Author Guest Post: The Whispers By Greg Howard

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Hey, everyone! Today I’m super excited to participate in the blog tour for The Whispers by Greg Howard, a moving LGBT middle grade debut released on January 15th and available in stores and online. Check out the book teaser below, then read a guest post by the author on queer representation in middle grade fiction.

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Eleven-year-old Riley believes in the whispers, magical fairies that will grant you wishes if you leave them tributes. Riley has a lot of wishes. He wishes bullies at school would stop picking on him. He wishes Dylan, his 8th grade crush, liked him, and Riley wishes he would stop wetting the bed. But most of all, Riley wishes for his mom to come back home. She disappeared a few months ago, and Riley is determined to crack the case. He even meets with a detective, Frank, to go over his witness statement time and time again. 

Frustrated with the lack of progress in the investigation, Riley decides to take matters into his own hands. So he goes on a camping trip with his friend Gary to find the whispers and ask them to bring his mom back home. But Riley doesn’t realize the trip will shake the foundation of everything that he believes in forever.

The Whispers is a middle grade novel that features a queer protagonist. What influenced you to write LGBTQ middle grade and what are some of the positives or challenges of writing in this genre? Do you have any LGBTQ middle grade book recommendations?

Like Riley, the main character in The Whispers, I grew up a queer kid in the rural deep South. When I was Riley’s age, I never saw myself in books, television, or movies and that was very lonely and isolating. I sometimes thought I was the only little boy in the world who liked other boys instead of girls. While this story was first and foremost inspired by my mother, I also wanted to write it for all the queer kids still living out there in areas where they feel they must hide who they really are. I want them to feel seen, represented, and understand that they matter. If I can just reach a handful of those kids with Riley’s message of hope, then I will be thrilled.

The biggest challenge when writing for this age group however, is getting a book past the gatekeepers and into the hands of the kids who need it the most. Fortunately, librarians are some of the most progressive thinkers I’ve met.

While LGBTQ kids are still massively underrepresented in middle grade fiction in comparison to young adult, a few of my favorites are The Best Man by Richard Peck, George by Alex Gino, and Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle.

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Greg Howard grew up near the coast of South Carolina. His hometown of Georgetown is known as the “Ghost Capital of the South” (seriously…there’s a sign), and was always a great source of material for his overactive imagination. Raised in a staunchly religious home, Greg escaped into the arts: singing, playing piano, acting, writing songs, and making up stories. Currently, Greg resides in Nashville, Tennessee, with his husband, Steve, and their three rescued fur babies Molly, Toby, and Riley.

Thanks so much for your insights on LGBT middle grade fiction and for sharing more about your inspiration for Riley’s character! The Whispers is a middle grade debut that’s a heartrending coming-of-age tale, perfect for fans of Bridge to Terabithia and Counting By 7s.

If you want to catch up on the tour’s stops so far, check out the blog posts below!

January 14 – Novel Novice – Creative Instagram Picture + Spotlight 

January 15 – Pages Unbound – Author Q&A

January 16 – Bookish Connoisseur – Creative Instagram Picture

January 17 – Velarisreads – Review

January 18 – The Desert Bibliophile – Playlist

January 21 – Bookish Bug – Review + Creative Instagram Picture

January 22 – A Bronx Latina Reads – Review

January 23 – Buttons Book Reviews – Author Q&A 

January 24 – The Hermit Librarian – Review + Book Aesthetic

Liebster Book Awards 2018

Hello friends and happy holidays! I was nominated by Meeghan Reads for the Liebster Book Awards 2018. Go check out her blog for book reviews, literary lists, and occasional baking tips and treats!

Rules

  • Answer the 11 questions you’ve been asked
  • Nominate 11 other bloggers
  • Ask your nominees 11 questions
  • Let them know you’ve nominated them!

Answers:

  • What are you currently reading, and are you enjoying it?

Right now, I’m reading Autoboyography by Christina Lauren and Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. I’m enjoying both very much so far!

  • Who is your all-time favourite character?

Hmm… one is too tough, so I’m gonna give you three YA favorites and three non-YA favorites:

YA:

  • Patrick (The Perks of Being a Wallflower)
  • Sal (The Inexplicable Logic of My Life)
  • Connor O’Malley (A Monster Calls)

Non-YA:

  • Alyosha Karamazov (The Brothers Karamazov)
  • Samwise Gamgee (The Lord of the Rings)
  • Horatio (Hamlet)
  • What are your thoughts on love triangles?

To be honest, I’m not a big fan but I think that’s because they stress me out as a reader. The tension bugs me because no matter what happens, one of the characters is gonna be left lonely unless they die, which is also bad. And at the same time, I’m also not usually interested or invested in that tension. I just like my relationships more one-on-one in stories, I guess.

Also, I feel like they’re weirdly overdone when love triangles don’t happen all that often in real life.

  • What is your fave book to re-read?

Hamlet is one of my favorites to re-read, as is Good Omens. No matter how many times I read either, the story and the characters never get old. And I try to re-read A Christmas Carol every year around the holidays, too.

  • What was the last book you DNF’ed?

I think it was A Brief History of Time because I was trying to listen to it at work but the concepts were too complicated for me to absorb while writing. I’m sorry that I failed you, Stephen Hawking. Maybe on a less busy workday, I’ll give it another go.

  • What is your fave fictional animal?

Griffins. 99% because of Buckbeak (well, hippogriff, but it’s fine). 1% because of My Brother, My Brother, and Me.

  • How many books are on your TBR?

Too many. These are the books I currently own and have not read yet but really need to get on with already:

  • I Am Malala by Malala Yousefzai
  • Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann
  • A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis
  • Crux by Jean Guerrero
  • God: A Human History by Reza Aslan
  • My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand
  • Chasers of the Light: Poems from the Typewriter Series by Tyler Knott Gregson
  • The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan
  • Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak

And that’s just the books I’ve already bought or borrowed from the library. That’s not even dipping my toes into the books I want to read. So many books, so little time.

  • Which book has been on your shelf the longest (read or unread)?

Read: Probably Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer. As a preteen, I treasured those books. It’s a hilarious series but also so full of heart and genuinely fascinating characters. Even though I don’t write middle grade fantasy, Eoin Colfer’s still one of my heroes. One of my most prized possessions is a signed copy from when he visited my city library back in 2012.

(I don’t share many pre-transition photos but EOIN COLFER YOU GUYS. Fun fact: my dad had Eoin Colfer sign his book “To Squilliam” and he was like, “I’m not gonna get sued for this, am I?” Not much out there better than getting your childhood idol to sign books to Spongebob characters.)

Unread: Walden by Henry David Thoreau. Someday…

  • What is your fave book to movie adaptation?

Probably Perks of Being a Wallflower, even though I actually saw the movie before I read the book. Such a powerful story and such a good soundtrack.

Also the Lord of the Rings trilogy because, c’mon. It’s Lord of the Rings. And the Harry Potter adaptations may not have been perfect, but they are like the movie version of comfort food.

  • Which character would you swap lives with?

Sometimes I wouldn’t mind swapping with Aziraphale from Good Omens, minus the whole “stop the apocalypse from happening” thing since that sounds stressful. Reading to my heart’s content with a mug of cocoa, making a secondhand bookshop my own personal library, eating sushi with Crowley while Queen’s Greatest Hits plays in the background… doesn’t sound like a bad life.

  • What do you do when you’re in a reading slump?

When I don’t have time to read, I listen to a lot of audiobooks while commuting or doing work projects where I don’t need to talk to people. It can be a good way to get more books in when life gets busy.

Tagging Lovely AudiobooksRed Rocket PandaSophie’s CornerThe Bibliophagist, and Acquadimore Books.

Questions:

1)Which book have you re-read the most often?

2) What was the first book you ever fell in love with?

3) Which book do you think is either extremely underrated or overrated?

4) What’s your favorite book quote?

5) If you could meet any author (living or dead), who would it be and why?

6) What book are you looking forward to reading most next year?

7) If your life had a book title, what would it be?

8) Which book has left the strongest impression on you?

9) Which fictional character do you identify with the most?

10) Which book is next on your to-do-list?

11) What are your reading goals for 2019?

Over Raging Tides Review and Q&A with Jennifer Ellision

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Title: Over Raging Tides

Author: Jennifer Ellision

Release date: March 20, 2018 (Disclaimer: I received an e-ARC of this book in exchange for a fair review)

Rating: 4/5

Two sentence summary: Grace Porter, quartermaster to the all-female pirate crew aboard the Lady Luck, enlists the help of a young nobleman named Leo to destroy the Mogdris, malicious sea monsters who stole her mother. As Grace and Leo use the omniscient Map of Omna to find and kill the Mogdris, she must choose where her loyalty lies—with her kin or her crew.


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What I loved: As soon as I saw the description for Over Raging Tides, I was pumped to read it. An all-female crew of pirates? Is there anything more deserving of the word “BAMF” than that? There absolutely is not. It’s one of those things that you didn’t know that you needed in your life but you absolutely do. Grace Porter and the crew of the Lady Luck feel as though they stepped out of a sea shanty. They’re dynamic and larger-than-life in a way that every good pirate character is. Yet they also feel believable enough to empathize with, particularly the conflicted Grace as she struggles to resolve her tragic past at the potential cost of betrayal.

I also enjoyed the dialogue in this book. Good dialogue is pretty tough to pull off, especially for pirates, without sounding gimmicky. With pirates, you’ve got to balance the sharp wit and colorful slang with authentic-sounding phrasing. Over Raging Tides has got wit in droves. Sometimes the wit is humorous and sometimes it’s biting, but it’s always well-crafted. The dialogue drives the plot swiftly and feels as though it was pulled from an eighteenth-century ship log. It helps ground the reader in Grace and the Lady Luck‘s world without feeling too forced.

Without giving anything away, I will say that I appreciated the ending. It stops at a satisfying point while setting up a compelling story for when the series picks up again. As with many firsts in a series, it was a tad abrupt but I have faith that any unanswered questions will be pursued in the next book, Through Fathoms Dark and Deep.

Quote: “From the ship’s articles of the Lady Luckshe who attempts a mutiny will have her throat slit and be tossed overboard for the sea to feed upon. Unless, of course, she succeeds.”

Recommended: Oh, boy. This book is packed with so many good things—pirates, magic, sea monsters, sharp wit, and maybe even a little romance. If you, too, grew up in love with the Pirates of the Caribbean series but wished its female characters were more complex, you’ll love Over Raging Tides!

Next week: The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson


Q&A with the Author, Jennifer Ellision


Jennifer Ellision is the author of the YA fantasy series Threats of Sea and Sky and the New Adult contemporary novel Now and Again. Over Raging Tides is the first book in her YA fantasy series, Lady Pirates. Check out her website to read her blog, discover upcoming release dates, and sign up for her newsletter!

1) Over Raging Tides is the story of an all-female pirate crew who sail the Lady Luck. How did you get interested in pirate history, and what inspired you to write about an all-female ship?

I confess, a large part of my interest in pirate history came about because I was inspired to write this book. While I’d already had a scene jump into my head that sparked the idea for the book, the idea didn’t come to create an all-female crew until I was rewatching Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl one day. It struck me that Keira Knightley was the only central female character in that movie. I resolved to make a pirate story where there were plenty of women around.

2) Were you inspired by any (in)famous female pirates in history while writing Over Raging Tides? If so, which ones?

I was! In fact, my main character, Grace, is named after Grace O’Malley, the Irish “Pirate Queen.” If you keep an eye out in the novel, you may notice some minor characters named for a couple of other well-known lady pirates.

In my research, I also came across other, less well-known pirate women, some of whom have got me toying with the idea of extending the series past Grace’s duology… but that’s a story for another time.

3) What was the researching process like for this book? How did you include historical accuracy and the logistics of seafaring while retaining the novel’s adventitious, action-packed style?

The beauty of writing fantasy is that I had a little bit of flexibility because Over Raging Tides is set in a fictional world. However, I knew that I wanted it to feel like it could be real.

I spent a lot of time examining the layouts of different types of sailing vessels and familiarizing myself with different deck and mast names. I also read up a lot on the different roles of sailors and pirates on board ships during the “Golden Age of Piracy.” Likewise, I read about the democratic systems of pirate ships. (Did you know they functioned as early democracies? Because I didn’t.)

Research I did that didn’t wind up panning out (in this book at least) was making a point during my trip to London to visit The Royal Observatory; better known as the location of the Prime Meridian, where there is a museum documenting the history of maritime navigation (early drafts of Over Raging Tides included this element, but it didn’t ultimately make sense for the story). I also read a book documenting real pirate trials.

For lady pirates, in particular, I have a nice little stack of books devoted to the non-fiction subject of female pirates.

As for keeping the novel moving while including these elements, I think of much of the logistics as a backdrop. It’s important that they’re there to lend atmosphere to the story and make it engrossing, but I prefer to keep the story pace tight with setting details woven in.

4) This book is full of strong, powerful female characters. Who were your favorite fictional heroines growing up?

Oh, I love this question! So, first of all, I have to say Sailor Moon. I cut my writing teeth on Sailor Moon fanfiction. I’m a huge Sailor Moon fangirl to this day and think that a big reason incorporating female friendships into all of my novels comes from growing up with the Sailor Senshi as an example. Secondly, Tamora Pierce’s Alanna and Daine were heroines whose stories I reread again and again. I loved the fantasy world she created, with girls who got to save the day.

Thank you for having me!

Thanks so much, Jennifer Ellision, for your time and your thoughtful answers—it was a pleasure and an honor! Over Raging Tides made my heart happy from start to finish. If you want a story that speaks to your adventurous side, you can order it online or read it for free through Kindle Unlimited!

Drafting, Drafting, Drafting

Hello there! It’s been a little while since I’ve updated this blog, particularly when it comes to personal posts. The short answer for this comes down to two words: senior year. I am determined to graduate by next summer term, which involves getting a lot of things in order: decent grades, grad school applications, trying not to make a fool of myself while taking the GRE. It can keep you busy.

But. Beyond the stress and general pressure of college life, I have also been working on an exciting project: drafting a novel! Which I’ve been holding back on for a bit until I felt ready. Not just to write larger-scale stuff again but also to write LGBTQ topics with the complexity and nuance they deserve. I know that you can’t wait until you’re “ready” to write a book because you’ll be waiting forever, though, so I’m diving in and seeing where this will take me over the next few years.

So, what can be said so far about this project? Here’s a few details:

  1. It has a queer protagonist.
  2. It’s within the low fantasy genre.
  3. It draws inspiration from a classic English novel near and dear to my heart.

Which is all I’m wont to say at the moment because drafts can change so much and I’m only at the first one. As months (to be optimistic) of edits, re-drafting, and tears change its shape, who knows what it will look like in the end? Or if it will see the light of day outside of my notebook?

Regardless of what comes of it, I’m enjoying this project so far. Whenever I’ve drafted novels in the past, I’ve only really written lighthearted stuff. It’s sort of cathartic to go a little darker, and I’m excited to see where this goes. So yes, not dead! Still writing! Pray that college doesn’t kill me!