Wednesday, December 25, 2013


     So The Real John Green very favorably reviewed A.S. King's REALITY BOY in this past Sunday's New York Times Book Review.  Hello?  What is the big surprise here?  Have I not been telling everyone who will listen that A.S. King is an exceptionally talented YA author whose game only gets better with each book she publishes?  Yes, I believe that I have been doing exactly that, loudly and often.  So why doesn't anyone listen to me???  Because, let's be totally honest here: whether or not I ever get any of my own books published, I have always been blessed with excellent literary taste.  IF I TELL YOU A BOOK IS GOOD, IT IS, OKAY?  But, clearly, I am chopped liver at best, because for some obscure reason A.S. King is gobsmacked when John Green reviews her book in the NYT, but seemingly unmoved when I do so in this blog.  Go figure.  But by the way: A.S. King is not just humblebragging and pretending to be gobsmacked.  She is simply humble.  Don't you wish humility was spread around more fairly in this world, concentrated heavily in people who actually deserve to be humble?  I know I do.
     Oh, and Holly Schindler's debut middle-grade novel, THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY, is going to be released in a little over a month from now, and has already garnered some stellar reviews, including from Kirkus.  Now, have I TOLD you to keep an eye on Holly Schindler?  Hmmm???  Yes, I believe that I have.  But have you been following her the way you should have been as a result?  I dunno - have you?  Well, in case you haven't, will these reviews and trailers convince you to run right out and preorder SUNSHINE AND LUCKY immediately?  I sure hope so.  If not, I have taught you nothing.  And another thing: are you going to check back in with me on January 25th, when Holly will send me a vlog about SUNSHINE AND LUCKY to post here?  The answer had better be yes, that's all I can say.  Don't make me come after you.
     I hope that those of you who celebrate Christmas are having an extremely merry and bright one, surrounded by people you love and a pile of newly-gifted books.  And for the rest of us, and in honor of the late, great Roger Ebert: I'll see you at the movies!!

Sunday, December 15, 2013


     It's my second blogiversary, more or less. I started this blog on December 19, 2011, four days after my Dec. 15th birthday, to announce to the world my despair with getting horrifyingly old yet never getting any of my books published, and to provide myself with a writing outlet so that I could experience something other than feeling like I was shouting down an empty well.
     Two years have passed, and I've come to love this blog like the true friend it's proven to be. I'm still not published - that hasn't changed. It's my birthday that has changed irrevocably for me instead. Last year it arrived the day after the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, and every year for the rest of my life, it will be inextricably bound up for me with that event. Gone is the luxury of spending my birthday wallowing in self-pity because I haven't achieved everything I've wanted in life. My children are alive and healthy. I've never had to rip out a piece of my soul as the result of kissing my kindergartener goodbye for a few hours, sending him or her off to school, and then learning later that day what goodbye really means.
     Kindergarteners. Babies just learning to tie their shoes and zip their jackets. Gone for a year and a day on this birthday of mine... and so on... and so on, through the years. Now, my birthday brings me new responsibilities, because although I've changed, America's gun culture hasn't. Our federal gun laws haven't. The NRA's ludicrous suggestion that the Second Amendment's reference to a "well-regulated militia" means that virtually any person in America who wants a gun should be able to get one almost effortlessly hasn't changed. One year after Newtown, we have learned exactly nothing, and the school shootings keep coming.
     When I told my husband tonight that I'm going to donate the birthday money that both my mother and my mother-in-law gave me to, he told me that I'm very generous. He could not be more wrong. What I am is very, very fortunate, unlike so many parents across this country whose children one day happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
     I feel helpless and infuriated about Newtown and all the other school shootings. I feel helpless and infuriated about the daily "gun fails" around the country that David Waldman, as a true public service, tweets about at @KagroX. A sickening number of them involve small children finding their parents' unsecured guns and accidentally killing their siblings or playmates.
     I am not generous. I really believe that my December 15th birthday has laid a responsibility on my shoulders, and I am trying to do what little I can to meet it.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


     Remember I told you guys about National Portfolio Day?  Well, it paid off!  My daughter just got an email that she's been accepted into the School of Visual Arts in New York, her first-choice art school!!!  What a HUGE accomplishment.  My husband and I are bursting with pride.  For a long time I doubted that Amy would ever work hard at anything - her low self-esteem has always made her afraid to try because she was so afraid to fail.  But, beginning less than two years ago, she finally found something she truly wanted, and she went after it.  And she WON.  For a crucial year and a half, she had the benefit of private lessons with an exceptionally gifted and inspirational art teacher.  Look him up online: Julian Tejera, who worked with Amy until he moved to California at the end of this past summer.  If you'd like to help me thank him by, say, commissioning a portrait from him, please do!  His depth of knowledge is vast for someone in his late 20's, and it's matched by both his talent and his kindness.  I expect that he'll be in great demand as a portraitist one day, so why not get in on the ground floor now, while it's still a bargain?  Tell him I sent you.
     Anyway.  I digress.  Yes, Julian is awesome, but my daughter earned every bit of her success by dint of her own hard work and dedication over the last couple of years.  She lifted up her grade-point average, worked diligently on her drawing and painting skills, and wrote an awesome college essay about - who else?  Julian.
     Seeing how proud she is of her achievement - well.  This is one of the best days I've had in a very long time.

p.s.  Don't worry. My kids are still idiots.  I wouldn't have it any other way.

Sunday, December 8, 2013



 My most recent book giveaway produced three contestants: my friend Yvonne V, who (I'm sure) commented briefly to help me start things off  (and whose debut YA novel, PANDEMIC, can now be pre-ordered from Amazon and will be buyable in brick-and-mortar bookstores in May, and I insist that you do one or the other because it will be brilliant);  BookNut, the winner, a most welcome second member of my blog's Pakistan Fan Club; and Sharksmart, who didn't win, but who did such an admirable job as runner-up that I decided to send her a consolation prize out of my stash of YA and MG novels I've already read.  After some consultation with her, I guessed that she would like Meg Rosoff's HOW I LIVE NOW (which, as you've probably heard, is currently being made into a movie), so I sent her my copy, and Eureka!!  I was right!  I've been emailing back and forth with Sharksmart, who is really a recent college graduate named Dana, and she sent me an unsolicited review of the book, and I liked it so much that I decided to post it on my blog. So, voila! My first guest review post! And I believe that in future, I'll offer this option to all winners of my book giveaway contests, because it's very nice of you to read my blog and all, but you probably wouldn't mind hearing from someone else once in a while, am I right?  I'm a firm believer in spreading the love. Thank you, Dana, for helping me kick off something newish!  Without further ado:


“How I Live Now” begins with 15 year-old Daisy’s father and stepmother shipping her off to the England to live with her aunt and cousins on an isolated farm. Just as she’s starting to embrace her eccentric cousins and feel loved, World War III breaks out and changes everything.
The plot of “How I Live Now,” isn’t all that original or complex, but what this novel lacks in plot is more than made up for in stunning writing and characters. The narrative is an enthralling blend of stream-of-consciousness run-on sentences and a conversational tone that makes it seem like Daisy is sitting with the reader and telling them the story—and she’s the type of story-teller where her voice and her story flow so well that you don’t want her to stop (i.e. this book is hard to put down!). Unusual capitalization made the writing unique and more expressive by creating proper nouns (“She stared at me with the Family Stare, the one that normal people don’t ever do…” pg 61), and by adding emphasis (…”I got another one of those feelings you’re not supposed to get from your cousin and I wondered What Was Happening Here...” pg 44). The descriptions are always vivid and often poetic, such as when Daisy experiences “a feeling flying between us in a crazy jagged way like a bird caught in a room” when she sits next to Edmond with her leg against his (pg 44).
Daisy is great as a character. She has a lot of snarky and witty lines, and doesn’t “get nearly enough credit in life for all the things [she manages] not to say” (pg 77). She also genuinely sounds like a young teen when she thinks about things, such as how fun it is—despite a war going on—that her aunt has left her and her cousins with no adult supervision. The cousins were great too: Osbert is the self-important older brother. Piper, the youngest, is an adorable pixie. Isaac and Edmond are twins, the former quiet with a special connection to animals, the latter sweet and caring. The three younger cousins have a telepathic-like ability, and Daisy and Edmond form a telepathic-like bond as they grow closer.
I read some reviews for this book where people were grossed out by, or didn’t understand the author’s inclusion of, Daisy and Edmond’s sexual relationship since they’re cousins, but it didn’t bother me. Daisy herself recognizes that it's something they're not supposed to do, but says that she was “coming around to the belief that whether you liked it or not, Things Happen and once they start happening you pretty much just have to hold on for dear life and see where they drop you when they stop” (pg 47). I think the author’s point was that, in certain situations, such as in the midst of war, you don’t always control what happens, and you just need to go with it and do what seems right at the time even if it isn’t “right” in the usual sense.
When the war starts to encroach on their isolated farm and ultimately separates the cousins (Piper and Daisy are sent to one farm, Isaac and Edmond another, while Osbert gets some sort of military job), life quickly goes from inconvenienced-by-the-war to dire and desperate. Daisy and Piper end up surviving in the wilderness on their own while trying to find the farm Edmond and Isaac were sent to. One night, they’re woken by screams in their heads which, because of the telepathic connection between the kids, is an obvious indication that something horrific is happening around, or to, Edmond and Isaac. The rest of the story deals with finding out who survives and what happened in the aftermath of the war. The last few chapters are a very poignant and heartbreaking demonstration of how war affects people and their relationships, though the novel does end on a hopeful note.
Overall, a very powerful story with characters who stay with you even after you’re finished.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


     So I'd finally kind of gotten myself into a blog rhythm: don't worry about it during the week; mull things over during the weekend; do a post on Sunday nights. But did I follow that routine last week? No, I did not, because Life intervened. Not Life in the form of Thanksgiving weekend; Life in the form of my actual job (the one that brings me paychecks).
     Trying to avoid going into too much boring detail, I'll say that I discovered last Wednesday that, dating back to the beginning of April, I had somehow managed to miss a major development in one of my cases, which in turn led to my being many months late if I was going to try to file a brief. And then on Friday, after consulting with colleagues, I reached the conclusion that I kind of have to file a brief, which meant that (1) I had to figure out what I wanted to say and to write it within a ridiculously short window of time, and (2) I was going to have to provide an explanation to the Court of why the brief was being filed so crazy-late, and this was going to entail my confessing to my idiotic mistake (see above). And if any of this sounds to you like a good time, then I'm a little worried about you, to be honest.
     So, I spent much of the weekend just trying to read enough of the material to begin to get myself up to speed and formulate a game plan, and since then I've basically spent 8 hours a day at work trying to run a marathon. Reading/highlighting/thinking/scribbling notes/writing. Rinse. repeat. And I kind of hate the intensity, but a part of me kind of loves it too. My goal was to finish it today. Now my goal is to finish it tomorrow. I lie awake in bed composing devastating arguments in my head.
     The bright side is that this is something real, and that being completely absorbed in it keeps me - for a few days, anyway - from obsessing about not getting responses to my outstanding queries to agents.  The bad news is that my presence on social media, which barely has a pulse under the best of circumstances, has slowed to nothing. And that I've already lost my blogging rhythm, so early into the game. Will try to do better after the brief has been filed. And if anyone has actually missed me: thanks. I've missed you too.