Category Archives: Books

The 777 Meme: 7 Lines From Page 7 of My Work in Progress

I’ve been tagged by Jennifer Brooks for the 777 Meme!

The rules:
Go to the 7th line of the 7th page of your work in progress.
Post the first full 7 lines.
Then tag 7 friends.

My work in progress, titled AESOP’S CURSE, is with my agent. If she thinks it’s ready, we will submit it to my editor at Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books. They have the right to review my next project first. Here is a basic description:

High school freshman Alexandre Hart discovers he is the reincarnation of Aesop, the fable teller, and he must reverse Aesop’s curse–his final words to a Delphi village–to better his karma and prevent a repeat of the deadly curse. While dealing with his karmic mission, Alex must also face a senior bully, his long-time crush, his feelings for his best friend, Daniella Falcón, and his reluctance to take risks.

A beautiful picture of Delphi

Alex has been having recurring nightmares in which a stocky, mean-looking dude has been chasing him. One night, Alex decides to stop running in his dreams and meet the man who, he thinks, might kill him in his sleep. Here are the lines when they are finally face-to-face, ready to have a conversation that will reveal Alex’s past life, his karmic mission, and that the “dream stalker” is really Kyros, his spiritual adviser.

I am not usually a rule-breaker, but I added more lines so that you get a better sense of the scene. Here it is:

 

“Are you ready to talk?” he asked in a raspy baritone.

“Sure,” I said, trying to act unruffled, hoping he didn’t notice my shaking legs. A part of me still thought I should be running for my life.

“Let’s sit,” he said. Chairs and Main Street appeared out of nowhere. We sat facing each other in the middle of the empty road. Even at this hour, I expected to hear something, like music escaping from an open window or leaves rustling from a summer breeze. Instead, the sound of my heartbeat pounded in my ears, and the streetlights overhead provided the only illumination.

For a few moments, neither of us spoke. I had rehearsed what to say a thousand times in my head, but in the moment, I went with the obvious.

“So, you’ve been chasing me.”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“I need to tell you something. I usually try to get through to you more subtly, but you can be a little clueless, so I decided to use a more direct approach this time.”

He was usually more subtle? Has he tried to talk to me before? And why did he call me clueless? I’m not clueless, am I?

He grinned.

Okay, that wouldn’t be fair if he could read my mind or hear my thoughts or whatever.

“So, what do you want to tell me?” I asked.

He stared at me, but stayed quiet for a moment, which only made me more nervous.

“You know, Alex, I’ve thought long and hard about how to tell you this. I’ve decided not to sugar-coat anything. I’m simply going to spit it out.”

The more he stalled, the more anxious I became. Closing my eyes, I moved my head straight back and then from side to side, trying to release the tension building in my neck. After, I watched him and waited.

“I am your life coach,” he said.

“What?”

“I am your life coach.”

“My life coach?”

“Yes. I’m kind of like your guardian angel, but different. You have a guardian angel, too. I’m not her. I’m your life coach, your spirit guide, your personal adviser.”

“My life coach?”

“Yes,” he said more forcefully. “And, this is what I mean by clueless.”

 

That’s all for now! I was supposed to tag 7 new people, but most of my author friends were on writing deadlines. I am, however, tagging Venessa Schwarz, who is a contestant in the first ever Pitch Fiesta being run by Latin@s in Kid Lit.

Fellow Fifteener: Moriah McStay–Everything That Makes You

21795576As a member of the Fearless Fiteeners, I was able to read an ARC of Moriah McStay’s young adult novel, Everything That Makes You  (3/17/2015; Katherine Tegen Books). ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) are the uncorrected proofs that are sent to reviewers, librarians, and book bloggers to promote the book. My fellow fifteeners and 2k15 classmates are sending their ARCs on tour, which allows us a sneak peek at these upcoming new releases. I’ve decided to let you all know about the ARCs I’m reading to help support my 2015 debut colleagues.

Here’s the description: One girl. Two stories. Meet Fiona Doyle. The thick ridges of scar tissue on her face are from an accident twelve years ago. Fiona has notebooks full of songs she’s written about her frustrations, her dreams, and about her massive crush on beautiful uber-jock Trent McKinnon. If she can’t even find the courage to look Trent straight in his beautiful blue eyes, she sure isn’t brave enough to play or sing any of her songs in public. But something’s changing in Fiona. She can’t be defined by her scars anymore.

And what if there hadn’t been an accident? Meet Fi Doyle. Fi is the top-rated female high school lacrosse player in the state, heading straight to Northwestern on a full ride. She’s got more important things to deal with than her best friend Trent McKinnon, who’s been different ever since the kiss. When her luck goes south, even lacrosse can’t define her anymore. When you’ve always been the best at something, one dumb move can screw everything up. Can Fi fight back?

Hasn’t everyone wondered what if? In this daring debut novel, Moriah McStay gives us the rare opportunity to see what might have happened if things were different. Maybe luck determines our paths. But maybe it’s who we are that determines our luck.

What I liked about it: I was entirely impressed by Moriah McStay and the crazy skills she must have to write this full dual narrative. The two stories of Fiona/Fi hinge on a question we have probably all asked more than once in our lives: “What if _____?” McStay explores this idea by creating two lives of the same person. In one, Fiona’s face is scarred from a childhood accident, and she wants desperately not to be defined by or pitied because of her scars. In the other life, Fi’s face is flawless and she seems to have everything going for her, but….I won’t spoil anything because I’m not that kind of reader. But here are a couple of things I loved about McStay’s novel. I love how certain people crossed paths with Fiona/Fi in both lives, suggesting there are certain things that are meant to happen, yet the element of free will isn’t ignored and most definitely alters the details. Also, I love the point that no matter what, every life has joys and tragedies. A flawless face doesn’t mean a perfect life. No matter which road Fiona/Fi is on, she (and we all) will face certain challenges.

About the author: Moriah McStay grew up in Memphis, TN, where she acquired a come-and-go drawl and a lifelong love of cowboy boots and fried pickles. She attended Northwestern University and the University of Chicago. Two graduate degrees and seven jobs later, she finally figured out what she wants to be when she grows up.

Fellow Fifteener: Gail Nall–Breaking the Ice

20662374As a member of the Fearless Fiteeners, I was able to read an ARC of Gail Nall’s middle grade novel, Breaking the Ice  (1/13/2015; Simon & Schuster/Aladdin). ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) are the uncorrected proofs that are sent to reviewers, librarians, and book bloggers to promote the book. My fellow fifteeners and 2k15 classmates are sending their ARCs on tour, which allows us a sneak peek at these upcoming new releases. I’ve decided to let you all know about the ARCs I’m reading to help support my 2015 debut colleagues.

Here’s the description: Kaitlin has always dreamed of being a champion figure skater, and she’s given up a lot to pursue her passion. But after having a totally uncharacteristic and decidedly NOT figure-skating-approved tantrum after getting her scores at a major competition she’s dropped by her coach and prestigious skating club.

When no other club in town will have her, she’s forced to join the ridiculed and rundown Fallton Club, jokingly referred to as the Fall Down Club. At first Kaitlin thinks this is a complete disaster, but after meeting some of the other skaters, including a boy (who happens to have the most perfect hair she’s ever seen) Kaitlin thinks it might actually not be so bad.

But when she’s tasked with learning a whole new program right before Regionals and figures out that almost all the other skaters target Fallton, she thinks joining the Fall Down Club may just be the second biggest mistake she’s ever made.

In this figure skating themed debut, Kaitlin learns that when you fall down, you have to pick yourself up – even if it’s in front of judges and a crowd.

What I liked about it: Remember these famous faces of athletic disappointment?

Gymnast  Skater

Well, these moments are nothing compared to Kaitlin’s tantrum after a skating competition that ends with medals on the floor and her expulsion from her training center. Kaitlin doesn’t quit, though, and as she trains at the Falton Club, what’s clear is she also doesn’t want to be defined forever by a single moment. What’s interesting, and often true, is that the trait that gets her intro trouble–her temper, passion, willingness to speak her mind–is the same trait that helps her later in the story on and off the rink. You don’t have to be a skater or even an athlete to enjoy this book because it also weaves in funny, heartwarming threads about friendship, family, and first crushes. Nall totally gets middle school girl; Kaitlin makes mistakes but picks herself up time and again as she tries to find her voice while navigating expectations from those around her. As a middle school teacher, I’m always on the lookout for new titles to add to my classroom library. This is definitely one that my students will enjoy.

About the authorGail Nall lives in Louisville, Kentucky with her family and more cats than necessary. She grew up skating, and as a teenager working at the local rink, she rented skates and made nachos (but not at the same time). She spends her early mornings writing contemporary middle grade fiction, her days working at a homeless shelter, and her evenings reading and trying to stay up past eight o’clock. Her obsessions include hiking and camping, travel, history, and food.

Fellow Fifteener: Stacey Lee–Under a Painted Sky

18488397As a member of the Fearless Fiteeners, I was able to read an ARC of Stacey Lee’s young adult novel, Under a Painted Sky  (3/17/2015; Putnam Juvenile). ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) are the uncorrected proofs that are sent to reviewers, librarians, and book bloggers to promote the book. My fellow fifteeners and 2k15 classmates are sending their ARCs on tour, which allows us a sneak peek at these upcoming new releases. I’ve decided to let you all know about the ARCs I’m reading to help support my 2015 debut colleagues.

Here’s the description: Missouri, 1849: Samantha dreams of moving back to New York to be a professional musician—not an easy thing if you’re a girl, and harder still if you’re Chinese. But a tragic accident dashes any hopes of fulfilling her dream, and instead, leaves her fearing for her life. With the help of a runaway slave named Annamae, Samantha flees town for the unknown frontier. But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls, so they disguise themselves as Sammy and Andy, two boys headed for the California gold rush. Sammy and Andy forge a powerful bond as they each search for a link to their past, and struggle to avoid any unwanted attention. But when they cross paths with a band of cowboys, the light-hearted troupe turn out to be unexpected allies. With the law closing in on them and new setbacks coming each day, the girls quickly learn that there are not many places to hide on the open trail.

What I liked about it: I don’t usually read historical fiction, partly because I had to teach really boring ones to coincide with my school’s US History curriculum during my first few years of teaching. The experience turned me off to the genre for a long time, yet I loved Under a Painted Sky so much that I stayed awake until 3 a.m. to finish it! Stacey Lee’s debut novel is anything but boring. Within the first few chapters, people die and  Samantha and Annamae run away and become wanted fugitives. Dressed as boys, Sammy and Andy meet up with Cay, West, and Peety, three cowboys who help them on the danger-filled trek to California. The characters living out this adventure are layered and relatable. I loved Samantha and Annamae’s friendship from the start, and the cowboys add fun, romance, and more trouble to the story. The diversity in the novel is also worth mentioning. Samantha is Chinese, Annamae is an escaped slave, Peety is Mexican, and they meet Scottish and French people, among others, on their journey. Because of the different backgrounds, Lee seamlessly weaves in the social norms of the time, Christian beliefs, the Chinese zodiac, French, and Spanish. Under a Painted Sky can be read for fun or used in a school’s history or language arts curriculum. Do yourself a favor and add it to your To Be Read list!

About the authorStacey Lee is a fourth generation Chinese-American whose people came to California during the heydays of the cowboys. She believes she still has a bit of cowboy dust in her soul. A native of southern California, she graduated from UCLA then got her law degree at UC Davis King Hall. After practicing law in the Silicon Valley for several years, she finally took up the pen because she wanted the perks of being able to nap during the day, and it was easier than moving to Spain. She plays classical piano, raises children, and writes YA fiction.

The Back is the New Black in Book Covers

Since my debut novel releases in February 2015, I’ve been paying attention to and celebrating cover reveals for the 2014 debuts and the 2015 titles on deck. For a while, faces and eyes dominated covers, and we’ve seen a slew of girls in frilly dresses and submerged fully or partially in water. Now, designers seem to be loving the back. Take a look at the examples below and see if you’ll back me up on this. These are not all debuts, but they will all be released in 2014 and 2015–you know, back to back years.

   18392459  I WasHere  

   13597757   18667862   16429619

18478536   18241263    22555228   13438564

 

Am I right or what? Have you got my back on this?

Well, not to be left out, my debut novel’s cover is all about the back and black.

22032788

I haven’t been this trendy since I rocked really big hair back in the day.

Anybody else have a sexy back cover?

Writing Process Blog Tour

I’ve been tagged! Writers across the blogosphere have been tossing a particular Q&A around the writing community. It’s the Writing Process Blog Tour. Lila Quintero Weaver published her responses last week and tossed it over to me. First, here’s some info on my tagger.

DarkroomI haven’t met Lila in person yet, but I consider her una amiga nonetheless. We have been collaborating on the Latin@s in Kid Lit site since July 2013. Lila has been an enthusiastic blogger for the site, posting great book talks, Q&As, and personal stories. An author and illustrator, her debut novel was Darkroom: Memoirs in Black and White. She is currently working on a middle grade novel.

 

 

Here are the questions and my responses:

What am I working on?

aesop

An image of Aesop

I am revising Aesop’s Curse, my second young adult novel. During the school year, I teach middle school reading full time and college composition part time, so my goal is to finish revising Aesop’s Curse this summer so that my agent can review it and submit it to editors. The story is about a high school freshman named Alexandre Hart who learns he is the reincarnation of Aesop, the fable writer. Aesop cursed a village before he was executed, and now Alex has to somehow fix this or things will get ugly. (I don’t want to give too much away). I am also steadily working on plans to promote my debut novel, When Reason Breaks, which will be published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books on February 10, 2015.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson

Both of my novels have a literary element. Aesop’s Curse includes information about the author and some of his most famous fables. When Reason Breaks includes Emily Dickinson’s poetry, and the characters represent the poet and other people who existed in her life. For example, the two main characters, Emily Delgado and Elizabeth Davis, represent Dickinson, and the character Tommy Bowles represents two important men in Dickinson’s life: Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Samuel Bowles. While there are lots of YA books linked to famous authors and/or literary works, there are fewer about Dickinson and Aesop.

Each of my novels also has a diverse cast of characters, which is important to me personally as a Latina, mom, and teacher. I think it’s important to represent our diverse reality in children’s books, and to not consider these “minority” books, but rather books with minorities in them.

Why do I write what I do?

I write what interests me. I fell in love with Dickinson’s work during graduate school, I have first-hand experience with depression, and I have been a teacher for 13 years, which means I have known and learned from lots of interesting, complex, remarkable teens. When Reason Breaks combines these elements. When planning Aesop’s Curse, I again pulled from topics of interest. I found the story of Aesop’s execution fascinating, I have read a lot about the metaphysical and reincarnation, and I have known plenty of young men like Alex who fly under the radar and dread taking risks for fear of failure.

How does my writing process work?

My process is not methodical. I don’t use charts and graphs or color-coded note cards, and I don’t write every day, which is the #1 piece of advice given to writers. I scribble in notebooks and on post-it notes, and I think about my work in progress constantly, plotting scenes in my head. This way, when I have time to sit and write, I’m ready. I do most of my writing during child-free weekends (when my parents babysit), snow days, sick days, school vacations, and when my daughter is doing an extra curricular activity. Marathon writing sessions with days of no writing in between doesn’t work for everyone, but it works for me.

SusanAdrianMay2013_200pxI will now toss these questions to Susan Adrian, the leader of the Fearless Fifteeners, a group of middle grade and young adult authors debuting in 2015. Susan’s debut YA novel is titled Tunnel Vision and will be published by Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press. Here’s a brief description: A teenage boy who has a power he calls tunneling—he can decipher where anyone in the world is (and what they’re doing) by holding something they own—is brought to the attention of the U.S. government. Sounds cool, right? Susan will tell us all about her writing process next week.

My Book Is Available for Pre-Order!!

Holy wow! This is happening! I found out yesterday that my debut novel, When Reason Breaks (Bloomsbury 2/10/2015), is available for pre-order on Amazon.com. The listing isn’t complete yet because the cover art and description need to be finalized, but it’s there and you can order it! Here’s the brief description:

Elizabeth Davis and Emily Delgado seem to have little in common except for Ms. Diaz’s English class and the solace they find in the words of Emily Dickinson, but both are struggling to cope with monumental secrets and tumultuous emotions that will lead one to attempt suicide.

Click here for the longer description. And, look, here’s a screen shot of the Amazon page:

Amazon screen shot

I know I have five sales for sure: my mom and dad bought four and my sister bought one. I’m on a roll!! LOL!

Seriously, I appreciate every single sale, and if you want to wait to borrow it from a local library, that’s cool, too. I’m a big fan and supporter of libraries.

Also, if you’re anti-Amazon because of its fight with Hachette, then you can wait until its available at other outlets.

But, if you are interested in buying my book, then pre-ordering it would be great! I’ve learned that pre-sales greatly influence promotions and a writer’s future career. I’d like a future career. Just saying.

Here is a post by author Natalie Whipple I bookmarked a while ago titled: “5 Easy Things You Can Do to Support Debut Authors.” In the section about pre-orders, she writes this:

Publishers look at pre-order sales. If they are good, on track, or behind expectations. It impacts their view of the book and their likelihood to push the title. Having good pre-orders could help your favorite debut continue their career. Besides, pre-ordering often costs less than buying at a store or after debut.

So…here’s the link: When Reason Breaks on Amazon. Check it out!

 

 

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