Monthly Archives: March 2011

Books Read in 2011 – March


Looks like I was slacking a little bit this month, but I’ve been doing a lot of writing, which means my reading suffers. Twelve books isn’t bad though. : D

A reminder of the rating system:

Outstanding. You need to run out & get this NOW!
Meh. I was not much of a fan.
Under no circumstances should you waste your time with this.

Day of Sacrifice
Stacey Wallace Benefiel
Stacey Wallace Benefiel
Kiss Me, Kill Me
The Way of the Warrior
Chris Bradford
The Way of the Sword
Chris Bradford
The Way of the Dragon
Chris Bradford
Young Samurai: The Ring of Earth
Chris Bradford
Young Samurai: The Ring of Water
Chris Bradford
Léna Roy
Imogen Rose
Imogen Rose
Imogen Rose

Book Review – Edges

Welcome to the first reaction and  Q. & A.  session review for KEYSTROKES & WORD COUNTS! Today meet, Léna Roy: author, blogger, mother and avid writing teacher. Read on to learn about her young adult contemporary novel EDGES, and what inspires her to write and what led her to write this story in particular. Be sure to stop by her webpages and follow her on Twitter (links located at the bottom of the review) as well!
EDGES is a powerful young adult story about addiction, recovery and forgiveness.  It was a quick read, pulling me in right from the beginning. I loved that we got two different stories that came together at the end. While it’s just a story and obviously the author can manipulate things to work out, it reminded me how small the world really is and that it’s not so unlikely that the lives of the two characters could be more intertwined than they realized. I enjoyed the familiar city setting for Ava and was able to easily visualize the unfamiliar Moab setting, where Luke sorts out his feelings, through Roy’s vivid descriptions. I would definitely recommend this book to others who enjoy contemporary young adult novels and stories of self discovery and the journey to recovery.

Q. How long have you been writing?
     All my life in some form or another! My grandmother gave me my first journal when I 
    was nine, and I’ve been scribbling ever since! Poetry, short stories, plays . . . but I 
    never attempted a novel until I started writing Edges eight years ago.
Q.  Who or what inspires you to write?
My inspiration and touchstone is my grandmother, Madeleine L’Engle. However, I also have the fear of daring to follow in her footsteps! But I don’t have a choice: I must write, published or not. Writing is the way I think. I am also constantly inspired by teaching kids/ tweens and teens. Their creative energy is amazing, and I especially love to watch somebody who doesn’t consider him or herself a writer fall-in-love with writing. Watching these kids walk through their own fear blows my mind!
Q.  Is Edges your first novel?
Yes! Although the first draft is an entirely different entity from the finished product! I rewrote it several times!
Q.  Did you have to do a lot of research? 
Not a lot, but some. I had to be very careful about referencing Hopi culture and kachinas. I had to bone up on my geography and cartography of the desert Southwest. I have many friends who are in recovery and went to a few open AA meetings.
Q.   Edges dealt with some difficult issues. What made you choose to 
       cover those specific topics?
I was a pretty wild teen myself and then in my early 20’s, saw two friends die of drug overdoses. I went to school to become a therapist, becoming very interested in healing and recovery. I lived in Moab for a year – the summer of 1996 through the summer of 1997, and I always wanted to write about my experience there. In Moab, I started a program for teens in trouble with the court system at Four Corners Mental Health Center. I found that the best I could do was to build trusting relationships with these teens and plant the seeds of recovery. At the end of 1999, my uncle died of cirrhosis of the liver due to alcoholism.
Q.   What prompted you to write from a mostly male perspective and did you find it difficult as a woman to write a male main character?
Luke was based on a boy I had met briefly at the youth hostel in Moab, who was only sixteen, and “living” in a tent. He had been there for months before I met him. And then he disappeared. I always wondered about him. And then one day, about eight years ago, this character “Luke” figuratively tapped me on the shoulder and dictated the first scene of Edges to me. I was compelled to write his story, and had to write it over and over again to get it right!
Q.   Will there be any kind of follow up on the characters (sequel perhaps)? 
I have just finished several drafts of a companion novel to Edges. It is not technically a sequel, but follows two other characters two weeks later. One is Bruno, the ladies man from Edges, and the other is a newcomer to the hostel. Luke and the others become secondary characters.
Q.   Does the Moon Flower really exist or was it based on a 
       real place of a different name? 
The Moonflower is loosely based on The Lazy Lizard Hostel in Moab! That is where I met my husband and the father of my children!
Q.   Do you have any suggestions or advice for readers who may have
       similar problems as some of your characters?
If you are dealing with the death of a loved one, please seek family counseling or therapy. If you are feeling sad and depressed, that is appropriate, but it is important to talk about your feelings.
If you think you or someone you love may have a substance abuse problem, you don’t have to be alone anymore. Reach out to others. AA and Alanon are not filled with old men in raincoats! There are many, many young people out there with similar problems. If the “group” thing turns you off as it does many, try not drinking or using for a while. Observe your feelings and reactions. Try to replace your drug of choice with a positive action. (Ava goes on a walk) Many teens I have spoke with have told me that the most effective way to understand about addiction as a disease is when someone from AA or NA came to their school and told their “story”. AA is not for everybody, and people in AA can be annoying (just as they can be everywhere else!) but the statistics for recovery from addiction are grim, and from my years as a therapist and dealing with friends and family members, I believe it is a path that gives the most hope.
Q.   If you had to recommend Edges to a non-reader, what would you say to
       entice them to pick it up?
It’s an easy, short read with a colorful cast of characters, full of intrigue, mystery and mess-ups.
Q.   Do you have any works in progress we can keep an eye out for?
I have the companion to Edges ready to send out, and I am also working on a novel about a girl who gets roped into doing reality TV show (based on my own experience! I was on an episode of Into Character – it was a reality show about making movie dreams come true. Mine was Bring it On!)
Q.   Where can fans follow or contact you?
I love meeting and interacting with people! I blog four times a week – so everything there is more current than my website. I also have a Facebook page for Edges, where I post music, pics and happenings.
Check out my website,

Find me on my blog

Follow me on twitter @lenaroy

And . . . EDGES has its own Facebook page!

An announcement


After Tuesday’s post on choosing what to read based on reviews, I thought it time to inform you all that you will soon start seeing reviews, of a sort, appear on this blog. I’ve recently joined a blog tour and will be helping others by reading and reviewing their work here.  My reviews aren’t going to be the typical discussion of “this is what happens in the story”.  I find I get too excited to share information about the book and give away tidbits I should be leaving the reader to find on their own. Therefore, my reviews are going to be a combination of a personal reaction to the story (how it made me feel, whether I enjoyed it, what I liked and didn’t like about it) and a question and answer session with the author. I think it’s beneficial for a reader to know what prompted the author to write the story in the first place and did they have to do a lot of research or was it based on facets of their own experiences. Doing a Q. & A. also gives me a chance to help promote other works and up and coming projects of that author. Personally, if I like a story, I try to find all I can by that person because I expect to find similarly good work.

If you enjoy the reviews, please be sure to comment on them and give the author some love. I know, whenever I post work for others to read, I’m anxious to see what was thought of it and to see if there are suggestions or questions the readers have.  If you do happen to purchase or borrow that work from the library, please be sure to give your own review or rating somewhere. It doesn’t have to be in depth,  every little bit helps.

Also, feel free to comment and make suggestions on the format and the types of questions I ask. I’m always open for feedback!

Strike out on your own or follow recommendations?


Have you ever walked into one of those mega bookstores and then felt totally lost? So much to see! So much to read! Where does one start? Do you stroll the aisles and look for covers and titles to jump out at you? Do you walk in with recommendations from others buzzing at the back of your brain? It can short out a book lover’s mind, not to mention empty their wallet.

How do you go about deciding what to read next? Between my Amazon wish list and my Goodreads emails from friends, I have an on going list of things I want to read but, on several occasions, there will be a lull where I may have books on the list, but they haven’t come out yet. That leaves me with the fun chore of finding something else. I say fun because I do think it’s fun to browse and find something the peaks my interest, but it can also be quite a chore with the sheer  volume of things that are out there.  That is why I look to the reviews. If I’m clicking through in Amazon and find a title or cover that catches my eye, I’ll check to see how many stars it has. If it’s got five I will definitely scroll down and read the blurb and scan the reviews to see why people like it. I’ll also look at the other books Amazon suggests to see if there’s something similar that I’ve already read.  If there are three or less stars, there’s a good chance I’m going to move on and click something else…unless I see there are only a few reviewers and it’s one of those 99 cents or $2.99 books. Those things lead me to think it’s a new author or someone who’s just entering the self publishing scene. That always strikes my interest so I’ll read what it’s about and be much more willing to give it a shot, even if the reviews aren’t stellar.

The occasions where I just pick something up without recommendation or without reading a review are rare these days. That’s why I find it’s so important to get word out there of your work. Get ARCs to book bloggers, they can rocket your story to success. Take the time to go on Amazon or Goodreads or where ever and give your own ratings and reviews of things you read. Wouldn’t it be nice to know you helped spread the word of an amazing book? Perhaps karma will shine down and someone will do the same for you when you get your stuff out there.

Adding Art


I’m the queen of procrastination. When I should be working on a story, something else is always glistening off to the side of my vision, calling to me. Come! Be distracted! Play with something else! This week, it’s been making mock covers for some of my stories. At least I can feel a little less guilty because it relates to my writing and should I ever decide to go the self publishing route, I will have an idea of what I want to use as a cover.  The problem with making mock covers is that if I don’t have a source photo that I took myself or an image I drew, it’s not something I can ever use in publishing unless I get permission from the original artist. I’m not sure how it works if you take a source image and drastically change it through a photo manipulation program. I’ll have to do some looking into that.

For example, the mock cover for my soft sci-fi YA novel, I found an image online of a silhouette of a woman riding a horse. Perfect!…Except the “horses” in my story are called double heads because, well, they have two necks and heads, so I did some manipulation and added the second head. I also colored the sand and added the faded cat eye to represent the Felinian characters that live on the planet. Fun to make, but again, not really my “art”, therefore I don’t think it’s Kosher to ever use for anything but fun.

Now the spoof story I’m working on, Tears of a Clown, that cover is actually an image of myself transformed into a clown. Because the photo is my own, I could definitely use it should I ever decided to self publish it. The only problem here? I don’t think I look anything like the main character (I look super mean in the photo and far too old to pass for a high school student). Who knows, maybe I can talk one of my friends into posing for an image to get made into a clown for me if the need arises.
I laugh every time I look at it. I look so mean!

I won’t bore you guys with everything I’ve made, but probably my favorite to date is the cover I made for my YA fantasy story: Embers to Ashes: A destined journey (which some of you may be reading along with!). Again I used an image I found online, BUT I like it so much I may ask for permission to use it, or try to draw something similar myself. Since it’s an outline and not super detailed, I may be able to make something I like and get out of the whole begging for use of it bit. I do love how it turned out. So cool!

This is about the extent of my artistic talents as far as relating to my writing goes. I wish I was a good enough artist to sketch some of my characters, but they don’t end up looking realistic in the least. Do you find it helpful to draw your characters or specific scenes in your stories to help you describe them better? I suppose I use photographs to an extent. Maybe I should start asking my friends to cosplay characters so I can have a photo shoot. What fun that would be!  Also, if there’s anyone out there who’d want to take a stab at some fan art, I’d be your new best friend and pimp it all over the internet!

I do wonder though, if the whole e-book and self-publishing thing is putting illustrators out of work. I’ve downloaded books with very basic covers that were probably made by the authors, and some with no cover image at all! I know my Kindle doesn’t show the covers unless I go look at it, but I like getting an idea for the feel of the book by seeing what the cover looks like. I was also concerned that books which actually contain illustrations within the story might not be converted into e-books, for example, Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan and Behemoth. When I first read Leviathan I fell in love with the included illustrations that really helped me see what Westerfeld’s creatures and machines looked like. Of course I could have just tried to picture them in my mind, but I love that he included them and I think they really add a lot to the story. I was worried that the e-book version of Behemoth  would leave out the illustrations, so I sent a Tweet to Scott Westerfeld and asked. Much to my surprise, he answered me back to let me know that yes, the e-book versions do still contain illustrations, but obviously the hard cover versions look much better. That made my day! I know you don’t find many MG or YA books with illustrations anymore, but I hope people realize that it’s still possible to have them, even if you’re going to self publish an e-book only.

How does art work into your own writing? Covers? Images? Character sketchs?  I would definitely include music into your art scheme since I know many make up specific playlists to go with the mood of their stories. If you’ve got some, share your work with us!