Commencing ALA Banned Books Week 2017

Welcome, everyone, to the beginning of the ALA Banned Books Week 2017! All week bookworms and libraries across the United States will be celebrating and raising awareness for banned books. The Writer’s Scrap Bin is no exception.

From now through September 30th, I will provide you with posts designed to promote banned books and raise awareness of this issue which, sadly enough, still exists in modern-day America. These posts will include, but not be limited to, discussions of my favorite banned books, analyses of literary censorship overall, and at least one test video post. (Bonus: if the video goes well, I will be posting more for another special event during the last week of October.)

I already started the festivities by replacing the blog’s social media covers/profile pictures with artwork courtesy of the ALA. Here’s a link to free downloads from the ALA if you would like to show your support on your social media accounts and/or blogs. You can even download free banned books-themed coloring sheets and fortune teller!

Get this and more artwork from the ALA

You can join the movement in many ways, including writing letters to your local newspaper, library, and schools, join the Freedom to Read Foundation, and donate to the ALA. The ALA discusses more options at this link, and I’ll keep you updated on ways you support banned books not just during Banned Books Week but all year long.

I’m going to leave you with a fun banned books fact: the ALA top 100 hundred challenged/banned books of 1990-1999 was topped by the children’s series Scary Stories by Alvin Schwartz. It wasn’t just one of the books; the entire series was grouped into the #1 slot (the same thing happened some years with the Harry Potter series).

Be sure to check back frequently for more interesting challenged/banned books facts, and feel free to leave your thoughts on the issue in the comments below.


Designed by Stephanie Hoogstad circa 2011

Reader’s Choice Awards from TCK Publishing

I have another contest for self-published and indie authors, this time brought to you by TCK Publishing. It’s called the 2017 Reader’s Choice Awards. As the title implies, the contest involves readers voting on their favorite book from the list of approved self-published and indie book entries. The book with the most votes wins a Kindle Fire HD 8 Tablet and a book review.

Authors submit their books for entry, but the books must be approved before they are officially presented to readers for voting. There is no purchase or payment required but entrants must be at least 18 years old at the time of entry and a legal resident of the United States and District of Columbia. TCK Publishing encourages non-US authors to submit their books for the votes and exposure; authors outside of the US and DC just won’t be eligible to win the Kindle Fire and book review.

You may also nominate a book you’ve read through the same process.

There are many categories under which a book may be entered:

  • General Non-fiction
  • Advice
  • Self-help
  • Business and Investing
  • Health
  • Romance
  • Fantasy
  • Mystery
  • Thriller
  • Science fiction
  • YA and Middle Grade
  • Children’s Book
  • Historical Fiction
  • General Fiction
  • Memoir
  • Religion

Entries are evaluated by the TCK Publishing Reader’s Choice Awards committee and, if approved, the entrant will receive a confirmation e-mail from TCK Publishing and the book added to the voting page. Voting is opened until December 10, 2017, and authors may cast one vote.

For more information on how to enter, check out the TCK Publishing website. To read the current list of approved entries and cast your vote, go to the Reader’s Choice Awards Voting Page.

Thank you to Frida for the tip about this contest!

Do you know of any upcoming writing/publishing contests? Feel free to share the information in the comments below or e-mail them to me at


Designed by Stephanie Hoogstad circa 2011

Book Reviews: Evolution of FORCE by Sam B. Miller II

Warning: Evolution of FORCE by Sam B. Miller II contains violent scenes, some of which are also graphic and gruesome. There also suggestions of sex scenes and sexual innuendo. If you have a weak stomach or otherwise wish to avoid references to violence and sex, proceed with caution.

Spoiler Warning: This review covers the third and final book in The Origin of FORCE trilogy, Evolution of FORCE. If you have not read the first two books, be advised that this review contains spoilers for the entire trilogy.

TGIF, readers and writers! This week I’m shaking things up a bit by starting Friday Fun-Day with a book review rather than a writing prompt, quote, or contest. I’ve taken you through the series behind this particular review for a few weeks, and today I’m bringing you the third and final book of The Origin of FORCE trilogy, Evolution of FORCE by Sam B. Miller II.

When we last left FORCE and its allies, Yuri-Milost had betrayed Whatsit, Becky, Doug, Miguel, and Dr. GooYee, leaving them stranded on the war-torn surface of Chrysalis. Yuri-Milost escaped justice at the hands of the remaining FORCE team, but Whatsit and his shipmates struck some luck when the Chrysallaman Underground advisor Cherree rescued them from the Asiddian torture chamber.

Image retrieved from Amazon

Evolution of FORCE picks up where Dawn of Chrysalis left off, with Whatsit and company fleeing the Asiddians for the catacombs under Chrysalis and the rest of FORCE planning a rescue/revenge scheme back on Earth. While Whatsit, Becky, and Doug help the Chrysallaman Underground steal supplies and take on Asiddian commandos, Tom rounds up humans anxious to help their teammates and Chrysallamans longing to save their home planet. Heinbaum and Longarrow also busy themselves with technological leaps which not even McPherson knows about.

What unfolds over the following 300+ pages are action, deceit, leaps in technological and social advances, and an enemy which only the most discerning reader could foresee. Fans of gripping, traditional science fiction with a twist won’t want to miss the exciting wrap-up to this trilogy.

I can say that, by this book, Miller has pretty well worn down my hesitation towards alien invasion stories. As with the first two books, Miller has put a lot of research, attention to detail, and creative energy into Evolution of FORCE. Even with all the details about the new technology and alien societies, the book never loses sight of the plot and character development, which is both key to good science fiction and hard to accomplish. I admit that the names of many of the Asiddians are too on-the-nose considering they’re a bird-like species. I also could have done without backgrounds for characters who only appear long enough to die, but these issues are relatively minor.

The development of the inter-species relationships, particularly the Princess Peregrine/Miguel romance, and the entire range of budding romantic relationships add a personal dimension to the story. However, as in the first two books, my favorite dynamic is still between Heinbaum and McPherson. They are still the bickering, comedic duo we’ve grown to love—with GooYee now thrown in the mix—but Evolution of FORCE reinforces their emotional foundation. I rooted for all of the main characters to survive the battle, but I became most invested in Heinbaum and McPherson and desperately hoped for both to make it to the end.

While the mix of action and emotional strain enhanced the story, I found the pacing to often be uneven. Miller has a tendency to restate observations made in the previous books about returning characters, which causes excessive exposition and description that slow down the narrative. This problem is particularly prominent during the first few chapters. On the flip side, the final chapter feels far too rushed. I think that Miller could’ve spent a few more pages of description and action to draw out the tension as well as wrap up some elements without so much exposition in the characters’ dialogue.

These issues aside, the story becomes so engaging that the read is quicker than one would expect based on the length of the book. Multiple plot twists and new story elements kept me wondering what would happen next and how the trilogy would end, making it very hard to set the e-book aside until I finished reading. Sometimes the number of new elements confused and disoriented me, but that effect only fueled my desire to learn what happened next.

The Origin of F.O.R.C.E., first book in the trilogy

Unfortunately, there are many more proofreading errors in this book than the first two. I discovered many places where Miller uses a semicolon when he needs a comma, missing words and quotation marks, and other improper punctuation. Perhaps the most confusing and tedious for me is the inconsistency in the spelling of Princess Peregrine’s first name. Sometimes it spelled “Caroline” and other times “Carolyn”. The same inconsistency occurs in Dawn of Chrysalis but is more noticeable in Evolution of FORCE. These errors don’t detract from the overall quality of the book; they are just more prominent and, therefore, more distracting.

Overall, I think this book is a fitting end to a great trilogy. It ties up the loose ends quite nicely while still leaving room for Miller to return to this world. In fact, I’m counting on him deciding to expand FORCE’s operations and explore the reconstruction of human and Chrysallaman societies. I also hope that his note at the end, while promising stories that are different from this trilogy, indicates that Miller is not entirely through with Whatsit, Tom, and the rest of FORCE.

To read Evolution of FORCE and the other books in The Origin of FORCE trilogy, follow this link to Amazon. To follow the author on social media, check out @SamBMillerII on Twitter.

Know of any books I should read? Want your book reviewed on this blog? E-mail me or look me up on Fiverr.


Designed by Stephanie Hoogstad circa 2011

Fame, Fortune, or Fun: Why Do We Write?

Why do we write? It’s a question writers are asked over and over again, and no one asks us that question more than writers themselves. Why bother? Why write? Are we all looking to be the next J.K. Rowling, struggling to fulfill a dream of fame and fortune which, typically, turns out to be a fluke? Or is there a deeper reason for the desire to write, such as we see with the typical image of the “tortured artist”?

Image retrieved from Musecraft

I’m not going to sugarcoat it; I don’t know why I write. It’s one of the more prominent reasons for my on-going writer’s block. Lately, I’ve been focused on earning praise and making money through my writing but that has only served to stall my work. I worry that others won’t like my work which, in turn, would lead to a lack of praise and a lack of pay. The worry consumes me until I can’t write anything at all.

So, why do we write?

I subscribe to newsletters from American Writers & Artists, Inc., also known as AWAI. At the beginning of August, one of their newsletters covered this very subject. The writer of the article within the e-mail, Mindy McHorse, narrowed the most popular answers to “why do we write” to the “4-F’s”: fame, fortune, family, and fire.

For the most part, the 4-F’s are pretty self-explanatory. You want recognition, you want to make money from writing, you want to build a legacy, you have an overwhelming passion which won’t leave you be, or any combination of these. I suppose, in a nutshell, these are the main reasons why anyone would write.

The problem isn’t finding answers to “why do we write”; it’s deciding what our truest motives are. We can have more than one reason to write, even more than one primary reason, but that doesn’t make expressing our motives any easier.

Image retrieved from Mad Genius Club

Unfortunately, being unable to express our motives can throw a wrench in our efforts to achieve our goals. If we don’t clearly know what motivates us, how can we feel driven enough to put the work into our dreams?

I’m still trying to pinpoint the driving force behind my writing. I know it’s not the possibility of fame and fortune because of how the expectations freeze me. Do I want to leave a legacy? Do I just have a passion for my writing and my subjects? Right now, the latter seems to be the most likely cause, but until I can express that motivation with complete conviction, it will continue to block my writing flow.

Why do you write? Do you just want fame and fortune, or do you truly have a nagging desire to write your story, poem, or essay? Can you express your motivation? If not, do you think that inability is holding you back? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Also be sure to check out the AWAI for helpful advice on advancing your career and navigating/surviving the insane world of the writing industry.


Designed by Stephanie Hoogstad circa 2011

Writers on Writing: Toni Morrison

It’s been quite a while since I last wrote a “Writers on Writing” post, so I’ve decided to revive the series with a special double-quote post on Toni Morrison. Morrison is a celebrated American writer who has won the Pulitzer Prize, the American Book Award, the Nobel Prize in Literature, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and many, many more accolades. She penned such classics as The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon, and Beloved, the last of which was made into a movie starring Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover. For more information as this influential writer and activist, be sure to check out her Wikipedia entry.

I’m more than a little ashamed to admit that I’ve never read any of Morrison’s work. I haven’t even seen the Oprah Winfrey movie. I plan to remedy that sooner rather than later. Still, I do know Morrison as a black feminist activist, someone who has worked hard for equality for African Americans and women alike. While I would love to discuss her contributions in those regards, I don’t feel like I’m the right person for that. Instead, I will be focusing on two of her quotes on writing.

Here’s the first:

If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.

~Toni Morrison, retrieved from BrainyQuotes


This quote is so well-loved and well-shared by writers that you’ve probably seen it floating around Twitter and Facebook in meme form. Why not? It’s very true and, after reading it, seems a bit obvious. If the book you want to read hasn’t been written yet, why don’t you write it? Odds are if you want to read it, other people will want to read it, too.


There’s a catch to that. Once you’ve written it, others can judge it. Heck, while you’re writing it, others can judge it and try to influence its final form. If you’re not careful and don’t filter which readers you listen to, you may find that the book you write is not at all the book you originally wanted to read or even the one you want to read now.


That’s where the second Morrison quote comes in:


I’m not entangled in shaping my work according to other people’s views of how I should have done it.

~Toni Morrison, retrieved from BrainyQuotes


Morrison is essentially saying that she doesn’t let other people’s opinions what she “should” write hold too much sway over what she actually writes. If she had listened to what other people thought when she first started writing, she wouldn’t be the prolific writer we praise today. If she listens to what people tell her now, she might as well stop writing because her voice will be drowned out.


The world wants to hear your voice in your writing, not the same old voices it’s heard a million times before. What would be the point in writing the book you want to read if you don’t write it the way you think it should be written?


Many books we deem “classics” today were heavily-criticized, if not flat-out failures, during their first rounds of publication. Moby-Dick certainly wasn’t well-loved, nor was The Catcher in the Rye or The Lord of the Rings trilogy. J.K. Rowling’s agent even told her not to quit her day job. That’s not counting all of the works by minority writers trying to give a voice to non-Caucasian, heterosexual, cisgender, Christian males. We still have a problem with these works being criticized just because they don’t fall under the norm.


Morrison could not have hit the nail on the head with any better precision. Writers shouldn’t only write the books they want to read; they should write them in their voices with their visions. Yes, it’s important to listen to constructive feedback. After all, that’s how we learn as writers. Nevertheless, if advice feels so against the grain of our vision and our voice, how much credence should we give it? If we let others have too much say over how and what we write, it won’t be our writing anymore.


What do you think? Should we write the books we want to read or only the books that we “know” will sell? How much influence should other readers have on how we write? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.


Know of any writers or quotes I should feature in a future “Writers on Writing”? Drop a line here or e-mail me with your suggestions at


Designed by Stephanie Hoogstad circa 2011