Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’m Thankful For

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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November 26: Thankful Freebie

91jxemsjivl._ac_uy218_ml3_1.  Beautiful by Fran Laniado– How obnoxious is it that I included my own book on here? Well, in my defense, publishing this book has taught me a lot about writing and publishing in general and I’m grateful for the experience, everything that I’ve learned, and the ability to carry it forward into my future career.

 

 

91jl3hfvm4l._ac_uy218_ml3_2. Beauty by Robin McKinley– My first week of college, I knocked on a classmate’s door to ask a question and saw her reading this book. That was how I made my first friend on campus. It’s true what they say: when you see someone reading a book that you love, it’s like a book, recommending a person.

 

 

51cbwb1nmql-_ac_us218_3. Fairy Tales– OK this is less a book than a literary category but it was what first made me fall in love with literature. I think that fairy tales taught me some very important lessons that I’ve carried through life: that appearances can be deceiving, that dragons can be beaten and that witches can be good or bad depending on the circumstance.

 

51nvefbi7wl4. Curious George by HA Ray- I remember a point in my early childhood when I thought of Curious George as a friend. Like me, he was curious but unlike me, he was brave. I was often scared, so I let George do the exploring and get into trouble! In a way he was the literary character who showed me how to live vicariously through a character’s experiences on the page. While that’s not always a good idea by any means, at times (particularly in early childhood) it’s the wiser course. So thanks for the friendship George, and thanks for getting into trouble for me!

51f8te9sbwl-_ac_us218_5.Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell– I think that reading this book made me think a lot about the connections that I have to people and my ability to communicate with them. Karana, the heroine of this book is stranded on an island alone for many years. Even after she’s found she’s still isolated because there’s no one left alive who speaks her language. It made me think for the first time about being understood, and how grateful I am to have that ability. It’s something I’ve always valued and this book highlighted why in a way that few things had previously.

41h2mph7rbl._ac_uy218_ml3_6. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. by Judy Blume- I think that this book normalized a lot of being a growing girl. Not that it was all accurate: I read it when I was about 9 or 10 and it made menstruation seem like a wonderful treat girls earned when they reached a certain age: that led to a major disappointment a few years later! But it also let me know that what I was thinking and feeling was normal and that a lot of other kids were just as confused about the whole experience of growing up as I was.

51avlw-rakl-_ac_us218_7.Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie– I think that this book gave me an awareness of my privilege and I’m grateful for that. I’m not grateful for the unfair advantages that I have as a white, American born citizen. I don’t think it’s right that I have those privileges due to accidents of birth and I wish that we lived in a more equitable society. But I’m grateful that this book gave me a view of life without them. That view made me more aware of them and  how they’ve played a role in my own life. I don’t know if I’m explaining this very well!

71markoye3l._ac_uy218_ml3_8.The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion– A few years ago I lost several loved ones in the space of a few months, including someone very close to me. A lot of books about death and grieving seemed to offer platitudes and trite promises. Joan Didion’s memoir of her husband’s death (while their daughter was in a coma fighting for her life) didn’t wrap it up in any false comfort. Losing a loved one is hard. Grief is confusing and scary. It doesn’t follow any rules. But it’s often the price we pay for loving people.

51dxbewzuil-_ac_us218_9.Anne of Green Gables (series) by LM Montgomery- I’m using these as a stand in for several books that feel like old friends. They’re the books I’ve read so many times that reading them feels like coming home after being away for a long time. I’m thankful for the knowledge that whatever terrible things may happen in real life, these books are always there. They won’t always make everything better, but they’ll help me feel less alone through whatever happens.

41z63vm8bwl-_ac_us218_10. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott– I’ve never been a very organized writer. My process (insofar as I have one) involves me writing down whatever pops into my head, and then fixing it and making it presentable later.  I don’t outline. I don’t have formal “drafts,” I just write and rewrite until I have something. Lamott’s advice to writers is essentially “whatever works.” There’s an understanding that that won’t look the same for everyone. It gives my messy, chaotic writing style a sense of validation.

How Prolific Do I Want To Be?

Lately I’ve been wondering what kind of writer I am. In some ways the answer to that is obvious. I’m an indie author. I write fantasy. But in some ways I feel like I don’t measure up to other, “similar” authors. I put similar in quotes because these authors are also indie/self published who write fantasy in the same sub-genre but they write a lot more than I do, and seem to do it more professionally.

thumbnail_Elle s mIt took me about four years to write Beautiful, and another year to publish it. Some of that was because I had to figure out elements of publishing for myself, while working full time.  Now I’ve been working on the follow up, Frozen Heart, for about three years. It’s pretty much written, in that I have a manuscript with a beginning, middle and end. I’m somewhere between the second and third drafts  right now. I’d like it to be ready by early 2020. If I’m not able to manage that I might have to wait until the end of 2020. Beautiful was published in July 2018.

Indie authors usually try to write at least a book per year, preferably more. I’ve seen authors publish as many as three books per year. A lot of the research I did before publishing Beautiful actually recommended waiting until you have several publish-able manuscripts before publishing your first, so you have more ready to go. I decided not to do that because I wasn’t sure if/when I’d have a ready follow-up and I felt ready to send Beautiful out into the world. I don’t think that was a mistake but I don’t think I’ll ever be a writer who can publish one book a year.

I read a blog post once by an indie author who said she writes only one draft of each novel before having an editor look it over, making a few, small tweaks, and then publishing. I can’t imagine doing that. My first drafts are a mess! My second drafts are a little bit better, and so on.

I’m not criticizing anyone who can turn out great work on the first try! I’m envious! I don’t think that will ever be me.

Maybe as I go on, I’ll get better at self-editing. Already, I’m noticing improvements between my first book and my second. When I wrote Beautiful, I would see something in a draft that didn’t quite work but I’d stubbornly hold onto it until several beta readers had told me it didn’t work. Now I’m quicker to kill my darlings.

But I want my published novels to reflect my best work. In order to do that, it takes me longer to write a book than is generally recommended for indie authors. Obviously the more I publish the more opportunity I have for sales, but right now, compromising quality doesn’t seem worth it to me.

Do you prefer authors to be prolific or careful with what they publish? Does it have to be an “either/or” situation?

 

Beautiful: Reader’s Guide

The Reader’s Guide to Beautiful is now available on the books page of my website.  It features some discussion questions, a bit “about the author”, some information about the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, and a sneak peak of my upcoming novel Frozen Heart. It’s free so check it out!

Coming Soon!

I’ve been working on a reader’s guide to Beautiful. I had initially planned to have it out by the book’s first birthday but some other things go in the way. But it’s coming soon, so keep an eye on the “books” page of my website. I’ll also share on my blog when it’s up. But it’ll have:

  • Discussion questions
  • Background information
  • A sneak peak of Frozen Heart
  • more…

Plus it’s free!

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Genre Lists

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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June 4: Books From My Favorite Genre (You pick the genre, and give us your ten faves.)

Since I’ve done more than one “Favorite books in x genre” list, I decided to do a top ten list of past genre lists:

  1. Top Ten Tuesday: Gothic Romance 
  2. Top Ten Tuesday: Time Travel
  3. Top Ten Tuesday: “Girl”-ish Suspense Novels
  4. Top Ten Tuesday: Best Dual Timeline Novels
  5. Top Ten Tuesday: Best Lesser Known Romances
  6. Top Ten Tuesday: Hidden Gems of Magical Realism
  7. Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books About Books
  8. Top Ten Tuesday: Nonfiction That Taught Me Something New
  9. Top Ten Tuesday: Best Novellas and Short Stories
  10. Fairy Tale Retellings

Fairy Tale Book Boyfriends

Finn from Beautiful was selected as Epic Faerytales’ 14 Fairy Tale Book Boyfriends To Get You Through February. I got such a kick out of being mentioned on the same list as authors such as Sarah J. Maas, Diana Gabaldon, Kristin Cashore, and Grace Draven! You can check out the list at the link, and get Finn for yourself in Beautiful.

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Available Here!

Yes this post was shameless self promotion. Sorry for not warning you! Happy Valentine’s day!

“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”

The above quote is from Albert Einstein. He was a fairly intelligent fellow himself.

白雪姫のクリップアート princess Snow White Disney cartoon イラスト素材22

Last week, @theorangutanlibrarian shared this article (Five reasons to stop reading your children fairytales now) along with some humorous responses as to why it was absurd. But even though the advice in the article is troubling, people listen. Keira Knightly and Kristen Bell are among the people who have listened to this advice. While I think that looking at artistic/literary material through a critical lens is always worthwhile, I think that this trend  is troubling because the lens through which it looks at the material is flawed.

Yes, there are troubling, sexist tropes in Disney films and in the fairy tales on which they’re based. But banning them is not the answer. For one thing, forbidding children to read/watch something is just guaranteeing that it will be more interesting to them. Have people really not figured that out by now? Children will seek it out, especially if it’s something as universal and commonly referenced as fairy tales. But if they seek it out themselves, parents will have lost the opportunity to make those troubling elements explicit and discuss them with kids. Instead of having that critical lens, the children will only have the lens that’s given to them in the story/adaptation.

But beyond that, some of out problems with these stories come more from perception. I discussed that a bit in this post.  You could look at Cinderella as a  girl who waits around for a prince to save her. Or you could look at her a survivor of an abusive environment, who never loses her characteristic good nature. Instead of perpetuating the cycle of abuse, she’s kind to even the lowliest mice. Why not highlight that when a child wants to read/watch Cinderella? Maybe speculate as to why her stepmothers and stepsisters would be so cruel to her (are they in pain? was someone cruel to them?). Present it as a story about the ways that people respond to cruelty.  Point out that while Cinderella was tormented by her step family she had the loyalty of all those to whom she’d been kind.  Point out that her stepmother wanted one of her daughters to marry the prince, and that she could have had that if she accepted Cinderella as her daughter. Show them that it’s better to be kind even when it doesn’t seem like a reward is imminent.

The same can be done for other fairy tales. Yes, you could see The Little Mermaid as a woman who changes who she is to impress a guy. But you could look at her as someone who was so fascinated by another culture that she she made sacrifices to live among them. Snow White could be seen as a foolish girl who takes gifts from strangers. But you could also see her as someone who escaped a threatening situation. She was a princess who had probably never worked a day in her life, and in order to survive, she rolls up her sleeves and takes a job cooking and cleaning for seven men. Is it troubling that men kiss sleeping/comatose women in these stories? Point that out to kids! They can understand from an early age that touch is only OK with consent.

But there are so many fairy tales out there in which a female character takes an active, even heroic role. In Beauty and the Beast, Belle saves her father by going to live with the Beast. In East of the Sun, West of the Moon, the princess goes on a quest to rescue her prince. In The Snow Queen the girl travels to the frozen north to save her male friend. In The Six Swans the princess endures years of silence and hardship to free her brothers from a curse. In Hansel and Gretel, Gretel outsmarts the witch and saves her brother. Disney hasn’t adapted all of these as films, but there are other adaptations out there. Why stop with Disney? Why not expose children to all that fairy tales have to offer?

Frozen may be loosely based on The Snow Queen but it changed a lot. If you have a kid who enjoyed Frozen maybe read the original story with them. Check out some of the more faithful film adaptations. There’s the 1950’s Russian cartoon that was dubbed in English by Sandra Dee and Tommy Kirk.  Or check out the 2002 miniseries with Bridget Fonda in the tile role.

If they like Frozen, introduce them to another wintery fairy tale with a kick-ass heroine. In East of the Sun, West of the Moon we see the princess go on a long quest to save the prince.  While there’s no Disney film, there is a live action film adaptation called The Polar Bear King. Compare it to the story. Compare the heroine of this story to Gerda in The Snow Queen. Ask your kids who they think is braver?

There are several film adaptations of Hansel and Gretel. The 1987 Cannon Movie Tales film with Cloris Leachmann is fairly child friendly.  There’s also a 2003 film featuring Lynn Redgrave. Or why not introduce your kids to opera while you’re at it? This film uses stop-action animation with Kineman dolls (a precursor to claymation) and lavish sets as a backdrop for Englebert Humperdinck’s opera.

Actually some of the fairy tales with female agency are ripe for adaptation. This was the only film version of The Six Swans that I could find!

And why limit your kids to the traditional Western canon? There’s a whole world of cultures that have their own fairy tales. Some of those are thematically similar to the ones that we’re familiar with. Do some research and draw parallels with kids. Appreciate the diverse world in which we live!

My point is that instead of conflating Disney’s fairy tale films with fairy tales in general, separate the adaptation from its source. Kids can appreciate from a very young age that there is more than one way to tell a story. Introduce them to stories that Disney hasn’t yet adapted to show that there are many values that are espoused in fairy tales, not  just the ones that get mainstream adaptations. Let them watch Disney films. Point out the good in them and make the bad explicit too. Instead of banning things that are difficult, raise your kids to be critical thinkers. Don’t just “throw out” stories that have endured for generations.

 

 

 

Why You Should Read My Book

I know I promised to slow down with the shameless self promotion and I will. Just one more post…

I’ve blogged about my book, Beautiful, but I realized that I hadn’t actually told you why you should read it. So here, in random order, are the reasons you should read my book:

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  • It features two protagonists who are sympathetic but flawed. Both grow in significant ways over the course of the novel. No Mary-Sues or Gary-Stus here.
  • It actually features a healthy YA romance. No triangles, no insta-love, no possessiveness, no mind games.
  • It explores aspects of a popular fairy tale that are aren’t often addressed in retellings.
  • We see two characters who have both grown up with a certain degree of privilege try to stand on their own two feet for the first time. They are successful in some ways. Other ways are harder.
  • There is a brief introduction to two of the characters featured in my follow-up novel.
  • Reviews are good. According to Amazon reviewers, it is “compelling,””vivid,” “a delight to read,” and “sweet.”
  • It’s free on Kindle Unlimited and only $2.99 to own.

Amazon reviewers are saying_

  • Make a great gift for fantasy/fairy tale lovers this holiday season.