Friday, April 29, 2011

Here Come the Genre-istas!!!

Look Out! Look Out!! Here Come the Genre-istas!!!

May 1st marks the launch of Romancing the Genres group blog. Come check us out! as each of our twenty-one Genre-istas from nine states introduces herself (no men yet).

Our monthly May topic: what our sub-genre is, how you can tell it apart from another sub-genre, and why we love to write it. Each day (Monday through Friday) you can read a new post from a different Genre-ista talking about her take on a different romance sub-genre. May’s guest bloggers (Saturday) will be Reviewers.


Comment on one or more of our Introduction posts and be eligible to win a “basket” of twenty-one prizes from the Genre-istas.  - NOTE: A free spot in my May 5 Man Talk Class - learning to make your male characters more beleivable, is one of the prizes, just for coming and commenting.

Check out our guest reviewers and be eligible to win a prize. Our May 7th Reviewer is Night Owl Reviews so the prize will have something to do with owls.

Follow us through the month of May and be eligible to win a basket filled with books, candy, jewelry, and much, much more.


If you’d like a great place to promote yourself and get additional visibility consider donating to Romancing the Genres May Basket (drawing on 06/01/2011). Remember RTG is made up of 21 writers from 9 states with 20 FB pages, 9 Twitter and 7 LinkedIn accounts, and 21 additional blogs. If you’re interested or have questions, please contact Judith Ashley at for details.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Romance Slam Jam Conference

Today I'm in Baltimore Maryland at the dazzling Romance Slam Jam conference. This conference of African American romance writers included workshops on Creating Memorable Characters by Marilyn Tyner, and Sexy Banter from the awesome writer Gwyneth Bolton, and What's the Hype about Romance from Denise Jeffries. I also spent time on a panel talking about my novel PULL, along with authors Altonya Washington, A. C. Arthur, and Iris Bolling.   Its great being close enough to touch so many of my idols, an to be asked questions by Wayne Jordon and Gwyneth Bolton, romance authors I adore.  

The next two days of the conference will include sessions on
  • Writing interracial/multicultural romances
  • Sex scenes from His Perspective
  • Writing with Passion
  • Building your brand
  • and more.
Tonight I'm off to a 70's theme party. Tomorrow we tour Baltimore and the Emma Awards. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

New Adult classification for books

This idea has knocked around for a few years now, a seperate classification for books aimed at the 18-20 something reader.   Many YA authors would like to move beyond high school and set their stories with protagonists in college, or just entering the work force - or still living in Mom and Dad's basement after HS graduation. I have heard people say they are dying to read this kind of book. Others who say they already live this life and would never read about it.

18 to the eqarly twenties. These are the years when we finally hit the independency we dream of as teens - or do we secretly dread it? Are we flush with freedom, or do we whine and complain and take laundry home to mom?

Is this age a time that deserves to be importalized in book form?  This inquiring mind would like to know your thoughts.

Click here to Read about some examples of recently published New Adult books

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I'm a contest finalist, again!!

My debut novel, PULL (a young adult romance from the teen boy's POV) is a finalist in the 2010 National Readers Choice Awards contest in the Young Adult category. PULL was my 2008 NaNoWriMo novel, edited in 2009 and sold and published in 2010.  The National Readers Choice Awards is run by the OK-RWA chapter.  Last year PULL won that chapter's Finally A Bride contest in the YA category. (And no, I don't have that chapter rigged.)  I am honestly thrilled to be one of the three finalists, and to know that the readers and librarians they picked as judges loved my teen boy voice.

Yes, I am dancing, even if you can't see me.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Book Review - Trickster's Girl

Trickster's GirlTrickster's Girl by Hilari Bell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a paranormal/science fiction story with a twist, as if blending the two genre's isn't enough. The protagonist, fifteen year old Kelsa, is trying to deal with her father's recent death from cancer in the not too distant future. And while science has given us many new labor-saving and entertainment devices, including flying cars that do need a road, we also have more sickness, more government controls and more terrorism. Including a botched attempt at eco-terrorism that is destrying trees in the Amazon rainforest and moving north toward the forests of America.

Kelsa meets a strange yound man who calls himself Raven. At first she takes him for a stalker, especially when she finds he has dug up the plot where she placed her father's ashes. Over time he convinces her that magic is real, that he is a shapeshifter who can ustilize magic, and that he needs her in a quest to heal something broken in nature to save both the forests and humanity itself. It's delightful to see a heroine engaged in a quest to save the world.

Raven is the Trickster from American Indian legends. This story blends legendary creatures from across histories and cultures with science fiction (they are actually from other dimensions that touch and interact with Earth). Raven claims that she is one of the few humans living, perhaps the only one, who can use magic to cure the damage mankind has done to the Earth. She reluctantly takes up the cause and finds herself a pawn in a battle between Raven and the other dimensional creatures who have decided mankind deserves to die and do not want the damage repaired in time to save the Earth. They are willing to do anything to stop her, including destroying both her and Raven.

I was pulled into the mythology and the future world where people have learned to accept being tracked by their DNA and needing permission to move from state to state. (I really liked that Canada did not have as many hang-up in that area as the United States did). I loved the shape-shifting trickster and how the author blended different legends, and I realized before Kelsa did that the Trickster had more secrets up his sleeve than he revealed. The tension grew when we learned he was long-lived, but not immortal, and that if his enemies managed to stop him, humanity was doomed. I also loved her determination, and her feelings for her father and how that played into her quest.

My problem with this book came at the end. Tension built as I watched themmove across North America, one step ahead, or sometimes behind, their enemies. And then, suddenly, Raven ran out of energy. The explaination for why this happened felt weak, and led to a let-down ending where Kelsa passes on her quest to another and returns home. This is another book that is obviously crying for a sequel. Unfortunatly Kelsa's story is gone. The trickster has to move on to find another unlikely human to continue the job of saving the Earth.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Eighth grade school visits

In honor of National Library Week I did a bunch of school and library visits last week.  I'm finding these visits a blast, and loving the witty repartee with the students.  At least I was, until I walked into an 8th grade class. These kids are different. They stare at you. Even the second graders I visited had questions and even gave me advice, and the high school students were all over me.

8th graders stare. And have no interest. And left me feeling lost.

I walked out of that school feeling like I had hit rock bottom, a failure, never connected with even one of the dozens of students in the room.

Except ... today I got an email.  They want me back next year.


Monday, April 18, 2011

Boy Book Review - Storm Runners

Storm RunnersStorm Runners by Roland Smith

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The only way this Middle Grade novel disappointed is that it ended, I wanted more and I'm holding my breath to see what happens next in this cliffhanger series. I loved young Chase and his relationship with his father. He is at the age where he feels his own strength, knows what he should do, and is willing to sacrifice himself for people he cares about. His father is a contractor who chases storms and helps people repair damages in the storm's aftermath. Chase has grown used to moving from school to school as his father criss-crosses the country. He has an innate source of time and a TGB - The Gut Barometer.

Most of the time people ignored their gut gauge, 
and most of the time it was okay to ignore it, 
until the one time it wasn't okay.

Tonight is that one time, and it will likely be the longest night of Chase's life, if he lives through it. He ends up trying to lead two girls to safety after they are trapped in a hurricane aboard a sinking school bus. What should have been a two-hour journey goes on and on through alligator infested waters through gale winds to a place that is far from safe. As they reach the eye of the storm he has to gather all his knowledge and training from a lifetime of dealing with disasters to keep the three of them alive.

And readers have to wait out the next book in the series to find out if he can succeed.

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Sunday, April 17, 2011

High Schoolers don't get all the fun

On Friday I spent a day with members of the Service Over Self (S.O.S) students from John Hersey High School.  This group of students reaches out to  members of the community. I participated in the Senior Olympics with some of them last year for a day of inter-generational fun that included games like pool, Wii bowling, and Jenga. As the school year draws to an end  the school held a morning gala featuring many of the organizations the students worked with over the year. This year the event theme was Vegas, and featured entertainment from their gymnastics team, music from the school's award-winning Jazz band, and Vegas-style games of chance. 
Me and two SOS students
This is my third year of involvement, and I continue to look forward to spending time with the students as they spend time helping their community.

Best of all, it's all research for the next book.  Writing YA keeps me young.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

If they want you, they will find you

Not long ago one of the writers email loops I belong to had a discussion on pseudonyms. I prepared to chime in and say anyone can find you if they really want to, when I received proof of that statement. A letter addressed to B. A. Binns arrived in my home mailbox.

The reason that bothered me was because I use a P. O. Box for all my correspondence related to my writing, including anything and everything under that BABinns name. I pay extra for domain name privacy, even though the domain is registered to that PO Box. Not because I wanted secrecy, or so I told myself, but because I wanted organization.  BABinns has her own email and her own address - and no phone number.

A few weeks before I received this letter I gave a talk about writing to my local library.  The library advertised their guest as B. A. Binns with the title Local Author. Inside the envelop I found a letter saying, "Sorry I couldn't attend your talk..." It went on to request that B. A. provide feedback to a story they had written.

And so it began. I didn't know what to do. Should  I ignore them? Write back and say no such person at this address? Or run for the hills?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Book Review - Something like hope

Something Like HopeSomething Like Hope by Shawn Goodman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was interesting, a sort of female version of Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers, involving Shavonne who has been in and out of juvie for years. She has a child in foster care, and a younger brother she hasn'tseen in years, both circumstances leave her filled with guilt. Her consolation is a counselor who sees through her attitude and offers her hope and a chance to move past her guilt. Her world is filled with abusive guards and the posibility that her stay behind bars will be extended again and again.

Shavonne learns to deal with her inner demons as well as outer enemies in this story of how a troubled young woman can deal with her problems and reconnect with the life she deserves to live.

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Saturday, April 9, 2011

A visit to the Chicago Public Schools

I visited with Langston Hughes Elementary school on Chicago's south side yesterday. I spent the d ay there, speaking with 2nd, 4th, 5th and 8th grade classes. Talk about the need to be versatile! What works for one group leaves the other yawning, so I had to be able to change on a dime as I kept watch over my audience. But by the end they were all wanting more, with the 8th graders late for their own lunch periods because they kept asking me questions instead of heading for the door, and the 2nd graders reluctant to follow their parents home because they kept wanting to give me advice.

Every group had different questions. Many of the students are interested in careers in art and writing, so I received tons of questions on both subjects. In every class except the 2nd graders the girls did most of the questioning. Of course, with the second graders they were mostly telling me what to do, so maybe that's why the boys were so eager to speak.  The value of the day for me was in meeting with these kids and connecting with their enthusiasm, even the teachers seemed astonished by how interested they were in hearing the good, the bad and the ugly about writing as a career.  I gave out books and PULL bracelets, and a promise that any question they sent me would be answered. I hope I helped a few be inspired in creativity and belief in their capabilities, whether as authors, artists or any other endeavor they want to pursue.  And I will be happy to return to their school, or any other Chicago Public School if I am issued an invitation.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Sometimes kids just get it better than adults do

Several fellow authors have told me not to read my book's reviews, but I can't help myself. And frankly, most of them are favorable, so it's usually a boost. But by reading them I have discovered an interesting trend in the difference between the way adults and kids view the book and its realistic deptition of teens and the stresses they face.

PULL is a contemporary YA.  I tries my best to make the characters realistic, rather than impossibly noble and heroic. Really, if the typical guy on the street was a hero all the time what fun would that be? And at seventeen, the age of my protagonist David and his arch rival Malik? Those things are bundles of contradictions and hormones who act before they speak and are still working on the whole heroic thing.

So its interesting how adults vs kids talk about my characters and how they handle different situations.

The latest issue was a woman who reviewed my book and pounded on the section where Malik and two girls head off, ostensibly for sex (whatever, it all happens off the page).  She went on about that and how appalled she was by the idea that kids actually did things like that.  She disliked the idea of reality and therefore disliked my book.

Kids tend to look at other aspects. They're comments focus on things important to them. One tenth grade boy raved on about the friendship between the hero and another boy and how that helped the other boy's self-esteem. Kids accept David's choice while agreeing they could not follow it, and several have voiced concern over his future.  The younger readers also voice concern for Yolanda, the rape victim, and understand how her trauma leads her to make bad choices about guys.

But the parents focus on the young men's sexuality.  These guys are 17 already! They are going to notice girls.  Even if we wish teens  were different, they do care way too much about the opposite sex.  But these are also the years when their brains are making the big push towards maturity, when they learn to think before acting, to control themselves and grow up to be the better for it. That's what I wanted to show. At least the kids get it.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Book Review - Zero Point: Bond

Zero Point: Bond (Volume 1)Zero Point: Bond by Jordan Becket

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I loved the last hundred pages of this book. This is one of the "New Adult" books, the seventeen year old heroine begins in her first year at college in New Mexico and becomes part of a secret organization working to keep the world from self-destruction. It is a Sci Fi sorty that includes the use of crystals to convey powers to those humans genetically capable of bonding with them. The crystals come in a variety of sizes and colors - with red conveying vampirism on those bonded to it, all the way up through green that conveys healing. And then there are the black crystals, the one our heroine ends up being bonded with. So few humans have ever bonded with Black crystals that only the arch-villain really knows the power that color conveys.

The end of this book is well paced, with a wonderful hero to go with the heroine, and a quest to save her father who died in Peru when she was three after discovering a large cache of the crystals. It involves time-travel, a power-hungry villain creating designer diseases so he can make money curing them, and a 218 year-old handsome, Latin and wealthy hero (who happens to be engaged to another women)

The problem is the first hundred pages. The move ponderously, laying on so much backstory it was difficult to continue turning pages. We learned about the heroine and her hystory as the child of geologists and her mother moving across the country from job to job with her daughter being as much caretaker to the absent-minded professor as child. There was also an attempt to build a love triangle that for me failed. The writing felt uneven, and I had to fight to keep from putting the book down. I would have loved it more had the book started in the middle and moved forward from there.

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Saturday, April 2, 2011

Living in a PG age

What does PG-13 mean these days, anyway? When my book came out and people asked me how they rated it, I said PG-13 for a little language and sexual innuendo. (OK, maybe a lot of innuendo)  I've spent the last two years immersed in the pre-teen and teen culture, and I now have the opinion I was too hard on my book. Now I would call it PG. My book hasn't changed, but I fear the world has.

One of today's popular songs, one that middle-school kids sing along with, is S&M, with a banned music video so you know everyone watches it, and lyrics that feature a woman moaning and the acknowledgement that "pain is for pleasure."

That's the music industry, I tell myself, and they have often gone over the edge.  Some of the YA books I've read have alos been over the top. I agonized over scenes where some of the kids in my book drank beer and headed off to an obvious sexual rendevous. 

This year I found two books with covers suitable for attracting the juvenile audience and contents that are definitly geared for older teens. One features a cute pair of kissing bunny rabbits on the cover, and a protagonist whose acknowledged goal is to give up the big V as soon as possible, only none of the boys in her small town is worthy. She does find a so-called worthy male before the end and achieves her goal, numerous times.  The other cover shows a cartoon figure of a girl reaching out to touch a lightining bolt. This girl spends a number of pages in her underwear exploring her newfound boyfriend who is similarly disrobed.

I don't object to the themes or content in these books. I've read a number of YA books that feature much more. My issue is the PG (or even G) covers that geared to attract younger readers and lull a parent's suspicions about the content.

Or maybe it's me. Maybe PG isn't what it used to be.