Monthly Archives: July 2011

Wednesday teaser!

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Here’s a little teaser of a project I’ve been working on for years, tentatively titled Near Death.

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Chris walked into the room looking around for an empty seat. There was only one in the class and it was right next to Sara.  He felt uncomfortable being near her, but had no choice but to sit there.  She smiled when he sat down.
“How nice that we’re in the same class,” she said trying to be friendly.
“How sad of you to be manipulating Gabriel like you are,” he told her bluntly. Her smile momentarily slipped from her face and Chris saw pure hatred in her eyes.
“I don’t know what you’re referring to Chris.” Her smile back in place. “This class is pretty easy but if you need any help please don’t hesitate to ask me.” She was quiet for a couple of minutes, waiting for the teacher to arrive.
“I heard that you and Aya were involved in that big bus accident the other night,” she said casually. “How horrible. Both of you are lucky to be alive.”     
“It wasn’t our time,” he said flatly. “How horrible of you to try and force your time.”
“Force my time? I was simply doing what I had to to survive.” Chris looked at her, disgusted with her attitude.  He shook his head slowly.
“If you’re not careful with your other problem, your time will come sooner than you think,” he said.
“My other problem?” she asked. “I have no other problems.”
“Maybe the fact that you don’t think it’s a problem, is the problem.”
She glared at him. If looks could kill, Chris would have been a goner.  He turned away from her and sat quietly, hands folded on the desk awaiting the arrival of the teacher.  He could feel her staring at him with hatred.  He decided the best course of action was to just ignore her and concentrate on the class. After it ended she turned towards him.
“I had heard from Jack why you are here in this world,” she said. “Don’t you want to go back to where you came from? I think I know a way you can go back there.”
“A way? There is no way,” he said.
“Well, if you were sent here because you saved Aya when you shouldn’t have, don’t you think you can go back if you complete the job you kept from happening?” An evil smile lit up her face. Chris stared at her, eyes wide with disbelief.
“You want me to kill Aya?” he asked barely louder than a whisper.
“I don’t want you to do anything Chris,” she said sweetly. “I just thought if you were desperate to get back to where you came from, it was an idea worth considering.” She looked up and noticed Gabe waiting at the door watching them with a strange look on his face.  She flashed him a big smile.
“Sorry to keep you waiting!” she said hugging him when she got near.  Gabe continued to watch Chris from over Sara’s shoulder.  The blonde boy looked pained.  Gabe didn’t know they have possibly been discussing.
“Let’s go Gabe,” Sara said to him dragging him away by the arm. She called over her shoulder,
“Bye Chris! Remember what I said. I’d be happy to help you with it too.” She smiled innocently and  bounded off towards her next class with Gabe in tow, looking confused.

Do you remember the time?

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Writing a book is a long process, and I’m not even counting prior research, making time lines or edits.  Most authors can take several months to years to finish a novel (with maybe the exception of the lovely Hannah Moskowitz , who has super human powers to complete writing a novel in the blink of an eye). In that time period, it’s not unusual to forget all the little details that went into the beginning of one’s work.

As I was doing a read through of Tears of a Clown, I found several mistakes of that nature. Seems like her step mom had a sudden name change half way through the book. Oops. Also, Jazz’s car was originally blue. I guess the next time I wrote about her in a car, I decided she was such a spunky kick ass kind of character that she needed something shiny and red! Then there were the two instances where my fingers just betrayed me and typed Chaz’s name as Chris. I don’t know what brought that on…but I don’t think it’s unusual to find those little issues. While you may keep your character descriptions, it’s impossible to have lists for all the little details you add in. That’s what editing is for anyhow, to catch those discrepancies.

Here’s the other time related issue I find I’m running into, the actual passage of time and days in my writing. While I could, and should, keep a graph of sorts to remind me of when a day has gone by in storyland, that doesn’t help with the actions that happen during that day or night.  I  find myself re-reading things and thinking “Wait…did enough time pass for him to get upstairs, change into those skimpy running shorts and lift enough weights to get that sexy light sheen of sweat going on?” As the author, we know where the story is going and how we want it to get there (most of the time) so I think we sometimes just write and write without stopping to think about things like “did I leave enough time for her to get to her locker and class before the bell?” and “is it safe for him to come to the door so soon after her folks left? Maybe they aren’t even half way down the road yet!”

I think we get a little leeway because it is a book, but I wonder if people really do stop and think about that stuff. I mean if it’s blatantly impossible, like someone getting from one side of the state to the other during a 5 minute conversation, then yes, I think people will call the author out on that,  but the little stuff? I have a feeling most people will skip over the slight improbability factor. What says you fellow readers and authors?

My 2 cents on "dark" YA literature

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I think many of you who follow this blog have already heard plenty about the article recently posted in the Wall Street Journal called Darkness too Visible in which the author, Meghan Cox Gurdon, talks about how themes in today’s YA literature is too dark and depraved for young readers.

Yesterday, the ever outspoken Maureen Johnson, who as an author of 10 YA novels is quite knowledgeable and involved in the genre, and Ms. Gurdon discussed the topic on WHYY radio (click here to listen to the show or here for a quick overview of some of things that were discussed).

I decided I want to share my own experiences from being an avid reader as a child to my opinion on the topic now as an adult, as aspiring YA author, a child caretaker, an aunt and an educator.

As cliche as it may sound, I devoured books as a kid. Yes I read all the “happy” girlie series like the Sweet Valley stuff, Babysitters Club, etc. but by the 6th grade, I moved into adult literature because I was bored by the small collection of children’s books (YA didn’t exist then to the extent it does today). I read Gone with the Wind and a whooooole lot of Stephen King books. Did I ever have nightmares? No. Did I  have aspirations to kidnap and hold my favorite author/musician/actor captive and have them make their art for me? No. Did the gore and killing bother me? Not in the least. Why? Because my folks did a good job teaching me the difference between fact and fiction.

I didn’t have the perfect childhood/adolescence either. Books served as an escape, not a manual on how to live my life. I wish there had been more books aimed at teens back then because maybe I could have found a character to sympathize with to help me get through my issues, but there weren’t, so I used them strictly as a get away from my reality.

As an aspiring YA author, I spend the majority of my time reading other YA novels. You can see from my lists of what books I read in a month just how much I still read and that 90% of the titles are in the YA genre. Have I found anything I think is “inappropriate” for teens? No. I will say I’ve come across several I wouldn’t recommend for younger teens, but even those, it depends on the maturity of individual.  If parents are concerned about what their kids are reading, then they ought to read the books first. If you think your child is too impressionable, then find them Middle Grade books to read until they mature, or sit and have discussions with them about how the books they’re reading are fiction and that some of the scenarios can happen in real life (if they’re reading contemporary novels) and explain to them how they could handle it if it happens in their own life. The topics some of these books touch on, bullying, date rape, depression, etc. they’re topics parents should be talking to their kids about in the first place.

Here’s the other thing, if YA wasn’t around, these kids would be like me and gravitate towards adult works. Why that isn’t an awful thing (and many of the avid readers will anyhow) what about those who can’t relate to adult characters? What about those who are into movies and video games and need to start reading more? Anne of Green Gables is probably not going to cut it for them and get them interested. They need those stories with a lot of action, some horror, some cussing (let’s face it, they all know the words already anyhow) and the darker aspects to catch their attention. Again, I think if parents are discussing important topics with their kids, they won’t end up mimicking the characters.

I also think it’s important to stress to young readers that fictional books are for entertainment purposes, just like movies and video games. They are not for them to base their lives and actions on. The authors create and control the world and the outcome of the characters. Just because a character in a book is being chased by a bully and gets away by breaking into a condemned building doesn’t mean that’s how the reader should handle that kind of situation. Just because a character seeks revenge by feeding their enemies prune laced brownies and gets away with it, doesn’t mean the reader can do the same and escape persecution from the powers that be.

All in all I think it comes down to parents being involved in their children’s lives and knowing what they’re reading, watching, listening to. It’s about having discussions with them about the “dark” topics. I think it’s about teaching children the difference between fact and fiction. Do I think YA today has some dark themes? Yes. Do I think that means kids shouldn’t read them? No. Besides, if your kids are anything like I was, the books you tell them not to read are going to be the ones they gravitate towards the most and they will read them without you knowing. I did and I turned out just fine.