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Reflections on the #AtoZChallenge

by Donna Huber For the A to Z Challenge, I discussed different book genres/categories. Each day, I gave a few details about the genre/catego...

May 1, 2015

What Was I Writing About? (@SatisWrites)

by Chris

The Redemption of Erath
Most stories center around the adventures of a small group of primary characters. We see events unfold through their eyes, witness their experiences, and feel their emotions. We like to think the story is about them. Often, the story is named after the titular character: Harry Potter, The Hobbit, The Hardy Boys, James Bond … all of this implies the story we are about to engage with is about a particular person, people or creatures.

When I started writing my own series of novels, The Redemption of Erâth, I chose the title for a specific reason. The word ‘Erâth’ refers to both the world in which the story is set, and the main character, Brandyé Dui-Erâth. The ‘redemption’ is of both the world and the man. But as I continue to write (well into the third novel now), I’ve come to realize that the story is not necessarily about Brandyé, or even the world of Erâth. Other characters have reared their head, resurfaced after dozens of chapters of absence, and proclaimed: “This story is about me, too!”.

There are many notable examples of stories that started out about one thing, and became eventually about something else entirely. Perhaps the most famous example I can think of is Star Wars. When A New Hope was released in 1977, it told a wonderful, swashbuckling tale of underdog adventurers in a dangerous galaxy ruled by a tyrannical empire. Of course, we didn’t really see much of the empire, so to speak: the only planets that serve as settings aren’t part of the empire itself, and the entirety of the totalitarian regime is reduced to a single battle station. The story was essentially about Luke Skywalker.

This theme progressed through The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi, with character progression for not just Luke but Leia and Han serving as the primary driving device behind the stories. Yes, we learned more about Darth Vader, including the shocking revelation of The Empire Strikes Back, but ultimately the story was of how Luke Skywalker defeats the empire.

Except it wasn’t about that at all. Enter the prequels (for all their dubious quality), and the story is suddenly about something else entirely: it’s about Anakin’s rise from childhood to become the most powerful Jedi the galaxy has ever known, his fall from grace, and his eventual redemption. Think about it for a second: it isn’t Luke that eventually defeats the Emperor—it’s Anakin.

Another example of a story that took on a different life is the Chronicles of Narnia. When I first read The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe as a child, it was a perfectly sound fantasy about a group of children entering a make-believe world. It stood on its own. But come the sequels (and prequel), it becomes truthfully about Aslan, and the rise and downfall of Narnia. C.S. Lewis didn’t dispute the allegorical significance of his tales, in which Aslan symbolizes Jesus Christ. In a way, the remaining cast are no more than disciples.

The question that remains in my mind when I read such stories is, how much of the hidden story—the true story—was intentional from the outset, and how much developed as the writer found their way?

April 30, 2015

My Blog Doesn't Need to be Babysat

by Donna Huber

It has been on very busy week. I wasn't even sure if I would even write a post for today. One, I didn't have a topic, and two, I wasn't sure I would have the time since I didn't get to it over the weekend. Let me tell you about my busy week and what I learned.

It is the end of the spring semester at the university that I work at which means it is time for my department's annual symposium. It is a large regional conference that usually last one day. Yet, this year we celebrated the 25th year of the symposium and expanded it to 2 days and a reception. As publicity manager I had a number of duties this year and wound up working nearly 12 hours on Tuesday, the first day of the symposium that ended with a reception.

As you may know, a couple of weeks ago I took on a new job: editorial manager of an academic journal. Of course, I had a deadline Wednesday. As you can probably tell Tuesday was extremely busy. When I wasn't needed for the symposium, I was attempting to ready manuscripts for production. There was little time for a bathroom break let alone an opportunity to manage my blog.

Typically I use a few minutes in the morning to send my posts to Google+ and linking up to any memes that the post is appropriate for. There was no time during the day and by the time I got home I was too exhausted to do anything more than get ready for bed. (I typically post about that days post on Facebook in the evenings).

Yet, my blog saw little negative impact. Actually page views were up compared to Monday. So what did I learn? I don't have to babysit my blog - it doesn't need to be watched constantly.

I have done a few things that makes my blog function independently.

  1. Schedule posts. This is biggest lifesaver for a blogger. Getting all, or at least most of, the posts for the week scheduled over the weekend means my weekdays are a bit more free. The biggest problem I have with this is accidentally setting a post for 7:30 PM instead of AM. 
  2. New posts are automatically tweeted. Occasionally there is a hiccup and a tweet doesn't go out, but in 4 years it has been a rare occurrence.
  3. Connected to a few Tribes through Triberr, I might not have had time to share my own post, but my fellow tribe members share my posts. (I usually have a full day of posts scheduled in my Triberr stream so I was still sharing tribe posts on Tuesday and Wednesday).
  4. Regular contributors. The post on Tuesday was a review by one of my staff reviewers - Claire. I had already told her the post was scheduled so she knew and was able to promote it to her own network.
The only negative impact I observed for Tuesday, was the post was set to be part of the 1st Chapter, 1st Paragraph meme. However, I didn't have time to link the post and, therefore, missed out on comments. A solution to this was to have asked Claire to link the post herself, but as it is a task I typically do I didn't think about needing to delegate it.

Now I wouldn't recommend never showing a little attention to your blog during the week. While I didn't get to do the morning routine on Wednesday, I did boost views with posting it on Facebook yesterday evening. But it is nice that everything won't fall apart if life gets little too busy once in awhile (and I think as bloggers we think things will).

Bottom line: Don't worry so much about leaving your blog unattended for a day or two.

April 29, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday: Shelter Us by Laura Nicole Diamond

by Donna Huber

Shelter Us

Since the death of her newborn baby, lawyer-turned-stay-at-home mom Sarah Shaw has been struggling to keep it together for her law professor husband and two young sons. With her husband burying himself in his career and her friendships all having withered, she is lost in a private world of grief. Then one day, walking in LA, Sarah s heart catches at the sight of a young homeless woman pushing a baby in a stroller and saving them becomes her mission. An unlikely bond grows between Sarah and the mother, Josie, whose pride and strained relationship with her own mother prevent her from going home to Oakland. Through her friendship with Josie, Sarah slowly learns that those we love are never far, even in death and that sometimes it is the people we set out to save who save us. Shelter Us speaks to the quiet joys and anxieties of parenthood, and illuminates the place all parents know: that shadowy space between unconditional love and fear of unbearable loss."

Available June 2015
Buy Shelter Us at Amazon

I have an advance copy and have already started it. So far I'm really liking it.

Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon through the above link. Thank you for supporting this blog.

April 28, 2015

Review: When the Crows Fly Low by V. J. Patterson

by Claire Rees

When the Crows Fly Low

November 12, 1982
Will Lawson knew the exact moment God left him. The memory came to him while standing at the giant arching entrance gates of Hilltop Gardens, set in the countryside of Doyle, Tennessee. There was an old crumbling church sitting off to the right from where he stood and its holy presence sparked those dim dungeons deep within his mind. For a brief moment, he considered entering the weathered building, to seek solace only God could offer. Feeling drawn to it, he took a few steps toward the church, almost forgetting the choice he'd made forty-five years ago. Oh yeah, he thought to himself, I remember. He felt as if God himself had reached down and smacked him the wrist. Standing with his gaze locked upon the building one thought resonated above all others, God, Will was confident, offers no solace for murderers.

The Review

Will's young carefree life is taken from him the instant he sees his father murdered in front of him. He feels the murder is his fault, if only he had been home sooner or had attacked the murderer better then his father would still be alive. From this moment on he becomes a different person struggling to get over his father's death he turns to fighting, gambling and women until he meets Sarah Williams the new school teacher in town.  Despite not wanting to like Will because of his reputation for the ladies and drinking,  Sarah is instantly drawn to Will and wants to get to know him better. Will falls for Sarah quickly and tries his hardest to stay away from her, not to give her a bad name by spending time with her but in the end he gives in. They spend many amazing life changing months together and things are going great for them until his father's murderer is released from prison. A number of events and meetings with this man, Will and his family eventually lead Will to commit a murder. After  the court case he is not willing to tarnish Sarah's name any further so he leaves her and his family to start fresh elsewhere.

Many years later when Sarah is old and married with kids and grandchildren of her own she receives a letter from Will delivered by his younger brother Lee. It describes how Will was feeling from the moment he left her until the moment he died. He details the love he felt for her and the regrets he had at acting the way he did.

When the Crows Fly Low is written partly as a story about past events and from the viewpoint of Will who does this via a letter to Sarah written the night before he dies.

I must admit I'm not one for romance books and I originally thought that this book was about demons from hell but it is actually about facing your inner demons.

When the Crows Fly Low is incredibly well written and so heart warming in places and heart wrenching in others. You will definitely feel sympathy and empathy for the main characters and the book will have you hooked from the first chapter. The ending was very emotional and written so well my eyes were watering and will pull on your heart strings. It is about a true love lost but also about living your life and not just surviving through it.

I recommend it to all who love a good story with strong characters and emotional scenes.

Buy When the Crows Fly Low at Amazon

Book info
available formats: ebook and print (374 pages)
published: February 2015
ISBN13: 9781511441711
genre: romance, suspense
audience: young adult, adult
read: April 2015

Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon through the above link. Thank you for supporting this blog.

April 27, 2015

Review: When You Leave by Monica Ropal

by Donna Huber

When You Leave
Have you ever read a book that was so good that it made all that followed pale in comparison? That is exactly how I feel after reading When You Leave by Monica Ropal. It was beautifully written with rich characters.

Cassie is a slightly troubled high school student. She grew up poor after her dad walked out on her mom and brother. Recently her mom has remarried and they have been moved to the better side of town and Cassie is at a private school. Cassie and her friends from the "wrong side of the tracks" have always promised themselves that they would get themselves out poverty. And Cassie knows this school will get her into a good college. But that doesn't mean she has to be friends with any of these snobby rich kids. She escapes each afternoon on her skateboard with her real friends.

However, a serendipitous encounter with the boy whose locker is next to hers has her getting closer than she ever imagined she would to any of the preppy school kids. But her greatest fear is realized - Cooper leaves her. Not by choice. He's murdered and worse yet, one of her best friends is accused.

This young adult murder mystery is full of emotion and the reader is transported within the pages of the story. I didn't want to put it down and was constantly thinking about it. The characters are varied enough that I'm sure every reader could identify with at least one of the characters. And though it is a young adult novel, the writing is sophisticated enough to be enjoyed by adults.

When You Leave was also a nice reprieve from the multitude of dystopian fantasy novels that are currently gracing bookstore shelves. It was also wasn't a silly angst ridden story of boy meets girl. There is definitely some meat to this story. Even though I had trouble putting the book down, I didn't feel like I was breezing through it. The pacing was spot on.

I highly recommend When You Leave by Monica Ropal. But do beware that after reading it you may be disappointed with your next book.

Buy When You Leave by Amazon

Book info
available formats: ebook and print (336 pages)
published: April 2015 by Running Press Kids
ISBN13: 9780762454556
genres: mystery
audience: young adult
source: Publisher
read: March 2015

A free book was provided for this review. Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon through the above link. Thank you for supporting this blog.