Friday, May 25, 2012

Guest Blogger: Novelist Devan Sipher

Before I introduce our guest, a quick reminder: Stop by often in June! I've got two novels coming out, so there will be all manner of blog parties and giveaways around here. 

Also, you can now pre-order the print version of Green Light Delivery via Kickstarter, and get awesome alien swag!

And now, without further ado, I'm honored to present Devan Sipher, author of the novel The Wedding Beat, released in April by Penguin. He reminds us what important work it is to write a book. Enjoy!

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“Times are bad.  Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book” —Cicero

Is it only me, or does this quote make you picture marble shelves overloaded with remaindered books in ancient Rome?

There were almost 300,000 books published in 2011.  In the United States.  Add the rest of the literate world, and the number jumps to nearly two million.  And that’s just in one year.  That means there must be at least five million authors on the planet.  More likely the total is closer to ten or twenty million. 

So what is the point of writing a book?  What are the odds of coming up with a manuscript that’s uniquely compelling if there are so many people endeavoring to do the same?  It’s enough to make me almost pity publishers.  Almost.

When I was young I thought my writing could change the world. (I was very young.)  Yet I still yearn to contribute to society and wonder if I should have chosen a more directly useful profession:  like doctor, carpenter, or cable repairman.

Instead, I have written my first novel, The Wedding Beat, a romantic comedy loosely based on my experience as a single guy writing the wedding column at The New York Times.  It’s a lighthearted beach read.  Yet there was nothing lighthearted about my approach.  I slaved at my computer 12 to 15 hours a day, 6 days a weeks, working through back injuries, power failures and a rotating cast of Presidential candidates.

I was determined to write the best book possible.  More than that, I wanted to provide readers with the best experience possible.  Because that’s what I consider my primary obligation.  I believe there’s an unwritten contract between writer and reader.  A sacred oath, if you will, that I, as author, do solemnly swear not to bore you or insult your intelligence.

But if I’m being honest, there was another motivating factor.  And it had nothing to do with other people’s enjoyment reading my book and everything to do with my own enjoyment writing it.  In the past, I’ve been disdainful of people writing merely because it made them happy.  I mean, that’s lovely for them, but what about the poor sap who has to read what they disgorge? 

I clung to the notion that writing required selflessness, and a fair amount of suffering, before it was worthy of being bestowed on readers.  But writing isn’t something bestowed, it’s something that’s shared.  And what I’m sharing is the joy and pride I take in crafting a story and conjuring a world in the rhythm of words. 

I still remember the lightheaded euphoria I felt on the day I finished my manuscript.  If there are ten million people who derive similar pleasure, then so be it.  After all, it was Cicero who also said “A room without books is like a body without a soul.”

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You can visit Devan Sipher at his website.  You can purchase The Wedding Beat on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and elsewhere.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Guest Blogger MG novelist Ros Gemmell

Today's special guest, Ros Gemmell, writes to us from Scotland. And about Scotland. Her new tween fantasy novel is called Summer of the Eagles, and she shares some thoughts about the themes in her work.

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Themes in Summer of the Eagles
Many thanks, Anne, for hosting me on your lovely blog today.
Although I wrote Summer of the Eagles as an adventure and slight fantasy novel for the 10 to 14 age group, the story does contain a few themes that might resonate with young teens. I’m a great fan of some escapism in all fiction, for whatever age, but it’s good age at which to explore the wider issues that might affect some young people.
Bereavement and Thoughts about Death and Afterlife
13 year old Stephanie (Stevie) is suddenly orphaned, with no one to care for her apart from an aging Gran. Although feeling bewilderment, grief, fear, and even anger, she is unable to cry for her loss at first. She retreats into herself, refusing contact with her friends. She becomes moody and stroppy, and difficult for Gran to deal with.
Before Stevie woke up in hospital, she was in a beautiful dream-type garden with her parents. The image of their coffins at the funeral sometimes haunts her and she prefers to think of them in that happy garden together - or in heaven if it exists. She hopes they might all eventually be together again one day. By not telling to anyone about her feelings, Stevie is keeping everything inside her and cannot deal with her fears.
Body Image and Sporting Dreams
The accident that killed her parents leaves Stevie lame and unable to continue with her hopes and dreams about running for Scotland one day. Although hardly scarred outwardly, her long hair has been cut short and she begins to put on weight from the sudden lack of exercise and eating too many biscuits and so on. Stevie loses the motivation to do anything to help herself and is deeply sad and depressed. The doctor told her to exercise her leg, but she doesn’t believe she can. When she eventually begins to walk more and even cycle on the island, it helps in every way.
Using a Fantasy Element and Imagination
When Stevie eventually begins strengthening her leg by walking into the hills, she meets Karig, a strange boy with unusually piercing amber eyes. He seems to have some connection with the eagles and Stevie begins to trust him as someone in whom she can confide. This character was inspired by all the references to eagles in the Bible, myth and legend. Stevie feels a connection with Karig that makes her feel protected and understood. He is the only person she can talk to about her feelings and pain.
Bird Protection
One of the themes in Summer of the Eagles is the problem of bird and egg poachers. Two men are on the island to harm the birds/eagles and Stevie finds herself in danger from them. She also gets involved in the bird sanctuary where her aunt helps out. There she learns about how they protect and look after injured birds around the island. This is also an allegory for how Stevie begins to heal. Stevie begins to care about the orphaned birds she meets and eventually accepts some of the other people who care for all the birds.
These are a few of the general themes affecting Stevie in her new life of the Scottish island, but at the same time the story’s setting gives it an almost other-worldly feel as Stevie begins to heal and make new friends.

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That's an impressive number of themes woven into one tween novel! And the Scottish fantasy context makes it all especially appealing.
You can purchase Summer of the Eagles at MuseItUp, Amazon, and AmazonUK.
You can visit Ros Gemmell on her blog.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Guest Blogger YA novelist Jan Fischer-Wade

More Summer Teen Reading Party!

Oh, you guys are going to like this one. My guest today, Jan Fischer-Wade, discusses the allure of the British accent. Sigh.... Her new book is Veiled Virtues, a teen romantic fantasy with some paranormal elements

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Why are British Accents so Dang Hot???
Okay, I’ll be the first one to admit it. If I hear a guy with a British accent, something inside me just melts, Ahhhh. This was part of the reason I sent the heroine in my new book, Veiled Virtues, to England. And connecting that accent to a handsome, muscular hero – a modern day knight – well, let’s just say OMG!

Some will point out that there are numerous “British” accents, and that is fine. I love ‘em all – Scottish, Cockney, Welsh, Brummie – whatever! [Side Note: Even the IT guys my company use in Northern Ireland can turn a computer problem into a wonderful afternoon telephone chat.] But, I think what I am probably most referring to is that upper class English accent – think Colin Firth in ‘Pride and Prejudice’. He kept us all swooning, right?
This list of sexy Brits (with their yummy accents) can go on and on - Jude Law, Robert Pattinson, Daniel Radcliffe (its okay people, he’s of-age now), Orlando Bloom, Hugh Grant, Ewan McGregor, Paul Bettany…  Oh, and of course DAVID BECKHAM!! Have you seen that new McDonalds ad??? Even the middle-age male manager swoons!

Even the movies have caught on to this phenomenon.  In “Love Actually” the slightly bug-eyed and awkward young Englishman Colin Frizzle strikes out with girls left and right on his home turf of London. Determined that he is a Love God simply “on the wrong continent,” he takes his self-admitted “cute English accent” and travels to the United States to find a girlfriend with the realization that “Stateside I am Prince William without the weird family.”  Next, he’s “on shag highway heading west.”  Colin lands in Wisconsin, has a taxi take him to the nearest bar, orders a Budweiser, and finds not one, but three girls who fawn over him and his accent.  Needless to say, he returns to London, with an American girlfriend in tow. If you haven’t seen “Love Actually” – do it now! I love, love, love this movie!  Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Alan Rickman, and a whole host of others star in this movie. Rowan Atkinson’s bit is particularly funny!

So, what is it about the accent?  Does it indicate chivalry? Money? Manners? Alluring stranger from another country – a bit exotic yet safe?

Or, like so many things, did it all start with the Beatles?

We may never be able to pinpoint the ‘why’ but regardless, if you swoon at an English accent, are lured to English men for any other reason, or the thought of a strong, hot, modern day knight sets your insides aglow, check out my book, Veiled Virtues!

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Well, I'm sold! You can purchase Veiled Virtues (for the special price of $1.99!) at Amazon, at MuseItUp, and many other venues.

If you go to Jan's blog and leave a comment, you can enter to win a $50 Barnes & Noble gift card!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Guest Blogger YA Novelist Barbara Ehrentreu

Today, novelist Barbara Ehrentreu, author of If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor, joins us as part of the Summer Teen Reading Party. She chose to interview the main character from her novel, a teen girl struggling with some tough, realistic problems.

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LATE ADDITION! NEWS FLASH! Barabara Ehrentreu has just agreed to do a giveaway to one lucky commenter! Post a comment at the end of this post, and you'll have a chance to win If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor.

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An Interview with Jennifer Taylor from If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor
Welcome, Jennifer. I know you have a very busy schedule and I’m so glad you could take a few minutes to talk with us.
Jennifer: Well, I thought it was important I get my side of the story out there. After all, Carolyn has been going on all these blogs and bad mouthing me. So I figured, well, we figured, that is Brad and I figured I better get on here and tell my story. Who is Brad, you ask? He’s my boyfriend and he’s the number one quarterback on the Mill Valley Vikings. 
That’s my school’s team. I’m a freshman at Mill Valley High School and if everything goes right I’ll be in the Olympics in a couple of years. My coach says I have a really good chance if I continue to practice. I’m the best on the team, but I have a problem.
What is your problem, Jennifer?
Jennifer: It’s hard to explain, but it started when I really wanted to be in the Olympics. I had to be a certain weight to stay on the team. I mean the coach weighed us every day and if we gained any weight he gave us a few days to lose it or he would make us sit on the bench during practice. So, in middle school I liked to eat and I kept gaining weight. One day I had enough of not practicing so I decided to stop eating. Oh that worked great! I got all mean and yes, that is when I started bothering poor little Carolyn about her stupid breathing. That day I started it was a big joke, but then it was so much fun to keep bothering her. She’s like a scared little mouse. Maura, she’s my best friend, and I had so much fun deciding where I should get her next. Meanwhile, I got so hungry I would stuff myself with food and feel so guilty. One night I just got rid of it, you know how. After that it was easy and I stayed at the right weight, except sometimes I stop eating again. No one knows about this, not even Maura or my parents. No one from my school will see this, right?
No, of course not. 
Why did you decide to help Carolyn?
Jennifer: Now I can’t really say why I did and maybe it’s best if I don’t tell you about that.   
Maybe the girl just got to me. How pathetically she dressed and how she only hung out with her two friends Becky and Janie. I mean when we did the food survey she only knew those two. But it might be something else and you know I would rather not say, it’s kind of private.
Do you think you are a “mean girl”?
Jennifer: If you go to Mill Valley High School you will see I am the most popular girl in the whole school. I have the best looking guy as a boy friend and people really like me. Is that the profile of a mean girl? Maybe if I were Carolyn Samuels I might think of myself as a mean girl. I have been pretty mean to her. But she really deserved it with her dweeby friends and her breathing problem. So, no, I don’t think of myself as a “mean girl’. 
Jennifer, it has been very interesting talking with you and I’m glad you got to tell your side of the story. 

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You can buy If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor at the Muse Bookstore, at Amazon, and at Barnes & Noble.
You can visit Barbara Ehrentreu at her blog and on Facebook.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Ebenezer's Locker has a Cover!

It's by Kaytalin Platt. Isn't it adorable? Launch date is June 1!