Boys vs. girls… the battle for the books

The other day I was asked by a parent what book I’d recommend for their 9 year old son. They wanted me to give them some tips for ‘boy-books’ that they thought he’d like

My initial thought was that they were looking for books that had a little more:

And a little less:

And don’t get me wrong. It didn’t bother me. When faced with a choice between the latest Avengers movie or something pulled from a Nicholas Sparks book, a betting man would put money on Avengers being a more popular choice for guys. And that’s fine.

Okay, back to my story and the point of this post. They asked for a boy book, I suggested a book and they shook their head saying, “They were looking for something with more action and fighting.”

Cool— I made another suggestion:

“Ah, but it has a girl on the cover. I want one geared for boys.”

Wait a second… the book can’t have a girl on the cover? But it’s got these two kick-butt characters who are total fighters and they’re out for revenge… and … and … nevermind. You know your kid better than I do. Could they really have been saying that the simple fact the main character is a girl disqualifies it from being one a boy would want to read… Ahem… HUNGER GAMES!!!

I looked around the net and sure enough, I saw countless comments and message board threads and book reviews pointing out this trend of thinking boy books MUST be about boys. That’s too bad, and I think we’re teaching kids a lesson we don’t mean to be teaching them when we do that..

Again, I’m not saying that boys and girls will always like the same books. Of course not. But neither will all boys like the same books as other boys, or girls as other girls. And I’m not saying that publishers can’t target their marketing strategy to parents with boys, or to boys themselves. I’m just saying that we, as readers, and parents, and writers, should perhaps not paint books with the same predetermined gender color palette we seem to have for clothing.

My son’s into action adventure, Steve, what do you recommend?

This is one of my favs. Totally a clean read for kids under 12, and loaded with action and adventure and … Oh, wait, even though that looks like a boy on the cover, it’s actually a girl since the main character pretends to be a boy…. Darn. Luckily they have two covers. One with a character and one without!

My son loves books that involve soccer players. He’s 8 years old, any suggestions?

Oh, darn, foiled again.

What are your thoughts? Am I over thinking this?

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stop ruining my kids wtih your books!1!!one!!!

Didn’t think I’d make it today, did you? tsk tsk…

So I was asked a question the other day and it’s one I’ve been asked before. It’s going to be the topic for today’s post. The question was: Do you think literature for youth should have characters with strong morals, or at the very least tell a story that helps kids develop stronger morals?

When I hear this question I usually turn it around and asked if they believe literature for adults should be held to the same standard.

Of course, the answer is always “No!”

And yet, for some reason there seem to be many who share this belief that kid-lit requires a different set of standards.

But when it comes right down to it, my problem with the assuming kid-lit needs to teach a lesson or have characters who’d be good role-models, is two-fold: First, I believe the question doesn’t give kids enough credit.

Kids are smart. They’re savvy. They’re thoughtful. They are not going to jump off a bridge because a character in a book does so, and makes bridge-jumping look uber-cool. They’re just not. Nor will stories about wizards turn kids into sorcerers, or diaries of wimpy kids turn children into selfish kids.

That said, Caillou will utterly destroy your child, so keep that in mind!

The second reason is that when you require literature to teach something or have characters who are morally praiseworthy, you remove the possibility that reading is something people do for fun. There doesn’t need to be a reason to read beyond pure entertainment—and that goes for kid-lit too.

Just to be clear, I’m not saying kid-lit CAN’T, or SHOULDN’T teach something. Nor am I saying that it MUST NOT have heroes who are good role-models. All I’m saying is that it doesn’t HAVE to have those things.

I remember reading an interview by JEFF KINNEY, author of the DIARY OF A WIMPY KID series. And he was asked why his series seemed to resonate with the readership. His answer:

“I think that what kids like is that Greg seems authentic. I really strive to not moralize to kids or to have a strong, underlying message in my books. They’re written to be entertainment. They’re written to be humourous.”

I agree with Mr. Kinney wholeheartedly. But that’s my opinion, so I’m curious what you guys think.

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I’m actually writing this post at 1:00 AM, and many people who know me will no doubt assume it’s because I’m just up and writing. I am a very early riser, but 1:00 AM is early even by my standards. The reason I’m up will be the topic of today’s post.


My son suffers from this disease and it’s one of those things that I think a lot of people don’t really understand. Prior to my experience with my son I was pretty ignorant of just how serious it was. No one in my family had it when I was growing up, and so my experience was limited to what I saw in elementary and high school. Kids who were short of breath just seemed to bust out their puffers, take a hit or two, and be good a few seconds later.

As far as diseases went, I’d have assumed it was fairly mild.

But now… now it thoroughly freaks me out. It’s so scary to watch your 3-year-old struggle to get a breath, and know that you’re mostly helpless to fix it. Sure, I can grab the chamber and his puffer and try to get it on his face, but sometimes (most times) that doesn’t work, or he’s coughing so hard you can’t get the mask on him, or you do, but they vomit from the coughing—the whole time crying because of how scared they are.

It breaks my heart when the symptoms die down and he asks me why he can’t breathe well, or why his lungs don’t work very well. Or when we’re eating dinner and he tries to eat his green-beans because he says, “If I eat these, my lungs will get better and I won’t cough so much” because we tell him veggies make him grow big and strong.

I do know that kids can grow out of it, and that’s my hope for my son. But until then it’s this battery of medication from different colored puffers, to steroids, and pills that are given with near-religious dedication because when they’re neglected the consequences are severe. It’s hospital visits, and specialists. It’s wondering if it’s too cold for that walk he’s begging for, or for him to ride his bike when we go to the store. It’s him coughing so hard after two minutes on his scooter that he vomits and cries because he’s so scared, or upset that his new shirt is dirty now.

Really, it’s watching his fear about something that’s impossible for a 3 year old to understand.

And now, it’s sitting on the couch in the wee hours, holding the video monitor set up for his room, listening to him cough, and hoping that this episode doesn’t get worse.

I’m not writing this today because I am looking for sympathy. I’m writing because I think asthma is one of those diseases whose seriousness isn’t really understood—or at least the seriousness of it is not understood as globally as many diseases.

I decided this 30 day challenge was going to be me writing with as little over-thinking as possible. I don’t usually share such things but it’s something on the forefront of my mind most days. So there you have it 🙂

I Promise tomorrow’s post will be more up-beat!

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Likeable Characters (And creepy book gifs)

So often I hear people talking about books, and occasionally I’ll hear someone say they didn’t like the book because they just didn’t like the main character. They just didn’t seem like someone I’d like to spend the afternoon with.

Oh, no? You didn’t like them? The main character wasn’t someone you’d stay up with at night and tell your secrets to? You didn’t want to braid your hair with them? You don’t think they’d make a good wing-man?

Have you read GONE GIRL? That girl isn’t someone I’d want to see on the street in the middle of the day if I were surrounded by a team of Army Rangers and attack dogs. I pretty much hated every part of her. But I couldn’t look away while I was reading it. I was utterly captivated.

I read a great blog post on this very subject a few days ago and I’d like to direct you to it if I may. It’s written by uber-awesome literary agent Lauren Abramo at DGLM. Please check it out!

So what do you think? Do you prefer likeable characters, or do you love to hate the characters you read about?

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The Hat-Trick Post… And a Free Book!

I don't always play But when i do, i score hat tricks - I don't always play But when i do, i score hat tricks  Berbatov Hat trickHere we are, day three on the challenge and I’m surprised by how well it’s going. I have a very real problem with over-thinking those things I toss out into the great expanse that it the internet, and it usually makes me just refrain completely from saying anything.

But that was the point of this challenge. Get outside myself. Write freely and not over think it. 30 days of posting means I don’t have time for over-thinking things. I’m pleased to report that it *seems* to be working (but ask me again in 10 days)

Today’s an easy post. My update.

ABDUCTION (which is the working title for the second in my CAMBRIDGE FILES books) is written. Done, and done. I have completed one line-by-line pass of the manuscript, and have just started in on my second. After this round it’ll be off for one more beta-read, and then a proper copy-edit.

Then layout.

Then release.

Check back for more updates!

PLUNGE (Book 4 in my DEAN CURSE series). This book has been a long time in the making. I am not going to rush it, but I have tentatively committed to a 2015 release. More updates coming soon.

As I sign off, I wanted to give a quick shout out to another MG writer I know, Michael Blackbourn.
He’s running a limited time giveaway of his novel, CINDERCAST. It’s free. It’s on Amazon, and you can, Nay, SHOULD get your copy ASAP!

Here’s the link!

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Doing Number Two… Wait… that’s not what I meant…

Admittedly the title for this post could have been better, but as you all know I’m in the middle of a 30 day challenge (and by middle I mean practically at the start … Day TWO to be precise), and if I’m going to pull this off, I need to be fast. There’s no time for pondering better blog titles.

So some time ago I did a post HERE and HERE about books that have some rather unfortunate covers/titles. People seemed to like it so as I step boldly into this 30 day challenge I thought I’d share a few more.


I’m not sure about this book. On the one hand, it’s about time these stinking kids and their sub-par art skills are brought to bear. But on the other, do you really want to put their thoughtless scribbles in a book that will probably last for generations to come? They are kids and we should encourage them to… blah blah blah… 😛

Um, yes. Yes, I believe he does. Why? Because even if I didn’t believe it, I would know better than to question the divinity or our feline overlords within a thousand meters of an internet connection. The net, as we all know, is governed by cat-loving psychopaths who flood our digital world with enough cat-videos to choke a pack of rabid Tibetan Mastiffs.

But let’s be honest, shall we? Do pretty much anything on a horse and it becomes manly, right? Okay, anything within reason. Knitting, sure. French-braiding your own hair? Manly! In fact, I’d say the only thing that wouldn’t be manly on a horse is macrame. Then again, macrame is only done by people who are bat-guano crazy. It has no place in a civilized world.

If you don’t follow the instructions EXACTLY as they lay it out, you can have a fairly large mess to clean up. Trust me!

Again with the @#$@# cats. Oh, right, feline overlords…
I Love cats!

What get’s me is the by-line at the bottom. Why is your family running? What exactly do you feed old tractors?

Obviously. Nothing new to see here .

About time! I’ve been wasting time and resources on befriending others when I could… nay, SHOULD have been keeping the focus closer to home.

Chapter 3: Bonding while enjoying the Coin-operated kiddie-rides at malls.

Chapter 6: How to mug someone using a silver dollar and a free condiment from Burger King.

Chapter 11: Penny slots.

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30 Day Challenge (and Ninja Unicorns!)

I’ve been challenged to write a blog entry a day for the next 30 days, and I’m going to give it a serious try. I tend to need challenges like this to hold me accountable. Plus, with the awesome weather we’ve been experiencing lately I feel invigorated (I know much of the country is buried in snow, and you have my sympathy).
However, doing this kind of blogging is going to mean I’m going to have to put aside my typical over-thinking attitude and just go for it. So apologies in advance for typos and any inappropriate posting. Here is a totally appropriate picture of a couple guys dancing that will kick this 30 day challenge off right.

Oh, see? There I go already. That was inappropriate, and since I’ve committed to this 30 day thing, I just don’t have the time to remove it. Sorry.

I promise, future posts will include photos and gifs of people wearing more clothing.

I’d also like to throw the challenge out to other bloggers who perhaps need the accountability/encouragement/threats of public ridicule for failure.

So c’mon, who’s with me? ….. *crickets*

Seriously, if you’re with me, just comment with a link to your blog/website and I will be sure to dispatch an army of ninja-unicorns if you fail to complete the challenge…

*more crickets*

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I’m settling into my new digs now,  and getting ready to set more time aside for blogging and posting on  my website and Facebook page. I figured it was time to post something lighter to start things off.

Quite a while back I posted about some real, but unfortunate book covers/titles, and now I’ve decided it’s time for a follow-up. So, without further ado, I give you part two of the unfortunate book cover/title  collection.

Hope you enjoy 🙂

Pinata 1

have a feeling Todd is going to want that candy, and  in a few pages the Pinata is going to meet the business end of that bat. But hey, it’s a book about sacrifice . . .

These next two go together well, and I often wondered how I’d talk to my kids about such things… now I’ll simply get these two books and all their questions will be answered…
nuclear-war  atomic_submarine


The next book I have to admit gave me some pause. Being Canadian it was interesting to see a book about Canadians, and how we mysterious northerners are portrayed. Sure, we’re polite, we wear toques and sit on chesterfields. But… well, the four images for WHAT IS A CANADIAN seems a bit off somehow. . .


In Canada it is true that it’s pretty rare to see a French girl without her priest, so that photo is pretty accurate. But prospectors don’t wear hats like that. I mean, c’mon!

And finally, because I know this is a topic many of you will want to know about:



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Planting Roots

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My family and I just completed another move.



Moving 1


Okay, I know, I know, most people have experienced moving at some point in their life, but I feel I have a special relationship (love/hate relationship…mostly hate) with the process. In the past eight years we’ve moved eleven times. Don’t get me wrong, the moves were mostly for the best. We chased opportunities: school; work; life experiences. We did most of the moves before having children, which, now that I’ve experienced two moves with children, was a wise decision.

But for the past eight years we’ve never really settled. We’ve always had furniture in storage. We’ve never unpacked clothing for more than one or two seasons at a time. We’ve collected artwork and mementos from our travels and stored them in boxes. We’ve never even put pictures on walls for fear of impacting our damage-deposits.

The next move was always on the horizon.

And that’s why this move is so different. We’re finally in a place we intend to be for the foreseeable future. We’ve taken all our belongings with us—including pictures and artwork—and intend to fully settle in. We’re putting roots down for the first time in as long as I can remember.

I’m really happy about it. It’s only been a couple days, but I’ve even found that my writing output is increasing now that I have a dedicated space to actually write in. I’ll talk more about what I’m working on in the coming posts, but wanted to share a bit about my experience finally putting down some roots.

Roots… it’s nice to have those again.

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A writer friend of mine, A. B. HARMS who wrote a really cool MG story called BEWILDERED asked me to participate in a blog tour where a bunch of people blog about the same thing. I was happy to have the invitation and quickly accepted.

So the topic is the writing process, and there are four questions. Let’s get to it, shall we?
1)     What am I working on?

I always have more than one project going at a time. Right now I’m working on tweaking the outlines to my CAMBRIDGE FILES series. I am also finishing the draft of PLUNGE, book 4 in the Dean Curse Chronicles. I’m polishing another YA project for my agent, which I am very excited about, but don’t want to talk about just yet.

BUT that’s not all. I am also putting the finishing touches on a 7 book series of MG books that I’ve been working on for a while. I’m excited about these. They’ve been fun to write and I’m excited to see how they’ll be received.

2)     How does my work differ from others of its genre?

This is a really tough question. There are books like mine on the market, so I won’t pretend that mine beat a new path. But I usually ask myself if the story I’m writing is exciting enough to take the reader (a kid between the ages of 9 and 14, in most cases) on an adventure that keeps them guessing.

I want the reader to expect to be taken on a high-stakes adventure, and thrown some curve balls they weren’t anticipating.  I want parents to trust that my books are clean and age-appropriate, but above all else I want to give the reader a solid adventure. Stories of adventure were always my favorite kinds of books growing up, and actually, they’re still my favorite to this day.

Oh, and along the way I’d generally want the reader to laugh a few times too.

3)     Why do I write what I do?

Another tough question. “Why do you write books for kids, Steve?” is a question I get quite a lot actually. I read a lot of books geared for adults, and I have written books for adults too. I like writing those. But I LOVE writing books for kids. Despite having read thousands of novels in my adulthood, and loving many of them, the books I remember most fondly are those books I read when I was a kid. Books like Hardy Boys, or Nancy Drew; those Ramona the Pest books; Charlotte’s web, Harriet the Spy, and just a host of others that I still remember to this day.

4)     How does your writing process work?

I write in the morning. That’s when I get 90% of my writing done. I wake up early, and write until one of my kids wakes up. I tend to get up quite early though—around three o’clock (or earlier), so I can usually get a solid three to four hours a day. Sometimes more. (As I put the final touches on this post it is 1:45 a.m. and I am up for the day and plan to start writing as soon as I post this.)

As for the actual process, I am an outliner, and when I start writing I generally have pages and pages of notes on my stories. Usually I’ll have an idea for a book, then I’ll write some notes, jot down my immediate thoughts or a scene or two. Then I let that idea percolate for … well, typically several months while I’m working on something else. When I’m ready, I’ll polish the outline until I have a very clear direction for the story and the characters involved and then I start to put the rough draft together.

I can generally write a story pretty quick once the actual writing starts, but when I take into account the time I spend working on the outlines it’s actually a pretty long process.

Thanks so much for checking this post out, and again a big thanks to A.B. Harms for inviting me to participate. Part of the blog hop is to invite other authors to do the same and so next week (the week of APRIL 21, 2014) I invite you to check out the authors listed below and read their answers to the same questions. 


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