I get asked A LOT to recommend books. Last night on Twitter, someone asked me to recommend middle grade SFF books with a female protagonist. I didn't have any good answers so I turned around and posed the question to my own Twitter followers. Since this wasn't the first time I've been asked this particular question, and since I have a middle grade reader in my household, I thought I would compile a list of the books tweeted to me.
As usual, Twitter was very kind and dozens of people enthusiastically jumped into the fray, tweeting titles at me. I managed to keep up and have listed them here in the order I received them. I recognize some of these as being YA but some MG readers are ready for YA, especially if there's a dearth of MG stuff they enjoy reading. I have added links to Amazon for some of them. I'll try to update it in time. It's time consuming to add that many links! Based on what I've seen so far, most of these recommendations are excellent choices for children to read!
***Keep in mind--these have not been vetted for age-appropriateness. Do your due diligence and research the titles before you buy for your favorite Middle Grade or Young Adult aged kiddo. If you keep a keen eye out, many of the books have suggested reading ages right in the descriptions!***
The Alien Chronicles has been published on Amazon and the reception has been wonderful! It's currently poised at #8 in Science Fiction Anthologies with 12 5-star reviews. The early mentions of my story, The Grove have been positive, which is very exciting, because The Grove is a prequel to another novel I hope to publish in late 2015 or early 2016 (after the sequel to Fluency has been published).
I recently shipped off a bunch of Fluency paperbacks to my new publisher in Germany, where Fluency will be translated and traditionally published. I'm not sure yet when that will go to market. The book has also been sold in Russia. Very exciting!
In a recent blog post I told you about how I was diversifying and putting Fluency up across platforms--iTunes, Nook, Google Play etc. Well, that flopped. I've taken the book down from those vendors and reinvested in exclusivity with Amazon, the people who made my career happen. I may try to go wide again when Remenance comes out.
So, I now have a link to share:
This link to FLUENCY, which I've now engineered to take you to YOUR Amazon store in YOUR country. Technology is so cool!
I'm sorry if you're wanting to find links to other platforms, but I needed to make a business decision. I owe a lot to Amazon. It has been very good to me, as an organization. And I have my boys' college funds to save for and bills to pay just like everyone else.
In other news, IndieReader reviewed Fluency and gave it 5-stars! They said some lovely things like:
So that's been pretty exciting!
The Hugo Award Winning SFSignal podcast recently interviewed Rachel Aaron and she mentioned how much she loved reading Fluency. This is a podcast with some great timely info. I'm going to try to listen to it more often. I just happened to be listening because I love Rachel's book, Fortune's Pawn, when all of a sudden she just mentioned me and my book. My jaw dropped and I started to hyperventilate. What a crazy moment!
There's probably lots more I could say but my dance card is full. I need to get back to writing! Oh, and one more thing--I'm re-reading The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, probably for the first time since high school and LOVING IT. Read on!
"What might be the most impressive part of FLUENCY is the attention paid to each character, making them not one-note stock characters (there are no Red Shirts here!) but interesting, complicated individuals."
I make this every year on Christmas Eve to be enjoyed Christmas morning. It is rich and sweet and buttery, chock full of fruit and nuts. It's wonderful toasted! This recipe makes 2 loaves.
Step 1: Macerating Fruit
• 3 cups total of a mixture of dried fruit of your choice (sour cherries, cranberries, diced apricots, golden raisons, candied citrus peels, candied pineapple, etc.)
• 1 cup of Sailor Jerry's Rum (or your favorite brandy or whiskey--any of these work)
• 3+ tablespoons of flour
• 1 cup sliced almonds (optional)
Combine and macerate for 1-24 hours. If you forget to do this ahead of time, a couple of short blasts in the microwave to warm the mixture will work to quickly plump up the fruit with boozy goodness. When you think the fruit has had enough, drain in a colander, then spread on a clean, dry towel for a few minutes to dry a bit more. Then, mix with flour until well coated. Add the sliced almonds.
Step 2: Make the Dough
• 5 cups of all purpose flour
• 1 tablespoon of yeast
• 1 1/4 cups of milk (I use canned coconut milk) warmed to blood-warm temp (not hot, but warmer than room temp)
• 3/4 cup of butter, melted and cooled a little bit (don't want it scalding hot)
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 tsp almond extract
• 1 teaspoon lemon or orange extract
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 2 eggs, warmed to room temperature, beaten
For later use:
• 4 tablespoons of soft butter (divided between 2 loaves)
• 4 tablespoons of sugar (divided between 2 loaves)
• 7 ounce package of Almond Paste or Marzipan, divided (optional ingredient)
I combine the first 10 ingredients in a KitchenAid mixer with a dough hook and knead until a nice soft/wet/sticky dough forms. Let it rest for 5 minutes. Knead some more and dump in the drained/flour-coated fruit. Yes! It appears to be equal amounts of each. Yes! It is difficult to get all the fruit to mix into the dough. Every year I swear I'll use less fruit next year. Every year I make the same amount of fruit. : )
Put in an buttered bowl, cover and place in a warm spot for 1 1/2 to 3 hours--until doubled in size.
Punch down and knead a little bit, working the fruit into the dough even more. Divide in half. This makes 2 large loaves. Pat each half into a rough square and roll out to roughly 8" x 12" x 1/2".
I use an off-set spatula to smear a couple of tablespoons of butter across the surface of the rolled out dough and then sprinkle that with the 2 tablespoons of sugar.
I take the almond paste (less sweet) or marzipan and divide it in half and roll under my fingers into a rope just slightly shorter than the longest side of the dough. Lay this over the dough.
The next bit is hard to describe in words and probably not important, but it is done a certain way, traditionally. Fold over one of the long sides over the almond past. You are not folding in half. You are just folding up the bottom third. Then fold the other part over top of that, so that it's folded in three layers. You'll need to wet the edge with plain water to seal the dough to itself and tuck the ends under on three sides (one long edge and the 2 ends). This makes a nice oblong loaf. Do this for both loaves.
At this point I pick off any fruit that is protruding from the surface of the loaves. It will only burn anyway. This makes the loaves much neater in appearance and gives a tastier finished product.
Set the loaves out on parchment paper-covered cookie sheets. One per sheet. (You cannot crowd these on a single sheet.) Cover the surface of the loaves lightly with soft butter and the plastic wrap and leave to rise in a warm place for another hour or two. They will be almost twice their size. Toward the end of this period, preheat your oven to 375° Fahrenheit.
Bake the loaves 30-35 minutes. The outer crust will become dark mahogany. Some of the fruit on the surface may burn or get quite dark. Remove to a rack to cool for 2 hours. Wrap carefully and save for Christmas morning. On Christmas morning I sprinkle the loaves with powdered sugar and present to my family.
I know it's been a while since I wrote a post. Every blogger says this. I don't really consider myself a blogger. I write sci fi. This is just an infodump so you know what's going on. : )
First off: I have a novelette called The Grove coming out in January in an anthology called Alien Chronicles (this will be part 3 of The Future Chronicles). I just checked and the pre-order isn't up yet. But the cover is beautiful and I'm told it goes up for sale on January 9, so stay tuned.
What is a novelette, you ask?
It's a Hugo and Nebula award category. Most people don't know what they are, so don't fret about it. You could call it a really long short story or a really short novella. I think the categories are important, though some writers profess that they aren't.
The audio book of Fluency produced by Susanna Burney and Marcia at SicSound is doing quite well. It is available in the iTunes store, Audible, and Amazon. I think Susanna's voice is simply amazing. Her vocal characterization is subtle but lovely. I'm very pleased with how it turned out. I hope you are too.
The most exciting thing to happen in my writing life recently is twofold. First, I met and employed my first intensive line/developmental editor, Alex Russell, also known as the Typo Hammer.
The original edition of Fluency was extensively revised and proofread, but nothing beats having someone scrutinize every sentence and fact for grammar, accuracy and clarity. Alex did just that. The end result is a subtle but marked improvement for the reader.
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a modern dystopian classic and a cautionary tale. It is insanely depressing to read because we are simply a pandemic or natural disaster away from something like this potentially happening. The fundamentalist religious right already has so much power, if our country were to splinter, civil war could erupt allowing pockets of this kind of evil to proliferate.
This book is about cultism on a grand scale imposing itself on a helpless populace before it could organize itself. So, while I loved this book for its attention to detail, for its bravery and insight, I also found it so difficult to read because there is not a moment of brightness in the protagonist's life. It is unrelievedly wretched, and rightly so.
Atwood's prose is starkly poetic and mesmerizing, only sometimes verging on purple prose. Claire Danes' performance on the audio book is spot on: perfection in every way. I highly recommend her dramatic reading. This should be required reading. I should not have taken so long to pick it up.
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I have been INSANELY busy. With a novel underway, 2 kids, 2 kittens (they are new--yes I'm nutty), a dog, 3 rats, a husband (never forget the helpmate!), a house that never wants to stay neat, a short story that wants to be a novel under deadline...
But, I told my kids and my husband that November was going to be the time to dig deep. Everyone is pitching in to give me more time to write--except the kitties. They really like to get between me and my laptop screen.
I'm participating in NaNoWriMo this year, which means that I'm going to write 50,000 words this month--that's almost half the length of Fluency which at one point was 100K, but by publication time had been whittled down to 89K. This means I have to write, at minimum, 1667 words per day to "win" the challenge. I've attempted NaNo before, or contests like it, but writing that many words per day is difficult for me, since I'm a very slow writer. This month, I'm trying to change that. This year I aim to pull through. I want to get the sequel to Fluency, REMANENCE, to you as much as you want to read it. If you are NaNo-ing too, find me at the link above!
I just finished a rather long short story that will be featured in an upcoming anthology with some fantastic SF authors called Alien Chronicles. You can already get Robot Chronicles and Telepath Chronicles is available for pre-order now!
When Alien Chronicles is available for pre-order you can bet your sweet bippy I'll be telling you about it. It should be released in January AND the short I wrote is a prequel to another novel series I'm working on (set aside while I write the sequel to Fluency) called DRUID, which is a super hero origin story. Expect that book in late 2015 or early 2016, after REMANENCE (Book 2 of Confluence) is released.
Xenophobia by Peter Cawdron
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book unfolded in an entirely new way. It was completely unexpected and kept me guessing. This is not your average first contact story.. It's about character, the best and worst of humanity, and has the most unique depiction of an alien species I've seen for a long time, which was exceedingly refreshing. I was completely wrapped up in these characters and their struggle in believable situations in war-torn Africa. This author must have done insane amounts of research and it shows. I need to read more by Peter Cawdron!
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Timebound by Rysa Walker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a well-written, clean YA time travel book. I listened to the audio book, and aside from a propensity to over-articulate the word "to," the narrator was way above average--doing a teenage girl, a teenaged boy, several adult males and, most impressively, an aging grandmother--seamlessly and with ease. I was impressed! The storyline was enthralling. I was swept up in the narrative and was sad when it was over. Lucky for me, the sequel just came out! I'm looking forward to reading it.
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Jennifer Foehner Wells
I'm an author of the Space Opera variety.