10:34 AM

Books for boys

Yesterday I spotted a Facebook post from the Wall Street Journal. It link to this question a parent asked about recommendations for books for boys ages 13 through 17.  I stopped to take a look at the books being recommended and was surprised to see I knew two maybe three tops. Where was the Westerfeld? The Dashner? The Green? The parent in the article states that their family has enjoyed the Hunger Games and are looking for more books like it. I didn't see anything on the list (that I knew of anyhow) that was comparable to Hunger Games.  Sports and Westerns? I think boys like more than that.

While, yes, I am female I made up my own list that I plan on passing along to my 13 year old nephew (in the hopes that he'll suddenly come to love reading). I think these are books that can appeal to both teen boys and girls. They aren't romance driven, but it's also not completely absent (and who's to say boys don't want to read about a little romance? How else are they going to learn how to woo their teenage crushes and what NOT to do on a date).  They have action and/or male main characters that the boys can relate to. I think it's a good list. If anyone disagrees or has books to add on, please feel free to comment. Especially you guys. I'd love to hear if you wouldn't touch one of these books with a 10 foot pole.

My totally Masculine Rocking Reading list for Boys Manly Men!
  • Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian- Sherman Alexie (everyone should read this)
  • The Hunger Games trilogy - Suzanne Collins (Yes some romance and a female MC, but every guy I know who's read the series LOVE it. Your boys will too)
  • Going Bovine - Libba Bray (a hysterically funny journey of a boy with mad cow disease)
  • Leviathan & Behemoth (& Goliath I'm sure when it comes out)  - Scott Westerfeld (steampunk retelling of how WWI started)
  • The Uglies series - Scott Westerfeld (OK a little more romance in this, but a great dystopian/sci-fi series about how being perfect isn't quite as perfect as people think)
  • Anything by John Green and I mean anything. If his stuff comes in a box set, snatch it up.
  • Percy Jackson & The Olympians - Rick Riordane (comical and educational about Greek Mythology)
  • The Kane Chronicles - Rick Riordane (again, comical and educational but about Egyptian Mythology)
  • The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel - Michael Scott (a series about magic with historical figures and events weaved in)
  • Harry Potter - JK Rowling (need I say anything about this?)
  • The Gregor the Overlander series - Suzanne Collins (a great Middle Grade series by the author of the Hunger Games)
  • The Inkheart Trilogy - Cornelia Funke (especially great for a book lover. Who wouldn't want to see characters from their favorite stories in the real world?)
  • Stardust - Neil Gaiman (A fantasy/faerie book boys can get into)
  • The Graveyard Book - Neil Giaman (a human raised by ghosts, need I say more?)
  • The Maze Runner & Scorched Trails - James Dashner (excellent dystopian series with a mosty male cast)
  • Enclave - Ann Aguirre (another dystopian story, although there's a female MC, her male partner has equal time and there's a lot of fighting and action and just a little romance)   
  • Young Samurai series - Chris Bradford (kind of a kid's version of Shogun. Lots of boys want to be a samurai or ninja!)
  • Eragon series - Christopher Paolini (dragons rule man!)
 I'm sure I'm missing some great ones so again, please feel free to add your top picks to the comments so I can add them to the list! There are plenty of great popular recent novels out there that can appeal to boys. You just have to do a little digging and have an open mind.

7:00 AM

It takes an army

As I've gotten more serious in my writing, I've noticed that I've developed a specific habit in my reading.  When I finish a book, I don't consider myself to be really done until I've read the acknowledgment pages. I'm not sure when I started, but suddenly I've realized how much I enjoy seeing those pages of thank yous.

It's not as if I know the people they're thanking, although occasionally they thank other authors and I always find it interesting to see who is friends with who. I think I just  like seeing the army of people who come together to get these books out on the shelves. Agents, publishers, editors, people over seas, beta readers, illustrators, people who helped with research or acted as sounding boards, friends, families and writing groups.

People tend to think writing is a solitary career. That writers just hole up in some remote locale pecking away at their keyboards while living a hermit-like life. While that may be right to an extent, the final product that the readers see on their shelves or even the self published ebooks are rarely, if ever, a solo project. By the time you read the back cover, a review or a blurb, there are already a score of people who have fallen in love with the story, picked their "teams" and are telling their friends and relatives about it.

We've discussed in other posts that not everyone is going to enjoy the same story. Different things appeal to different people. Even so, please remember that while you may dislike something you read, somewhere out there is a veritable army of people who enjoyed it and believed in it enough to help the author to polish the plot, promote the story and make it the best it can possibly be. It takes a whole lot of people to publish a book and even if you don't enjoy the story, at least give the author the credit deserved for gathering their troops and working hard to bring you the best they have to give.

9:55 AM

Playing God

A lovely writer friend, Patricia Lynne tagged me for this meme about how writers are the Gods of their little universes.  I have to admit, it's probably one of my favorite things about writing. I get to make the landscape and setting, I get to dictate the weather, how long things take, what time of year it is, etc. I can make all my characters ten feet tall with ginger hair and five eyes.  That might make for a pretty funny looking character, but hey they're my creations so I can have them look anyway I want.

Now, I know we've discussed before about characters having a mind of their own, and I find that is very true, but that's not to say I can't override their crazy ideas and actions. Admittedly, I don't do that often. I much rather prefer to let the characters and their actions guide and lead the story.  Sometimes they come up with ideas that surprise even me! Go figure, right?

Ultimately, us authors, the God-like figure in the literary creation, has final say over what happens, when it happens and how it happens.  Some of us might use that power for good, and others for evil  but it's our  story, our creation. We get to say what goes. The readers get to follow along and immerse themselves in the world the authors have created. They might not always like our choices, but I welcome them to come up with some fan fiction and make our characters work for them. Hmmm..would that make fan fiction authors demi-Gods?

7:04 AM

Book Review - Bridges a Tale of Niagara

Today's Q. & A. is part of another blog tour with Novel Publicity and debuting author dk LeVick. Below he's given some great responses about his writing and his fantastic first novel, a young adult, historical multicultural contemporary story called Bridges a Tale of Niagara

Amazon Synopsis:
When a faded picture sets in motion a perilous journey for five young men, they not only encounter harrowing adventure in the forbidden Niagara Gorge, but are forced to confront the swirling illusions of the world they knew changing their lives forever.

'Bridges' brings together a series of historical events, in a twist of mystery and revelation with a group of 1962 teenagers caught up in the complexities of a changing world around them, exploring the questions of all peoples of all times.

Personal Reaction:
Bridges a Tale of Niagara was a great story interweaving fact and fiction. With a Stand by Me kind of feel, I was pulled right in and was excited and nervous (!) to see what the boys were going to do. I really enjoyed how the history of the falls was woven into the tale as Ol’ Gordy reminisced about the pictures on his wall. It was a clever way to work in some of the fascinating tales that go along with the majestic falls. I think this book will appeal too many of all ages.  Adults can look back at their own youthful adventures and younger readers can fantasize about making the trip with the boys.

Q) Is Bridges a tale of Niagara your first book?
It’s my first novel and first published work. I’ve written some short stories and novellas but did not publish them.

Q) What prompted you to write Bridges?
Wanting to write about people who feel their life is unimportant and they live in a time when everything has already been done and invented. Of course that’s not the case and this is not truer than in the 1960’s when everything in America was turned upside down and technology literally took off like a rocket ship.

For that particular story – the 'picture' itself brought all this to focus. It’s one I seen in an antique shop almost 40 years ago and it started me thinking about it. A combination of a Niagara few people know about coupled with the decade of the '60's which was the best and worse times of America. A decade when America was at its prime and its base. When young people thought everything had been done and there was nothing left for them to do, yet, next to the revolutionary era itself, it was the most revolutionary decade in American history.

Q) This book has stories intertwined within the main plot.  How much of the stories Ol’ Gordy told is fact and how much is fiction?
Ol’ Gordy’s stories are all based on actual fact and events. The ice-bridges, the power company collapse, the Honeymoon bridge collapse, the whiskey runners – all true.

Each of the four stories in the novel are based on real historical events but is fiction built around them. There was a ‘hermit of Niagara’, but the clarinet and reason for his isolation was fiction. The water did stop in 1848, but Henry and Sam came from the space between my ears. There was an underground railroad and Pontiac’s war, but the characters portrayed were fiction.

Q) What preparation did you do prior to writing?  Due to the history woven in, I’d guess some research was called for or were they stories you had heard your whole life being that you grew up in the area?
Lots and lots of research went into the novel. I am physically very aware of the Falls and the Gorge, but the stories I wasn’t. People there don’t know their own history as much as we’d like to think they do. But there is a large contingent of ‘history nuts’ who know a great deal of Niagara history, so I took a lot of time to research the events surrounding the stories to make them as historically accurate as I could. In fact most of the ‘editing’ and revising I did to get the novel down from over 100000 words to just over 80000 was cutting out detail.

Q) Your characters are very diverse, ranging in race and differing socio-economic statuses. What prompted you to bring them together as a group?
For one thing, that’s the way I grew up, in a diverse, mixed part of Buffalo, so it was natural for me. Secondly, I wanted to tie the themes of the historical stories into the main characters and that was to include their nationalities and backgrounds. For example, I love the paradox of Lennie and Kevin standing looking at the railroad bridge not knowing that it was their own ancestors together working together over a hundred years earlier that gave Lennie his freedom, only the reader knows.

Q) Does Ol’ Gordy’s shop with its wall of photos really exist?
No. There’s a number of shops and businesses in Niagara that have pictures of the old days up, but Marty’s was a fabrication of life as I recall it in 1962.

Q) How would you describe Bridges a tale of Niagara to a non-reader to entice them to pick it up?
I wish I knew the answer to that so I could do it. ‘Bridges’ is a tale of camaraderie and historical fact, weaved together in a unique fashion, with a twist of mystery and revelation involving a group of 1962 teenagers caught up in the complexities of a changing world around them. A faded picture from a by-gone era sets in motion a perilous quest; five young men not only encounter harrowing danger in the forbidden, historical laden Niagara Gorge, but confront the swirling illusions of the world they knew – changing their lives forever. Interwoven are four stories from Niagara’s past that are stand alone yet have tentacles into the group in 1962. It’s a story of adventure and seeing the world from a much wider and deeper view than what is immediately within our grasp.

Q) What do you hope readers will take away with them once they’ve finished Bridges?
First and foremost is a good read. If that is achieved then it’s successful. Second, nothing is new in human history. Technology changes, transportation changes, all facets of living change - but people are the same today as they were thousands of years ago. The same drives, needs, fears and wants. "Bridges" attempted to show.

Q) Who or what are your writing influences?
I’m old fashioned so my influences were Somerset Maugham, Hemingway, Steinbeck, Trotsky and the other great writers. Today I follow many writers and am influenced by some – Ken Follett writes in a style I find myself also in.  As far as personal influence, until recently it’s been a singular drive without influence and has been private.

Q) What can we expect from you next? Are there any other projects we can look for?
Absolutely! I’ve written some short stories recently that I’m preparing for publication soon and I’m working on my next novel.  I’m fortunate and blessed that my ‘flame’ didn’t go out over the years and was able to be turned up, so as long as there’s breath in my body, words in my mind and feelings in my heart, I’ll find the means to write and hopefully, someone will want to read it.

Q) How can fans follow and contact you?
I have a blog: http://dklevick.wordpress.com/ where I post at least every Thursday. MY posts are a combination of text and visual and I post a lot about Niagara and the history of it which readers will enjoy and find interesting.

I can be contacted at dklevick@comcast.net with email, I’m on Twitter dk_levick and welcome followers and in addition I have a Facebook author’s page “Bridges – dk Levick” which I welcome folks to “Like”.

Q) Lastly, just for fun, if they were making a movie based on your writing journey, what would they call it and who would they cast to play you?
They would call it “The Bucket List II” and cast the Dali Lama

Tour Notes:

Please vote for my blog, Keystrokes & Word Counts,  in the traffic-breaker poll for this tour. The blogger with the most votes wins a free promotional twitterview and a special winner’s badge. I want that to be me! You can vote in the poll by visiting the official Bridges blog tour page and scrolling all the way to the bottom.

You can win a free paperback copy of Bridges:  A Tale of Niagara by entering your name and email address on its official blog tour page. The winner of the give-away will be announced on Wednesday, June 29 – be sure to enter before then!

Learn more about this author by visiting his website, blog, Facebook or GoodReads pages or by connecting with him on Twitter.

7:00 AM

My kingdom for a utopia!

Literature, like fashion, seems to go in trends.  The recent vampire trend is just a reboot from the late 80s and early 90s when we were graced with such awesome movies and books like The Lost Boys and Interview with a Vampire. When we had enough of bloodsucking, it went away, only to be resurrected (ha ha!) 10+ years later. As vamps are slowly making their way back out (although I still think they'll be around for a while), a new trend has been creeping onto the shelves.

If YA lit is your thing, you'd have to be blind not to notice the immense amount of dystopian books that have hit the scene recently. While I'm sure there were books out before it, the Hunger Games trilogy seems to have really brought notice to and possibly encouraged other authors to write this specific genre.

What's the draw of these bleak dark stories? Do people notice things going on in real life: war, natural disasters, morally corrupt people, and think that these may really be a reflection our future to come? A premonition of sorts? Or is it more the strong main characters (often female) who have suffered but haven't given up, who have a change of heart and don't blindly follow what their new governments deem as right, who are willing to sacrifice themselves for the sake of their loved ones and their communities?

Personally, I think it may be a combination of all of the above.  Like many, I have been sucked into these stories: Hunger Games, Wither, Divergent, Delirium, Matched, Enclave, The Maze Runner, even Inside Out and Outside In, while having the sci-fi twist, I'd still call it a dystopian. Yes, there are definitely depressing aspects to these stories and I often try to put myself in the main character's shoes. Would I have been able to continue on in those situations? Would I have conformed or fought for a better life? They make me stop and think. I spend a lot of time wondering if our world could really mimic some of these disaster wrought  lands.

I do enjoy them and I think, because it's something that hasn't been touched on recently, that the trend will continue to grow and stick around for quite some time. That being said, authors may want to start thinking of writing utopian type stories to pick people back up after they've had their fill of decimated populations, uber corrupt governments and barren wastelands.

7:00 AM

Music soothes the savage writer

My top three loves are writing, photography and music. I've played instruments since the 4th grade: clarinet, bass clarinet, piano, baritone horn and a little tenor sax. I sang in my church choir for years, performed in several  school produced musicals and spent a few years in the school choir. I'm the girl you catch in the supermarket singing along with the muzak. I always have music on, sometimes even when I sleep. My life without music would be dull and gray.

I have noticed the trend lately of authors posting playlists to go along with their literary works. Songs that go with the storyline. Songs that fit the mood. Songs that inspire and personify the characters. You'd think, someone as musical as I, would be all up on this trend, but I have to say I'm really not. Not in that way anyhow.

While music is almost always on when I write, I need it to be less intrusive. I need something soothing and often wordless.  Music is so ingrained in me that if I listen to certain songs while writing, I find myself distracted, singing along and occasionally typing the lyrics rather than what my characters are suppose to be saying. That always makes for an interesting WTF was I thinking re-read.

Classical seems to work well for me, as does some jazz, depending on the type of scene I'm working on.  Even though it's got several songs with lyrics, I'm finding Danger Mouse's new album Rome, awesome to write to. It's very mellow with kind of an eerie feel to it. This song, from the Vision of Escaflowne it perfect for any emotional scenes I write. Action scenes? Tank by Yuko Kanno and the Seatbelts from the anime Cowboy Bebop gives me energy and speed. Sounds silly, but it's true. Ever go to a club and the bass is super loud and you can feel it through your feet? They do that to keep you moving. Same goes with listening to dance music while walking or running. You'll find you're compelled to move faster and slower depending on the beat of the music. I find it's the same for me with writing. For inspiration, Grace Potter & the Nocturnal's Oasis can pick me up anytime as can Adele's Chasing pavements , even if it's about love, I like to think of it as moving forward with my writing, even if there's the possibility of nothing coming from it.

I'm sure there's lots of other music out there that helps me with my writing, but those are just a few that come to mind.  What are your music/writing combinations? Do you need absolute quiet to write? Do you make your own playlists to go with your stories?

7:00 AM

I knew that was going to happen...

One of the problems I find that goes hand in hand with trying to be be original is trying to keep your story from being too predictable.

As I'm working on Tears of a Clown, I've been posting chapters on my Facebook author page. My small yet quite loyal fan base humors me with comments and questions. One in particular, has started showing me her amazing mind reading abilities by posting what she thinks is going on and what she feels is coming next. Usually, she is spot on.

This made me a little sad. I don't want to be predictable! I want people to always gasp and think "I never saw that coming!" Silly to be down about it though when the reality is that when you can't be 100% original, people are going to figure things out. Character names will differ, but more likely than not, they've seen the scenario play out before in someone else's book, probably in several other books.

I like to think I was able to keep people in the dark for a little while though and a lot of that was because even I didn't know where the story was heading until the characters led me there. On occasion, they will even surprise me and I'm their God! So to speak. Sneaky stealthy characters. It's a good thing I like 'em.

Another of my lovely little brood told me so long as she doesn't figure things out by the first five pages, she was OK with being able to figure out some plot points. I decided that it really wasn't that bad of a thing. Those who can figure it out are just well read and normally a smarty pants. A fan base who reads a lot and is brainy to boot? An author couldn't ask for much more.

7:00 AM

This is the book that never ends...

'Cause it goes on and on my friend. Sorry. Some of you are probably cursing me right now for the earworm, but it's true. This book I'm working on does not want to end!  I can see it, just over the horizon. It's close enough that I should be able to streeeetch and touch it, but it keeps alluding me!

It's those damn (lovable) characters of mine. They're not ready for the story to be finished.  The devious bunch are demanding one more steamy make out scene, one more horrific event to be thrown in, one more hurdle for the heroine to leap over.  I'm impressed by their stamina, but I wonder how much of it will end up making the final cut.  I hate to feel I'm rambling on in a story, so hopefully it doesn't all come off as filler, because that will just seem like I wasted a whole hell of a lot of time.

Does this happen to people who have plotted their stories out? Do your characters ever run amok and change things on you? How do you deal?  I almost always start a story with an ending in mind, but how I get there is left to the characters. As their personalities develop, my stories often take turns and twists even I never expected. It's kind of a cool phenomena.

I do hope my characters get tired and let me end things before I get bored. That will definitely make for a poor ending. Perhaps I need to entice them somehow. A plate of special brownies perhaps? What says you faithful readers?

Let's hope this little dude is right...about the story at least

/Photo is not mine. If rights belong to you, please let me know so I can credit you!