Sunday, February 23, 2014

A View of Reviews (or What I Like About You, You Really Know How to Write*)

*with apologies to The Romantics

Tip of the Day: Only 82 days until the Rochester Teen Book Festival! If you are anywhere near Rochester, NY on May 17th, you must come to this FREE event featuring 30 authors!

As a book reviewer for VOYAGenesee Valley Parent Magazine, and the RACWI newsletter, and after commenting on a thread about starred reviews in the SCBWI Discussion Board (as created by picture book author Verla Kay), I've been thinking lately a lot about how I approach reviews.

Of course we all have favorite genres of books, topics we'll gravitate towards without question, and authors we'll pick up no matter what the book is about. But within those books there are aspects that make us really, really like some more than others.

*Please note that I'm focusing on novels in this discussion.*

And in books that are not part of my usual repertoire, I can still fall in love with them if they rock in one or more of three areas.

What are those three things?

Why voice, characters, and page-turning plots of course!

So if a book in any genre stands out in any of these areas as compared to the 150-200 other books I read each year, then I'll give it an above average rating or review. And if it stands out so much that I can't stop talking about it or telling others that they must read it, then I'll give it a glowing review.

A recent read that has made this most latter list?

Not only is main character Mo LeBeau smart, funny, honest, and caring with a sharp voice that makes me smile on every page, but she's joined by a cast of additional fabulous characters. If you enjoy middle grade novels at all, you must read this book and THREE TIMES LUCKY (the first Mo LeBeau book) as well.

For the sake of more examples, I'll tell you what I love about each of the Author2Author Misses' work and why they stand out to me. :)

Kate -- her plots are smart and make me think about new worlds, and her characters have witty lines that make me laugh out loud and want them to succeed.

Emily -- her plots are high concept and seem to write themselves, and her first-person voice is hilarious.

Tina -- her plots are well-crafted and fit together like a sharp puzzle, and her characters' honesty and naivete are refreshing and fun to follow as they get into hijinks.

Megg -- her characters kick butt and lead the plots instead of letting the plots lead them.

What aspect of a novel make you love them more than others you have read lately?

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

My Milkshake Brings All the Boys to the Book...Wha'?

Tip of the Day: A2A contributor Kristina Springer has a FREE young adult novel for download today. Check out Boy Swap on Amazon!!!!! Also for free is her short story, Cart Princess. And her novel Paparazzi Project is 99 cents!

All of my books up to this point have been female-oriented. Every main character has been female. All the books have been in first person...and I've faced a lot of criticism for having too little romance and too much action.!buybooks/c1xdrThey're probably right. I'm not a girly girl. I'm the girl all the guys want to hang out with. Not because I have big boobs or flirt or whatever - but because I'm into guy stuff.

The majority of novels I read are written by men, for men. They involve explosions, mysteries, and hot & fast sex with little romance. Not to say I don't enjoy a good romance once in a while, but, for me, that is an exception. I prefer action-adventure movies over sweet comedies. I'd rather spend an evening in sweats playing video games than be taken out.

With HIDDEN, I decided to let go of everything I thought I was supposed to do. I wrote with my man's mind. I wasn't gentle to my characters. I didn't have a lot of kissy romance (though there is some quick & dirty sex). I hacked creatures to bloody pulps. I exacted cruelty on my characters. They live and die by the sword. And things just get worse in the next book in the series, HUNTED.

For the first time in my writing career, I'm getting feedback from men. They love the covers (a few women have written me and said they hate them). Women who are readers of my earlier books are writing me and telling me their husbands and sons are enjoying HIDDEN even more than they are. I have male fans!

I can't tell you how exciting this is to me. I know there are a lot of women out there like me who enjoy reading men's adventure fiction and would rather watch The Expendables than the newest romcom. I'm so happy they're reading my books!!!! if I can reach men, admittedly a smaller reading population than women, I'll be thrilled. My only concern........will men go out of their way to buy an action-adventure fantasy written by a woman? I don't know.

I seriously considered publishing HIDDEN under a fake male name. Or using initials. But, I figured, screw that. If indie publishing has taught me anything, it's that we can be and do anything we want. Why hide the fact I'm a girl? Just because I have a vagina, it doesn't mean I can't write with some grit.

I'm excited to see where these books lead me. It's been a blast writing them. Since I'm not writing specifically for teen girls anymore, I can let loose with the plot. I don't have to be afraid. It's so liberating.

Let's all keep our fingers crossed that my Dragonlands series can do it. I want men to take a chance on them!

Megg, Miss Enchanted ePubber

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Picture Book Remix (or Short and Sweet and Funny)

Tip of the Day: This has been seen in the wilds of B&N! Pick up your paperback copy and laugh hysterically today.

My first Book Nook column is up in the February edition of Genesee Valley Parent Magazine! I am very excited about this for a number of reasons:

1. It is my first review writing gig that is paying me in actual dollars

2. GVPM is a fantastic locally owned and run publication with quality articles, relevant ads, and great distribution. Plus they are a sponsor for the Rochester Children's Book Festival.

3. I was "forced" to spend time reading picture books

Some of you may be thinking, "Forced to read picture books? Don't you work at the Children's Reference Desk for seven hours each week in your library? How are you not reading picture books? Besides, don't they take about two minutes each to read?"

The answer to all of these questions is YES. But the truth of the matter is:

a. When I work in the Children's Center, people usually ask for books about a certain thing (trains, dinosaurs, trucks, etc.), not for general recommendations about anything...and if they do, I have some go-to titles that I love (books by Tammi Sauer, Audrey Vernick, Anna Alter, and Jean Reidy to name a few).

b. Believe it or not, librarians do not actually sit around and read all day at work. Not even if each picture book only takes two minutes each. Those two minutes add up to time you are supposed to be spending on ordering, doing reference, answering emails, doing PR, running programs, planning events, etc.

c. I focus most of my reading on YA and MG because they DO take longer to read, and patrons can more easily flip through a picture book to see if it appeals to them than a novel.

That said, reviewing picture books for GVPM has been so much fun! Article due dates have driven me to check out and read lots of them at home, compare them, and actually know and love some of the Caldecott Winners this year. And you know what else about picture books?

They are so stinkin' cute and funny! Don't believe me? Or do? Either way, try some of these:

Will this make me want to try my hand at writing a picture book text? I only have once and it was a disaster, but perhaps if inspiration strikes, I will now have some masters in mind to use as inspiration and motivation....

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing