Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Good Writing Talks to Your Soul

February can't end soon enough.

The snowstorm hit at the worst time, just as I am preparing to finish teaching my on-line class for authors who want to learn more about writing using the male POV. I have also just begun my duties as the contest coordinator for a writing contest for adult romance writers, and as the final judge in a teen poetry writing contest for a local high school. I have over two hundred entries.

Last, but absolutely not least, I have to head out for a writers conference to give a workshop on the write-like-a-man concept.  Apparently people think I know how to do that.

I am just going to talk briefly about some of the poetry entries. They are good. They are deep. And they are scary.

I don't mean just the few that seem to have a horror basis. I'm talking about some that face issues like the ones I write about. Domestic abuse, child abuse, loss of a love one (one kid spoke of seeing a relative gunned down before their eyes and I want to believe it's all imagination but I fear it is real)  Knowing that the authors are teens makes things all the more vivid. I am reading them all carefully, they will get two or three reads as I try to winnow out the "best."  I see the reality show judges talking about how hard elimination is on them.  I am not eliminating anyone, but it is hard to rank one of these heart-felt poems above another.

The good news is, these are not the kids labeled At-risk, not when they know how to use the power of the pen (or the keyboard) to deal with their pain. In a couple of months I get to go and talk at the school, and maybe meet some of the writers. I will have to tell them how much their words affected me. How I see some of myself in them.

That's what good writing does. It makes you feel like the author knows you, and is sending a direct message to you.  That's what these kids have done to me.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Reluctant Readers and the Rotary

And the 5th test- Will it be FUN?
Today, after one of 2013's few (and worst) snowstorms, I was up at six am and out the door into a road IDOT had not yet cleared because of a commitment I made months ago.  It seemed safe back then to schedule my visit to talk to the Sunrise Rotary club of Mt. Prospect/Arlington Heights near the end of February. Even if I was due to speak at 7:30. In the morning. After all, we had 50 degrees in January.

And a snowstorm today.

The good news is, I found the place. The better news, I got there alive and without an accident, because near misses do not count, even when an attempt to stop sends you sliding halfway into another lane and leaves you (and probably the other driver too) on the verge of a heart attack.
Breakfast was great, the company was wonderful, and I got to talk on one of my favorite subject, how we adults can help bring reluctant readers back to books. I say back, because almost all preschoolers love books. But somehow, by adolescence, an alarming number get branded as reluctant or at-risk readers. I shared statistics with the Rotarians, along with suggestions for ways to reverse this, including modeling reading to adolescents and teens; allowing some "non traditional" reading material including graphic novels, and audio books; and encouraging then to write (almost everyone wants to tell a story, especially when it won't be graded!!)

Because of the topic, I had a representative from a local adult literacy group in the audience, and several teachers. I gave away complimentary copies of both Pull and Die Trying to them. The adult literacy specialist present thought the short stories in Die Trying would appeal to her readers.

Best of all, they are talking about having me back again. Next time in the fall.

I would love to hear if any of you have experiences with reluctant readers, or ideas about turning them on to books.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Interview with Barney, heroine of Being God

Today we are interviewing Barney, the younger sister of David Albacore, and Malik Kaplan's not-quite girlfriend in Being God the sequel to the award-winning Pull.

  1. Who are you and what is your story?
Barnetta Murhaselt. Barney to the people who care about me. The girl who is six-feet tall with two left hands, so no basketball team for me.
I was born. I was happy until my parents started fighting. I was miserable when they divorced, but at least Mom could get on with her life. Until the night he came back and killed her. I tried to kill myself after, but the doctors convinced me that was wrong. Now I live with my younger sister and my aunt. I try to do my best in school. Maybe even find a future.

Name five items in your purse, briefcase, or pockets.

Papers, pens, my cell phone – I can’t give that up. Oh, and pepper spray. I’ve been told we moved into a dangerous neighborhood so I should never to leave home without it.  But no matter how dangerous things are, it’s not as bad as what my home turned into.

If you were stranded on a desert island, who would you rather be stranded with, a man or a woman?
A good book

I did hear that you liked school and were a model student.  But that wasn’t one of the choices.
But I don’t like your choices. Fine, then could I be stranded with my brother and sister? No? Then let me just be alone. I don’t think I trust people anymore. Especially  not guys.

Do you have a hero?

My brother, he’s like the best brother anyone could ever have. Of course, he is bossy, and always thinks he knows how I should live my life. Like, he wants me to stay away from Malik. I know Malik causes trouble, but I swear, sometimes I think I see something more in him. I know he could be more, if he would stop drinking.

God, does that make me sound like my mother? She kept hoping my father would change.

What do you think about Malik Kaplan?
He’s like the most confusing person ever. Like someone took the pieces of two puzzles and tried to force them together, there’s so much that doesn’t fit. The stories about him grow more impossible every day. They say he robbed a bank, tried to kill his enemies in their sleep, and even planned to blow up the school. I know what he’s like. After all, we dated for two weeks before he stole my diary and tried to blackmail me. But I can’t believe any of that stuff.

Malik blackmailed you?
He tried to, in Pull. Just when I thought he liked me. Malik hated my brother, but he didn’t know I was David’s sister, no one did. So when he acted nice at first, I thought he really liked me. I mean, why else would he pay any attention to me at all?

Was there a major turning point in your life?
I think my life will always have two parts. Before Dad lost his job, and after. Before he began drinking, before the divorce, before he came killed Mom.

I’m sorry. I guess you don’t have much to do with him now.
Guess again. I live with my aunt, my father’s older sister, and I have to go with her when she visits him in prison. She says I should forgive, but then, it wasn’t her mother he killed. I just wish I were strong enough to tell my father what I really think of him.

Do you believe in forgiveness?
I used to. Back when I was little. But I’m grown up now. I'm fifteen. Okay, in two months. But I feel older. So much has happened in my life.

Does that mean there's no chance you would ever forgive Malik?
He has never, ever asked me to forgive him.he doesn't care about me. Not one bit.

For more about Being God check out the review at

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Being God review

The Pirate Tree, a group of Children's and YA bloggers, selected Being God to review for Valentine's Day. The reviewer, J. L. Powers, admits the book is "an unlikely choice for Valentine’s Day but a good one nonetheless."

The review says:
I would hate to see this complex novel reduced to any of the “issues” it tackles in nuanced and unusual ways—alcohol abuse, violence, teen pregnancy, gangs, bullying, deteriorating urban neighborhoods. This is not an “issue” novel (thank goodness, I don’t really like reading “issue” novels). In fact, what I love about this novel is that there isn’t a singular, unifying “idea” or “theme” or “truth” that runs throughout it, emphasized in multiple ways. Instead, just like real life—and certainly, real life as teens experience it—the messages that Malik receives and the messages that he sends are confusing, contradictory, and ambiguous.

I love that the reviewer got what I wanted to display.  I hesitated trying to call Being God a novel about a teen alcoholic, or about a bully, or teen pregnancy, that always seemed to reduce it just a notch to me.  It's about a life, and a teen needing to decide just what he wants to be when he grows up...and he doesn't have much more time to make his decision because he's growing up right now.

You can read the full text of the review at The Pirate Tree blog. And like every other post in my Being God tour, leave a comment for a chance to win a $25 Amazon Gift card. A winner will be selected on March 17.

Book Giving Day

Today is National Book Giving Day. I am donating four copies of each of my books to kids in a juvenile detention center.

Downloadable poster
IBGD - Can you find kid in need of books today?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Blog Hop for Being God

Come join my mini-blog tour celebrating the Feb 1 release of Being God.

Follow me around the blog-o-sphere

Read an excerpt from Being God at Dragon My Feet:

Get up close and personal when Being God's protagonist, Malik Kaplan, is interviewed at Pat bertram Introduces...

Find out more about the process that created both novels in the Farrington High series, Pull and Being God when Librarian Crazy Quilt Edi's interviews me -

Check out my Feb 10 spotlight on the Brown Bookshelf  a Black History Month celebration of Children's Literature.

I'll talk about outreach to reluctant and at-risk readers on the RomancingTheGenres blog on Feb 13

I'll have a Character Interview with Being God's leading lady, Barnetta Murhasselt, right here on Feb 17.

I reveal some inner secrets and my workaholic nature on the Spunky Senior's blog on Feb 21

Look at the Being God reviews, from J. L. Powers, author of This Thing Called The Future, and  from Medeia Sharif author of The Best Ramadan Ever..

I discuss my publishing journey, both traditional and self-publishing, on For Love of Books with Eliza Knight on March 4

Follow me around and comment for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift certificate in March.  Everyone who comments will be entered into the drawing.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Go to the dogs winner!!

Hey Juanita, you are the chosen one.  Juanita Fisher has given my dog a name, Roxie. Now all I need is Juanita's information so I can send her her winnings.  Get in touch with  me, I want to thank you and send you your winnings.

In addition, I have begun an impromptu Blo tour for Being God. Head over to and see my first stop on DragonMyFeet. 

Much love.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Diversity and multiculural collections

Today I put together the speech I will be giving at the 2013 Virginia Hamilton convention in April. I will be covering ways parents, librarians, schools and concerned citizens can enhance collections to make them more diverse, and why that is a good things. Just for fun, I popped my speech into a neat tool called WORDLE, and out popped this picture:

I am obviously talking a lot about books, singular, plural, even capitalized, they are at the heart of my talk. And authors, libraries, bookstores, the world, and why it is important that we develop well-rounded readers.  Yes, I will also be discussing eBooks, audio books, graphic novels and other collection items, but at heart I am still old-fashioned enough to want a book in my hand, and hope people will continue to enjoy that tactile pleasure for a long time.