Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Blog Tour: MORMON DIARIES


Today I'm taking part in a blog tour which features the release of the paperback and e-book editions of an autobiographical essay collection, MORMON DIARIES. This book is written anonymously under the pen name of Sophia Stone, and is a personal and honest account that asks some hard questions about Mormonism.  

Book summary:
Brought up in a religious home, Sophia believes the only way to have a forever family is by following church leaders and obediently choosing the right. She goes to the right school, marries the right man in the right place, and does the right thing by staying home to raise her children. But when she starts asking questions about grace, love, and the nature of God, she realizes her spiritual struggles could rip her family apart.

See the book trailer HERE!     

INTERVIEW QUESTIONS WITH THE AUTHOR
1. How has your change in beliefs affected your marriage and children?
I think it has benefited my children in a number of ways. First, by showing them that goodness isn’t based on legalistic rules, they are more accepting of themselves and others. Second, by helping them see that there isn’t one right way to be a decent human being, they are able to think the best of people. Third, by opening up to other ideas and spiritual philosophies, they are more open as well. 

As for my marriage, my change in beliefs has brought to light problems I’d been ignoring for years. Things having to do with power dynamics, issues with inflexibility, and some fundamental disagreements in parenting styles between my husband and I. My marriage has suffered and I worry about it often. But I also know that without the insights I have now, the relationship would continue to grow more unbalanced and necessary change would never occur.

I’m crossing my fingers and holding out hope in the marriage department. 

2. What are the best ways to support someone going through a faith crisis?
The most important thing is to listen. Don’t distance yourself. Don’t shy away. Don’t give advice, and definitely don’t judge. Just be a friend. Period. Sometimes it really is that simple.

3. What kinds of reactions have you had from your Mormon author friends?
This has been similar to my family response—lots of condemnation, lots of avoidance, lots of judgment, and lots of gratitude. Yes, I know, it seems odd that I’d hear gratitude from LDS author friends who are faithful in the church. But apparently there are people who struggle in silence, unable to tell a soul how they feel without losing those most dear to them. That’s the reason the Disaffected Mormon Underground (DAMU) exists. It fills a palpable need.

4. Who should read your book?
Anyone who wants to better understand how religions indoctrinate children, how they can unite and separate families, how they can bring peace and turmoil at the same time. Anyone who wants a more personal understanding of how it feels to grow up in a legalistic religion that values trust and obedience more highly than free thought, or anyone who wants to understand Mormonism. 

Please don’t misread that to mean my book is factually perfect. It’s not. It is based on my experience, and everyone’s reality is different. But I stand by my claim that people who leave Mormonism are often in an isolating place. It’s hard for an orthodox believer to understand why anyone would leave. It’s hard for those who’ve never been in a fundamentalist religion to understand why leaving one is such a big deal. To both these groups, I’d say, “please read this!” Understanding is vital.

For more information or to purchase:
Barnes & Noble link: HERE.
ONLY 99 CENTS! Amazon Kindle Edition: HERE.
Amazon Paperback Edition HERE.

Tweet with Sophia Stone on Twitter! @ask_a_mormon
--Include the underscores since there's another address without the underscore marks.
--Sophia will take any questions about Mormonism and answer them minus the usual spin under the hashtag #mormonquestions

YOUR TURN
Have you had a personal faith crisis in your life before, or known someone who has?
Do you read nonfiction (such as autobiographies like this), or do you stick to fiction?
Whatever your religious affiliations or beliefs, are you comfortable with sharing religious issues in a blog post like this--or do you avoid talking about religion publicly?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Page Critique: MOVE


Hi bloggy buddies! Today's first page excerpt is a YA contemporary by Ferris Robinson, entitled Move. Please add your helpful feedback below.

Also, THANKS to Medeia Sharif for giving me the Very Inspiring Blog Award last week! Go forth and visit her fun and informative blog HERE.

THE EXCERPT

I have thirty seconds. My thighs are on fire, but I crouch low to the mat and circle him, moving in and out quickly. I shoot in and grab his leg, then explode up through his body. Again. And again.

Sweat streams into my eyes, but I couldn't see him clearly even if he was really there. I watch him, my imaginary opponent, as Three Doors Down blasts Kryptonite around my head. If I go crazy now will you still call me Superman? I check the clock above the door and go again. I'm on my two hundredth shot when I feel a jolt of electricity right behind my elbow. I lose my balance, and stumble in the middle of the take down. I look at my time; 199 take downs in twenty minutes. I failed.

She should have warned me. Made a noise. Stomped her f****** Eskimo boots. Something. She's lucky I didn't jab her in the eyeball.

"What?"

Erin Abercrombie taps her ear, and I take my ear buds out. I don't know what to say. I should have said something earlier, back last spring when it happened. Her sister OD'ed and woke up dead. Or didn't wake up at all, rather. Heroin. I don't bring it up.

"What?"

"Sorry, I didn't mean to scare you. I just wanted to let you know I'm here. Didn't want to freak you out if you saw me in the office."  

THE CRITIQUE
1. Opening Line and Paragraph: good, then fuzzy. The first line is immediately compelling; time restrictions are always a great way to introduce tension in a scene. As the paragraph continued, I found the "him" ambiguous, and wondered if "opponent" would be a more descriptive word to use instead. I also wasn't sure what was going on with the part about exploding up THROUGH the body. It's explained in the second paragraph, but I'm not sure a first paragraph should be this unclear or confusing to the reader. Would it take some of the initial punch away if "imaginary opponent" was used in the first paragraph instead of "him"? I also wasn't sure why he'd need to explode up through the opponent's body again and again…was he adding to the total numbers of takedowns by doing this?
2. Other Unclear Things.
"…When I feel a jolt of electricity right behind my elbow. … She should have warned me. The "she" surprised me when I read it, and I wondered how it related to the jolt of electricity. Does she have electric superpowers? Did she shock him with something?  Did she merely zap him with static electricity? Does he feel her presence as a sort of electrical force? It might be nice to have these things explained (without feeling explainy).
3. The swearing: Stomped her f****** Eskimo boots. I asked Ferris if this was how the word would appear in a final version, and he said no; in the manuscript it's spelled out as a full F-bomb. The asterisks were just used for public sensitivities on this blog (which is very considerate of him). Anyway, using this word in a YA book is a controversial topic.
Questions Ferris should ask:
--By using this language, this novel might end up on a controversial list, and parents and others would object and possibly protest it; is that acceptable to him as a writer?
--Does the use of these words add a level of realism to the work that wouldn't otherwise be achieved? How much would it change the story if those words were omitted?
--How many times is this word used throughout the book? Half a dozen, or fifty? Are all those instances necessary to the plot, character development, and story arc? My suggestion would be to make sure the word is crucial to every scene it's used.
4. Three Doors Down and Kryptonite. These words are italicized in the excerpt, but since Three Doors Down is a band…band names are usually just capitalized rather than italicized (though that may vary from publisher to publisher). Since "Kryptonite" is a song, enclose it in quotation marks. CD or album titles are displayed in italics, but songs are enclosed in quotes.

Kudos and Overall Thoughts: This is definitely gritty and realistic in tone, which seems fitting for a contemporary guy story. From the very first page it promises action and fighting and nice terse/tight dialogue. It hints that it will deal with tough topics like heroin usage, or its aftermath. I like how the line about the Eskimo boots fits very naturally into the scene, revealing something about the female character who's being introduced.

YOUR TURN
What feedback can you add to this critique?
Did you know album titles are italicized, while songs are put in quotation marks?

What's your opinion on using swearing/cursing in young adult literature: does it add more realism--since teens really DO talk that way--or should writers avoid these words and use an approximation of reality instead?

Would you WANT your manuscript to be negatively controversial, banned, or challenged--since doing so garners more public attention?