TITLE: The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors
AUTHOR: Michele Young-Stone
PUBLISHER: Braodway Paperbacks
AGENT: Michelle Brower
GENRE: Literary fiction
THE RUNDOWN The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors
is a novel about people. Duh, you say, all novels are about people. But really, I say, this novel is about people
. It’s about a little girl who gets struck by lightning, a little boy who wishes he got struck by lightning, an alcoholic with a cheating husband, a husband with an alcoholic for a wife… the list goes on. Don’t let the title fool you, it’s not about lightning.
It’s been a while since I’ve gotten halfway through a book and found myself unable to put it down until I finished it four hours later, having forgotten all previous obligations. But that’s what I did when I read The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors
by Michele Young-Stone.
I honestly don’t know. When I started reading it, I was thrown off by seemingly needless tense changes, which flipped the narration from past to present between chapters. I found myself frustrated by the intermittent use of first names, last names and nicknames, which forced my feeble mind to remember three times as many characters as I needed to. I was surprised when she started speaking to me in the second person, and sometimes confused by her constant point-of-view changes.
And yet, I quickly got used to her unusual style and read on, enthralled by the clash of beautiful and grotesque that was so elegantly laid out before me. Michele Young-Stone is a poet.
And while a poet must obviously have a handle on words, in my opinion that’s not what’s most important. A good poet is an observer, someone who quietly takes in their surroundings, who empathizes with their enemies, who sees the whole picture. If the poet doesn’t see the whole picture, neither will I when I read their work.
When I finished reading The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors
, I might as well have been at a gallery opening. I didn’t just see one picture, I saw many. I saw the young and the old with their faults and their strengths, laid out before me and framed with dovetail joints.
I don’t know what you’ll get out of The Handbook for Lightning Survivors
, but I found forgiveness. For myself and others.
If you’re looking for an action-packed page turner, look elsewhere. But if you’re looking for a book that spins a tale so vivid that you can’t put it down, look no further. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen, or The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. WANT TO BUY IT?Michele Young-Stone's website!
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It takes a lot to write a novel, but once the manuscript is complete, the work has only just begun. Finding a publisher may be the hardest part of becoming a published author. That's where literary agents come in: they are the liaison between author and publisher. Michelle Brower from Folio Literary Management in New York is one such liaison, and she worked the magic behind The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors by Michele Young-Stone (check back this Thursday for a glowing review). Despite her busy schedule, she agreed to answer a few questions about her role as a literary agent.
AB: What was it that first hooked you when you started reading The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors by Michele Young-Stone? What made you decide to represent it?
MICHELLE: Originally, it was the title that grabbed me. I get a ton of queries from prospective authors, and this title just stood out. After that, though, I fell in love with the writing, and Michele’s ability to make me care for all of the wonderful characters that populate the book. When I cried at the end, I knew I could sell this book.
AB: According to your website, you have an eclectic taste, from thrillers to woman's fiction to personal memoirs. What genres are selling best in today's market? How does the market affect your decision-making as you look for books to represent?
MICHELLE: Today’s market is a tough one, and I do tweak my expectations based on what is working. I think women’s fiction and book club fiction is always a strong area for debut authors, but I become more selective as the market does. One thing that always works, but is difficult to explain, is the idea of having a high-concept story. To me, that means that you can pitch the idea in one sentence, and it just sounds irresistible.
AB: What do you think of previously self-published books? Does self-publishing help or hinder the chances of getting picked up by a larger publishing house?
MICHELLE: Self-publishing is great if you have proven that you can actually move copies. If you’ve self-published and only 200 people have bought your work, it will not carry any weight with publishers. However, a good book is a good book, and if your work is amazing I don’t think it matters. However, I generally recommend that people see if they can go the traditional route first, and use that feedback in order to make their decision.
AB: Once you have agreed to represent a book, what do you expect the author to do in terms of self-promotion and editing?
MICHELLE: Everything! I am a very editorial agent, and so I like to work closely with my authors on editing their work before submitting to publishers. Sometimes that takes three months, and sometimes that takes a year. In terms of self-promotion, anything that an author can do on their own to supplement their publisher’s efforts is worthwhile. Tweeting, Facebook, etc are de rigeur at this point. I also often suggest to authors that they set aside a portion of their advance for travel, publicity, or additional marketing if the situation calls for it.
AB: The world of publishing is highly competitive, but literary taste is subjective. What do you do if you fall in love with a book, but can't find the right publisher for it?
Every page of Alice LaPlante’s Turn Of Mind is filled with rich visual images of prose that melts together harmonically. LaPlante takes us on a vivid and emotional journey into the mind of a 65 year old Dr. Jennifer White who was once an esteemed surgeon and now suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease. In my opinion, the story lacks credibility.
Dr. White’s best friend was found murdered, with two of her fingers amputated. She becomes a suspect not only because of her surgical expertise, but because on the day of the murder, Jennifer White had been missing for several hours.
Having worked with Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers, I challenge the vivid recollections Dr. Jennifer White has given the stage of her disease. The physician recalls more about her childhood, her marriage, her children, her past love life, specific dates, places, and faces than those of us who do not suffer from a debilitating brain disease. A Houdini-like escape artist, she manages on several occasions to escape the live-in caretaker and, when moved to a care facility, Dr. White again escapes a lock down facility and wanders aimlessly around the city for over 30 hours.
Dr. White’s two children sadistically needle their mother for money and secrets of her past in spite of her declining health. Detectives ruthlessly interrogate someone who can’t tell the difference between a tube of toothpaste and a fork, let alone recall if she murdered her best friend. The physician’s now deceased husband cheated on her, her two adult children are incorrigible and unappreciative; her best friend blackmails her and was murdered. And now she has Alzheimer’s. How much more can this poor woman take?
As we become aware of Dr. White’s anti-social behavior, get to know her cold, unemotional heart, we pray that somehow she redeems herself before it’s too late. Her only redemption is that she has volunteered at a clinic for the uninsured, but given what we already know about her, the motives for even doing this are questionable.
Quotation marks are not used throughout the novel. What Dr. White says is in italics, what she feels or thinks is not italicized and what other people say is not italicized. This slows down the flow as the reader has to stop and think whether we are in present or past tense and who is actually speaking.
If you’re looking for a book that is eloquently written I would recommend you read Turn of Mind. If you’re looking for a book to educate or prepare you for Alzheimer’s disease it is not your book.
More research or possibly using the adult child’s POV would have given this book more credibility. I give this book a three out of five star rating.
While most seventeen year olds spend their time on Facebook or texting friends, there are a few that put their time to more productive use. Seventeen year old Allyson Richards is one such teen. While completing high school, planning for college and riding horses, Allyson has penned not one, but two novels. Her first published title, Enlightened,
has already been published and the sequel is on its way. Her debut novel, a supernatural teen romance, is available for purchase at www.allysonrichards.com
. She took the time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions about herself, her work and the publishing world. It says on your website that you began writing your novel when you were fifteen. What experiences did you have when you were younger that helped you decide you wanted to be a writer?
When I was little, before I knew how to write, I remember scribbling lines on blank printer paper. I would do that to a few pages and when I was done, I would "read" what I had "written" back to myself. But, even though the scribbles didn’t really mean anything, I still pulled a story from it, as if the random squiggly lines were actual words. I never thought in a million years that I would one day be a writer, let alone a published author, but I think it's safe to say I was born a story teller. What really drove me to write Enlightened was the desperate need to find an outlet to sort all of my confusing thoughts and feelings and also the inner story-teller I had unknowingly smothered for so long wanting to break free. Only five to ten percent of people who start novels actually finish them. What advice would you give aspiring novelists about how to complete a novel?
I get that question a lot, and when I give people my answer, they almost seem disappointed by it--like they're expecting some ground-breaking equation that solves all of their problems. Well, here's the magic formula everyone expects (warning, it's not magic, and it's not a formula): Work hard. If it's something you truly want to do, your passion will drive you to finish. If not, well then, that might just be laziness. Ha-ha! Your character, Alexis, goes through much emotional turmoil. How much of Alexis is drawn from yourself?
To make a long story short, Alexis is me. I never intended to base a character off of myself when I first started the book, but the more I wrote about Alexis' adventures and troubles, the more of myself I saw in her. We've both been through a lot, we've both had to carry many burdens on our small shoulders (some of those burdens self-inflicted), and we've both felt helpless. Really, Alexis isn't just me. She's also the representation of everything teens have felt at least once or twice in their life. Being a published writer at seventeen is quite a feat. There are a lot of authors out there dying to be published. Please describe to us the publishing process you went through. Any advice to those trying to be published?
Michael Manning is a 41 year old practicing pharmacist and has been a fantasy and science-fiction reader for most of his life. He has dabbled in software design, fantasy art, and is an avid tree climber. He lives in Texas, with his wife and two kids. Mageborn: The Blacksmith Son is his first novel.
BRIAN: I’m pleased to welcome Michael G. Manning, author of Mageborn: The Blacksmith’s Son, to the Underground. When did a pharmacist from Texas realize he wanted to be a writer?
MICHAEL: Somewhere around age twelve I think, after I started reading Robert Heinlein’s books.
BRIAN: You said on Facebook it only took four weeks to write Mageborn. If so, that’s pretty amazing. Can you give us a quick rundown on how Mageborn came to be?
MICHAEL: I went on a reading binge with my kindle and eventually I ran out of things I wanted to read. So I sat down and started thinking about what I wanted in a book… basically just listing things. After a short while I decided if I couldn’t find a book that had what I wanted I would write it myself. The Blacksmith’s Son was the result.
BRIAN: Okay, Michael, I pulled a quote from your Facebook site: “Editing sucks.” Do you do all you own editing or do you ask your family and friends to read your work before publishing it?
MICHAEL: Both… I go through it and I have friends read through and make suggestions. In the future I hope to afford an actual editor to assist, but for now it’s just me and some friendly volunteers.
BRIAN: You self-published on Kindle and are selling Mageborn for 99 cents. Did you first attempt a more traditional publishing route or go to Kindle first?
Michael G. Manning’s debut novel, Mageborn: The Blacksmith’s Son,
is the tale of Mordecai, the village blacksmith’s teenage son. It takes place over several days in the castle of Mordecai’s benefactor (and his best friend’s father) the Duke of Lancaster. Through many twists and turns Mordecai learns he is actually the son of a murdered duke, falls in love, makes a mortal enemy, and discovers he is a brilliant wizard.
Manning employs conventional fantasy themes, such as wizardry and medieval-style settings. He doesn’t break any new ground in Mageborn
, but he doesn’t have to. It’s Manning’s solid presentation that makes this an entertaining read. He seems to understand what makes good fantasy - a delicate balance between world-building, complete with history and cultures, without losing sight of the characters that inhabit it. Manning sweeps the reader from one scene to the next with tight chapters, efficient descriptions, flowing action, and likable characters.
The hero, Mordecai, is a geek’s dream. He’s like a kid who’s really good in math and isn’t afraid to show just how smart he is, but somehow manages to come off as cool. However, Mageborn’s
strongest characters are its women. Penny (Mordecai’s love interest), and Lady Rose (the beautiful noble with a heart of gold and a well-hidden dagger) leave the reader wanting more.
Readers will also appreciate how Manning handles the fantasy elements in Mageborn
. In any given fantasy series, hardcore fans always pay close attention to the rules governing magic. Does the author make the unbelievable... well, believable?
In this respect Mageborn
doesn’t disappoint. Readers will enjoy Marcus the Heretic’s chapter introductions, where he scientifically details the nature of magic in the Kingdom of Lothion.
The book is not without its flaws. Lord Devon Tremont, the villain, comes across slightly two-dimensional. Sudden perspective shifts and abrupt narration-style changes can make this book a bit bumpy at times. While there is very little profanity, when it is used, it feels too modern and out of context for the setting and characters. When you encounter the profanity it’s like rolling over speed bump on a smooth asphalt road, you wish it wasn’t there. Overall, however, these flaws are minor, especially for a first novel.
In addition to the few snippets of strong language, this book contains some sexual content, including an attempted rape scene, and swords and sorcery violence. Overall, nothing is gratuitous and the book should be suitable for the older teenage reader and up. Mageborn, The Blacksmith’s Son
will put a smile on your face and make you glad you read it. I therefore bestow upon it a rating of 85 out of 99 cents. I’ll be on the lookout for the sequel, which according to Manning’s Facebook page, is nearing completion.
I doubt I’ll be able to buy it for only 99 cents.
Finally, here's 99 Cents Worth of Michael Manning and Mageborn
Links: Michael G. Manning on Facebook
Mageborn: The Blacksmith's Son on Facebook
Get Mageborn: The Blacksmith's Son on Kindle!
It's only four more days until the first installment of “Brian’s 99 Cents!” I’ll be reviewing Michael G. Manning’s novel Mageborn: The Blacksmith’s Son.
I know you’re excited, but calm down. Just calm down!
Goooood. Take a deep breath and relax. Like Christmas, it will be here before you know it, and you won’t be broke when it's over. Oh yeah, I almost forgot. Michael was also gracious enough to grant us an interview, which will run here in the Underground on Friday.
(I said calm down.)
In the meantime, check out this website: http://www.pixelofink.com/
. It’s a great place to find dirt cheap books on Kindle by new and unknown authors. They use a simple star rating and their “reviews” are more descriptions than actual reviews, but it’s a good place for the cheap and chintzy to do their book shopping.
See you Thursday,
Despite my love of words, I fear it is impossible to truly capture life at sea. I could explain the sounds: the rumbling engine, the rattling needleguns, the puff of blowholes. I could explain the smells: the turpentine, the sewage, the fresh-cooked dinner. I could explain the sights: the blue horizon, the ominous skies, the sunsets, the stars. I could explain the feel: the vibration of the engine, the rocking of the ship. I could explain the people: the excitement of new crew, the confidence of old-timers.
Hell, I could document every second I’ve spent at sea, but it wouldn’t do any good.
Because to understand life at sea, you have to feel time stop while the world keeps turning. You have to write home and pray for responses. You have to juggle boredom with panic and excitement. You have to call the dock of a foreign port 'home.' You have to gaze at the horizon while you breathe salt air and diesel fumes. You have to become part of the living, breathing organism that sustains you, tortures you and satisfies you, all the while holding you prisoner…
In order to understand life at sea, you have to live it.
See you next Thursday,
A. B. Riddle
When the dust cloud appears down the road, we know they are coming.
My mother and I see the hazy dust plume at the same time. The potato peeler slips out of her hand and clatters on the porch floor, startling us both. I glance at the cloud kicked up by dozens of approaching tires and then back to my mother. There's no mistaking it. The fear is written across her face.
“Where's Ethan?” she asks. Her rocking chair scrapes against the porch floorboards as she stands. She doesn't wait for my answer. She yanks open the screen door, that jangles wide to let her in, and runs into the house yelling for my brother.
The advance of the dust cloud has me riveted. My morbid curiosity holds me on the porch for a few seconds. Then I hear my mother's frantic voice.
“Jesse, the storm cellar! Now!”
I go. Even morbid curiosity can't keep me when my mother's voice sounds so desperate.
I run into the house and pass my step-father, Arn, standing at the pitted kitchen table. He loads his hunting rifle, his tanned face contorted in concentration. Two shotguns rest on the table where we just ate our lunch. As I run past, he snags my arm.
“Take this.” He gravely hands me a pistol.
The silver revolver is heavy and solid in my hands. It isn't the first time I've held a pistol, but it is the first time he's offered me one in self-defense. I look up at him with wide eyes.
“You remember what I taught you?”
If you're checking in and expecting a book review, you'll have to wait just two more weeks... we are all reading away frantically, trying to enjoy our novels and critique them at the same time.
If you want to know what to expect:
September 15: Brian's review of Mageborn: The Blacksmith's Son
September 22: Kimberly's review of Turn of Mind
September 29: AB's review of The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors
October 6: Katie's review of Divergent
And, of course, there will be other treats along the way... such as the first chapter of Katie's book, Not if You Were the Last Girl on Earth, which will be posted tomorrow!