What if we gender-swap all the books, ala Twilight?

For the 10th anniversary of her 'Twilight' series, Stephenie Meyer is offering a gender swap for those millions caught up in the saga of Bella and Edward.
For the 10th anniversary of her ‘Twilight’ series, Stephenie Meyer is offering a gender swap for those millions caught up in the saga of Bella and Edward.

This week, Stephenie Meyer, the author of best-selling vampire series, ‘Twilight,’ both delighted and disappointed fans when she announced the release of her new book, “Life and Death.” Fans, who had been expecting Meyer to release her once-promised novel, “Midnight Sun,” a story from the point of view of vampire Edward Cullen, were instead offered a story that re-tells the original “Twilight” tale, but with every character as the opposite gender.

Belle became Beau. Edward became Edythe. And every other character (save for the Beau/Bella’s parents) have swapped genders in “Life and Death.”

Fans are mixed on this re-imagining of Twilight, according to the comments by fans.

“My head started to hurt trying to match everyone up with who they should be, and I put it down,” one commenter said.

“I couldn’t finish the first couple of pages. She should have just finished Midnight Sun,” said another.

“I’m only half way through, but I’m loving this. The high school me would have died of excitement for this,” another commenter said.

And finally, “…because I have read Twilight so many times and every sentence feels familiar, I’m getting a kick out of noticing all the little details that Stephenie Meyer changed for this version.”

See for yourself here.

Because I was so intrigued with what Meyer did with her popular book, I couldn’t help but wonder what other popular books might look like if the genders were swapped. Here are a few book you may have read, but with a gender-bending twist. Can you think of any others? Share them in the comments!

Hunger Games

Kevin Everdeen of District 12 volunteers as tribute for the 74th annual Hunger games, taking the places of his little brother, Preston, to fight alongside Paige Mellark. They are mentored by Hailey Abernath, a past winner from District 12 who now lives a solitary life consoled by her 13 cats and her never-ending supply of alcohol.

During a television interview before the games, Paige reveals her schoolgirl crush on Kevin to an audience of millions. This is a surprise revelation for Kevin, especially since he harbors feelings for his lifelong friend and confidante, Gail Hawthorne, the girl next door who enjoys hunting with him on the outskirts of the district.

However, mentor Hailey sees the opportunity in Paige’s public confession and advises Kevin to string her along. If she succeeds in this ruse, she may inspire wealthy sponsors to help the two competitors during the games. But as Kevin fights for his and Paige’s life against their bloodthirsty opponents, he realizes his feelings for Paige may actually be sincere.

What if Harry were really Henrietta? Would it have worked as well?
What if Harry were really Henrietta? Would it have worked as well?

Henrietta Potter and the Sorceress’ Stone

For ten years, Henrietta Potter has lived with the Dursleys, not knowing that she is a witch, or even that she is famous in the wizarding world for surviving the attacks of Voldemina, a terrifying sorceress whose name no one dares to speak. When Henrietta receives a letter inviting her to attend the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, her family tries to hide it from her. That is, until Rubina Hagrid, a big-boned half giant, rescues Henrietta on her massive pink Harley.

Henrietta is introduced to a world of magic, sorted into the Hogwarts house of Gryffindor. There, she makes lifelong friends with Ramona Weasley, a red-haired girl from a large, pure-blood, wizarding family, and Horace Granger, an intelligent wizard born to non-magical parents.

While training to become witches and wizards, Henrietta, Ramona and Horace find themselves facing down a three-headed dog guarding the Sorceress’ stone, a magical object that grant immortality to its user. After several other bouts of danger, it becomes apparent that the discovery of the stone holds significance. The trio face numerous challenges to recover the stone, only to come face to face with an enemy they never knew they had.

Brotherhood of the Traveling Jordans

Len Kaligaris, Tim Rollins, Brock Vreeland and Carson Lowell have been best friends since birth, since their fathers were fishing buddies that met in college. The summer before the foursome began their junior year of high school, Carson finds an old pair of Air Jordans that fits each of the friends perfectly, despite their differing shoe sizes, and allows each boy to jump higher, run faster, and perform well at every sport. They come to the conclusion that the Jordans are magical. The boys end up sharing the “traveling Jordans” amongst themselves over the summer as they all go in different directions.

However, the summer doesn’t go exactly as planned. Each teen must overcome challenging circumstances they weren’t prepared for. Just as things seem to be at their worst, they are given the Air Jordans, and discover a new way to overcome adversity. The Jordans serve as a substitute pal in this coming of age novel of boys growing into men.

Note: This post originally appeared here.

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5 reasons I love indie books

I admit it. Before I became an author, I had never read an indie-published book. I can list a few different reasons for this:
– There’s less risk with a traditionally published book…a publisher thought it was good, so it must be good (uh, right).
– Traditionally published books are more recognizable, thanks to deep marketing pockets.
– I know what to expect in a traditionally published book.

The truth is, most traditionally published books ARE good. Most of my favorite books are traditionally published1. However, I’ve become increasingly aware of how good some indie-published books can be, mostly for the things traditionally published books CAN’T be. Here are a few of the reasons why:

1. Indie books are cheap. This is good news for someone who reads a lot, like me. I am able to feed my habit and not go broke. For less than a cup of coffee, I can grab a new book for my Kindle and devour it in days. And then I can go back for more. This is because an indie-published author has cut out the middle man to get their book out there, thus cutting out all the people who share a cut of their pay. Traditionally published authors have to charge $7 or more by contract, and their cut is a sad, tiny portion of that.

2. Indie books possess wild, carefree plots. I mean, seriously. The craziest things can happen in an indie book because there isn’t some bigwig telling the author “no one would be interested in reading that.” The truth is, much of what traditional publishers turn away is exactly what readers would want to read. And indie authors know this. Why? Because they are in tune with what their readers want to read because they hear what their readers want to read FROM THEIR READERS. Which brings me to #3….

3. It’s easier to interact with indie authors. Can you email J.K. Rowling and receive a thoughtful reply in return? Of course not. But can you email, say, Colleen Hoover (who is kinda huge in the indie author world, but personable nonetheless?). Likely, yes.

4. Indie authors aren’t so invisible anymore. They are the underdogs of the publishing world, and all of a sudden, they’re winning! It’s becoming commonplace for indie authors to find their way onto the New York Times bestsellers lists. On Amazon, the top 100 books holds many indie titles. And according to this article on Smashwords, indie books may make up 50% of all published books by 2020.  What once seemed like such an elite profession now feels much more attainable. There are indie authors out there who have quit their day jobs and are actually making a living off of what they write. No longer does publishing book need to be on a bucket list of things you may never do.

5. Indie authors give us hope. It’s a big feat to write a book. But know what’s even more difficult than that? Getting a traditional publisher to agree to publish it. It’s hard enough to even get them to read the dang thing. However, indie publishers are sidestepping these gatekeepers, opening the door to their dreams on their own and saying YES, I can accomplish my lifelong goal, and YOU CAN’T TELL ME NO. Seriously, that’s inspiring regardless of what your dream is.

Here are some of my most recent indie reads that I highly recommend. If you have a favorite indie book you’ve read and loved, please enlighten us all and leave it in the comments.

Hopeless, by Colleen Hoover
Forever & Always, by Jasinda WilderA Place In The World, by Cinda Crabbe MacKinnon
Writer Dad, by Sean Platt
Kissing Midnight, by Laura Bradley Rede
Forged In Grace, by Jordan E. Rosenfeld

Book love: A Place in the World

If your taste in fiction runs from literary to romance with a bit of adventure sprinkled in, I have a new book to recommend:  A Place in the World by Cinda Crabbe MacKinnon.  Here is the story line:

When her Colombian husband deserts her on his family’s coffee farm in a remote part of the Andes, Alicia struggles to make a life there for herself and her son even as guerrilla uprisings begin to threaten the area, and a nearby volcano rumbles to life. The passionate story, about a young biologist and a multinational cast of characters, is like a South American Out of Africa in the final decades of 1900’s.

This multicultural indie novel has been getting good reviews on Amazon since it came out a few months ago.  For more reviews and to read the first two chapters of the book go to: http://amzn.to/19wSFfX  

Reviews – by two other writers of multicultural fiction and memoir)

“Set down by fate on a remote coffee plantation in the mountains of Colombia, a young American expat discovers her deepest passions. The rainforest itself is the book’s most detailed and compelling character, and it’s this sense of place that holds Alicia most firmly ……..where her love for the people around her slowly comes to fruition. Gentle, moving, and elegiac, A Place in the World tells the story of a young woman who transforms an alien place into the home of her heart, and in the process transforms herself as well.” – Anastasia Hobbet, author of Pleasure of Believing and Small Kingdoms

“The moment you read the first paragraph, you are hooked …caught up in the beauty and wonders of the lush rainforest of Colombia. Alicia’s resilient spirit finds her a place in a man’s world, in spite of calamities. MacKinnon’s gift for weaving intrigue, adventure and passion …. into the lives of ordinary people …is sheer pleasure…. culminating in a riveting climax!” -Nona Mock Wyman, author of Chopstick Childhood and Bamboo Women.

About the author:                                       

Cinda MacKinnon Cinda MacKinnon has lived in six different countries, but grew up in Latin America. She began telling stories to her little brother when they were children in Bogotá. Her experiences and love for the people, culture and natural setting of Colombia were the inspiration for A Place in the World.

She is a writer, former university lecturer, and environmental scientist. She studied biology, has an MS in geology and a longtime passion for botany.  This background is apparent in the details on tropical nature and geology, as well as Latino society, that appear in her writing. Last year she published an award winning short story.   Cinda has also written articles on environmental topics and received the William Penn Mott Jr. Award for environmental advocacy.

Gaston She lives in northern California with her husband Tom and their golden retriever.  Gaston is a “career-changed” dog from Guide Dogs for the Blind where Tom and Cinda have been long time volunteers.

Cinda will appear on a local (San Francisco Bay) TV program (channel 30) called Conversations, to discuss her book. It will air starting Oct. 21, 2013. She has also been invited by The Next Word, a Washington D.C. area TV program (tentative date Oct. 29).

A Place in the World is now available in eBook formats on all electronic venues as well as in print. (A complimentary eBook is available to reviewers).

Links:

Website/ Blog : cindamackinnon.wordpress.com

Reviews: www.goodreads.com

Book is available at www.virtualbookworm.com  and at amzn.to/19wSFfX

 

Book love: Vacation, by JC Miller

I spent the first half of the novel, “Vacation” by local author JC Miller, frustrated with the main characters. William Koval, the protagonist of the story, has a hard time speaking his mind and standing up for himself. Annie Logan, the woman he ends up falling for, has no trouble speaking her mind by either running away or putting up an angry front – even when doing so seems completely heartless and over the top.

However, as the layers of their wounds began to unpeel, I began to see that these were, in fact, two very fragile people who had been brought together by their shared understanding of tragedy.

The story of “Vacation” introduces Dr. William Koval as a workaholic physician who is still mourning the loss of his late wife, Kathleen, three years after she was murdered. William still can’t find it in him to move much beyond his loss, though he manages by holding a stony front to the outside world.

It wasn’t until his supervisor urges him to take a much needed vacation that he takes a break from work and the mundane day-to-day. However, instead of finding some nice beach to lay on or other relaxing type of holiday, he decides to take the vacation his late wife had always wanted to take, ensuring her memory would compound the duration of his getaway.

William’s journey takes him across the ocean for a walking tour of England. He is accompanied by a group of other vacationing tourists, all with their wide breadth of quirks and tendencies. I found Miller’s way of painting a scene with varying characters refreshing; giving a distinct voice to each persona so that you could actually envision the way they walked and talked.

JC Miller (photo courtesy of Last Light Studio)
JC Miller (photo courtesy of Last Light Studio)

Of note was Annie Logan, a woman that slowly captures William’s attention. She’s sweet and smart, modest and lovely; and soon William discovers he can’t keep his mind off of her. It doesn’t hurt that she also lives close by to where he does, though they both traveled all the way to England to discover this truth.

That William would find love on a vacation dedicated to his late wife is not unusual. In fact, it was about time this widower stepped away from being chained to a memory, and found someone else who was worthy of his attention. What was strange, though, was how hard and fast he fell for someone he barely knew. I just felt like the author could have painted a more thorough picture of who Annie Logan was at this point, showing why she was worth more than just a passing crush. And when these feelings were discovered to be mutual, I felt like the author took a break from her descriptive prose to make a sprint over a moment that had been building up in William’s mind.

I wanted romance. I wanted chocolate and wine. I wanted lingering kisses and whispers of mutual longings and heartfelt wishes. Instead, I got a “Hey, what just happened?”

Admittedly, it was the aforementioned scene that left me the most frustrated, followed immediately by an event that threatened this barely blooming love. I found Annie to be lacking in grace, and I questioned why William would fall for someone who could only focus on her own situation and was blind to the devastating nature of William’s.

However, further reading made me wonder if this was, in fact, the author’s intention. She had spent the first half of the story revealing the nature of William’s grief, but not much is known about Annie’s. Through William’s persistence, the source of the angry front Annie puts on is revealed, as is the tenderness she carries underneath. And as more and more is learned about this mysterious love interest, it becomes so much more apparent why she reacts this way, and why William is drawn to her.

“Vacation” is a story of two people with much on their shoulders who come together under the most unconventional circumstances. JC Miller does a wonderful job of painting scenery and creating characters so that you feel like you’re standing in the center of all the action. She managed to evoke strong emotions in me as I read – the art of a skilled storyteller. And by the time I reached the end, I felt like everything I’d been shaking my fist up at the sky about was wrapped up exactly as it should be.

Discover where you can find “Vacation” by visiting JC Miller’s website at jcmillerwriter.com.

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Book Love: The Sensory Deception

The very first scene of “The Sensory Deception,” a newly released science fiction novel by Petaluma author Ransom Stephens, drops the reader directly into an action sequence of war. In the first chapter, we are introduced to fire, death, and the hint of sexuality. In the next, we’re in a dark cave of prisoners on the verge of escape.

These first two chapters give a glimpse into the story in real time before it moves into the back-story. This is a common writing trick – to capture the reader’s attention with the most crucial of scenes before diving into what happened before everything went to pot. And it works. I was left wondering what those first two chapters meant the whole time I read “The Sensory Deception,” with only hints towards the answer until the grand finale.

Admittedly, the book started out slow once past those first two action-packed chapters. But the scenes that follow are vital to explain the premise of the story.

A group made up of a scientist, a neurologist, and an engineer have come together to create VirtExReality, a virtual reality video game they hope to use to create environmentalists out of viewers. But to call it mere virtual reality is an understatement. These independent producers have managed to saturate the senses of anyone experiencing the virtual reality system, allowing them to step into the role to feel and think like the subject of the program – as if they were truly living the experience.

This show of sensory saturation is introduced when they demonstrate the product to Gloria, the venture capitalist hired to find funds for the product. She’s strapped into the program and is suddenly thrust into the life of a polar bear. She experiences the bear’s hunger, how it feels to hunt and feed on seals, and the journey that leads beyond the ice and into imminent danger.

From this first glimpse into the virtual reality system, Gloria goes from rising venture capitalist to a cash-strapped part of the team, bent on finding the funding for a project of this magnitude without compromising the underlying message of environmental awareness they hope to instill into the masses. But that’s the tricky part – convincing companies with deep pockets that this environmental product can compete with the fast-paced media being churned to the short-attention-spanned public.

To do this, the team promises potential investors the ultimate in environmental adventures – a fight to the death between a sperm whale bull and a giant squid. It’s a hefty promise, but it does the trick. If they can deliver, VirtExReality will hit the market fully funded with a potential to rake in the big bucks while also shining a spotlight on the group’s cause.

And that’s when things get difficult.

In the quest for the ever-evasive whale, the team comes upon several huge snags. They’re faced with pirates, skepticism, questionable methods for success, and danger far beyond what any of them (save for one character with an apparent death wish) have signed up for. Soon, the urgency to create a worthy virtual reality sequence becomes a literal life or death situation.

As author of “The Sensory Deception,” Ransom Stephens’ imagination is limitless in his ability to lead the reader through scenarios across the globe. As a scientist, Stephens flexes reality beyond the average person’s understanding, bringing unfamiliar concepts to light.

There were times I felt a bit lost as I read, unable to comprehend where the story was going when things began to get too detailed or technical. I had a hard time initially connecting with the characters, mostly due to the way the storyline jumped rapidly to each person’s point of view and different locales. And it’s safe to say that certain scenes would have fared better with a brief description rather than a lengthy narrative.

But overall, “The Sensory Deception” is a worthy read with fascinating concepts. Once the story migrated from process details and launched headfirst into a non-stop stream of action, my senses were saturated until the very last page.

Purchase this book at Amazon, or at the author’s website at www.ransomstephens.com.

Book love: Courting Greta

I’m not only a writer, but I am an avid reader. This book was handed to me by author Ramsey Hootman in hopes that I might enjoy it and review it. I not only enjoyed it, I devoured it in 3 days. Here’s what it was about, plus my two cents…

The beginning of love is awkward enough. But add in two social misfits in every sense of the title, and the results hold the potential for disaster.

In the book, Courting Greta, Samuel Cooke has spent the majority of his life fighting society’s view of who he is – a skinny and crippled computer genius who has never been the subject of a romantic encounter. Seeking out a drastic change in his life, Samuel ends his successful career as a computer programmer to become a computer teacher at a school in Healdsburg.

It’s there that he meets the school’s gym coach, Greta Cassamajor, better known as “Cass”, a teacher who strongly resembles Coach Shannon Beiste, “The Beast” from Glee.

Cass is avoided by everyone at the school – teachers and students. She’s an ox of a woman, as large as Samuel is scrawny. Her temper is easily provoked. She appears to have no friends, though she is loyal to keeping her team on the winning side. Right from the start, Samuel is warned to just stay out of her way by his colleagues and students. But something about Cass is intriguing to Samuel, eventually urging him to pursue this hard to please woman.

Author Ramsey Hootman, a native of Healdsburg, CA, spins a story of two people generally ignored by society, and makes them so endearing you cannot help but fall in love with them. In her debut novel, she proves that you can’t judge a book by its cover as secrets and past betrayals are brought to the surface of both characters, sharing the reasons for each brick they’ve put in place to keep others at bay. And through the course of the book, Hootman paints the portrait of a perfect love that has blossomed from imperfections.

What I loved most about this book is that it touches on all those weird things we think only exist in ourselves. Hootman takes two people who have very obvious qualities that make them outcasts, but they possess the same insecurities that every one of us has in our day to day lives. I found myself relating emphatically with the characters in spite of, or perhaps because of, the things that held them back. I loved how these two very different people came together to form the unlikeliest of couples – but they also just made sense as a couple. And I appreciated how deep the author went into demonstrating the multiple layers that exist under a tough posterior – how there is always more to the story than what one damaged soul wishes to divulge.

Some of the hidden highlights to also look for in this book:

– Ramsey Hootman is only the pen name for the author. If you know her real name, look for a brief appearance by her “alter” ego.

– Northern California peeps (like myself) will love the local references.  The town of Healdsburg paints the backdrop of the story, and even includes town favorites like the Future Farmers parade and festival.

– Alumni of Healdsburg High may have an easy time envisioning the halls and classrooms described in Courting Greta, as much of the book takes place there.

Courting Greta officially releases this week in bookstores on Tuesday, June 18th. For more information, visit the author’s website at www.RamseyHootman.com, or reserve your copy at Amazon.

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