Nice Book Reviews

heartbook

I have a confession to make. I have been a terrible person in book reviews. I have skewered, slashed, hacked, and scorned. I have pointed and cried, “J’accuse!” I’ve made wild speculation on authors’ upbringing, education, and mental facility.

I’ve written some blog posts, too, that were…well…unflattering to the subjects.

Back in the old days, before we knew about bullying online and how stuff lives on the interwebs foreeevvvaaahhh, things were different. We thought we could post crap and no one would read it. Like we were writing in our little diaries that got stashed under the mattress.

I, too, thought I was immune. I never dreamed there would be a situation in which the unflattered subjects would read my blog. I mean, who am I? Nobody. A girl has no name.

I should know better! I found a bulletin board post once, written by a “friend” that said some pretty mean things about me, and my boyfriend. Friend never dreamed I would read that. But when you’re bored at work and start googling your friends…

This is all to say, that I am not going to give 1 star reviews on GoodReads any more. This is not because I am about to have a book come out myself and I don’t want people to be harsh with me.  I’ve been thinking about this for a while, after I heard someone on the radio talk about how giving someone a nasty book review is pointless to everybody, for starters.

Shitty book reviewers are just slightly literate trolls. I don’t want to be a slightly literate troll.

When I review online, I’m going to put more thought into WHY I don’t like a book. I’m not going to take it out on the author as person. I will be specific but not mean. I will be thoughtful not knee-jerk. I’ve heard several interviews with an author who sounds like a great person! Sounds like someone I would be friends with in real life! But man, I did not like Person’s book. I ended up not reviewing the book on my blog or Goodreads or anywhere. If my friends ask, I will tell them, “It wasn’t for me.” But I won’t send out self-righteous BS any more.

If I don’t like a book, I will say so, but in a way that lets people know that it’s not you, it’s me. The book wasn’t for me. That’s all.

 

Bird skirts, mean girls, and diseases

sally j freedman

This is middle schoolish age favorites (not listed: Sweet Valley Twins and Nancy Drew)

Island of the Blue Dolphins (Scott O’Dell) Holy shit did I want to make a cormorant skirt. Karana is a badaasssss.

Silver (Norma Fox Mazer) Poor kid gets to hang out with rich kids and sees that the grass is not always greener. And also please get me some silver earrings stat.

Nothing’s Fair in Fifth Grade (Barthe DeClements) Reading about fifth grade girl politics is the best. Unless you are living them in real life, then it’s just commiseration.

The Girl with the Silver Eyes (Willo Davis Roberts) Ok, yes, it’s like Thalidomide but instead of physical deformities, the babies got cool powers. I love this book so hard. Was this my first science-fiction read? Maybe…

Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself (Judy Blume) I’ve always been sort of obsessed with the 1940’s/50’s, and the theater/performing. And also Nazi Germany. So this was pretty great.

Anything with diseases:

Six Months to Live (Lurlene McDaniel) She gets leukemia. In the second book, her bestie with leukemia dies and her ashes are in a matchbox and omg sad.

Deenie (Judy Blume) They thought I had scoliosis once, but it was just one side of my back was more muscular than the other because of swim team. Go figure.

13 is Too Young to Die (Isaacsen Bright) All I remember is that she has lupus. And I was sure I had lupus for a hot second.

There was another one about a girl who befriends twins, one of whom has given a kidney to the other one.

Reader discussion: What were your favorite books as a kid?

 

 

 

 

 

Publication Update and Plea

Howdy, weblings!

I have a publication date for The Book. Okay, so it’s called Reddick’s Grimoire: Dirty Work. It’s not like a baby and I don’t want you to steal the name. I can just tell you.

April 3, 2017.

Which SOUNDS like eons from now. It is not! I have a lot of work to do before then. Let’s take a stroll through what I have done so far:

  1. Edits

I have sent off the manuscript for its first round of edits. People ask me often, “Are you afraid of what they’re going to do to it?” Like I sent them Great Gatsby and they’re going to send it back looking like Strangers in a Strange Land.

Uh, no.

I’ve been in enough writing workshops, critique groups, schools, advertising jobs, and the like to  be too precious about this. This is not the Sistine Chapel. This is not Shakespeare. This is not a world peace treaty. What I wrote matters, don’t get me wrong. It matters to me, and people who love me. And the publisher is taking a risk with me, so it matters to them. But from start to finish, a book is a conversation, not a firehose aimed at the reader.

The editor, and my publishers, are not in the business of making a book unsellable. She (my editor) is going to go Goldmill on that Rocky manuscript (see what I did there?) and get it into fighting shape to take on Apollo Creed. In this (lame) metaphor, Creed stands in for the massive urban fantasy market that my little Rocky has to go up against.

2. Marketing

While I wait for the edits to come back…

The publisher has a vested interest in me (obvs) and they have a crack marketing team to work with me. I have provided them with a whole bunch of stuff to use – cover copy, my bio, my cheesy picture.

I’ve made a new home page for my Author life (www.saraothompson.com).

I’m bumping up my activity on Twitter and Instagram.

I have a huge mood board for the book series on Pinterest.

I have an Official Facebook page.

And this was fun – I sent the publisher my thoughts about the cover of the book. Apparently this is unusual, for the author to have any say in that part. I realized as I was answering the question sheet about the cover (Ex: what do you want people to think of when they see the cover? etc.), one of the things I said was, “All the covers for this genre/type of book – urban fantasy, female protagonist, etc. – have the same cover.” So what did I do when it came time to sketch out a cover? I drew the same damn cover as all the other ones have. But I am certain that the marketing whizzes will prevail and make a fantastic cover.

3. Research

I’m trying to get very familiar with the process of being a working writer, including all the above. I’m looking at videos and reading interviews of people who’ve gone this way before.

Plea(s): Follow me on the social media outlets? Please? Soon I’m also going to ask if you’ll subscribe to my newsletter, if you’re interested in more about the book series, giveaways, all the good lovely things.

Thanks for stopping by! Come back soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big News for the Spider’s Web

I’ve been gone a while.

But I’ve got news! For those of you who don’t follow me on Twitter (shame on you! I’m @thwritingspider!) or are friends with me on Facebook (do not randomly friend me – if I don’t know you I won’t friend you), then you don’t know this news yet.

Drum roll?

My first novel is set to be out next April (that’s 2017).

Cue the confetti cannon!

It’s an urban fantasy about a woman who is convicted of killing her entire family in a fire. She’s released by the FBI in exchange for becoming an agent to solve supernatural crimes.

Now I will start the process of prepping the manuscript for publication and building my platform. Which is marketing speak for…getting my name out there.

This blog will stay live.

I will keep you updated on where to find me online when that is set up.

I hope you will come with me on this new writing path! I’m very excited and so…yes. Ok. That’s it. Big news.

 

Love Hurts

defleppard

(I told a version of this story at the Moth Storyslam in Louisville.)

Charlie Brown had his little red-haired girl. I had my little red-haired boy.

And there is my little red-haired boy, dancing with my best friend. At the Valentine’s Day Dance, 1989. They are swaying to that perennial romantic favorite, Love Bites by Def Leppard. We all seventh graders at Our Lady of Perpetual Miseries*.

I sit there on metal folding chair in the darkened gymnasium of Our Lady of Perpetual Miseries*, bathed in the disco lights, trying not to cry. I’m wearing a red three-tiered skirt with tiny white hearts on it, a wide white belt with tiny red hearts on it, and a white t-shirt complete with shoulder pads and red grosgrain ribbon bows. My mother had this thing about having clothing made for me and then insisting I wear it, no matter what “everybody else is wearing.” And I suddenly feel very over dressed and even more self-conscious than I usually do. If that’s possible because I’m the most self-conscious person I know.

My friend knows that I like him, the red-haired boy, but I don’t think he knows I’m alive and he’d asked her to dance, not me, so what could she say?

See, I carried a torch for the little red-haired boy for years. Our Lady of Perpetual Miseries* is Kindergarten to eighth grade, and many of us did all nine years there.

My affection started in first grade. In our classroom, there was a birthday display for the whole class – a cartoonish tree and each branch was labeled with a different month. And on each branch gathered cartoonish birds with the names of the kids whose birthdays were in that month. There on the July branch, our fat little birds sat. They were yellow and wore sunglasses and held fruity-looking drinks.

I learned his birthday is the day after mine, the day I was actually due, but thanks to my mother’s dedication to militant punctuality, I showed up early. How I wish I’d ignored her and shared a birthday with the little red-haired boy! Maybe he would have noticed me then…

But sitting there in the dark gym, trying not to cry, I was simply reminded of my place in the pecking order at Our Lady of Perpetual Miseries*. That is to say, last rung. Bottom of the barrel. Not cool.

These days it’s cool to be bookish and nerdy, to wear custom-made clothes and have a big vocabulary. We call it being “quirky.” Zooey Deschanel has made a career of this.

But back then, it was just called “weird.” I was just a weird kid. Bookish, nerdy, perpetually overdressed and never in the “right” clothes.  Nobody knew this then, but I had an undiagnosed anxiety disorder. Re-reading my diaries from those years is heartbreaking. The girl in those pages is scared of being crazy, she’s constantly uncomfortable in her own mind, and she is desperate for help.

These days, we would call what happened to me in grade school “bullying.” There would be interventions and talking tos. But back then, adults would just roll their eyes and say, “Little girls are so mean. Just ignore them. They’ll go away.” Only one of those things is actually true. Little girls are mean. The other things are not true. No amount of ignoring, holding one’s head high, or defending one’s self ever makes a bit of difference.

By seventh grade, things do level out a little bit, but I am still over the bullshit.

In eighth grade, the year after that terrible dance, the thought of four more years with these people makes me want to kill myself. I apply to an urban, public, magnet school and I get in. I won’t go to dances with them, I won’t play sports against their teams, I will hardly see them after school ends. What a weight is lifted! I suddenly have a license to give exactly zero fucks about the school or the people in it…except where the little red-haired boy was concerned.

Now, you might remember that who likes whom is of UTMOST importance to people of certain ages. Despite the fact that I carried the torch for the little red-haired boy, NO ONE COULD KNOW, lest that fact be used to torment me even further than they did. And I knew he didn’t even notice me so what was the point?

It is perhaps my first improv performance when someone asks me, “Who do you like?” And I respond, casually, immediately, offhandedly, “Bob.”

RECORD SCRATCH.

Bob? There’s no Bob here. No Bobbies or Robbies, no Roberts or Robs, even. Who is Bob?

Suddenly…strange things happen. Maybe it is the secret crush, or the lack of fucks given, or my acceptance to the city school. People start…being nice to me.

I admit that it is glorious. Like the day one of the legit popular girls brings me a page from Seventeen magazine that said in huge letters, “All About Bob.” It was about the haircut. But she says, “Because you like Bob!” I hang it in my locker. Because that is what you do when you are popular.

I become the talk of the lunch table but not in a bad way. WHO IS BOB? Public school in the city?? Whaa…?

For the last months of school this goes on. I promise I will tell the girls at our graduation party, to reveal the name of the mystery man. But on the caveat that no one tells the boys. Because that’s how it works. We’re friends, we keep secrets.

Right?

It’s the end of the night, the end of the graduation party, and the DJ is packing up. My mom is outside. The girls gather around me like a flock of Laura Ashley-patterned sheep. Here it is. My moment.

When I say his name, and I do say it, I want someone to whisper, “But he likes you, too!” And then I could swan across the empty dance floor and the little red haired boy can kiss me.

But nobody says anything and all. They sort of look at each other. And all I can do it watch this stupid blonde girl from my class who always has retainers and spits when she talks, as she breaks the unspoken rules of sisterhood and makes a beeline for the group of boys gathered across the room. She’s going to tell them.

In that breath, it all falls away. That illusion shatters. The idea of popularity, of not giving a fuck. Of feeling pretty in my white graduation dress. The idea that someone like that little red-haired boy might like me back.

I run outside, crawl in my mother’s Buick, demand to go home.

I have no idea what he said when he heard he was Bob. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t delighted.

I saw some of my classmates from time to time through high school, but really just at church. I threw myself into making friends at my new school and became one of those people for whom high school was amazing and fun.

I still change the radio channel if “Love Bites” comes on.

 

*Not it’s real name. But that would be funny if it was a real place.

Mormon Book Club

I told a live version of this story at the Moth Storyslam in Louisville, Kentucky.

 

I summoned Mormons. God help me, I didn’t mean to, but I did. All I wanted was a Book of Mormon, and apparently the Mormons don’t believe in FedEx, so it came via Missionary Express.

See, a couple of months ago, I was listening to a podcast interview of a man who is a former Mormon and writes science fiction. He uttered the two sentences that sent me down this holy rabbit hole.

“The Book of Mormon is Bible fan fic. It’s Joseph Smith’s work of science fiction and fantasy.”

Mind blown.

As a fan of science fiction and fantasy, I had to know more.

I should explain that I am a recovering Catholic. My experience with Mormons had been pretty limited. I went to a dance with a friend in high school at her Mormon church, and all I remember is that if the couples danced too close? The girl had to then dance with a broom. As a good Catholic girl (at the time), I knew enough to leave room for the Holy Spirit. But I did get threatened with the broom.

Now, I will also cop to the fact that I had a lot of misconceptions about Mormons and their kooky cult religion. And yes, I’ve engaged in plenty of Mormon-mocking. The polygamy! Ha! The underwear! Ha!

But I needed to know more. So I invited the Elders who delivered my Book of Mormon to come over.

The first night they came, I peppered them with two hours of questions.

So, the Book of Mormon came from a guy with his face in a hat full of rocks?

Not exactly…

How did the Nephites get to North America?

Special boat and a faith-powered compass.

And, why are there a limited number of seats in Heaven?

Uh, that’s actually Jehovah’s witnesses, not Mormons.

Does God really live on his own special planet?

Classified. You’re not a Mormon so you can’t know that.

They’ve come to chat a couple of times now. My friends tease me about adopting some Mormons. I joke about Mormon Book Club.

Here’s what I see in these guys: they’re kids. They are 20 year old kids who’ve left home for two years. And they’re someone’s children. I have sons and you know that changes how you see other people.

I am not here to defend the religion. But out of these talks, I have realized something about myself.

I am envious. I have always been envious of people who see their path in life so clearly. Who not only see it, but act on it.

These kids are door-to-door salesmen for a product that makes outrageous claims. Possibly the least outrageous is eternal salvation.

And it makes outrageous demands on its followers. A two year job away from friends and family to sell your strange religion in foreign lands. All while you’re at it, no caffeine.

The only two-year commitment I’ve ever made is that perm I got in the eighth grade.

These kids bear the wrath of an angry public. They’ve been spit on, screamed at. Guns pulled on them.

I will never become a Mormon, but I will probably continue to be amazed by their steadfast commitment and surety in their chosen path.

I’m not buying what you’re selling, kid, but I like your moxie.

 

 

What I’m Reading and Writing

I’m actually reading two things right now. Childhood’s End, by Arthur C. Clarke, and The Kraken, by China Mieville. The latter I am enjoying immensely. Typical insane Mieville and reminds me why I love reading his books so much. The former is very interesting and I wanted to read it based on having watched the Syfy miniseries based on the book.

What I’m writing is far more exciting, at least to me.

I’ve decided to put my 2nd book in a drawer for a while. It got a lot of good responses from agents, but I don’t think it’s what they’re looking for right now.

I’ve started a series. And omg, you all….. I really love writing it. I don’t care if it gets published.*

It’s an urban fantasy about a woman who’s a Witch in a world where there are no more boundaries between what we know as Earthly life and the spirit world. So your nanny might be an Angel and your taxi driver might be a Vampire.

I have five books outlined as of the weekend and I want to finish outlining before I start writing the second book. Someone warned me not to fall into the trap many series writers fall into where you don’t have an end in mind and just keep writing your way through it, hoping the end will show up for you.

I can’t tell you how fun it is to invent this world. I love thinking about how, if there are no boundaries, what will that mean for politics? Religion? Daily life?

Coincidentally, Childhood’s End is kind of the same thread, although it’s aliens, not supernatural beings. So it’s cool to read how another person envisioned such an event.

I’m building my list of agents to query, and I’ve sent a couple out.

*Total hyperbole. I want it published for reals.

 

Here’s the query letter for this book, in case you were wondering:

 

Twenty years ago, the veil between worlds dropped and now Humans co-mingle with everything from Pixies to Vampires. Now you can book a trip to Hell as easily as you can go to Las Vegas and your waitress might be a Demon. For better or for worse, Supernormals are part of Earth life.

Five years ago, Tessa Reddick was wrongly convicted of killing her entire family with fire – 37 Witches from one of the most powerful covens in history. She’s been at Lakeland Psych hospital, still grieving and mad as hell at whoever put her there.

Today, a handsome FBI agent springs Tessa from the joint – but there’s a price. A series of murders is picking off Others and the feds need the help of the last known Reddick Witch.

Determined to learn who had it in for her family, help solve the crimes, and maybe get closer to her mysterious (and seriously hot) Dark Elf partner, Tessa is more than willing to play Nancy Drew.

But Tessa has few friends left and something is coming for her, too – maybe the one who framed her and killed her coven, or perhaps a new foe with a taste for Witch’s blood.

Dirty Work is an urban fantasy complete at 80,000 words: think Dresden Files meets X-Files with bourbon. It can stand on its own and has series potential.

Thank you for your time and consideration.