Today in “not quite YA,” Holly Black’s newest Middle Grade novel, DOLL BONES, is out now!
Zach, Poppy and Alice have been friends for ever. They love playing with their action figure toys, imagining a magical world of adventure and heroism. But disaster strikes when, without warning, Zach’s father throws out all his toys, declaring he’s too old for them. Zach is furious, confused and embarrassed, deciding that the only way to cope is to stop playing … and stop being friends with Poppy and Alice. But one night the girls pay Zach a visit, and tell him about a series of mysterious occurrences. Poppy swears that she is now being haunted by a china doll – who claims that it is made from the ground-up bones of a murdered girl. They must return the doll to where the girl lived, and bury it. Otherwise the three children will be cursed for eternity …
Whichever way you turn, female characterisation is a minefield. Male characters tend to get away with so much more. I loved writing Jonah Griggs (from Jellicoe) but Jonah killed his father, bashes up Ben and stomps on his fingers, shoves Taylor up against the wall in rage, yet I rarely read a negative comment about him as a character. Evanjalin in [Finnikin of the Rock], on the other hand, has been criticised many a time and called manipulative and a liar. I think we are so much tougher on our female characters.
Dude. It’s so true. ‘She’s stupid’, ‘she’s mean,’ ‘she doesn’t consider his feelings enough,’ ‘she’s too into him,’ ‘she’s smart in the wrong sort of way,’ ‘she’s too fake,’ ‘she’s a bitch,’ ‘she’s a slut,’ ‘I wanted to slap her.’
I have not gone a day since I was published without hearing this about one of my female characters or another.
In the end the specific negative comment doesn’t even matter: what matters is the deluge of negativity.
I have not ever, ever received said deluge for a guy character.
The message is very clear.
It’s like ‘She didn’t write it/she shouldn’t have written it/she wrote it BUT’—except it’s a list criticising a girl’s existence in the story. She existed, but she shouldn’t have. She existed, BUT.
Being the son of a mega-famous mogul isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, which is why super-smart but socially awkward teen Melvin Pepper wants to try something new: anonymity. To attend a regular high school, get a normal job, meet real people. A break from the pressure and facade that come with crazy wealth and a world-renowned last name.
But Mel quickly realizes that being Mike, his alter ego, isn’t as easy as he’d assumed. He gradually makes friends at work and school and becomes involved in the radio club, plus navigates the rocky waters of first crushes and first kisses. However, he discovers someone out there is on to his secret and is threatening to expose it.
And that’s not all. One of Mel’s new work friends is hiding a dark secret of her own, and Mel feels helpless to make things better for her. He struggles with juggling two very different identities, balancing jealous old friends and nosy new ones. Yup, Mel’s in way over his head…and the only chance he has to make everything right is to be true to himself.
I had the pleasure of meeting Lisa (published under L. K. Madigan) at SCBWI National Conference in Los Angeles in 2008. I had just read her Flash Burnout ARC and had a major author crush. I followed her around the conference, asked her questions about Blake, and talked the book up so much she said I should be her publicist. ha! I asked about her next project, and she was coy, only telling me it was about a mermaid. Later, I would read The Mermaid’s Mirror and happily immerse myself in Lisa’s stories once again.
We were part of the Feast of Awesome Debut 2009 group—and had been through so many highs and lows together as new authors. Lisa was always there to offer encouragement, commiseration, or a laugh. Losing her to cancer was devastating. Not only had we lost a companion, advocate and friend, we had lost Lisa’s stories—her unique voice, humor, and way of seeing the world.
Imagine my surprise and happiness when a fellow deb, Rhonda Helms, said she had been approached by Lisa’s husband, Neil, to edit and publish Project: Boy Next Door. I began reading immediately, and laughed, and it was wonderful to be in Lisa’s story, to hear her voice once more.
Below, fellow authors express their thoughts on Lisa, and how she and her books affected them.
“I never got the chance to meet Lisa in “real” life, but we emailed about our writing, and about how publishing was going. She was unfailingly encouraging and kind, and I always felt she must be a truly good person. I wish she was still here in the world with us. I miss her.”
~Teri Hall, author of The Line.
“Back in 2010 I wrote a really raw post about my then 15 months on submission to editors, and how I’d failed to sell and spiraled into an anxiety-ridden mess. I was completely taken back by the out-pouring of love and support from the blogging community that day. So many writers, both aspiring and published, took the time to comment and share with me their own struggles and also their encouragement. Lisa was one of those writers, and having just read FLASH BURNOUT (which blew my mind), her comment meant so much to me. It’s simple, but I’ve kept it on my desktop as a virtual sticky note ever since that day:‘It’s clear that you have the three most essential traits of successful writers: Talent, heart, and perseverance. I have no doubt your journey will one day end up at the Happily Ever After. xo Lisa’
Little did Lisa know that her book was one that inspired me to try writing contemporary YA, and that my first contemporary played a big part in healing the wounds my publishing journey had given me. I barely knew her, but I admired her deeply. Even to a near stranger like me, she was kind and supportive and inspiring.
It was only a few months after that post I heard of Lisa’s death. I wept. I’m even crying right now as I write this. I wept because it wasn’t fair, because I would never get to read another book of hers, because she was someone who inspired me so much that I still think about her and her characters. So to hear that PROJECT: BOY NEXT DOOR is about to be published brings me great joy. Because there will be more of Lisa’s words in the world, and that means this place will be a little better after May 6th than it was before”
~Natalie Whipple, author of Transparent
“Lisa was extraordinarily generous with advice and support. I’ve never been good at figuring out chapter endings, but she helped me to figure out where to end them so people would want to keep reading.”
~Megan Frazer Blakemore, author of The Water Castle
“She was a generous and tough crit partner and I appreciated her feedback like no other. I was lucky enough to read three of her manuscripts while they were in progress and to meet her twice in person. Nothing pleases me more than to see her Boy Next Dooron the shelves. One thing for sure, I miss her a lot.”
~C. Lee Mackenzie, author of The Princess of Las Pulgas
“Lisa was not only a stunning writer; she was one of those people who made everyone she met a little happier, a little kinder, a little more thankful for the journey. I’m so looking forward to hearing her writing voice again.”
~Kate Messner, author of Capture the Flag
“Lisa stood up for the underdog. That’s what I loved about her most.”
~Lauren Bjorkman, author of Miss Fortune Cookie
“I met Lisa at the SCWBI conference in 2009. She glowed with light, the kind of person who drew you in immediately with her warmth and kindness. She was so excited for the release of Flash Burnout, and enthusiastic for everyone else releasing books too. I love her writing so very much and remain a forever fan.”
~Janet Gurtler, author of How I Lost You
Sixteen-year-old Ren is a daredevil mobile racer who will risk everything to survive in the Ward, what remains of a water-logged Manhattan. To save her sister, who is suffering from a deadly illness thought to be caused by years of pollution, Ren accepts a secret mission from the government: to search for a freshwater source in the Ward, with the hope of it leading to a cure.
However, she never expects that her search will lead to dangerous encounters with a passionate young scientist; a web of deceit and lies; and an earth-shattering mystery that’s lurking deep beneath the water’s rippling surface.
Jordana Frankel’s ambitious debut novel and the first in a two-book series, The Ward is arresting, cinematic, and thrilling—perfect for fans of Scott Westerfeld or Ann Aguirre.
An exotic treat set in an entirely original, fantastical world brimming with deadly mystery, forbidden romance, and heart-stopping adventure.
Nisha was abandoned at the gates of the City of a Thousand Dolls when she was just a child. Now sixteen, she lives on the grounds of the isolated estate, where orphan girls apprentice as musicians, healers, courtesans, and, if the rumors are true, assassins. Nisha makes her way as Matron’s assistant, her closest companions the mysterious cats that trail her shadow. Only when she begins a forbidden flirtation with the city’s handsome young courier does she let herself imagine a life outside the walls. Until one by one, girls around her start to die.
Before she becomes the next victim, Nisha decides to uncover the secrets that surround the girls’ deaths. But by getting involved, Nisha jeopardizes not only her own future in the City of a Thousand Dolls—but her own life.
Want to win 1 of 2 ARCs of Defy the Dark edited by Saundra Mitchell (including a short story of mine, “Ghost Town”) plus that snazzy bookmark + bracelet swag? Go to my website to enter the giveaway.
P.S. You can reblog this for an extra entry; just be sure to leave the URL of your tumblr reblog in the rafflecopter form!
One day, fifteen-year-old Emily Dickinson meets a mysterious, handsome young man. Surprisingly, he doesn’t seem to know who she or her family is. And even more surprisingly, he playfully refuses to divulge his name. Emily enjoys her secret flirtation with Mr. “Nobody” until he turns up dead in her family’s pond. She’s stricken with guilt. Only Emily can discover who this enigmatic stranger was before he’s condemned to be buried in an anonymous grave. Her investigation takes her deep into town secrets, blossoming romance, and deadly danger. Exquisitely written and meticulously researched, this novel celebrates Emily Dickinson’s intellect and spunk in a page-turner of a book that will excite fans of mystery, romance, and poetry alike.
Ben and Maggie have met, fallen in love, and died together countless times. Over the course of two pivotal days—both the best and worst of their lives—they struggle again and again to resist the pull of fate and the force of time itself. With each failure, they return to the beginning of their end, a wild road trip that brings them to the scene of their own murders and into the hands of the man destined to kill them.
As time circles back on itself, events become more deeply ingrained, more inescapable for the two kids trapped inside the loop. The closer they come to breaking out, the tighter fate’s clutches seem to grip them. They devise a desperate plan to break free and survive the days ahead, but what if Ben and Maggie’s only shot at not dying is surviving apart?