Archive for February, 2014

Teen Spirit: “A beautiful story from a legendary young adult author”

18054018Teen Spirit

“A passionate, dreamy, brief paranormal, with a breath-of-fresh-air monstrous heroine and enjoyably surreal set dressing.” -(Kirkus Reviews)

Francesca Lia Block, critically acclaimed author of Weetzie Bat, brings this eerie and redemptive ghost story to life with her signature, poetic prose. It’s perfect for fans of supernatural stories with a touch of romance like the Beautiful Creatures series by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.

After Julie’s grandmother passes away, she is forced to move across town to the not-so-fancy end of Beverly Hills and start over at a new school. The only silver lining to the perpetual dark cloud that seems to be following her? Clark—a die-hard fan of Buffy and all things Joss Whedon, who is just as awkward and damaged as she is. Her kindred spirit.

When the two try to contact Julie’s grandmother with a Ouija board, they make contact with a different spirit altogether. The real kind. And this ghost will do whatever it takes to come back to the world of the living.

Francesca Lia Block’s latest young adult novel is a haunting work about family, loss, love, and redemption.

“Block returns with a haunting ghost story set in her beloved Los Angeles. In the course of a few months, Julie has lost everything,” According to School Library Journal.  “Her grandmother died. Her mother lost her job, and subsequently their house.”

And Julie’s been forced to move into a cramped two-bedroom apartment in a new school district while her mother goes through a midlife crisis that involves dating an aging metalhead. When she meets Clark, an enigmatic and peculiar senior, the two form an instant connection until Julie convinces him to help her contact her dead grandmother via an old Ouija board. Unfortunately, their misguided attempt has lasting and haunting repercussions when a malevolent ghost possesses Clark’s body. Suddenly, the teens are running all over Los Angeles trying to find herbs and roses to cleanse Clark of this spirit before he’s lost forever. Told in Block’s signature, flowing prose, Teen Spirit is a layered story that’s more about grief than it is about ghosts. Julie’s narration is fast paced and accessible; readers won’t be bogged down by intricate plots or complex ghost mythology. This is just a story about two kids learning to deal with loss. Julie realizes she cannot cling to the dead; she must hold her grandmother in her heart as she tries to live her own life. A beautiful story from a legendary young adult author.

“A true original…[Block] has created something psychologically complex, erotically charged, and unusually poignant.” (Booklist (starred review))

“A startlingly original work that drives a stake deep into the heart of typical vampire stories.” (School Library Journal)

Hidden Girl: The True Story of a Modern-Day Child Slave by Shyima Hall

41Ze42TmQpL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_Hidden Girl: The True Story of a Modern-Day Child Slave is an inspiring and compelling memoir from a young woman who lost her childhood to slavery—and built a new life grounded in determination and justice.

Shyima Hall was born in Egypt on September 29, 1989, the seventh child of desperately poor parents. When she was eight, her parents sold her into slavery. Shyima then moved two hours away to Egypt’s capitol city of Cairo to live with a wealthy family and serve them eighteen hours a day, seven days a week. When she was ten, her captors moved to Orange County, California, and smuggled Shyima with them. Two years later, an anonymous call from a neighbor brought about the end of Shyima’s servitude—but her journey to true freedom was far from over.

A volunteer at her local police department since she was a teenager, Shyima is passionate about helping to rescue others who are in bondage. Now a US citizen, she regularly speaks out about human trafficking and intends to one day become an immigration officer. In Hidden Girl, Shyima candidly reveals how she overcame her harrowing circumstances and brings vital awareness to a timely and relevant topic.

This harrowing tale, published in conjunction with National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, is the true story of an Egyptian girl who was sold by her parents into domestic slavery at age 8, brought illegally to the U.S. at 10 and rescued by Child Protective Services in Orange County, Calif., acting on an anonymous tip, at age 12,” reads a review in the Buffalo News.

Hall’s straightforward narrative puts in sharp focus the monsters of her horror story: the parents who sold her, and the captors who forced her to slave 18 hours a day, called her “stupid girl” and refused her proper food, clothing, medical care, schooling. Shyima was born in 1989, the seventh of 11 children of a very poor family. Her parents sold her to a wealthy family supposedly to pay off a debt incurred by an older sister. When Shiyma was 10, the family moved to the U.S. to an exclusive gated community in Irvine, Calif., where she lived in a windowless room over the garage, slaved late into the night and washed her clothes in a bucket outdoors. Her life after rescue was not easy, as she navigated a series of foster homes, struggled to learn to read, ended up in a middle school where she was bullied by gang members and suffered through constant pain which was eventually diagnosed as rheumatoid arthritis. Her battle for justice is inspiring, as she pursued prosecution of her captors, obtained citizenship and began the steps toward what she hopes will be a career in criminal justice to help other victims of human trafficking.


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Writing Great Books for Young Adults: Everything You Need to Know, from Crafting the Idea to Landing a Publishing Deal

9781402247743_p0_v1_s260x420“‘Harry Potter’ opened so many doors for young adult literature. It really did convince the publishing industry that writing for children was a viable enterprise. And it also convinced a lot of people that kids will read if we give them books that they care about and love.” – Rick Riordan

Young-adult fiction, commonly called “YA fiction,” has exploded over the past decade or so: The number of YA titles published grew more than 120 percent between 2002 and 2012, and other estimates say that between 1997 and 2009, that figure was closer to 900 percent, according to an article by Nolan Feeney. “Ask a handful of young-adult fiction writers what exactly makes a YA novel, though, and you’ll get a handful of conflicting answers.”

From a top young adult literary agent, the only guide on how to write for young adults:

With an 87 percent increase in the number of titles published in the last two years, the young adult market is one of the healthiest segments in the industry. Despite this, little has been written to help authors hone their craft to truly connect with this audience. Writing Great Books for Young Adults gives writers the advice they need to tap this incredible market.

Topics covered include: Listening to the voices of youth; Meeting your young protagonist; Developing a writing style; Constructing plots; and Trying on points of view.

Agent Regina Brooks has developed award-winning authors across the YA genre, including a Coretta Scott King winner. She attends more than 20 conferences each year, meeting with authors and teaching.

Feeney continues:

At their core, YA books are for and about teenagers and pre-teens, usually between 12 and 18 years old, but sometimes as young as 10. Yet more than half of all YA novels sold are bought by older adults 18 or older, and certain titles published in the U.S. as YA are considered mainstream fiction for adults in other countries. Some authors believe the intent to write for young readers is a prerequisite of YA fiction; others don’t even realize their books will be labeled as YA until after they finish writing.

Many successful authors say there’s no secret to writing for teenagers. Good writing is good writing; believable characters and compelling plots are crucial regardless of who’s picking up the book. But many YA authors will also tell you there’s something particularly fulfilling and rewarding about writing for teenagers, who often respond to stories they identify with more intensely and gratefully than adult readers do. I asked eight writers and editors how they create characters and stories that feel real to teenagers, even when their world—and the world of the YA books they read—can feel like another planet. Below are eight of their most successful strategies.

Finally, take a look at this EXCERPT From an article WHAT MAKES A MEMORABLE NOVEL?

 Characters.  Does the reader even care enough about them to finish the book to see what happens to them? Is the plot appropriate for the characters? What about their dialogue? Is their dialogue compatible with who they are and where they came from? Or is it tortured and way too proper for them? Many of us were taught “proper English,” but the more I write the more I realize if it’s appropriate for a character to use English that’s not proper, then that’s as it should be.I was taught not to start a sentence with “and” or “but” and never use “was because.” But that’s how we often speak and characters would too, so more and more I’m using them.  I’m just a few weeks away from publishing Tea Party Teddy, a tell-all California political novel.  There are some tough gangster characters in it. Would they use the same dialogue that Teddy, a legislator, would use? Of course not. Characters and their dialogue have to be believable.

Setting. Does the setting fit in with the plot and the characters? A Beverly Hills Barbie is probably not going to be very believeable in the jungles of the Amazon in her Jimmy Choo shoes unless there’s been a reason for her to go there. And is the setting believeable as well? Today there’s no excuse for not making a setting believable. It’s all a click away on the Internet. I recall when I was writing Blue Coyote Motel I spent a lot of time looking at maps of various cities to get my streets, directions, hotels, etc. correct. It’s easy. Recently I read a book by a very well-known author and there was a huge error on the first page of the book. The airport given was not correct for the city. I know, because I fly in and out of that airport a lot. In today’s world that’s simply  inexcusable and that’s the kind of  stuff that makes a reader put the book down. If the author doesn’t care enough (or the editor) to make sure that what is written is correct, why would I want to continue with the book?

The Little Things. Attention to detail is huge in a novel. If the protagonist is going to fly from Paris to Los Angeles, the author better make sure that flying time, time zones and extra time for Customs, Immigration, etc. have all been properly accounted for. How often have you read something and the character would have to have been beamed from one place to another to make the times given doable? If one of the characters has brown hair early on in the book, unless there’s been a given reason for it to be another color at the end of the book, it better still be brown.

“A lot of people have no idea that right now Y.A. (young adult). is the Garden of Eden of literature.” – Sherman Alexie


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A tiny itsy bitsy gift of life, an egg donor story

Click on image to read more about this title

Click on image to read more about this title

A tiny itsy bitsy gift of life, an egg donor story is a  touching children’s egg donor story about a happy couple of rabbits, Pally and Comet who have everything in life except a baby bunny, you accompany them in their longing for this child, the waiting and the moment the mother is informed she has no eggs to conceive. One day a good lady rabbit brings her a tiny itsy bitsy gift of life, which is the egg, the half, she needs to conceive. The rabbit s tummy then begins to grow and finally her baby bunny is born and the happiness of how this family is formed is shared. The book is very colourful and ideal for children even before they can read, because the pictures are so full of details it easily captures the child s attention. It is my intention that the book should be easy for parents to read to their child so that gradually, as the child grows they will begin to understand their origins, in an easy and amusing manner.

“Carmen, My friend, just met you at a conference and she shared your book with me,” an amazon reviewer wrote. “It is very cute and wonderful. I am in need of something like this for my two year old son. Thank you so much for writing this special book for mommies like myself. It will make it so much easier for me to share my sons story with him if I start the process now and he is never surprised about how he came into this world.”

Another said: “Carmen, At our last Donor Moms Meeting a week ago, a lady had your book “An Itsy Bitsy Gift of Life” A children’s egg donor story and I just LOVED it! I feel this is the BEST book for telling “my 3 sons” the wonderful story of how much they are loved. Our sons(4 years, 2 years and 4 months) just love for us to read to them. Thank you so much for writing this book and also for the tips in storytelling. I also really enjoyed looking at your paintings.”

And Tracy Foote added:

As a surrogate mom, I am always intrigued with the creative ideas authors have come up with to explain infertility to children at a young age. This book explains in simple terms, the concept of egg donation.

It begins simple enough with the desire to have a child and that two parts are needed, one from a male and one from a female. (You will not find graphic sperms and eggs here. This is an introduction book.) The idea is illustrated through comparison to a cookie, in the sense that one needs two cookie halves to make a whole. Later in the story two seeds connect together much like puzzle pieces making it very simple for children to understand.

We learn one has to wait to see if a baby will grow and of the sadness when the attempt fails. It is appropriate the lady rabbit knocking on the door with the “gift of life” is one they have never seen before. Often in egg donation or surrogacy, the helping female is a stranger. Nicely done!

There is no mention of the doctor. We move quickly to how the “gift of life” is connected with “the other tiny itsy bitsy half we need” from Comet (Daddy rabbit) and children are reminded of the two cookie halves again, nicely tying the story together.

After some time, the rabbits have a new baby, thus creating a family. The illustrations are fantastically bright through out which children will thoroughly enjoy. I see both parents and single moms and dads using this book to explain egg donation to their child at a young age.

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