Friday, July 17, 2015

Feature Friday--I Asked Some Editors: How Do You Increase Your Chances of Success in Publishing?

Back at the end of May, I had the pleasure to attend a forum put on by the Northern Virginia Writers Club entitled "How to Increase Your Chance of Publishing." The event was proof that you should always solicit feedback, regardless of your achievements or degree of experience; I've been professionally employed as a writer and editor since I was nineteen years old, but still came away with some things I never would have thought of on my own. You can imagine my shock at discovering I did not know everything there was to know about this industry. That being the case, though, I was happy to enlist the help of the three celebrity* panelists:

  • John Gregory Betancourt, publisher at Wildside Press and grave-robber extraordinaire (this will be explained).
  • Denise Comacho, president of Intrigue Publishing and a refreshing voice of honesty in an industry where gatekeepers are known to struggle with handing out rejection.
  • Tara Laskowski, editor of SmokeLong Quarterly and recreational stalker, who divides her time between reading flash fiction and engineering a terrifying five-year-long plot to insinuate herself into my life (this will also be explained).

One thing I really enjoyed about this panel (beyond their hilarious/horrifying backstories) was that they came to the table understanding both sides of the publishing world: what it is to reluctantly send that rejection letter for a manuscript you'd really like to make work, and what it is to pour yourself into a piece of your own writing, send it off, then wait biting your nails in front of a computer screen as agents and editors look it over. John Betancourt, in his own words, wanted to be a writer from the time he was 13 and has now published over 40 books and runs his own publishing house. Tara Laskowski won a writer-in-residence contest with SmokeLong Quarterly in 2009 and has been the publication's executive editor since 2010 (which, in my mind, makes her the publishing industry's equivalent of Carrie Underwood and explains her propensity for wearing cowboy hats and bursting into breakup anthems at random). And Denise Comacho has devoted the greater part of her career to promoting outstanding writers and to facilitating the sorts of unique voices that the industry does not always give enough attention. 

These three had some interesting tidbits. Let's take a look:

The bookmark test and getting to the point

Denise: "I personally use the bookmark test: if I put a bookmark in this book at night, will I want to open it again first thing in the morning, or will I leave it sitting on the nightstand? In terms of what will make me stop reading, too much description does it for me, or if the manuscript is really bland when you start. I don’t want to know what they did ten years ago in the first two chapters. I don’t want to spend the first two chapters on the backstory. Unless it’s going to make the story move along, I don’t want to see it. It’s got to be a ride, with something going on all the time."

This one really resonated with me, as much of my daylight is occupied with editing manuscripts and failing to master Russian grammar, so I do a lot of my pleasure reading at night while sitting in bed. I was recently trying to get into the Falling Kingdoms YA series and found it just wasn't hooking me. Literally the morning I went to this forum, I'd looked at that book sitting on my nightstand and felt a twinge of anxiety, rather than excitement, at the prospect of opening it again that evening. The bookmark test is something I'm happy to steal, but make sure you attribute it to Denise!

John: "I want to be sucked in. Sometimes you can read a book, and the moment you open it you know you have a bestseller. I want that. Something that’s immersing, so that once you’re in it you don’t want to not read. Light and moving is good, and a little bit of humor really helps."

Tara: "In our case the first two lines, not the first two chapters, determine whether we’re going to take it. There’s a good chance you know almost immediately if it’s not going to work. Overly written material is a red flag: if you’re using ten words when you can use one, it’s not going to work. Disembodied dialogue is another flag. If two or more people are talking, and we don’t know who’s who, I feel like I’m reading a conversation between two ghosts. Humor in flash fiction is hard, too, because it can wind up feeling like the whole story was a punchline, like you’re reading a long joke instead of a short story."

Querying is more than just writing a letter

Denise: "Follow the submission guidelines. If you can’t even be bothered to read those, you probably won’t listen to anything else I say. Have a platform. Have a plan. That’s key. Make it easy for people to find your book. They have to find it before they can buy it."

I can say with absolute certainty that the bit about guidelines is essential. When I was an agent, I was receiving hundreds of queries every day, most of them for projects that were good or even quite good. When you can realistically only take on a handful of clients, but you're inundated with a ton of perfectly qualified authors, what do you do? You look for flaws. The wonky eye. The poorly coordinated socks. The slightly off-beat rendition of Sting's 1984 hit "Every Breath You Take." Or failure to follow submission guidelines. The field is competitive enough--don't give an agent or editor an excuse to dismiss you off the bat.

John: "Before you even get to trying to sell the book, you have to have a manuscript that is professional. That’s something an editor can tell without reading a word: if you have teeny-tiny font and no margins, that’s not a professional manuscript. There are rules for a reason. Know what they are and follow them. Formatting maters. For instance, if you have your name as a header, make sure it’s on the upper right rather than the upper left side, that way the first thing a reader sees when they flip the page isn’t the author’s name."

This seems a good time to mention that, provided you have a pulse, John Betancourt is likely not interested in your project. He makes exceptions, of course, for particularly lively manuscripts (get it? I crack myself up), but in general is looking to add to Wildside Press's impressive collection of rights to the work of deceased authors. This, I feel, justifies the following (actual) exchange:

Forum attendee: "How can I increase my chances of being published by Wildside Press?"

John Betancourt, grave-robber extraordinaire: "You could die."

Know your audience, in terms of both general readers and publishing gatekeepers

This image is relevant because there is no audience to which Betty White does not appeal.

Tara: "Reading the journal or magazine you’re submitting to is key. You don’t have to mail a check and subscribe to every one; there are so many good publications that have their full text or excerpts online for free that there’s really no good excuse for not being familiar with the publications where you’re submitting. My personal acceptance rate for my own work has gone up dramatically because I’m reading the places I’m submitting to and I can cater my submissions to each one. I also know who not to submit to. That’s important, too."

Tara knows a lot of things. In particular, she knows a lot of things about me. Like my musical preferences, my work history, and what I was humming to myself in the shower at 9 p.m. last Thursday when I was absolutely convinced I was alone and hadn't yet noticed that the front door was ajar. I suspected we might have met before (we were making platonic moon-eyes at one another for the better part of three hours at this event), and then discovered why: we're co-workers. Or were co-workers. Tara did communications work for George Mason University's PR office in 2010, at which time I, an innocent lad of 22 who had yet to encounter my first dangling modifier in a work of literary fiction, was working as a paid intern writing press releases for the same organization. Small world. Now we're best friends and stay up all night confessing secrets to one another and making S'mores**.

Refine, refine, refine

Denise: "Work with an editor if you can. It doesn’t have to be a professional editor; it could be a schoolteacher, a librarian, just someone who knows what they’re doing. But it can’t be your mom or your best friend. It needs to be someone who will be honest with you. And don’t write in an accent. If you say your character is Irish, I’ll know he’s Irish."

Note: I know of an editor named Ethan Vaughan whom I'm told does passable work. Kind of the Wal-Mart of editors, if we're being honest, but he's a bargain.

Rock that social media--and remember to be someone's fan

Tara: "You have to be a member of a community. Don’t just talk about yourself. Networking can be hard. Mingling and small talk is not easy for everyone in person, but it’s so easy online. I know one author who shares things about her kids, photos of her kittens, and is just really open about letting people see her and not just her work. And then when something happens professionally it’s like, ‘Oh, that’s so cool. She’s nice and now she’s being successful!' And make sure you’re networking. Writing is a solitary act, but being a part of a community is really important. Try reading for a journal you admire. Be a book reviewer! It’s a nice way to give back and get your name out there."

A million people standing on their own individual platforms with megaphones and screaming about how great they are just produces an incomprehensible roar, and if you do nothing but promote yourself, you'll find a cold and diminishing audience. Root for someone who's doing something cool. It'll make others want to root for you when your time comes.

Denise: "Make sure you have a website or social media—or preferably both. That is absolutely key in this day and age: you can’t be a ghost. I need someone I can put on a TV screen, someone I can put on a press photo, someone who can do an interview. The writing is not the only thing. You have to be able to speak intelligently about your own work. Social media is the first thing, other than the book itself, that you need to be looking at."

John: "A blog or a Facebook page is the bare minimum. Build an audience. If you want to be a writer, you have to build an audience."

Know when to stand your ground, but know when to defer to the experts

Denise: "The author knows what they like but doesn’t know what the industry will stand. I dealt with a situation where the author had written a brilliant book but was unwilling to make any changes, and we had to end the contract."

John: "The worst covers we’ve ever published have been covers authors insisted on. Most agree to redesigns based on sales. Just because you’re an author doesn’t mean you know what’s best in terms of artwork. There are people who have been doing this a long time and might know better than you."

I'm thankful to the Northern Virginia Writers Club for inviting me out, and to the panelists for providing their valuable insight. As always, I am available for editing work (with a current start date of July 30) and my rates can be found here

Until Trend Tuesday!

*"Celebrity" in this context meaning "regionally prominent independent publishers."

** This does not happen.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Trend Tuesday: Contest Winners!

These seven picks are just half of the top-rated entries judged by voice. We looked for thoughtful word choice, appropriate rhythm, and evocative imagery. Don't forget to see the other top 7 entries, featured on host Lara's blog! We had more than 7 perfect scores for YA, so you definitely don't want to miss the ones over there.

Code name: I'm Friends with the Monster

Your 70th Page (up to 259 words):
My plans were shattered now. I hadn’t figured they would abandon the hunt to hunt me instead. If I returned to the village, I would pay for Okomi’s life with my own or with banishment from the tribe.

“Talla, what happened?”

“I . . .” I stammered, unsure how to explain it. To anyone, much less him.

I laughed. A full-belly, grabbing-my-stomach laugh. I was standing on a roof, watching my mother and sister leave to hunt me down like an animal, while I hid in a town that wasn’t mine, looking for the man who had carried me to the woods and abandoned me. And now I was talking to the boy who knocked me out and left me like garbage.

I laughed even harder.

“Talla.” His voice was deep and steady. He held my arm now, and his thumb rubbed against the claw marks on my forearm.

I stopped laughing and took a deep breath. “I can’t go back.”

The truth hit me with full force like a punch in the gut. I couldn’t go back. I couldn’t go home. Not in a few days. Not ever. I’d spent so much of my life questioning how I fit in there, but it was the only home I ever knew. And now returning meant exile. Death. Or worse.

“Why not? What happened?”

“I happened.” In my mind, I saw Okomi and the monster. I saw my mother and my sister and Heart Father. Then, I saw blood. “I’m a monster.”

Word Count: 79k
Genre: Fantasy
7-word description for your MC: curious, compassionate, cunning; deadly aim and magic

Code Name: Cool blue reason empties on the page

Your 70th Page (up to 259 words):

I’m trapped on the inside, with all the crazy people, where my parents signed that I belong.


When we all arrive home Mom shoos us inside and locks the doors. She also turns the deadlock, which she doesn’t even do at night.

I watch her force the stubborn switch into place with a rattle, twist, and final click. I can feel the walls closing in on me. 

Does everyone feel this way? Imprisoned and unwanted?

“No one. No. One. Goes outside without an adult,” Mom says again with warning in her voice. Something more hides in her words—fear. I rarely see Mom afraid. Tired, sure—all the time, but scared? It makes me nervous.

Celeste stomps to her room. I follow behind her because I don’t know what else to do. Slam. Her door almost crushes my face.

Jude walks past me to his room, which is on the main floor with Celeste’s room and my parents. He looks at me and shrugs before closing his door too. All that’s left to me is my own room—downstairs with the imposters.

“Your mom knows,” Gail says when I walk past the door to the room she shares with Lynn.

Do I have to pretend they matter by responding?

“Knows what?” I ask.

“She knows more than she’s telling, just like the note. She didn’t tell me about the note, but she knew.”

Word Count: 76K
Genre: psychological thriller
7-word description for your MC: Vengeance is best served crazy and doped

Code Name: Love is a Battlefield

Your 70th Page (up to 259 words):

“And these?" Zinnia’s thumb brushed one of the wooden beads swinging in his dreadlocked hair.

"Not everyone wears them," Leo said.

A tingle of warning crept up her neck. Zinnia brushed it away like a worrisome fly.

“Why do you?”

He arched one eyebrow.

"I…shouldn’t answer that." He stood, moving away.

The dark forest was quiet. The monsters were either asleep or silently stalking their prey. A branch cracked in the fire, startling Zinnia.

"What do they mean?" She insisted, knowing she provoked him.

Leo turned sharply, meeting her gaze.

"I wear one bead for every death I've caused. It’s a warrior’s duty to know his crimes."

Zinnia looked away, grateful for the distance between them. Grateful, as well, for the reassuring weight of the dagger at her side. Then it dawned on her. He had finally let slip a clue about himself. She fixated on that, pushing aside thoughts of the murders he’d just confessed to.

"Is that what you are? A warrior?"


Leo stopped pacing and studied the girl across from him. If he wasn’t mistaken—and Leo rarely made mistakes when it came to the true nature of a person—Zinnia Delacroix was not only astute, but defiant. He had seen it even at their first encounter. With the Ambassador’s blade pressed to the soft skin of her neck, she had been ruled not by fear, but calculation. She was looking for a way out.

The Council was expecting someone malleable. Someone they could bend to their will.

The Council was going to be disappointed.

Word Count: 108K
Genre: Dark Fantasy / Romantic Fantasy
7-word description for your MC: Neither pawn nor player. She's queen bee.

Code Name: Like Real People Do

Your 70th Page (up to 259 words):

*This excerpt is in the POV of my Main Character's friend and guardian, Ari.*

It was devastatingly quiet the way the monster in my yard slowly killed itself. Someone should mourn it, but the Singers were too busy securing the compound and saving what lives they could.

I was the only one who could stand vigil, but I shouldn’t care about that monster plant enough to give it another second of my attention. I shouldn’t grieve the thing I had feared, but I couldn’t lose the sound of the song I had heard, and the gentle way it had bowed to me.

The whole yard was still. Only the stars moved above me, a shimmering twist that I didn’t realize meant tears were in my eyes until they fell down my cheek.

Far to the distance, inside one of the wind-tossed trees, I saw a glint of light. I narrowed my eyes and after a moment the light flashed again, in the distinct shape of two round circles. Binoculars. Binoculars trained right on my window.

We were being watched.

I slammed the curtains shut.

The Waxling perched on the foot of my bed, her face frozen in a friendly smile directed toward my mirror. She sat so still, she seemed like the waxworks she should have been.

And then she moved her head.

Henry ripped a bandage with his teeth as he sat on the ground next to the door. I crossed to him, my eyes on the Waxling as I helped him cover his wound with another bandage.

Word Count: 74K
Genre: YA Contemporary Fantasy
7-word description for your MC: Fragile, fierce, and funny. Confused. Statuesque. Biodegradable.

Code Name: I know a cat named Easter

Your 70th Page (up to 259 words):

Jack lights a paraffin lamp before he leaves, and the yellow light illuminates the bloodstains on my uniform. I try not to look at them as I undress.

The water is still steaming when I climb into the tin bath, but it cools quickly, and I don’t want to sit soaking in someone else’s blood. I look around for a towel.


I wrap myself up and climb onto his cot, trying to stop my shivering. He won’t mind having me naked in his bed, a thought that makes me smile deliriously.

All I can see is headless bodies, so I think about Jack instead. His face before my closed eyes, as clear as day. The way he looks at me.

Jack is good, for certain. Too good, too wholesome for me. But—

If he wants me…

Why shouldn’t I have him?

Jack deserves someone better. But he wants me.

The door cracks open. “Rebecca?” A whisper. “Are you… Can I—?”

“I’m decent.” It’s a lie. I tuck the scratchy wool blanket underneath my arms and stretch the muscles around my face into a smile.

Jack comes in, stops when he sees me, and then he slowly closes the door.

He’s holding a stack of clean clothes. My spare uniform. “Tilly gave me these. I’ll take your uniform to the laundry.”

Everything comes rushing back. The explosion. The blood. I claw at the blanket, which falls an inch. Jack looks away, blushing.

I need something else. I need—

“Jack. I don’t want to think about this anymore.”

Word Count: 67k
Genre:Historical Romance
7-word description for your MC: Sisters separated by war, reunited by love

Code Name: A Cavalcade of Anger and Fear

Your 70th Page (up to 259 words):

Vulnerable and sprawled out on the bathroom floor with blood still trickling from my temple, there was no way I’d launch into my crazy bird market story. Not then.

Maybe not ever.

“Don’t worry, I’ll leave my hair down. No one will even notice the cut,” I said.

A faint look spread across Nick’s face as he rounded the corner to the toilet, which sat in its own tiny enclosure next to the linen closet. Loud retching and a subsequent splash of vomit echoed through the bathroom. Those unsavory sounds, coupled with the even more disgusting sight of towels soaked in my own blood, made my stomach churn. Woozy and barely finding the strength to move, I rose up on all fours and crawled next to my brother, nudging him to scoot over before making a matching deposit into the toilet bowl. The stench from our puke, mingled with bleach fumes from Nick’s constant scrubbing, coaxed every last bit of dinner from my stomach.

“Why don’t you go to your own bathr-” Nick gagged again. “I don’t want to throw up on you.”

I pulled myself up and wiped my mouth with the back of my hand. “I actually think I’m done. Thank God.”

“This has to be the worst sibling bonding experience ever.” My brother gave a weak smile. Then he heaved again.

“The worst,” I agreed.

Little did I know that puking in the toilet with Nick was far from the worst brother-sister bonding experience we’d ever have.

Not even close.

Word Count: 68K
Genre: Thriller
7-word description for your MC: Doubts her sanity, but never her loyalty

Code Name: Little supernovas in my head

Your 70th Page (up to 259 words):
*The two MCs here alternate POV chapters*

“What part of ‘I don’t want to talk about it’ is confusing you?” His voice remained low, but it held an edge of “don’t push me further.”

When I spoke, my voice was barely above a whisper. “You should tell someone what he does.”

“My parents could help. It’s not right what he does to you.”

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “I’ve got one more year. Then I’m out. Whether I go to college or not, I’m not staying in that house after graduation. Depending on everything, I might get out as soon as I turn eighteen, but I’ve gotta put up with it until then.”

“A year is a long time.” He knew that better than anyone.

“Most of the time he’s not even there. I come and go as I please. I can deal.”

“Where would you go if you moved out?”

He raked his hand through his hair. “Haven’t thought that far ahead.”

“You’ll finish school, won’t you?” Fear of him dropping out ran through me like ice.

“Yeah, especially if I’m playing football. I’m not going to screw that up. Like I said, I probably won’t go anywhere until after graduation. When Robert isn’t around, I’ve got it made.” He touched the bruise carefully and shook his head. “How’s your salad.”

I stared at my plate. “I’m sorry, Jacob. I’ll help any way I can.”

He reached across the table and took my hand. I squeezed his fingers. If he needed a place to go, we had a guest room.

Word Count: 89,000
Genre: YA contemporary
7-word description for your MC:
Searching for identity, stronger than she thinks

Are you an agent who would like to request more from these writers? Comment below with the code names, how many pages you'd like to see, and your contact information. Alternatively, you may email veritylanelaraATgmailDOTcom with your requests. Winning entrants, it's your responsibility to vet agents and see if they would be a good fit for you. Writers, go cheer each other on with the hashtag #pg70pit on Twitter!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Trend Tuesday: Taking My Cues from You

For my first Trend Tuesday, I'm doing what any sensible person looking to get the pulse of a profession does: I'm handing it over the professionals! (Nudge, nudge--this means you guys.)

The great people over at MS Editing are hosting their #pg70pit contest, in which authors submit the 70th page of their manuscript into different genre categories and judges select winners for assorted literary goodies. It just so happens that I am one of these judges, so don't make me look bad--head on over there! The winners will be featured, here and on other judges' sites, to much fanfare and riotous drinking. See you later this week for Feature Friday!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

It's Time for Some Changes Around Here: The New Format and My Summer Reading List

There are many literary matters to discuss today, all of which you will no doubt find illuminating, but I'd like to open with a reflection on my last post. Remember that little caveat I put at the end? Telling you I'd be available for editing on June 11? As the teens in all their infinite wisdom say, "JK, LOL." I can remember thinking to myself, "I'll take it slow. It's only the first week of June. I'm going to just relax a little."

So cute I thought that was going to be a thing.

So, just to provide a little update, my editing availability now begins July 30. As always, you can contact me at if you're interested in any of the services I provide.

Now, on to the good stuff.

My blogging has been, as you'll recall, somewhat less than regular in the past. Graduate school and near-death experiences (good times) did have something to do with that, but I've decided that in light of my relatively light schedule this summer, I'm going to impose some order on this blog of mine. And so now, without further ado, is the GRAND AND ALL-ENCOMPASSING REORGANIZATION (as indicated by the preceding text, this is super important and you should pay attention).

Here are the features I'll be rolling out, starting next week:

Trend Tuesdays:

I really enjoy discussing writing tactics with you guys and providing different tools, but knowing how to write without knowing what's popular in the industry is kind of like going for a hike with one shoe. You need both boots to make the hike a success. Otherwise you're going to get one hell of an infection and/or write a story about an 11-year-old boy wizard named Gary Topper who's just received a letter via raven to attend Frogforks, a school for witchcraft and wizardly located in scenic Scranton, Pennsylvania. You don't want to be behind the curve.

And that's where I come in!

I'm going to, at least for the time being, resume my ninja-like agent's watchfulness of the industry, and report my findings to you every Tuesday. Expect some mind-altering wisdom.

Feature Fridays:

This will be a little more variable. I could feature an author I've worked with, open a contest, offer general writing advice, report on an event, or print an interview. The possibilities are pretty wide. Often, however, I imagine I'll draw from my...

Summer reading list!

I am so excited to finally be doing this. One of my great mantras for improving writing is to always be reading, and it's a rule I adhere to myself. Beyond that, I'm often asked what kind of editing projects I take on and am always forced to answer that my tastes run across the board. But now you can actually get an idea of what's fresh in my head. So what's on the schedule during these hot, lazy months?

1. Viper Wine, Hermione Eyre (Hogarth, 2015--Historical fiction/fantasy)

Venetia Stanley is a great beauty whose charm is legendary among the aristocracy of mid-17th-century England. As her looks begin to fade, however, she enlists the help of a dangerous concoction--viper wine--whose miraculous rejuvenating power comes at a dark price. 

Saw this and knew I had to have it! History and fantasy are probably my two favorite things (besides spaghetti), and so a book that combines both is a high priority for me.

2. The Creeper, Tania Carver (Pegasus, 2014--Horror/mystery)

Suzanne Perry thinks the man standing over her when she sleeps is a nightmare--that is, until she finds the Polaroid. A snapshot of her in bed captioned with the words "I'm watching you." Perry and Detective Phil Brennan believe the intruder is a serial killer who's murdered other young women in the city, but what they uncover as they investigate is far more terrifying. 

I've always been that person who can't sit through a horror movie, but I still like to scare the crap out of myself, and the good thing about doing that in book form is that I can just fold the page if things get too intense. This'll be a midnight-and-flashlight type of read.

3. Kindred, Octavia Butler (Beacon Press, 2003--Historical fiction/fantasy/African-American fiction)

A 26-year-old black woman from California is transported back through time to 
a plantation in the antebellum South and must figure out why she's been taken there and whether she can ever resume her normal life. 

This is another example of several amazing things colliding. Historical fiction? Check. Time-traveling fantasy? Check. Social equality issues whose implications are still relevant today (and are maybe even more relevant than when the book was written a decade ago)? Check. Very excited to start this.

4. In the Woods, Tana French (Penguin Books, 2008--Thriller/horror/mystery)

Four boys went into the woods that day in 1984, but only one came out--drenched in blood, sobbing in terror, and with no memory of what happened. Twenty years later, the boy has moved on from his traumatic past and established a stable career as a homicide detective...just as another child goes missing in the forest.

What can I say? The idea of something dark lurking just behind the treeline touches on a primeval chord in us. I'm hoping this won't keep me up at night.

5. Lady of the Eternal City, Kate Quinn (Berkley, 2015--Historical fiction/romance)

Life in the politically poisonous atmosphere of Hadrian's Rome was already difficult for Sabina, and that was before her husband the emperor fell in love with Antinous, the beautiful teenage son of her former lover Vix. Hadrian's passion for the boy pushes Sabina out and invites chaos in. Now her marriage, Vix's career, their very lives, and even the future of the Roman Empire are at stake.

Another historical fiction, this one loaded with the grandeur of Roman power and the taboo of ancient pederasty. I do, for the record, enjoy the occasional romance, and this book is probably the most different from any other on my summer list.

6. Eternity Road, Jack McDevitt (Harper Voyager, 1998--Science fiction/fantasy)

More than 1,000 years after the United States was wiped out by a mysterious plague, what's left of society has devolved into small pockets of early-modern-level settlement separated by vast tracts of wilderness and peppered with ruins from the ancient culture known only as "the Roadmakers." No one can remember anything about the country that build the massive, crumbling highways, but an elderly academic and an impetuous explorer are determined to find out.

All of these books will, I'm sure, be a blast to read, but this one is really just for fun. It's a bit older than anything else on the list, but with its surreal and dystopian elements it was something I couldn't resist. I've already started this one.

So that's the list. Tell me: what are you reading this summer?