Sunday, November 27, 2011

Holiday Shopping

For me the best gift that you can give or receive is a book. During each holiday season I usually give at least one or two books as gifts each year. I like the challenge of finding something that they will like and have often delved deep into the belly of The Strand to find the right match.

Sometimes I think about a time when this kind of thought was requires. During Louisa May Alcott’s time books were decadent. They were hard to get, expensive and often warranted a lot of thought. Today it’s a lot easier. I wonder what the ride of e-books will do to that trend.

Some of my favorite books have been birthday or holiday presents. I received Little House on the Prairie for my eighth birthday. It sparked a reading frenzy. I received Jamie Oliver’s Meals in Minutes for my most recent birthday. That book has sparked an eating frenzy.

What’s the best book you’ve ever received as a present? Let me know in the space below and don’t forget to tell me your email. This week I’ll name two winners for the two copies of the ARC of The Queen of Kentucky by Alecia Whitaker. It’s a great story about a girl who learns about self-awareness and the value of friends while experimenting with different lifestyles. I liked it because it’s a great view of the consequences of these choices and the importance of self-reliance.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Two Good Retellings

I recently read Jane by April Lindner. It was an impulse grab from the shelves of my local library. I thought, "Hmm...Jane. This seems like a Jane Eyre retelling. I like the Brontes so I might as well try this." It was one of my best impulse grabs in a long time.

Somewhere around the middle of the book I had one of those rare reading experiences: I didn't want the story to end but I wanted to find out what happens in the end. I read quickly and thought about the book when I wasn't reading. I finished it in two days.

I've given a lot of thought to what I liked about Jane. First, I thought it was a retelling that was really true to the spirit of the original. Second, there was a ton of chemistry between Jane Moore, the poor nanny, and Mr. Rathburn, her rockstar employer. Third, I loved the short, clipped way that Jane spoke. In addition to being true to the original, it reminded me that this is another really good way to distinguish a character.

I can't give away Jane this week because I borrowed it from my library. Instead, I'm giving away another excellent retelling - an ARC of The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson. It's an awesome retelling of the murders attributed to Jack the Ripper. Want it? Just tell me about your most recent awesome reading experience and it could be yours. Don't forget to add your email.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Why Ask Why

As some of you know I have a day job as a financial journalist. By night, weekend and any other time I’m an aspiring author. Recently a great journalist, Andy Rooney of “60 Minutes” fame, passed away. I was lucky enough to hear him speak when I was in college. He was the guest speaker at my college newspaper's annual dinner. When I heard he had died I thought a lot about some things he said and how his advice can be helpful for authors and readers.

Rooney talked about what sounded like a golden age of journalism. He told us about a time when every major city had at least one daily paper that had correspondents around the world. All of the reporters practiced what I consider real journalism - interviewing people, establishing relationships with sources and breaking news. He also told us about a very important experience he had during his first job as a war correspondent. An older, more experienced correspondent seemed to ask the simplest questions. Most of them began with "Why..." Rooney was flabbergasted. He expected the conversations on a war to be deeper and somehow more sophisticated. After some time he learned that "Why?" is one of the most powerful tools a journalist can use to open doors and get sources off of their prepared statements and into what they really think.

I've been reflecting on who I can apply that to my writing. In my opinion, it's a basic question for an author. Why does that character do that? Why does that happen? Why is that even in your story? Asking those same questions as a reader make what you're reading more impressive and meaningful.

This week I'm giving away an advanced reading copy of Winter Town by Stephen Edmond. It will be available in early December and it takes the journey teens go through when they change their appearance and thoughts. It can be yours if you tell me (in the comments below) what speakers or experiences have changed your view of some things.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Books of Wonder

A few weeks ago I thought it would be fun to invite some of my book friends to get together to talk about publishing. Some of them are working authors, some aspiring, some work in publishing as editors while others do the marketing for books. I was trying to think of a cool, laid back place that had some connection to the industry and also served snacks. The ideal spot: the coffee shop at Books of Wonder.

It had just reopened so I decided to check it out beforehand and get some work done on my book. It was awesome. The chairs are comfortable. The music selection was cool. The cupcakes and scones are excellent. And, there was this great chalk drawing that reminded me that authors need to be "curiouser" all the time.

About a week later the girls and I got together there. We talked a lot and did a little shopping. Books of Wonder has a really nice collection of authors you won’t find at the big box stores. Just browsing gave us ideas to try out on each other. I expect this coffee shop to become a regular hang out for lots of publishing people. Who knows, maybe you’ll see an aspiring author working on her first big book there (me).

This week I’m giving away an exceptional book called Dark Eden by Patrick Carman. I loved this book because it is chock full of great ideas and uses them to discuss topics like fear, elusive achievement and memory. To win it answer one simple question: What makes your favorite bookstore so good? Don’t forget to include your email.