Young Adult

Review: Saving Jessica by Lurlene McDaniel

Jessica and Jeremy make a perfect couple. When they met, Jessica’s upbeat spirit helped Jeremy see that there must be a reason he was spared in the car accident that killed his brother. Now Jessica has been diagnosed with kidney failure. Her only hope is a kidney transplant, but no one in her family is a match. Jeremy believes that his life was spared so he could save Jessica by donating her kidney. Will he go against his parents’ wishes and save her?

–back cover of Saving Jessica by Lurlene McDaniel

I’ve got to say, overall…. I was disappointed. I had heard good things about this author. Really, really good things. Maybe the mistakes screamed out to me because I’m a writer myself or maybe it was truly as obvious as I thought it was, but either way, I was disappointed.

Genre of the Month, June - SciFi

Interview: J.R. Gershen-Siegel

Diannika Alyse Star: Thanks for agreeing to speak with us for Science Fiction month!

To start us off, could you tell us a little about your book Untrustworthy

JR Gershen-Siegel: Untrustworthy is an LGBT dystopian science fiction novel. It explores what happens when an oppressive society more or less eats itself.

Star: That sounds very interesting. What inspired you to write about that?

Gershen-Siegel: It was kind of an odd story. I had had some of the more science fiction elements just sort of come to me, but the idea of essentially an alien Kristallnacht came to me and it would not let go until it was written.

Star: That sounds rather intense. Do your story ideas usually come to you that way?

Book Reviews, Young Adult

Review: Saving Jessica by Lurlene McDaniel

Jessica and Jeremy make a perfect couple. When they met, Jessica’s upbeat spirit helped Jeremy see that there must be a reason he was spared in the car accident that killed his brother. Now Jessica has been diagnosed with kidney failure. Her only hope is a kidney transplant, but no one in her family is a match. Jeremy believes that his life was spared so he could save Jessica by donating her kidney. Will he go against his parents’ wishes and save her?

–back cover of Saving Jessica by Lurlene McDaniel

I’ve got to say, overall…. I was disappointed. I had heard good things about this author. Really, really good things. Maybe the mistakes screamed out to me because I’m a writer myself or maybe it was truly as obvious as I thought it was, but either way, I was disappointed.

Genre of the Month, June - SciFi

Interview: JR Gershen-Siegel

 

Diannika Alyse Star: Thanks for agreeing to speak with us for Science Fiction month!

To start us off, could you tell us a little about your book “Untrustworthy”
JR Gershen-Siegel: Untrustworthy is an LGBT dystopian science fiction novel. It explores what happens when an oppressive society more or less eats itself.

Star: That sounds very interesting. What inspired you to write about that?
Gershen-Siegel: It was kind of an odd story. I had had some of the more science fiction elements just sort of come to me, but the idea of essentially an alien Kristallnacht came to me and it would not let go until it was written.

Star: That sounds rather intense. Do your story ideas usually come to you that way?

Gershen-Siegel: This one came deceptively easily. It spoiled me! Now the ideas are different, but the process is similar. I get some sort of nagging concept and then want to expand on it because it becomes all-consuming. For last year’s NaNo, I wanted to comment on primitive societies and evolution. Year before, I wanted to comment on aliens and immigration. This year, the commentary will be on class and teamwork, most likely.

Star: Very cool! At least you’ll never be left wondering what to write!

(For readers who may be unaware, NaNo is short for NaNoWrMo, a writing event in November)

I know you have written for a few anthologies. Were those pieces Science Fiction as well?

Gershen-Siegel: One is sort of roundabout. It looks like science fiction (it was for The Longest Night Watch, which is a charity anthology benefiting Alzheimer’s research), but the reader begins to realize it’s just the ravings of a woman being affected by her illness. Hence she mentions aliens and space ships but it’s just the trappings of her nursing home (sorry, spoiler alert!).

This year, we are publishing a second Longest Night Watch Anthology, and for that one, the story is told from a dog’s point of view. Which I suppose is sort of science fiction, sort of not.

Star: Was Science Fiction a genre you planned to write in, or did it just kind of happen?

Gershen-Siegel: I love science fiction and I do try to write in it. Short stories can be in other genres (I have a few in the works which definitely are not), but sci-fi is, to me, the perfect genre because you can fit nearly anything into it.

Star: Very true, I think that’s one of the reasons it is such a prolific genre. Anything can happen!

When did you first realize you wanted to be an author?

Gershen-Siegel: I wrote when I was a kid but I didn’t really see it as a viable thing to do (and for actual, you know, money) until a lot later. But I was a five year old child drawing and writing little captions so I suppose I started off as a graphic novelist.

Star: Awww, that’s cute. 🙂

Who would you say has inspired you most in your writing?

Gershen-Siegel: Ray Bradbury. I love how short stories work so well. I also admire his work ethic tremendously. He wrote a book on writing and it makes a lot of sense, that you keep a jar of ideas on your desk. And I do! Even if I rarely open that jar, it helps a lot to know there is stuff in there.

Star: That definitely seems like it would be useful.

I know you entered a contest, and it led to you being published. Would you care to tell us a bit about that?

Gershen-Siegel: Sure thing.

I had casually mentioned to my mother back in 2013 that I had written a book in a month and she was intrigued and thought it was kind of amusing. So I got the dreaded question: are you going to try to get it published? I suppose I was in a mood to try, so I figured, why not?

I did some creative Googling and also checked Twitter and again this is such serendipity, but I stumbled across a contest being run by Riverdale Avenue Books. They wanted to publish a NaNoWriMo novel! The prize was a one-time publishing contract with them to get right of first refusal on my next work. I did some digging into them and discovered they were very LGBT-friendly, plus they were looking to expand their HSF imprint, which is horror, science fiction, and fantasy.
This helped tremendously as I fit the bill in terms of having a NaNo novel but also fit their mission and happened to fit well into the niche they wanted to promote. Timing helps a lot with these things. I have a friend who is a professional editor for textbooks, but she doesn’t normally handle novels. I gave her mine (e. g. I contracted with her to edit the piece) and she did so, and told me she thought I was going to win.

And here we are.

Star: Wow. Definitely a bit of good luck in that timing!

I know I’ve taken quite a bit of your time. One more question to wrap things up.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Gershen-Siegel: A few things. 1) Don’t stop. Even if you think what you’re writing is dumb. Just write. 2) Don’t delete wholesale and don’t throw things away. Save them, move them, repurpose them. Ideas are the ultimate recyclable goods. 3) Get an idea you can’t use immediately? Write it down, park it, and move on. You’ll want that bank of ideas when you’re stumped. You’d be surprised on how those ideas morph and work for you. And 4) Take risks! Step outside yourself and do something new. I never thought I would write LGBT and I really didn’t think I would be published.
You can do this. Yes, you.

Star: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me today. It was a pleasure speaking with you.

Gershen-Siegel: Thank you. I greatly appreciate your interest and support. May we all be creative!

Australian Literature

Australian Crime Fiction

Another popular genre in Australia is crime fiction. Australians read crime fiction to be entertained, yes, but also to be reassured that criminals will be brought to justice. Crime fiction in Australia is an integral part of the literary landscape, perhaps inspired by the convict history linked with the inception of the colony in 1788. 1830 saw the publication of Quintus Servinton by Henry Savery, and since then crime novels in Australia have explored crimes committed from colonial times to the present day.

Features

Where Are the Parents?

I think that one thing all young adult readers end up wondering at one point is a simple yet relevant question: where are the parents?

We see this all of the time, whether the parents are dead or just….not there. Non-functioning human beings who couldn’t seem to care less about what their kids are doing.

I’d like to look at a few different examples.

Surviving the World of Events

Swag That Makes Sense

By now you have had a chance to look at a lot of different types of swag. Perhaps you are wondering what could work better than some of the products you are currently using. It’s time to go back to your roots: your book(s).

The main idea of swag is to create exposure for your books. To do that, there needs to be something that connects people back to your writing. While a website, a logo or a link to social media may have its merits, something more substantial, something that makes people talk about and think about your novels, is better.

Your exercise today is to take a pen and some paper and write down all the things you associate with your books. Start with issues that the general population can associate with.

Book Reviews, Young Adult

Review: Hate List by Jennifer Brown

The list was my idea.

I didn’t mean for anyone to die.

Will you ever forgive me?

Five months ago, Valerie Leftman’s boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria. Val was as shocked as everyone else—despite her own serious injury, she’s implicated in the crime because of the list. The list she and Nick made of people they hated. The list Nick used to pick his targets.

Now, after a summer of seclusion, Val is forced to confront her guilt as she returns to school to complete her senior year. Haunted by the memory of the boyfriend she still loves and navigating rocky relationships with her family, her former friends, and the girl whose life she saved, Val must come to grips with the tragedy that took place, and her role in it, in order to make amends and move on with her life.

–back cover of Hate List by Jennifer Brown.

I feel like this was one of the best books about a shooting that I’ve read. Everyone hears stories about shootings, but who really talks about the flipside? The shooter, the shooter’s friends, and the anger and hate that can follow them around?

Adult, Book Reviews

Review: Star Nomad (Fallen Empire: Book 1) by Lindsey Buroke

Rating: 4 stars

Fighter pilot Captain Alisa is stranded on a distant planet after barely surviving the last battle in a civil war against the empire. With no resources to get home to her daughter, she’s chosen to steal a ship with the hope of making it off planet. Despite the odds against her, Alisa is determined not to let anything stand in the way of getting home. Battling against imperial soldiers, and uncooperative machinery, there is no shortage of problems to delay her.

Student Scribe

Free Time

This week I started a Social Media course at school. The workload is so much less than it was for the Context of Writing. It’s a relief considering it’s summertime. That amounts to lots of extra time. Free time is a blessing for most people. When you are a busy college student with a family and a job, it’s even more so.

So what does one do with such a blessing? Pester the Financial Aid Office at my school because I still don’t have my award for the next “school year” which for me starts in ten weeks. I attend Southern New Hampshire University and their school years are individually assigned per student. At SNHU, the financial aid school year is based on when a student enrolls in order to get the most financial assistance from the fewest sources. As a not-for-profit institution, they actively try to ensure students don’t end up in more debt than is absolutely necessary to complete school. The downside to this system is that students don’t get their award notification until just a few weeks before it’s due to start. It makes it hard to tell what to plan for in the coming terms. It’s always nice to know how much money will be available per term so students can plan ahead for how many classes they can afford to take at a time.