Tuesday, March 13, 2018

7 Questions For: Literary Agent Hilary Harwell

Hilary joined the KT Literary team to support office operations and assist with queries and manuscripts, and now acts as Associate Agent with clients of her own.

She graduated from the University of Colorado, Boulder, with a degree in Anthropology and went on to work in the back office of a major Swiss Investment Bank for eight years before deciding to trade numbers for letters.

When not reading or editing or writing stories of her own, Hilary likes to hike the Rockies with her family and dreams of one day owning her own horses.

You can follow her on twitter.

And now Hilary Harwell faces the 7 Questions:

Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?

Choosing is so harrrd. The Graveyard Book, The Grisha Trilogy (that counts as one, right?), and hmmm, let's go with The Westing Game for something different.                            

Question Six: What are your top three favorite movies and television shows?

I don't watch much TV, so we'll stick with movies here. Favorites are Braveheart, Tommy Boy, and The Usual Suspects.

Question Five: What are the qualities of your ideal client?

Open-minded, highly creative and motivated, passionate about their craft.

Question Four: What sort of project(s) would you most like to receive a query for?

I'm craving a good Southern Gothic YA right now. Must be the time of year (autumn!). A dark, original YA fantasy would be amazing, too.

But please note, I'm always looking for stories from underrepresented voices.

Question Three: What is your favorite thing about being an agent? What is your least favorite thing?

Favorite thing? The sound of gratitude and joy in an author's voice when I offer to represent their work.

Least favorite thing? Not being able to represent everyone. It's so hard to say no, especially to the ones that are really close.

Question Two: What one bit of wisdom would you impart to an aspiring writer? (feel free to include as many other bits of wisdom as you like)

Publishing is a long game. Being a writer and dealing with waiting and rejection and all the lulls is a lifestyle choice. Make sure you're ready for it, and always seek to improve upon your craft. There's always more to learn (in writing and in life in general!).

Question One: If you could have lunch with any writer, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

Neil Gaiman. His stories and writing are amazing.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

7 Questions For: Author Holly Goldberg Sloan

Holly Goldberg Sloan was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan and spent her childhood living in Holland, Istanbul, Turkey, Washington DC, Berkeley, California and Eugene, Oregon. After graduating from Wellesley College and spending some time as an advertising copywriter, she began writing and directing family feature films, including Angels in the Outfield and Made in America. Counting by 7s, her first middle-grade novel, was a New York Times Bestseller. The mother of two sons, Holly lives with her husband in Santa Monica, California.

Her new middle grade novel is the bestseller Short Julia is very short for her age, but by the end of the summer run of The Wizard of Oz, she’ll realize how big she is inside, where it counts. She hasn’t ever thought of herself as a performer, but when the wonderful director of Oz casts her as a Munchkin, she begins to see herself in a new way. As Julia becomes friendly with the poised and wise Olive—one of the adults with dwarfism who’ve joined the production’s motley crew of Munchkins—and with her deeply artistic neighbor, Mrs. Chang, Julia’s own sense of self as an artist grows. Soon, she doesn’t want to fade into the background—and it’s a good thing, because her director has more big plans for Julia!

Follow Holly Goldberg Sloan on Twitter, Facebook, visit her website, or check out her IMDB page.

Click here to read my review of Counting by 7s.

And now Holly Goldberg Sloan faces the 7 Questions:

Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?

My favorite books, like my favorite foods, my favorite music, my favorite anything--are always changing. I just read David Barclay Moore's The Stars Beneath Our Feet and I loved that. I also loved Meg Wolitzer's adult novel (publishing in April of 2018) titled The Female Persuasion. If I time traveled back to being a young girl I would say that I couldn't live without Beverly Cleary.

Question Six: How much time do you spend each week writing? Reading?

I write every day. Seven days a week. I think the best way to think of this is to look at professional athletes. They train year round. They work hard on staying in shape. The same is true of writing. You need to keep those muscles working!

Question Five: What was the path that led you to publication?

I didn't publish my first novel until I was in my fifties. Prior to that, I worked exclusively as a writer for film and television. I wrote the Disney film Angels in the Outfield, as well as The Big Green, as well as other family movies. My books are now an extension of that.

Question Four: Do you believe writers are born, taught or both? Which was true for you?

I believe writers are shaped early on. They have an interest in the world and an interest in words. They like to read. They are often daydreamers. They want to express themselves. That's a need. I was fortunate to have fantastic teachers in my life who encouraged me to tell stories.

Question Three: What is your favorite thing about writing? What is your least favorite thing?

My favorite thing about writing is the joy I experience when it's going well.

The least favorite thing is when I've written myself in a corner and I don't know the way out.  But then I take a walk, I force myself to think about the story and the characters while at the same time being open to the world around me. And then ideas and connections appear and I go home and try to make sense of it all.

Question Two: What one bit of wisdom would you impart to an aspiring writer? (feel free to include as many other bits of wisdom as you like)

I think it's important to get trusted people to read your work and to listen to what they say (the good, the bad, the ugly). Don't listen for solutions, but listen to what might be a problem and then work to fix/improve the material. Unless you are writing a diary that you hope no one will ever read, you are looking for an audience. Criticism is hard to take, but professional writers all know that rewriting is what separates them from the rest of the world.

Question One: If you could have lunch with any writer, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

I would pick Maya Angelou. I admire her work and who she was and I'm a complete fan.

Ms. Angelous famously said: "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

Monday, March 5, 2018

Book of the Week: COUNTING BY 7'S by Holly Goldberg Sloan

First Paragraph(s): We sit together outside the Fosters Freeze at a sea-green, metal picnic table. 
All four of us. 
We eat soft ice cream, which has been plunged into a vat of liquid chocolate (that then hardens into a crispy shell). 
I don’t tell anyone that what makes this work is wax. Or to be more accurate: edible, food-grade paraffin wax. 
As the chocolate cools, it holds the vanilla goodness prisoner. 
Our job is to set it free. 
Ordinarily, I don’t even eat ice-cream cones. And if I do, I obsess in such a precise way as to prevent even a drop of disorder. 
But not today. 
I’m in a public place. 
I’m not even spying. 
And my ice-cream cone is a big, drippy mess.

What a treat I've got for you today, Esteemed Reader. Counting By 7's is one of my newest favorite books (I have so many) and Holly Goldberg Sloan is one of my newest favorite authors. Which is why it thrills me to tell you she'll be joining us on Thursday to face the 7 Questions.

As I write this, it's the day before I'm to teach a class on writing and I've just been looking over the syllabus I wrote the last time I taught it to make sure I still agree with myself (mostly, I do). I could teach a whole class on Counting By 7's. I'm probably not going to, but HGS (I'm not typing out three names every time) certainly taught me some lessons, not all of which I'll be able to relate to you in this short "review."

TOTAL REVIEW: Counting By 7's by Holly Goldberg Sloan is a wonderful read containing a tear for every laugh and a laugh for every tear. You're going to fall in love with her complicated, diverse characters who read as though they could step right off the page. It's a little Confederacy of Dunces meets Charles Dickens with the sort of prose Dickens wishes he'd been capable of concocting. Rich, evocative, and deceptively simple, Counting By 7's is a pleasure to read that will leave the reader smiling and wiping their eyes.

I really love this book, Esteemed Reader. If you haven't read it yet, read it. Now let's talk shop.

So, anywho, I was looking over this syllabus of mine and read that I was telling my students three different times in one course that the opening of their story is the most important thing they'll write (though, of course, it's all important). I figure if the reader doesn't get drawn in by your opening, you needn't worry about what a mess chapter ten is:) If you know me (and you're here), you know I prefer grabby openings like, "It was three quarters past four when the mutated badgers ate my parents. It wasn't yet five o'clock when they came for me."

Thankfully, HGS is a great deal more subtle than the Ninja. So let's examine that opening above because it absolutely contains hooks. The first time I read this book wasn't even to review it. HGS hooked me and pulled me in and I read the whole book for pleasure. Nobody's death is threatened on page one (although that comes soon enough), but there's absolutely an effective hook that's so subtle it's easy to miss if you're not paying ninja-like attention, which is the point.

HGS tell us that today, the character, who's name we don't yet know, is in a public place and "not even spying" and she's eating ice cream differently. In Banneker Bones and the Giant Robot Bees, I attempt to hook the reader by opening with a "paradoxical witticism," which is to say I hopefully hook readers with my humorous prose, and then I drop the line: "the day Ellicott Skullworth's life changed forever began just this way."

I only wish I wrote as beautifully as HGS, but on this particular occasion I believe we're operating along the same lines, even if she's playing chess to my checkers. We're both writing about middle grade geniuses of color and we're both telling our readers, "pay attention, this day is unlike others, and something you're going to want to know about is happening." And a few pages later, HGS does write this is a day that I will never forget.

The real hook, of course, is HGS's prose. It's crisp and eloquent with a lot of white space to set the reader at ease while simultaneously placing greater emphasis on her sparse sentences.  HGS's prose isn't exactly poetry, it's not not poetry, and it's a pleasure to read. It's not pretentiously ornate, but it's direct and expressive. I've picked out some favorite passages below as I do with most books, but it was a tougher pick than usual this time around. I highlighted about two thirds of the book.

In my class, I teach that it's better to craft a story that moves and worry about prose afterward, though of course the best books have both a great story and finely turned phrasing. My reasoning is that readers will forgive lousy prose if the story moves (plenty of best-selling examples out there), but the audience for books with meh stories and lovely prose that wins obscure awards is considerably smaller than the audience for mainstream fiction. I read some such books with enthusiasm, but I'm not exactly an average reader. And as I'm not teaching writers in a MFA program with faculty that weighs in on said obscure awards, I steer my students accordingly.

HGS's prose is worthy of all the awards. But she employs plenty of traditional suspense techniques as well, just to be on the safe side, and the result is a novel that reads eloquently and a story that moves. Shortly after the opening, we're told our heroine, genius Willow Chance, calls home and gets no answer, which is extremely unusual, especially since she's left her parents messages previous. And then, the clincher, Willow arrives home to find police officers waiting for her, who pronounce "there's been an accident."

What accident? Are Willow's parents okay? Naturally, HGS doesn't tell us the answer right way. Like the best suspense writers, HGS makes us wait while flashing back to tell us more about our main characters so that we fully feel for them when the mysterious, yet devastating revelations we know are coming arrive. And we care more about the characters we're meeting because we know this bad thing is coming. It's a technique that works wonderfully in horror stories and mysteries and even the occasional romance, and it works very well here as well.

So who is our twelver-year-old heroine, Willow Chance? I see we're already running on the long-ish side and I have a lot of passages I want to share, so why I don't I let Willow Chance herself tell you who she is:

I think it’s important to get pictures of things in your head. Even if they are wrong. And they pretty much always are. 
If you could see me, you would say that I don’t fit into an easily identifiable ethnic category. 
I’m what’s called “a person of color.” 
And my parents are not. 
They are two of the whitest white people in the world (no exaggeration).

With the exception of the color red, I always wear earth tones because I’m blending into my environment. This is important for observation.

These are some very specific, distinctive details HGS uses to tell us who Willow is, but note she also shows us who Willow is through oddball behavior that immediately reveal the truth of her character

I’ve never understood coloring books. 
Either draw a picture, or don’t. But why waste your time coloring in someone else’s work?

I felt compelled to write the following on an index card: 
You need to have a dermatologist perform a punch biopsy on the mole (nevus) on the back of your neck. If it is not too much of an invasion of your privacy, I would very much like to look at the pathology report. I will be taking a taxi next week at this same time. This is important, so please do not take this medical suggestion lightly. 
Willow Chance 
I handed him the message when I got out of the taxi.

Willow can come off as a know-it-all, albeit one who draws a great deal of sympathy from the reader because of the tragic circumstances that befall her. HGS wisely has her heroine doing all sorts of heroic things along the way. And, on occasion, she's as charming as any fictional character could ever be:

We were sitting under one of the few trees out in front of the main school district office when I said to her, in Vietnamese: 
“You are my new best friend.” 
Mai was silent. I knew that she had many friends at school, and that her friend Alana was the one she considered to be her closest friend. 
I was just a little kid, and I realized that I had overstepped. 
What kind of person only knew someone for a few weeks and said something like that? 
So I added: 
“Since I just started at a new school, you’re right now sort of my only friend, so that makes the distinction perhaps not much of a difference.” 
And that made Mai smile.

Nor does HGS's capacity for creating credible characters stop with her protagonist. There isn't a flat character in Counting By 7's. Any of the supporting characters could easily be the protagonist of their own novels. I adore every member of the new family Willow creates for herself, particularly Mai, who is, perhaps, destined to be her mother. That has its ups and its downs, naturally, but one of the ups is Mai's self possession and undeniably effective methodology for achieving any goal.

Mai explained to the woman in the office that there was a family emergency. 
And then she used a trick. She started speaking in Vietnamese. Rapid fire. 
That unnerved people. 
The next thing she knew, she had a permission slip to get Quang-ha out of biology (where he was actually paying attention to a short film on mitosis).

My favorite character is Dell Duke, a high school guidance counselor who isn't a bad guy by any means, but who is allowed to be the most obviously flawed member of the cast. Every character has a flaw or twooffset by a heroic moment, as these are three-dimensional charactersbut Dell's flaws are particularly distinctive

Mr. Dell Duke had a large jar of jelly beans on his desk. 
He didn’t offer me any. 
I don’t eat candy, but I was fairly certain he did. 
I guessed that he had the jelly beans to make it look like he was offering kids a treat, but in actuality he never did and went on his own jelly-bean-eating binges.

Scientists had made the show. It was filled with facts and feelings, two things that Dell could live without. 
If he was going to actually watch a nature documentary, the only kind that he could suffer through was one where a fierce predator took down a wide-eyed furball. 
But he liked it when the furball could see it coming. 
A good chase with a few near misses added tension to the eventual crime scene. 
A male narrator with a deep, husky (almost evil) voice set the stage for the slaughter. The music surged. 
And then Bam! 
The Madagascar show had nothing like that. It focused on a group of monkeys who looked like squirrels in raccoon costumes. 
There was nothing in this program of interest and Dell had fallen asleep to it many times since he came to Bakersfield. 
He would not, could not, recall a single thing from the program other than what he had uttered to Willow at the end of their first session:
“Female lemurs are in charge of the troop.”

I've got one last passage I want to share with regard to HGS's ability to create compelling characters. Again, I have no shortage of highlighted passages to share with you, but you're just going to have to read the book yourself to enjoy them all. Note how HGS characterizes Willow through her observation of Dell, strengthening the reader's understanding of both characters:

I sat in the airless office/trailer and stared at Mr. Dell Duke. 
His head was very round. Most human heads are not round. Very, very few, in fact, have any real spherical quality. But this chubby, bearded man with bushy eyebrows, and sneaky eyes, was the exception. 
He had thick, curly hair and ruddy skin and it looked to me as if he was at least of partial Mediterranean origin. 
I was very interested in the diet of these countries. 
The combination of olive oil, hearty vegetables, and cheese that comes from goat’s milk, mixed with decent servings of fish and meat, had been shown in numerous studies to promote longevity. 
But Mr. Dell Duke did not look so healthy. 
In my opinion, he wasn’t getting enough exercise. I saw that he had a substantial belly under his loose-fitting shirt. 
And weight carried around the middle is more deleterious than extra pounds in the butt. 
Yet, culturally speaking, today men with big butts are considered less desirable than a man with a potbelly, which is no doubt wrong from an evolutionary point of view. 
I would have liked to take his blood pressure.

There's a whole lot more we could discuss about Counting By 7's, Esteemed Reader, but I see we're already running longer than usual, so I'll cut to the chase and let the passages of HGS's prose speak praise for her work higher than any I have to offer. This book gave me a lot to consider, not just as a reader, but as a writer. There are a couple elements that challenged my thinking on storytelling.

The first is HGS's use of coincidence at a few points throughout her story, which is one reason I compared her story about a likable orphan to the work of Charles Dickens. There are a few plot points in the story that if I read them in a different work, I would call bull crap on, and yet they don't bother me in this story. For instance, one character randomly wins a contest that provides him with just the funding he needs to accomplish his goal. Another character has a hidden fortune she has never revealed until the moment in the story when it's most convenient for her to have it.

In the case of the fellow winning the money, he takes significant action that leads to his being in position to win that money, which softens the lucky coincidence, and people do occasionally win contests. In the case of the character with the hidden fortune, it is true to her character that she would squirrel away the money to amass the fortune.

More, despite the elements of tragedy, Counting By 7's is a comedy (in the classical sense), and the rules are different for comedy. In his breakdown of the seven major plots (see what I did there?), Christopher Booker defines a comedy as "Light and humorous character with a happy or cheerful ending; a dramatic work in which the central motif is the triumph over adverse circumstance, resulting in a successful or happy conclusion." Without spoiling, much, Counting by 7's fits that bill.

Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of sad parts in Counting By 7's (at one point, Willow longs for death), but by the end we want our beloved characters to find happiness and they do. So in the final analysis, the coincidences are not a cheat the way they would be in a more straightforward suspense tale. I want my comedic characters to end up happy and I'm okay with their receiving help from fate because they made me smile plenty of times before.

There's a whole theme of gardening throughout this story we're not even going to touch on because we're running long and there's one last thing I want to discuss instead. It's a very slight spoiler and one that HGS is okay with as she also gives it away in the video below, but if you're planning to read this novel, and you should, you may want to skip the next two paragraphs.

From the beginning of the story, we know that Willow's parents are likely going to die. It is the inciting incident of our story. But we don't know how they're going to die. So it's on the edge of our seats that we read about Roberta Chance learning she has cancer. Jimmy Chance rushes to the doctor's office to comfort her and we see the depth or their relationship. It's a very emotional scene, which is why it's such a shock that they're killed in a car accident leaving the doctor's office, all their despair over a fate they don't actually have to face seemingly beside the point.

I've been turning this scene over in my head for weeks. On the one hand, the scene between Willow's parents as they confront cancer does make me care for them and care that they both die. On the other hand, it's a bit of a cheat to have a whole scene of tragedy that doesn't progress the plot as there's another scene of equal tragedy coming concerning our living protagonist. Of course, just as people really do win money in a contest, plenty of people also win the contest of random death on the road. And the scene absolutely works as I found it quite moving... and yet... ...but it did work...

I think what bothers me about the scene is that I'm not a gifted enough writer to pull it off and HGS is.

And that's where we'll leave it. Read Counting By 7's and come back on Wednesday to see Holly Goldberg Sloan face the 7 Questions (my God, the 7's are everywhere!). As always, I'll leave you with some of my favorite passages from Counting By 7's:

Life, I now realize, is just one big trek across a minefield and you never know which step is going to blow you up.

All reality, I decide, is a blender where hopes and dreams are mixed with fear and despair. Only in cartoons and fairy tales and greeting cards do endings have glitter.

She wished all of her customers just wanted red nails. Red was lucky. 
But Pattie carried over one hundred shades in their squat little glass containers. 
She put down a bottle of fire-engine red and picked up peacock blue, a new shade that was very popular but carried no good fortune. 
With the annoying blue in her right hand, she looked through the front window and suddenly saw a dusty sedan pull into the parking lot. 
A police car was right behind it. 
Not good. 
Maybe if she had kept the red bottle in her hand, this wouldn’t have happened. She knew that wasn’t logical, but still.

I can still walk and talk and breathe, but there isn’t much point. It’s just something my body is doing.

Pattie hangs up, and right away dials a number. 
Her even disposition is one of her best qualities. And she’s maintaining it. Sort of. 
Maybe that happens when you’ve been through a lot. All of your edges are worn off, like sea glass. 
Either that, or you shatter.

I look up at the apartment house. It appears to be a building constructed by a blind contractor who didn’t use an architect. 
The proportions of the place are all off, and not in a provocative way. 
It looks like someone took an enormous box, painted it the color of serratia marcescens (which is a rod-shaped, pink bacterium that grows in showers) and cut holes in the sides.
I’m somehow not surprised that Dell Duke lives here.

“Are you looking for something?” 
I want to say that yes, I’m looking for anything that could make a world gone flat return to its original shape, but instead I just mumble: 
“No. I’m getting a glass of water. Dehydration is the cause of ninety percent of daytime fatigue.”

The idea of something for nothing is appealing in some visceral way. 
Even if free things are never free. 
The burden of ownership means everything has a price. 
I think that’s why really rich and famous people look so weighed down and glum in most photos.
They know that they have to keep their guard up. They have things other people want.

STANDARD DISCLAIMER: Book of the Week is simply the best book I happened to read in a given week. There are likely other books as good or better that I just didn’t happen to read that week. Also, all reviews here will be written to highlight a book’s positive qualities. It is my policy that if I don’t have something nice to say online, I won’t say anything at all (usually). I’ll leave you to discover the negative qualities of each week’s book on your own. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

NINJA STUFF: Rob or Robert (What's in a Name)?

Esteemed Reader, If you like the look of the snazzy new cover of Banneker Bones and the Giant Robot Bees, you can download the newly re-mastered ebook right now FOR FREE. It doesn't matter when you're reading this as the ebook will be permanently free to download on multiple platforms.

I've been running this blog for two years shy of a decade, Esteemed Reader. I've given you a whole lot of swell content for free and I've never asked anything in return (to be fair, I've also loved the content). Today, I want to ask you for a favor: 

Please download the Banneker Bones and the Giant Robot Bees ebook FOR FREE and read the first chapter.

That's it. 

If Middle Grade Ninja has benefited you in any way over the years, either through direct promotion, or by helping you choose a publishing professional to work with, or by providing information and inspiration from a writer better than myself, I'm glad. That's one of the main reasons I've stuck with this blog. We've all had fun and you don't owe me a thing. But if you're grateful and want to express that gratitude, I could really use your help.

All I'm asking is that you read one chapter for free. And if you read this blog, aren't you at least curious after all these years whether or not I can write middle grade fiction worth a darn? If you like that first chapter, read more chapters, and maybe write a review. Maybe share the book on social media.

Help me get the word out that this middle grade book exists in the world.

October of this year will mark the four-year anniversary of the publication of my best book. Authors aren't supposed to pick favorites, but that's a dumb rule, and as much as I love all my books, Banneker Bones and the Giant Robot Bees is my favorite. It's the best thing I've ever written and if you're only ever going to read one of my books (don't do that), this is the one I would want you to read. So much so that I'll give it to you at no cost.

Don't worry about me, Esteemed Reader, I'm doing fine. I'm still charging for the audiobooks and paperbacks (the price has been permanently reduced). Not having time to sit down and read and/or your potential hatred of ebooks (if you're reading this, you have access to a device on which you can read the ebook) are not valid excuses for not helping out your favorite ninja. Also, after you read Banneker's first adventure, you're going to be interested in his second releasing later this year that I'm definitely going to charge for:

Both new book covers were designed by my favorite cover artist, Steven Novak. Steven has designed all my covers (and my beloved ninja icon) and is always my first choice for artwork. His covers are their own testament to his excellence, but he's also easy to work with, incredibly reliable, and has the patience to endure working with nervous authors insecurely second guessing design choices.

Steven has often designed 100% exactly what I've asked for only for me to realize my "artistic vision" is not at his level. Steven's work always exceeds my every expectation and I've learned it's best to pitch him my design ideas and then stay out of his way so he can save me from myself and make a better cover than I ever could.

If you need artwork of any kind, contact Steven Novak and get yourself something that will be almost as beautiful as my new covers.

Those of you Esteemed Readers who are as observant as brilliant detective Banneker Bones have no doubt noticed that the name on these new covers is 'Rob' Kent instead of 'Robert' Kent. And this is now someone named 'Rob(ert)' Kent's blog about reading and writing middle grade novels utilizing ninja stealth and skill! Who are all these people!?!

They're all me, Esteemed Reader. When I published All Together Now: A Zombie Story, I didn't think to use a pen name because I didn't yet know I'd also be publishing The Book of David. Neither of those books is appropriate for Banneker's younger readers, and yet I'm not going to put a pen name on my favorite book. If I'm accepting responsibility for Pizza Delivery, you better believe I want credit for Banneker Bones:)

I have no plans to use a pen name. If I published a book, I loved it, and I'll claim it as my own. But I wasn't a parent when I published my first book and I am now. I want to help parents and teachers and librarians and any adults influential in what children read. I don't want them to place a book in child's hands I wouldn't place in my child's hands.

I always put a warning on the first page of the scary stories, but I want a more direct way to communicate which books are for which readers. Therefore:

Rob Kent = middle grade book acceptable for all ages (and probably enjoyed by older readers as well)

Robert Kent = strictly for older readers and teenagers who have permission or are crafty enough to get around their guardian's notice (that's on you, guardians; I'm doing what I can to help you out)

Honestly, I'll answer to either name. And it's the tale, not he who tells it. You can call me "that ninja fellah" if you like and we'll all know who you mean, it's fine:)

That's it for today, Esteemed Reader. I hope this post finds you well and with time to read. Please follow this link to download Banneker Bones and the Giant Robot Bees. If you read to the end of this post, you find me readable enough.

Help a ninja out:)

Fifth grader Ellicott Skullworth has always felt out of place at public school and now he's tested into the Archimedes Program at Latimer University. While in Latimer City, he’ll be living with his world famous and insane(ly) brilliant cousin, Banneker Bones, the eleven-year-old inventor of robots. The only problem: Banneker doesn't want to share his room. And he's got an army of robots to make Ellicott miserable until he goes home.

When the boys are ambushed by robot bees as big as cars, Ellicott's only friend is carried off and held for ransom. To rescue him, Ellicott has no choice but to partner with his maniacal cousin. Ellicott doesn't know what's worse: facing a hive of giant robot bees or spending more time with Banneker Bones.

Banneker Bones and the Giant Robot Bees is a humorous, science fiction adventure for readers of all ages written in the spirit of a comic book.

“Let me say at once that I think this is a most original and amusing piece of work. A reader is arrested at the outset by a paradoxical witticism and he goes on being arrested as the story gets into its stride. Ellicott Skullworth and Banneker Bones appear as characters about whom the reader wants to learn more, and soon he begins to be in no doubt about this.” --Richard Adams, author of Watership Down

Monday, February 12, 2018

7 Questions For: Public Relations Expert Wiley Saichek

Wiley Saichek began working in the book industry while he was still a student, providing online publicity support for novelists Chelsea Quinn Yarbro and Suzy McKee Charnas, assisting at a local used bookstore, volunteering for The Book Report Network's chat rooms and message boards on AOL, and interning in Tor/Forge's publicity and editorial departments.

From 2002-2013, Saichek spearheaded online publicity campaigns for The Book Report Network's AuthorsOnTheWeb division while also managing freelance publicity projects. He left to establish Saichek Publicity in August 2013.

And Now Wiley Saichek faces the 7 Questions:

Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?

In adult fiction my favorite authors are Agatha Christie and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro (started as a fan; she's been friend and client for many years).

In the younger reader’s space I will go with Beverly Cleary’s Ramona the Brave, Ann M. Martin’s Ten Kids, No Pets, and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird (if we consider this book YA, which I am for this interview).

Question Six: Could you give us your take on a strategy to market one of your three favorite books if it were being published this year?

Pretending To Kill a Mockingbird  was being published this year and is not the classic we recognize today, I would work to get review copies to the leading publications/websites/blogs/podcasts/broadcast outlets that cover children’s & YA fiction, as well as adult fiction because of the crossover appeal. Outside of the book world I would approach outlets and organizations that cover progressive politics, Civil Rights, other racial issues, and law throughout the country, and particularly in the South. I'd consider approaching select churches as well. I would work to place excerpts and arrange interviews and op-eds/guest posts at these outlets too, and liaise with the publisher on the book tour.

I would want to get schools — middle school, junior high, and high school talking about the book by arranging in-person and/or Skype visits with Harper Lee.

In addition to the above I would advise on the author’s website, newsletter, and social media profiles, and weigh in on advertising opportunities.

Question Five: What are the typical services you provide and what results can an author reasonably expect?

My chief service is outreach. My goal is to help authors and publishers stay connected with current readers and find new readers by securing coverage (via publications, websites, blogs, and podcasts and other broadcast outlets, etc.), exploring partnerships, and helping authors maximize their online presence. I specialize in online promotion but for some campaigns I now weave in “traditional” publicity approaches. I see my role as filling in the cracks and expanding on what is being done in-house and what the author is planning to do.

I work to secure various forms of coverage, such as reviews, excerpt spotlights, giveaways, guest blogs, and interviews. Depending on the campaign in question, I also help arrange and promote appearances.

In addition to outreach services, I provide consulting services for authors who wish to handle their own publicity/marketing efforts.

When an author queries me, I first ask to see a copy of their book and ask what they know about their publisher’s in-house publicity/marketing plans.

Question Four: What sort of author and/or project(s) would you most like to work with?

I am a genre fiction reader, so I love being able to work on great books in the mystery, suspense, thriller, horror, SF/Fantasy, and historical fiction fields for adult, teen, and children’s audiences.

I love working with authors who understand the publishing process and see marketing and publicity as an ongoing, long-term endeavor.

Question Three: What is your favorite thing about what you do? What is your least favorite thing?

My favorite thing is letting people know about great books.

My least favorite thing is to have to tell clients things they are not going to like to hear.

Question Two: What one bit of wisdom would you impart to a writer marketing their book? (feel free to include as many other bits of wisdom as you like)

To try to view the marketing and publicity process as an adventure and/or a puzzle. Results may not — and probably will not — be instantaneous. My suggestion is to focus on writing the best book they can and be open to promoting it, but not obsess over the attention other authors are getting.

Question One: If you could have lunch with any writer, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

Agatha Christie. Besides being a fascinating person, she was notoriously shy. I would have loved to have been her publicist! I like to think she would have welcomed the ability to interact with her readers and to promote her books via email interviews and guest posts along with (extremely) select in-person promotions!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

7 Questions For: Literary Agent Emma Finn

Here is Emma Finn's bio from the C + W Agency website:

I am actively building my list of exciting new writers of both fiction and narrative non-fiction. On the fiction side, I read widely so don't like to be too prescriptive, but I do love novels that explore those moments that define our lives and collective experience: falling in or out of love; dealing with loss; navigating frailty, friendship, dysfunction or loneliness. And I'm drawn to novels about families, relationships of all kinds, that are sharply observed with a clever psychology.

For what it’s worth, a few novelists who I think do this wonderfully are Maggie O’Farrell, Yaa Gyasi, Kate Atkinson, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Anne Tyler, Ann Patchett, Sarah Waters, Zadie Smith and Jenny Offill. Above all I’m drawn to a strong voice, characters I want to drop everything to spend time with and beautiful, confident writing that grabs you by the hand from the first page and pulls you headlong into a memorable story. I’m not particularly led by genre but I am broadly on the lookout for literary / upmarket book group fiction, high concept novels and crime or thrillers driven by a compelling lead. I'm afraid I don't represent children's or YA fiction.

I’d also love to see great food writing (I especially adore Nigel Slater), big ideas books that help us to think about the world today, pop science, memoir or life writing and narrative non-fiction of all kinds, although I'm particularly keen to find new writing on race, gender and sexuality. If you happen to be the next Maggie Nelson, please send your words my way.

Editorial work is one of my favourite parts of the job so I'm absolutely committed to helping debut writers get their work into the best possible shape to share with publishers. I'm very happy to hear from authors with any initial queries so just drop me a line, and you can submit to me directly via email.

You can follow her on twitter.

And now Emma Finn faces the 7 Questions:

Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?

An impossible question! This would change near-constantly but for now I’ll plump for:

Olive Kitteridge  / Elizabeth Strout
The Secret History / Donna Tartt
Fingersmith / Sarah Waters

(I know it’s cheating but Another Country / James Baldwin and All My Puny Sorrows / Miriam Toews would be strong contenders too, along with all the Harry Potters).                         

Question Six: What are your top three favorite movies and television shows?

When Harry Met Sally
Blue is the Warmest Colour
(And sorry but it’s true: the entire Fast and the Furious franchise… I can’t justify it at all but I love them)

The Good Wife
Grey’s Anatomy (the early years)

Question Five: What are the qualities of your ideal client?

Collaborative, creatively ambitious, talented and kind.

Question Four: What sort of project(s) would you most like to receive a query for?

Right now, my perfect query would be for a gorgeously written, accessible literary / book group novel with strong characters, a fantastic voice and powerful, compelling storytelling. Anything with a brilliant, evocative sense of place always goes down well with me too, and I would love an original love story that will make me cry.

Question Three: What is your favorite thing about being an agent? What is your least favorite thing?

My favourite thing is the freedom to follow your taste and your passions – it’s a joy to be able to champion writing you feel strongly about and do your level best to find an author’s work the perfect home. The people are a big part of what I love too: I have wonderful colleagues and our authors are particularly lovely.

Least favourite is the inevitability of disappointing the majority of writers who submit, and the fact that I never have enough time to read everything I’d like to.   

Question Two: What one bit of wisdom would you impart to an aspiring writer? (feel free to include as many other bits of wisdom as you like)

I’m not sure I have any unassailable pearls but I’d say focus on the story you want to tell and try not to be side-tracked by trends or caution in the market. The novels I’ve fallen for fastest on submission have always been fearless, original and entirely themselves, so trust your instincts.

Question One: If you could have lunch with any writer, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

At the moment I think Elizabeth Strout. Her writing completely undoes me and she is so extraordinarily perceptive and tender on the small failures and intimacies of life – I adore her.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

7 Questions For: Author Will McIntosh

Will McIntosh is a Hugo award winner and finalist for the Nebula and eleven other awards. His most recent novels are Watchdog and Burning Midnight (Penguin Random House).

His previous book Defenders (Orbit Books) was optioned by Warner Brothers for a feature film, while Love Minus Eighty was named the best science fiction book of 2013 by the American Library Association. Along with six novels, Will has published around fifty short stories in Asimov’s (where he won Reader's Awards in 2010 and 2013), Lightspeed, Science Fiction and Fantasy: Best of the Year, and elsewhere.

Will lives in Williamsburg, Virginia with his wife Alison and twins Hannah and Miles. He left his position as a psychology professor in Southeast Georgia to write full time, and still teaches as an adjunct, at the College of William and Mary. Will is represented by Seth Fishman at The Gernert Company.

Follow him on Twitter @WillMcIntoshSF

Click here to read my review of Watchdog.

And now Will McIntosh faces the 7 Questions:

Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?

Watership Down by Richard Adams. The first book I fell in love with. The first one to rock my world so hard I never wanted it to end. One of the reasons I’m a writer. My mom bought it for me, and when I saw it was about rabbits I didn’t want to read it. But I also didn’t want to hurt my mom’s feelings, so I gave it a chance. Thanks, Mom.

Replay by Ken Grimwood. So, so wonderful. About a guy who dies at forty, and wakes up in his body at eighteen with all of his memories intact. When he reaches forty he dies again, and wakes up at eighteen again. Repeat.

Brittle Innings by Michael Bishop. This one is about a young man playing baseball for a minor league team during the great depression. His roommate is seven feet tall, badly scarred, and turns out to be…well, I don’t want to give it away. A haunting, beautiful book.

Question Six: How much time do you spend each week writing? Reading?

I write Monday to Friday 9 to 5, with breaks for lunch and exercise. Except when our twins are out of school, when I mostly take care of them and do very little writing. The surprising half of this answer is that I read very little at this point in my life, maybe 4 or 5 books per year.

I know most writers read a great deal, and I used to read 40 or 50 books a year, but since our twins were born and I switched careers from psychology professor to full-time writer, free time is hard to come by. Both of my kids have ADHD and are on the autism spectrum, and they thrive on staying active. So it boils down to: I can read, or I can write. Usually I prefer to write.

Question Five: What was the path that led you to publication?

My writing career started as a lark. I had a cool science fiction dream, and decided to try writing it as a story. I was about 36 at the time. I had so much fun writing the story I was hooked, and I wrote more and more in my spare time.

My first 88 submissions were rejections, but I kept on writing, and finally sold a story for twenty bucks. I was stunned when one of my stories, “Bridesicle”, won a Hugo Award, and that’s when I started taking writing more seriously, and I started mostly writing novels.

Finally, because my heart was in writing, and because my wife and I decided we wanted to move, I resigned my tenured position at a university and began writing full time.

Question Four: Do you believe writers are born, taught or both? Which was true for you?

I believe it’s about a 50-50 mix. I’m a psychologist by training, and there’s a lot of research out there examining how much specific traits are inborn, and how much learned. The best answer usually seems to be something like 50-50.

For example, are we born as introverts and extraverts, or is it something we become through life experience? Best estimates are it’s about 60% genetic, 40% experience. So I think writers need to have some innate spark of talent, then the rest depends on education, mentoring, motivation, and so on.

Question Three: What is your favorite thing about writing? What is your least favorite thing?

My favorite thing is coming up with ideas, followed by actually writing that first draft. I love coming up with new ideas and fleshing them out. It energizes me.

My least favorite thing is the business side of writing. Going on social media to try to raise awareness that I have books out there, worrying about whether the book I want to write is marketable, and will fit nicely into an Amazon category. Bleh.

Question Two: What one bit of wisdom would you impart to an aspiring writer? (feel free to include as many other bits of wisdom as you like)

Write as much as you can, and don’t get too discouraged if you don’t experience immediate success. Just write for the joy of it at first. For most people it takes a few years (you often hear the number one million words tossed about) before your work is good enough to be published.

Get feedback from other writers, and try to accept even the harshest feedback as an opportunity to improve. If someone tells you your work is awesome, but no editor wants it, that person is not helping you become a better writer. Develop a burning desire to become a better writer.

Question One: If you could have lunch with any writer, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

I’d have to go with Stephen King. I don’t read much horror anymore, but for two decades I would buy Stephen King’s books the moment they hit the shelves. I think his writing is a perfect balance of readability and art. On top of that, he seems to be an incredibly nice guy who cares passionately about other people. I considered answering George Orwell, Mary Shelley, J.R.R. Tolkein, and Aldous Huxley, but I’m not sure those lunches would be as fun as hanging out with Mr. King.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Book of the Week: WATCHDOG by Will McIntosh

First Paragraph(s): Vick never got used to the smell. Usually he stopped noticing bad smells after a while, but the eye-watering stink of mountains of trash baking in the blazing August sun was so bad, it made every breath an ordeal. And then there were the flies buzzing around Vick’s face, landing on him with their tickly legs. He never got used to them, either.

Is 2018 doing all right by you so far, Esteemed Reader? Are you sticking to your New Years resolution(s)? The Ninja is so far still getting all the usual exercise and meeting his daily word counts. I'm still terribly slow, but a draft of Banneker Bones 2 should be done in the reasonably near future and I may or may not be sitting on a partial for Banneker Bones 3. I'm all middle grade all the time just recently.

I've been mostly turning down book review requests because although I'm reading lots of books, writing these reviews takes time away from my fiction. More, I think this blog is better served by guest posts by more talented authors than myself or interviews with more interesting people (speaking of which, Will McIntosh will be here Wednesday to join the list of distinguished writers who've faced the 7 Questions).

But when I looked up between Bannekers and saw a Hugo-winning author had created a humorous middle grade Sci-Fi story about middle grade kids, one of  whom is an inventor of robots and on the autism spectrum, I figured I'd better read this one (if the book also had zombies, I'd have totally freaked out). Some books are books the reader finds, and some books find readers. Watchdog is a book that found me and I'm so glad it did.

Watchdog is a fun book I know you're going to love, Esteemed Reader, so feel free to skip this review and just go get yourself a copy if you like (it will save time). My review is as follows: This book is swell. Here's a blurb for Delacorte Books for Young Readers (feel free to put this on the jacket going forward at no charge):

"This book has robots in it. I like robots. Will McIntosh's name reminds me of a McMuffin. That sounds so good right now. I'm going to go eat one." --Middle Grade Ninja

Now that we've dispensed with that review business and progressed my booming empire of book blurbs, we can move on to our true purpose which is to discuss craft elements we can apply to our own writing (I'm assuming y'all are writing about middle grade autistic robot inventors as well). The first thing I have for you this week, Esteemed Reader, is to note the way in which McIntosh introduces genre up front in chapter one (remembering there was no way for him to guarantee there would be a robotic dog on the cover):

Tara was nowhere in sight. Huffing, Vick trudged around the base of the mound he was working on, arms spread to aid his balance as his feet sank into the trash. 
She was sitting on a filthy mattress on the opposite side of the mound, waving off the flies and laughing as she watched a TV show on a decrepit handheld with a missing back panel. Vick had no clue how she’d gotten it working, but it didn’t surprise him. Wild audience laughter drifted from the handheld. Vick guessed she was watching Boffo, a reality show where people gave domestic robots tricky orders so the robots would do the wrong things and look stupid. It was one of her favorite shows.

This is the very definition of show, don't tell. The description of the trash and the broken television tells us our heroes are living in a not great situation by showing us that situation. The television program introduces a central concept of the book: this a world in which advanced robots live among people and they're so commonplace that there's a TV show about tricking them. In a decade, maybe less, this might no longer be a giveaway of the type of story we can expect as we'll all be living in such a world, but in 2018 this is still Sci-Fi territory.

Pro-tip: If a writer ever takes the time to tell us what's on a character's television/radio/internet/holocomputer/etc, it's a good bet we're about to be introduced to some vital exposition, either because present characters don't know the information and need to learn it, or because it's a faster way for the reader to learn something. In both my zombie stories, characters get vital information from the TV. If you're a reading a writer who describes what's on a fictional television and the content of the program has no bearing on the story you're reading, that writer is an amateur and you should put their book down.

McIntosh (God, I want a McMuffin) applies this same skill when it comes to introducing our characters. Witness how he describes Tara while simultaneously telling us information about Vick and setting the parameters of their relationship:

From his angle, her profile was hidden by her dirty-blond hair (with the emphasis on dirty). Every morning he tied it back with a rubber band to try to keep it clean, and within an hour she took it out. She was so small she could pass for a seven-year-old. With the difference in their sizes, and Vick’s dark hair and Tara’s light, no one could believe they were twins.

Behold how he conveys the age of our protagonists in a manner that's relevant to the situation and the story and which provides additional crucial exposition:

Thirteen was a bad age to be homeless. Not young and cute enough for pity, but not old enough to hold their ground against grown-ups.

Unlike certain books about giant robot bees you might read and not even realize the title character is on the autism spectrum until you read the sequel (or the author's blog), Watchdog puts the autism of its main character on main street. If you're looking for a book specifically dealing with autism while also being about a charming and engaging story (and the reader in question is too young for Gone), Watchdog is a great book for this purpose.

I'd happily hand a copy to anyone who's either on the spectrum or in contact with someone who is (and probably you are even if you're unaware of it). The Ninja himself hums tunelessly and possesses many other spectrum traits. Tara is a wonderfully sympathetic hero who succeeds not just despite, but perhaps because of her autism. Tara's brain works differently, which is good. Vick and Tara (and Daisy, who we'll talk about in a minute) need a brain that works differently to get them out of their present situation.

 A sudden wave of homesickness mixed with sympathy for Tara nearly doubled Vick over. He squeezed his eyes shut until it passed. As much as it ever passed. Routine and sameness were so important for Tara—a classic symptom of autism. “It won’t be exactly the same as home, Tara. But it’ll be nice. You can have your own room.” 
Tara just stood there, arms dangling at her sides, gazing off to Vick’s right. A cloud of flies buzzed around her head. A few landed on the corners of her mouth. 
“Please help me. Dig. You’re the one who knows what we’re looking for. What we can sell.” 
“Okay. I’m sorry.” She knelt where she was and picked at the trash, moving it a piece at a time. The little robot sat beside her, wagging its rat tail. 
“I know it’s disgusting. I hate it, too.” 
“You can go away now. You’re bothering me,” Tara said. 
Vick sighed as he turned away. You never had to guess with Tara; she always gave it to you straight. He headed back to his spot. Behind him Tara began humming tunelessly.

As they settled into the trash, Tara pressed close to Vick. Mom had told him most kids with autism didn’t like to be touched or held. Not Tara. When she was scared she went overboard the other way, pretty much climbing into your lap and squeezing you until you couldn’t breathe.

So, what is a watchdog anyway? I could give you my less good definition, or I could just let McIntosh do it:

“I love watchdogs.” Tara reached up and set her hand between the thing’s shoulder blades, which rose and fell like levers as it walked. It didn’t seem to notice. People called them watchdogs, but you could build them to look like anything—a tiger, a spider, a velociraptor—or they could resemble nothing at all. This one looked like a cross between a pit bull and a four-legged T. rex. It had an oversized head, with dozens of silver fangs bristling inside massive jaws. The body was squat and powerful, the hind legs shorter than the front ones. 
One look at it was enough to know it was designed to be a fighter. It was technically illegal to create a robot designed to kill, but it was a gray area. Even a domestic robot could crush someone’s windpipe, and it was hard to know what a robot could do just by looking at it. As long as you didn’t outfit one with an automatic weapon you could probably get away with anything, especially in bad areas like this one. Police rarely ventured into this neighborhood anymore, and when they did they definitely had no interest in tangling with a watchdog.

Here's another pro-tip: if you introduce any fictional thing, such as a robot dog, readers want to know about the most interesting version of that fictional thing. Viewers don't care about all the Nova robots who weren't struck by lightning. They care about the fifth one. Why? Because number five is alive.

And if you aren't old enough to catch those references, then good for you. Nothing makes me feel older than remembering that within my lifetime there was a mainstream movie that involved a white actor darkening his skin and taking on racial stereotypes for laughs (and not nearly enough people thought it was weird until later as evidenced by an equally successful sequel). But my horror in learning that some of my favorite things from childhood are marred by racism is the subject of another post.

There are many watchdogs in Watchdog, but the one we most care about is Daisy. Why? Because thanks to Tara's brilliant inventing, Daisy has become sentient. So much so that she's able to reinvent herself and other robots, which is a terrifying concept, but lucky for middle grade readers, Daisy is friendly and fiercely loyal to her humans. Daisy starts out small and relatively harmless, but she doesn't stay that way for long.

Vick couldn’t quite believe this little robot was helping design her own new body. Robots didn’t design. A high-end domestic robot couldn’t decide what brand of coffee to buy unless you told it exactly. It would stand in the coffee section of the supermarket for eternity, trapped in a decision-loop.

Eventually, Tara's talents are discovered by Ms. Alba, who wants to take the twins off the streets and provide them with a job designing robots, which is good. Unfortunately, Ms. Alba is a sinister crime lord not unlike Oliver Twist's Fagin, which is bad. In no time, the kids are involved in multiple chases and futuristic battles with robots, which is what we all came to read in the first place.

McIntosh's story is fast-past and never gets bogged down with too many details. Watchdog is less concerned with the intricacies of robotic-human integration and crime life (although there are unavoidable parallels in the story to America's current blight of extreme economic inequality), and more concerned with robot fights. This book is a lot of fun and would make a great movie. I  enjoyed this story and I have no doubt you will as well.

And that's where we'll leave it except for one thing. You regular Esteemed Readers know how much I love it when writers get all writer-ly in their books. I never can resist drawing attention to it. But I mean, McIntosh, or at least, his character, isn't wrong:

Mom hadn’t graduated from high school, but she’d always pushed them to do “smart” things—visit museums, see plays instead of movies. She loved trashy romance books, but her rule for herself was she had to read one classic—Moby-Dick or Jane Eyre—for every trashy romance she read. No matter how boring the book turned out to be, she read every word.

Make sure you come back Wednesday for the interview. As always, I'll leave you with some of my favorite passages from Watchdog:

Tara rose and trudged toward him, her pet robot hopping along at her heels looking like a cross between a big rat and a rag doll, its cobbled-together parts all mismatched, its face nothing but a snout and eyes on scuffed silver metal.

It was almost dark, and the last sun rays gave the unlit lights down West Huron Street a glow, a reminder of when Vick was a little kid, before the economy crashed and everything turned bad. Bad in the poor neighborhoods, anyway. The lights were still shining in the wealthy neighborhoods on the north side.

His entire life seemed like a slow-motion fall down a flight of stairs.

They’d only been able to take what they could carry, and mostly that was stuff Tara insisted she couldn’t live without. Things like her plastic toy robot collection and the Disney Purple Girls shirt that hadn’t fit since she was four. He’d been stupid to let her load them up with so much junk when they could have been carrying food and medicine, but he’d been so sure this was temporary, that some adult was going to swoop in to save them. He hadn’t realized that when things got bad, when there weren’t enough jobs and people were hungry, adults only took care of their own kids.

“You need to talk to your sister. If she gives them grief, they’re going to make her life miserable. Yours, too.” 
Talk to his sister. If things had been different, he might have laughed at that. “She’s autistic. When she gets like that, it’s like a switch was flipped in her head. She can’t help it. You might as well tell the wind not to blow.”

STANDARD DISCLAIMER: Book of the Week is simply the best book I happened to read in a given week. There are likely other books as good or better that I just didn’t happen to read that week. Also, all reviews here will be written to highlight a book’s positive qualities. It is my policy that if I don’t have something nice to say online, I won’t say anything at all (usually). I’ll leave you to discover the negative qualities of each week’s book on your own. 

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Reviews, Interviews, and Guest Posts for THE BOOK OF DAVID

If you have a blog or a site and you'd like to interview me or have me over for a guest post, I'd be thrilled. Just email me and ask.

If you've written a review of the book, let me know and I'll link to it here.


"The horror and creep factor feels like a valve that Robert Kent has his finger on. He’s slowly pushing that lever and ratcheting the apprehension chapter by chapter. At times my heart is racing but he weighs this evenly with character growth, or freak outs rather, that move the plot right along!"
Creating Serenity - Chapter One
Creating Serenity - Chapter Two
Creating Serenity - Chapter Three
Creating Serenity - Chapter Four
Creating Serenity - Chapter Five

"The writing is rich and evocative, and it drew me in so deeply that when I turned the final page an audible “what no” escaped me because god***mit I wanted more. "
Bookish Creature

"It draws you in. Rich and detailed, setting up the characters and long-term story nicely. Kent does a fantastic job of making the Walters feel like real people even when the situations become so unreal. I can’t recommend this series enough. It’s a fascinating take on corporate America, religion, security and alien conspiracies. All told through the life of David Walters and his family."
Games, Brrraaains and a Head-banging Life-Chapter One
Games, Brrraaains and a Head-banging Life-Chapter Two
Games, Brrraaains and a Head-banging Life-Chapter Three
Games, Brrraaains and a Head-banging Life-Chapter Four
Games, Brrraaains and a Head-banging Life-Chapter Five

"Absolutely love this story. It has a little but of everything; a haunted house, ghosts, aliens, demons, religious zealots, murder, you name it. The book has humor, horror and an introspective look at ourselves and mankind. I think this has Netflix series written all over it and would love to see it."
Amazon Reviews

"Kent's style keeps the action moving, whether it's flashback, dialogue, or precise description."



The term horror, especially when applied to fiction always carries such heavy connotations.  What’s your feeling on the term “horror” and what do you think we can do to break past these assumptions?

I like horror novels, obviously, and when I see that a book is listed in the horror section, I'll at least read its description, if not a sample. I like that so many of my novels are classified as "horror" because it means they're in good company and I would be interested in them if I didn't already know how they ended. As for assumptions, there are some types of readers who prefer to steer clear of anything that might upset them, which is unfortunate, as it's good for you to be upset occasionally.

It's also true that bad horror is more noticeable than bad fiction in other genres because horror is so very do or die. A horror story is either scary or it isn't. A mystery can be obvious, implausibly solved, but still enjoyable to readers if the detective's kitten gets up to adorable antics. A non-scary horror story can't necessarily win over horror hounds with a cute romantic subplot.

Being a horror fan often means having to wade through some not great stories to find gold, but that's part of the fun. It makes finding something really scary all the more special. Non fans aren't always willing to put up with such a hit or miss genre. Me, I'll never claim Bait 3D is a great movie, but I own a copy and love to rewatch it with friends because sharks in a grocery store is my idea of a good time.

 Full interview containing some coarse language at Ginger Nuts of Horror on 10/24/17


Were you worried that the introduction of aliens and Sexy Jesus might turn people off what is at first a 'haunted house' story? I'll admit to wondering what the hell was going on the first time the painting spoke!

I wasn't worried. In fact, I was certain some people would be turned off and I tried to target them as much as I could. I made sure to drop a few F-bombs in the opening passages so that anyone who might know me for my writing for children would know this wasn't that (assuming they skipped the warning in the description and on the first page). The language gets much fouler before the end, so I wanted those readers who would be bothered to tap out early.

There's A LOT of really offensive stuff in this story I wouldn't discuss at the diner table in front of grandma, but I might discuss some of it with a select audience late at the bar. That's one of the reasons I wanted to publish The Book of David as a serial novel. The first chapter is always free to read as an ebook and it's short. If a reader gets to the end of it (or the middle) and they're turned off, they're not out any money or that much time. Plenty of other books out there for those readers and I hope they find a story more to their liking. The second chapter is also short, but it's much more offensive than the first chapter and goes farther down the rabbit hole.

Chapter four and five are absolutely nuts. I don't want anybody reading them who hasn't already made it though the increasing offensiveness of the first three chapters. If you're still reading by chapter five, you're obviously entertained and having at least some fun because you had four perfectly good opportunities to quit reading. As much as possible, I want those readers to self select.

 Full interview at Games, Brrraaains and a Head-banging Life on 2/10/18