RTW: Best Books of September 2011

Road Trip Wednesday is a "Blog Carnival," where YA Highway's contributors and followers post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on their blogs. You can hop from destination to destination through the YA Highway site and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's topic: What was the best book you read in September?

I didn't read much this month, at least not many new books. I attempted The Dead Father's Club by Matt Haig, and despite the voice being very similar to the much-enjoyed The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, DFC didn't hold my interest.

And over our vacation, I treated myself to rereads of the last two books in the Bloody Jack series by L.A. Meyer, in preparation for the release of the next one, The Mark of the Golden Dragon, on October 4. Yay! I predict that title will make an appearance in Best Books of October.

And these are arriving tomorrow, so I'll cover them in October also:

Yes, you might recognize The Replacement from so many RTWs last week--y'all talked me into finally reading it! So enough about what I haven't read this month, and let's get to the book I did read:

Some of you may have read the interview I did with author Karen Sandler back in May, well before the book release this month, so I was excited to finally read Tankborn. It lived up to my expectations, with a detailed world and society, and the spice of forbidden romance. Here's the short blurb: When best friends Kayla and Mishalla, genetically engineered slaves on the planet Loka, develop friendships with higher-status boys, they discover a shocking, evil plot that leads them all to begin to question the strict caste system of their world.

So did you read much this month? What was the best book you read in September? Don't forget to go to the YA Highway RTW post and follow the links in the comments to see everyone else's answer!

Banned Books Week

Banned Books Week runs from September 24-October 1, 2011 and this year one of the events to help draw attention to censorship is the Virtual Read Out, where readers can present excerpts from their favorite banned books.

On the Banned Books Week YouTube channel, you can see people celebrating the triumph of the power of words over censorship by reading aloud from books that have been challenged or banned. There is also this short video with Judy Blume, which has some great points about why people try to sensor books for children and what affect it actually has:

For my contribution to the Virtual Read Out, I chose Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass. This book was challenged for its religious viewpoint, variously described as anti-Christian and anti-authority.

The controversy stepped up when a movie was made from the book, which is ironic because the movie neatly sidestepped a lot of the issues of religion and stuck to the adventurous and otherworldly parts of the book. Which were the parts I liked the best anyhow! Don't get me wrong, I did appreciate the discussions which his version of the origins of sin stimulated, but to me this book is a marvelous adventure tale.

So I chose to record a reading of a glimpse into another world from The Golden Compass:

Only a few flubs, not bad! What about you--any special plans for Banned Book Week? Did you post a video for the Virtual Read-out?

RTW: Cover Songs

Road Trip Wednesday is a "Blog Carnival," where YA Highway's contributors and followers post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on their blogs. You can hop from destination to destination through the YA Highway site and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's topic: What are your all-time favorite book covers?

As a teen, if a book cover had a horse on it, I was almost guaranteed to pick it up. This meant I read a lot of bad romance novels with artwork done by folks who were savvy to the horse factor in book-buying decisions.

Have you ever noticed just how many historical romances from the 80s have horses on them? It's a formula of cleavage (her decollatage and his pecs), tight breeches, and wildly blowing long hair (and it seems that wind-blown-hair look also appears in YA book covers.), with a horse thrown in somewhere. If not horses, unicorns would do in a pinch, and they more often appeared in SF/Fantasy.

But over time my taste in cover artwork has changed, influenced by my own experiences with painting, sketching, graphic design, and photography. I find that I like covers that are simplistic and graphic-looking

or photographic with a twist

and lush and artistic (still love some of the girls in period dresses but they are becoming overdone and it's harder to make yours stand out)

I'm not much into abstract covers. What about you--what covers have caught your eye?

Market: Tu Books (Lee and Low)

I interviewed Karen Sandler, author of Tankborn which came out this month by Tu Books, but in case you were wondering what Tu books looks for in submissions:

"Tu Books publishes speculative fiction for children and young adults featuring diverse characters and settings. Our focus is on well-told, exciting, adventurous fantasy, science fiction, and mystery novels featuring people of color set in worlds inspired by non-Western folklore or culture. We welcome Western settings if the main character is a person of color.

We are looking specifically for stories for both middle grade (ages
8-12) and young adult (ages 12-18) readers. (We are not looking for picture books, chapter books, or short stories. Please do not send submissions in these formats.)

For more information on how to submit, please see our submission guidelines.

What we’re particularly interested in seeing lately: Asian steampunk, any African culture, contemporary African-American stories, Latino/a stories, First Nations/Native American/Aboriginal fantasy or science fiction written by tribal members, original postapocalyptic worlds, historical fantasy or mystery set in a non-Western setting.

We look forward to reading your book!"

Hope there's someone who has a book that fits their categories. I'd like to see what an Asian steampunk looks like for myself!

P.S. Don't forget that the deadline for entering Writer's Digest's Young Adult Short Ficion Contest is October 1.

RTW: What's with All the Nautical Metaphors?

Road Trip Wednesday is a "Blog Carnival," where YA Highway's contributors and followers post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on their blogs. You can hop from destination to destination through the YA Highway site and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's topic: What themes, setting, motifs, scenes, or other elements do you find recurring in your work?

Ooo, what a great topic! I think it will be interesting to see how many of the universal themes crop up in all of our posts. Motifs were easy to come up with for my books: nautical references and metaphors, crows, things that are not what they initially seem, music as symbolism, etc.

For themes in my books, I thought I would need to address my two books separately, but after I thought about it, these three themes run throughout both books:

1. Forgiveness, of yourself and others.
It seems that most people have the hardest time learning to forgive themselves. Forgiveness of others is difficult enough to put into practice, and to truly mean it, but it seems like people (especially perfectionists) hold themselves to higher standards, and are therefore harder on themselves when they don't meet those standards. Or maybe that's just my characters (okay, and my younger self).

2. Finding your strengths (and they may very well be traits you considered weaknesses at one time) and deciding your own path in life.
In Spirits from the Vasty Deep, Olivia has always considered her ability to hear spirits as a curse. When a wiser person suggests that it's a gift, it's very difficult for her to wrap her mind around that concept. After all, how could something that always brought her nothing but trouble actually be a power for good?

3. What survives after death?
In Spirits from the Vasty Deep, this is an obvious question. Some of the spirits Olivia encounters become fragmented and incoherent over time, but others actually gain power from their connection to the living--sometimes enough to influence or physically affect them. As in possess them or harm them.

In Crow's Rest, the MC's boyfriend is declared brain dead and his parents are following his wishes to serve as an organ donor. Avery (MC) was always for organ donation in theory, but when it comes to Daniel suddenly it's more than a theory. Here's a tiny excerpt (and this is a WIP, so it's still a bit rough):

His organs could go to some secretive serial killer or child molester, for all I knew. Someone who looks fine and upstanding from the outside, like Dexter. Do they do background checks on organ recipients?

My anxieties shifted into overdrive now, and my brain whirred with other scenarios. How much of Daniel would still be in those parts? Would there be scraps of him or his psyche, trapped and voiceless, while some scumbag went on a crime spree? Is that what organ rejections really are—cases where a psychic echo from the donor just can’t assimilate into the new person’s life?

Whew, I had a lot to say on this topic! Hope you all stuck around for all of it. What are your recurring themes and motifs?

P.S. Check out yesterday's post for some pictures taken on our real-life road trip last week.

What I Did Over Vacation

Missed my blog post yesterday because we'd just gotten back into town and I was busy catching up on things (what's that you say--I could have set up a post ahead of time to go up automatically? Did you catch the "vacation" part?). So here is a photo essay catching you up on the places we went and things we saw:

We stayed in the hills above Pillar Point Harbor (near Half Moon Bay, CA)

Used the rental cottage as a base and went into San Francisco for day trips, including sights like the Maritime Museum at Fisherman's Wharf

and the Japanese Tea Garden

and the Conservatory of Flowers

along with a side trip to the Filoli estate (this is just the garden room, and I totally want one)

Went lots of other places, but I didn't want to turn this into a captive blog audience vacation slideshow. Hopefully this little taste is enough to inspire you in your writing somehow--I know it did for me!

For the month of September, Andrew Karre of Carolrhoda is opening for submissions. Unlike his previous special requests, in which he said, "Bring on your bastards and your unresolved romances," this time his request includes what he is not looking for (because he already has books under these categories):

"Until the end of September, I will be accepting electronic submissions of YA novels with the following exceptions (based not on prejudice so much as on what I've got brewing in the lab already):

1. I'm not considering dysto/post-apocolypto books.

2. If your book can be sung to the tune of a song by The Police, please make sure it's not “Don't Stand So Close to Me.”

3. If your books is more than 60,000 words, please don't send it.

4. Unlike that little kid in the movie, I don't read dead people. No narrators from beyond the grave.

5. If you have superpowers, I have kryptonite. Stay away.

6. I don't do high fantasy. Here there be no dragons."

So if your YA novel fits outside of one of those categories, take advantage of this momentary opening of his mailbox! Good luck, all!