elaine and Tristan walk together among the silver-barked birch trees, talking of life and love and all the things that really matter in life. I think it’s the first moment in which the foundations for their love begin to grow.

What is your favorite unknown book that you really think more people should know about?

I think it would be The Ruby Key, by Holly Lisle. This is a gorgeous fantasy with a really cool, strong, all-around awesome girl protagonist. I may be biased because I edited the book, but I think it’s amazing and beautifully written and not as well-known as it should be!

Thank you so much for speaking with us Lisa. It was a pleasure to talk with you today.

Linky Love - an incredible list

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Aria by Mediaeval Baebes.

Today's bunch is small but packs a serious punch. Some part funny, some part jaw-dropping, all part awesome. the same way I like my shakes. :D

What do teens want? Well apparently Publisher's Weekly knows in a big way. They have gone in depth (and I mean serious in depth) in finding out what teens read why and everything else under the sun. It is incredible. Definitely one of the best links I have found all year, hands down. They enough graphs and charts to even make a mathematician giggle.

Do you want to help build a library for a community that has none? Michelle Wright is doing just that. And she would love your help. Housing them in her community center, she is building a library one book at a time. What a great way to give back with those unwanted or outgrown books. I wholeheartedly endorse this idea.

A new online magazine for young writers has just emerged - Survival By Storytelling Magazine, and it looks fantastic.

After finding out most people know of The Lady of Shallot (recently reviewed here via Song of the Sparrow) through Anne of Green Gables, I found an article at mentalfloss about her. Apparently Japan is gaga for Anne of Green Gables too. Never woulda thunk. A small excerpt:

Anne is huge in Japan. Like Harry Potter huge. Anne of Green Gables was translated into Japanese by a respected and well-known Japanese author; in 1952, when Japanese officials were looking for translations of enriching, inspirational Western literature to teach in schools, Anne became part of the Japanese curriculum. Japan fell head over heels for Anne, finding her red hair exotic, her hardworking attitude and kind nature endearing, and her story of winning over the town inspirational.

Rock on Japan and rock on Anne! She became so popular, there were special stamps released of her, anime style. They sold 10 of the 15 million in the first month. I don't know which makes me more happy, the Japan aspect or the Anne aspect, but I love that literature can make such a difference. Yay for plucky heroines!

A Homage to NaNoWriMo, Author vs. Character

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Portabello Road by Irwin Kostal, Richard and Robert Sherman [Bedknobs and Broomsticks soundtrack].

Hello and happy November! The air is crisp and has a certain scent wafting in the air, and I don't just mean pumpkin pie. It is the fresh, tangy smell of ink and paper (and the furious burning smell of keypads being typed into oblivion). Yep, for those of you who don't know, it's NaNoWriMo (or NaNoRevisMo) again! National Novel Writing Month where you try to write 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days (yes, the math is a wee bit daunting on that).

I personally will not be participating. My NaNoWriMo will consist of finishing the first draft of my new novel (which very well may amount to over 50,000 words). But that doesn't mean I can't pay homage to those crazy amazing people who try it every year. This is perhaps one of the funniest things I have ever found in relation to NaNoWriMo - Author vs. Character by Lazette M. Gifford. Warning: The language borderlines the PG-13 category (h***, s***, and d***). You will never look at poodles the same way again. Enjoy and good luck to all those participating! And hopefully I can meet my writing goal as well.

Author vs. Character, Chapter Five - Outline and Notes.

'The night passes quietly. Character sleeps soundly and wakes up at first light. Rooster crows. Climbs down from the hay loft and stretches, pleased to see that the fog of the night before has cleared and he can now see the town -- a couple dozen buildings, including a travelers' inn. He'd found refuge in their stable. Grateful for the chance to sleep so comfortably --'

You know, I've been quiet and gone along with you for the previous four chapters without a complaint, but this is too much. I've spent six days sleeping on leaves, huddled by a tree in the rain, and half-drowned and miserable. And now you think leeping in a hay pile is comfortable! I tossed and turned all night. Hay isn't down feathers, you know -- it's dried twigs. They stab. And what the hell is this? (holds up something between his fingers)

(peers closely) Looks like a needle to me.

Right. What perverted person would put a needle in a pile of hay? It jabbed me.

Did it? (looks hopefully at the needle, then glances at research books) Is it rusty? Tetanus... severe muscle spasms, also called lockjaw... that might be interesting. I hadn't thought of an illness like that, before the shots and everything. Let me see it.

See what?

The needle!

(brushing hands) What needle? There's no needle here. Can't be. This is pre-industrial. No needle... and no tetanus.

(reluctantly puts aside the books) Oh well. Okay, where were we?

New day, no fog, etc.

Right. Okay. 'Character makes his way through the stable yard and past the open door to the inn's kitchen --'

'His stomach growling --'

If you're hungry, eat the journey bread in your pocket.

Are you joking? That stuff's so hard I could chip rocks with it. A caveman with this journey bread could have ruled the world.

'Character walks past the door and out into the street where he sees something that makes him shut up and forget everything else. There, on the hill top overlooking the village, is the black stone castle that has haunted his dreams for the last five years! He anxiously turns that way, heading toward the distant castle gate --'

Are you crazy? Or do you just think I'm stupid?

What's the problem now? That's the castle -- your goal in sight --

Yeah, the castle. Those dreams would be the ones where I wake up in a cold sweat, screaming because the castle sucked me in and buried me alive. And now you expect me to blithely head straight up and walk in? To hell with that. I'm heading the opposite way on this road, just as fast as I can --

Back toward the toll gate and the guards you so carefully avoided last night? Oh, good plan.

Damn. I forgot. What's to the right?

'A fetid swamp still curling with the last tendrils of the fog from the night before. It must once have been part of a lake and port. Character can even make out the masts of ships buried in the muck, vines twining up across tattled sails.... and the bleached bones of men, trapped within those ropes of green, as though the plants had suddenly reached out and grabbed them --'

I get the idea. Thank you so much for another new level of nightmare to add to my others. What's to the left?

'To the east' -- left for Characters not paying attention to where they are --
'he can see a few more buildings, some of them obviously abandoned. Beyond that
are rocky fields and small plots of dying plants. Less than a mile away is the
shadow of the forest --'

Excellent! Oh, and may I say that five chapters is a bit long to be waiting for a name?

I want it to be the right name, the perfect name. I'll know it when I see it.

Fine. Whatever. 'Character casts one worried look at the brooding black castle and sets off on foot past the falling buildings and into the fields --'

'Almost immediately, Character hears the baying of dogs and looks worriedly toward the castle. He can see the pack that is pacing beneath the walls, he thinks waiting for the morning meal. But now they've seen him moving in the empty land below --'


Don't worry. They're only poodles.

A pack of poodles? Toy? Miniature? Standard?

A mix. And actually they're only half poodle.

(eyeing them cautiously and trying to guess if he can reach the forest and get away from them) Half poodle and half what?


(stops and shakes head) Wolves. You crossed poodles and wolves. And the reason was...?

Wild killers, less fur to clean up. 'They have spotted Character, and the woodle pooves bay -- or maybe yip -- again.'

Woodle pooves. I'm getting an image of the dogs here.... oh man, that's just wrong.

Are you trying for the trees or not?

Can I make it?

Probably. They're kind of inbred woodle pooves. Not entirely bright.

Okay then. Better than the castle.

'Character jogs along the broken path between the rocks as the woodle pooves gather at the top of the hill. He's more than halfway to the cursed forest before they --'

(stops) Cursed forest? You didn't say anything about the forest being cursed!

Let's see: Deadly swamp, dying fields, big brooding black castle.... of course the forest is cursed. Duh.

Good point. My mistake. What kind of curse?

(flips through notes) 'A century ago a major battle was fought at the village. A mage-king, seeing all about to be lost, cast a desperate spell to save his throne. He brought not only the plants of the lake but also the trees into the battle. They won, but unfortunately, the trees developed a taste for blood. They on't kill you... well, not right away.' You can escape in a couple years. You won't be sane, of course, but I think you might be an interesting character if you were insane.

I don't need a cursed forest of vampire trees to drive me crazy. I've got you. 'Character, sensing something evil from the forest -- or maybe not wanting to risk his luck with the woodle pooves -- turns around and hurries back to the village.'

'Character soon reaches the street and turns toward the castle.'


What do you mean no? You've found out there is no other direction. Now start up for the castle --

I am not going to that frigging castle!

Do you know how long I've been setting this moment up? That castle has been in your dreams --

Nightmares --

For five years! You've been pursuing it since you came of age!

I had dreams about Daisy from the Bread and Barrel for ten years! Why couldn't I pursue her instead?

This isn't that kind of book!

Like I haven't noticed!

'Character, reluctantly realizing he has no choice, and that this is his destiny, heads for --'

The privy. It has to be around here by the inn somewhere.

You're just putting off the inevitable.

Where is the privy? Or we're going to have something else inevitable happen.

'The privy is at the opposite side of the stable. Character can see the swarms of flies and flinches at the stench as he nears --'


I don't think bulls have anything to do with this problem.

Look, this is stupid. The world has magic. The first thing they're going to use it for is to fix the stink from the outhouse! 'Character heads for the privy, nothing the faint scent of lilacs and roses. Butterflies dance in the air.'

'As he slips in and closes the door --'

A little privacy, if you don't mind. Out.




Character steps back out, looking toward the door to the kitchen again.

Too bad you don't have any money.

Character digs into jacket and pulls out shiny silver coin.

You've been holding out on me.

I got it off one of those five bandits who tried to kill me back in Chapter Three. You know, right before the bridge -- the one that had borne the weight of a thousand peasants and their wagons -- gave way under me for no apparent reason and I nearly drowned.

Yeah, but you lost the bandits who were trying to kill you.

I'm going for breakfast. Then I'm going to lay low for the rest of the day and escape the way I got in. Don't even bother to say anything. 'Character goes in and orders food, has a quiet leisurely meal, lingering over bread and honey. The local serving wench isn't bad looking, either. She reminds him of Daisy, the girl he left behind. They might have a pleasant day together. He finishes up the food, pushing away the plate --'

'And the guards, having been relieved of their posts at the gate, come in for their own breakfast. They immediately spot Character and know he's a stranger who didn't come through their gate. Worse, though, is that they recognize him.'

What? I've never been here! They can't --

'The guards fall on him, and he's soon beaten to his knees --'

Beaten? But -- but --

Loter, Captain of the Guard:
Another one! You look like your great-grandfather, boy! We're not going to have any more mad mage-kings!

Selis, Another Guard:
I didn't think that dream crap would work, but hell, what is this? Fifteen of them now? Up boy.

'Selis grabs Character by the arm and hoists him to his feet, taking him outside. Captain Loter loops a rope around his arms and ties it to his saddle --'

But --

'Loter kicks his horse into a trot, heading toward the castle gate, and only barely slows when Character stumbles and falls, dragged along the rough road. Bloody, bruised and panting, Character gets back to his feet and tries to jog along behind the horse.'

Look, it doesn't have to be like this --

I gave you the chance to come here quietly. You really shouldn't argue with your author. It just gives me more time to come up with something more interesting to do.

Maybe the woodle pooves wouldn't be so bad --

'The group slips through the gate and into the shadows of a courtyard where it seems the sun never reaches. People scurry for the shadows and hide at their approach. Somewhere a man bellows in rage. Loter doesn't pause, as though the place unsettles him. The three head straight into the building -- cold, damp walls, mold in corners, the sounds of rats running. Salis pushes open a door and the head down the first set of stairs, then another... down and down and farther until it seems...'

'The castle has swallowed him alive.' Yeah, I get it.

'Finally they reach a hall lit by a flickering torch, obviously magically fueled because the cobwebs are so thick that no one could have been down this way in a long time. Salis grimaces and uses his sword to cut through them. Decay and death scent the air, and the only sound is hysterical crying from behind a door they pass. "Can I go home now? Please, can I go home?" Loter stops at another door and nods. Salis pries up the rusted metal bar.'

I hope he gets tetanus.

'The door comes open with a loud wail of unused hinges and Loter shoves Character inside and down to his knees again.'

What's your name, boy? We need it for the records.

Character looks plaintively at author.

Author grabs name books.

Guards, anxious to get out of this hell hole,
look at author.

Yes, fine. Right. Okay! I found the name: Varyn!

(looks back at the guard) My name is Varyn.

We'll write it in the book, Barren --

No, no. Varyn, with a V and a --

'The guards slam the door closed. Varyn can hear the bar dropping into place and the guards hurrying away, and the hysterical whisper of someone else: "Can I go home now? Can I go home now?" Varyn leans back, ignoring blood, scrapes and bruises. He knows -- having seen the cobwebs -- that no one is going to come back for a long, long time.'

(bangs head on door a couple times) This is great. Wonderful. Do you have any clue how you're going to get me back out of here?

Well... Do you still have that journey bread?

Happy Halloween - Katniss Everdeen style!

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod): Face Down by Katie Todd.

A month of planning, a coat imported all the way from Korea, and hunting at more thrift stores than I'm willing to admit to and it all came down to 24 hours of a whole lot of fun.

And no, no one knew who I was dressed up as (my little sister thought I was Robin Hood at first. And then a hunter. At least she was getting closer, right?)

Presenting - me as KATNISS EVERDEEN

First, the angry, stern pose with a lot of soul (at least that was what I was going for. Um, not quite sure if I managed that one...):

And here is me just happy (pretty much reflecting how I feel inside right now):

But even cooler is the fact that one of my reader's daughters dressed up as Katniss for Halloween too, and she has graciously let me show pictures!

Well, what do you think? Don't we make an imposing bunch?

(And for fun, D.M. Cornish, author of Monster Blood Tattoo has pictures of one of his neighbor kids who dressed up as one of his book characters. So cute!). Any Halloween pictures you want to share? Send them away, I'll post them up.