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6 Seconds of Life by Tonya Fitzharris is not a comfortable book to read, but for me it was worth the discomfit it caused. 6 Seconds is built around a single conceit: our main character jumps off a bridge at the very beginning of the book and is going to splash down six seconds later. The entire book takes place in the world of her memory as she plunges toward likely death. I was talking with Dawn about this book the other night, and she said "Oh, it sounds like An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge." I hadn't made that connection, but she's at least partially right - in the moments before death, the world slows down and gives plenty of time for reflection.
     The main character is a young girl, but I wouldn't consider this a Young Adult novel, at least not in the high-concept meaning that has taken over Hollywood. This is a serious look at mental illness, and the author does an excellent job of helping you to see inside the mind of someone who is losing their mind. Many of the usual suspects are here - dissolving family life that was never good to begin with, poor self-image, alcohol abuse and more - but none of it is handled in a cliche way. In fact it is presented in a straight-forward way that doesn't invite sympathy but finds it anyway.
     This was a slightly painful read for me, but I don't mind when books make me a little uncomfortable. I like to be challenged. The framework was slightly limiting - after all, she had already jumped -  but even that inevitability worked well for me. One of the things I really liked about this book is that I came away from it with a perspective I didn't have when I began it. Another good thing was that the author never came out and described Maura, the main character. Instead, she let us see her two ways: as homely and unattractive (as seen through her own eyes) and as attractive and desirable (as seen through the eyes of others.) This did a great job of showing how our perceptions of ourselves can be so warped.

Guest Blog - Tonya Fitzharris

                          Pet Peeves of the Publishing Industry

               I myself am not a member of the formal “publishing industry,” mostly because of some of their tactics and practices that just rub me the wrong way. 

               I shall explain.

               First and foremost, the whole idea of buying and pushing books with high commercial appeal bothers me. I personally think of it this way: The Big 6 Publishers are like the Hollywood of the book world.  They want those huge summer blockbusters that are guaranteed to sell. On the other hand, you have the indie film world, which doesn’t really care about churning out moneymakers, but more about small stories with a lot of heart. They’re quiet films about normal everyday people, encountering normal everyday problems that we all can relate to—the stories I myself love. Indie publishing is the same thing in my mind.

               Now I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with the big Hollywood-esque books put out by The Big 6—I’ve read many of them and enjoyed them.  And they’ve been known to put out those great “quiet” books once in a while as well. But I feel as the competition to win that publishing prize gets more and more difficult (as it inevitably is), only those authors with the big money maker/summer blockbuster stories will make it in. And that’s such a shame to me, because more often than not it’s the quiet, character-driven stories that really touch lives. The stories that make a difference.

               Another pet peeve of mine is the often narrow-mindedness of the people in the publishing world—more specifically, in the YA publishing world. One of the biggest issues with me is their denial of the fact that there is a very strong market for older YA characters in the 18-24 range, which has been dubbed “New Adult” literature. A publishing house coined the term back in 2009 when they hosted a contest for entrants with manuscripts in this age range, and the response was amazing. So many people came out of the woodwork and shared their mutual love for stories about kids in college (and beyond), and it seemed to start somewhat of a revolution.

               Unfortunately, that publishing house never stuck with the idea. The New Adult line was never created. But the seed had been planted, and all of the fans have made it their own. There are tons of authors self-publishing their New Adult novels and reaching remarkable success. Yet most of the publishing industry still doesn’t acknowledge this. They still insist there is simply no market for books about 18-24 year olds. Why? Because they don’t know where it will fit in on bookstore shelves? Who the hell cares?

               Enough venting. I know that there are plenty of things about the publishing world that work—some truly great authors have found more success than they ever imagined. But as things are the way they are now, some fantastic authors with smaller stories about characters who don’t necessarily fit into some of the rigid categories are being brushed off. There are so many stories the world may never get to read.

               And everyone’s story should have a place in the world.

 


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    Shawn Inmon

    I am a writer, Realtor, KISS imitator and sales trainer. But, more than these, I am a husband, father, grandfather and caretaker of two chocolate Labs.

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