A Dad, a Day, and a Book Giveaway

I’m writing this post on Father’s Day. To all of you dads out there—a toast to you! I live a thousand miles away from my dad, so I didn’t see him today. Instead, I talked to him on the phone and gave the requisite greetings. My younger brother, who also is a father, went there to be with him—his Father’s Day present from my sister-in-law.

The desire to be eloquent rises within me as I think about Father’s Day. But whenever I try to be what I’m not, I come off sounding phony. So, if you don’t mind, I’ll ignore that desire and just be myself.

Know what I think of when I think of my dad? I think of how he taught me to draw, how he read fairy tales to me at bedtime, and taught me to ride a bike. And every Christmas, like clockwork, I could expect the latest Stephen King novel from him.

I remember as a teen how embarrassed I was to buy feminine products at the store. If the cashier was male, I’d balk and refuse to make the purchase. But my dad had no problem buying what I needed.

“Got you some on sale,” he’d say proudly, as he plunked a bag on the kitchen table.

I remember my first car—a Hornet station wagon. (Yeah, I’m old. But it was old when I got it, so, yeah.) It had a tendency to break down on various roads. Dad would have to come get me, sometimes in the dead of winter. Dads do things like that, see.

The test of a father’s influence is when you still love something when you become an adult. My dad infused within me a love of animation, science fiction, and mysteries, fortified by the books I discovered on the bookshelves at our old house (Ray Bradbury; Isaac Asimov; Agatha Christie; Erle Stanley Gardner) and the shows we’d watch together (Doctor Who; Looney Tunes, Star Trek in various forms).

    

    

Each week, my father and I discuss books that we read or are currently reading. Right now, he’s into a series by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.

I’m also reading a mystery:

So, though I’m not with my dad on this special day, we’re still together, sharing the love of a good mystery book.

Speaking of good books, I have one to give away: The Worst Fairy Godmother Ever! by Sarah Aronson. (Click here if you missed the interview with Sarah.)

    

The winner of The Worst Fairy Godmother Ever! is

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Marie of 1WriteWay!

Marie, please comment below to confirm.

While we wait for Marie, do you have a great dad story you’d like to share? Please comment below!

Small critters wishing their dads a Happy Father’s Day

P. S. Thank you, Dad, for everything. 😀

Book covers from Goodreads, with the exception of the ones photographed by L. Marie. Father’s Day image from clipartpanda.com.

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“You Put Your Left Hand In . . .”

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What song/dance did you think of immediately when you read the title of the post? It’s considered a novelty/fad dance because of its popularity for a time at wedding receptions and large gatherings of kids. (If you still aren’t sure what that song is, I’ll whisper it to you in the comments if you ask.) I didn’t notice anyone suggesting it at any wedding reception I’ve attended in the last few years. The “Chicken Dance” is still hanging in there as a wedding reception staple.

img_4151Connie Willis’s 1996 science fiction novel, Bellwether, is all about fads and trends. Dr. Sandra Foster, the main character, is a sociologist who studies them. Like this one:

dance marathon (1923—33) Endurance fad in which the object was to dance the longest to earn money. Couples pinched and kicked each other to stay awake, and when that failed, took turns sleeping on their partner’s shoulder for as long as 150 days. (Willis 105)

And yes, Barbie herself (pictured above) has endured past her early fad-dom. (If that’s even a word, which I suspect it isn’t.)

This is not a review of Bellwether, by the way, though I loved the book. (Which I guess is kind of a mini-review.) I’m more interested in the central concept of the book: the bellwether. (Maybe now you’re thinking of the Bellwether character in Zootopia.)

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Assistant Mayor Bellwether

According to Merriam-Webster.com, a bellwether is

one that takes the lead or initiative : leader; also : an indicator of trends

States can be bellwethers too. You can check out Wikipedia (click here) for more information on the bellwether’s antecedents. Willis’s book addresses the notion of the bellwether in a very creative way.

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I’ll be bahhh-ck. (A sheep’s impression of Ah-nold Schwarzenegger)

We can’t always predict what will become a fad, thanks to the fickle nature of humans. Even if we’re contemptuous of the fads others follow (especially if they seem dangerous or dumb), if we’re being honest, we’ll probably admit to having followed a few fads at some point in our lives.

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Blue hair on a dude is not uncommon nowadays.
Is this a passing trend? Who knows?

Bellwethers set the trends, sometimes inadvertently. Think of the artists who are simply being true to themselves, but who wind up starting fads, thanks to the adoration of fans.

Maybe we don’t think of ourselves as trendsetting bellwethers. But sometimes, for good or ill, we are bellwethers in the lives of someone impressionable. I can’t help thinking of some children I’ve babysat, who use some of the same exclamations I’ve used. “Oh good grief!” a three-year-old said in frustration, using the same inflection I used. This taught me to keep a careful watch on what I say around him.

What fads or trends have you noticed lately that you like or wish would go away? Do you know who started them? Have you ever started a fad? What was the result?

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Willis, Connie. Bellwether. New York: Bantam Books, 1996.

Assistant Mayor Bellwether image from thefandomnet.tumblr. Bellwether sheep found at Goodreads.com. Other photos by L. Marie. Barbie and Kris dolls by Mattel for the movie Barbie Video Game Hero.

Check This Out: A Wish After Midnight and The Door at the Crossroads

It’s always great when friends introduce you to their friends, especially if those friends are authors. Thanks to Lyn Miller-Lachmann, I learned about Zetta Elliott, an educator with a Ph.D. in American Studies from NYU, who also is a playwright. Awesome, right? And she’s written several books for children, including Bird, her award-winning picture book. Zetta is a hybrid author—one who has been traditionally published and indie published. She’s here because of her young adult time travel series, the first two of which are A Wish After Midnight and The Door at the Crossroads.

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After I chat with Zetta, I’ll fill you in on a giveaway. So for now, grab a cup of coffee or tea and hang out with us. We won’t bite. Much.

El Space: Four quick facts about yourself?
Zetta: I’m an immigrant [from Canada]. I’m a Scorpio. I’m middle-aged (43). I’m a medieval geek.

El Space: How did you get started writing speculative fiction books for children and teens?
Zetta: I guess the seed was the fantasy fiction I read as a child—mostly British, entirely white. Ducks believe the first creature they see at birth is their mother and they pattern themselves after that creature. Well, I read so much fantasy fiction about faeries and dragons and wizards that it wasn’t hard for me to “go there” when I started writing for kids in 2000. That was my imprint and it took a long time for me to hybridize those Western conventions so that the genre worked for me and my young readers of color.

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El Space: What inspired you to write a time travel series? Which time period, if any, would you travel to if you could?
Zetta: Learning about Weeksville inspired me to write Wish and Crossroads. I was still new to Brooklyn, and when I learned about the historic free Black community—second largest in the U.S. prior to the Civil War—I knew I wanted to make that history relevant to teens. I was writing my dissertation on racial violence and also wanted young readers to know that wasn’t limited to the South, so the novels became an opportunity to talk about domestic terrorism and the NYC Draft Riots.

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Weeksville in Brooklyn (New York)

Life was pretty rough for women in the past, so I don’t know if I’d want to trade this era for another. I was obsessed with Ancient Egypt as a child, though, so if I had some type of perfect immunity that’s probably where I’d go.

El Space: In a recent Huffington Post article, you stated, “Self-publishing is, for me, an act of radical self care—and self-love.” Could you unpack that a little for us?
Zetta: Audre Lorde once wrote that self-care is political warfare because it is an act of resistance. When you live in a society that is committed to destroying and/or denigrating Black people—and Black women in particular—then choosing to be gentle with yourself means a lot. It means you reject all the messages you’re receiving about your worth. Self-love insists that you are worthy and deserving of care and kindness and compassion. Black women do a lot for others but we don’t always remember to make ourselves a priority. Then add publishing to the mix and you’ve got an industry dominated by white women that largely excludes Black women. When I self-publish, I’m pushing back against the implicit message that my work doesn’t matter to them. It matters to me and it matters to the members of my community, so I don’t need to look outside myself and my community for permission to tell my tales.

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El Space: How has mentoring been a help to you as a writer? How do you mentor others through your books or through the college classes you teach?
Zetta: I generally think of mentoring as a sustained, long-term relationship and I don’t really provide that to any one person. I’m an educator and so my students can call on my anytime, and some do long after they’ve graduated or grown up. I’m happy to provide whatever advice I can to aspiring writers and I get lots of email queries about self-publishing. I see hundreds of kids every year and I try to embody possibility for the one hour I’m in their school. I never saw or met an author when I was a kid, so I let them know that I’m not some special person from far away—I’m a member of their community. Anyone can be a writer if they choose to be—my high school English teacher told me that in Grade 9, and that changed the course of my life.

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El Space: What’s the best writing advice you’ve received recently? Why?
Zetta: I don’t think I’ve gotten any advice recently. I’m always learning about myself as a writer and I try to keep learning about the publishing industry so I know what I’m up against! My friend Maya Gonzalez always says, “The revolution is now!” and that reminds me not to wait for change, but to be the change instead.

El Space: Which authors inspire you?
Zetta: Octavia Butler blew my mind with Kindred and I admire Jamaica Kincaid a lot. I like writers who take chances. Gayl Jones has had a challenging life but her first novel Corregidora is a Black feminist classic and stands the test of time. James Baldwin inspires me because he was an activist and author, and his books didn’t generally improve as he aged, but he kept writing what he felt compelled to write.

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El Space: What are you working on next?
Zetta: I’m hoping to publish The Ghosts in the Castle next month, which is Book #3 in my City Kids series. Next I have to finish The Return, which is the sequel to The Deep and Book #3 in my “freaks and geeks” trilogy. And then I hope to start my Black girl Viking novel, The Ring—if I can find a way to get over to Sweden to do some research!

Thanks, Zetta, for being my guest!

You can find Zetta at her website, Twitter, and Facebook.

A Wish After Midnight and The Door at the Crossroads are available at these fine establishments:

Amazon (Wish) (Crossroads)
Barnes and Noble (Wish) (Crossroads)
Indiebound (Wish) (Crossroads)

But one of you will win a copy of both books! Just comment below to be entered in the drawing. Winner to be announced on May 6 (because I have other giveaways coming).

Author photo courtesy of the author. Book covers from Goodreads. Weeksville photo from creativetime.org. Self-love image from veenakaur.com. Dragon from fanpop.com. Indie image from michaeljholley.com.

Suspending a Character’s Disbelief and Ours

I’ve got book winners to announce, but that will be at the end of this post. Mwahahahaha! So grab a donut and pour yourself a cup of coffee or tea while I talk at you for a minute.

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Ever read a book where a character is handed a truth that would require a major paradigm shift for him or her to accept? For example, the character suddenly learns that magic or monsters really exist.

We’ve all read stories of characters who stubbornly cling to disbelief in the face of tons of evidence to the contrary. They insist that they’re dreaming or “this isn’t really happening” until they reach a plot point (at least halfway through the book) that pushes them toward belief. Or we’ve read stories where a character instantly accepts a completely world-changing viewpoint without a struggle. There are also stories where the character seems to ignore what would be totally obvious to a seven-year-old. I think of that as the Lois-Lane-can’t-see-Superman-behind-Clark-Kent’s-glasses perspective. That’s why we don’t necessarily suspend our disbelief as we read. (Or sometimes we go along for the ride because the characters are so beloved or iconic.)

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Lois, have you noticed anything unusual about Clark? No? Some reporter you are.

Here is where foreshadowing can be an author’s BFF. An author can hint at the possibility that something major is going to happen at a future point. Foreshadowing also is a reminder that things are not always what they appear to be. It provides a solid base to make a character’s suspension of disbelief seem inevitable.

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Prince Zuko of the Avatar animated series and Anakin Skywalker of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Sometimes though, a rip-off-the-bandage approach works to move a story along. I can’t help thinking of two episodes of Doctor Who, series 4 (2008), starring David Tennant as the Doctor (BBC/BBC America).

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In Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead, an extremely chilling 2009 Hugo award-nominated two-episode arc written by Steven Moffat, we see a little girl talking to a psychiatrist, while her anxious dad hovers in the background. Such an innocuous scene. The little girl has told the doctor—Dr. Moon—about her dreams.

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Doctor Moon (played by Colin Salmon) and the little girl (played by Eve Newton)

In her dreams, she goes to a library—a place where she feels safe. But as we watch the episodes, we realize that all is not what it seems. Later in the first episode, because of a dangerous development, Doctor Moon has to share a shocking truth with the little girl, a truth that would require a paradigm shift for her to accept. (Quote below from IMDb. **SLIGHT SPOILER.**)

Dr. Moon: What I want you to remember is this, and I know it’s hard. The real world is a lie and your nightmares are real. The Library is real. There are people trapped in there. People who need to be saved. The shadows are moving again. Those people are depending on you. Only you can save them. Only you.

**END SPOILER.** You can read this Wikipedia article if you want to know the plot. Or, I would suggest watching the episodes. They are extremely good.

Another example of a character having to shift from disbelief to belief comes from J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. In the first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone/Philosopher’s Stone (the title depends on which side of the Atlantic you happen to be on), Hagrid tells Harry the truth about Harry’s extraordinary life in this scene from the first Harry Potter movie, directed by Christopher Columbus (2001).

Rowling set the stage earlier by having weird things happen that Harry witnessed, but couldn’t explain. So when the big reveal comes, his struggle for acceptance doesn’t feel contrived.

I’m facing a similar issue in my middle grade book—a character struggling to believe something extraordinary about herself. I’ll ask you the same questions I had to answer for the character: If you were told that magic really exists, what’s the first thing you would do? What would you say or ask?

While you think about those questions, I’ll move on to the book giveaway. Thanks for you patience. If you recall, last week I had mentioned two great books: None of the Above by I. W. Gregorio and Sleeper of the Wildwood Fugue by Charles Yallowitz. You can find those posts here and here. Jordie and Hello Kitty wanted to be in on the reveal. You might have to enlarge the photos below if you have trouble reading the names.

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The winner of None of the Above is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

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The winner of Sleeper of the Wildwood Fugue is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

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Congratulations Jill! Congrats, Professor! Please comment below to confirm.

Now I will leave you with a photo I am calling, “The Five Geese of the Apocalypse.” For some reason, they were just standing there on the ledge looking out. Surveying their domain perhaps?

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Doctor Moon and the little girl from stevegoble.blogspot.com. Doctor Who, series 4, DVD cover from Wikipedia. Lois Lane and Clark Kent from goodgirlsinc.wordpress.com. Coffee and donut from wisdomwoman.com. Zuko from glogster.com. Anakin/Darth Vader from tvtropes.org.

The Needs of the Many

This past Tuesday night some friends and I sat down to watch the science fiction epic, Interstellar. I’d missed it when it debuted last fall.

Have you ever had a movie hangover, where the events stayed with you days after you’ve seen a film? That’s the effect Interstellar had on me. (Inception, a movie by the same director—Christopher Nolan—was another “hangover” movie.) Interstellar was written by Nolan and his brother Jonathan (at the right in the photo below) and featured Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, and Michael Caine.

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The science wasn’t the issue. I have A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle to thank for some of my early enlightenment on that score. I also had a really good physics teacher and a science fiction-loving father who indoctrinated my brothers and me early. No, the emotional story caused me to face ugly truths about myself—hence the lengthy pondering.

star_trek_2I won’t give any spoilers though I’m still processing this movie. But I’m reminded of a quote embedded in the following dialogue from another movie: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), written by Nicholas Meyer and Jack B. Sowards. (Sorry. I can’t avoid a spoiler. You might click here if you haven’t seen this movie and want to know the plot.)

Kirk: Spock!
[Spock slowly walks over to the glass and pushes the intercom]
Spock: The ship . . . out of danger?
Kirk: Yes.
Spock: Do not grieve, Admiral. It is logical. The needs of the many, outweigh . . .
Kirk: The needs of the few.

star-trek-into-darkness-poster-sc-geekIf you’ve seen this movie, or at least the 2013 movie, Star Trek Into Darkness, where (SLIGHT SPOILER) roles were switched, you know the significance of this scene. (END SPOILER.) So I have a question for you, a question also appropriate in light of Easter: What, if anything, would you be willing to sacrifice in order to save lives? Does your answer depend on how many people would be saved? Would the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few for you? I’m thinking of the premise of Interstellar and an agonizing choice one of the characters made early in the movie. (Click here for Wikipedia’s plot review of Interstellar, if you want to know the movie plot.)

While you mull over the questions above, I have to be honest and say that I’m not sure I would choose to do what the character in the movie did, though the need was great. Every selfish intention within me rises up. I’m not proud of this, however.

I’m painfully reminded of the fire fighters who hurried into the twin towers of the World Trade Center to help people during the terrorist attacks of 9/11. They did their jobs, knowing that death was a strong possibility as they entered the towers. Many fire fighters and other emergency workers died that day. Their heroic actions still bring tears to my eyes.

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The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

It seems hypocritical of me to say that I’m grateful they were willing to do what I would have been terrified to do. It also seems doubly hypocritical if I turn around and blithely make a character in a story take an extremely heroic step that I wouldn’t take if I were in his or her shoes.

Sigh. Sometimes art provides a mirror I want to avoid looking into. But perhaps a long look is necessary in order for me to change.

Click here for a great post at Screen Rant explaining the science and ending of Interstellar. If you’ve already seen Interstellar, perhaps you’ll appreciate this Honest Trailer.

Have a wonderful Easter or Passover!

Interstellar poster from mtv.com. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan poster from leagueofdeadfilms.com. Star Trek Into Darkness poster from soulculture.com. Christopher and Jonathan Nolan photo from buzzerie.com. Fire fighter from firefighterfire.com.

Check This Out: Unmade

Once again, I welcome to the blog the awesome Amy Rose Capetta. If you were around last year, you might remember that Amy Rose came on the blog to talk about her debut science fiction novel Entangled. Well, she’s here today to talk about the sequel—Unmade. Get ready to rock!

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El Space: Four quick facts about yourself?
Amy Rose: 1. I used to be a bookseller, a baker, and a teenage indie filmmaker.
2. I have lived on the East Coast, West Coast, in the South and the Midwest. What does that leave? The Southwest? I don’t think I could do that. Even thinking about it makes my skin feel dry.
3. My favorites are: sunshine, good books, learning things, almost any food, road trips. I’ve driven across the country four times.
4. I have a little tree in my writing room. I’m looking at him right now. He’s getting a little droopy. I hope he makes it through this winter. I hope we all do.

El Space: I hope we do too. In this second book of Cade’s story, what did you learn about yourself as you wrote Unmade? Was there anything you did differently than when you wrote Entangled?
Amy Rose: I learned that I am willing to do anything to make a book work, including abandoning a full draft on deadline, and starting from scratch with only a few months to go. It was the most terrifying writing experience of my life, and I wouldn’t have been anywhere near brave enough to do it without VCFA. But once I saw what I really wanted the story to be, I knew there was no other way.

El Space: How did you determine how much back story to include?
Amy Rose: I am one of those “only include as much as you need for the story” types. In fact, and this might be blasphemous to mention, but for Entangled and Unmade I came up with a lot of back story as I wrote, as I found the need for it. Because with making up a whole universe of planets and people and problems—you could spend ten years of your life coming up with back story only to cut most of it out. At some point you just have to start writing. And I like the surprise of finding things out as I bomb through rough drafts.

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El Space: What inspired you as you wrote this second adventure?
Amy Rose: The opportunity to get deeper into the characters. I think for me that love comes from a long history of series reading in fantasy and science fiction, but also a newer love of long and satisfying character arcs on TV shows, ones with lots of reversals and drama that drive the characters to new places. It’s probably not a coincidence that some of my favorites in this category are “genre” shows like Battlestar Galactica. But my secret favorite in this regard is Angel, the Buffy spinoff. If you see where some of those characters start their arcs, and where they end up, it’s wild. But you live it with them, one episode at a time, which is so emotionally engaging. And it feels believable to me. People can change so much, and at the same time we can see who they are through all of it, what stays intact. I wanted to write those sorts of character arcs.

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El Space: Do you have a playlist for this book? If so, what songs would you include? What characters, if any, inspired you to think of these songs? I’m especially intrigued with what song Rennik might have inspired. 🙂
Amy Rose: Okay, so I absolutely cheated and wrote most of Unmade to the Battlestar Galactica soundtrack. But it was right there, and it was so perfect. The composer doesn’t just give us his idea of what futuristic space music sounds like; he takes little bits of instrumentation and melody from all of these different cultures, and weaves them together and then adds the big epic tense thing that makes it suit the story. The result is music that ties the character in space back to Earth and home and connection and culture and longing. Like I said: too perfect.

Playlist

As a fun thing, I had people make a playlist for Unmade for a giveaway, and tell me the one song they would bring to outer space. I got some really fun answers—everything from Deep Purple to David Bowie to Beethoven to Taylor Swift.

Rennik’s song would be something by the guitarist Kaki King, something intricate and instrumental. Also a bonus because a friend told me that Kaki King reminds her of Cade.

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El Space: What attracts you the most to science fiction?
Amy Rose: Creation. Adaptation. Looking at everything sideways or upside down or a thousand years in the future. It’s a great way to explore big questions, because it doesn’t tether you to this particular moment, this culture, this way of looking at things. It allows you to think a little bit bigger than that—which is beautiful and a bit addictive.

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El Space: I’m a long-standing advocate of duologies. What made you decide to tell Cade’s story as a duology rather than a trilogy?
Amy Rose: Haha. Well, that’s a long story. I did consider a trilogy, but in the end the two parts of the story really are bookends. I had enough material that I could have written three books, but that’s not really the question. The structure always made sense as two. There are two major things that change the trajectory of Cade’s life. There are two times that Xan changes everything. And most importantly, there are two endings. The small one that’s a waystation on the journey, and the big one that brings it to a close. I worship really good trilogies, but for that exact reason I don’t want to write one unless it’s the right shape for the story—unless that’s the only way to tell it.

El Space: What are you working on now?
Amy Rose: I am working on two very different things. One is a contemporary fantasy book, set in a theater. It has a central love story between two girls, which is something that won’t surprise readers of Unmade. I was always trying to get Lee and Ayumi more page time! The relationships were one of my favorite parts of these books, and I wanted something that put a love story at center stage, unabashedly. In reviews of YA genre books, we often hear a lot about “thank goodness there’s not too much romance in this!” which is funny to me, because I am ALWAYS looking for a good love story. Maybe not every reader is, but I think minimizing it is just a way that we distance ourselves from the idea of what girls like to read. I know I did that when I was a teenager. Well, now I am much too old to give any f***s. I love love stories. And I really wanted to tell an epic one.

The other story is contemporary, which is completely bizarre for me. I never thought I would write one. But it kept getting in my way, so I let myself write a draft. Then I put it away for a year because I couldn’t figure out how to revise it. But I have some ideas now. And I kind of love working on it. Like I said: bizarre.

Thanks, Amy Rose, for being my guest today!

Looking for Amy Rose? You can find her at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Unmade can be found here:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Indiebound
Great Lakes Book and Supply

One of you will win a copy of Unmade just by commenting. The winner will be announced on March 11.

Author photo by Cori McCarthy. Kaki King from elisarusso.com. Battlestar Galactica cast from thewallpapers.org. David Boreanaz as Angel from theangstreport.blogspot.com. Playlist image from femininoealem.com.br. Earth from whitegoldsilver.blogspot. Dr. Doofenshmirtz from phineasandferb.wikia.com.

Supervillain Preparedness Plan

robots_incrediblesBefore I reveal the winner of Don’t Touch by the awesome Rachel M. Wilson, I have to pose this question: Would you know what to do if supervillains or giant robots took over your city or town? Watching movies like Megamind and The Incredibles and also watching a slew of superhero shows made me realize my lack of preparedness. Usually when supervillains attack or send surrogates (like killer robots), many people run helter skelter or drive their cars while screaming. Eventually those drivers crash into each other or into stationary objects (like plate glass windows) and cause even more chaos. Those who aren’t running and screaming just stand there waiting for the superheroes to show up and fight on their behalf. They offer no assistance when the heroes show up. My guess is they don’t quite know what to do, especially if they haven’t been bitten by a radioactive spider or are sadly lacking a power ring.

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Archvillains Megamind and Lex Luthor

While you wait for the Avengers, Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, or Spider-man to show up, you can be proactive. Think of how proactive you are when you learn about a storm heading your way. You either take out an umbrella or a shovel (for a snowstorm). (In the advent of a storm of locusts, well, you do what you can.) With a supervillain takeover, here are some ways you can be proactive.

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1. First, determine the threat level. Check out the news reports to assess the imminence of the threat. How far along in the nefarious scheme is the villain and his or her henchpeople? Are they still at the threatening stage? (“Unless I’m given one meellion dollars, I will . . .”) If they are, you still have time to get packed and get going with the next tips.
2. Practice your self-defense. While you’re waiting for the villains to make their move, make yours by practicing your kung-fu, archery, knife throwing, or even your tai chi. Supervillains usually come with loads of henchpeople. You may be able to conquer at least one or two with your fighting skills. Also, while everyone else panics and races about, you can chill with tai chi.
3. Keep hydrated. You might have to hide in sub-basements or caves for a long time when the fighting commences. If so, you’ll be thirsty. Start stocking water now, so you can keep hydrated. Try to set up more than one water cache in your town, in case you have to move around.

Horrified_Man_Running_Fast_clipart_image[2]4. Make your relationships betrayal proof. Can you count on your family and friends to avoid selling you out or eating you if they turn into zombies, thanks to the evil gas the supervillains released into the ozone? If not, make your relationships betrayal proof by making things right with friends and relatives while everyone is still human. Offer forgiveness and affirmation. Keep reminding them that friends and family stick together.
5. Keep vaccines on hand. Speaking of zombie-producing gas, you’ll want to stock up on vaccines and other medicines. Again, have more than one cache of these—preferably someplace cool and dry.

VACCINE-VIAL6. Keep off the bridges and high floors. Everyone will be attempting to travel across the available bridges as they flee the city. That means time-consuming gridlock. Look for alternate routes (sewer tunnels, trees [squirrels manage to go from tree to tree at a good clip]), mailing yourself via UPS box). Also, avoid hanging out on high floors. They’re usually the first place enemy drones crash through.
7. Learn how to use a machete. You’ll know why when the time comes.

No need to thank me. Just doing my civic duty. Feel free to pass along any other tips you would add to the list.

And now, let’s get to the winner of Don’t Touch by Rachel M. Wilson.

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That person is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

The lovely and vivacious Brickhousechick!

Congrats, Brickhousechick! Please confirm by commenting below!

And for the rest of you out there, keep safe. A gas mask might be the only fashion statement you need to make.

500fullThe Incredibles Omnidroid 10 from gonewiththetwins.com. Vaccine from daiasolgaia.com. Lex Luthor from youngjustice.wikia.com. Megamind from worldsoforos.com. Man running away from paulsjourneytolife.blogspot.com.