Sunday, November 20, 2016

RESISTANCE

     It feels like eons ago since I last posted.  It WAS eons ago.  Aside from identifying my daughter's sketch the day after the election, I haven't been able to find words adequate to the task of expressing what I'm feeling.  I've derived some grim satisfaction since then from being Bitter on Twitter (@unpubYA, in case anyone's interested), expelling short and mostly vicious bursts of sarcasm to describe the betrayal I feel at the hands of this country I've called home my entire life.  But putting together a coherent paragraph seemed beyond my ability.
     I went to my doctor a week ago Friday for a long-scheduled annual physical.  He told me my blood pressure was up, and started questioning me to figure out why.  No, my diet hadn't changed, my salt consumption hadn't changed, nothing had changed except my lifelong belief that America could never become a fascist state.  He suggested I was overreacting.  "The environment will be irreparably harmed," I said, for starters.  He waved that away as a minor concern; what was really important right now, he said, was that the country have a leader who would grow the economy, bring back the  manufacturing sector.  I talked a little more about the global economic abyss of eight years ago and the extraordinary job Obama had done since then to lower unemployment and lift us out of deep recession, but I gave up after a little while.  My doctor clearly wasn't buying any of my arguments.  He was a kind, intelligent, educated man who had obviously voted for Donald Trump, the most profoundly ignorant person who will have ever held the job to which he will ascent in exactly two months.
     Meanwhile, David Duke publicly exults at Trump's staff picks, a swath of hate crimes erupts across the country, and Trump repeatedly takes to Twitter not to condemn either of these things, but to excoriate both the press and private citizens exercising their First Amendment rights.  Every pick he has named so far has been worse than appalling.  The only way the nomination of Sessions as Attorney General could get worse would be if the Senate rolls over and approves him, thus cynically declaring that the fox would do a bang-up job of guarding the henhouse.  This is a man who believes that the concept of civil rights for minorities is un-American.
     I've tried to do a few things.  I closed my Amazon and Macy's accounts, specifying that I was doing so because of their continued entanglement with Trump business interests.  I've contacted both of my senators.  I've signed onto my friend Julie's secret project which is going to be amazing and empowering.  But I've spent a lot more time feeling enraged and powerless and hopeless.
     But last night I had an idea.  I attended an SCBWI writing craft conference last weekend, and I came back knowing that I have a lot of work ahead of me to revise my current work-in-progress.  A lot of cutting.  Establishing more clearly right up front what the main character wants.  And as I was struggling last night to implement some of these changes, I started thinking about how crucial diverse books are to the kidlit world, especially in these dark times.  And I remembered everything I've read and heard from editors and agents about how much they'd love to see books that have diverse characters but that are not ABOUT diversity; the diversity is not a plot issue, it's simply part of the fabric of the story.
     I thought about all of this for a long time, and at the end I decided that I want my protagonist's best friend, whose ethnic identity is currently unspecified, to be Muslim.  I want him to be part of a somewhat secularized American-Muslim family, but otherwise to basically remain unchanged from the person he already is.  I don't plan to include any didactic lessons about inclusiveness.  He'll just be a regular American kid, which is of course what Muslim kids are.  But I'll know the difference.  And maybe someday if and when this book gets finished and published, it will make some middle-graders think about the world a little differently than they otherwise would.
     I'm a writer.  I am living in deep dread of the damage one hate-filled demagogue and his minions will be able to inflict on my country and on the world over the next four years.There aren't many things I can do single-handedly to change the outcome.  But I can, and I will, change my book. 



    
      

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

LIBERTY WEEPS



(I commissioned this drawing from my daughter the artist.  I knew she could execute what I was seeing in my mind's eye, and she did.)

Thursday, November 3, 2016

CONTEST RESULT!

     Thanks to those who entered my giveaway contest for WRECKED!  My favorite comment came from Jess at DMS.  So Jess, email me your mailing address at muranosb(at)gmail(dot)com, and the book is yours!  Congrats!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

HEY, HEY, BOOK GIVEAWAY!!!

    



     I haven't run a book giveaway contest  in quite a while, and given what this book is about, the timing seems right.  So read on!  A free book awaits you!
     Have I ever mentioned that my husband's hobby is entering contests?  He doesn't just do it for himself, either.  He enters contests to win tickets to events in Washington, D.C., where our son lives; tickets to events in New York, where our daughter lives; and, for me, he tries to win books he thinks might interest me, particularly young adult novels.  And I speak with authority when I say that if someone spends A LOT of time entering contests, they have a pretty fair shot at winning some of them.  A couple of weeks ago we went to a movie for free, as a matter of fact.  And now that you know about my husband's contest-entering fetish, it brings me to the subject of THIS contest.
     Through no action of my own, I am now the proud owner of a pristine copy of a newly-published YA novel entitled WRECKED, by Maria Padian (Algonquin Books, 2016).  To me, the timing seems right to run a giveaway of this book because the subject is an allegation of sexual assault between two students on a college campus.  A bookish freshman goes to a party one night, gets drunk, passes out, and wakes up to find herself being raped ... or does she?  The novel examines a range of divergent people and their viewpoints: Jenny, the alleged victim; Haley, her roommate; Jordan, the accused; Richard, a housemate of Jordan's; Jenny's controlling parents; the college dean assigned to investigate the incident; and a number of other students, including Carrie, a volunteer for the school's sexual assault response team, and someone who starts an anonymous online conversation thread about Jenny called "Lying Bitch."  According to the book's jacket flap, reading it "will leave you thinking about how memory, identity, and who sits in judgment shape what we all decide to believe about the truth."
     I flipped through the book but didn't read it, so I can't personally provide a recommendation.  But you can learn about the author here and look at reviews of the book here and here.  You can also read a Q & A with the author on the publisher's website, AlgonquinYoungReaders.com.  And honestly - it's a giveaway!  As my husband might say: the price is right!!  So now that you're convinced that you want to enter this contest, let's proceed to the rules, shall we?
     The Rules: the contest will begin as soon as I publish this post, and will continue until next Wednesday, November 2nd, at midnight, U.S. eastern time.  In order to enter you have to do two things: (1) become a follower of this blog (or let me know in a way I can verify that you're already a follower), and (2) leave a comment on this post.  That's it.  How much simpler could it get?  I'll choose my favorite comment and send the book to that person.
     Let the games begin!  And may the odds be ever in your favor.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

I'M AFRAID

     I haven't blogged directly about the presidential election until now.  I felt that there were many very smart people who were expressing my sentiments better than I ever could.  But I'm posting about the election now - not because I think I'm brilliant, not because I think I'm articulate, but because I'm haunted by fear and I just need to talk about it.
     Donald Trump is a serial abuser of women, and if that's what brings him down, I'm glad.  His attitudes and behavior towards women and girls are degenerate.  In his twisted mind, he has kingly authority over half the human race because he possesses wealth, power, and a penis.  The fact that we as a society have finally advanced to the point where such Stone Age views can actually cost someone an election is heartening, but even that result isn't a sure thing, and of course if it does happen it's pathetic to even count it as a triumph.  Still, no one will be happier than me to watch Trump crash and burn on November 8th because some diligent reporter discovered that 20-year-old videotape.
     But I am very frightened whenever I consider all the revelations about him that haven't, even potentially, brought him down.  When Trump was a young man, he and his father were charged by the government with racial discrimination in their hiring practices, and former employees have given statements indicating that the policies did indeed exist and that they were blatant and deliberate.  He has mocked a reporter with a physical disability, and reportedly referred to the actress Marlee Matlin as "retarded" because she is deaf.  He proposed a ban on all Muslims entering the United States, and comes very close to equating all Muslims with - one of his favorite phrases - radical Islamic terrorists.  In a supreme irony, he calls Mexicans "rapists."  He is an outspoken fan of Vladimir Putin, whose critics in his country have disappeared with alarming regularity.  In fact, Trump has invited Russia to hack into Clinton's emails - an invitation Russia appears to have accepted.  He has threatened to jail Hilary Clinton, and makes no effort to silence his supporters when they speak of executing her.  His major theme is that, due to the machinations of a vast ring of conspirators, virtually everything is wrong with this country, and that he alone is strong enough to fix it.  In short, he is an ubermensch.
     Is it just me, or does this man remind you of anyone?  Trump is proud of his ignorance, which does not mean that the rest of us can forget history.  Have we learned nothing in this century about the dangers of following narcissistic, populist cult leaders/demagogues?  Is it a coincidence that white supremacists and neo-Nazis deem Trump the first mainstream politician to whom they can pledge wholehearted support?  Is it a coincidence that both Trump and his son have reposted items from white-supremacist websites?  IS ANYONE LISTENING??
     I don't believe that it can't happen here, in this bastion of democracy.  I believe that this country is in grave danger from Trump, his supporters, and the do-nothing bystanders in the Republican party.  And I can't remember ever having felt so afraid.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

AMERICA

Give me your tired - your poor -




Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free -




The wretched refuse of your teeming shore -





Send these - the homeless, tempest-tossed - to me.


FINALLY HERE!! YVONNE VENTRESCA'S NEW THRILLER: BLACK FLOWERS, WHITE LIES!



     Official blurb:  Her father died before she was born, but Ella Benton knows they have a mysterious connection. When an eerie handprint appears on her mirror, she wonders if Dad’s warning her of danger as he did once before. Could her new too-good-to-be-true boyfriend be responsible? Or the grieving building superintendent? As the unexplained events become more frequent and more sinister, Ella becomes terrified about who—or what—might harm her. Soon the evidence points to Ella herself. What if, like her father, she’s suffering from a breakdown? Ella desperately needs to find answers, no matter how disturbing the truth might be.

                      *                                      *                                    *                             *

     Full disclosure: I'm very proud to say that Yvonne Ventresca is my friend.  We've known each other for years through attending SCBWI conferences.  Yvonne has been a big supporter of both me and my writing for a long time, and I hope I've done half as much for her.  But even so, I wouldn't lie about her book!  There won't even be white lies in my review  below!  (And I didn't lie in my review of her previous YA novel, PANDEMIC, either.)

     In keeping with its cover illustration, the novel opens in a cemetery.  Ella is visiting the grave of the father she's never met, and her sadness permeates the reader's introduction to her like a mist and lingers through the pages.  For the almost sixteen years of Ella's life, she's had only one utterly reliable person at her side: her mother.  But in a few days, their two-person team is about to be broken up.  Ella's mom is less than a week away from establishing her own new team; she's getting remarried.  And as much as Mom tells Ella that no matter what, her daughter will always be Number One to her, Ella knows that as soon as Mom marries Stanley, things are going to start changing.
     In fact, the wedding hasn't even happened yet, and things are starting to change already.  Ella and Mom have always talked to each other about Dad, but now when Ella brings up the subject, Mom seems impatient, as if she just wants to move on with her life.  Easy for her!  She's embarking on a new chapter, but Ella has never felt more alone or more vulnerable.  From her perspective, it's not the perfect time for Stanley's son Blake, the new 18-year-old stepbrother Ella's never met before, to arrive from California as a houseguest, just before Mom and Stanley get married and then fly off to Paris for their honeymoon. 
     It's not that Ella has no plans for the week.  She's going to sleep at her friend Grace's house every night, and during the day she'll be continuing with her regular summer activities: working at Mom's bookstore in town and volunteering at the local animal shelter.  And Blake seems friendly and con-siderate; he even seems to want to hang around with her sometimes while waiting for his freshman year to start at NYU.
     Everything is going okay until the night before the wedding, when Blake gets Ella alone and tells her that he wants the two of them to be completely honest with each other.  And to set that course, he reveals a secret that Stanley has told him.  Ella's dad didn't die in a car accident, as Ella's mom has always told her he did.  He died as a patient in a psychiatric hospital.
     Mom would never have lied to Ella about something so important - would she?  Why would Ella believe a stranger over her own mother?  It's ridiculous. But Blake produces proof. And once Mom and Stanley leave for Paris, inexplicable things start happening to and around Ella.  She's always believed in the supernatural to some extent, but these events are terrifying, and they leave her questioning not only Mom's truthfulness, but her own sanity.  After all, isn't mental illness often hereditary?
     Ella goes through what feel like a lifetime of changes during the roughly two-week period that this book covers, but she never for a moment stops being a believable teen character, and the plot never bogs down.  Your heart will be in your mouth as you gallop toward the conclusion, but you'll want to stay in the saddle every step of the way.


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     YOU’RE INVITED! Yvonne is celebrating the release of Black Flowers, White Lies with a book launch party at Words Bookstore in Maplewood, New Jersey, on Sunday, October 16th at 2 p.m.  Here's a link to the evite:   http://evite.me/BN1dwfsUjq    


      But because you won't want to wait until then to buy your own copy of Black Flowers, White Lies, here are the links: Indiebound | Amazon | BHYPERLINK "http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/black-flowers-white-lies-yvonne-ventresca/1123362575"&HYPERLINK "http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/black-flowers-white-lies-yvonne-ventresca/1123362575"N | AmazonUK | BAM


 You'll be reading in distinguished company! Black Flowers, White Lies was recently included at the top of BuzzFeed’s new "must read" books: 23 YA Books That, Without a Doubt, You’ll Want to Read This FallI quote: "This suspenseful psychological thriller definitely won't disappoint."

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Yvonne's debut YA novel about a deadly bird flu outbreak, Pandemic (Sky Pony Press, 2014), won a regional Crystal Kite Award from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Her other credits include a short story in the YA dystopian anthology, Prep for Doom, and two nonfiction books.
 



To connect with Yvonne: Facebook | Twitter | Blog | Instagram | Pinterest | Goodreads