Caroline Bock-BEFORE MY EYES
Caroline Bock - Author of BEFORE MY EYES and LIE
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Unexpected Book, TV and Movie Delights of the summer of ‘15
FISH SELL...and other thoughts on BOOK MARKETING and MY POP


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Caroline Bock-BEFORE MY EYES

Bockposts Book News

Unexpected Book, TV and Movie Delights of the summer of ‘15

Labor Day. Unofficial End to Summer. But summer of 2015 had a few unexpected delights…

Re-read Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret. How ahead of the time was Judy Blume? unexpectedly fresh and relevant, especially since I have a ten-year-old daughter!

Television series…
Humans on AMC… Synths, a.k.a. synthetic robots, more humane than humans—and complete with British accents. This BBC drama is a futuristic take on the ‘Upstairs/Downstairs’ life with lots of plot turns and heart. Plus, I've read that it's already renewed for a second season.

The Strain on FX… The second season of New York City under siege from pulp fiction-inspired, Nazi-backing, vampire-infected creatures took the idea that NYC could be a dangerous place to bring up kids to new levels. A fabulous multi-racial cast, inspired by novels of the same name, make this well-written series worth watching. Plus, I've heard: expect more of THE STRAIN next summer! 

Jurassic World…Saw this with my kids and found, unexpectedly, it was lot of fun for me too Made me think again: how cool would a real Jurassic Park be?   

Mr. Holmes…I went for the cast—Ian McKellen as the aging Sherlock Holmes, and one of my all-time favorite actresses, Laura Linney as his housekeeper. What I didn’t expect is how much this would be a movie about the process of writing. If you are a writer, go immediately to see.      

I Believe in Unicorns…I streamed this absolute delight of an indie film about first love on Amazon…and now I believe in unicorns. If you liked "Fault in Our Stars," I suggest you watch I BELIEVE IN UNICORNS. It's now streaming to a television or computer near you!        

So here we are at another Labor Day, which has a special meaning to me. The setting of my new young adult novel, BEFORE MY EYES,is Labor Day weekend on Long Island, New York. If you haven’t read BEFORE MY EYES yet, I urge you to do so this Labor Day. I find there’s something unexpectedly metaphysically rewarding about reading books at the moment, or in the place, that they are set.

Onward to autumn!

FISH SELL...and other thoughts on BOOK MARKETING and MY POP

FISH SELL... was originally published earlier this year by the wonderful Washington Independent Review of Books...but I've been thinking a lot these hot summer days of my Pop and of his unorthodox real-world advice so I'm reprinting and sharing it here...

Beyond the Book
“Fish Sell”
On seeing the trade paperback of my book for the first time
By Caroline Bock
The cover of Before My Eyes hasn’t changed, but the feel of it has. Grittier. I expect it to smell like cigarettes.
It doesn’t.
BEFORE MY EYES by Caroline Bock 
I flip to the back first, as if the ending may somehow have changed.
It hasn’t.
On the last page is an advertisement for another novel, LIE, and I see that I wrote that, too.
I actually never forgot that I wrote LIE, my first novel. Though sometimes it feels like I never published anything (except that poem I wrote in third grade) — that someone else wrote all those words over all those years.
I can still remember that first poem. My father stared at it and its “tall, towering trees” published in the school’s mimeographed newspaper.
“Toots, we got a writer in the family,” he said with his kind of praise, expansive and vague. It took me a minute to know that he was imagining me older, not 8 years old. Until that moment, I hadn’t particularly wanted to be a writer.
If my father were looking over Before My Eyes, he’d ask the sale price first ($9.99), and then how many I expected to sell (a lot, maybe). And then he might ask: “Why don’t I bring the book down to Thunderbird?” He’d sell a few for me at his flea-market table in Florida where he sold souvenir T-shirts to Canadian tourists.
“I can’t promise you how many books I’d move, toots. I’m the guy known for the fish T-shirts, not books. Did you ever think of slapping a picture of a shark on any of your novels? Fish sell, toots.”
You’ll notice that there is always a mother, damaged or dead, in my novels. I’m working on writing a mother into my next book, but I may have to kill her off. My father raised me, and I have trouble with mothers.
I have never seen a shark or written about one. Before My Eyes is about paranoid schizophrenia, gun violence, and the teen psyche at the end of a long, hot summer. It is largely set at the beach, but there aren’t any fish.

Some people glance at Before My Eyes and ask, “What age is this for?” because it is marketed as a YA novel. I wrote it with teen characters surrounded by adults who don’t see what is happening before their eyes. I think adults should read it first.
If you read Before My Eyes, you’ll immediately glean that it starts near the end and moves backward. The world is different if you think you know the answers, but you don’t.

I see the world moving forward and backward at the same time, roots overlapping one another, the trees from my first poem. I see myself writing in notebooks at 8 years old and today. My father is gone, dead now, but here with me, looking over my shoulder, talking about fish.
“Fish sell, toots.”
The trade-paperback version of Caroline Bock’s Before My Eyes is now available wherever books are sold. For more about the author go to 


When the King of Siam disliked a courtier,
He gave him a beautiful white elephant."
….” In Dispraise of Poetry by Jack Gilbert
I made a great find this past weekend at Capitol Books, a used bookstore in D.C., with floor-to-ceilings offerings in a row house near the Eastern Market—a copy of the poet Jack Gilbert’s Views of Jeopardy, his first book of poetry from The Yale Series of Younger Poets, published in 1962. I am not a collector of things— I’ve never felt the urge to bring anything but words into my house.
I believe there may be a chapbook out there. I remember he published one while I was at Syracuse University, the one year he taught at this upstate New York college, and I believe I even bought it. But it’s lost to the years and a dozen or so moves.
“Three days I sat
Bewildered by love.
Three nights I watched
The gradations of dark.
Of light …”
            Before Morning in Perugia by Jack Gilbert
What I remember most about him was that he was slight man, white haired and in his sixties by the time I was his student. He was passionate about the poetic line and about women, especially those  he found himself with in places foreign to him, a guy from Pittsburgh, and I find that these passions imbued in this early set of poems.
“… When I got quiet
she’d put on usually Debussy
leaning down to the small ribs
bite me.
            Portrait Number Five: Against A New York Summer by Jack Gilbert
I think of him so young writing these poems, and want to cry out, but instead I read on, gorging on the lines, ebullient with my find.


Dear Bill Gates...ideas for your summer reading list

Dear Bill Gates:
I’m concerned about your summer reading list, heavy on nonfiction titles, lacking in fiction, classics, poetry, which reflect the common core of what I believe every educated American should read (of course, I will readily admit that this is totally subjective, and I want to stress that I am happy that you are reading at all, something I stress to my own children).
So, I have some alternative titles to your summer reading list for you to consider:   
-The Complete Works of Emily Dickinson, short poems, easy to read at the beach, or choose any other poetry collection.
-1984 by George Orwell. I am amazed at how often George Orwell’s 1984 is quoted, especially in relations to politics and to technology. I plan to re-read this summer, and I think you should too. “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the presents controls the past.”
-The “Battle Royal” section of Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison to understand the history of racism and pain in America. The entire the book is moving too, but it’s that chapter you have to read.
-Hilary Mantel’s Assassination of Margaret Thatcher: Stories,  or Lydia Davis’ Collected Stories, or George Pellecanos’ Martini Shot, if you’d like some terrific genre short fiction— one nice thing about short story collections is you can feel free to skip a story or two and still say you read the book. I’ve been reading a lot of short fiction lately—short fiction focuses the mind, and these stories all present character, image, conflict in the most concise way.  
-The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie, my son just read this in 9 grade – talks about being the ‘outsider’ and ‘other’ here in America better than any young adult novel. One other thought: Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming, winner of this year’s National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, written in verse. I have it on my TBR list and so should you.  
-Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, the Broadway show is a big hit, but the graphic novel is a deep and moving tale of a father and daughter— and coming out. And it’s always cool to say you read graphic novels.
I’m sure others would have suggestions for you that go beyond your limited nonfiction and science/tech-focused summer book reading choices— any others out there? 
I’d just urge you to go farther and wider and be more open and curious in your reading, and if you do, to share it with us all. 
Read on, Bill! Have a great Memorial Day Weekend!
Caroline Bock
*Full disclosure: I am the author of two critically acclaimed young adult novels: Before My Eyes (St. Martin’s Press, 2014) and LIE (St. Martin’s Press, 2011). You can also always read these book:)! More at

BEFORE MY EYES Now available as a trade paperback!

BEFORE MY EYES trade paperback now available from St. Martin's PressSharing good news... today the trade paperback version of my latest YA novelBEFORE MY EYES is available from St. Martin's Press. Why does this matter? It's cheaper than the hardcover version. It's easy to bring to the beach (if it ever stops snowing in New England, this is will be a plus). It's set at the end of a long hot summer (So even if it is freezing right now, you can read about summer). But is it a so-called summer read??  Well, it's a serious summer read—— about paranoid schizophrenia, gun violence, and the teen loneliness and romance at the end of a long hot summer. Lastly, it's been called a"powerful read," by reviewers and by many readers. Thank you for considering BEFORE MY EYES, which is now available in hardcover, trade paperback, and ebook formats, everywhere books are sold.

Character Building Excercises -the Fictional Kind

First some thoughts on character:
“Character is the very life of fiction. Setting exists so that the character has someplace to stand, something that can help define him, something he can pick up and throw, if necessary, or eat, or give to his girlfriend. Plot exists so the character can discover himself (and in the process reveal to the reader) what he, the character is really like: plot forces the character to choice and action, transforms him from a static construct to a lifelike human being making choices or reaping the rewards.       And theme exists only to make the character stand up and be somebody: theme is elevated critical language for what the character’s main problem is.” (On Becoming a Novelist by John Gardner, p. 54)
On the ‘”accuracy of the writer’s eye”
“….whether you’re writing about people or dragons, your personal observation of how things happen in the world – how character reveals itself can turn a dead scene into a vital one…. Good advice might be: Write as if you were a movie camera. Get exactly what is there. All human beings see with astonishing accuracy, not that they can write it down…. Getting it down precisely is all that is meant by ‘the accuracy of the writer’s eye.’ Getting down what the writer really cares about – setting down what the writer himself notices, as opposed to what any fool might notice – is all that is meant by the originality of the writer’s eye. Every human being has original vision….”  (p. 71, Gardner).
Pixar story artist Emma Coats tweeted a series of “story basics” here are her highlights on developing character:
#1 You admire a character for trying more than for their successes
-- Simplify. Focus. Combine character. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
-- What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
-- Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.
-- Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
--What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character.   What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against. 
--If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
1) Take a simple act, say unbuttoning a shirt, pulling on a sock, pouring a cup of coffee or milk, and write it in slow motion, that is, give it two hundred words. Don’t automatically lapse into hyperbole (and thereby the comic), but think of the effect: make it matter-of-fact, sinister, gross, full of touch, feel, sight, and smell.
Discuss how the manner in which the character performs the act shapes his character.       
2) Write two hundred words on a character entering a space (a car, a classroom, a kitchen, a backyard, etc). Inventory all the sense of the space as she moves toward the one thing that she desperately wants in that space. Take your time and describe in detail what the character sees, hears, smells, senses and knows—and doesn’t know—about the surroundings.      
Discuss how the character’s perceptions or point of view, and motivation or want, shapes this character.
                                                            Adapted from Ron Carlson Writes A Story by Ron Carlson

I've written two novels with multiple points of view... if you haven't read them yet, consider BEFORE MY EYES and LIE.

Write on!

Do You Live in The U.S.? Great Britain? Australia? Canada? FREE GIVEAWAY!!

Unrequired YA Summer Reading...

FROM CHELSEY PHILPOT'S Boston Globe article, "Seasonal Reading for Young Adults"

"The best summer books blend elements of typical beach reads (romance, adventure, mystery, etc.) with reflective themes that explore friendship, loss, self-discovery, family, and more. The awesome plotlines of these titles will have readers tearing through pages, but the original and complex characters will leave them feeling that these tales, like the season itself, were over far too quickly.

The lives of three young people — Max, the unhappy son of a state senator, Claire, a poet who feels responsible for her sister ever since their mother had a stroke, and Barkley, a troubled 21-year-old who hears a voice in his head — become joyfully and tragically intertwined one Long Island Labor Day Weekend."  

Read the ENTIRE LIST of thought-provoking, complex, new young adult books at the Boston Globe website... and don't be embarrassed if you are an adult reading these young adult novels!! 


Is the System Rigged? Can we give it A FIGHTING CHANCE?

I found Senator Elizabeth Warren’s new memoir, A FIGHTING CHANCE, so truthful it hurt. It hurt to be told the truth: The system is rigged for those who are wealthy and well-connected, a truth that doesn’t surprise, that isn’t exactly new, but is told in an eye-opening, refreshing, and at points, damn inspiring way.
The Senator from Massachusetts tells a few stories of her life growing up scraping the bottom of the middle class barrel in Oklahoma before moving on to college with a scholarship and law school. She shares how she was drawn into bankruptcy law and eventually to Washington D.C. and the worse banking and housing crisis since the Great Depression. She talks in plain-speak about politics and being a newcomer to D.C. and having the idea to form the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and her great disappoint at not being appointed its first director because she was “too radioactive.”
She describes being a wife, a mother, a grandmother, and about meeting Americans across the country and asking the question: Who is the American government working for?
Ultimately, she answers, “People feel like the system is rigged against them. And here’s the painful part: They’re right. The system is rigged. Look around. Oil companies guzzle down billions in subsidies. Billionaires pay lower tax rates than their secretaries. Wall Street CEOS—the same ones who wrecked our economy and destroyed millions of jobs –still strut around Congress, no shame, demanding favors, and acting like we should thank them.” She wants to celebrate success. But she, like so many of us, doesn’t want the game to be rigged.
I had the great opportunity to see the Senator speak in D.C. and I wanted to shout out at the end, “Run, Elizabeth, Run,”  and by that I mean for President. She would have my vote.
And if you haven’t read BEFORE MY EYES, my new young adult novel, isn’ it time for a serious young adult novel that PW and Kirkus Review calls, “gripping” about teens at the end of a long, hot summer, one hearing a voice and having a gun... Caroline

So cool... poetry on the Diane Rehm show...including my first poem!

Do you remember the first poem you ever wrote?That was the question radio host and interview extraordinaire Diane Rehm asked today on her WAMU/NPR radio show. I was at my desk, working, writing, and my third grade poem from Mrs. Murano's class, at George M. Davis Elementary School in New Rochelle, NY, popped into my head. As far as I remember, it is my first poem, and I wrote it at age eight. Impulsively, I tweeted it to her-- and she read it on the air! It's right near the top of the show. (click here for link) And here it is too:

In the woods
where there are
tall,towering trees
tiny,timid animals,
rigid, rustling leaves,
I stand there
just me.

I've gone on to write and publish more,including my new young adult novel,BEFORE MY EYES,(St.Martin's Press, 2014)which has one of the main characters, Claire, age 17, writing poetry, which is featured in the novel. 

Do you remember your first poem? 

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