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Indie Author Showcase: Tara Staley November 26, 2012

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in coming-of-age, fiction, literary fiction.
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Tara Staley in #litchatTara Staley: Guest host for Friday, November 30, 2012

A good Southern story is set in a place as realistic and vivid as the characters are colorful and meaningful, yet it’s the author’s voice that gives Southern fiction its distinctive flavor. From this trinity of setting, character and voice comes Tara Staley‘s debut novel, Need to Breathe.

Where else but a town called Union Cross, North Carolina can a guardian angel named Millie Rose look over the premature infant of a dysfunctional teenage couple? When that premature infant is born with chemical burns across her body, her lungs bursting to breathe, it’s Millie Rose who gets beside her and chants, “you need to breathe.” After several harrowing minutes of neonatal heroics, breathe she does. The miracle of breath fills her lungs, pumps her heart and haunts her imagination throughout her life.

This 26-week-old preemie is named Claire. Her parents, Mick and Mandy, haven’t a clue about their own lives, let alone raising a child. Saddled with the special needs of Claire–medically challenging, intellectually precocious, socially awkward–they sink into the abyss of too much responsibility at too young of an age. This is where Millie Rose works wonders.

For all her Southern wisdom, Millie Rose is a Yankee. She’d dreamed of being a mother herself once, but died in childbirth in 1922. Officially she is a “Corporeal Agent,” and though she answers to God, there’s very little angelic about her. She has demons of her own that sidetrack her from her mission to watch over Claire and lead her to her future soul mate.

Despite her having a guardian angel guiding her—or attempting to in the case of the headstrong Claire—Claire manages to mess up her life as much as her mother and father had their own. Her father hides away in his muscle car projects, while her interior designer mother is obsessed with finding the perfect shade of white. Each of them are riddled with shame from the secret they won’t even discuss among themselves behind the reason for Claire’s premature birth.

Characters such as the endearing geriatric twins Gerta and Grace enrich the Southern voice, while the geeky Charlie and the androgynous Big Mac strike a contemporary chord.

Tara Staley’s writing background includes undergraduate and graduate degrees in English and Creative Writing, an RWA award for a past novel, and involvement with the North Carolina Writers Network. She is also a founding member of the online writers’ community Backspace. Her fiction has been blurbed by nationally bestselling and award-winning authors such as Caroline Leavitt and Cornelia Read. As a freelancer, her work has appeared in such publications as UNCG Magazine, BizLife Magazine and the Winston-Salem Journal. She grew up, lives, and will most likely die in Kernersville, North Carolina (except for a one-year study abroad stint in Australia thanks to a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship). She and her husband have two sons. Staley is currently finishing up her next novel, Conditions Are Favorable, biographical fiction that brings to life the world of the Wright brothers and the Kitty Hawkers in the early 1900s.

Follow Tara Staley on Twitter: @TaraStaley


Dystopian Literature November 28, 2011

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in coming-of-age, science fiction, weekly topics, YA fiction.
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Marie Lu, author of Legend trilogyStories of a grim future weren’t a new concept when Cormac McCarthy won the 2007 Pulitzer for The Road. The slant of a future not shiny with hope, but spoiled and shattered into a bleak landscape of struggle and survival are time-worn concepts within literature. Does the abundance of dystopian literature published and read today reflect a grave outlook for the world community? Or is it just another literary trend that will peak and slide back into a sub-category of science fiction? We’ll ask these questions and others this week in #litchat.

Marie Lu, Friday’s #litchat guest host, is something of a phenomena. Born in Shanghai, raised in Texas, and educated at USC, 27-year-old Lu has already achieved what many writers struggle for years to achieve. Her debut novel, Legend is the first in a trilogy of dystopian YA novels. Film rights to Legend have been sold and screenwriters are already at work adapting the first novel into a screenplay.

Legend is the story of two opposing characters, June and Day, thrown together in what was once the western United States and now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem. From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths – until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

Before she started writing full time, Lu was the art director at a video game company. She also owns the business and brand Fuzz Academy, which was chosen by C21Media as one of the International Licensing Expo 2010’s brands with the most potential for a TV series. After graduating from USC in ’06, the California weather sweet-talked her into sticking around. She currently lives in Pasadena with her boyfriend, two Pembroke Welsh Corgis, and a chihuahua mix.

View the video trailer for Legend.

Follow Marie Lu on Twitter: @MarieLu.

Ugly Ducklings August 8, 2011

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in African-American literature, coming-of-age, fiction, multi-cultural fiction.
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Ernessa T. Carter (photo: Christian Hibbard)

Fiction is rife with ugly ducklings who mature into beautiful swans. Some of them leave behind the tatty feathers of the past for the sequins of success, never to look back. Others are driven to soar higher, farther, faster in a “living well is the best revenge” on those who poked fun at their facades in the dark days of their uglihood. Then there are those who harry their harassers, plotting ingenious revenge on the beautiful people who shamed, bullied, and scorned them. This week in #litchat we’re discussing ugly ducklings in literature.

Guest host on Friday, August 12, is Ernessa T. Carter, whose debut novel, 32 Candles features an ugly duckling heroine who belts out velvet soul on stage while plotting silken revenge on her high school persecutors. Abuse isn’t new to Davidia Jones, though. Her mother, an alcoholic small-time prostitute beat the voice right out of Davidia when she was a child. Davidia finds refuge in the happy ending romances of Molly Ringwald movies until a particularly cruel prank by the richest and most beautiful girl in town sends Davidia fleeing for her sanity. On the road to sanity, she finds her voice on a nightclub stage in L.A. and grows into the skin she was born to flaunt as sultry chanteuse Davie Jones. Having eschewed the Molly Ringwald endings, the transformed Davie is stunned for the second time in her life when high school crush, James, brother to the cruel tormentor of her Molly Ringwald years, reenters her life. Davidia/Davie is one of those characters we root and rage with, whose struggle reminds us that to some extent we are all  products of personal reinvention.

Ernessa T. Carter, 32, has worked as an English as a Second Language teacher in Japan, a music journalist in Pittsburgh, a payroll administrator in Burbank, and a radio writer for “American Top 40 with Ryan Seacrest” in Hollywood. She’s also a retired L.A. Derby Doll (roller-derby), and now lives, blogs, and writes in Los Angeles. A graduate of Smith College and Carnegie Mellon University’s MFA program, 32 Candles is her first novel. She blogs at www.fierceandnerdy.com.

Follow Ernessa T. Carter on Twitter: @ErnessaTCarter.

Coming of Age August 1, 2011

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in coming-of-age.

Jason Skipper

Everyone who calls him/herself a reader has a favorite coming of age novel. Great Expectations, Anne of Green Gables, Summer of ’42, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Catcher in the Rye. The list is long and getting longer. Coming of age novels, or in high lit terminology, bildungsroman, bridge the gap between childhood and adulthood, pulling back the skin to reveal the pain and pleasure of growing up. What makes a good coming of age story? Why do they continue to enthrall readers through generations? Do male or female authors write better bildungsroman? These and other questions about coming of age novels lead the discussion this week in #litchat.

Joining us as guest host on Friday, August 5, to discuss his debut novel is Jason Skipper, author of Hustle. Hot off literary independent Press 53, Hustle succeeds at what many authors attempt but ultimately fail to achieve: prose that is both gritty and gleaming, characters raw and still real, and a story that hustles your heart and gives it back to you. We’ve seen, and probably known, characters like these all our lives, but Skipper makes them new again in Hustle. The crusty conman turned doting grandfather; the skirt-chasing father and the long-suffering wife; the mercurial, controlling stepfather; the young man still golden with nature’s first green. They’re all hustling for young Chris’s affection, while Chris suffers their love and hustles for his own place in time.

Jason Skipper grew up in Texas and has worked as a bartender, snowboard instructor, and freelance journalist. His work has appeared in numerous journals, including Hotel Amerika and Mid-American Review. He has received awards and recognition from Zoetrope: All Story, Glimmer Train, and Crab Orchard Review, with grants from the Vermont Studio Center and Artist Trust of Washington. He studied at Miami of Ohio and received his PhD from Western Michigan University, where he was fiction editor of Third Coast. He teaches creative writing and literature at Pacific Lutheran University and lives in Tacoma, Washington.

Follow Jason Skipper on Twitter: @jsnskppr.

Quick Change Authors: Writing in Multiple Genres January 15, 2011

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in bestsellers, chick lit, children's literature, coming-of-age, commercial fiction, fiction, historical fiction, YA fiction.
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Lauren Baratz-Logsted

It’s been said that a good writer can slip between genres without leaving tracks. Ken Follett made his name with action-packed cold war suspense, but turned the clock back hundreds of years with his medieval historical fiction. Margaret Atwood’s science fiction holds its own against her literary work, while Joyce Carol Oates writes in several genres using two additional pen names. The bard himself wrote comedies, tragedies and sonnets.

This week in #litchat we’re discussing what it takes to write well, publish and be read in multiple genres. Joining us on Friday, January 21, 2011, is Lauren Baratz-Logsted. One of the most prolific authors of our day, Baratz-Logsted has successfully published children’s early readers, young adult, chick-lit, adult suspense. Just last week Baratz-Logsted wrote “the end” on the ninth book in her popular children’s series, THE SISTERS EIGHT.

A graduate of University of Connecticut at Storrs, in 1994 Logsted-Baratz left her job at a bookstore to take a chance on herself as a writer. Success did not happen over night. Between 1994 and May 2002 – when Red Dress Ink called with an offer to buy THE THIN PINK LINE – Lauren worked as a book reviewer, a freelance editor and writer, and a window washer, making her arguably the only woman in the world who has ever both hosted a book signing party and washed the windows of the late best-selling novelist Robert Ludlum. Since Red Dress Ink’s call in 2002, Baratz-Logsted has been very busy writing novels and checking her Amazon ranking on a daily basis. She still lives in Danbury, with her husband and daughter, where she has lived since 1991.

Follow Lauren Baratz-Logsted on Twitter: @LaurenBaratzL

Note: There will be no moderated #litchat on Monday, January 16, while we observe the Martin Luther King holiday in the United States.

Read chatscripts from this week’s #litchat:

January 19, 2011: Quick Change Authors

January 21, 2011: Quick Change Authors, Lauren Baratz-Logsted

Birth of a Novel October 3, 2010

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in coming-of-age, fiction, literary fiction, weekly topics, YA fiction.
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Topic of the Week: October 4-8, 2010


Susan Henderson


Novels, like the characters who fill them and the authors who write them, have a backstory. They may be conceived in a spark of insight or a foggy vision of crisis, they may take years to write or dashed off in a flurry of days. Some are methodically plotted with outlines and color-coded spreadsheets of character traits and story arc, while others are mined in a word-by-word chipping away to the mother lode of storyline. One of the most common questions #litchat followers ask of guest hosts is how they got their book published. The week of October 4-8 in #litchat we’re talking about just that.

We are pleased to have Susan Henderson as guest host on Friday, October 8. Susan’s first novel, Up from the Blue, launched last week amid a buzz of media attention generated not only from its brilliant storytelling, but from the years it took to bring this powerful novel to market.

Told in the wizened voice of seven-year-old Tillie Harris, Up from the Blue, traces a year in the life of a family torn apart by debilitating mental illness and obsessive professional pride. Tillie Harris adores her tortured mother, striving to become the girl she believes will draw her mother back into the fold of family life. Tillie’s father wanders in and out of the story giving orders like the Air Force colonel he is, hiding his own brokenness by managing a household to appear beyond reproach. From the bowels of the house to the bedroom where Tillie lies awake until she’s able to enter her secret world, to the decrepit cement hole in the backyard that once was a swimming pool, the destructive forces of pride, obsession and depression zero in on the Harris family as accurately as the missiles Colonel Harris designs at the Pentagon.

Up from the Blue first sold first to St. Martins in 2006, but differences in vision between the editor and author led Susan to do the unthinkable of a debut novelist. She bought back her novel. Susan has blogged about her experiences birthing Up from the Blue in her popular website, LitPark, as well as in a column, Evolution of the Book, published at The Nervous Breakdown (TNB).

Susan is the founder of LitPark, and blogs occasionally at Huffington Post, as well as Brad Listi’s The Nervous Breakdown. She is the recipient of an Academy of American Poets award and grants from The Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation and The Lojo Foundation. Her work has—twice—been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her work has been published in a who’s who of literary journals through the years. She and her husband live in the northeast with their two boys.

Read the chatscripts from this week’s discussions:

October 4 & 6, 2010: Birth of a Novel

October 8, 2010: Birth of a Novel, author Susan Henderson

Follow Susan Henderson on Twitter at @LitPark.