August 4, 2018

Why I love libraries


In the last week and a half, I've seen several articles talking about the value of libraries. It started when the author of a now-retracted Forbes article claimed that we'd be better off if Amazon replaced our local libraries. I'm not going to go into the absurdity of that claim, nor will I reiterate the many good arguments I've read since about why our library tax dollars are worth every penny. (I also won't dive into the many beautiful libraries that can be found around the world, but that would be a nice topic for a future date.) Instead, I wanted to reflect on my own experiences with my local libraries and why I love them so much.

  • I owe my love of reading (and writing) in part to libraries. The first public library I remember going to as a child had so many interesting books that I wanted to read them all. I didn't come close to doing it, but I was exposed to a variety of books, many of them great and even classics, and many which I never would have read if not for the library.
  • Nowadays, I read one or two books a week. From a purely financial perspective, if not for the library, I'd be broke just from buying books.
  • There is no longer a bookstore near where I live. The Barnes & Noble and Borders that used to be in my town closed down years ago. Where does a book lover go to immerse himself in books or to see what the latest releases are if there are no bookstores? The library, of course!
  • I don't go to the library just for paper books. At one point or another, I've checked out e-books, audio books, magazines, DVDs, and CDs. Yes, you can satisfy all of your entertainment needs in one place!
  • Libraries also have some handy reference materials that you can read there. Among books I've used in the reference section are encyclopedias, study prep books, job aids, and stock guides.
  • There have been times when I used the internet at the library when my connection at home wasn't working or wasn't available (back in the days before wi-fi routers). And our library has better wi-fi than Starbucks.
  • The library is a quiet place for working, studying, or just relaxing. What other public place can you hang out for hours where the people around you are also quietly working?
  • When my kids were younger, we had a family tradition of going to the library every Saturday morning. Sometimes there was story time. Sometimes, the library provided other kid-friendly programs. Even when nothing special was going on, my kids borrowed lots of books and DVDs during their childhood.
  • Our library has a summer reading program where you can earn prizes just for reading. Getting rewarded for reading? Sign me up!
  • A public library that I used to go to held book sales. I could buy paperbacks for a quarter and hardcover books for a dollar. Those sales have definitely contributed to my current book collection. :-)
  • This may be unique to my local library, but it's located next to a large park. There's a room with floor-to-ceiling windows that faces the park, and if I want to relax, I can sit in one of the chairs that face out toward the trees and grass and watch the ducks and geese as I read. There aren't many better ways to spend a weekend morning than that.

The best part is, all of the things I mentioned above are free! So why aren't you taking advantage of your local library?

July 7, 2018

My favorite series

I recently finished reading Obsidio and Only Human, the final books in the Illuminae Files and Themis Files series, respectively. Both series were great, which got me to thinking about what my all-time favorites are. So I tried to determine that in a somewhat scientific way by going through my Goodreads ratings to determine which series had the highest average ratings across all of the books in the series. There were several (including Illuminae Files and Themis Files) where I rated all of the books 5.0, and some where the average rating was 4.67 or above.

I picked the top ten for the list below, and they are sorted alphabetically by the name of the series. If you're looking for something to read, it can't hurt to start with one of the books below. You can't go wrong with any of them!


  • Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor - The writing is beautiful, and the story is creative. Laini Taylor is a master story-teller.
  • Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling - How could any favorite series list not include Harry Potter?? Not only did I think the series was great, but these books have influenced reading habits around the world like no other series I know of.
  • Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - Possibly my favorite YA series of all time, and the one that kicked off the YA dystopian wave of the last decade.
  • The Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff - I'm not sure if it's because I just finished it, but of all the series listed here, this might well be my favorite. A must read for everyone!
  • The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer - This series is not only the best set of fairy re-tellings I've ever read, they're also really good books.
  • Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson - I'm only counting the first trilogy that tells of Vin's and Elend's story, but from what I've read of the second trilogy so far, I don't expect the quality to suffer.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan - A great series for middle school readers to adults, and my favorite of Rick Riordan's mythology-based MG books.
  • Razorland by Ann Aguirre - This was a rare trilogy where, not only were all three books great, but they got better as the series progressed.
  • Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry - Even if you don't like zombies, you've got to read this series. This was one of the few series where I wished it wouldn't end because I liked the characters and the universe so much.
  • Themis Files by Sylvain Neuvel - A great trilogy for sci-fi fans, and if you happen to like giant robots like I do, you'll love it even more.

June 23, 2018

About that series I was planning to write...

In February of 2017, I posted that I was starting on a new YA Fantasy series. Some of you may be wondering how it's going. (And others of you may be wondering how you stumbled upon this blog in the first place and how you can leave, but that's a different story.)

I spent a good part of last spring and summer working on the first book in the series. I finished about 15,000 words but couldn't get any further. I tried writing a different part of the story line, revising my series outline, and taking a break to write other stories. None of it worked, and I was stuck. I'm still stuck.

The good news is that one of the other stories I wrote instead of working on the series became Beneath the Earth, which was published last month. However, the YA Fantasy series is unfortunately dead in the water for the time being. It's possible that I'll come back to it later, or a better idea for another YA series will come to mind.

I haven't completely given up the idea of writing a series though. I've actually been working on an adult thriller series this year. I've mentioned before that thrillers are my second-favorite genre after YA, and I once wrote a thriller for NaNoWriMo, although it was never published. The thriller series is coming along better so far. I've already completed 20,000 words and hope to finish the first draft this year. If things work out, the first book in the series could see the light of day next year!

May 10, 2018

Release announcement: Beneath the Earth

I'm excited to announce the release of my newest novel, Beneath the Earth! If you're a fan of "Tremors" or "Jaws" or stories about teenagers who run into something bad while camping, this book is for you!


Description:

Laura and her classmates have been looking forward to their senior camping trip for weeks. Three days on an island paradise, away from school and their parents. What more could they ask for? 

The camping trip starts out well enough. The island is scenic and just the kind of escape to nature that Laura had hoped for. However, cracks soon begin to appear in her plans. Her boyfriend ditches her to hang out with his friends. She has to share a room with one of the teachers. But those are the least of her worries. 

A student disappears, and no one can find him. Soon, Laura and the other students realize that the camping trip is anything but a dream vacation. There’s something else on the island. Something large and frightening. Something that lurks unseen beneath the earth. Something that welcomes the presence of the students because they will satisfy its appetite.  

Beneath the Earth is now available on Amazon for $2.99!

April 21, 2018

Cover reveal: Beneath the Earth

I'm getting ready to release a new book! It will be called Beneath the Earth, and I'm excited to show off the cover for it.


Description:

Laura and her classmates have been looking forward to their senior camping trip for weeks. Three days on an island paradise, away from school and their parents. What more could they ask for? 

The camping trip starts out well enough. The island is scenic and just the kind of escape to nature that Laura had hoped for. However, cracks soon begin to appear in her plans. Her boyfriend ditches her to hang out with his friends. She has to share a room with one of the teachers. But those are the least of her worries. 

A student disappears, and no one can find him. Soon, Laura and the other students realize that the camping trip is anything but a dream vacation. There’s something else on the island. Something large and frightening. Something that lurks unseen beneath the earth. Something that welcomes the presence of the students because they will satisfy its appetite.  

Beneath the Earth will be available in a few weeks!

April 8, 2018

Writing better female characters

 A few weeks ago, I started writing a thriller because thrillers are my second favorite genre to read (after YA speculative fiction). I was pretty stoked to dive into a new genre. Then I heard about the Stanch Book Prize, which is awarded to the best thriller in which "no woman is beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped or murdered." I'm not eyeing a Staunch Book Prize, but I thought that was a great thing to recognize because it does seem like every thriller I've read includes harm to women. Looking at the story I'm writing, though, it wouldn't qualify for the Staunch. I was going to follow the same tropes that I've read over and over again, and I was perpetuating the theme in the thriller genre of women as targets to be beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped, or murdered. Now I'm trying to figure out how to tell the story I wanted to tell without including those elements. I honestly don't know if I'll be able to meet the Staunch criteria, but I won't be treating my female victims differently than how I would treat male victims.

Shortly afterwards, I read Kameron Hurley's essay, "We Have Always Fought." (I urge everyone to read it. It's short. I'll wait for you.) It talks about what I had been thinking after learning of the Staunch Book Prize. It's easy to believe something if what you read and what you see on TV portrays it that way, even if it's not the truth. As Ms. Hurley says in her essay, "Populating a world with men, with male heroes, male people, and their 'women cattle and slaves' is a political act. You are making a conscious choice to erase half the world. As storytellers, there are more interesting choices we can make."

Finally, to top it off, I learned of the recent meme asking women authors to describe themselves as a male author would. If that didn't drive the point home, how about some examples of how male authors would have described their male characters the way they describe women?


As an author, I write primarily to entertain, especially for readers like myself who would enjoy the types of stories I enjoy reading. However, the longer I've been at it, and the older I've grown, the more I've become aware of the responsibilities of my writing. My words will be read by people I don't know and impact them in a way that's out of my control. I don't get to sit down and explain to them what I really believe or what I really meant by my stories.

YA happens to be a genre with many strong female protagonists, and by writing in that genre, it has made it easier for me to have strong female protagonists in my books. Yet, in reflecting on my own works, I see that I've still been lazy in following some gender stereotypes. Take my Driver series, for example. The protagonist is a teenage girl named Claire, and when I wrote the series, I made sure that she was the one in charge of what happens in the stories. Claire was the agent; she was not a passive bystander or just some guy's love interest or sidekick. Hopefully, I've succeeded in that. However, why is she the Driver? Why is a boy her Protector? There are two Drivers who figure prominently in the series, and they are both women. Their Protectors are both men. I imagined a world in which Drivers can be female or male (or non-binary), and the same goes with Protectors, but what I wrote doesn't support that. I should've done better.

The more I read in my favorite genres and the more I read about gender equality, the more I'm learning about what a true strong female character is like, and the kind of world they should inhabit. Authors have the advantage of not just writing to reflect the real world, but to create our own worlds to perpetuate the themes we want others to believe in. If enough stories are out there that portray women and men equally, maybe that will be the default thinking one day. I, for one, plan to work harder to do that in my stories.

March 23, 2018

National Chinchilla Day Sale

Some holidays don't get enough recognition: National Hat Day, Waffle Day, World UFO Day, and National Chinchilla Day, to name a few. I want to rectify that in a small way by celebrating National Chinchilla Day, which falls on March 23. And what better way to celebrate than by having a book sale! (Book sales make everything better!)


From now through the end of the weekend, YA author M.A. George and I are holding a National Chinchilla Day Sale. You can get all of her books and most of mine for the low, chinchilla-sized price of 99 cents, or in some cases, for FREE! Don't miss these savings. The chinchillas in your life will thank you.

Check out some of the titles available for sale:

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Make sure to head over to M.A. George's site and check out her books as well. You won't be disappointed! Not only is she an awesome author, but her book covers are much prettier than mine!