Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Lady's Laughables

Kids are funny. Lady*, my six-year-old, is downright hilarious. Her outlook on life is, shall we say, unique, and she has this growly voice that makes everything she says doubly amusing. Below are some of her best lines (and some of I-gots's and Monster's, too):

Lady: "Those two cars are faster than a massive sandwich."

Lady: "Daddy, your hair looks like a grandma."

Monster (my three-year-old, after Lady jostled him, quoting Hercules): "Hey, I'm walking here!"

Lady: "This is my first time to finish a real, live piece of cake." (It wasn't.)

Lady (on the verge of tears, after breaking her three-dollar fairy wand): "Will I never cast another spell?"

Me: "You need to clean those toys up sometime between now and dinner."
Lady: "Okay, I'll do it later."
Me (a little later): "Lady, did you clean up those toys?"
Lady (rolling her eyes, quoting The Princess and the Frog): "Mom, when a woman says later, she really means never."

Lady: "Um, Daddy? Monster read my mind. I was just thinking, 'Let's play catch,' and then he said that!"

I-gots (my eight-year-old): "Did you know your heart actually looks gross? They don't look like the hearts we draw on Valentine's Day. If I ever saw a real heart, I think I would barf."

Lady (eyeing Honey Bear's nose hairs): "Daddy, is that a spider in your nose?"

I-gots: "I love Thanksgiving. For dessert, we get to eat pumpkin pie! I don't really remember what it tastes like, but all pies are delicious."
Lady: "It tastes like pumpkin."
I-gots: "No, it doesn't. That would be disgusting."

Happy Thanksgiving!

*Not her real name. Not any of their real names, as a matter of fact, but I'm sure you figured that out:)

Friday, November 13, 2015


To complement the Goodreads giveaway still going on for DON'T VOTE FOR ME, I'm giving away one signed copy of THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING and one signed copy of DON'T VOTE FOR ME right here on the blog. To enter, leave a comment below and tell me if you want to win THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING, DON'T VOTE FOR ME, or both. (I'll do two separate drawings, but you can enter both if you want to, which means it will be possible for one person to win both books.) Since I'll have to mail two of the copies currently sitting on my dresser, this contest is open to U.S. residents only (sorry!) and closes in three weeks, on Thursday, December 3, at 11:59 p.m. EST (or 8:59 p.m. PST). I'll announce the winners the next day!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Operation Every Child

The teen blogger over at Bookish Serendipity recently alerted me to a fundraiser she's started that I wanted to share with you. Operation Every Child plans to give each kid at a Toronto women's shelter two new books for Christmas. All proceeds will benefit the shelter, and teen blogger Jessica has organized the entire thing, making it not just a great cause but a great extracurricular activity. I wish I'd had such great ideas when I was fourteen.

(Fellow children's authors, if you're interested in donating books directly, feel free to get in touch with Jessica at contact(at)bookishserendipity(dot)com!)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Giveaways Galore

Sourcebooks has been great about sponsoring giveaways for DON'T VOTE FOR ME, and when I spied their latest effort, a twenty-book extravaganza over on Goodreads, I knew I had to join in. While their giveaway plays out over the never couple of months, I'll be sponsoring several smaller giveaways for THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING, and the first one just went up. It's also on Goodreads, so definitely hop over there and get your name into both giveaways. (The one for DON'T VOTE FOR ME is only open in North America, but the one for THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING is open internationally.)

The second giveaway for THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING will be right here on the blog, and the third will follow on Twitter, so keep an eye on both spaces to maximize your chances to win!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Bad Mom

I'm not the best mom (or the best blogger, clearly, but that's another post). I yell sometimes. I don't always serve vegetables. I avoid combing Lady's hair because I'm tired of the screaming. On the good days, I shake my head and tell myself that I'll do better, and on the bad days, I dissolve into a puddle of self-loathing who has to convince herself that she's still worth something.

I'll be the first to admit that motherhood doesn't come naturally to me. Well, some things come naturally--I dare you to hold a screaming baby that just got pulled out of your stomach and not fall instantly in love--but before I-gots was born, I'd never changed a diaper, fawned over a newborn, or read a book to a toddler. And I'd never wanted to. I babysat as a teenager because that was what teenagers in my neighborhood did, but the one and only time I had to babysit a baby, my mom had to come over and bail me out halfway through.

Now that I have kids of my own, infants don't intimidate me--but I still won't volunteer to hold them. And even though I have kids of my own, I sometimes wonder what I was thinking. Why I prayed so hard for kids I'm so bad at taking care of. Mothers are gentle, patient creatures who always put their children's needs above their own. They're not chemically unbalanced women who occasionally wish that they could trade their children in.

And yet they are because I am.

Being a mom is the hardest thing I've ever done. Every time I turn around, someone's peeing/yelling/fighting. There are no sick days, no vacations. Even if I manage to sneak away for a few days, I spend the whole time worrying that my mom won't know how to wrestle them into the bathtub or make their sandwiches just right. But being a mom is also the most gratifying. There is no amount of money/freedom/peace and quiet that can ever compensate for two sticky hands squeezing your cheeks and a slobbery mouth whispering in your ear, "I love you, Mom."

I've never met a mom who thought she was a good mom, but then, I've never met a kid with a hard-working mom who thought she was a bad one.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Book Recommendation: WHEELZ by Steven C. Fotheringham

When I tell people I write books, a lot of them tell me that they have a book idea or that they'd like to do that someday. No one ever tells me that they're writing one--except for Steve Fotheringham. And when Steve told me that his book was about his crazy-on-a-wheelchair son, I knew I had to read it.

As the father of WCMX (or wheelchair motocross, for the uninitiated), Aaron Fotheringham has done some amazing things. He's successfully landed multiple backflips in competition, served as a wheelchair stuntman in movies and TV shows, and toured the world with Nitro Circus and a host of charitable organizations. But it's his attitude that's truly remarkable. When a well-meaning preacher once assured him that he'd be able to walk after he was resurrected, Aaron's immediate response was, "What makes you think I'll want to?" Other kids had to leave their bikes outside as soon as they got to school, but he got to ride his bike everywhere he went.

Few people have lived a life as interesting as Aaron's, but what makes WHEELZ even more special is that his amazing story is told by his dad. Steve's also uniquely qualified to give us the inside scoop on all of the colorful characters who contributed to Aaron's success. I especially loved learning about Joe Wichert, the visionary recreation leader who brought skate parks to Las Vegas, and John and Mike Box, the wheelchair designers who made Aaron's first custom wheelchair and continue to outfit him with new ones.

WHEELZ affords its readers a behind-the-scenes look at Aaron's life and the rise of this bone-crushing sport. It's a one-of-a-kind book about a one-of-a-kind kid who never thought much of the fact that his legs didn't really work, and I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

And the Winner Is...

Ella Zegarra!

Congratulations, Ella! Please e-mail me at kvandolzer(at)gmail(dot)com to let me know where I can send your copy of THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING. And thanks, everyone, for celebrating DON'T VOTE FOR ME's release day!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Happy Book Birthday, DON'T VOTE FOR ME!

The summer started with a bang with THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING's release, and now it's ending with another bang as DON'T VOTE FOR ME comes out. This book is a lot more lighthearted (though THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING does have its lighter moments, too), but it occurred to me not long ago that, deep down, they're both about finding friends in unexpected places. I guess I feel strongly about that:)


"It's class president election time, and no one is surprised when Veronica Pritchard-Pratt is the only name on the list. She's the most popular girl in school, a social giant who rules the campaign every single year. David, for one, is sick of the tyranny--which he says. Out loud. When Veronica hears about this, she issues a public challenge to David. With his pride on the line, David accepts his fate and enters the race.

"But as the campaign wages on, and David and Veronica are also paired up for a spring musical recital, David learns this Goliath is more than just a social giant--and maybe deserves to win more than he does..."

For a reader's-eye view of DON'T VOTE FOR ME, check out the reviews over at Rebecca J. Allen (includes a hardcover giveaway!), Sahar's Reviews, and the Deseret News. (I used to deliver papers for the Deseret News, so it's like my life has come full circle.) And here are a few one-liners from around the industry:

"A comic romp that's also an enlightening quest for increased awareness and self-understanding"

"Van Dolzer keeps the tone light between David's wry observations, amusing friends, 
and the goofy predicaments he falls into"
--Publishers Weekly

"Readers looking for realistic middle-grade fiction will find David a likable guide
in a balanced lesson about ceding the spotlight"
--School Library Journal

You can order DON'T VOTE FOR ME from all the usual suspects:

And since I promised you a giveaway when THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING came out but still haven't followed through, I'll sweeten the deal. Leave a comment below, and you'll be entered to win a hardcover of THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING--and if you mention that you've already ordered DON'T VOTE FOR ME, I'll give you an extra entry! THIS CONTEST IS OPEN INTERNATIONALLY and closes in two weeks, on Monday, August 17, at 11:59 p.m. EDT (or 8:59 p.m. PDT). I'll announce the winner the next day!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Three Opportunities to Win DON'T VOTE FOR ME

Clearly, Honey Bear should have been an architect.

There are a handful of DON'T VOTE FOR ME giveaways floating around the Internet right now, so instead of tweeting about them one by one, I thought I'd put all the links in one blog post:


Rebecca J. Allen

Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile

You can enter the blog contests anytime in the next month, but the Goodreads giveaway ends next week, so don't delay!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Book Review: GO SET A WATCHMAN by Harper Lee

It's no secret that I love TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. (Case in point: the street names in THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING are my idea of a tribute.) It's been one of my favorite classics since I read it in the ninth grade, and when I reread it several years ago, my affection only grew. The scene in which Scout stands on Boo's porch and sees their summer through his eyes is one of the finest moments in American literature, and upon rereading it, I was literally moved to tears. So when they announced the publication of GO SET A WATCHMAN, MOCKINGBIRD's long-lost sister story, I felt an odd mixture of excitement, curiosity, and fear. My actual reading of the book stirred up even more impressions, the most pressing of which I've summarized below.

Atticus Finch's Transformation

When the first reviews materialized, I was shocked to learn that the Atticus Finch these reviewers had become acquainted with was a pale shadow of the character that had blazed so brightly in MOCKINGBIRD. But the Atticus Finch I found in the pages themselves was not nearly as terrible as those reviews had led me to believe. Yes, he joined the KKK in his younger years (and may have even been a member when he defended Tom Robinson). Yes, he's on a city council whose members spew hate and vitriol. But his reasons, which I won't spoil here, are much less inflammatory than these reviews suggested, and he lets those members spew their vitriol for one simple reason: because the Constitution says they can.

In my mind, Atticus's comments on African-Americans, which multiple reviews reported, are the most troublesome, for they reveal his personal beliefs. Do I agree with them? Absolutely not. But do they contradict the Atticus we came to know and love in MOCKINGBIRD? Unfortunately, I have to say no again. We get a fuller picture of his character in this follow-up, and it seems like he enjoys playing the part of benevolent protector. It's not bad to be benevolent or even to protect underrepresented people, but when you think these qualities make you better than the poor, dear souls you've taken it upon yourself to shelter, you run into trouble.

Of course, I can't complain too loudly, since I suspect that revulsion is just what Ms. Lee wanted us to feel. To make the point she ultimately wanted to make, Atticus had to fall.

From Contemporary to Historical

The book never mentions the year or even the Supreme Court case that has everyone up in arms, but based on context clues, I suspect the case in question was Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, which was handed down in the spring of 1954. Since MOCKINGBIRD was published in the summer of 1960, it's safe to assume that WATCHMAN is set sometime in this six-year interval. In other words, if WATCHMAN had been published shortly after it was written, it would have been a contemporary, but like MOCKINGBIRD, it makes a lot more of an impact as a historical.

History, as we know, is fond of repeating itself, and it's easier to swallow medicine in the past than in the present. Integration has strong parallels to the charged political issues of today, including and especially the issue of same-sex marriage. One conversation in particular between Atticus and Jean Louise had just as much to say on same-sex marriage as it did on integration, and I thought Jean Louise made important points on both sides of the debate. It goes to show that issues are issues precisely because there are thoughtful arguments on both sides, and yet we get so caught up in fending off the other side's attacks that we often forget to listen to what they have to say. (Even Jean Louise admits that her initial response to the decision was one of disagreement and defensiveness.)

Sequel or First Draft?

This has been perhaps the most contentious issue surrounding the publication of the book. Is WATCHMAN a sequel to or a first draft of our beloved MOCKINGBIRD?

In my opinion, it's neither.

To be fair, my judgment may be a little clouded, since I happen to think MOCKINGBIRD is one of the finest standalones ever penned, but hear me out. Sequels are continuations of a character's ongoing story, but it's clear that Ms. Lee never came back to WATCHMAN after she finished MOCKINGBIRD. As other reviews have pointed out, there are inconsistencies between MOCKINGBIRD and WATCHMAN, including one glaring difference in the description of the trial (which would have had a major impact on the final sequences of MOCKINGBIRD). To be a true sequel, WATCHMAN would have had to have been revised or at least proofread to match the narrative fleshed out in MOCKINGBIRD.

That raises the question of whether WATCHMAN is a draft of the novel that became MOCKINGBIRD, and though I believe it was a necessary stepping stone, I don't see it as a strict first draft. The story arcs bear no resemblance to each other (though WATCHMAN does include quite a few flashbacks to Jean Louise's days as Scout), and they're also separated by nearly twenty years. (Some might argue, as this article  does, that Tay Hohoff, Ms. Lee's editor, helped her craft the story she meant to tell all along, but since I don't know what goes on in Ms. Lee's head (and since Ms. Hohoff died more than forty years ago), I think it's impossible to say what Ms. Lee did or didn't intend.) Furthermore, I don't know about you, but I don't attach the first drafts of my manuscripts to the final proofs and stick both in a safety deposit box, which, according to multiple sources, is where WATCHMAN was discovered. First drafts are for obliterating, not for putting under lock and key.

(I should add the WATCHMAN is a lot less polished than MOCKINGBIRD, which adds credence to the theory I rejected above. WATCHMAN was quite tell-y, and while it's clear that Ms. Lee can write, it's also clear that her grip on craft wasn't as strong when she wrote WATCHMAN. If Ms. Hohoff encouraged Ms. Lee to show all the things she told in WATCHMAN, MOCKINGBIRD easily could have been the result. WATCHMAN also owes its emotional punch to MOCKINGBIRD, as the former's climax would have fallen flat without the latter's character development.)

If you feel squicky about reading a book Ms. Lee might or might not have sanctioned, I can respect that decision. But if you're basing your judgment on other reviews (including this one), I highly recommend you let the book speak for itself. I liked it much more than I thought I would, and it clearly got me thinking. And isn't that exactly what a book is supposed to do?