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Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Writing YA isn't about censoring but more about communication

Barbara Kloss

There has always been something magical to me about YA novels. It's not any one thing in particular, but if I had to focus on one, I'd say the main reason I love both reading and writing in that genre centers around the themes YA tends to deal with. Themes like discovering yourself and finding love for the first time or finding the strength to stand up for what you believe. It's during that period in life where we really find which platform to stand on. Where we truly begin the course that helps define the rest of our life. I love watching characters (and people) grow into who they were made to be and find the courage within themselves to become who they truly are, and YA, for the most part, tends to dwell there.

But what "can" and "can't" you write about for YA? I'm pretty sure anything goes, these days.

YA has changed so much over the years. The lines defining things we "can" and "can't" write about seem to have, well, gone, and more and more often I find myself reading something that surprises me, considering YA is "technically" ages 13+. YA has become more inclusive of what may have traditionally been referred to as "adult themes," because YA isn't just read by teens anymore; adults make up a large percentage of the YA readership. Twilight is proof of that.

For my own writing, however, I draw a line, but it's not because I don't think the YA readership "can" or "can't" handle certain subjects and situations. It has more to do with who I am as a person. Even as a reader, I tend to enjoy books that lean toward the "more censored" side. It's not that I like pretending certain aspects of the world don't exist. I know they do; I just don't like reading about them in great detail when I can get the idea in a few words or sentences. I also have a fairly happy disposition, so while I might appreciate darker novels, I don't typically enjoy reading books with a tone that dwells on the darker side of humanity, unless there is some great redemptive quality at the end.

Over the years, I've really had to think hard about the idea of what I "can" and "can't" write about in YA. But again – YA has changed so much, and I've realized it's more a question of what I "want" or "don't want to" write about, and the answer to that question is so different for every writer. Once I answered it for me, I realized that my answer would have been the same had I written for middle grade or new adult or adult.

It's less about censoring myself and more about what I'm trying to communicate. As much as I write for me, I also believe that I have a certain responsibility to those reading my stories, and now that I have a toddler, I’m feeling the responsibility of that even more. Do I want to write characters who learn the importance of forgiveness? Or do I want to write characters who desperately hold on to grudges and seek revenge? Do I want to show how important mercy is? Or write an emphasis on judgment prevailing? What kind of person is my hero or heroine? What lessons or sense of morality am I trying to convey? I mean really…what is the point of this, anyway?

There is such a rare and very beautiful relationship between author and reader; what am I REALLY saying to others about what I think is important in life? In relationships?

But how does that specifically apply to YA? I love the voice of YA. How raw and real and honest it is. I love its emotional potency and the focus on relational dynamics and personal growth, and I love that emotional connection I tend to feel more with YA than any other genre. Probably because there will always be a little teenager inside me, and I think that's true for most of us. Pretty much anything goes in YA fiction these days, and I think as a writer, deciding what you "can" and "can't" write about is more a matter of personal preference.

Breath of Dragons

After Prince Alaric's death, Daria and Alex set off in search of the legendary box of the Pandors'. The box is famed to hold a secret of power—one strong enough to overcome Lord Eris and the shield of power he stole from Valdon. Daria doesn't know where the box is hidden, but she can't ignore the silent urging, beckoning her to the land of Pendel—the land her mother, Aurora Pandor, was from
Time is running out. Lord Eris's army of shadowguard vastly outnumber Valdon's forces, and if Daria doesn't find the box in time, Valdon will need reinforcements from the other territories to survive. But those territories will not hand over their armies willingly, not without Daria's hand in marriage. 

And there is another, older power rising, one that hasn't been seen in centuries—one thought lost since the days of Galahad: the dragons.

Barbara Kloss studied biochemistry at California Polytechnic State University, and after she began working in a clinical lab, found herself daydreaming about far off lands and slightly deranged wizards. She, her husband, baby boy, and Lhasa currently live in Arizona, where she escapes the summer heat by writing about lush vegetation and moderate to cold climates. Author of the Pandoran Novels, a YA fantasy series.

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Saturday, 22 February 2014

Book giveaways and an Amazon gift card all to be won in this cover reveal!

The China Doll
By Deborah Nam-Krane
Genre: Mystery/suspense

Hypocrisy, half truths and lies...

Sick of being treated like she's going to break, Jessie Bartolome is back to her old ways and calling everyone on their hypocrisy. Sheesh! One little breakdown and even easygoing Martin Shepard thinks she's too fragile to handle their age difference. Good thing her older and equally yummy teaching assistant Robert Lester thinks otherwise…right?

"Beware of fragile things...
those edges are sharp once they break."

After spending so long cleaning up after everyone else, Jessie's cousin Richard has never had the time to start a life of his own. However had he managed to find his girlfriend Zainab? So what is Richard going to do now that everyone else has grown up? Marry Zainab and start a family? Things have never been that easy for a Hendrickson…just ask his cousin Michael.

Richard's mother, Lucy, is one of the most powerful women in Boston... so when is she going to put a stop to the blackmail ruthless Alex Sheldon has been holding over her for years? And if Richard knows more than he's letting on, why hasn't he gone after Alex himself? The question is, how much does he- or anyone else- really know?

Welcome to the Bartolome/Hendrickson family.

The China Doll is Book Three in The New Pioneers Series
“My dad drowned. My mom died in her sleep.”“How old was she?”“About twenty-six.” Jessie shuddered just a little bit. “Just a little older than Miranda is now.”“That’s awfully young to die in your sleep.”“Heart condition, they said.”“Who’s they?”“Richard and Lucy.” Jessie shook her head. “No. Just Richard.”“What did your aunt say?”“Nothing,” Jessie said quietly. “She just let Richard do all the talking.”“How old was he?”Jessie sighed. “Thirteen, I think.”“And how old were you?”“Four.”“So how do you know you remember it correctly?”Jessie looked at him square in the eye. “Because you know when you’re that age. When you’re a little kid, you don’t have to go through the apologetic BS you do when you’re older. When you’re eight, even. You just get it. And people think you’re crazy or in the way or rude because you get it and then you say it. So then no one wants to talk to you or they send you to your room. Then you start making up excuses for why they must be right and you must be wrong. Then you grow up, and you realize that you had it right back then, and if your world seems messed up, it’s because you bought into someone else’s lies. So don’t lie anymore, and everything will be just fine.”“And when did you come to that nugget of wisdom?”“When I was fifteen,” Jessie said quietly. “And I’ve been very happy ever since.”

Story so far...

The Smartest Girl in the Room
Genre: Coming of Age

Nineteen year old Emily wants her college diploma fast, and she's going to get it. But when the perfect night with perfect Mitch leads her to a broken heart, Emily is blind to her vulnerability. When the person she cares about the most is hurt as a result, Emily's ambition gives way to more than a little ruthlessness. She's going to use her smarts to take care of herself and protect the people she loves, and everyone else had better stay out of her way. But shouldn't the smartest girl everyone knows realize that the ones she'd cross the line for would do the same for her?

The Family You Choose
Genre: Family Saga

Miranda Harel has been in love with her guardian Alex Sheldon since she was five years old, and Michael Abbot has despised them both for just as long. When Miranda finds out why she wants both men out of her life for good and questions everything she believed about where and who she came from. Finding out the truth will break her heart. Without family or true love, will her friends be enough to bring her back?

Deborah Nam-Krane is a writer living in Boston proper who has been storytelling since she was a little girl and writing those stories down since she was eight. Any given day will find her reading, writing, reviewing, editing and, just for fun, homeschooling her three school-aged children (she’s very grateful the fourth is now college-aged).
The China Doll is the third installment of the New Pioneers series, the sequel to The Smartest Girl in the Room (March 2013) and The Family You Choose (September 2013). While her long-suffering editor works her magic on the fourth installment Let’s Move On, Deborah is working on the fifth. That book will be set in the world of Boston and Massachusetts politics, and her job will be to tone down the true stories she’s heard so they seem believable.

Deborah is all over the place on the internet- no, really- but the best way to keep in touch is to follow her blog Written By Deb and subscribe to her newsletter (only publishing news, never spam).

$10 Amazon gift card
5 copies of both The Smartest Girl in the Room and The Family You Choose


Friday, 14 February 2014

Writers, step outside your comfort zone and try another genre


Nikolas Baron
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard from a writer was to move away from the familiar, step outside your comfort zone, and try to write within a genre you’ve never tried before. During my time researching writing techniques, I think this is my favorite to get rid of writers' block but also expand a writer’s style horizon.

Writing in a different genre gets the creative juices flowing and makes the writer take a step back to the basics. But in order to write in a different genre, a writer must first learn the mechanics and stylistic choices that are common to that genre. For instance in romance you'd be more 'flowery' in your descriptions, but in thriller writing your sentences will be short to build on that sense of urgency.

This could help to reinstate important grammar and punctuation lessons, and maybe, teach something new. It'll certainly refresh your love for writing by using a new type of creativity. Albert Einstein once said, “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is insanity.” Writing in the same genre, about the same topics, and still getting nowhere isn’t going to help you further your writing career.

Writers' block aside, writers, particularly beginning writers, in my opinion should always try different genres to avoid pigeon holing themselves. When you’re a young writer, you need experience and what better way to earn your experience than trying to write in every single genre. It’s sort-of along the same lines as tasting foods. How do you know you don’t like it if you’ve never had it? How do you know you’re not a romance writer if you’ve never tried to write it? This technique can open your eyes to a brand new set of ideas that can help improve your writing.

Each genre has its own conventions, nuances, and grammar faux pas. This could be the opportunity to take advantage of these unique pieces. There’s something to be said about coming up with a new or mixed genre. Additionally, adding elements from different types of genres could increase your readership since you’re combining two or more genres in one.

Increasing readership is key to the success of your future works. Even many famous writers scribble novels under pen names in other genres. It’s OK to gravitate towards one genre or pick one final genre to put your official name on and then experiment with other genres under a pen name. But it’s typically in a writer’s best interest to experiment early and often when it comes to selecting the style, tone, syntax, and diction of their writing.

If you decide you want to publish your new genre work, a free proofreading tool can be a great resource. Grammarly (www.grammarly.com) offers free proofreading as well as a synonym generator, teaching tools, and excellent customer service.

If you’re feeling tired of writing, try a new genre to remind yourself why you loved creative writing in the first place. New genres can really alter the course of a writer’s style. Why not take a chance and plunge into a new ocean of possibilities?

Nikolas Baron discovered his love for the written word in Elementary School, where he started spending his afternoons sprawled across the living room floor devouring one Marc Brown children's novel after the other and writing short stories about daring pirate adventures. After acquiring some experience in various marketing, business development, and hiring roles at internet startups in a few different countries, he decided to re-unite his professional life with his childhood passions by joining Grammarly’s marketing team in San Francisco. He has the pleasure of being tasked with talking to writers, bloggers, teachers, and others about how they use Grammarly’s online proofreading application to improve their writing. His free time is spent biking, travelling, and reading.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Indie authors are outselling the Big Five.


It’s no great secret that the world of publishing is changing. What is a secret is how much. Is it changing a lot? Has most of the change already happened? What does the future look like?

The problem with these questions is that we don’t have the data that might give us reliable answers. Distributors like Amazon and Barnes & Noble don’t share their e-book sales figures. At most, they comment on the extreme outliers, which is about as useful as sharing yesterday’s lottery numbers [link]. A few individual authors have made their sales data public, but not enough to paint an accurate picture. We’re left with a game of connect-the-dots where only the prime numbers are revealed. What data we do have often comes in the form of surveys, many of which rely on extremely limited sampling methodologies and also questionable analyses [link].

This lack of data has been frustrating. If writing your first novel is the hardest part of becoming an author, figuring out what to do next runs a close second. Manuscripts in hand, some writers today are deciding to forgo six-figure advances in order to self-publish [link]. Are they crazy? Or is signing away lifetime rights to a work in the digital age crazy? It’s hard to know.

Read on, it's fascinating: http://authorearnings.com/the-report/

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Have you seen a pattern emerge from your novel writing?

I have.

I seem to write about loneliness. It wasn't a conscious effort to include this core emotion (some might argue it's a state of mind not an emotion), but it just seemed to happen. I'm not a lonely person. I love being on my own, but in reality, as a mother of four and from a large family, those moments are rare.
Your Amazon

In Eden the main character is deserted on a planet after a space mission goes horribly wrong. It's a sort of a cross between Robinson and Crusoe and Blue Lagoon only not on Earth. It's a 'soft' sci-fi, or as I prefer to call it, a romance tied up with a science fiction ribbon. Imagine being the only person on a strange planet. Scary!

Hunted is the sequel to Eden. This book is less romance and more focused on survival. The main character, Jenny, has found happiness on Eden, but her world is pulled apart when she realises she's been living in self-denial at ever being happy. Life's a struggle when you've no one to turn to and your mind plays wonderful tricks.

I tried my hand at a comedy romance with A Proper Charlie, surely loneliness can't feature in a romcom? But it does. Here, the main character, Charlie realises she's hanging on to her 'no good' boyfriend because she doesn't want to be alone, then she goes after an exclusive (she's a wannabe reporter), regardless of the dangers just so she can belong at work. It's madcap, with dry British humour but loneliness features in the book all the same.

But The Fall of the Misanthrope: I bitch, therefore I am is the only book that I wrote consciously with the theme of loneliness. Valerie is a hardcore bitch, or rather, a tries-very-hard-to-be bitch. I wrote it as a dark chick lit, chatty and funny, but with the under-theme of darkness from the main character. She's depressed, but hides it from everyone she knows. Of course, the paint flakes and then the cracks appear in Valerie's emotional state. This was the book that made me research loneliness, and I never realised it could be a symptom rather than a cause of depression. Or how painful and life debilitating is can be.

I'm introverted, but being and feeling lonely is something else altogether. I wouldn't want to go there... unless it's in my books.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Writing for children isn't as easy as it looks!

My February theme has drawn a blank since no writers of children novels have come forward to write the whys and hows of writing in that genre, and so you're left with me to fill a gap.

In the early days of my writing career someone once asked why I never wrote children's books. 'Surely,' they said, 'that's the genre to begin with and then you can progress to adult literature.'

Foolishly, I believed this person. I began my children's adventure book about a young girl who loved ponies. Out riding she ended up in an enchanted garden, and had many adventures with the strange fairy folk who lived there.

I took it to my creative writing mentor and excitedly showed him my first draft.

'Hmm,' he said, 'it's a bit Enid Blyton.'

Miffed, I went back to my story and tried to modernise it by dropping in 'cool!' and an odd 'funky' (bear in mind, this was the 80s!).

My mentor smirked when he saw my efforts. 'You need to do more than add youth-speak. You need to become a child. Get into their minds. And what ever you do, don't patronise.'

I never realised I had been patronising in my fast-becoming redundant story. But when I read it back, I could clearly see that I was. I was talking down to the reader, and recreating scenes from in my adult eyes instead of being that child again.

My career writing for children came to a very swift end, until now. My fifth novel involves a woman being taken back to her past where she relives her youth. I must admit, I was struggling, until I realised I could get around it by having her adult self inside her younger body (so she retained her mind and memories).

I've dubbed the book Crossroads, and researching the 70s has been a trip down
nostalgia lane, but as for writing for children, I'll leave that to the writers who can!

Crossroads is in its draft stage at the moment, and if all goes well, I'll publish it early 2015. Meanwhile, if you have anything to say regarding writing for children please feel free to get in touch via the 'contact' button at the top of this page. I'll love to hear from you!

Louise Wise