When you’re writing or reading in Young Adult, there are some things to look for.
Click on the link to connect to BTSe Mag and my column on Young Adult fiction and how kids today talk…
As I’m sure all of you can relate… it’s been a busy summer! In June, I was picked up by Word|Link Literary Agency. They say they “would love to” represent my novel GNAW (a thriller about a genetically altered coyote set loose in a Long Island town. Get your rabies shot!). And after much searching for the right agent (and, yes, many rejections, but also several acceptances that just didn’t feel right), I would love them to represent me. So, what do we do in America? We sign contracts. I am officially signed with Word|Link and look forward to a prosperous and fulfilling relationship with the great folks at Word|Link who care about stories and good writing.
I’ve also been working as a book editor for a really stellar publisher in Boston called SDP Publishing Solutions. If you’re a first-time author with a book and know that your story deserves to be told (and whose doesn’t?), get it out there yourself. And I just may be the editor who helps you bring it to bestseller quality. Check in with publisher Lisa Akoury-Ross and ask for me. ;)
Just this past Monday, I gave MY editor at Boroughs Publishing Group the fourth book in my 101 Nights series. It’s called Dangerous Devotion and I think it’s the best one yet. But don’t take my word for it. Please check for yourself: Start with the first book in the series, To Have and To Hold. You can get it on Kindle, Nook, Smashwords, Kobe, or iBooks. Follow that with Reluctant Rapture and Ties That Bind. Dangerous Devotion will be out soon. Stay tuned to this site for more info. The jinn are here … all you have to do is look around.
These things didn’t all happen in a summer. I’ve worked hard for years to study language and writing, read-read-read, write the books, stay sharp in my craft. It’s paying off. The tag line: Hang in there! I would love to hear what you’ve been up to this summer.
WOVEN is my new YA short story that is published in the January issue of BTS Book Reviews magazine. When Maggie runs into her middle-school heart throb many years later, there’s just one question that concerns her: Does he remember me?
I think we all know that feeling. You want to believe that you’re unforgettable but, realistically, you also know that there is an army of your former classmates who you probably wouldn’t recognize if you had an open yearbook and a DNA kit. What are the chances that the kid you liked, liked you back? And what if you discover that, despite time and complications, a crush could morph into true love. Maggie has that chance. But she also has one of those major complications. The most major type of major… Read Woven on page 103 of BTS Book Reviews magazine to find out if the threads of our lives can actually form a nice, cozy blanket for us when life is at its coldest.
I hope you enjoy the story and Happy New Year!
… they “live”. I am the Dr. Frankenstein of a slew of magical characters. I created them; nurtured them; guided them. They’re out there. I haven’t paid much attention to them this summer. Life gets in the way. When my husband had a heart attack last week, they were asked to take a seat and wait. (Actually, I didn’t give them a thought… but they knew). So, they sit in the wings living the magical lives I created for them. Not to overstate it…but they may owe me some rent. The point is that our imaginations create very real things. Whether they move forward or step back is up to us. For now, I think they’re content to wait. I hope you are, too.
Buy my books. That’s really what any author wants.
As I do my research into what is known about the realm of the jinn, I’m always on the lookout for archaeolgical links to places that may have a mysterious history; locations whose lore or legends lend themselves to jinn occupation. Mazraat Beit Jinn in the foothills of Mount Hermon is such a place. Translated from Arabic, Mazraat Beit Jinn means Farm in the Jinn House. There is a nearby town simply called Beit Jinn, which means House of the Jinn. Why? Why would residents of long ago give such a name to this windswept, sparsely populated desert outpost? Were the jinn here? There’s no answer now. Beit Jinn is a small village among a cluster of small villages southwest of Damascus having a total population of just over 2,000 souls. At one time, however, it sat along the route of the Silk Road. Once it was vibrant. Once, it might have hosted the jinn.
Not far from Beit Jinn, northeast of Damascus, lies Palmyra. And here, there are more remnants that lore credits to the handiwork of the jinn. Although located in the arid center of a desert, Palmyra employed a system of elaborate dams and cisterns 2,000 years ago to bring water to more than 100,00 inhabitants. A pretty big feat. Unless you have some jinn working for you. And here’s some literary evidence to support that theory:
“Rise up and go into the world to release it from error and send word to the Jinn and I will give them leave to build Tadmur with hewn stones and columns.” ~God said to Solomon according to the pre-Islamic Arab poet Nabigha al Dhubyain.
Tadmur is the Arabic name for Palmyra.
Here’s my theory. The jinn were active in the desert thousands of years ago. They claimed it as their own. They helped humans to build magnificent cities to provide respite from the heat. They didn’t care that conditions could be harsh and inhospitable. They were the jinn: great engineers. They tapped into the wadi, reservoirs of water beneath the sand; they erected cool marble halls; they brought elegance and civility to the desert. They worked with humans, but humans became more numerous. When Solomon was given control of the jinn nearly three thousand years ago, the game changed. They built his temple (there are allusions to this in the Christian Bible) and some other cities (Petra and Meda’in Salah among them). Here, we get back to Beit Jinn. While the jinn moved about from such locations as Palmyra in the north to Petra in the south, they would have resided at towns along the way. Towns that would forever bear the memory with such names as Beit Jinn and Mazraat Beit Jinn. But the jinn were seen increasingly as a threat. They were no longer needed. They withdrew. Where are they now?
You can certainly find them in my novels. Check out The Genie Ignites and 101 Nights for some fictional insight on what the realm of the jinn might be like. Sadly, to travel to Syria now is to risk getting caught in the civil strife there. News accounts report that the ancient citadel of Palmyra and those in Aleppo have been damaged by mortar fire. Hopefully, a resolution will soon be found so that this wonderful history isn’t lost forever.
I think it’s important on Father’s Day to not only get a really clever gift that your Dad will appreciate–and probably return if he’s anything like my Dad–but that you take a few minutes to recall all the ways your Dad made you who you are.
I don’t know who gave him the nickname, whether it was one of the funny, tough cops he worked with, one of his seven brothers and sisters, or himself. He was really good with a turn of phrase. But his name was Thomas Joseph McDonnell, so you see where Tommy Mac came from. Born and raised in Philadelphia, for most of his adult life he worked as a police office for the Pennsylvania Railroad. By the time the railroads began to collapse and then merged into Conrail (Consolidated Rail Corporation) in the ’70s, he was still a cop but now he was a lieutenant. Said he never wanted to be a captain because it would have meant leaving the union and being subject to whatever hours administration put to him; hours that would take him away from his family. As it was, for most of my childhood, I remember him working his regular shift while we were at school and then taking on the graveyard shift while we slept. But he still joined us six kids and my Mom for dinner every night and helped us with our homework. He made each one of us feel special. I remember he used to do this thing where we’d all be sitting at the dinner table. We’d needle him about who he liked best. “Okay,” he’d say. “Close your eyes. I’m going to tap my favorite on the head. But you can’t say anything.” We closed our eyes. Held our breath. Got a tap on the head. What a bunch of smug faces when we opened our eyes, each thinking that we were his favorite. In a way, each of us was.
It was during one of those pre-dawn railroad beats that he was chasing thieves down the tracks. They’d broken into a boxcar and were hauling off stereos and some other equipment that obviously didn’t belong to them. At 6’3″, he was fast. Never drew his gun on a suspect, though he carried one. Every year, he was deemed a sharpshooter at the range. But he told me once that he didn’t actually want to hurt anyone. Anyway, he saw he could catch two of the guys if he clambered over the coupling between freight cars. So he did. Right at that moment, one of the cars began to move and pinned him between hookups. Providentially, the car eased back for a better hook and he pulled himself out. Three ribs broken. He came home from work early, but went back on duty the next day.
He didn’t like to take sick time. In fact, I don’t ever remember him calling out sick. He liked to save all his days so that he could take us on vacations. Sometimes, he rented a cabin up in the Poconos, but mostly he took us to the Jersey shore. His sister Helen owned a house in North Wildwood and I think his happiest times were backfloating in the ocean (he could backfloat for an hour; riding the currents until he was just a speck in the distance) or sitting out in the yard by the bay watching us kids catch crabs off the dock. He would sing Otis Redding’s “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” and then announce to no one in particular, “Oh, I’m a happy man.”
He was happy and that made us happy. He was married to the love of his life. Bridget Ann Kelly from Ireland. His pixie, he called her. Met at the A.O.H. club. The Ancient Order of Hibernians. They were well matched. He was calm and steadfast. She was passionate and headstrong and loving. They both had great humor. She said he made her laugh every day. Often, we’d hear them talking late at night in their bedroom of the three-bedroom, one-bath rowhome where we lived in Philly. And then she would laugh at something he’d said. A robust, full-hearted, throaty laugh that made us laugh.
I only saw him cry twice. The first time was when my 22-year-old sister Christina, his youngest daughter of four girls, drowned in the ocean at the Jersey Shore. The second time was when his “bride”–that’s what he still called her after 40 years together–died at the age of 60 of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Then he dried his tears and got about the business of burying them.
He taught me that life is what you make it, so make it good. I remember once complaining about something in my life that seemed unfair or upsetting or whatever. I was a young adult with a full-time job, college education, my own apartment, and a car. He said, “Don’t you see, Kellyann. You’ve got the world by the ass. Enjoy it.”
When I said wanted to be a writer, he just smiled. “Why don’t you get an engineering degree. You can always write.” But I had the bug. I got a journalism degree instead and I think he liked that. He was a writer, as his father was. He was a cop, his father was a fire chief, but they both had poems and short stories published in magazines. We talked about literature. He would recite entire poems by Wordsworth, Keats, and anonymous authors. He had a beautiful singing voice. We mostly heard it when he was in the shower.
He was erudite, spiritual, honest, funny, so intelligent, perceptive, and wise. We would talk for hours about the spiritual journey we take in life. I’m not sure where he got his very Zen-like outlook. He was an Irish Catholic boy who went to West Catholic and did two years at St. Joseph’s College. But he had ideas that I would later learn reached into the teachings of the ancient philosophers. He was widely read. Gave The Painted Bird to me to read when I was thirteen. I think it was his way of showing me what humanity was capable of, and what it is capable of overcoming. His way of outfitting me for the world. I’d never been exposed to literature like that. It changed my world. We talked about Shakespeare, the Bible, magic, science, politics. He taught me to backfloat in the ocean. He taught me that anything is possible.
He taught me that, above all things, to thine own self be true. That’s from Shakespeare. But also from Tommy Mac.
He broke his leg in 2009 and when they operated on him at Holy Redeemer Hospital, they slipped in a couple of superbugs by accident. Bacteria that would steal his mobility, burn through his leg, and ultimately kill him just two years later. Despite having lived decades with ankylosing spondilitis that curved his spine and constricted his chest, and rheumatoid arthritis, he never complained. Not until those last months of searing agony from the infection in his leg. Every once in a while, he’d shift to get more comfortable, wince, and say, “Those dirty bastards.” But then he’d looked at us, and he’d smile.
I was alone with him when the last breath left his body. It was surreal. It was just like it’s ever been described anywhere: a person expelling his last breath. Like a sigh. It broke my heart. But I don’t let it weigh me down. There was another quote from Shakespeare that he liked to refer to: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” I’ll see him again.
In the meantime…. Dearly loved. Sorely missed. Never forgotten. Happy Father’s Day, Tommy Mac. Thanks for making me who I am.
Authors need reviews. Am I right? You want a potential reader to know what other readers think about your book. More and more statistics in this insta-pubbed crowded world tell us that “word of mouth” is still the best way to promote your book. [Read Jane Friedman's blog on "Using Word-of-Mouth (Not Media Attention) to Sell Books."] And here’s a piece from NPR about using word-of-mouth. Essentially, the publisher gives out lots of free copies and hopes people like it enough to spread the word.
And how do you get that word of mouth? Simple. You get people talking about your book. Not so simple. Well, reviews are one way to do that. Even non-professional reader reviews posted on Amazon send Amazon analytics into overdrive. Get a certain number of reviews within a certain number of days from the book’s release (I think it’s something like 30 reviews in three days) and your book may rise to the top of a recommended page. Supposedly, you don’t even need good reviews for that to happen. But another source I read indicated that the reviews really need to be three stars or above. (I could get the source attribution for you, but I’m on deadline with another book…just go with it.) The inclination might be to rustle up a couple of dozen relatives and ask them to quickly post a two-liner on Amazon (20-word minimum) saying:
“I loved this book. You should get this book today! You won’t be sorry. I don’t even know what genre this is but I loved it anyway because my second cousin told me I do. Five Stars!!”
Those types of write-ups may populate your Amazon page, but they’re really not going to do anything for your sales. And you know it. You probably gave your relatives copies of the book and that’s as far as it’s going to go. So, ultimately, you’re not helping your sales and you may detract from the credibility of your buy page. Bottom line, get legitimate reviews. It’ll take some time to identify the reviewers who might like your book. Much like word-of-mouth, this takes another old-fashioned effort….good ol’ legwork. Check out other books on Amazon that might be similar to yours; read the reviews and see who the reviewers are. Email addresses aren’t always included, but you will get a snapshot of many blogs that review your genre. Contact the blog, send a copy of your book, and hope for the best.
Which is what brings me to the point of this blog. The best doesn’t have to be five stars. I just received a three-star review from The Vampire Book Club that I really appreciated. It was clear, pointed, and right on about the major elements of the book. She shared what she liked about the book and the strong aspects of it. Basically, she had nothing bad to say other than it wasn’t the type of book she normally reads. The Genie Ignites was more of a thriller or romantic suspense…which is what I intended it to be. So, I’m very pleased with the review. And she leaves the reader with this pithy summation:
“The author knows how to pull a switcheroo that left me wanting to read the next book, just to see what happens.”
That’s a sales pitch right there for the second book in the series, The Genie Smolders…which releases next month from Boroughs Publishing Group.
101 Nights is my new series, called Romantisodes, from Boroughs Publishing Group.The first book is To Have and To Hold and begins the story of Amani Zarin, an ambassador from Jinnistan, and Jason Masters, the physicist who can help her save her homeland. She doesn’t trust humans, but she’ll have to trust him….or at least tolerate him. Their first meeting is on their wedding day. Irritation soon turns to intrigue.
Here’s an excerpt from that first auspicious encounter:
The conference room echoed with a collective exhalation of relief. Westcott fixed Amani with an arctic glare, tugging at the pressed lapels of his charcoal Gucci suit; then he considered the man beside her with a gaze that was both smug and sympathetic, as though to say, Better you than me. Closing her eyes, Amani steeled herself. She had avoided looking at the man at her side, Jason Masters, her new husband, had avoided looking at him all through the ceremony and before. Now she glanced at him sidelong.
Despite her barb at Westcott and the people who worked with him, Dr. Jason Masters was by no means little. Amani was taller than most human men, yet he was taller than she by a forehead. That irked her. Neither was he bad-looking. For a human. Okay, he was hot. She had come across the term in her cultural research of the human world and liked it. Hot. Forged from fire, her people reveled in flame. This word suggested the comfort of Jinnistan’s scorched mountains, the joy of riding Sinbad into the Bitu Valley so rife with fissures to the center of the earth that the air crackled with fire.
Her new husband’s jaw flexed, and cocking her head Amani assessed him further. The poor guy was agitated. But, who wouldn’t be? It was his wedding day and he was meeting his bride for the first time. Oh, and by the way, she was a genie. And in a bad mood.
His full lips formed a straight line—an attempt to appear stoic or munificent? No. Neither. He appeared raw and somewhat bewildered but resigned to his task. A good scientist with a difficult hypothesis. A hypothesis that was even now standing in front of him.
He turned, and the expression on his face was both wary and…surprisingly playful. “Do I get a kiss?”
His voice was smooth and deep. For an irritating moment he seemed pleased with what he saw, with Amani, then Amani’s gaze whipped back to the Covalink CEO, the main architect of this spectacle, who’d scoffed and turned away. Sudden anger at Westcott’s demeanor, her situation, and humans in general got the better of her. In one graceful flip of her hand, Amani flung back the curtain of hair from her shoulder and flourished three fingers at Westcott’s retreating back, preparing to singe his suit just enough to make her feel better.
“Whoa, there!” Her husband’s grip on her wrist was faster than she would have given him credit for, and Amani was startled to find herself staring into eyes the color of the Topaz Caves on the far side of Jinnistan. A lock of brown hair had fallen across her husband’s broad brow, and he twitched his head as though to shrug it away. The strands clung together as though damp. “Not a good idea.”
“Is any of this a good idea?” she snarled at him, consciously ignoring the tiny coterie of Covalink executives and Jinnistan ambassadors who were now beginning to mingle. With a twist of her arm, she dislodged his grasp. If not for the flower-laden pedestal at her hip, she would have moved entirely away from him.
She barely saw his lips move, but his voice was low and rueful. “Too late now.”
Their faces were close enough for a kiss, she realized. Her husband stared back, not blinking, his black eyelashes as thick as the fringe on a hand-tied carpet. The way they shadowed his amber eyes reminded Amani of a soft feather caressing her naked back, and the thought sent a shiver down her spine. Even more potent, for the second their gazes locked she felt challenged and equal at the same time. Her shiver radiated outward, wrapping around her waist and making her suddenly all too aware of his closeness. Something inside her trembled.
He quirked his lips. “Now, how about that kiss?”
Smirking like a child, she leaned into him. “Fine.” She knew her duty. Kissing a human would be no more momentous than stepping on an ant—for her. For him? Well, he would be the ant. The contact would provide a nice electrical shock on those soft, full lips. “Pucker up, pretty boy.”
Her husband settled a tentative hand on her waist and lowered his chin. Those impossibly thick lashes drooped further, and a flutter whisked through Amani’s stomach. Almost of its own accord, her head tilted toward him. Like they were lovers. Like she wanted to be kissed by him. Like she had no control over the desire flushing through—
Alarm spiked through Amani at her body’s betrayal. Needing to be back in control, she squeezed her eyes against her heightened awareness of his broad hand on her hipbone, and when his grip tightened, warm and oddly comforting, she had to resist the urge to wriggle against his palm. Instead, she purposefully stiffened and grasped his forearm as though to immobilize him. The fine woven fabric of his navy suit jacket was smooth and cool to her fingers, and beneath its softness the long cords of his flexor muscles tensed like steel cables. A vein throbbed at the side of his neck just above the starched collar of a sky blue button-down shirt. He hadn’t worn a tie, which she always found to be a strange constrictive garment that merely highlighted human ineptitude, as if they needed to be leashed into place. One point for Dr. Masters.
They moved as though in slow motion, and for an instant Amani’s eyebrows knitted. She could see that his skin was dark, the complexion of someone who labored in the sun and not the soft intellectual she’d expected. He was physically strong, too. She could feel it in the sudden set of his body. And he was alert. She could tell that he was frequently outdoors.
Parting her lips, she eased her head into the space at his shoulder. There, swirling her head in a small arc, she inhaled through her nose.
Her husband lurched back, eyes wide. “Did…did you just sniff me?”
She nodded, considering. “Interesting. You don’t smell like gravel. Most humans smell like gravel. Or dirt.” She felt her lip curl at the thought. “But not you.” There was something fascinating in the air between them. Specifically, something that emanated off him like an aura.
“I beg your pardon.” Pulling back, he shot a glance at her uncle, and from the corner of her eye Amani caught Azon’s exasperated headshake. The other witnesses seemed to realize there would be no romantic clutch to seal the deal and clustered around the tray of drinks, muttering and grinning with self-congratulations. A wheeled cart laden with canapés and shrimp cocktail pushed into the room and was immediately surrounded.
Amani returned her attention to Jason. She’d expected to be accosted by his scent, not enveloped. Lifting a finger to her lips, she closed her eyes for a moment. When she opened them, she wagged a finger at him. There was an honest note of amazement in her voice as she said, “You smell like thyme and wood chips.”
He ignored the comment and tugged her closer. The satin cowl of her midnight blue sheath dress brushed the pearl buttons of his shirt, and the rhythm of his heart seemed to suddenly permeate the slinky fabric of her dress. She imagined that the pounding of her own synced to his. But that was impossible.
Jason glanced down at their connection, at the mutual rising and falling of their chests. The wrinkle of a question returned to his brow, and with a jolt of amazement Amani understood that he had felt what she did.
Her new husband’s words were hushed, but his eyes glinted with a strange gratification. “Is that you or me? I can’t tell.”
Stretching her neck away in a vain attempt at detachment she said, “I’m nothing like you.”
To read the entire story, download it today for your ereader.
What Would You Wish For