Thursday, December 27, 2012

Stripping Away the "Since Then" When Writing YA

I have found myself once again giving up on a YA book because something about it just didn't sit right with me. I ponder and ponder every time this happens, which, sadly, is getting oftener and oftener.

I've talked about this before, in bits and pieces here on my blog and on Facebook, and in a more cohesive structure in a guest post on Jeff Chapman's blog.

The post on Jeff's blog really breaks things up into components, like dialog, slang, and voice, but I was thinking today about the thread that ties those components together. The thing that makes YA...well, YA.

There are a lot of YA books out there that sound different from each other. Vastly different. Some are snarky, some more serious, some downright dark. One of my all-time favorites is The Monstrumologist, which started a great discussion about what defines YA over on Mike Duran's blog (after he finally caved to my pummeling suggestion that he read it). The Monstrumologist is gory, dark, and written with a period flair. One of the most beautifully written books I've ever read, as a matter of fact.

Yes, YA books can be beautifully written. Or they can be simply written. What makes them teen books, though, is not reading or vocabulary level. It's not innocence necessarily either. It's the viewpoint the main character is coming from--it's how they process their surroundings as someone who has lived to their teen years, and only to their teen years so far.

This is not directly related to life experience either. In The Monstrumologist, Will Henry has probably seen more and scarier things than most adults could even imagine. But even with his life experience and the beautiful prose, you never once lose sense that the story is being told by a teen. A teen from a different time period, a teen who has never seen an iPad or a cell phone, who's never had a girlfriend or anything we'd expect of "normal" teens. Yet he is a teen, and he tells the story of being a monster hunter's assistant in a way that reflects him processing his particular experience the way a teen would process it.

That, to me, is what makes a novel YA.

The book I just gave up on? It read as if an adult were writing the story. Of course, it was written by an adult. Not a particularly old adult either. This author's bio says the story was based on a personal experience. Another book I tried to read not long ago did the same thing--and it is what inspired me to include certain points in my post on Jeff's blog, to be honest. What didn't work in both these stories is that they read as if being written by someone who is processing the experience from the other side of the event, someone who now has the life experience to look back and see the story differently than a teen would.

Think about listening to your parents or your grandparents talk about things they did when they were younger. There is a feeling of reminiscence, and even if they aren't glossing over things or interjecting any claims that they "shouldn't have" done this or that, there is still a feeling that their life since the event has affected the way they remember it. They see it from a different angle now.

To write effective YA, you have to step into a situation and see it the way a teen would see it. If it were an event from your real life, you'd need to strip away all the changes in you that have happened since that moment. It can be hard--and harder for some people than others.

My son is twelve now. We've had some interesting discussions. Okay, almost-arguments. He wants something, but I know better, because I'm older, because I've learned since I was his age.

But, oh, I remember. Not just myself saying similar words, or having a similar attitude, or even feeling similar things. I remember being that age, I remember thinking the same things for the same reasons. I remember seeing things from that angle, having that exact perspective, and all the logic and emotion behind it. And yes, I can strip away the "since then" and re-experience it. (Although, I still make my decisions with him based on "since then" because I am the parent.)

What the YA authors that miss the mark do is to just tell a story about things that happen to teens rather than telling things that happen--from the viewpoint of a teen. They get the facts and situations right, but tell them in the way someone looking back on it would tell it. They may strip away their vocabulary, or the grit of real life, or any number of things in hopes of making a story that appeals to teens, but they're not getting rid of the right things they've accumulated "since then." It's not about sounding young or acting like everything is the first time. A teen could have done something--anything--a thousand times, have complete knowledge and understanding of it, but it doesn't suddenly make their brains operate like adult brains.

Truthfully, this is one of those nebulous "I know it when I see it" things. Or know it when I feel it. Because that's what it is to me, a feel. A sense I get when I am reading. A connection at a level inside me that coincides with exactly where I was at the character's age. A stripping away of my "since then" when I read.

What do you think? Is this what you get from teen novels? And if you write them, is this what you do?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Supporting Fan-fic Even When You're Not a Fan of It

And again, Mike Duran has managed to post a blog article that has gotten a slew of comments, which have branched off into about 47 different discussions. These include, but are not limited to:

  • If you market a Christian book in the mainstream without labeling it Christian, will your readers out you?
  • Are homeschoolers weird or normal? And can they really all be above average? 
  • Is IQ important, and does it make you a jerk to flash yours like a badge? (Or, is there a direct correlation between IQ and assery?)
  • Lord of the Rings: Is it "Christian" fiction?
  • Love it or hate it: Writing books that are the "Christian answer to Secular Blockbuster"? As in, "Read my book, it's the 'Christian' Harry Potter/Game of Thrones!"

And the last addition I noticed has to do with fan-fiction, which naturally emerged via the topic directly above.

I contributed to most of the other discussions directly on Mike's blog, but this last one I felt I ought to move to my own territory. Frankly, I've said enough over there in the comment thread. No need to overstep my welcome, and, well, this blog ought to be used for something, eh?

So, here's my experience with fan-fic. I had never even heard of such a thing until I started writing several years ago and got involved in some online writers loops. I had always assumed people left well enough alone when it came to other author's works. I knew it was illegal to write stories about trademarked characters and such and try to sell them, and I never would have thought people wrote stuff like that just for fun.

But there is a whole culture of fan-fic writers out there. And they write about EVERYTHING. Big name story worlds like Harry Potter and Star Trek. Cartoons like My Little Pony. Video games, TV shows that are no longer on the air...the list goes on. There are all kinds of sites on which the stories can be posted, too.

My first reaction to learning this was:

Really? What's the point? I couldn't understand even wanting to do this. When it comes to the books and shows I love, part of my love for them is that they are, at least in my mind, set in stone. I never, ever think, "But what if Harry Potter went off and did this...?" No, it's what JK Rowling said he did, and no more. End of story.

I just can't even think about it. I don't want to be allowed to mess around in there. I'm a fan of Harry Potter and other stories because I love them as-is, flaws and all.

Seriously, if you wanted me to read fan-fic about my dearest story loves, you'd have to pry my eyes open a la A Clockwork Orange, and the effect on me would likely be the same.

Oh, wait. That doesn't mean I hate fan-fic. Some of my closest friends write fan-fic, but it's not from the stories I love. And the writers I happen to know who love fan-fic are talented and intelligent. And it's something they have shown me the value of.

  • It gives them a playground to get creative with characters/settings they are already passionate about.
  • It gives them a pre-existing audience. There are rabid fan-fic fans out there hungrily searching for fresh meat.
  • It gives immediate gratification. Those rabid fans love leaving comments and encouraging the writers.
  • It gives them material to practice their writing skills with.
  • It often serves as a springboard for inspiration for their original fiction. 
  • And the last thing it can do is actually be transformed into original fiction. Change the names, the location, and some other details, and voila! 

(BTW--yes, that last counts as original, because once those changes have been made, the author is leaving the pre-set universe, and the plot has to be original or it would just be rewording what someone else already wrote. Besides, don't we ALL use bits and pieces of fiction we've read, people we know, situations we've experienced?)

If you're still scratching your head, that's fine. It took me a while, too. But now I can appreciate the existence of fan-fic and the culture supporting it, even if I don't feel a desire to step in and join them.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Top Ten More

Fellow writer and blogger Kessie Carroll recommended I do a "top ten" list of books I've read this year. I'm not sure I've ever done a top ten list, but I figured it sounded like a pretty good idea. (You can see her top, um, seven list here.)

But even though I liked her idea, I've got to be a little different. You see, I find that I'd be repeating myself a bit because I've reviewed a lot of books on here already. So first, I'm going to list a few links to those posts. These are books that I'd totally include in my top ten, although there's actually more than ten when you count them up. Most are YA, a couple are not, but they are all awesome.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater.

Multiple book review post: Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma, and The Dragon's Tooth by N.D. Wilson.

The Telling by Mike Duran

The Unraveling of Wentwater by C.S. Lakin (Representative of the Gates of Heaven series. Yes, I've read them all, and am actually in the middle of reading the most current one.)

Books I loved that have gorgeous cover art. OK, so these aren't really from 2012. But, hey. They are great reads! And the sequel to Winter is out now. Check out Prophetess by Keven Newsome.

Now...for my "Top Ten More" of 2012:

(And btw, I realized some of these books didn't actually release this year, but this is the year that I read them.)

Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor. This is the sequel to Daughter of Smoke and Bone, which I did reference in another blog post because the cover art didn't do the story justice.

These books are amazing. The writing is the kind of stuff that makes me feel like a total hack. And the story world is so rich and deep. Oh, and it's all about an artist with blue hair and lots of tattoos, who lives with chimeara and resurrects them.

These books in a word: Swoon...

A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz. A retelling of the Grimm fairy tales, centered around Hansel and Gretel.

This book is middle grade, but I will warn you. Gruesomeness abounds. This is not a negative thing, imho, but some readers really had issue with it as revealed by Amazon reviews.

I read this to my 10 yr old daughter, and I just skipped past the parts I thought she'd have trouble with. She loved the book, though, and I found it to be incredibly well-written and the voice was awesome.

A little more gruesomeness with Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake. This book threw me for a loop. I was expecting a dark, haunting love story. But the book is written in the guy's pov and has that snarky teen voice that works great when done right and is like nails on a chalkboard when done wrong. Blake does it right, though!

Yes, there's a love story, but it's so different and the book is all action and...dark fun? Yeah, that's it.

And seriously--how can you not read a book with a cover like that?

Enshadowed by Kelly Creagh. This is the sequel to Nevermore, the story of Isobel the cheerleader who is stuck doing an English project with Varen the Poe-obsessed Goth, and they end up sucked into a dream world, and of course they fall in love. Oh, that's a lousy blurb. The story rocks. And Varen...

Anyway, the sequel has some shortcomings, but the writing is just as strong and lovely and dark and suck-you-in. In some ways it feels like the story doesn't advance, but it does when you go back and think about it. Totally looking forward to book number three!

Horns and Wrinkles by Joseph Helgerson is a middle grade I stumbled upon in the used book sale at the library. I thought the cover was cute and that my kids might like it. Turns out, I loved it!

The voice is quirky, the story is quirky, the characters are quirky. I loved things like the author using the word "rivery" to describe strange things that happen because everything is attributed to the local river, where trolls live and other odd things. Yes, trolls. The story is about kids and trolls and bullies. Bullies with rhinoceros horns!

The Isle of Blood by Rick Yancey is the third book in the Monstrumologist series. This is a YA series and is full-on horror. Not paranormal. We're talking monsters.

And it is one of the most beautifully written series I have ever read. I have practically pounded people on the head in attempt to get them to read these books. Yes, they are gory. Yes they are gruesome. Yes they are freaking brilliant.

You may call me biased because Star of Justice by Robynn Tolbert is published by Splashdown Books, which happens to be who published me. But you would be wrong. This book stands on its own and I'm not the only one who has fallen head over heels for it.

Robynn's voice in this book is so strong, her characters so vivid, her story world so intricate. And it's worth the read just for the character Merritt.

This is an adult novel, btw. Older teens would have no issues with it, but I'd not recommend it for young teens.

The Windrider Saga by Becky Minor. Knights and dragons and adventure!

This book makes me think of medieval fairs and story tellers captivating the villagers with tales of daring deeds and chivalry. I could see the shining armor and hear the clanging swords and feel the icy breath of the dragon. (Yes, ice, not fire. Cool, eh?)

Classic fantasy with a voice that is refreshing among so many traditional fantasy novels that all sound the same.

Oh, you may cry foul again on this one. Diane Graham and I are close friends. But let me tell you: I Am Ocilla is why. We read each other's writing before we became friends--we became friends because we loved each other's writing!

Fairy tale and allegory, this book is both beautiful and fun. Adventure, dragons, giants, elves, fairies....and Ash. He is swoon-worthy. 

Oh, and I'm sneaking another in with this. Blood and Brine by Caprice Hokstad, the last in the Ascendancy Trilogy an another Splashdown Books author. Another author I became friends with much because her writing impressed me, and because it's so unique. I know, I know. It's not fair using authors I'm friends with. But that's why I'm squeaking these two in together. Besides, I'm stopping now and moving back to one I don't know.

The Star Shard by Frederic S. Durbin. From my review on Amazon and Goodreads: 

This book is...unique. The Rake is a traveling city, moved forward by the rowing power of giant creatures. With levels and is hard to imagine, but the author pulls it off. There is magic and mystery, and a touch of young romance. And dark. There were bits that reminded me of Neil Gaiman's work.

This book was really a pleasant surprise!

Oh, no! I've reached the end! But there are so many books I want to add!

Insurgent by Veronica Roth. Sequel to Divergent, YA dystopian

Winter Rose by Rachel Marks (a novella). YA romance

Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis. MG fanasy

This Dark Endeavor and Such Wicked Intent by Kenneth Oppel. YA horror

And finally, if you haven't read or at least heard of The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss....well, just shame, shame on you. You get no link from me :P.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Rosary of Stones and Thorns: a review of sorts...

I finished reading a book (A Rosary of Stones and Thorns by M.C.A. Hograth) the other day and I can't stop thinking about it. I'm sure that was the author's intent. I wish I knew what drove her even deeper.

The back of the book has this disclaimer:
This story is a work of fiction and not intended as serious religious commentary.
It is the story of an angel who has been literally thrown to Earth from Heaven for standing up against the archangel Michael. Why does she do this? Because she finds a room that holds the halos of all the fallen angels, including Lucifer's, and believes they are being held by God in hopes Lucifer and his followers will repent and return to Him.

In other words, it delves into the idea that God would be merciful enough to forgive Satan.

But there's more, and I'm afraid *I can't go farther without spoilers. So you are duly warned.*

In this story, Lucifer created hell as an alternate heaven--a place where souls are welcome when they have not followed God's laws well enough to enter Heaven.

Oddly, I could buy this. Not in real life, mind you--but for story's sake. I got no gut-sick feeling over the idea of this being used in a work of fiction.

However, a  few things did not sit well with me. You see, in the book it's Michael who determines who may stay and who must go. Where is God in this? Would God allow Michael to make those decisions? Would God allow interpretation of His laws like that in Heaven?

At one point, a woman holding a baby enters hell's gates and says that she was to be allowed into Heaven but her baby was not. She couldn't bear the idea of her baby's soul dying (what the book calls being "taken by the Wind"). This seems so backwards to me. I could not understand the point, unless it was to show us how our children would be lost, even the most young, if a checklist must be completed in order to enter Heaven.


And the real biggie. In the story one of the main characters is a Jesuit priest named Steven. He is the one who finds the banished angel and rescues her, and goes with her on the quest to mend the war between Michael and Lucifer. Yes--it's between them since it is Michael who is running things. It's a war between two leaders who each believe they are actually following God's will. It's just that Lucifer is willing to leave God's presence in order to follow that will.


Anyway, now the real biggie--Steven finds a cross in hell...THE cross. He drops to his knees, overwhelmed by emotion. And Lucifer comes to him, tries to comfort him, claims that he'd tried to save Jesus' soul from being "taken by the Wind" but was "too late."

I'm not sure what this is supposed to represent. Why would Jesus, if He lived a sinless life, not be allowed in Heaven? Was it rules? Did Michael turn Him away because of rules? If He had to follow rules to get into Heaven would Jesus have been turned away?


You see?

I don't know exactly what to think about this book. I'm sure there are Christians that would be outraged by this book. I can hear the cries of blasphemy now...

But I am finding it very hard to be upset by it.

First of all, the writing is really, really good. I mean, it's self-published, but other than a handful of typos and not-so-great cover art, you would never know by the writing. Wait, yes, I know, trad-pubbed books have typos and can have bad cover art, too. I'm stereotyping. Yes. But it's just to make a point. Deal, please.

Second, I cannot tell by the author's writing where she stands faith-wise. I met her at the Necronomicon, and she said she finds herself writing a lot of stories about forgiveness. This is the only work of hers I've read and have no idea if her other writing uses Christian elements. I find the fact fascinating, though.This is not like Philip Pullman's books. God is not made out to be a bad guy. At. All. There is SO much about His love in this book. The way it draws the angels, strengthens them, heals them. Lucifer misses God in the story, loves Him.


Third, as you can see, this is making me think. About MY faith. Not doubting it by any means. But pondering what makes it tick. What would God do in the face of Lucifer's repentance? How angry might I be at the idea of Jesus dying a permanent death?

Yes, there were things that didn't get completely explained--like, where was any reference to Jesus' resurrection? If He was "taken by the Wind" that would imply He never rose from the dead. That jibes not well with me. But, again, I'm not sure where this author is coming from. I cannot hold her to my particular values and beliefs if she doesn't share them.

Still, she's stirred the pot for me, and for that I give her props. And for writing a well-crafted novel. If you can handle the "theology" of this novel, I'd definitely recommend it!

(PS--the cover art. The actual *artwork* on the cover is well done and I believe is the work of the author herself. It's the layout that doesn't work for me. The solid color is too much, the font is hard to read, and the artwork is hard to see because it's too small in relation to the cover as a whole.)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Posting, Posting.

I have tried over and over to start a new blog post on here the past few days. I don't know what the issue is, why my brain won't let me work all the way through something. But I have a pile of half-finished drafts, none of which seems to have any real point.

Maybe it's the end of 2012 looming, and my mind is scrambling to make sense of all that's happened this year. Inventory and evaluate and figure out where to go next. (Maybe, if you want to get all Mayan, it's the end of the world looming... :P.)

So, since I haven't been able to finish them, I'm just going to round up the beginnings of thoughts. Maybe something will strike you:

I've read numerous blog posts about "Christian" being a genre for fiction. It's not. It's a demographic, a type of person, not a type of book. Christianity is a belief system and Christian-ness is a trait. We've segregated books based on this demographic. We've argued about the whys and hows and the should-it-be-sos? Guess what--Christians are not the only demographic doing it. LGBT authors/publishers are following the same path. YA books are set aside as a separate genre, when YA is really a demographic, too. I am not sure how I feel about any of that. It's both good and bad.

I have been dealing a lot with jealousy lately. Seeing other YA authors hitting the NYT bestseller list with first novels. Yes, yes I know that not the normal path. That those are the select few. That I need to get more books out to really get noticed. I am working on that. I am. And I'm not going to whine. I'm just being honest.

The Connecticut shooting. I've kept quiet on that, except for one comment on the idiots from Westboro planning on picketing the funerals. But it doesn't mean I don't care about those kids. I do, very much. And I pray for their families. I'm just not one who posts about stuff like that generally. I'm also rather sick of all the gun control ranting on Facebook. I have my stance on that, too.

Beastie 1 getting lessons from Dad. That includes safety lessons, btw.

Sandy Hook has also seemed to generate a lot of posting about mental illness, over-diagnosis and mis-diagnosis of things such as ADHD, and boys in general not fitting into the current school structure. I happen to believe our culture is screwing up our kids with school policies--teaching to the test, making kids move forward without learning the basics, introducing complex and abstract concepts too early, trying to make all kids learn the same way. I could write so much about this. I homeschool in part because I know my son would have been diagnosed with ADHD if I'd had him in school--but I'm telling you now the only time he acts ADHD is when he's fed artificial colors. Make THAT fly in a public school. I think too many parents WANT their kids labeled with such-n-such syndrome so they can release themselves of responsibility. And it demeans the moms who are dealing with kids who actually HAVE those disorders, which are, yes, real.

Maybe I will start a post series about living with a child with NBS..."Normal Boy Syndrome."

OK, I guess that's enough. My normal boy has some science to get done. My normal girl has piano to practice. And I have another blog post to start working out--a post about a book I read recently that really got me thinking....

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Links to Lights and...Memes. (Sorry, the alliteration attempt failed.)

Just links today, folks.

First, my post is up on New Authors' Fellowship. It's a personal story that originally appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas Magic. It's the "Lights" part of the blog title--me, Christmas and chemo, and how lights got me through it.

Second, the authors who participated in the "Blog Meme: The Next Big Thing." Hopefully you read my blog meme post. Now here are the ones I tagged with theirs:

Robynn Tolbert and her next installment of the Star of Justice series.

David Berger and more about his first novel, Task Force Gaea.

Christopher Kolmorgen and his upcoming novella, The Scarlet Key.

Kessie Carroll, the unofficially tagged, and her YA urban fantasy WIP, Storm Chase.

Shawna Williams and a step away from her usual romance writing with a paranormal thriller, working title Bleed.

Cools stuff, ya'll!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Jumping the Cliff of Self-Publishing (or, Disney Analogies Gone Wrong)

The journey isn't easy, folks.
Don't jump without all your
balloons in place.
I had two teens come to me in the past week asking for advice about book marketing. Not writing, not editing, not cover art design, not the publishing process--marketing. Because they had already taken care of the other stuff by themselves. They'd written a book, edited it themselves, created their own covers, and uploaded their files to Amazon/CreatSpace. They were ready to sell!

What did I say?

What could I say?

They'd already jumped off the cliff.  I wished them well, prayed they'd packed their parachute (or had all their balloons), and tried to explain that marketing is hard, hard work.

What I wanted to tell them was to climb back up the cliff, and then walk up and down the hill a few times. About a thousand times. I was squirming inside. It took me four years to get  Finding Angel ready for publication. I had critiquers and then editors going through my manuscript with a mean red pen and an electron microscope. My publisher and I worked diligently on creating an original cover design, tweaking and perfecting, searching through thousands of fonts for the perfect one. It was a huge process.

I asked some writer friends what they thought of this phenomenon of self-publishing, especially among teens. The reaction was mixed. Many felt it would be a great learning experience. I disagree with that. It's kind of like learning to play the piano with a full audience in the room expecting a professional musician.

A few mentioned the teen obsession with Christopher Paolini. The one who wrote and self-published Eragon. Yes, he was the first teen self-publishing sensation, and a specific appeal to homeschoolers, but he self-published years ago. Before ebooks, before CreateSpace. His parents backed him financially, helped him market--and they knew the business. ALSO, his book was picked up by a big press and professionally edited BEFORE it became a best-seller.

What I'm seeing these days is more the Amanda Hocking dream than the Paolini dream. Write a book because, oh, it'd be fun, or you just want it now. Then upload it to CreateSpace and/or Kindle because it's free. No editing required except what you feel is necessary. A cover is a stock photo and any-old-font ("oh, that one's cute..."). Then go tell the world!

Enter: Instant success. Millions of copies sold overnight! Woohoo!

No...sorry. More like tears and broken dreams. Begging and pleading for people to read your book. Friends and family raving about it because they are so proud of you....but the rabid readers out there may not be so kind--IF they even find your work.

Am I being negative? Yes. But don't get me wrong. There ARE prodigies. And I love to see teens write. I love to see new writers, period. Would I love to see a teen become an overnight success? You bet! But the fact is, the Amanda Hockings of the world are so well-known because those stories are rare. Big news like that is not made from the everyday. If everyone were getting rich off self-publishing like that, then THAT would be the headline, not a handful of individual names.

Also, Hocking's story isn't *that* different from Paolini's. Same goes for the others of her ilk--the ebook self-pub sensations--as most of them didn't really hit their peak of fame until after an agent took over their careers.

The fact is, most books become a success--whether self-published or traditionally published--through hard work and persistence. Luck does play a role, too. As does true talent. But they are like genes--some factors are dominant and some recessive. Luck seems to be dominant--it can compensate for lack of talent and hard work. The thing is, luck's not a common gene. Most of us have to figure out how to get there without it.

And what the world sees is the end result. It looks easy, because writers don't practice in public. They spend hours and hours and hours--usually for years and years--getting ready for that debut novel to step out into the world. So readers see all the glitter and polish, not the sweat, tears, doubts, and work. Instead, what they get is like the "falling with style" scene in Toy Story. (Sorry, tried and failed to find one to embed.)

I hope more than anything these two teens are the exception to the rule. I hope this is a wonderful experience for them that leads to years and years of writing and success. I hope, yes. But I'm still going to cringe every time I see someone jump off that cliff just clutching a handful of balloons.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Blog Meme: The Next Big Thing

I normally don’t do blog memes. But this one kinda grabbed me. Not the usual, "What color socks are you wearing?" It’s basically part of an ongoing chain of book and author recommendations called “The Next Big Thing.” 

The whole idea is that writers get “tagged,” answer ten quick fire questions on their blog, and then tag five other writers … so that before long you have a whole web of writers answering the same questions, and linking to one another through social media. I was tagged by Mike Duran (thanks, Mike!) and will henceforth tag five writer friends at the end of this post who will answer these same ten questions on their blogs next Wednesday. (Okay, I was supposed to tag five. I tagged four. I am such the rebel.)

Here we go:

1) What is the title of your next book/work?

I have two works in progress right now. One is the third book in my Toch Island Chronicles series (as in the sequel to Finding Angel and Seeking Unseen), as of yet untitled. The WIP I want to focus on here is unrelated to Toch Island and geared to an adult audience rather than YA, and the working title is Relent.

2) Where did the idea come from for the book/work?

I wrote a short story (“Willing Blood”) a few years ago, with three main characters. A vampire-like demon master (um, yeah, I made that up) named Simone, a demon she is charged with controlling named Wraith, and a little girl named Emily from whom Simone draws power. I loved the characters so much, but the story was only a few thousand words and really had nowhere else to move after the ending. So I reshaped the characters and created a whole new story around them. The only one who stayed almost completely the same was the demon Wraith. Simone became a half-angel/half-human, and Emily is now her daughter…

3) What genre does your book/work fall under?

I wish I could figure that out! It’s romance, but not what one would find in a typical romance novel.  I don’t read romance myself, and I’m not aiming to hit that target. It’s paranormal because of the angel/demon thing. It’s suspense/thriller, with maybe a touch of horror. It’s definitely dark. A dark paranormal romance-ish story?

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

This, but black hair and dark eyes for Wraith
I’ve never seen Chris Hemsworth play a dark, evil character, but I can see Wraith’s human form looking a lot like him with black hair. Give him dark eyes, black hair, don’t let him sleep for a few days, and squeeze him into jeans and a Harley t-shirt. That’s Wraith.

For Simone…I actually posted on Facebook trying to get ideas for actresses based on my description of her. I got a wide range of suggestions. The closest of all of them, I think, was Kate Beckinsale as she appeared in Van Helsing, but with darkish auburn hair. 

Another possibility would be Scarlett Johansson as she appeared in The Avengers, but with longer hair. And, well, longer her. Simone is tall and lanky. So, put Scarlett in a stretching machine. Should make her cranky enough to play the brooding Simone.

For Emily…Maggie Elizabeth Jones, the little girl from We Bought a Zoo. Emily is contagiously cheerful, with brown eyes and curly blond hair.

When he's older, and with  a  bit longer/darker hair.

For Simone’s ex, and Emily’s father, Reese…Alex Pettyfer. Well, in several years. He needs to be late 20s, maybe 30-ish, and he’ll have to dye his hair dark brown and grow it out some. If Alex’s looks keep heading in this direction, then he’d likely work for the role. 

Another major character is one I can't name. No, literally, I keep changing her name. I need to settle, I know. And I couldn't find a picture of a celeb that reminded me of her at all. So she'll just have to stay a surprise :).

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

(Kat throws herself on the floor, flails arms, kicks legs, and screams, “I hate this, I hate this, I hate this!”)

OK, now that I have that out of my system…

Seriously, I hate writing one-liners. I suck at it. One line to sum up a story about a half-angel searching for her daughter, being toyed with by her best friend and worst enemy (who happens to be a demon), while she fights to not fall back in love with her daughter’s father? Not happening. Really. Because it’s so much more than that.

Simone’s mother chose her angelic status over Simone when she was born. How could she do that? So selfish! And Simone had vowed she will never be like her mother. Never. Yet Simone did give up her daughter, too.  Not the same thing, she insists.


6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I am hoping to find an agent and land a traditional publisher with this one. My goal from day one of my writing was to be published by a large, traditional press. Finding Angel didn’t hit that mark. In many ways, I’m actually grateful for that, though. It has set me on a path of friendship with some amazing authors as well as my publisher herself. I’ve gotten to have real creative control over my Toch Island series, which has been awesome. I wonder if giving up that control with Toch Island would have been too hard on me.

Relent, though, I think can withstand it. The right publisher, the right editor…It’s what I’m hoping.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

When did I start this? Two years ago? Three? I can’t remember, to be honest. I have gone back and forth between bursts of inspiration for the story and stretches where I ignored it completely to work on Seeking Unseen and short stories. Right now, I’m about ¾ done with the first draft. It’s been a strange ride, this one.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Oy. I. Don’t. Know.

I say angels and demons, suspense/thriller, and people probably immediately think Frank Peretti. But it’s nothing like his work. It’s not a “spiritual warfare” story at all. It’s very personal. It’s about relationships. Romance, yes, but more about family, sacrificing for the ones you love. I have never read a book that is like this. Not saying one isn’t out there, but I have no idea where to direct you.

OK, I will say, what I *hope* for it to end up like is Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. Well, actually, more like the sequel, Days of Blood and Starlight. At least in tone. The story in those books is a romance set amongst a war between angels and chimaera. There’s no war in Relent. It’s a much smaller cast. Very personal, very intimate.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My husband, Jeff. I have always been very strict about not letting Jeff read anything of mine that isn’t published. He’s an engineer, and their nature is to try and fix everything, even when it doesn’t need fixing :P. I love him—and that is why I won’t let him near my writing! So, after “Willing Blood” published, I sent him the link. He read it. And pretty much ever since he’s been hounding me to write a book with those characters.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

I think what may pique readers’ interest is the theological aspect. The message will be clear, but the means of presenting it will likely have plenty of Christians picking it apart with their theological tweezers and crying, “No! Wrong! You can’t do it this way!”

I’ve already had one critique session with a group of Christian writers. They all gave enthusiastic thumbs up on the writing and begged to see more. But one of the ladies was really distressed by the way I presented angels and demons in the opening. Distressed enough to write me a pretty detailed email after the critique meeting.

So yeah, I’d say this is going to be a story that is loved or hated, seen as brilliant or garbage. And I’m okay with that J.

And now for the tagging:

Robynn Tolbert, author of Star of Justice, which if you have not read you deserve the cruelest of punishment--well, I guess missing out on the story counts as cruel punishment.

David Berger, a really nice author I met at the Necronomicon. His first novel, Task Force Gaea, is a superhero book with roots in Greek mythology. 

Shawna Williams, romance author. Yeah, I know. I said I don't read romance, But I read hers :).

Christopher Kolmorgen, a talented young author of spec-fic, whom I think we'll need to keep an eye on in the next few years....


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Happy Homogenized Holidays

A friend of mine on Facebook posted this on her wall:

I know her well enough to know she did not mean this as an insult to Christians. Yes, she and I hold very different political and religious views, but she has never been anything less than kind, caring, and someone who strives to live peacefully with everyone.

I considered posting my reply directly on her wall, but felt like I'd have wanted to ramble--and I believe that one should ramble on one's own turf.

So, here's my take on it:

There is NOTHING wrong with "Happy Holidays." And I would bet that every word on that image about the history of the phrase is true.

The problem, though, is that it does exactly the opposite of its intent. Well, THESE DAYS is does.

Let me explain.

The roots of the word point back to "holy days" of which Christmas is one, so there's nothing wrong with that.

But now, these days, the term has a different meaning. What it means is, "I don't want to offend any particular person...I want to be politically I will give a generic and meaningless greeting."

Is this how every person uses the phrase? No. But enough people and businesses have forced that saying down our throats, to the point that it has come to symbolize that attitude to many of us.

And let me clarify. I am not saying this because I think the pagans have stolen our holy day, nor that I have any issue with Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or any other religious or cultural holiday (holy day) out there that happens to fall around this time of year.


The point of saying "Happy Holidays" is to supposedly promote diversity. But what it does is labels us all the same. There is a huge difference between individuality and inequality. My holiday and your holiday have very different meanings. Mine is special to me for specific reasons, and yours to you for specific reasons. "Happy Holidays" takes away our individuality in an attempt at removing inequality.

It homogenizes us.

What I wish is that we could all use our chosen holiday greetings and just not be offended. If someone wishes me "Happy Hanukkah," I am not going to get all bent out of shape. I'm going to take it as them saying something to me that holds very special meaning to them. And if I say "Merry Christmas" to you, and you don't happen to believe in Christmas, then can't you accept that I am saying something to you that holds very special meaning to me? Can't you take it as the gift I intend it?

And if we all did that, then those who do use "Happy Holidays" would be doing the same and the rest of us would not feel as though the phrase was meant to snuff out our personal holiday expressions.

Despite its innocent and well-meaning roots, these days "Happy Holidays" gets used so we don't fuss and fight over whose holiday is the most special.

But what it really does is say that no one's is special at all.