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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Gay Penguins: Ain't Nobody Got Time For That!

“Nothing corrodes young minds quite so much as reading.”  -Alexander Nazaryan, The Banned Books of Alabama, The Atlantic Wire

            If you’ve been to your local library or logged onto any social networking site this week, you may have heard that it’s Banned Books Week, an event observed the last week of every September when readers are encouraged to celebrate the freedom to read.  Ever the rebel, I had to revisit the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom’s 2013 List of Banned Books released in April to see if I’d missed out on anything I should not only be corrupting my own mind with but those of my children as well.

            Number 1 on the list, perceived by idiots somewhere, supposedly in great numbers, to be the most dangerous book for undermining adult authority amongst young children: The Captain Underpants books by Dav Pilkey.  The books have been praised because they’ve encouraged middle-grade boys to read when fewer and fewer titles lately have done so.  “Not so fast!” cry some parents and educators, pointing to the bathroom humor and irreverent attitude of the title character.  A boy with a superhero persona that runs around in his tighty whiteys pitted against a villainous middle school principal is a threat and must be silenced!  Nevermind the lesson that authority should sometimes be questioned or the cautionary tale that all adults in powerful positions aren't always honorable.

Numbers 2 and 3 on the list, Sherman Alexie’s prize-winning The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why find themselves on the list for “racism/sexually explicit” and “drugs/sex/suicide” respectively.  Heaven forbid we have young people reading subject matter that may actually be relevant to them.  This will never do!  We can’t have our youth turning to books in order to feel that they aren’t alone in facing the struggles of adolescence.  Shouldn’t they be on Twitter or Instagram for that?!

No surprise was E. L. James’ multimillion selling erotic trilogy Fifty Shades, ranked at No. 4.  This is one I hope the kiddos will wait a good long while before delving into.  Last summer, we saw a sex toy shop billboard emblazoned with the words “Butt Plugs”, I kid you not, in three-foot lettering, on the way to Jacksonville, Florida to board a cruise for the Bahamas, and I spent a goodly amount of the drive squashing debates amongst the chirren about what, why, wherefore and how such a devise would ever be called for and utilized.  It wasn’t pretty and quite frankly, neither is Fifty Shades of DooDoo as I’ve taken to calling it—and not just for its own butt plug references.  (I found James’ writing to be poor and her rip-off of Twilight unimaginative, but that is a post for another day.)

Numbers 5 and 6, And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, can thank their audacity at trying to incorporate the reality of homosexuality into their narratives for landing on the list.  These books are unfit for common consumption according to objectors.  Damn gay penguins!  Ain’t nobody got time for that!  Society can’t have our youth learning tolerance and compassion.  Look where that got us in the 1960’s!

Looking for Alaska by John Green ranks at Number 7 for offensive language and being sexually explicit/unsuited for age group.  Bet some of these same parents don’t have a problem letting their kids watch Dance Moms and Toddlers & Tiaras, both of which are real threats to human decency.

Number 8, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Swartz, gave me pause.  My mother and I regularly gather all the children in our family around large bon fires in the fall and try to scare the begeezus out of them—or at least make them wet their pants a trickle—with Swartz’s books and others like it.  Their friends beg for invitations to these readings, and now I can’t help but be a tad worried one of the little beastie’s parents might turn me in to child protective services when Junior decides he won’t be bathing or sleeping alone until college.  Hmmmmm.

Number 9, The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls, is a 2005 memoir recounting Walls’ and her siblings’ unconventional, poverty-stricken upbringing at the hands of their deeply dysfunctional parents.  This book should be every parent’s go-to reading assignment for the kid that complains that they don’t have enough Hollister or Abercrombie & Fitch.  In a showdown a couple of weeks ago, one of my own teenage sons suggested that I was a bad parent because he didn’t have any clean t-shirts.  He hurled another insult about reheated green beans or some such crap.  This weekend he’ll have lots of free time to read The Glass Castle.

Rounding out 2013’s top ten most threatening collection of words is Toni Morrison’s Beloved.  The main reasons given for objections to the work:  sexually explicit/religious viewpoint/violence.  There’s nothing that gets a book banners panties in a wad quite like stories that question long-held religious standards and beliefs.  And violence is almost always unsuitable to these self-appointed guardians of good taste and morality—no matter how historically accurate.  Beloved is a beautiful work that had a powerful impact on me and made me a fan of Toni Morrison forever.  Before this book, I’d never fully appreciated the horrors of slavery, the lengths a mother might go to in order to protect her children from it, or what a haunted lifetime of regret could do to someone.

            Every year, dozens of books are challenged and requested to be removed from school reading lists and public library shelves by “concerned” parents and citizens objecting to the opinions and/or the subject matter they contain.  These challenges attempt to restrict or remove the access of others based on an individual or group’s point of view alone.  Successful challenges result in a banning or removal of those materials.  The American Library Association calls this “a threat to freedom of speech and choice.”  I agree.

            Now, hurry on out to your local library or book store and pick up one of these titles to corrupt the minds of a young person you love.  They’ll emerge from their reading experience a richer and more enlightened person, though I can’t promise that they won’t also feel the urge to strip down to their undies and don a cape.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

When One Isn't Enough: Writing Series Fiction

I realize that it’s been a little while since I’ve posted any new material to the blog.  I hope you’ll forgive me; you see I’m very much otherwise engaged in the business of writing the second installment of the Genie Chronicles series—and, dear Lord, is it dominating every second of my free time!  Just ask my kids, who’ll tell you all about what life is like living out of laundry baskets strategically scattered among precariously leaning towers of cardboard boxes at our new house.

Yes, it’s been three weeks and we’re still not unpacked, but I have a novel to write—an apparently much anticipated novel that I’m receiving emails and messages about daily— and there are pathways cleared to the showers, refrigerator, washer and dryer.  (Remember that before any of you turn me into child protective services!)

For your reading pleasure, I’m hosting Through the Wormhole:  Confessions of a Bookworm’s first EVER guest blogger, Amalia Dillin, author of the Fate of the Gods series from World Weaver Press.  Amalia is certainly a far more professional writer than I, and her approach to writing series fiction is an enlightening one.

Please, make her welcome!

Fate of the Gods: Identity Crisis

Writing a series is an adventure. I was lucky, to an extent, in that I had already written all three books in my Fate of the Gods trilogy plus the Tempting Fate novella before World Weaver Press contracted me. In fact, I wrote Fate of the Gods all in one go. I went from book one directly into book two into book three without stopping, and I didn't finalize where one book ended and the other began until after I was done with the first two.

The downside to this approach was that it meant any revisions to book one and two would have ripple effects through the rest of the already-written series. But the benefit was that it kept me close to my characters, and tonally, it kept things on track. There wasn't a huge amount of growth in my style between books, and it all stayed pretty cohesive without a lot of work on my part.

Because that’s the trick with writing a series – keeping it cohesive and keeping the continuity of the events from book to book. But that only applied to the first three books. And Fate of the Gods provided another challenge: my TEMPTING FATE novella was wildly different.

I wrote TEMPTING FATE more than a year after finishing the others, and because it was told from Mia’s perspective instead of Eve’s, it was almost a different genre altogether – the main three novels are all solidly Adult Fantasy (subcategorized as mythological fantasy with a splash of alternate history), but TEMPTING FATE was completely contemporary, almost more of a paranormal romance, and not nearly so adult.

 At my editor’s suggestion, I added a second point of view, in order to align the novella a little bit closer to the three original books in style. But Mia was always going to be Mia, with a much younger voice and a much more narrow view of the world. Mia’s scope is smaller, more concerned with escaping her family and breaking free of her sister’s influence – and those are themes, which combined with her age, are much more New Adultish in focus than the rest of the series.

I did my best to bridge the genres – bringing Adam’s perspective into the novella to balance Mia’s voice – and I can only hope that it will be enough to appeal to both audiences. Hopefully the readers on both sides will let me know!

Tempting Fate is an e-novella that takes place during the events of Forged by Fate, the first book in the Fate of the Gods trilogy. Learn more about the series by following the links, or check out!

                                                                  Amalia Dillin

Amalia Dillin began as a biology major at the University of North Dakota before taking Latin and falling in love with old heroes and older gods. After that, she couldn’t stop writing about them, with the occasional break for more contemporary subjects. She lives in upstate New York with her husband, and dreams of the day when she will own goats — to pull her chariot through the sky, of course.
You can find her online at, follow her on Twitter @AmaliaTd, or find her on Facebook.