Posts Tagged ‘middle-grade’

Due to an insanely busy schedule punctuated by my son’s bronchitis, I failed to blog last week (bad agent, no cookie), though I did manage to tweet, Facebook and almost the whole nine yards. So this week I’ve very excited to wish one belated and two on-target happy book birthdays!

Last week saw the publication of HARSH GODS by Michelle Belanger, sequel to CONSPIRACY OF ANGELS, which Laurell K. Hamilton called, “A singular reading experience.”  This week (today, in fact) we have the release of the US edition of Genevieve Cogman’s acclaimed novel THE MASKED CITY, which both Barnes & Noble and Amazon have named to their lists of Best SF & Fantasy for September and also the wonderfully inventive and unique middle-grade novel UN/FAIR by Steven Harper.  More on all of these books below.

A few quick things first:

-Big shout out to Faith Hunter for BLOOD OF THE EARTH and Christie Golden for Warcraft: DUROTAN, both on Audible’s list of Five-Star Favs, this month’s top rated SF/F!

-Another big shout out to Amy Christine Parker, whose novel GATED (about a girl who grows up in a cult) made B&N Teen’s list of the 10 of the Best First Lines in YA thrillers.  I agree and have also added to my teetering TBR pile due to this list and others like it. Booksellers, you’re certainly good at your jobs!

-Alert! Now is your chance to win a copy of Barbara J. Hancock’s BRIMSTONE SEDUCTION over on GoodReads before it releases on October 4th!

And now…

harsh gods HARSH GODS by Michelle Belanger (Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Books-a-Million)

“A darkly vivid world… Her characters are intriguing, her pacing swift. More, please!”—Jim Butcher, creator of The Dresden Files 

The last thing Zack Westland expects on a frigid night is to be summoned to an exorcism.

Demonic possession, however, proves the least of his problems. Father Frank, a veteran turned priest, knows Zack’s deepest secrets, recognizing him as Anakim, an angel belonging to that hidden tribe. And Halley, the girl they’ve come to save, carries a secret that could unlock a centuries-old evil. She chants an eerie rhyme, and she isn’t alone…

“HANDS TO TAKE AND EYES TO SEE,
A MOUTH TO SPEAK. HE COMES FOR ME.”

As Zack’s secrets spill out, far more than his life is at stake, for Halley is linked to an ancient conspiracy. Yet Zack can’t help her unless he’s willing to risk losing his immortality—and reigniting the Blood Wars.

Masked City US.jpg THE MASKED CITY by Genevieve Cogman (Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Books-a-Million)

Librarian-spy Irene and her apprentice Kai are back in the second in this “dazzling”* book-filled fantasy series from the author of The Invisible Library.
 
The written word is mightier than the sword—most of the time…
 
Working in an alternate version of Victorian London, Librarian-spy Irene has settled into a routine, collecting important fiction for the mysterious Library and blending in nicely with the local culture. But when her apprentice, Kai—a dragon of royal descent—is kidnapped by the Fae, her carefully crafted undercover operation begins to crumble.

Kai’s abduction could incite a conflict between the forces of chaos and order that would devastate all worlds and all dimensions. To keep humanity from getting caught in the crossfire, Irene will have to team up with a local Fae leader to travel deep into a version of Venice filled with dark magic, strange coincidences, and a perpetual celebration of Carnival—and save her friend before he becomes the first casualty of a catastrophic war.

But navigating the tumultuous landscape of Fae politics will take more than Irene’s book-smarts and fast-talking—to ward off Armageddon, she might have to sacrifice everything she holds dear….

“A dazzling bibliophilic debut.”—*Charles Stross, Hugo Award-winning author of the Laundry Files

unfair.png UN/FAIR by Steven Harper (Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Books-a-Million)

It’s difficult enough to live in the neighborhood “freakazoid” house. It’s even more difficult when you’re autistic and neither your family nor best friend really understands you. So when Ryan November wakes up on his eleventh birthday with the ability to see the future, he braces himself for trouble. But even his newfound power doesn’t help him anticipate that the fair folk—undines, salamanders, gnomes, and sylphs—want him dead, dead, dead. Ryan races to defend himself and his family against unrelenting danger from the fairy realm so he can uncover the truth about his family history—and himself. Except as Ryan’s power grows, the more enticing the fairy realm becomes, forcing him to choose between order and chaos and power and family. And for an autistic boy, such choices are never cut and dry.

 

 

Read or Write Logo(resized)

Summer is about to begin! 

But just because it’s summer doesn’t mean we should stop reading and writing. I’ve teamed up with the YA Chicks and many participating authors (Rachel Caine, Amy Christine Parker, Rosemary Clement-Moore, Christina Farley, Vivi Barnes, Janice Gable Bashman, Tamsin Silver just to name a few!) on a global campaign to encourage readers, writers, students, and teachers to share pictures all of the places—both ordinary and extraordinary—where they are reading and writing. This is open to all readers/writers of both middle grade and young adult books!

You can also take part in…

A MONSTER GIVEAWAY! 

Vamped I’ll be giving away a copy of my first young adult novel, VAMPED, and also a Skype visit.

And there’s more! Every author participating in this campaign is giving away books, critiques, swag and/or Skype visits.

THIS GIVEAWAY WILL RUN FROM 9:00am, Friday, May 22nd – 11:00pm, Sunday, May 31st

So are you ready?

Drum roll….

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Can you guess where I am?  Here are some clues:

1- It’s a Southern thing.

2- Where Shopping is a Pleasure®

3- (Really, you need more?)

4- It really is super.

5- When I visit I throw caution to the wind and put all my eggs in one basket.

Once you’ve figured out where I’m writing, head over to the YA Chicks site and:

  • Officially enter the giveaway by inputting each author’s name and your guesses about our locations. Every author location you guess correctly increases your chances to win.
  • For even more chances, post a picture of yourself reading or writing on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #ReadOrWriteAnywhere (must have the hashtag).

For writer prize packs:

  • Post pictures of yourself writing in a fun location on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #ReadOrWriteAnywhere. Then follow the directions on the Rafflecopter giveaway to let us know you did it.
  • For even more chances, gather your writer friends together and post a group shot with the hashtag #ReadOrWriteAnywhere (must have the hashtag). And hey, since you’re already together, why not host a write-a-thon?

For teacher prize packs:

  • Post pictures of your class reading or writing on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #ReadOrWriteAnywhere (must have the hashtag).
  • Then let us know you did it when you enter the Rafflecopter. If you don’t have a Twitter or Instagram, you can email your picture directly with the picture pasted directly into the email (no attachments–we won’t open them) AND the subject, “Read or Write Anywhere.”
  • You can also check out the YA Chicks Read or Write Anywhere lesson plan, available on their site.

Now, what are you waiting for? Get out there and READ OR WRITE ANYWHERE!

In case you haven’t heard about #ReadorWriteAnywhere, it’s a great campaign started by the YA Chicks to encourage reading and writing specifically for (but not limited to) teens over the summer. On May 22nd, many young adult and middle-grade authors will be posting pictures of themselves writing anywhere with clues for viewers to guess where that might be. And, of course, prizes to be won for correct answers. But that’s not all! Readers, writers, teachers and students are all encouraged to share pictures of themselves reading or writing anywhere on social media with the hashtag #ReadorWriteAnywhere and then enter the Rafflecopter giveaways that will be posted for chances to win books, critiques, Skype visits for their classes, etc. You can check it out here on the YA Chicks blog.

To get you ramped up and show you how it’s done, I had some great friends of mine help out and take pictures of themselves reading and writing anywhere. So get pumped, get out there and get pictures. Ready? Set? Go!!!

I promised my friends at the Colorado Gold Conference this past weekend that I would post my presentation on When is it YA? on my blog, and I’m keeping that promise here.  Some of this may be a bit familiar, since I’ve written on the subject before, but there’s new here as well.

So, when is it YA?

It’s important when targeting editors and agents to how where your work fits, and there’s often confusion about when something is middle-grade or young adult vs. new adult or adult fiction. Is it just the age of the protagonist? Well, no.

For a quick overview:

Middle grade is considered fiction for kids 8-12. There’s, of course, a range within this from chapter books like the Magic Treehouse to series like Percy Jackson and the early Harry Potter books, which I would argue aged up with the reader. These books mostly have protagonists on the older side of the reader scale (kids will read up in age but not down). So, it’s very likely your hero or heroine would be 11 or 12. Word count generally hovers around 40-55,000 words, give or take.

-Young Adult is for ages 12-18. Of course, there’s a range here as well and again you want to aim for older protagonists to give yourself the broadest readership. Word count is generally 60,000-80,000 words though, of course, this varies as well. It’s not just about the age of the protagonist, but about themes and where the protagonist is in his or her life.

New Adult this is for older heroes and heroines and has more adult, often sexual themes. It’s generally the next step in the protagonists’ lives—the first really adult relationship—and it’s mostly seen and shelved in romance. Heroes/heroines will be late teens or early twenties and the books will generally be the length of adult fiction.

Adult: adult fiction can, of course, have younger protagonists, like Mark Haddon’s THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHTTIME or Jodi Picoult’s MY SISTER’S KEEPER or Orson Scott Card’s Ender series, but the themes and situations are adult. The characters aren’t dealing with high school and issues of identity, but having to deal with adult situations even at their young age.

So when is it YA?

Young adult and middle-grade novels do not simply have young characters dropped into an adult world, dealing with their issues.  They have young people in situations and settings that are relevant to their current experience and to what they’re going through. Generally, the characters are in a school and/or familiar setting, dealing with family and social issues that are universal to that period in life.

Common themes (and I say “I” and “you” because what any writer needs to succeed is to become his/her character while writing):

Finding belonging – where do I fit in? Whether your character discovers s/he belongs in the wizarding world or the in crowd, finding a place in the world is a major theme.

Rebellion – young adulthood is definitely a time for questioning the status quo and deciding what you really believe in and what you’re willing to fight for.

Survival – sometimes you’re fighting just to survive. Zombies. High school. Minefields. Mazes.

Self-reliance or the flipside, allowing others in – no matter who your character is, he or she won’t be the same by the end of the story. If she’s a loner, she might learn that she needs people and that there’s sometimes strength in numbers. If he’s used to a certain amount of safety, whether it be in financial or social status, something will happen to teach him how to stand on his own.

How to make a difference – change is sort of the buzzword. Whatever’s going on, there has to be a way for the teens themselves to make the difference and affect the change. Control and coming into their own are all important.

Overall, the most important thing is that the young adult protagonists in your story are the agents of change. They’re not catalysts or observers, they’re active participants, without which…nothing.

What about Language?

Just like it isn’t all about the age of the protagonists, it’s not all about language either. Here are some important things to keep in mind:

-Don’t talk down to your readers. Ever.

-Don’t preach

-Make sure you use relevant cultural references and not those that will be gone in a year. Your heartthrobs will not be theirs!

-Know how kids talk. Dialogue should be natural and contemporary. Language and sentence structure appropriate for your viewpoint character. They know when you’re faking it.

-Cursing – sometimes it’s necessary. Good rule of thumb, always make sure it is. Don’t use it gratuitously and be aware that for some lines, even that’s too much.

Taboos

Here’s a hint – teens know about sex and drugs and drinking. It’s part of their experience, so it will often factor into to realistic portrayals, although some publishers are certainly more open to this than others.

Young adult fiction isn’t adult lite.  It’s not the place to preach to kids or present things as you’d have them appear rather than as they are.  It’s the place where you address teens’ actual world, experiences, insecurities, pressures, etc.  Even if you throw vampires or werewolves into the mix, you’re still dealing with peer pressure, bullying, friends/parents/faculty/enemies with agendas of their own.  And the big secret…none of this ends with high school, which might be why so many adults are attracted to young adult fiction as well.  We’ve all been there, and in many ways have never left. 

The LA Times had a wonderful article recently on the widespread appeal of young adult fiction, where one author (Lizzie Skurnick) speculated that part of the attraction may lie in the fact that “a YA book is explicitly intended to entertain.”  I think another factor may be that young adult fiction isn’t broken down along genre lines, but is a category all by itself, which means that writers are less tied to any particular conventions.  A book doesn’t have to be A or B, but can be something all its own.  (Not that genre boundaries haven’t become increasingly blurry in the adult fiction market as well.)

I don’t think there are taboos of subject so much as differing levels of graphic presentation.  There are times where something might happen off stage or that different language might be used, but the world is not always a perfect or pretty place, and fiction should reflect that. 

That said, if what you want to write about is sexual awakening, you might be writing New Adult rather than YA. It’s a matter of the focus and the nature of the experience.

But death – yup, got it – THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green. Drugs –yup, that too—Ellen Hopkins. Eating disorders – HUNGER by Jackie Morse Kessler. Suicide – THIRTEEN REASONS WHY. Reproductive issues – UNWIND by Neal Shusterman. And those are just examples.

The important thing in young adult fiction is to be authentic and to make sure you truly understand your characters, their struggles and the significance of their triumphs.

Today, I grill…er, interview…my son about what he likes as a reader/books for boys/whether or not he’s truly King of the Fish People.

You all may know Alethea Kontis already (or Princess Alethea as she’s sometimes called).  If not, I don’t know what you’re waiting for.  She and her books are just lovely, and the author herself is the very definition of gracious!  But you don’t have to take my word for it.  You can see for yourself in my interview with her below for the YA Rebels.

If you’d like to hear more fairy tale rants, you can always check her on the web:

Website: http://aletheakontis.com/

Fairy Tale Rants: https://www.youtube.com/user/Thieftess

Fairy Tale Theatre: http://aletheakontis.com/category/fairy-tale-theatre

Perhaps you will even learn the queen’s wave done properly, as I did.  Darn, should have fit that into the video!