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The Beautiful Agony of a Slow Burn, a guest post by Rachel Lynn Solomon

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I love kissing scenes. But what I love even more than a kissing scene is making the reader think they’re getting a kissing scene—only to rip it away at the last minute.

In a romance novel, a slow burn is a relationship that builds and builds as the tension simmers, until it reaches a wonderful, fiery crescendo. A good slow burn should be torturous, and the payoff should make all that waiting worth it.  

In my YA romantic comedy Today Tonight Tomorrow, the characters don’t kiss until around the 90 percent mark. I was so eager to get there, but because the book takes place over 24 hours, I didn’t want it to peak too soon. It was my first slow burn, and now that I’ve written a few more for future books, I wanted to share what I’ve learned along the way.

The Buildup

Wherever your two romantic leads start, there’s something preventing them from beginning a relationship. Maybe it’s circumstance, maybe they don’t know each other well enough, maybe they don’t know how the other feels, or maybe they hate each other, which is the case in Today Tonight Tomorrow—or at least, they think they hate each other.

Regardless of trope, here are some ways to linger in the slow part of a slow burn:

  • Emotional connection. What do these characters have in common? What do they talk about? How do they push and challenge each other? What do they admire about each other? This might also include a “they’re not that bad” moment—when the protagonist realizes that their budding love interest may have some redeeming qualities after all.
  • Physical touch. Maybe their hands brush, or one of them playfully nudges the other, or one of them sits just a little too close. Is it accidental? Who knows, but wondering about it is definitely something that will make your main character suffer!
  • Questioning. This is when the main character is trying to puzzle out their feelings for the other person. How are they trying to defend their new emotions to themselves or to their friends? I especially love when they try to explain away their feelings—I’m not blushing, it’s just warm in here.
  • Proximity. Maybe they’re forced together or maybe they just keep running into each other, but close proximity is going to take all that great physical and emotional tension and dial it up to a hundred. 

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The Almost

So all of those ingredients are simmering—emotional connection, physical touch, questioning, and proximity—and now it’s time to bring them to a rolling boil. This takes time, time, and you guessed it, more time. There’s no “right” point in 1a YA or adult romance novel for the couple to finally get together, but if it’s a slow burn, it’s probably going to be at least after the midpoint.

You can, however, tease your reader. Put the characters in those close proximity situations, get them hyped on oxytocin, bring their faces together until their lips almost touch—but then something stops them. It doesn’t need to be something tangible that interrupts them; maybe it’s the protagonist convincing themselves that this other person isn’t right for them and they shouldn’t be kissing them. Whatever it is, it should serve to drag out the burn.

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The Payoff

In a slow burn, it’s not when the pot boils over that the characters finally get to kiss and confess their feelings—it’s the moment right before the smoke alarm goes off.

And in my favorite slow burns, it’s usually not just a quick peck, either. They don’t need to jump right to ripping off their clothes, but if we’ve spent 300 pages waiting for these people to kiss, we’ve earned more than a couple sentences.

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I’m a fan of all kinds of romance in YA, but I continue to be drawn to the slow burn because it’s just so satisfying when the characters finally figure things out. In Today Tonight Tomorrow, though the characters uncover their true feelings for each other over the course of 24 hours, their romance has been simmering for much, much longer—and I hope that payoff is as thrilling to read as it was for me to write.

Meet Rachel Lynn Solomon

Rachel Lynn Solomon is the author of You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone, Our Year of Maybe, and Today Tonight Tomorrow. She is a Seattle native who loves rainy days, her tiny dog, tap dancing, old movies, red lipstick, and books with flawed, complicated characters. Learn more at RachelSolomonBooks.com.

Her local indie bookstore is Third Place Books.

About Today Tonight Tomorrow

Today Tonight Tomorrow | Book by Rachel Lynn Solomon | Official ...

The Hating Game meets Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by way of Morgan Matson in this unforgettable romantic comedy about two rival overachievers whose relationship completely transforms over the course of twenty-four hours.

Today, she hates him.

It’s the last day of senior year. Rowan Roth and Neil McNair have been bitter rivals for all of high school, clashing on test scores, student council elections, and even gym class pull-up contests. While Rowan, who secretly wants to write romance novels, is anxious about the future, she’d love to beat her infuriating nemesis one last time.

Tonight, she puts up with him.

When Neil is named valedictorian, Rowan has only one chance at victory: Howl, a senior class game that takes them all over Seattle, a farewell tour of the city she loves. But after learning a group of seniors is out to get them, she and Neil reluctantly decide to team up until they’re the last players left—and then they’ll destroy each other.

As Rowan spends more time with Neil, she realizes he’s much more than the awkward linguistics nerd she’s sparred with for the past four years. And, perhaps, this boy she claims to despise might actually be the boy of her dreams.

Tomorrow…maybe she’s already fallen for him.

ISBN-13: 9781534440241
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication date: 07/28/2020
Age Range: 12 – 18 Years

Closer than Sisters: a guest post by author Sasha Laurens

A WICKED MAGIC is about Dan and Liss, closer-than-sisters best friends who’ve transformed themselves into witches. As the book begins, we learn three things about them: one, just after Dan had her first kiss with a boy named Johnny, Liss began dating him; two, Johnny’s missing; and three; Dan and Liss aren’t speaking. If that has you expecting a story about heartbreak, you’re dead-on. But if you’re expecting that heartbreak to be about Johnny, you’ve got something else coming.

In writing A WICKED MAGIC, I wanted to show how friendships can be a lot messier, more complicated and harder to navigate than romantic relationships. That was certainly my experience in high school and college. In fact, the conflict between Dan and Liss over Johnny is based on something that happened to me: my best friend really did start dating the boy I’d had my first kiss with a few weeks earlier. At the time, I was more confused than angry. After all, my friend had invested a lot of energy in trying to make sure the boy and I ended up together. But she’d wanted a boyfriend a lot more than I had, so I reconciled myself to their relationship because she deserved it more than me. I didn’t realize at the time that was the first crack in our friendship. When it finally collapsed months later, I felt used and disrespected by the person I’d been closest to. That heartbreak hurt a lot more than the fact that I hadn’t held the boy’s interest.

But when I looked at young adult fiction, I rarely saw stories about these confusing, formative and painful kinds of friendships. Often, the central relationship in YA is a romantic one—which can be great! But often this means that in these stories, relationships with friends are set up so they’re not a source of tension. Instead, the best friend plays a supporting role, cheering on the main character role as she pursues her crush (and saves the kingdom, wins prom queen, etc.).

In the real world, not all friendships are so perfect. Our best friends have the power to delight us or destroy us, to lift us up or to make us small, to make us feel like we belong or like no one will ever understand us. And all of that unfolds between two people who will probably never communicate about what they want from the relationship the way romantic partners do, because friendship is supposed to be easy, right?

The relationship at the core of A WICKED MAGIC is not a romance: it’s the broken bond between Dan and Liss. Both girls have struggled with trauma and guilt over Johnny’s disappearance, and that strain proved too great for their friendship to bear. Dan is left feeling that Liss took advantage of her, because she couldn’t stand up to Liss’s take-no-prisoners personality. When Dan stops speaking to her, Liss faces the dangerous task of rescuing Johnny alone. The girls have to confront the role they each played in their toxic friendship if they want to have any hope of saving Johnny—or of finding their way to happiness.

I admit that when I started writing, there was more than a little pathos in play. Poor innocent Dan was the stand-in for me, and Liss was the charismatic mean girl who embodied all the friends who had hurt me. In that first draft, I wanted there to be a palpable feeling that Dan was probably better off without Liss, who needed Dan more than she’d realized. I had no idea how—or even if—they were going to end up friends again by the final chapter.

The more I wrote, however, the more it seemed that Dan saw herself as a helpless victim, who was unaware of the pain she’d caused to others. That sense of victimization wasn’t just stopping her from getting over her break-up with Liss, it was also stopping her from doing all she could to rescue Johnny and from facing her own problems, including her depression. While teenage-me had never let a boy get kidnapped by a demon, it hit close to home. 

But A WICKED MAGIC isn’t just told from Dan’s perspective. The story includes Liss’s point of view too (and that of Dan’s new best friend, Alexa). That meant I had to spend a lot of time in Liss’s head. At first, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to connect with her; after all, she was based on my frenemies. But as I wrote from Liss’s perspective, I found myself sympathizing—and even identifying—with her. She had definitely wronged Dan, but it wasn’t intentional. She was working through her own problems, like anxiety, an emotionally abusive mother, and an absent father. Those problems weren’t so different from those my friends had faced—or from problems I had faced, for that matter. Suddenly, it didn’t seem fair that on top of all that, Dan expected Liss to take care of her, when Dan could barely admit her what she needed to herself, let alone confess it aloud to Liss.

Ultimately, I realized that both girls bore responsibility for the failure of their friendship. More than that, they hurt each other for the same reason: they’re both desperately unhappy, for reasons that feel beyond their control. That pain leads them to treat other people, as well as themselves, poorly. Recognizing that was the key that would allow them to forgive each other and move on—or even become friends again.

I still think about that high school best friend, the one who dated the boy who gave me my first kiss. I haven’t been in touch with her for years. I wonder what she would think of Dan and Liss, and if she’d see us in their story. I wish I had understood back then that none of us are born knowing how to be perfect friends. It’s something we learn from each person who comes into our lives. But learning always entails mistakes. If we want to move forward, we have to face those mistakes with compassion for ourselves and others.

SASHA LAURENS grew up in Northern California, where she learned to drive on Highway 1’s switchback turns and got accustomed to the best weather in the world. After studying creative writing and literature at Columbia University, she lived in New York for years and, at various times, in Russia. She currently resides in Michigan, where she is pursuing a PhD in political science. A Wicked Magic is her first novel (Razorbill, July 2020).

Links:

www.sashalaurens.com 

https://www.instagram.com/sashalwrites/

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48675479-a-wicked-magic?ac=1&from_search=true

https://bookshop.org/books/a-wicked-magic/9780593117255

Pre-orders can request free AWM stickers here: https://www.sashalaurens.com/pre-order-campaign

How to Get Out of Handcuffs and Other Things You Need to Know to Write a Mystery Thriller: The Murder Teen Interviews YA Author April Henry

As you may know, teen contributor Riley Jensen is interested in becoming a forensic scientist. Last Thursday, she interviewed prolific YA author April Henry over Zoom. Ms. Henry was very gracious to talk with The Murder Teen and answer her questions about writing a mystery/thriller novel for teens. It’s a fascinating conversation that talks about research and devolves into a very in depth conversation about how one can get out of handcuffs. Now Riley wants practice handcuffs and a lock picking set for her upcoming birthday, so there’s that.

April Henry’s 25th novel The Girl in the White Van releases tomorrow, July 28th. The interview is posted for you below. I tried to close caption the video for the first time to make it accessible and I hope that works correctly.

About The Girl in the White Van

A teen is snatched after her kung fu class and must figure out how to escape—and rescue another kidnapped prisoner—in this chilling YA mystery.

When Savannah disappears soon after arguing with her mom’s boyfriend, everyone assumes she’s run away. The truth is much worse. She’s been kidnapped by a man in a white van who locks her in an old trailer home, far from prying eyes. And worse yet, Savannah’s not alone: Ten months earlier, Jenny met the same fate and nearly died trying to escape. Now as the two girls wonder if he will hold them captive forever or kill them, they must join forces to break out—even if it means they die trying.

Master mystery-writer April Henry weaves another heart-stopping young adult thriller in this story ripped straight from the headlines.

Coming July 28th, 2020 from Henry Holt & Company

About April Henry

New York Times-bestselling author April Henry knows how to kill you in a two-dozen different ways. She makes up for a peaceful childhood in an intact home by killing off fictional characters. There was one detour on April’s path to destruction:  when she was 12 she sent a short story about a six-foot tall frog who loved peanut butter to noted children’s author Roald Dahl. He liked it so much he showed it to his editor, who asked if she could publish it in Puffin Post, an international children’s magazine. By the time April was in her 30s, she had started writing about hit men, kidnappers, and drug dealers. She has published 25 mysteries and thrillers for teens and adults, with more to come. She is known for meticulously researching her novels to get the details right. 

Find out more about April Henry and her books at her webpage.

Friday Finds: July 24, 2020

This Week at TLT

Book Review: Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Morgan’s Mumbles: Game Recommendations, by teen contributor Morgan Randall

‘You wrote an action-thriller?’ a guest post by Tiffany Rosenhan

A Banjo as a Bridge, a guest post by Erica Waters

Murder Books, by teen contributor Riley Jensen

A Great Big List of MG and YA Collection Development Resources

Celebrating 9 Years of TLT! (in a global pandemic)

Around the Web

The Baby-Sitters Club Cast Wants You to Visit Your Library (Online)

Hamilton Star Mandy Gonzalez Will Release a YA Novel

Students of Color Are Not OK. Here’s How Colleges Can Support Them.

Polls: Parents Are Hurting Without Child Care But In No Rush To Reopen Schools

NAACP Sues Betsy DeVos Over Federal Aid Money For Private Schools

Book Review: Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Today Tonight Tomorrow

Publisher’s description

The Hating Game meets Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by way of Morgan Matson in this unforgettable romantic comedy about two rival overachievers whose relationship completely transforms over the course of twenty-four hours.

Today, she hates him.

It’s the last day of senior year. Rowan Roth and Neil McNair have been bitter rivals for all of high school, clashing on test scores, student council elections, and even gym class pull-up contests. While Rowan, who secretly wants to write romance novels, is anxious about the future, she’d love to beat her infuriating nemesis one last time.

Tonight, she puts up with him.

When Neil is named valedictorian, Rowan has only one chance at victory: Howl, a senior class game that takes them all over Seattle, a farewell tour of the city she loves. But after learning a group of seniors is out to get them, she and Neil reluctantly decide to team up until they’re the last players left—and then they’ll destroy each other.

As Rowan spends more time with Neil, she realizes he’s much more than the awkward linguistics nerd she’s sparred with for the past four years. And, perhaps, this boy she claims to despise might actually be the boy of her dreams.

Tomorrow…maybe she’s already fallen for him.

Amanda’s thoughts

Sometimes it’s the books I like most that make me want to write the laziest book review. Do I have more thoughts beyond, “I absolutely adored this book, you should go get it, and I don’t want to tell you much more because it’s just such a joy to discover the story as you go in fresh”? Sure. And I’ll offer a few. But really, this book should be able to be sold with just a “trust me, you’ll love this.” And you’ll get about five pages in and see I was right.

Rowan and Neil’s combative relationship is full of taunting and competition, which means two things: one, they’re very good at bantering with each other, and two, they’re never far from one another’s minds. Flip their relationship to a romance, not a rivalry, and you might think they’re a little bit obsessed with each other. This, of course, is the thing that Rowan can’t see and is appalled at when her friends tease her about her obsession with Neil. But when she really starts to examine things, as their adventurous night running all over Seattle for a game unfolds, she is shocked to find she really does like Neil, especially as she’s finally getting to know the real him.

Going in, I figured I’d like this. I have really enjoyed Solomon’s previous two books and I am a huge fan of romances, especially enemies-to-lovers romances. But this book exceeded my expectations. Real highlights include how frankly Rowan discusses and approaches sex, the truly excellent banter, the deft handling of a large cast of secondary characters, and the completely satisfying and adorable romance. This book was a total delight.

Review copy (ARC) courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781534440241
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication date: 07/28/2020
Age Range: 12 – 18 Years

Morgan’s Mumbles: Game Recommendations, by teen contributor Morgan Randall

Games have always been a huge part of my life, I play games with my family and my friends. It has always been a great way to have conversations and make funny memories. Here are a few games my family has been playing recently, during quarantine:

Munchkin

Designer: Steve Jackson

Illustrated: John Kovalic

Price: Around $20 (depending on where you buy it from)

Players: 3-6

Age: 10+

Playing Time: 1 – 2 Hours

This is personally my favorite of all the card games we own (a heads up it is classified as a card game, but it does come with a board and standees to represent your progression within the game.) This game was published in 2001, and my family got the game last year. Since then we have been able to play a lot and collect expansion packs. Personally, I love the game because it is a condensed version of many “dungeon crawl” type games. You collect treasure, fight monsters, and try to get to the last room before all the other players. You can help one another, or curse each other. It allows for all sorts of funny outcomes and situations. Your goal is to reach 10th level, which you can do by defeating monsters and selling items.

Rate: 5/5

If you get the game and play it (and enjoy it), I recommend the expansion packs. Personally, my favorites include Munchkin Game Changers, Munchkin 4: Need for Steed, and Munchkin 7: Cheat with Both Hands

Bargain Quest

Designer: Jonathan Ying

Illustrated: Victoria Ying

Price: Around $30 (depending on where you buy it from)

Players: 2-6

Age: 8+

Time: 30 Minutes – 1 Hour

This is one of our most recent game purchases, I bought it for my dad on Father’s Day. The game is a card game that was published in 2017, and lets you take on a unique role during an adventure. You become the shop keeper, your goal is to lure players to your shop and sell equipment to them so they can go off and fight against the monsters. Your goal is to collect the most experience by being the best shop, where the other players are the competitor shops.

Rate: 4.5/5

Currently, we do not have expansion packs however I am really interested in getting the Black Market Expansion. There are a lot of options for expansions if you end up enjoying the game.

Saboteur

Designed: Frèderic Moyersoen

Illustrated: Andrea Boekhoff, Frèderic Moyersoen

Price: Around $10 (depending on where you want to buy it from)

Players: 3-10

Age: 8+

Time: 30 Minutes

This card game, published in 2004, is a game of deception. All the players are a team of dwarves trying to escape the mines, but are you all truly on the same team? Someone is betraying the rest of you and sabotaging you from obtaining the treasure you came searching for. We recently purchased this, and have only played a few times, personally I did not enjoy it (however we played with the minimum players of 3) because it was easy to tell who was sabotaging out work. I think this problem would be erased if you played in a larger group.

Rating (For small groups): 2.5/5

My parents played with a few friends and said that it was more enjoyable in a large group. However, I will not rate that because I personally have not had that experience.

Bandido

Designed: Martin Nedergaard Andersen

Illustrated: Lucas Guidetti Perez

Price: Around $15 (depending on where you buy it from)

Players: 1-4

Age: 6+

Time: 15 Minutes

This game is so frustrating, but I love it at the same time. This card game was published in 2016, and it is relatively simple to understand, but hard to win (which makes it frustrating). There is a prison break and your goal is to piece together tunnels to keep him from escaping. It is a team game (if you play with more than one player).

Rating: 4/5

If you like a challenge this is fun, especially in a group of 3 or 4.

Older games that are (STILL) enjoyable:

  • Ticket To Ride (Rate: 4/5)
  • Dominos (Rate: 4/5) // Chicken Foot (5/5)
  • Clue (Rate: 3.5/5)
  • UNO (I personally enjoy the Flip cards the most 5/5)

Morgan RandallTeen Contributor

Morgan recently graduated high school and is currently enrolled to attend college in the fall getting her BA in Theatre and Dance with an emphasis on Design and Technology. She loves theatre, writing, reading, and learning. But something that has always been important to her is being a voice for those who feel like they don’t have one, and being a catalyst for change in any way possible.

More on Table Top Games

‘You wrote an action-thriller?’ a guest post by Tiffany Rosenhan

Girl from Nowhere

You wrote an action-thriller?’

Emphasis on YOU. As in me. Yes, I wrote an action thriller. And, yes, I’m surprised as YOU are.

Most summer days you can find me wearing a broderie dress and espadrilles, frolicking through the mountainous fields behind my Utah home, my four daughters traipsing behind me with ribbons in their hair and jubilantly singing Do-Re-Mi. . . okay this is more a fantasy of how I wish my real life was. But, you get the picture. More importantly, I get the picture.

Perhaps because most would consider me, um . . . ‘girly’ . . . no one anticipated that I would write an action-spy-thriller.

Perhaps.

I suppose I could speculate the myriad reasons why I’m met with such astonishment when people read my book, but perhaps it all circles into a vortex of simple human contradictions. We – humans – are all contradictions, are we not?

I equally love sewing doll clothes and reading monotonous descriptions of tactical warfare. I am presently (and contentedly!) a stay home mother and a political scientist who once set out to join either the Foreign Service or the Central Intelligence Agency.  I am both unabashedly feminine and feminist. I love Ann Brashares and John Le Carre!

And of this I am certain: we must stop suggesting that these characteristics can’t all coexist.

We can write in any genre we choose to, even if it doesn’t fit the pattern of who people think we are. Who we think we are.

Like every other female I know, I am a contradiction (though my identical twin sister and I are certain that in the original division of us, some traits were unequally distributed) and I hope, in writing the character of Sophia Hepworth that the following comes across emphatically: women have many, varied, oft-conflicting, interests!

I loved writing GIRL FROM NOWHERE, because not only did it offer me a reasonable opportunity to research and study so many of these interests at once, it also offered me a story that could weld them together, particularly those which are far removed from my daily life (car chases anyone?).

Creating GIRL FROM NOWHERE was akin to writing a fantasy novel, except here the elements of fantasy take shape in a hyper-reality of our own world. The spy world became a fantasy.

I’ve been fascinated by both spy craft and military history since early elementary school. Once, at my grandparent’s house in California, I spotted a tattered black and white magazine cover, depicting a photograph of two soldiers crawling ashore Guadalcanal under raging enemy fire. ‘Who are they?’ I asked my grandfather. “Marines,” he said. He then looked down, tapped his crooked forefinger to the face of the soldier in the foreground, and said, “That’s me.”

My grandfather – A Marine. The word alone impressed me. It still does. I was too young then to associate anything other than prestige with the word; it would be years before I heard about, and studied, PTSD.

However, if that photograph sparked my curiosity with military history and tradecraft, another sparked my fascination with the world. Most summers my twin sister and I would visit’s my father’s family’s farm in Ohio. Here, we would stay with my grandmother and she would instruct us to either read, explore, embroider, cook, clean, or play outside. There was an old television set, but I remember it only being turned on once, during a storm. She’d been a public school teacher before settling down to raise six children, and remained a voracious reader. Her house had many books.

My favorites included a collection of 1960’s encyclopedias. I was fascinated by the vintage pictures: vibrant toucans in Central America, zebras and antelope in Sub-Saharan Africa, Soviet women wearing traditional folk dress hanging laundry outside their cottages. . . It was the caption of this last photograph that caught my attention. It explained that these women resided in a country called Czechoslovakia, which according to my grandmother, had recently stopped existing. I couldn’t process. How does a country simply cease to exist? Does it disappear? Did it fall into the center of the earth? How? I did not, could not, understand.

On that rainy afternoon in the mid 1990’s, Czechoslovakia introduced me to the global trifecta: politics, diplomacy, and geography. Though I’ve since learned how a country actually ceases to exist, I’ve never stopped learning about the many reasons why.

So if these photographs sparked my curiosity about several topics that vein through GIRL FROM NOWHERE – geography, tradecraft, nature etc. – then motherhood ignited my willpower, and granted me the time, to write it all down.

From the moment Sophia Hepworth first took shape in my sub-conscious, I knew who I wanted her to become. And who I would not allow her to become. (Because, unlike with my children, I possess this power!) She would be skilled. Disciplined. Knowledgeable. Brave. She would also be an actual teenage girl. Hormonal. Frustrated. Moody. Prone to split-second-poor-judgement decisions. More than any other character trait I wanted to give Sophia, I wanted to ensure she remained just a regular (though super-skilled!) teenage girl entangled in a complicated life.

Therefore, in order to turn GIRL FROM NOWHERE into an actual manuscript, I needed facts. I read everything I could find that incorporated even a fragment of a location, skill, or event that interested me. I scoured encyclopedias, Wikipedia, and the library. I wanted to know everything I could about everything.

Which in case you are wondering, is impossible.

Yet, I loved this part of the process.

So, why did I write GIRL FROM NOWHERE as a thriller? Why not something more literary that offered a broader template to include more of the miscellaneous fruits of my laborious research?

I suppose my simplest answer is that I wrote exactly the type of book I like to read. I prefer fiction that is entertaining, informative, intriguing, and/or enthralling.

I like to be swept away, mesmerized by a plot so finely threaded through the narrative that I can scarcely pry away my eyes.

Yet, as all contradictory people might say, I also love literary fiction, epic historical tales, fantasy, and even memoirs. I’ve even been reading the Icelandic Sagas for a few days (years).

Above all else, I appreciate a well-paced story. And I knew, despite the enormous amount of effort it took to turn GIRL FROM NOWHERE from moderate ‘coming of age’ story into an ‘action-thriller’, it was the right decision.

I do actually wear sundresses and straw hats in summer; I do create whimsical tea parties for my daughters on rainy afternoons; I do pick wildflowers to assemble midsummer crowns.

Therefore, I do understand the contradiction. I am not necessarily qualified to write about avalanches, weapons or international espionage. Perhaps I should be writing and illustrating a children’s book of fairy tales instead. Perhaps I might!

However, becoming a published author has freed me from having to explain myself to myself.   

When people ask ‘Why did you write a thriller?’

I now like to answer, ‘Why not me?’

Meet Tiffany Rosenhan

Tiffany Rosenhan is the granddaughter of Oscar-winning screen siren, Mary Astor (The Maltese Falcon). She has a degree in political science and four young daughters, and often travels the world with her family and husband, who is a critical care physician. She lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. This is her debut novel. https://tiffanyrosenhan.com

About Girl from Nowhere

Girl from Nowhere

Red Sparrow meets One of Us Is Lying in this action-packed, romance-filled YA debut about a girl trying to outrun her past.

Ninety-four countries. Thirty-one schools. Two bullets. Now it’s over . . . or so she thinks.

Sophia Hepworth has spent her life all over the world—moving quickly, never staying in one place for too long. She knows to always look over her shoulder, to be able to fight to survive at a moment’s notice. She has trained to be ready for anything.

Except this. Suddenly it’s over. Now Sophia is expected to attend high school in a sleepy Montana town. She is told to forget the past, but she’s haunted by it. As hard as she tries to be like her new friends and live a normal life, she can’t shake the feeling that this new normal won’t last.

Then comes strong and silent Aksel, whose skills match Sophia’s, and who seems to know more about her than he’s letting on . . .

What if everything Sophia thought she knew about her past is a lie?

Cinematic and breathtaking, Tiffany Rosenhan’s debut stars a fierce heroine who will risk everything to save the life she has built for herself.

ISBN-13: 9781547603039
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication date: 07/21/2020
Age Range: 13 – 17 Years

A Banjo as a Bridge, a guest post by Erica Waters

I first got the idea for Ghost Wood Song, my debut YA novel about a girl with a ghost-raising fiddle, from a spooky experience of my own. I was home alone, writing in my attic office, when I heard a banjo playing below. I crept down the stairs with all my senses tingling, but the music stopped. The room was empty and still, and my banjo rested innocently against a wall, perfectly silent. I chalked the phantom music up to vibrations in the banjo’s resonator and went back to work.

However, I couldn’t stop thinking about the idea of a ghost playing a musical instrument. What might he want to communicate? Could music be a bridge between the living and the dead? If so, would that bridge be safe to cross?

I was already deeply interested in bluegrass and folk music, so I knew I could write a story about ghosts set against those musical traditions. But I needed a character to bring the music to life. And out of the blue, she introduced herself to me. Her name was Shady Grove, named after my favorite Appalachian folk song. Her father had died and she was grieving and missing the music he’d taught her to love. But one day she heard his fiddle crying in the pine woods and believed he was calling to her.

Ghost Wood Song by Erica Waters

That fiddle became my bridge—an instrument that when played just right could call up ghosts and let them take a solid form, speak, even touch the ones they loved. It was temporary and dangerous, but it was a small form of resurrection. However, the real bridge wasn’t the fiddle itself but the music that Shady played.

Bluegrass tunes, murder ballads, classic country, gospel hymns.

It was music that I had grown up on in rural Florida but had forgotten until I moved to Nashville and started going to bluegrass joints and shows at the Ryman Auditorium. All these songs came back to me—ones that my grandfather had played on tape decks, that my father sang while he drove. It was intimately familiar to me and yet felt brand new. These songs connected me to a past that felt like such a part of me but also fractured, painful, irretrievable.

As I wrote, I was flooded with a longing for home and family, even though those things are deeply complicated for me. But the music that shaped Shady’s story cracked me open too, and something that felt miraculous happened: I found my writerly self. Suddenly, I knew what I wanted to write and who I wanted to be as a writer. My writing had context, atmosphere, and voice. It was compelling. It was original. Finally, I wasn’t trying to reinvent myself from scratch; rather, I was returning to myself.

Shady’s music became a bridge for me. To the dead, yes. To a home I thought I’d left behind, yes. But most of all it connected me to myself and my own voice.

So maybe there really was a ghost playing that neglected banjo in the corner. Maybe the phantom music was my own personal fiddle crying in the pines. At any rate, it brought me here. It brought me home.

You can buy a copy of Ghost Wood Song at Nashville’s beloved indie bookstore, Parnassus Books: https://www.parnassusbooks.net/ericawaters.

Meet Erica Waters

Photo Credit: Amelia J. Moore

Erica Waters writes young adult fantasy with a Southern Gothic feel. She’s originally from the pine woods of rural Florida but has made her home in Nashville, TN with her spouse and two scruffy little rescue dogs. Ghost Wood Song is her debut novel. You can visit her online at ericawaters.com and connect with her on twitter and Instagram.

Links:

Book: https://www.harpercollins.com/9780062894229/ghost-wood-song/

Website: https://ericawaters.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ELWaters

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ericawatersbooks/

Cover Design Credit:

Jacket art: Alix Northrup
Jacket design: Jenna Stempel-Lobell

About Ghost Wood Song

Ghost Wood Song

Sawkill Girls meets Beautiful Creatures in this lush and eerie debut, where the boundary between reality and nightmares is as thin as the veil between the living and the dead.

If I could have a fiddle made of Daddy’s bones, I’d play it. I’d learn all the secrets he kept.

Shady Grove inherited her father’s ability to call ghosts from the grave with his fiddle, but she also knows the fiddle’s tunes bring nothing but trouble and darkness.

But when her brother is accused of murder, she can’t let the dead keep their secrets.

In order to clear his name, she’s going to have to make those ghosts sing.

Family secrets, a gorgeously resonant LGBTQ love triangle, and just the right amount of creepiness make this young adult debut a haunting and hopeful story about facing everything that haunts us in the dark.

ISBN-13: 9780062894229
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 07/21/2020
Age Range: 13 – 17 Years

Murder Books, by teen contributor Riley Jensen

I hope to pursue a career in forensics, so it only makes sense that I read nonfiction books about how forensics has developed and the many parts of it. I haven’t read all of the books that will be listed, but they are about forensics.

Blood, Bullets, and Bones by Bridget Heos

I have read a good portion of this book, mostly the section about poison testing. This book is about the development of forensic science. In each chapter it starts by talking about how certain things were done before modern technology and then how it changed as we gained more knowledge.

Serial Killers and Psychopaths by Charlotte Greig and John Marlowe

This is another book that I’ve read the majority of. This book is easy to skip around in since it’s a collection of multiple cases. It’s divided into the type of murder that was committed so you can look specifically at the people who were mass murderers or people who were considered the first killers. This book gives a good summary of the life of each killer and the crimes they committed.

The Forensic Casebook by N.E. Genge

I have read all of this book and I also annotated it. It gave a lot of very detailed information on multiple aspects of forensics. It gives information about everything from firearm evidence to forensic botany. This book is more about the actual process of each aspect of forensics instead of the development of them.

Here are some other books that I haven’t read about forensics:

And if you like reading fictional murder books, I like these authors: Christopher Golden (Body Bags series), April Henry, and Maureen Johnson.

A Great Big List of MG and YA Collection Development Resources

When I give presentations on doing Collection Diversity Audits, I get asked a lot about how I determine whether or not a book is counted as diverse. The process is always changing for me as I learn more and grow, and at this point I focus on Own Voices. The truth is, the answer to this question is that I continually engage in listening, learning, reading and growing. The work is never done and it must be intentional. I keep and continually add to an ongoing list of resources that help me do this work. Today I am sharing the bare bones of that list with you. It is by no means complete, and I’m sure that there are many more that I need to add. But it is a really good starting point.

Anti Racist and Social Justice Reading Lists, A Collection of Resources (in random order)

Chicago Public Library/Ibram X. Kendi (adult books): https://chipublib.bibliocommons.com/list/share/204842963/1357692923?page=1

Publisher’s Weekly (kids books): https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-book-news/article/83549-a-children-s-and-ya-anti-racist-reading-list.html

The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2020/jun/03/do-the-work-an-anti-racist-reading-list-layla-f-saad

Center for Racial Justice in Education: https://centerracialjustice.org/resources/reading-lists/

Teen Librarian Toolbox (teen books on social justice and activism): http://www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com/2020/06/33269/

15 Books about Social Justice and Human Rights: https://www.rebekahgienapp.com/social-justice-picture-books/

We Are Teachers 24 Books That Teach Social Justice for Kids: https://www.weareteachers.com/books-about-social-justice/

40 Picture Books for Young Activists: http://www.allthewonders.com/books/forty-picture-books-for-young-activists/

Scholastic 25 Picture Books to Teach Kindness, Empathy and Justice: https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/blog-posts/christy-crawford/2017/Picture-Books-to-Promote-Kindness-Empathy-and-Social-Justice/

We Need Diverse Books has an actual roundup of lists and discussion posts: https://diversebooks.org/resources-for-race-equity-and-inclusion/

Diverse and Own Voices Reading Lists for Youth, by age and format (not comprehensive)

Young Readers

SLJ Diverse Board Books: https://www.slj.com/?detailStory=50-Board-Books-That-Show-IBPOC-Faces-diversity-baby

45 Favorite #OwnVoices Diverse Picture Books: https://imaginationsoup.net/diverse-ownvoices-picture-books/

Read Brightly Black Boy Joy Picture Books: https://www.readbrightly.com/picture-books-featuring-black-male-protagonists/

Read Brightly Black Girl Magic: https://www.readbrightly.com/picture-books-featuring-black-female-protagonists/

#OwnVoices Picture Books: https://imaginationsoup.net/diverse-ownvoices-picture-books/

Own Voices Beginning Chapter Books: https://imaginationsoup.net/ownvoices-beginning-chapter-books/

Middle Grade Readers

#OwnVoices Middle Grade Books: https://imaginationsoup.net/diverse-realistic-chapter-books-middle-school-ownvoices/

#OwnVoices Fiction for Grades 2-6: https://seattle.bibliocommons.com/list/share/220740577/650702937

Diverse Realistic Chapter Books for Middle School by #Own Voices: https://imaginationsoup.net/diverse-realistic-chapter-books-middle-school-ownvoices/

Diverse Books for Tweens and Teens by Own Voices Authors: https://www.readbrightly.com/diverse-books-tweens-teens-written-voices-authors/

8 #OwnVoices Middle Grade Books by LatinX Authors: https://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/8-fabulous-ownvoices-middle-grade-latinx-novels-giveaway/

Teen/YA Readers

Read Black Authors (MG and YA book lists): http://www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com/2020/06/because-black-lives-matter-read-black-authors/

45 Black YA Books to Read to Your TBR: https://afomaumesi.com/black-young-adult-novels/

16 YA Books by Black Authors You Can Pre-order Right Now: https://www.epicreads.com/blog/preorder-books-by-black-authors/#.Xt-kJSzjuw8.twitter

YA Black Girl Magic: https://www.epicreads.com/blog/black-girl-magic-books/?fbclid=IwAR0ft7qSt4YeMPtEN_jXWzewOQjdElvQFj0ZXY1_RBJ_Mg2C5fiePvJxrVc

Diverse Meet Cutes and Rom Coms: https://www.slj.com/?detailStory=meet-cutes-come-all-colors-YA-diversity-romance-POC&fbclid=IwAR0GmjLvKNt_p16R_12_ohYYmIRDmK1loDKox9pr-YjXzUip2mPQgr3LW68

YA with Black Authors 2020: https://www.buzzfeed.com/farrahpenn/young-adult-books-by-black-authors-2020?fbclid=IwAR2RiRZdAHwZ-x5dxNan2O5CuYSAL6ieppEg7Sz2aHOhCdxsWpGFPgFJ4ko

General Resources, to follow important conversations, read reviews, and diversify your reading

Lee and Low Books: https://www.leeandlow.com/

We Need Diverse Books: https://diversebooks.org/

The Brown Bookshelf: https://thebrownbookshelf.com/

Latinx in Kidlit: https://latinosinkidlit.com/

Disability in Kidlit (no longer updated, but a great resource for important discussions and reviews): http://disabilityinkidlit.com/

American Indians in Children’s Lit: https://americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com/

LGBTQ Reads https://lgbtqreads.com/young-adult/

Social Justice Books: https://socialjusticebooks.org/booklists/new/

Diverse Bookfinder.org: https://diversebookfinder.org/

Teaching Tolerance: https://www.tolerance.org/

Read Woke Librarian: https://cicelythegreat.wordpress.com/

Project LIT: https://thebrownbookshelf.com/28days/day-28-jarred-amato-talks-project-lit/

Crazy Quilt Edi List of Diversity Resources (including book awards): https://crazyquiltedi.blog/diversity-resources/

Again, We Need Diverse Books has a really great list of resources on Where to Find Diverse Books: https://diversebooks.org/resources/where-to-find-diverse-books/

Blogs that focus on younger readers in general

Brightly: https://www.readbrightly.com/

JBrary: https://jbrary.com/

Celebrate Picture Books: https://celebratepicturebooks.com/

The Picture Book Review: https://thepicturebookreview.com/

Multicultural Children’s Book Day: https://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com

A Mighty Girl: https://www.amightygirl.com/blog?p=11056

Imagination Soup: https://imaginationsoup.net/

A Fuse 8 Production: http://blogs.slj.com/afuse8production/

The Yarn: http://blogs.slj.com/theyarn/

Blogs that focus on Middle Grade readers in general

The Nerdy Book Club: https://nerdybookclub.wordpress.com/

Ms. Yingling Reads: http://msyinglingreads.blogspot.com/

MG Book Village: https://mgbookvillage.org/

Here Wee Read: http://hereweeread.com/

Mr. Schu Reads: http://mrschureads.blogspot.com/

CeCeLibrarian’s Book Blog: https://cecelibrarian.com/

Kid Lit Frenzy: http://www.kidlitfrenzy.com/

Books in the Middle: https://booksinthemiddle.wordpress.com/

Blogs that focus on YA/Teens in general

Publisher Blogs

Epic Reads (Harper): https://www.epicreads.com/

Fierce Reads (MacMilan): https://www.fiercereads.com/

I Read YA (Scholastic): https://www.ireadya.com/

Sourcebooks Fire: https://www.sourcebooks.com/young-adult.html

Get Underlined (Random House): https://www.getunderlined.com/

The Novl (Little, Brown): https://www.thenovl.com/

Riveted (Simon & Schuster): https://rivetedlit.com/

General Blogs

YA Books Central: https://www.yabookscentral.com/

YA Interrobang: https://yainterrobang.tumblr.com/

Teen Librarian Toolbox: http://www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com/

Rec it Rachel: https://recitrachel.com/

Diversity in YA: http://www.diversityinya.com/

LGBTQ Reads by Dahlia: https://lgbtqreads.com/author/dailydahlia/

Reading While White: http://readingwhilewhite.blogspot.com/

Rich in Color: http://richincolor.com/

Book Riot: https://bookriot.com/

Professional Journals and Sources

School Library Journal: https://www.slj.com/

Booklist: https://www.booklistonline.com/

Kirkus: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/

Publisher’s Weekly: https://www.publishersweekly.com/

Edelweiss: https://www.edelweiss.plus/#dashboard

VOYA: http://voyamagazine.com/

Early Word: http://www.earlyword.com/

Children’s Bookshelf: https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/index.html

Publishing Trends: http://www.publishingtrends.com/

Hasthags to Search and Follow

#OwnVoices

#PictureBooks

#KidLit

#MGLit

#YALit

#WeNeedDiverseBooks

#ActuallyAutistic

#CritLib

#DisruptTexts

Blogs that also talk about books on occasion, mostly YA

Buzzfeed: https://www.buzzfeed.com/

The Mary Sue: https://www.themarysue.com/

Hypable: https://www.hypable.com/

Den of Geek: https://www.denofgeek.com/books/top-new-ya-books-2020/

Paste Magazine: https://www.pastemagazine.com/

PopSugar: https://www.popsugar.com/

Teen Vogue: https://www.teenvogue.com/

Resources for Examining Bias in Books

Teaching Tolerance Examining Stereotypes in Books: https://www.tolerance.org/classroom-resources/tolerance-lessons/examining-stereotypes-in-books

In Time Examining Children’s Books for Bias: https://intime.uni.edu/evaluating-childrens-books-bias

Resources from Lee and Low:

Guide for Selecting Anti-Bias Children’s Books from Social Justice Books, A Teaching for Change Project

A Guide to Selecting Multicultural Literature by Dr. Barbara D. Brown, African Studies Center, Boston University

A Checklist for Evaluating Diverse Children’s Media from The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop

Examining Children’s Books for Bias: http://www.racialequityvtnea.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Evaluating-Children%E2%80%99s-Books-for-Bias-Criteria-MAY-2018-3.pdf

10 Criteria for Choosing Diverse Texts in Your Classroom from the Writing Mindset

Classroom Libraries as Windows and Mirrors: Ensuring Diverse, Representative Books for Our Students 2018 ILA expert panel (Answer starts at minute 03:05)

Assessing Children’s Literature from the Anti-Defamation League

Diverse Classroom Libraries for K–6 Students from Reading Rockets

Lee and Low: https://blog.leeandlow.com/ (many of the above Resources for Examining Bias in Books is    from the Lee and Low blog page)

And older list of previous resources

What resources would you add to this list? I’m always looking for new ones. Please leave a comment as I would love to have a more comprehensive list.