Please join us to discuss everything literary (especially kid literary): good books, the writing life, the people and businesses who create books, controversies in book world, what's good to snack on while reading and writing, and anything else bookish. We welcome your thoughts.

Monday, January 5, 2015

No Place to Fall

by Jaye Robin Brown


by Jaye Robin Brown

This past Friday, January 2, 2015, Marcy and I posted our answers to Jaye’s debut novel, No Place to Fall. Today, you get to read Jaye’s favorite's. 

Awesome answers, Jaye! We can’t wait for our readers to read the novel. And hopefully to give us a few of their favorites, too. 

1) What is your favorite line or paragraph from the novel as it relates to the main character's development and/or growth?

Though I like both of the passages you mentioned, I really love when Amber is by herself in her room, singing along to the radio, the application to NC School of the Arts hidden under her bed. To me it's this wonderful sort of private moment fraught with maybes and I can'ts, but also the beginning of a maybe I can. Even though it ends on a frustrated note, she's planted the seed inside of herself.

"I sing along as the rain falls out my window. Drops of water gather on the windowpanes like a shimmering audience. I play with my voice, testing out my range, creating new sounds, trying to both imitate the radio singers and be myself. Finally I can't stand it anymore. I roll over and grab the folder.

The list of requirements is long. Transcripts. A long application. Two letters of recommendation, at least one from someone who has been your instructor in your art form. An artist's statement. An audition. The applicant must perform three pieces from the following list. My eyes scan the options. I push the paper back in the folder and shove the whole thing under the bed. I don't even know what half of that music is. I ball the quilt up under my chin and scoot deeper under the sheets. Mama would never have let me go anyway."

2) What is your favorite chapter ending or cliffhanger?

My favorite chapter ending is one where Amber arrives home after getting in trouble for something she didn't do at a football game. Her brother-in-law, just released from jail, is drunk in the front yard hoping to see Amber's sister. When Amber finally gets to the door and away from him, her parents are fighting over money and her sister runs straight into Sammy's arms. Amber's starting to realize how messed up her life is, and this passage is her reaction to it. (Coby is her nephew, Giant is the dog)

"The three of us--me, Coby, and tiny Giant--huddle under the blankets, blocking out the sounds from downstairs. I make up a story about a singer who rides a magical bird and performs for kingdoms far and wide. 

As we fly out of the window and up into the night sky, my voice stops working.

Because, honestly, I can't see how I'm going to get out of here."

3) Who is your favorite secondary character and why?

This is a hard question because I tend to write big casts of characters and Mama, Devon, Will, and C.A. all vie for places in my heart. But I think I'm going to go with C.A. who was actually inspired by a student I taught. She was this perky blonde cheerleader who, in my mixed up bag of an Art 1 class, truly got along with everyone. As C.A. developed in the novel, she became kind of the same way, and I like that about her. She's the kind of girlfriend any girl would be lucky to have.

This passage is at a school college fair, and Amber has been given a folder about the NC School of the Arts high school program. It shows C.A.'s caring, that she'd push her friend into following a dream even if it meant she'd lose her friend to a far-off city in the process.

"I shrug and take the brochure back from Devon, sliding it carefully into the bag. 'My mama would never let me go to a boarding school so far away from here.'

C.A. looks at Devon. 'Can you talk some sense into her?'

Devon glances at me and answers her. 'Mama Vaughn is pretty protective of Amber.'

'So? I bet we can convince her.' C.A. claps her hands. 'I am awesome with mothers.'"

4) What is your favorite line or paragraph of description?

This passage is from chorus when Amber is practicing her audition songs for the group. It's a big growth moment for her as she's gotten over her fear of singing in front of her peers and realizes their reaction is something she'd like to have again and again in her life.

"I close my eyes and my arms lift slightly from my sides. I picture the song swirling inside of me, like butterflies. I draw the notes out. When I release the words, they fly around the room. The chorus is silent, listening, and all I hear is the sound Will and I make. When the final notes of my last 'Maria' land, there's a collective inhale. It's a quiet I wouldn't mind living in for a while."

5) What is your favorite line of dialogue?

This is a kind of gritty line, but it makes me laugh every time. It's an exchange between Amber and her sister, Whitney, in the car outside of a pawn shop. Amber has withdrawn her entire savings account, all of fifty dollars, to do a favor for a friend and Whitney's questioning her.

"After school, Whitney picks me up. I convince her to take me to the bank and to the pawnshop for Sean.

'So, are you in love with this boy or something?' she asks me.

'Or something,' I answer.

'Does Mama know you're wiping out your savings account?'

'Does Mama know you love Vicodin?' That shuts her up."

Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Dave and Marcy!

Congratulations to Jaye on her young adult novel, No Place to Fall! To read more, go to:

Friday, January 2, 2015

First Friday - Five Favorite Things - Debut Novel Day


by Dave Amaditz and
Marcy Collier

Happy New Year to everyone and welcome to January’s version of - First Friday - Five Favorite Things - Debut Novel Day. In this monthly series, we ask five simple questions about a debut novel that will hopefully entice anyone reading this post to pick up the novel and read it themselves, and/or give them at a glance some insight into the author's writing style and voice as well as how some of the characters might think or act. We do this by presenting, first, answers to our Five Favorite Things, followed by the author's answers in a follow-up post.

This month we're pleased to highlight debut YA novelist, Jaye Robin Brown and her novel, No Place to Fall. Amber dreams of traveling to the big city where she can use her amazing voice to sing and meet new and exciting people. First, though, she must come clean about some trouble she’s found herself involved in, which will hopefully make life better for her and her family.

1) What is your favorite line or paragraph from the novel as it relates to the main character's development and/or growth?

Dave – I chose this particular passage because when Amber, the main character, sings she feels like she is somebody, like she is free, which brings her closer to her goal of leaving small town Sevenmile.

As Pastor Early prays over me, I feel a simple strength enter through my fingers and my toes. All of these folks, the people of my childhood, are praying for my success. Success that means leaving them. Leaving my mountains. But I’m not like Kush. I won’t be leaving because I hate this place. I just want a bigger life somewhere, and I want to sing.

Marcy – Amber is passionate about singing. This is the first instance where she allows her mind to wander and explore the idea of using her talents outside of her hometown.

“It doesn’t matter. My mama would never let me be in a band. She thinks singing’s only for church and baking.”

“What do you think?”

“I don’t know. I don’t think about it much.” I’m surprised at my own answer. I mean, of course I’ve thought about it. I thought about it Sunday when Sammy asked me to be in his band. I thought about it down by the creek when Basil was talking about American Idol. I think about it all the time

2) What is your favorite chapter ending or cliffhanger? Amber’s life at home has always been filled with love. Even so, she knows her father has been cheating on her mother and she wonders if her mother is aware of what her father is doing or is simply na├»ve. My favorite cliffhanger occurs while Amber is in the mall shopping with her mother.

Mama slowly flips the cap on a bottle. She raises it to her nose, but the lilac smell hits us both quick. The bottle drops from Mama’s fingers. It’s the scent. Daddy’s other woman. Lilac with a hint of vanilla and spice. Mama shoves a handful of bills at the saleslady and grabs the bags.

Marcy –  There is so much turmoil in Amber’s family life. Amber’s sister Whitney became pregnant very young and got married to Sammy who has many faults, including being a drug dealer. This chapter ending is heartfelt and foreshadows events to come.

“I love you, Whit.”

She doesn’t answer, but I can feel her tears as they hit my arm. I hope they’re going to lock her husband up for a good long time.

3) Who is your favorite secondary character and why? This book has so many great characters, all of whom play a pivotal role in the story, all of whom are so believable and so easy for me to relate. If for no other reason than to get to use another great line of dialogue, I chose Devon as my favorite character. He’s Amber’s best friend, someone with whom she has shared for so much of her life almost all of her secrets and desires - - and someone that also happens to be a homosexual, which is key to understanding the following line of dialogue. Amber has just told him she had sex with his brother. His reaction caused me to laugh out loud.

Dave – “Mad? I love my brother. I love you. It’s the closest I can ever come to hooking up with you myself.”

Marcy –  There are so many favorite characters to choose, but Devon’s character hit home for me. He is Amber’s best friend and regardless of her imperfections and the bad choices she makes, he loves her. He remains her best friend throughout the novel and the rock that supports her when she falls. His endless humor and good spirit shines through from the beginning to the end of the novel as demonstrated in the line below.

Devon purses his lips and gives me his best Marilyn Monroe. “All right, darlings, let’s go find us a man.”

4) What is your favorite line or paragraph of description? The town where Amber lives is near a rest stop on the Appalachian Trail. She likes to go there to meet the hikers passing through and to hear stories of places she only dreams of going. More than that, while she’s high in the mountains it helps her to escape some of the more unpleasant things life has dealt her. These few lines beautifully describe her feelings.

Up there, the air felt clean. I felt free, like it didn’t matter who I was or what I did. I was like a current in the air, flying, swirling, traveling. From up there, this place looked beautiful, but from down here…

Marcy – I adore Amber’s Mama. There’s a scene later in the book where Mama shows off her strong self, but I don’t want to spoil it for you. This offbeat image of how Amber sees her Mama is said so well in a few words.

I wrap my arms around her. People may make fun of fat people, but I like having a squishy mama. She’s comfortable.

5) What is your favorite line of dialogue? This particular line of dialogue comes from about midway through the novel. Her sister, Whitney, is speaking and I think it highlights well why it will be so difficult for Amber to achieve her dream of leaving home.

Dave – “Life. Just. Is. I’ve got Sammy. Daddy’s got Mama, and Mama’s got Daddy. And you, you’ve got a wild dream that’s going to do nothing but disappoint you.”

Marcy – Some of the scenes and exchanges between Amber and Cheerleader Amber are hysterical. I had to share two scenes with the two girls, although there are three girls named Amber in the book!

“You’re a gossip girl,” I say, nudging her with my arm.

“Yes, but I’m one that’s made of out fairy dust and unicorn fur.”

Then another scene when Cheerleader Amber wants to go into Amber’s attic to explore.

“So you’re not afraid of ghosts, but you’re afraid of spiders?”

Amber shuts her car door and follows me. “Girlfriend, have you not been reading all those new paranormal romances in the library? There are some really hot ghosts.” 

To read more about Jaye Robin Brown and her young adult novel, No Place to Fall. go to:

Friday, December 12, 2014

On Santa's Book List: Dystopia and Fantasy and Espionage, Oh My!

What books might the middle-schooler in your life be excited to find under the tree this holiday season?  In speaking to several school librarians and some bookstore folks recently, it appears that The Maze Runner continues to be the hot ticket right now.  Books from the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan are often asked for as well.  For those who have not yet read The Hunger Games*, the release of the latest movie has also spurred another spike in requests.  Additionally, The Cherub series by Robert Muchamore for boys (about the under-17 highly specialized Cherub Agents), and the Selection series ("...a cross between The Hunger Games and The Bachelor...") by Keira Cass for girls are popular.  Rounding out the list, the Cassandra Clare Mortal Instruments series, about the secret fantasy world of the Shadowhunters, is also sought after.  For the slightly younger crowd, almost anything Disney "Frozen"-related is flying off the shelves. 

Happy Reading to all, and for all, a good book!

*I must admit that when I read about "The Hunger Pains; A Parody," by The Harvard Lampoon, featuring Kantkiss Neverclean, I had to chuckle.  Not sure if it would be worth reading, but I do love a good parody!

Andrea Perry, December 12, 2014

Monday, December 8, 2014

The In-Between

by Barbara Stewart

This past Friday, December 5, 2014, Marcy and I posted our answers to Barbara’s debut novel The In-Between. Today, you get to read Barbara’s favorite's. 

Terrific answers, Barbara! We can’t wait for our readers to read the novel. And  hopefully to give us a few of their favorites, too.
What is your favorite line or paragraph from the novel as it relates to the main character's development and/or growth?

Elanor Moss has a hard time recognizing and accepting the successes in her life. There are points during the novel when the reader sees things are looking up for Ellie, but Ellie’s view is always through a distorted lens. I like the following passage because it’s the first time Ellie admits that maybe she doesn’t see her life so clearly. I also like the way she uses the artwork of M.C. Escher to describe how she feels about what’s happening to her.

My favorite was of this castle with all these stairs. When you first look at it, all the people on the stairs are going down, down, down. But if you look long enough, you see that they’re really going up. It’s an illusion, like my life. I can’t tell which way I’m going. I thought for sure I was failing my classes. I thought everyone hated me. And then I get my grades. And then I get invited to Kylie’s party.

Sometimes I think I’m going crazy.

2) What is your favorite chapter ending or cliffhanger?
Things usually end badly for Ellie, so I think the biggest cliffhangers are chapters that end with a small ray of hope. One of my favorites is the last paragraph of a chapter that takes place on Christmas. Ellie and her mom go to a truck stop for dinner, and everything is good between them on the ride home. For the first time in a long time, Ellie doesn’t feel the weight of everything pressing down.

I’d forgotten about Rad and my used-to-be friends and my father and even Madeline. I think my mother was forgetting, too. I think she’d forgotten about my father for a little while and about school and money and my mental problems. It was just the two of us, and the babies inside her, and the future stretched out before us like the dark and snowy highway. We can’t see it, but we have to believe it’s there.

In the end, it’s always about believing.

3) Who is your favorite secondary character and why? 
Autumn. Definitely Autumn. She’s kooky and wise and fearless. She embraces her awkwardness and doesn’t care what others think. I love her because she’s a good person and true friend.

4) What is your favorite line or paragraph of description?
One of the challenges in writing this novel was trying to imbue the mundane with loneliness and longing. This is one of my favorite lines:

The tree outside my window is bare except for one single leaf, brown and desiccated, twisting in the wind.

5) What is your favorite line of dialogue?
On the first day of school, Autumn tells Ellie how she can’t wait to get out of Pottsville. She’s never been on a cruise ship, but she wants to work on one. Ellie’s response is a dig at Autumn, but it’s also a realization about her own situation.

“Every place is the same. You know that, right? Nothing will change. You’ll still be you, even in the middle of the ocean.”

Barbara Stewart earned an MFA in creative writing from Wichita State University. She lives with her husband in the Catskill Mountains of New York, where she reads a lot of true crime and crochets way too many scarves. She loves amusement parks and anything with peanut butter. She also loves horror movies—the supernatural kind—thanks to her grandmother. Stewart’s next YA psychological thriller, What We Knew, will be released in July 2015.

To read more about Barbara Stewart and her debut novel, The In-Between, please go to:

Friday, December 5, 2014

First Friday - Five Favorite Things - Debut Novel Day

by Dave Amaditz and
Marcy Collier

The In-Between

Welcome to December’s version of - First Friday - Five Favorite Things - Debut Novel Day. In this monthly series, we ask five simple questions about a debut novel that will hopefully entice anyone reading this post to pick up the novel and read it themselves, and/or give them at a glance some insight into the author's writing style and voice as well as how some of the characters might think or act. We do this by presenting, first, answers to our Five Favorite Things, followed by the author's answers in a follow-up post.

This month we're pleased to highlight debut YA novelist, Barbara Stewart and her novel, The In-Between. After a car accident and a near-death experience, Ellie, the main character, is visited by a girl who becomes her best friend. She comes to question her sanity as she tries to decide if the friend is real or simply a part of her imagination.

1) What is your favorite line or paragraph from the novel as it relates to the main character's development and/or growth?

Dave – There’s a part in the story where Ellie, the main character, is in therapy after having a nervous breakdown. She’s on medication that silences the voice inside her, her best friend, Madeline. I thought this brief paragraph a great insight into the battle raging inside Ellie.

I need a priest or a medium. I don’t need a psychiatrist. I don’t need pills with names I can’t pronounce. Drugs won’t drive her out. I can’t see her or hear her, but she’s not gone. Not really. She’s just been closed off. It’s like we’re in prison, in adjoining cells in solitary confinement. I can hear her tapping on the wall…

Marcy –  Ellie is at school near the track. The coach assumes she’s there to go out for the team and encourages her to run. Ellie feels stupid but can’t say no to the coach so she runs. This is one of the first steps that changes her life.

The girls were next, ponytails swishing, shorts swishing. They made it look so easy, so effortless, like they could go forever. Not me. My chest was ready to explode. My shins were on fire. I was sweating and gasping and my legs had started to wobble.

That was only the warm-up.

2) What is your favorite chapter ending or cliffhanger?

Dave - This particular chapter ending comes from later in the novel. It’s another example of the battle Ellie fights to keep her sanity.

It’s like the new drugs are straps binding Madeline. They've got her wrapped up tighter than tight. I hear the straps straining, creaking. Someday there’ll snap. They can’t keep her tied up forever.

MarcyThis song was like Ritalin. It made him want to live. When he played it, I knew he was on the mend. The darkness was lifting. This is for you, Daddy.

3) Who is your favorite secondary character and why?

Dave – My favorite secondary character is Autumn. On many levels she’s as mysterious as Ellie. She’s a total misfit, not accepted by anyone in school, yet she’s drawn to Ellie, as Ellie is drawn to her. She seems to understand Ellie and accepts her as is. It makes me wonder what has happened to Autumn that would allow her to have those reactions.

Marcy –  Like Dave, I really liked Autumn as well, but I’ll choose Coach Buffman, the cross country coach. He is so encouraging of Ellie to join the team even though she’s never run before. He has a matter-of-fact personality and accepts her without judgment. He encourages her to set goals and train hard. He’s a positive force in her dark world.

4) What is your favorite line or paragraph of description?

DaveI chose this particular scene because it shows the two sides of Ellie. Ellie believes what is written below, but in reality, the kids in the school love her (love Madeline, her subconscious).

At school, I talk to no one. Not even Autumn. I can hear them whispering. They call me Eerie Ellie. They think I am deaf. They stare right through me. I am a ghost, haunting these halls with Madeline. The two of us are invisible.

Marcy – I thought this paragraph was poignant and gave a realistic look into dealing with a family member who battles depression.

I’ve seen him depressed. That’s nothing new. It happens every Christmas, and sometimes around his birthday. This is something different. Worse than the time he and Mom almost separated, or the time they were having money troubles and almost lost the house. Worse even than when I tried to die. It’s like all those other bouts of depression were just tremors, little quakes. Losing Mom is too big. The world is crashing down and all he can do is stand and watch, alone and terrified, powerless to go on living.

5) What is your favorite line of dialogue? Coach Buffman, her cross country coach, tries to make a point to Ellie about the dangers of using drugs. He shows her a jar of two miniature pigs floating in cloudy liquid, one looking pretty normal, the other clearly deformed.

Dave – “This little piggy’s mother was pumped full of junk,” he said, swirling the jar with the deformed fetus. “This little piggy’s mother was clean.” He swiveled on his stool and returned the pigs to their shelf. “Got it?……”

Marcy –  How true and funny!

Kylie told me what it stands for: Future Farmers of America. They sponsor Drive Your Tractor to School Day. Where am I living?

To read more about Barbara Stewart and her debut novel, The In-Between, please go to:

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Writing on Wednesday: Why Writing in Bed is Not So Weird After All, or the Odd Writing Habits of a Few Famous Authors

Whether you are standing up, lying down, naked, eating apples, or out in your garden shed as you write, you are apparently in great company.  Many authors have unique writing rituals or habits, or wish we didn't procrastinate so much and actually had writing rituals or habits.  Whatever it takes to get the job done; the proverbial "butt in chair" method that is oft quoted seems to help but a few of us.  Others require some very specific conditions.

Carl Hiaasen likes to face a blank wall, and wears noise-cancelling earmuffs. 
Dan Brown occasionally dons a pair of gravity boots and hangs upside-down from a special frame.
Ruth Krauss kept her manuscripts in the refrigerator.
Agatha Christie ate apples.
Flannery O'Connor preferred vanilla wafers.
Victor Hugo wrote in the nude so he would not be able to leave the house and instructed his valet to hide his clothes.
Roald Dahl composed in the privacy of his garden shed.
James Joyce wrote lying on his stomach in bed with a large blue pencil and wearing a white coat.
Truman Capote also liked to write lying down.
Stephen King is quoted as saying he had a goal of 2000 "adverb-less" words a day.
Lewis Carroll preferred using purple ink.
Joseph Heller arrived at some of his greatest ideas while riding the bus.
Woody Allen was inspired during crowded subway rides.

Some of my fellow writers claim they must be at the local library or sitting in a Starbucks since there are too many distractions at home.  Others keep to a strict daily two or three hour time frame or their required 1000 or 2000 words.  Still others have warm up activities - such as write about the last thing that made you laugh/cry, or do 30 jumping jacks.  Another must wear red flannel pajamas.

So what weird thing do you do?  And does it help?
Maybe we don't have writer's block after all.  Perhaps we are like Harold and all we need is  a purple crayon.

Andrea Perry, November 19, 20114

Monday, November 10, 2014

First Friday Five Favorite Things - Crazy


by Linda Phillips

This past Friday, November 7, Marcy and I posted our answers to Linda’s debut novel in verse, Crazy. Today, you get to read Linda’s favorite's. 

Great picks, Linda! We learned even more about your characters through your answers.

We hope our readers enjoy the story as much as we did.

1) What is your favorite line or paragraph from the novel as it relates to the main character's development and/or growth?

As for the main character’s growth and development, it would have to be the very end of the book, in the last piece called “Figurines and Forgiveness.”  Laura has just asked forgiveness in her own way: 

“I’m not sure if she gets it at all,
what I am trying to say,
but the important thing is
I get it
and I did what
I needed to do,
and it feels as good
as anything I have ever done.”

2) What is your favorite chapter ending or cliffhanger?

Probably the most emotional and high-tension poem of the book is “The Sound of Breaking China.” It’s a cliffhanger in the sense that the reader doesn’t know how Laura will react, but can expect that it will be bigger than the reaction she had to the first breakdown.

“The ambulance and the police get there as we pull up.
Someone makes me stay in the car,
makes me drink something, holds my hand,
tells me it’s going to be all right,
tries to turn my head when

they take her away.”

3) Who is your favorite secondary character and why?

Of course that would have to be Beth, Laura’s cocky, irreverent best friend, who knew her well even though Laura never shared any part of her mother’s illness.  Beth was Laura’s voice of reason, always with a dry sense of humor. 

4) What is your favorite line or paragraph of description?

I love the description of Laura’s parents and a brief glimpse of their relationship in “Puzzling Music.”

“I stop playing after I hear them leave, and I
watch the old Studebaker chug down the hill
in the bright moonlight
with the frozen snow glistening all around
like precious jewels.
I catch the silhouette of the two of them
in the front seat.

It occurs to me
that the love they share
is both mysterious and haunting

like the song of the reed flute.”

5) What is your favorite line of dialogue?

And speaking of Beth, this is my favorite dialogue sequence in the poem called, “The Call.”

“He called.  HE CALLED!”

“What? Stop shrieking.  I can’t understand you.
Speak clearly into the microphone, madam.
Did you say some is bald?  Who is this, anyway?

“Beth, stop playing with me, you dimwit.  You know
who this is and what I said.”

“So darling Dennis finally called.  So?”
Beth is unable to hide her biased opinion.

Congratulations to Linda and her debut novel Crazy. Kudos to Linda for this book being selected as a Junior Library Guild selection. Way to go!
To read more about Linda Phillips debut YA novel Crazy please go to: