Book Review – GEORGE by Alex Gino – a TGNA post

 

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After a nice long break from participating in the The Great Noveling Adventure blog, I’ve decided to join the group again. I just missed it too much. I’ll only be posting once a month, which will be much easier on me and will allow me to pursue my other goals without becoming a burden.

Today is my day for July, and I’m posting a book review of that fantastic Middle Grade novel GEORGE by Alex Gino.

Here’s a preview:

Book Review George

Hello Adventurers! It’s wonderful to be back after a much needed break. I’ve kept busy on my own blog and have managed to do a fair amount of reading while I’ve been away. One of my favorite reads so far this year has been this slim, unassuming book with the simple design that packs quite an emotional punch. Leave it to a Middle Grade author to tackle such a huge topic like transgender and to get it so right. This is an important book that needs to be shared – with young and old alike.

On to the review!

To read the full post, click here.

We are also putting together TGNA’s second anthology, FALL FRIVOLITY, and you can be a part of it! To be considered, simply submit a short story of 1000 words or less with a fall theme to tgnasubmissions@gmail.com. We’re accepting submissions through August 1st. For full submissions guidelines, click here!

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#TBT Post – Great Dads in Literature

I wrote this #ThrowBackThursday post for The Great Novelizing Adventure blog and it was originally published on June 15, 2014. 


As today is the day we get to celebrate the great father figures in our lives, I thought I’d take a moment to pay homage to some of the fantastic literary dads that inspired, encouraged, and just made our favorite stories all the better for us having known them. As my dad was the one who instilled the love of reading in me, I dedicate this list of five great fictional dads to him.

Happy Father’s Day!

Arthur Weasley – The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling.HP 1Although he wasn’t Harry’s father, nor did he try to be Harry’s father, he played a very important supportive role. (He also taught us that not every great father figure has to be one’s actual father.) Arthur Weasley held a special place in his heart for Muggles and he taught his children that there were more important things in life than power or wealth. In an early confrontation with Lucius Malfoy where Lucius makes a disparaging remark about his family, Arthur states, “We have a very different idea of what disgraces the name of wizard, Malfoy.”

 

Clementine’s dad – CLEMENTINE by Sara Pennypacker.ClementineClementine is such wildly beautiful character. She reminds me of my daughter in some ways, with maybe a few more visits to the principal’s office under her belt. And her dad knows just what to do when she comes home from school after a really bad day, so bad that she doesn’t even want to talk about it, because her best friend’s mom sent a note to school saying, “Watch out that my daughter isn’t left alone with Clementine”.

When her dad comes in and sees her still wearing her mad face, he hands over the keys to the service elevator because he knows the only thing that will make her feel better is riding the service elevator. When she comes back, she overhears her parents talking about the note. Her mom is upset because they are treating Clementine as if she is a common criminal. Her dad laughs and says, “Well, that is insulting. There is absolutely nothing common about Clementine!”

 

Ken Dietz – PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ by A.S. King.Please Ignore Vera DietzKen Dietz is a high school drop out, turned accountant, and a recovering alcoholic. He believes he can keep Vera from making his mistakes by being brutally honest with her and by making her earn her way through life, regardless of whether or not the brutal honesty of finding out her mother worked as a stripper before she abandoned her when she was twelve might be utterly devastating or that making her work 40 hours a week while going to school to earn her own way may leave her virtually no time to do her homework.

He devours self-help books trying to be the best dad he can be and when Vera fails, he thinks these are his failures. He doesn’t give up and he still pushes and is still with her through her darkest moments. “With Vera, I’m trying to find ways to teach her how to grow her own self-esteem. I’m not sure if it’s working, but it’s all I have. Because my father left when I was three, I have no idea what a father is supposed to do, so I’m winging it.”

 

Atticus Finch – TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee.To Kill a MockingbirdAtticus is the epitome of compassion, and courage. He teaches Scout and her brother Jem that they should not shoot mockingbirds with their air rifles because it’s a sin. Mockingbirds never harm other living creatures. He defends a black man accused of rape, even though he knows it won’t end well. He also discourages Scout from fighting with others to defend him because of backlash from the trial. He tells Jem, “I wanted you to see what real courage is. Instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, and but begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.” He also teaches Scout that you can’t judge someone until you see from their point of view, “until you climb around in his skin and walk around in it.”

 

Eddard Stark – A GAME OF THRONES by George R.R. Martin.Game of ThronesThis character’s untimely demise sparks off a war and chaos of monumental portions, which speaks to his character’s regard, not just from his family, but those who followed him. Eddard Stark, the Lord of Winterfell, teaches his sons that to understand what it’s like to disperse justice, they must be the hand that directs the blow. “The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword.” When he is asked by the king to leave home and come to the capital to help run the entire country, he does his duty, against his heart. When he sees corruption, he speaks out and tries to address it. Although he is not without fault, he does seem to be the only one there with good intentions.

That’s that’s my list of five honorable fathers of literature. I know that’s just a starting place. I’m sure there are many more.

Can you name any of your favorites?

L.S. Mooney – Author Interview

L.S. Mooney is the second TGNA alumni member I’m interviewing here on the blog. (Jenny Adams Perinovic was the first – and one day, I shall have them all!) I first met L.S. Mooney while working together on the TGNA group blog, The Great Noveling Adventure. I’ve enjoyed being a part of that group so much! We’ve all grown in our writing and been through so much together, and we continue to support each other through our creative journeys. Such a fantastic group of ladies! 

L.S. is a binge reader, ballet dancer, and crazy cat lover. And she sometimes writes contemporary YA about quirky girls, the friends who love them, and the boys they don’t really need. She is a big fan of roadtrips and exploring new places, but she is a Midwest girl at heart and an enthusiastic alumna of The Ohio State University.

She is also the Social Media Manager for the Bookish Group Press, an indie publishing collective dedicated to producing Young Adult and New Adult books of all genres. Through this entity, she has her first novel, THOROUGHLY MODERN MIRELLA.

First, let’s learn a little bit about her debut novel:

The Booktmm-front

THOROUGHLY MODERN MIRELLA by L.S. Mooney

Published by: Bookish Group Press

Release Date: April 12, 2016

Genres: YA Contemporary

Order the eBook:  Kindle Edition (US)  · Kindle Edition (UK)  ·  Nook  · Kobo  
Order a Paperback:  Amazon

 

 

Plot Summary:

In a small town like Paradise, everyone has a role.

High school senior Mirella Danville is a proud “theatre nerd.” That is, until she makes a scene at the Halloween party she shouldn’t have even gone to, flirts with the football captain, and reunites with an old friend who ditched her for the popular crew.

It’s a dream come true when Mirella lands the lead in the musical Thoroughly Modern Millie, and it should put her firmly back in her usual role. Instead, it only fuels her desire to change up her boring existence so that her first kiss won’t be onstage with a gorilla-handed junior. The line between Mirella and her character blurs as she dives head first into a world of fruity flavored cigarillos, sweet and sour schnapps, and college boys.

But when her antics–and the expectations of her hot college boyfriend–start to cause drama off the stage, Mirella questions her decision to be more “Millie” than “Mirella.” With her friendships, family, and performance on the verge of crumbling, Mirella has to get back into character…or risk losing herself.


The Interview

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LS Mooney with Jenny Adams Perinovic at her book launch for THOROUGHLY MODERN MIRELLA

Valerie Lawson: Tell us about the inspiration for this story.

L.S. Mooney: Thoroughly Modern Millie was my senior show in high school and it was an incredibly fun show to be a part of. Now, before you run off thinking Mirella’s story is mine, I assure you I was not Millie even if my experience in the show was the first spark. Except, it really wasn’t. Not really. I started writing this book 7 years later after choreographing my first high school show and full of pride for my wonderful students.

VL: Ah! I have fond memories from my teen theatre life, too! Great source of inspiration.

I love the title of you book – the play on words and the plot summary all add up to the promise of a really fun read. What else can you tell us about this story?

LSM: Ah! I’m blushing!

I have such a hard time knowing what to say about this story without it feeling like it’s a spoiler. But fundamentally, TMM is about friendship, boys, small town life, and musicals. There is also definitely a vintage Firebird involved. Just saying.

VL: I love how you injected your love of theatre into your book. Tell us more about your background working in theatre and how it influenced Mirella’s story.

LSM: I’ve been in a lot of shows and worked on even more. And it has really shaped me as a person. My ideas of hard work, commitment, fairness, dealing with disappointment, and staying humble, etc. They all come from my experiences in the arts (both theatre & ballet). And some of my BEST memories also come from those long hours spent in the auditoriums, studios, dressing rooms, and everywhere in between.

My book is dedicated to my musical families, past and present, and I sincerely mean that. I was a weird kid in high school – still am actually – and my high school musical helped me find my family and realize weird was fabulous. However, it was coming back as an adult to the program I had been a student participant in that really made me want to write this story. I had the incredible experience of working as choreographer on 14 elementary school musicals then stage manager & choreographer on three high school shows with phenomenal groups of students that have forever changed my life.

There are pieces of those lessons, those families, and those experiences throughout Mirella’s story.

VL: That’s fantastic! The theatre is definitely a welcoming place for the weird (aka TALENTED and CREATIVE) to find a home, and to flourish. 

Who were your heroes/role models growing up? What drew you to them?

LSM: This is going to sound weird, but we’ve established that I am weird. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was absolutely my role model. I loved that she was kickass and feminine. That she could slay in her halter top and boots and was still stronger than Riley in more ways than one. That she could go on a date and save the world in one night. I realize as I’m typing this that it explains A LOT about my allergy to free time and severe penchant for over-committing myself. I watched Buffy slay hell hounds and still make it to prom, why can’t I stage manage a show, perform in one myself, and write a book all while in grad school?

VL: I love Buffy. She kicks ass. And I heard Stephen Chbosky (of PERKS OF A BEING A WALLFLOWER fame) say at a conference once that he learned a lot about the page turn from watching Buffy. Excellent endorsement right there.

Who was your childhood best friend?

LSM: I am so fortunate to say that I met my childhood best friend Megan in dance class when we were five. We were in the musical together in junior high and high school and, although we now live several states apart, she is still one of my best friends. And she flew nearly 1000 miles for my book launch party.

My other best friend, Ashley, and I met freshman year of high school. She was never a huge fan of the time I spent at the musical but we were doubles partners on the tennis team, and there were definitely a few lesbian rumors. Though our lives are in very different places, we are still incredibly. She helps me be my most me.

VL: What’s the worst job you ever had while going to high school?

LSM: In high school I worked the dunk tank at my town festival (I lived in a town a lot like Paradise) for three summers. It was …intense. I wasn’t properly dry for four days, we recited Shakespeare to annoy people, and literally everyone I knew threw balls at me.

But actually, it wasn’t that horrible; it’s hilarious looking back on. Way worse was the summer in college that I spent making phone calls to alumni asking for donations. That was pure torture.

VL: Ugh! That would be way worse. Drown me, please.

You took on the daunting process of self-publishing for the book. Tell us about that decision and why it was right for you, for this project. Did you have that goal in mind when you started out or did this evolve throughout your writing process?

LSM: I definitely did not originally think I wanted to self-publish. We all have that big book deal dream, right? So I did a few pitch contests on Twitter and did two small rounds of querying. However, after watching Jenny Adams Perinovic rock the socks off self-publishing with her debut, I realized I didn’t even want to sell this book anymore because it was too close to my heart to let anyone else control it.

So, yes it was an evolution, but a short one. And after release I’m still positive it was the right choice for me but I couldn’t have made that choice without Jenny and Sarah at Bookish Group Press. They are literally the best.

VL: They do put out some beautiful work! If you’re going to self-publish, I say, do it right and get a great team behind you. That seems to make all the difference.

What surprised you most about the process of writing this first book and publishing it yourself? What wisdom would you impart to fellow writers thinking about going through the same thing?

LSM: Oh, geez. I’m not an expert, and I asked Jenny Adams Perinovic SO MANY QUESTIONS about everything. But I think my best advice would be to find a community, find critique partners, find people who love your characters as much as you do.

I horded my writing for a long time and realized that you can’t get any better if you’re the only one reading it. Also, I recommend following you gut. Whatever that means to you!

VL: Excellent advice! My critique group is my creative lifeline. They keep me going when I want to give up, and they know how to push me farther than I thought possible. I’m a much better writer because of them.

What has been your favorite book to read over the past year?

LSM: I am incapable of choosing just one. I read too many phenomenal books this year. I will say that Jenny Bravo’s THESE ARE THE MOMENTS ripped my heart apart in the best way and Sarah Rees Brennan’s conclusion of THE LYNBURN LEGACY was perfection. Also SIMON VS THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA and FIRST FROST by Sarah Addison Allen.

VL: LOVED loved loved SIMON VS THE HOMO SAPIENS! And thanks for some more interesting titles to look into.

What’s next for you? What are you currently working on?

LSM: Technically I’m currently writing my Masters thesis but I’m pretty sure that isn’t what you meant…

Fiction wise, I’m not doing a ton but I’ve got a bunch of things started. I’ve got a NA retelling of the ballet Giselle that I’m kind of obsessed with but it’s incredibly hard to write so it’s slow. I’m also tentatively drafting a companion novel to TMM set 7 years later. It might never see the light of day, but it’s fun to play with my teenage characters as 25 year-olds!

VL: All sounds intriguing – and the thesis is a fairly big deal! Can’t wait to read more from you! Thanks so much for stopping by and speaking with us, L.S. It’s been a pleasure! Good luck with your book!

 

Learn more about L.S. Mooney here.

Follow her on Twitter here.

The Christmas Train – Flash Fiction for the Holidays

I first wrote this post for The Great Noveling Adventure blog, and it was originally published on December 18, 2013. 

This was my entry for our Christmas flash fiction contest, and my first attempt at writing flash fiction. Using one of five given pictures, we had to create a Christmas-themed story in 1000 words or less.


 

I’ve always struggled with writing prompt exercises, so I wasn’t sure how well this would go. Although this was definitely challenging, I ended up having a lot of fun writing this story, despite the morose tone. I found my mind dwelling on the heartache of this season and how we can feel our losses most intensely during this time of year. Bombarded with images of happy people and family-togetherness could be unbearable for some. That’s where this story came from, deep within the macabre recesses of my mind.

I hope you enjoy it!

 

christmas-prompt-5

THE CHRISTMAS TRAIN

The happiest day of my life was with Flynn.

“Meet me in the square by the holiday village,” he said.

“Why?” I asked.

“It’s a surprise,” he said. “Wait and see.” I heard him chuckle before he hung up, unable to restrain his excitement.

I was terrible at waiting, so I rushed through the streets filled with Christmas. I spotted him among the twinkling lights, smiling with his whole face. I raced across the space separating us. He caught me in a crushing hug, the smell of cinnamon clung to his clothes. I wondered for a moment where he’d been.

“Have you been baking?” I rubbed my cold nose against his. He laughed and then set me down gently, keeping a hold of my hand.

“I’ll never tell.” He held his other hand behind him. “Ready to take a ride?”

“Where? Is that the surprise? Show me, show me!” I reached behind his back. He laughed some more and I could feel it rumbling through his body. He fought to keep me from grabbing his hand. Finally he gave in and offered up the prize. Two tickets for the Christmas train. I squealed and hugged him even tighter.

“I thought we could visit St. Nick, maybe tell him what we want most,” he said. Flynn knew I hadn’t had much of a traditional family upbringing, no special Christmas traditions, no big family gatherings. Mostly because my parents were too tired from working a million jobs just to keep that leaky roof over our heads. Flynn wanted to give me something I’d missed out on, a piece of childhood magic.

We strolled through the different holiday scenes, with me gripping our tickets to keep them safe. I felt so happy and light. The smiling children, all bundled up with their bright cheeks glowing. The smell of hot cider.

Lights.

Trees.

Snow.

Was there snow?

I don’t remember. I wish I’d paid more attention to the details. I do remember riding the Christmas train, swaying back and forth as it trundled down the track, Flynn holding me close as we stared out the windows. I never wanted the train to stop. I remember kissing Flynn after we arrived at the North Pole station. Soft, welcoming lips. Cold breath puffing out between us in little clouds. Flynn’s ice blue eyes exploring my face. He was searching for something.

Did he not find it?

Is that why he’s gone?

I received a letter the day after he left us. Nothing about why or about how he’d miss me, just a heart-breaking poem about trees. Solitary and untouched in a wood never traveled. An ache in my side dug a sharp pang of loss deep into my soul and crept over to my heart, plunging it into an ice bath of separateness. Aloneness.

Alone.

He left me alone.

I tried to recapture the sense of magic he shared with me that day. I put up a tree; it only reminded me of him. His uncontainable spirit couldn’t handle this world. How was I supposed to go on without him? I stripped off the glass balls, breaking branches and smearing my hands with resin. I smashed every single one on the pristine ceramic tile.

Pop. Pop. Pop!

Like melodic tinkling explosions; the sound that killed Christmas. He was everywhere I turned, and nowhere at the same time.

This year, Christmas has lost all its color, it’s meaning. The lights don’t illuminate me. The food has lost its taste. I never walk down that road anymore. Afraid his ghost will brush the wind against my lips, an ephemeral kiss empty of substance, and bring on an aching I can’t overcome.

The holiday smells of pine and cider and cinnamon enrage me.

Strangers smile.

“Merry Christmas,” they say in passing.

I restrain myself from punching them in the face. From screaming at them, “How can you be happy when Flynn is gone?”

I blame them for not knowing him and for making him disappear.

He was my joy.

He is gone.

A couple oblivious to my despair, races towards each other in unbridled ecstasy. The handsome young man catches his lover in strong, hopeful arms and raises her up into a familiar crushing hug. It’s too much. How can they flaunt their happiness in front of me? Can’t they feel my pain rolling off me like angry tidal waves?

I cannot endure another day.

I write my own letter, a poem about the ocean and it’s vast emptiness. I make a final trek back to the scene of our happiest time and tuck the poem deep inside the boughs of the enormous spruce tree, all covered in lights. Maybe someone will find it. Maybe someone will understand.

I step out in front of the Christmas train.

Bright lights, pain, blood, and snow.

This time there is definitely snow.

Great Reads Make Great Gifts – a TGNA post

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It’s Travel Tuesday over at The Great Noveling Adventure and I’m sharing some great lists of top reads of the year for all of you bibliophiles out there.

 

 

Here’s a preview:

It’s a bibliophile’s favorite time of year – the time of year when everyone reveals their top picks for the best reads of the year!

This is where book addicts of every stripe can indulge their habit, and find even more books to love. If you or someone dear to you has an empty space on a bookshelf that needs to be filled with a good story, a wonderful new book to make you (*cough* or a friend) feel whole again, here are some fabulous top reading lists to check out.

Do your part to help orphan books find a forever home.

Adopt a new (or gently used) book, today!

 

 

To see the rest of the post, and to view all the fabulous links, click here.

 

 

TweetIf you’d like some company as you write, please join us each week day morning on Twitter!

I host AM #wordsprints over on the TGNA group Twitter handle @Novel_Adventure from 6-8am CST. We sprint in 20 minute blocks with ten minute breaks in between each session. This season, I’m throwing in some fun challenges each day to keep things interesting.

Hope to see you there!

In Celebration of Banned Books Week – a TGNA post

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Surprise! Two posts in one day.

It’s Travel Tuesday over at The Great Noveling Adventure and I’m sharing ways that you can celebrate Banned Books Week.

I had the pleasure of attending the most amazing event last night put on by our local Booksmart Tulsa group. I had the opportunity to hear the phenomenal Salman Rushdie speak.

Outstanding! Inspiring!

Talk about the ultimate way to kick off this week. I applaud the gang at Booksmart Tulsa for pulling off the greatest Banned Books Week event.

EVER.

I have no idea how they will ever top that.

For some ideas on how you can celebrate this most revered of bookish holidays, check out this excellent blog post.

Here’s a preview:

 

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The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) – I looove that they have an office devoted to this! – promotes awareness to book challenges and at the same time celebrates freedom of speech during Banned Books Week, what an awesome thing!

And that week is now. YAY!

For this Travel Tuesday, I am supplying you with fantastic links so you can participate in this great event.

I know, I know…you’re very welcome.

To see the rest of the post (which will show all the fabulous links, as well as a great visual aid depicting last year’s most challenged books) click here.

I’d love to hear about how you’re celebrating and what you’re reading for Banned Books Week, too.

 

TweetIf you’d like some company as you write, please join us each week day morning on Twitter!

I host AM #wordsprints over on the TGNA group Twitter handle @Novel_Adventure from 6-8am CST. We sprint in 20 minute blocks with ten minute breaks in between each session. This season, I’m throwing in some fun challenges each day to keep things interesting.

Hope to see you there!

Welcome Back to the Adventure – a TGNA post

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It’s Media Monday over at The Great Noveling Adventure and we are returning from our summer vacation. I’m discussing what those that are new to our blog can expect to find each day, along with a little motivational surprise at the end.

Here’s a preview:

Media Monday

Welcome back, everyone!

I hope you’re ready for a new season of great writing adventures. We at TGNA are ready, and we hope you’ll join us every week day for a different themed post as we travel along together.

For those who are new to the blog, here’s what to expect:

Media Mondays: These posts will share media gifts with a literary theme for our readers – downloads, printables, playlists, and more.

Travel Tuesdays: These posts will focus on guest posts, interviews, informative link roundups, and sometimes even posts that are actually about travel.

Writing Wednesdays: Excellent craft posts about writing, from beginnings to revisions, and for all levels of ability. You won’t want to miss them.

Things I’ve Read Thursdays: Book reviews! Posts where we get to talk about the thing we love most – books!

List of Five Fridays: Our most intriguing and surprising posts come from our favorite things. A list of five favorites can be anything that inspire us.

To see the rest of the post, click here.

TweetWith the return of TGNA blog posts, comes the return of weekday morning wordsprints on Twitter.

If you’d like some company as you write, please join us! I host AM #wordsprints over on the TGNA group Twitter handle @Novel_Adventure weekdays from 6-8am CST. We sprint in 20 minute blocks with ten minute breaks in between each session. This season, I’m throwing in some fun challenges each day to keep things interesting.

Hope to see you there!