Category Archives: YA

Happy 10th Birthday, Geek Girl!

We interrupt your regularly scheduled weekly writing check-in to bring you a special birthday post.

“Sweet, funny, and heart-warming, The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading truly makes you want to cheer!”

~ Author Elizabeth Scott

“This novel is contemporary, laugh-outloud funny, and positive.”

~ Florence H. Munat, VOYA

On May 19, 2009, The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading launched herself into the world. Two months early, no less.

Our original publication date was July. But. Barnes and Noble had a geek book promotion planned, and they wanted to include Geek Girl. Simon and Schuster said yes and subsequently bumped up the release date. (Because back then, when B&N offered you a promo, you always said yes.)

From our launch party

Once upon a time, Geek Girl was also a cake (courtesy of my co-workers)

On the shelf at Barnes and Noble

I fully expected to be celebrating Geek Girl’s tenth with Darcy, and it’s hard reconciling that she isn’t here to celebrate. Darcy knew how to throw a party, in real life and online.

I’m missing her, not just today, but every day. I hit a writing snag this week and wanted nothing more than to talk it through with her. I was this close to shelving the current series. And then this morning, after I opened up this post to finish writing it, inspiration struck.

Almost like I did talk the whole thing through with Darcy.

Once again, I’m going to encourage everyone to read some of her work:

THE GEEK GIRL’S GUIDE TO CHEERLEADING

DATING ON THE DORK SIDE

  • 1st Place: 2016 International Digital Awards, Young Adult Novel
  • Available on: All e-retailers Print

LESS THAN THREE

ON LEARNING TO SWIM AGAIN, IN AUTUMN: A SHORT STORY

  • A contest-winning short story
  • Available for 99 cents on Kindle or read for free with a Kindle Unlimited subscription.

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Weekly writing check-in: dork side wide

A snowy week filled with … pneumonia, for my daughter. She’s on the road to recovery, but it wasn’t a week where I got much writing work done. Sometimes, when you’re anxious or worried or there’s too much going on, you need to step away from the writing. And that’s okay.

I did do a variety of other things. For instance, Dating on the Dork Side is now wide!

Actually, it’s the same size it has always been. What I mean is it’s now available (nearly) everywhere online, not just Amazon. It’s already up on the big retailers such as Nook, Kobo, Google Play, and Apple. So, if you’ve been waiting to grab a copy for your Nook, now’s your chance.

In other cool news, Vellum can now format for large print. So I’m getting Coffee & Ghosts into large print. I’m also combining the three books into one set, for ebook and paperback, but not large print, since the three-book paperback weighs in at +800 pages! It’s a doorstopper.

In audio news, I signed the contract for Coffee & Ghosts. More on that when it’s officially official. Right now, I’m pulling together some notes for the narrator. I’m very excited about this.

That’s it for now. With a little luck, we’ll be able to return to our regularly scheduled writing and Girl Scout cookie selling next week.

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Review: Courageous Women of the Vietnam War: Medics, Journalists, Survivors, and More

Vietnam is like a huge jigsaw puzzle where none of the pieces fit.

~ Ba Rose: My Years in Vietnam, 1968 – 1971

Courageous Women of the Vietnam War: Medics, Journalists, Survivors, and More*

From the publisher:

One of just a handful of women reporting on the Vietnam War, Kate Webb was captured by North Vietnamese troops and presumed dead—until she emerged from the jungle waving a piece of white parachute material after 23 days in captivity. Le Ly Hayslip enjoyed a peaceful early childhood in a Vietnamese farming village before war changed her life forever. Brutalized by all sides, she escaped to the United States, where she eventually founded two humanitarian organizations. Lynda Van Devanter was an idealistic young nurse in 1969 when a plane carrying her and 350 men landed in South Vietnam. Her harrowing experiences working in a combat zone hospital would later serve as inspiration for the TV series China Beach.

In these pages readers meet these and other brave women and girls who served in life-threatening roles as medics, journalists, resisters, and revolutionaries in the conflict in Vietnam. Author Kathryn J. Atwood presents a clear introduction to each of five chronological sections, guiding readers through the social and political turmoil that spanned two decades and the tenure of five US presidents. Each woman’s story unfolds in a suspenseful, engaging way, incorporating plentiful original source materials, quotes, and photographs. Resources for further study, source notes and a bibliography, and a helpful map and glossary round out this exploration of one of modern history’s most divisive wars, making it an invaluable addition to any student’s or history buff’s bookshelf.

This book by Kathryn Atwood is part of the Women of Action series from Chicago Review Press.

Although I was very young at the time, I remember the Vietnam war. But I have a child’s memory of that war. We never learned about it in school because it wasn’t quite history yet. Certainly, we knew all about it, right?

Well, perhaps. Perhaps not. As I said, my view of it is filtered, just as my view of Desert Storm will always be filtered through the lens of riding in an M577 tracked vehicle, a pair of headphones on my head, as we bounced up and over the berm between Saudi Arabia and Iraq. What was everyone else doing? I have no idea.

I may never fill in those gaps, but I was amazed at how much I learned about the Vietnam war. One of the things I appreciated about this book was how it was organized into five parts. Each part covered significant events taking place during those years with corresponding stories:

  • Part 1 1945-1956: Ho Chi Minh’s Revolution
    Women’s stories: Xuan Phuong and Geneviève de Galard
  • Part II 1957-1964: Ngo Dinh Diem’s Civil War
    Women’s Stories: Le Ly Hayslip and Bobbi Hovis
  • Part III 1965-1968: Lyndon B. Johnson’s American War
    Women’s stories: Kay Wilhelmy Bauer, Jurate Kazickas, and Iris Mary Roser
  • Part IV 1969-1970: Richard M. Nixon’s “Peace”
    Women’s stories: Anne Koch, Dang Thuy Tram, and Lynda Van Devanter
  • Part V 1971-1975: Endings and Beginnings
    Women’s stories: Kate Webb, Joan Baez, Tracy Wood, and Kim Phuc

Reading the history in parts, followed by each woman’s story, allowed me to really get a sense for not only the big picture but how these big events impacted the lives of everyday women, from all walks of life and all sides of the conflict.

The prose is, as always with Kathryn’s books, accessible and a pleasure to read. Technically this is a young adult nonfiction book, but it’s such a great resource for anyone: writer, student, teacher, homeschooler, historian. Like other books in the series, this one includes extensive notes, bibliography, and one of my favorite features: the Learn More section at the end of each woman’s story.

You can purchase the book at many online retailers or directly from the publisher.

* I received a review copy of this book from Chicago Review Press.

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Free Fiction Friday: Dating on the Dork Side (one day left!)

One day left to grab Dating on the Dork Side for free over on Amazon.

All’s fair in love, war, and hacking …

Stung by an epic betrayal, Camy Cavanaugh relies on the sure things: her best friend, her job as peer tutor, and her safe spot on the sidelines of life. But when she hacks into a secret, trash-talking website, it ignites a war between the sexes that won’t end until the whole school is turned upside down–and Camy’s world is turned inside out.

Now the hottest girls in school refuse to date the A-List boys. But with the Homecoming dance looming, everyone from the queen bee to the girl “most likely to” pushes Camy to hook them up with guys from the nerd herd.

And then there’s quarterback, A-lister–and former crush–Gavin Madison. He hasn’t spoken to Camy in three years … but he’s talking now, begging her to pair the guys on the football team with girls from the Honor Roll.

It’s a contest of wills and everything is on the line–even Camy’s heart. Will she retreat to the sidelines, or will she find the courage to get back in the game?

This contemporary young adult novel won the 2016 International Digital Awards, in the Young Adult Novel category. Read on for a tech-savvy twist to Lysistrata.

If you haven’t grabbed your Kindle copy yet, now’s the time to do so. Just click through to Amazon US or Amazon Everywhere.

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Free Fiction Monday: Dating on the Dork Side (five days only)

Surprise! It’s Free Fiction Friday Monday! Between today and Friday, January 11th, Dating on the Dork Side will be absolutely free over on Amazon.

All’s fair in love, war, and hacking …

Stung by an epic betrayal, Camy Cavanaugh relies on the sure things: her best friend, her job as peer tutor, and her safe spot on the sidelines of life. But when she hacks into a secret, trash-talking website, it ignites a war between the sexes that won’t end until the whole school is turned upside down–and Camy’s world is turned inside out.

Now the hottest girls in school refuse to date the A-List boys. But with the Homecoming dance looming, everyone from the queen bee to the girl “most likely to” pushes Camy to hook them up with guys from the nerd herd.

And then there’s quarterback, A-lister–and former crush–Gavin Madison. He hasn’t spoken to Camy in three years … but he’s talking now, begging her to pair the guys on the football team with girls from the Honor Roll.

It’s a contest of wills and everything is on the line–even Camy’s heart. Will she retreat to the sidelines, or will she find the courage to get back in the game?

This contemporary young adult novel won the 2016 International Digital Awards, in the Young Adult Novel category. Read on for a tech-savvy twist to Lysistrata.

If you haven’t grabbed your Kindle copy yet, now’s the time to do so. Just click through to Amazon US or Amazon Everywhere.

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(Almost) Free Fiction Friday: The Fine Art of Holding Your Breath

And the military-themed streak continues! This week, you can download my young adult novel, The Fine Art of Holding Your Breath, for just 99 cents.

But hurry! It’s only going to be 99 cents for a few more days.

Secrets—like war—have their own casualties.

MacKenna’s mother died when MacKenna was a baby, a casualty of the first Gulf War. Now seventeen, MacKenna has spent her life navigating the minefield of her dad’s moods, certain of one thing: she is destined to follow in her mother’s combat boots. But when she pursues an ROTC scholarship, she finds herself at war before even enlisting.

Her father forbids her from joining the military, inexplicable considering he’d raised her to be a “warrior princess.” MacKenna turns to her grandmother—who arms her with an ammo crate containing her mother’s personal effects from the war. Hidden in the crate’s false bottom is a journal, one her mom stashed there hours before her death.

While MacKenna untangles the secrets of her parents’ tragic love story, her own life unravels. Dad’s behavior becomes erratic, her best friend grows distant and even hostile, and a boy from her past returns—with a life-threatening secret of his own.

If ever a girl needed her mother, it’s now.

The pen might be mightier than the sword, but are a mother’s words strong enough to slice through years of hidden pain? Can those words reach through the battlefields of the past to change MacKenna’s future?

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Free Fiction Friday: Just a Matter of Time

Just a Matter of Time was first published in Sucker Literary Magazine, Vol. III, April 2014.

Sadie Lin: High school junior Sadie is desperate–to maintain her GPA, to score high on the SATs, for her dad to return from Afghanistan. Time seems to crawl and slip through her fingers all at once. She thinks it’s all in her head.

It’s not.

Gordon Bakersfield: Gordon–Sadie’s ninth-grade epic crush–has plenty of time and knows where to get more. He knows someone has been stealing Sadie’s time. And while he’s not sure how to make it stop, he’s hoping to try. But can Sadie trust him?

Only time will tell.

Today’s offering is too long for the blog. Click the link or the book cover to download it from your favorite retailer.

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Weekly writing check-in: 99 cent Geek Girl

So, I made a discovery this week that the e-book version of The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading is at 99 cents in all the US stores. That was a surprise. I think it started around Wednesday, based on the rank shift over on Amazon.

As I said on Friday, now’s the time to grab a copy if you don’t already have one.

Kindle  Nook  Apple  Kobo  Google Play

Edited to add: looks like the price is going up on various retailers (Kobo, Google). Well, it was fun while it lasted.

In revision news, I’ve added ~8,000 words to the second draft. This is moving a little slower than I’d like. Or rather, I think I should be moving faster through the manuscript, but on reflection, I suspect this pace is just right. I’ve rearranged events and moved scenes around, and I simply can’t drop a scene into the manuscript as is. There’s emotional context to consider, story threads to weave in or tug out.

So, while part of me wants to zoom through this revision, another part of me is pleased with my progress so far.

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Free Fiction Friday: The Summer Reading List

Keep the binge-reading going with the Summer Reading List.

Included in this giveaway is The Fine Art of Keeping Quiet, which now has a reading group guide. You can download the guide in PDF format here.

Happy reading!

 

 

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On Learning to Say Goodbye, in Winter

On January 10, 2018, my dear friend and writing partner, Darcy Vance, lost her battle with cancer.

This is my tribute to her.

We met only twice in person, once in May of 2000 and again, nine years later, for our book launch, but I first encountered Darcy in an online writing workshop sometime in 1998. We took a few classes together and ended up in the same “study group.” From there, we quickly became friends.

Darcy often told me I was the writer she wished she could be. The thing is, she was the writer—and the human being—I wished I could be.

When I shelved my novel The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading, Darcy wouldn’t let it go. She loved it too much, thought it too good to let me simply abandon it. So she jumped in—like she did with so many things in her life—started working on it, converting the prose from third person point of view to first.

This might sound easy, but ask any writer: it’s not. There’s tone and style and voice to consider. The way a third-person narrator might phrase things or relate an event is far different from the way a first-person narrator would.

Here’s the note she sent me when she first started working on the novel:

I would like (very much) to play with the first three chapters of your novel. If I’m pleased with what I come up with (a big IF) I would show it to you. After that, we’ll talk. No commitments on either side.

Here’s what I didn’t know: She’d already jumped in and started, so when I said yes, I had those three chapters in my inbox almost instantaneously.

After I got over the shock of reading my story in a completely different voice, I was entranced. Darcy had done something incredibly special. When I nearly fell out of my chair laughing at a line she had added, I knew we were going to sell this novel, and we were going to sell it because of her.

Charity Tahmaseb and Darcy Vance’s debut THE GEEK GIRL’S GUIDE TO CHEERLEADING, the story of a self-confessed debating dork whose practical joke lands her a spot on the varsity cheerleading squad, where she realizes that if there’s one thing worse than blending into the lockers, it’s getting noticed!, to Jennifer Klonsky at Simon Pulse, by Mollie Glick at the Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency.

Magic happened when we worked together. It was no longer simply my story; it wasn’t Darcy’s; it was the main character’s story. We managed to transcend both our egos and insecurities (and writers have plenty of both) and create something special.

It’s true that magic comes with a price. We fought, we fumed, we’d give each other the virtual side eye. If it was a plot issue, I usually won. If it was humor related, Darcy did. (The funniest bits in both our novels? Those are pure Darcy.)

But even when we butted heads, neither one of us wanted to call it quits. Not when we had each other.

At the launch of The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading

Signing books at the launch

In May of 2009, I was lucky enough to see how incredible Darcy was in person, too. My kids and I arrived in Danville for the launch of The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading, but due to various circumstances, our luggage did not.

Without blinking an eye, Darcy got us to the closest Walmart before they closed and entertained my daughter while my son and I ran around the store gathering up the supplies we’d need for the weekend. By the time we met up at the cash registers, Darcy had already purchased a pair of sparkly glitter jeans for my daughter. Then she took us all out to dinner.

This is how she was in every aspect of her life. She knew what you needed whether it was a pair of glitter jeans, a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, or the missing plot point in your story.

That she was the same in person as in my email inbox doesn’t surprise me.

You can’t write and revise thousands of words together and exchange an untold number of emails without becoming part of that person’s life. While working on revisions in instant messenger, we often typed the same idea at the same time. One year for Christmas, we bought each other the exact same book. In 2015, we sent each other candles.

One night, I was booting down the computer when my daughter, about five at the time, said, “Goodnight, Darcy!”

I said, “You know Darcy doesn’t really live in my computer, right?”

My daughter didn’t answer.

Maybe Darcy didn’t live in my computer, but she certainly lives on through it. As far back as 1999, I started saving our exchanges. I have countless emails and replies from her, all written in her wonderful voice. I’ve been rereading her messages over these last few days, and I’m in awe of how blessed I am to have them. I know, in the future, whenever I need her advice, I’ll be able to find it there.

It’s been two years since I placed that Christmas candle on my nightstand. And while its wonderful scent has faded, I’ve never moved it from its spot. On the evening of January 10th, I inched it closer to me so I could see, if not smell, the candle while I reread her short story On Learning to Swim Again, in Autumn.

At around four in the morning, the cat became agitated in a way she never does. Something had woken us, but I couldn’t say what, exactly. I bolted upright. The cat was staring at the space above the headboard in that freaky way cats have. I held my breath and listened hard.

Then I caught the scent of the candle, the aroma stronger than it’s been for more than a year.

I know what logic says about this—grief, imagination, wishful thinking. I also know what Darcy would say.

I like to think she found a way to tell me goodbye.

My writing and my life have been so intertwined with hers that even when we weren’t working on a project together, I never considered a story truly done until Darcy read it. She helped me become a better writer, and more importantly, a better person.

Rereading her short story On Learning to Swim Again, in Autumn was a revelation. Somehow it was the same story and yet completely different from what I remember, very much like reading a brand-new story of hers. This is yet another gift she’s given me.

In a mere nine pages, she managed to convey so much about love and loss, and taking leaps of faith, making those scary jumps.

Near the end, there is this exchange between the two main characters:

Kathleen set down her glass and reached for her grandmother’s hand. She gave it a squeeze. “Oh, Nonni, what will I do without you?” she said.

“Jump,” the old woman answered, and she squeezed back.

I don’t know what I’m going to do without Darcy. But I do know this:

She would want me—and all of us—to jump.

 


 

More than anything, a writer loves to be read. Please take the time to read Darcy’s work.

I’ll be running a free Kindle promotion for Dating on the Dork Side between January 13th and 17th. Darcy loved our free promotional runs, was always amazed that by offering our book for free, we ended up making money. Our last run in May was so good, it caught Amazon’s eye, and they selected Dating on the Dork Side for their curated Prime Reading list over the summer.

The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading

Dating on the Dork Side

  • 1st Place: 2016 International Digital Awards, Young Adult Novel
  • Available on: Kindle  Print

Less Than Three

On Learning to Swim Again, in Autumn: A Short Story

  • A contest-winning short story
  • Available for 99 cents on Kindle or read for free with a Kindle Unlimited subscription.

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