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YA Author Rendezvous

Creativity Unleashed: Books for the young and the young at heart

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Author Advice

Walking the Line – Sex in YA

c118acd3c2a99fb465af4dff36bbc17dWritten by K. R. Conway

If you have ever kicked around on YA blogs,

inevitably you come across posts about sex in Young Adult novels. Nine times out of ten, the post will say something about how books portray these moments, whether accurate or inaccurate, fade to black or way too much details.

I’m going to address the top three myths I see about nookie and YA, because quite frankly, there is a whole variety of what can be deemed as accurate in portraying sex.

Argument 1: Too many YA books paint first time sex as a beautiful experience, when it really is kind of . . . awkward.

My thoughts: True, but this seems more likely if both characters are inexperienced. tumblr_n0jrngdlbv1rizz8go1_1280It doesn’t have to always be portrayed as messy, or clumsy. Sex between characters should be a reflection of who they are as people and as partners. What they do between the sheets (IF they do anything between the sheets, because sex should only appear if it is accurate for the characters), should mirror their lives with one another. I’ve seen it done really well in YA books, and other times I wanted to scream (and not in a good way). Should it be an accurate reflection of real life? Absolutely, but such truths should be echoed in who the characters are without sex, and whether or not one is inexperienced or not. Sex between YA characters can be beautifully drawn, but should be honest. The Gossip Girl do-it-on-the-staircase-stuff I’d avoid. I mean come on . . . those wooden treads would suck!

Argument 2: Fade to black is a cop-out in YA. If your gonna write it, write it!

My thoughts: While some writers give a real play-by-play of sex scenes, I find myself far more impressed by those who show alot without showing alot. Plus – I have a teenaged daughter, and while she is fully aware of “stuff” (and heaven knows the stuff that is shown on TV and film now-a-days) I would rather she not read some graphic scene (not yet anyway). An intimate scene between characters can be portrayed vividly, while maintaining a PG / PG-13 rating.

2120642dcf55ac09bd2160fa5551f531Argument 3: All the girl characters become mindless idiots once kissed, and all the boys are dying to peel their love interest’s clothes off like a tangerine.

My thoughts: Bullcrap. You’re just not reading a wide enough variety of YA to realize that some writers deliberately put their female characters in the driver’s seat when it comes to sex. They are also careful to write both the bad boys that don’t give a damn about consent, along with the ones who make sure their girl / guy are in total control of the situation. Both these issues (girl power in the sack and males who boost the control of their love interests) are a critical part of the Undertow series. I wrote the contrast because I wanted the girls who DID read the series to see and understand what true love looks like (and what it doesn’t, in the case of Ana Lane’s father), and what strong females sound and act like. I’m not the only author who is a “girl power” writer – there are many of us (Sarah Maas, Eva Darrows, Jennifer Armentrout, Mary Pearson, and Holly Black to name but a few). So don’t buy the BS that sex in YA is all “boy he-man, girl fair princess.” Some of us write the warrior chick, right down to the marrow of her bones (and her hormones).

Argument 4: Sex in YA is inappropriate.

My thoughts: Maybe – it depends on the story. It depends on the characters and what the author, editor, and about nine other people who are involved in the book’s evolution believe. At the end of the day, however, the choice between characters on whether to do the deed or not reflects entirely on who they are at that moment in time in their lives and whether or not that moment actually occurs in the time span of the book. Like all choices characters make within the story, sex must be a reflection of who they are, as people (or, uh, monsters), where they came from, and how they see and trust one another.

And sometimes, when we view sex in YA, we simply need to remember what it was to be in love for the first time.

You can read more of K.R. Conway’s blogs here.

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Why the Agony of Writing for Teens is Worth It

Girl reading a book on the floor.Written by K. R. Conway

Writers can become burned out.

I don’t mean the hyperventilating, “OMG I have no story ideas!” type of burn out. I mean the grind of the words, the constant push to out-write your last book, the stiff necks, the time crunches, and the piecemealing of a life outside of your characters’ worlds.

You try to balance the requests from bookstores, the demands to meet deadlines, the desperate need to spend time with your family and your children, and (for many of us), the 9 to 5 of a day job as well.

Novel-writing is the ultimate act of endurance, with a finish line that seems to never fully reveal itself. And once you have finished one story, polished and in print, you immediately are looking to churn out the next book.

I started to feel the burn out when I was finishing up CRUEL SUMMER.  In the past 2 years, I had churned out close to 300,000 words related to the UNDERTOW series. Let me tell ya – that’s a lot of freakin’ words!

I’ve worked as a writer since 1999, and in all those years, I never got burned out as a journalist. But in all those years, I didn’t have the fans I have now. And they are like – HARDCORE FANS. They burn through those 300k words in just a couple of days, because they can’t put the book down. Because they must keep going, or they will obsess about Eila and her crew all day long, which is great and all, but I start to panic and think, “I need to get another book done for them, like, YESTERDAY!”

And my fans are voracious readers. I often get messaged that this kid or that kid has read STORMFRONT in a day (112k words) or that they are re-reading UNDERTOW for the 5th TIME! I don’t even think I’ve read Undertow cover to cover more than twice, and that was when it was in its editing phase! Some fans buy EVERY cover version, because they must have them all (0_0)

So, when I start to feel the burn out lurking in my life, I remember those fans. Those that flip out so entirely over the characters, that their Christmas lists are loaded with Undertow stuff.

I don’t get to usually see fans outside of book events, but the other day I saw one reading my book, and what I saw filled me with determination to work even harder.

You see, I drive a school bus during the day, filled with my target audience. While I can only really see the tops of kids’ heads when I drive, I do have to walk to the back of the bus when I pull up to the middle school to unload. The other day, while I walked to the back of the bus to disengage a warning button, I saw one girl sitting and reading, oblivious to the fact that we were at the school. At first I didn’t pay much attention, but then I did a double-take.

I knew that font.

I knew that line.

She was reading STORMFRONT. I didn’t bother her, but kept going and unloaded the bus, but she hung back, sliding into the seat behind my driver’s one. “This is so unbelievably awesome,” she says to me. “I was up from, like, 8 to 11 last night reading. And I reread Undertow over the weekend, but OMG. I love this!”

I thanked her and blushed a tad, thrilled she was enjoying it.

At the end of the day, I drove her home with a bus full of half-crazed teens. I was focused on getting the kids home safely and not losing my mind, so I wasn’t really paying close attention to what she was holding as I unloaded at her stop. But as I saw her walk away, I realized she had gotten off with the book tucked under her arm. I watched, floored, as she walked towards her home, Stormfront in her hands as she read.

She wasn’t on her phone. She wasn’t hanging with the other kids and talking. She was lost inside my book, living alongside my fictional characters, reading as she walked. Suddenly that lurking burn-out vanished and I remembered why I write.

I do it for teens like her, who want to fall so entirely in love with a story that their own reality tumbles away.

I write for the fans, and in turn, they are my creative jolt.

They power me past the burn out.

They are my army and my saving grace . . . and I pledge my undying loyalty to their awesomeness

Know Thy Audience. ALWAYS.

Know Thy Audience Always - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by K. R. Conway

If there is ever a phrase that sends chills through my body, it is: “Well, I’m not really sure if my COMPLETED manuscript is exactly aimed for teens. Maybe it is more middle grade? But then again, I guess it could be adult.”

Oh, dear lord.

There is nothing, NOTHING more important than knowing WHO you are writing for before you even put pen to paper. You need to know EXACTLY who your audience is – from how they live, talk, socially function, what would make your book appeal to them, WHY they would buy it in the first place, blah, blah, BLAH. How do you sell something if you have no clue who would want to buy it? That’s like designing a hot air balloon that can’t fly and saying, “I know this will appeal to SOMEBODY.” Well, heck – you would be 112 years old before you figured out WHO would buy an unfloating air balloon (FYI – this would sell to those funky, futuristic tent designers who want some killer fabric and who would upcycle the basket parts. SEE??? I know my audience!!!)

As cool as your story may be, it NEEDS a set audience to S-E-L-L. So . . . let’s take, uh . . . OH! The Shadow and Bone series by Bardugo. Dark fantasy set in a brutal remake of a Russian-like empire. Totally awesome. Love it. Go read it. Well . . . go read it IF YOU LIKE THAT TYPE OF THING. See???? Audience. I like dark and creepy with a few well placed bodies here and there. I can do fantasy as long as the fairies are the type to murder you in your sleep while acquiring your tooth.

So Bardugo’s audience is the type that:

A. Likes dark fantasy. This would include those who enjoyed the last few books in the Harry Potter series best, and those who liked Lord of the Rings and (if you’re ancient like me) The Dark Crystal.

61sIOGA4rqLB. They are 14 + (maybe a few, high-level 13-y-o readers too). She appeals to those who like vivid world building over smooching scenes. People who are willing to see a character fail and have mixed feelings about the “bad” guy (who happens to be a hottie).

C. Her readers tend to be thinkers. People who like puzzles, especially the ones that require you to out-manuver an opponent. They are the people who tend to be the quiet ones, but their imagination is always running and it isn’t playing Cinderella scenes over and over, if you get my gist.

D. They are bold, but not for the sake of others. They will pierce their tongue not to fit in nor stand out, but because doing so speaks to who they are as a person. They don’t follow the crowd.

E. They like twists and unseen complications. They like to see the characters fail as well as conquer. Romance is okay by them, but it is not the only reason they read the story. In fact, the romance aspect is low on their list of must-haves and they like that the main characters are a bit tortured in their love for one another.

You may say, “Holy heck, Conway – that is a TON of detail. How are we supposed to know that much about our audience?!” Well . . . that’s part of being a writer, and I was a journalist before I was a novelist. As a journalist I had to always, ALWAYS sell my story – not only to my editor, but to my potential readers. I needed to pitch every story to my editor and tell them WHY it was timely. WHY people would read it and WHO would read it. I needed to tell them how I would learn about the topic I was pitching and LEARN ABOUT WHO IS INTERESTED in such a topic.

I basically became my audience, every time, for every story. To become my audience for UNDERTOW, I began reading any and all YA books that were a bit similar. I started watching every teen movie I could find, plus those that were not aimed for teens but had young main characters. I shifted my playlist in the direction of pure Alternative music, hard rock, and a bit of metal.

I was willing to be a teenager – jump on beds (okay – my daughter’s bed at least), leap from the Town Neck bridge, argue over t-shirts at Abercrombie, and generally act like I was 16 rather than . . . well, older. I began to look at the world as a high schooler again – to understand fully what they loved, what tormented them, what mattered to them. Now-a-days it is easy for me to shift from the “run for your lives, MOM IS PISSED!” mode into a full on, nag-worthy, “Can we please, PLEASE, PLLLLLEEEAAASEEE go to the movies???? Can we go dye our hair??? Can we go hang out at the beach with our kites??”

If you have any doubt in my ability to be a teenager, just ask my daughter and her friends. They will tell you I am full-on nuts, but 100% wildly fun. Well . . . until you pick on your little brother or dare to sass me.

Then it’s GAME-ON-EVIL-MOTHER MODE.

And yes – I will totally write my Mean Mom character into a novel at some point . . . as long as it fits with the audience I am writing for. As for now, I work exclusively for the teens I strive to please, and always, always for my fans.

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How I got past Writer’s Block

How to avoid writer's block - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by Lauren Mayhew

At some point in every writer’s life, writer’s block kicks in, and when it does, I think you can agree it’s the absolute worst. Even though you know you’re capable of writing the story in your head, the words just won’t come out.

What I’m about to say is by no means the only way to defeat writer’s block, but this is what worked for me, so hopefully I can help a few of you out if you’re struggling too.

My writer’s block began after I’d published my first book, ‘Reality is in a Dream’. I had a short break before beginning the writing process of book 2, ‘Mourning Memories’, and when I started to write book 2, I was very enthusiastic that the process would be swift. However, about 20,000 words in, I began to hate everything that I’d written up to that point, and then I re-wrote the whole lot.

This put a massive spanner in the works. I’d completely lost my flow, and although I had a very descriptive plan, I just couldn’t find the motivation or inspiration to do any writing. At this point, I was also hand writing everything, and then typing it up later. It was a slow process, and in the end, it took me 18 months to write book 2. That didn’t include the edits, and formatting time.

Because of this extremely long process, I kept putting off the writing of book 3. I couldn’t even bring myself to write a plan out, because without this, I couldn’t start writing, or that’s what I told myself anyway. But then NaNoWriMo came around, and with the encouragement of a few others in this group, I decided to give it a go.

I didn’t write book 3 of my trilogy for NaNo, as I was still procrastinating about that one, but I did manage to write 50,000 words of a different book, the fastest I’d ever written a book in my entire life. I was no longer hand writing, simply typing directly onto Microsoft Word, and the words just kept flowing. I had a plan for this book, but I think I only looked at it once. The story ran away with itself, and turned into something I’m extremely proud of.

50K50Days - Day 50 - Lauren Mayhew Author - Young Adult Author RendezvousSo, when I finally decided to write the third book in my trilogy, I took inspiration from NaNo. I set myself a new challenge, to write 50,000 words in 50 days. I posted every day on my social media accounts, letting my followers know about my progress, and that pretty much forced me not to give up. I still hadn’t finished the plan for the book, but once I’d started, the characters took over, and before I knew it, the story was written.

Having less of a structured plan to follow, a daily target to reach, and followers on social media expecting updates, I managed to overcome my writer’s block. In the space of four months, I managed to write two books. Neither of them are close to being finished, but the story is there to be edited, and that’s sometimes the hardest part for me. I’ve given myself a break from both of them, but I’ll be going back to the third book in my trilogy soon, and hope to have it published by the end of summer.

Set yourself a challenge, and you may be surprised what you’re capable of!

Indie Author Life and Other Forms of Torture

Indie Authors - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by K. R. Conway

Last night I had an epiphany.

One would think it would have been obvious to ME for a while now, but it wasn’t.

You see, I am a self-published author, though I refer to myself as an “Indie” mainly because I operate like a business – like a small press. I am also a professional writer, and I don’t say that off the cuff or because I’ve written two novels.

I’m LITERALLY a traditional working writer, so I will admit that gives me a bit of a leg-up in some aspects. And I’ve been a professional writer for nearly two decades – a paid, published, prolific, oh-crap-I’m-on-a-deadline, writer.

Because of my professional background, I WAS a publishing snob – I believed that to be a legitimate success, you needed an editor to praise your work and a Big Six publisher to fork over the dough. I thought you needed the stamp of approval from the publishing gods and a few lines about the deal on Publishers Marketplace.

And even after I decided to jettison my brain and self-publish UNDERTOW (mainly because I wanted to write the story I wanted to write for the first time in my life . . . and I may have been nuts), I was still seeking “traditional” approval. I wanted an agent or a publishing house to suddenly fall on me and say, “Oh YEAH – we want a piece of the action!”

I wanted their approval because I thought I needed it.

I thought I needed their watermark to designate a book as worthy — as great. The reality is that it is still a total gamble. I’ve read AWESOME traditionally published books and ones that are total junk. I’ve read lots of terrible self-pubbed stuff too, while others are phenomenal . . .  although the kicker is I look AFTERWARDS for a pub imprint on the fabulous books. I know . . . the irony is sick.

Indie Author Struggle - Young Adult Author RendezvousAnd it’s true – to get reviewed in the big newspapers, you DO need such a mark. Many places will scoff at you and ignore you if you say you are self published because in their head, all that matters is a traditional publishing deal. The comments of fans, the rave reviews from book bloggers, means nothing. I take comfort in the fact that so many books come out constantly, that I find book sellers also don’t have a solid grasp on who an author is, even if the author has signed a huge deal and is a screaming success among fans. Seriously – if this describes you, don’t take offense by their lack of knowledge – they are hurled books and press releases all day long. Those writers with the biggest marketing buck are the ones they finally stock.

I am blessed that the UNDERTOW series gets a LOT of action. I owe that almost entirely from the one group of people who I had never really aimed for before as a journalist: fans. I started earning fabulous, dedicated fans and more importantly, they were buying Eila’s story, posting pictures to Facebook, Goodreads, and Instagram. They were talking about it, writing fan fiction on it, shooting my crazy story to the top of the Amazon bestseller heap. Teens even started recognizing me IN THE MALL, which was waaaayyyy out of the norm for me.

Yes – I wrote UNDERTOW for those teenagers of the Cape (I used to be one when dinosaurs still wandered the earth). I wrote for Cape Cod, but the professional writer in me also sought that “publishing deal” even though I KNEW I had taken myself out of contention the second I self published the book.

So last night, as I was cranking out pages for CRUEL SUMMER, my professional brain kicked in and I started thinking if I should query the manuscript (send it to literary agents). I started wondering if I should throw my hat into the ring with the publishing gods, even though CRUEL SUMMER is a spin off of my books.

But then a message popped up on my author page on Facebook.

It was from a fan. Someone I had never met who lived in Ireland and was head over heels for the series. She said she went to her local bookstore, who refused to order STORMFRONT because I didn’t have a snazzy imprint from the Pub gods. But to her – this random fan who was strolling the streets of a foreign country — it didn’t matter, because she went online and bought it anyway.

And THAT is when I finally realized that those publishing imprints mean nothing to readers. My background as a professional writer, means nothing. The fact that my name is not in Publisher’s Marketplace, means nothing to readers. Hell, sometimes MY NAME means nothing because they never looked at who wrote UNDERTOW.

To the industry, however, those things mean everything.

It was then that I realized, that while my professional self wanted to stay in the professional pat-on-the-back track, it was my READERS who made my day. It was their reviews and their thoughts, that counted. They PAID me, and paid me well (thanks BTW!). UNDERTOW will eventually make the same amount as an average publishing advance, not because one person from the right business said, “yes,” but because thousands of readers said, “HELL YEAH!”

For me, that knowledge is humbling. My readers have entrusted me to not let them down and to focus, not on my professional past, but on my rebellious Indie future. They want characters that they scream for, stories that keep them awake at night, and a crazy author that will aim to always please them.

Yes, it is true that I would like an agent someday and I offer outrageous applause to those awesome friends and writers who DO have publishing deals (and I will push your books into the spotlight as much as possible). But for UNDERTOW and all the books that live inside that world, I will write for my fans and keep it in my control.

My readers may not be from the Big Six publishing houses, but they gave me their stamp of approval . . . by the thousands.

What more could a storyteller ask for?

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5 Steps to Getting Published

5 Steps to Getting Published - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by Christopher Morgan

Whether it’s skydiving, visiting the Taj Mahal, riding an elephant or learning to play the piano, everyone has that bucket list they’re trying to work through before they die. Having done all of these things myself already, my own bucket list is much smaller nowadays but one of the last remaining entries was to publish a novel.

This year, however, I was successful at putting a check into that box with the release of Forestium: The Mirror Never Lies. If you’ve ever wanted to put a check into that box, here are the 5 things you’ll need to do.

Step 1 – Turn intention into action

It might sound straightforward enough but the truth is that the vast majority of people that intend to write a novel never actually start. Sadly, the majority of people that start don’t even finish it either, and many of those that do get that far never cross the final hurdle of actually getting their book published. Overcoming this mental hurdle and believing in yourself is the very first, all-important step towards your goal of seeing your book in print.

Step 2 – Write something

Whether there’s something that you’ve always wanted to write or whether you are inventive enough to conjure up something on the spot, your book content is your next hurdle. Many people think that this is the hardest past of the process but that’s not necessarily the case. Don’t worry about making it perfect – just get something down first. You can always go back and make improvements.

Step 3 – Editing

There will be lots of opportunity along your journey to try to scrimp and save and do things on the cheap. This isn’t one of those. Don’t try to do this yourself! Get a professional to assist. Once you have finished your last chapter, the real work begins and it should start with you going over everything yourself – repeatedly – to make changes, corrections, tweaks, adjustments, etc. Then, solicit some beta readers to give you an honest assessment. These should be strangers that have no investment in wanting to spare your feelings. Your Mum will love your work and your friends and family will probably tell you it’s terrific. Ignore them all and get total strangers to give you the honest feedback you’ll need at this point. When you’ve done all of this, engage a professional editor to go over it all. You’ll be surprised at just how much better a good editor can make your manuscript.

Step 4 – Book cover

People do judge a book by its cover, so make sure it’s a good one. Yes, you can make a book cover cheaply and with readily available software programs like Microsoft Word but this is another area where money could be very well spent. The right book cover can make or break a book, so it’s worth spending a lot of attention on this. Engaging with a book cover designer is likely to be money very well spent.

Step 5 – Getting published

Sounds easy, right? Well, the truth is that it can be – depending on which route you take. When it comes to publishing, authors fall into two broad categories: Traditional (trad) or Independent (indie). The trad publishing route typically involves engaging with an agent, who then sells your idea to a publishing house, or at least tries to. This can and does work well for a lot of people. The catch is that you have to pay a percentage to the agent and also to the publisher. But, if all goes well, your book will be marketed far and wide. The downside is that you lose a percentage of your book sales, as the agent and publisher each take their cut. If you publish the book yourself, which is quite easily done nowadays, you’ll retain more of the profits for yourself, although it can be hard work competing against the traditional publishing marketing machines and will definitely require a lot more work on your part.

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Burnt Leaves and Other Weirdness

Burnt Leaves and Other Weirdness - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by K. R. Conway

My mother is a wise soul.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, she’s kooky and crazy and lives out loud, but she’s got this inner Zen thing going on that makes her come out with some true treasures of insight every once in a while.

One such gem was pretty simple: she said real writers, WRITE. They don’t perseverate, they don’t make up excuses. They just write – nose to the keyboarded, possible drink in their hand (hello, Hemmingway), and a brilliant fire in their belly that demands they tell the story.

I didn’t have that drive to write when I first messed around with UNDERTOW, but once I got really rolling inside Eila’s world, I loved it – the feel of the abused keys under my fingers and how the voices and scenes washed away the world as I worked. I mean, literally – the house could catch fire and I may not realize it.

So anytime I try to excuse myself from my keyboard, I remember my mother’s words (and the fact that my readers will get on my case if I don’t finish my next novel) and I get back down to business.

But I like to think that I’m actually a storyteller first, a writer second. The tough thing about being an obsessive storyteller is that you have a MILLION stories to tell. And because the new characters and tales are screaming to come out, I sometimes think I can weave them ALL into a current WIP (work in progress). Sometimes I do, but sometimes I control the urge and tell myself they deserve their own novels. Most of the time I spin so many stories in my head, that they all jockey for attention at once, which literally melts my brain.

At night I go running for a few miles, music blaring in my ears, seeking the muse within. While I pound the pavement, those stories that are whispered in my mind suddenly come vividly to life. I no longer see the road, but rather an entire scene playing before me like a ghostly movie screen. Literally, I no longer have any sense of where I am, only that I SEE the scene in front of me. The stories that win the right to be the next one written, are the ones that build scene after scene, night after night as I run.

Tonight I went walking with Kalli, and while we strolled she suddenly asked me why I was feeling the leaves.

I didn’t even know I was doing it.

I was walking under a low slung oak branch and my fingers were trailing through the tips of the leaves above me. But in my mind, I wasn’t touching them – my character was and the leaves weren’t soft and green, but curled and windburnt.

I turned to my daughter and simply replied, “I’m writing,” as I dropped my hands and shrugged.

Of course, she thought I wasn’t normal and commented as such. A minute or two of silence sat between the two of us as we walked in the near darkness. I glanced at her out of the corner of my eye as she fiddled with her phone, seeming flustered, but then she finally huffed in aggravation and halted. “DAMN IT! Now I’m gonna obsess about what you’re writing!”

I smiled like the cat who ingested Tweety and pointed to the tree, sitting content and deep green in the night air, and said, “The leaves, in my mind, are burnt and the damage isn’t from nature. I see it every night when I run.”

Kalli looked at me, a stone-still stare that she has perfected over the years, and only her lips moved. “You are so weird.”

Yup. That’s me. The weird one.

I am my mother’s daughter. Apple. Tree.

My daughter is totally doomed to inherit that gene.

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In Defense of Insta-Love

In Defense of Insta-Love - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by K. R. Conway.

I do three things when I’m trolling the aisles of heaven (re: bookstore), searching for a few new books to burn my paycheck on:

  1. Seek out a kick-ass cover.
  2. Read the back jacket.
  3. Read the first page . . . and maybe the Goodreads reviews.

Let me tell ya – I’ve learned one thing about Goodreads and that’s that many readers apparently hate any novels with “insta-love,” but I’m calling out their whining as “bullshit.”

Why?

Because they’ve done it themselves. Repeatedly.

Let’s face it – novels have plenty of this “insta-love” thing going on, BUT I find that it’s (usually) not actually insta-love. It’s insta-LUST and lemme tell ya – we’ve ALL been there.

And lust . . . is dangerous. Forbidden.

Yet we don’t care, ’cause, baby,  we LOVE to lust.

We’ve drooled over the movie star, licked the Abercrombie bag (well, I have), and mentally stripped the barista hottie who’s serving Starbucks (yes, we females are just as guilty of doing it as the males, but we’re sneakier about it). Fellow writer Trisha Leaver would no doubt shove me from her car and haul butt for her TV if she realized the new season of Outlander had suddenly appeared because, well . . . hot Scot in a kilt! (FYI – it’s not on yet, damn it).

Adam Driver - Kylo Ren

Adam Driver is “Kylo Ren” in Star Wars, The Force Awakens

And Lust can corrupt your sanity and your morals. Take, for horrifying instance, my teen daughter: she’s totally in love with Kylo Ren from Star Wars. The second that jerk took his helmet off on the big screen and tried to suck the brain cells out of Rey, my daughter was drooling. DROOLING. Hello? RESIST THE DARKSIDE, GIRL! That’s lust.

And honestly, I’ve never known love-at-first-sight, but I’ve totally known LUST at first sight. Sometimes it evolves into love, other times . . . meh. More importantly, if you go back and really read all those book which have been labeled as “insta-love,” you’ll realize that they are actually insta-lust, which happens every second of every day.

I guess my point is that you can’t bash insta-love because it’s a truth of life (just sorta misnamed by readers). I tried to cover every variation of love in my books because I’ve known all the variations through my friends, family, and my own life.

For many, MANY people, lust usually comes first (Eila for Raef). If you’re lucky, it evolves into love (Raef for Eila). And sometimes hate comes first, then a slow “like,” then love (Ana and Kian). And sometimes lust comes first, but eventually burns both people out and they end up loathing one another while plotting one another’s murders (Collette and Kian).

And other times, a cautious friendship starts first, then love, then lust (Christian and Elizabeth).

But you can’t bash insta-love / lust because you think it’s cliché.

It’s not and we all know you’ve done the insta-love / lust thing with the movies, TV, books, and the Chris Helmsworth lookalike working on the roof next door. Even freakin’ love triangles are real (what a nightmare, FYI – in real life, it’s a major pain in the ass).

So, if I have no issue with insta-love / lust and love triangles in books, then what do I loathe in a novel? That’s easy: dumb heroines and crappy characters. Bad writing and thin storylines.

So, yeah – I’m calling out all you insta-love haters because we all know you’ve done it, multiple times, and lust is good for ya. If you’re gonna whine and protest about something, protest bad writing. Protest shallow characters, boring stories, and weak females, but not the lust.

Because, quite frankly, lust makes the world go round.

You can see Kate’s original Blog Post here.

Book Review and Rating Myths

Book Reviews - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by L. J. Higgins

The book review. Something every author needs and wants. They can simultaneously drive them crazy and make them want to cry and have them smiling from ear to ear. But while reviews are important to authors, I don’t think readers realise how vital they are to not only authors but also themselves. Reading reviews and ratings can help you gauge if a book is worth your money and time, and if it’s the right book for you.

Reasons you should leave a review:

  • For your fellow readers – Reviews are a way for readers to help other readers. By reading through them or glancing over a books star rating you can decide if it is a book you are interested in or not. If every reader gave a quick star rating and review of each book they read, then it would make it much easier for others to find their next favourite book.
  • Meet other book lovers – Through sites such as Goodreads, reviewing books and sharing your love for them can help you meet readers and authors who enjoy the same books you do.
  • To thank the Author who wrote it – Authors not only need reviews, they love hearing what you honestly thought about the story they put so many hours, weeks, months, even years into.

Myths about Reviews:

  • They have to be long and detailed – No they don’t. The only thing they NEED to be is honest. Even one to two lines can be enough to let people know what you thought of a book. Yes, you are more than welcome to write a review that breaks down characters, plot etc. But you don’t have to. It’s your choice.
  • Reviews have to be nice – Reviews are the one time you can ignore the saying ‘if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all.’ Reviews are there to not only help readers decide if it is the book for them, but also to help authors learn what their audience loves and dislikes about their books. This helps them grow and learn as writers, so really your HONEST review is helping your favourite authors become the best they can be.
  • You can be mean in reviews – Okay, now I have to take back my words and remind you of the saying, ‘if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all.’ Reviews are meant to be honest, not mean. There is no need to personally attack the author or the morals you don’t agree with in the story. Remember, just because the author wrote it, doesn’t mean it is their opinion. Stories are made up, as are the characters, and sometimes characters do or say things that we don’t necessarily approve of as an author, but feel it helps the story in some way.
  • 3 Stars mean a book is bad – For many authors, anything over 2 stars is great. Accompanied with an honest review a 3 star rating can show an author that although you liked their book there were a few things that could be worked on. Here is a rough idea of what star ratings mean on Amazon.

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So there you have it. Writing reviews and rating books isn’t as scary as many people think. You don’t need to be a writer yourself to leave one that is helpful, and you are not only helping an author when you leave one, your helping other readers like yourself. So next time you read a book take ten minutes to head to Amazon or Goodreads to let them know what you honestly thought about their book. You will make an authors and possibly a readers day!

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Keeping Cheese out of Romance Novels

Keeping Cheese from Romance Novels 3 - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by Michelle Lynn.

Cheese. Oh glorious cheese, how we love you so; on our pizzas, over our pasta, just basically in our bellies any and every way. Don’t stop coming. Never quit melting. You are beautiful and wonderful and oh so very tasty.

On our plates you shall stay and from our brains you’ll keep away. Ok, so I’m terrible at rhyming. I’m a fiction writer not a poet and it’ll stay that way. Hey! Another one! Stopping now. I promise. Back to the fiction writing thing, one of the series I write is romance. Don’t laugh at me, or do as long as you buy my books. That was a joke – if anyone out there is a little humor challenged.

Romance gets a bad rep and sadly, a lot of what is said is true. Some people don’t like the steamy aspects that seem to be creeping in to more books than not. Mine tend to be on the cleaner side- I mean, come on, my DAD reads them so I only write what I’m comfortable with him seeing. Some people hate the predictability of romance books- well, sorry folks, most of the time the characters are going to end up together. If they didn’t, there’d be hell to pay from angry hordes of romance readers.

But, forget all of that for a moment. It doesn’t matter, at least to me. When I read a romance book, I stop at the nauseating, eye-roll worthy, puke inducing cheesiness. I firmly believe that every romance has its cheesy moments, but COME ON!

Keeping Cheese from Romance Novels 2 - Young Adult Author RendezvousWhen you read a book, or write one for that matter, you’re imagining yourself in that story. Book boyfriends/girlfriends are real things in the genre because people fall in love with the things the character says or does. Just picture it, the leading man comes to you- all hooded eyes, wicked smile, and chiseled physique- he opens his mouth to pour his heart out and says “You’re the light to my darkness.” Or “I’ve loved you since the moment I met you, I just didn’t know it yet.” I don’t know about you, but I’d probably do one of two things- Laugh despite trying to hold it back or make tiny little gagging sounds.

I’m a realist, sometimes a cynic, and I tend to write like one. That isn’t to say that extreme cheesiness doesn’t occasionally creep in, but it’s usually caught before publication. I just sent my new book, Confessions, off to the editor after a couple rounds of beta readers. Wanna know some of the stuff one of them caught? I actually said “The truth will set him free”. I didn’t catch that while I was editing. See, even us anti-cheesers do it sometimes. Anti-cheeser- I like that word!

Keeping Cheese from Romance Novels 2 - Young Adult Author RendezvousWords can be cheesy too. It doesn’t have to be full sentences or ideas. Some people have visceral reactions to certain terms. I know at least five people who cringe when someone says “moist” but that’s different. I’m talking about the cutesy poo, lovey dovey words or phrases. Some books make my eyes hurt from all the rolling they do when they use the terms “snuggle” or “cuddle”. I picture my two-year-old niece looking up at me and saying “Wanna snuggle?”

I have the same reaction to certain words in steamier romances, but I’ll leave those to your imagination. I know, I know. You want to hear them, but this is a blog for people who read YA and clean romances. Jeeze, guys, cool your jets!

Anyway, it’s simple. This is my no-cheese policy – or just the ramblings of an incoherent, brain jumbled writer. Your pick.

YAAR Does NaNoWriMo!

NaNoWriMo Experience - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by Lauren Mayhew

National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo for short, challenges people to write 50,000 words in 30 days, that’s an average of 1667 words per day. I’ve struggled to write that many words this whole year, let alone one day. You can read more about NaNoWriMo here.

I went into this challenge very pessimistically. Both of my published novels are around the 50,000 word mark, and they each took me around a year to write. Doing this in 30 days wasn’t just going to be exhausting, but mentally challenging too. However, I did it, and I couldn’t be more proud of myself.

I haven’t finished the book yet, which is encouraging, as this may turn out to be the longest book I’ve ever written! Chapter six is completely missing, and I haven’t written the ending yet, so I’d hope there’s at least another 5,000 words to add, not including all of the edits I’ve already made in my head!

NaNoWriMo challenged me to write in a way I’ve never written before, and I think I’ll continue in this way from now on. I wrote everything straight into Microsoft Word. Normally, I write by hand and type everything up later. There was no way I’d have the time to do that with NaNoWriMo, and it’s helped me to write quicker which can only be a good thing.

But I’m not the only one who took this challenge head on! Quite a few of us here at YAAR decided to give it a go, here’s what they have to say about their experience, seven days after it’s over.

NaNoWriMo Winner's Certificate - Young Adult Author RendezvousThis was my fifth NaNoWrMo and my fifth win. I love November. It’s the only month of the year that I truly write every day. My challenge now is to keep going until I finish this book … oh and to have fun with my local NaNo peeps at our “Thank Goodness It’s Over Party!” on Saturday. – Debbie Manber Kupfer

Every November I get excited. Not only because it’s the holiday season, but the creative juices around the world start reeving up and it’s addictive. Especially in the book world. And it’s all because of NaNoWriMo This is my second year to join the movement, my first year to “win”, and it was such a wonderful experience. Yes, I have mega bags under my eyes and I’m seriously sleep deprived, but the words that flowed, the relationships that were built (both literal and fictional, the stories that will come of it… EPIC.)Lili Mahoney

For the first time in my writing career, NaNoWriMo actually coincided with a time when I was able to get a lot of writing done. It really truly motivated me to write every day, which is something I rarely do. In the span of only 30 days, I was able to get 50,000 words written AND plan out the rest of the book (which will likely be over 100,000 words). Having others do this at the same time was awesome!Patrick Hodges

I had grand intentions for NaNoWriMo… I was going to finally get back in the habit of writing every day! I was going to finish my book! I was going to remember that I love writing and it’s something I do for fun, not as another chore! In the end, I didn’t write every day. I didn’t finish my book. I eked out my 50,000 words by the skin of my teeth on the last day. But I did it and most of all I rediscovered my love of writing, even in the midst of my crazy life!!T.D. Shields

I’ve done NaNoWriMo for four years, but this was the first year I ever made it to 50,000 words. My secret was getting up to speed by writing 1,000 words a day during the previous month. You really discover which parts of a book you’ve thought through and which parts you haven’t when you have to produce three to five pages a day on it.Paul Briggs

This was my first time doing NaNoWriMo and I finished my book with 60,000 chaotic, raw, heartfelt words. I’m not sure what I’ll discover when it comes to editing, but having that rough draft done feels amazing! I’d say overall my experience was overwhelming, intense, beneficial, and gratifying. I’ll be ready to do it again next year…or in 2025.Tenille Berezay

Nanowrimo was like going on a literary bender, but with not nearly enough booze.K.R. Conway

This was my first time doing NaNoWriMo and I completed my first draft of a novel that I first had the idea for over ten years ago. The challenge gave me the opportunity and the excuse to write it, and I am absolutely in love with the manuscript. Keep an eye out for my novel, Paranormal Painless.Shannon Rieger

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Keeping Reading in the Joy Column

Love Reading - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by Cynthia Port.

Academic year 2016-2017 is officially ON!  Bring on the new friends! Sign up for  afterschool clubs! Meet some inspiring teachers! Start documenting every single page you read and every single minute you spend reading!  Wait . . . whut?

Sadly, often yes.

And I get why, I really do—not all kids are avid readers, and teachers need to insure that a minimum is happening for everybody.  For lots of kids, though, setting a “minimum” amount can make it feel like a maximum, as in, “Reading any more than the 20 pages my teacher assigned for tonight just makes me a sucker.”

Even worse, assigned reading can shift the whole experience of reading from the “joy” column in a young person’s life to the “chore” column. We definitely don’t want that.

Luckily, there are lots of way to keep reading in the joy column all year, and all life, long.  Here are a handful of ideas:

1. Make an after school or weekend library visit a regular thing, tempting your child or teen with more fun choices than she or he can handle.  You might take turns picking out books to read aloud to each other, or invent a library game.  A fun one that helps kids broaden their reading interests is “Reading Roulette,” where you walk down an aisle of books with your eyes closed, pull out 3-5 books sight unseen and select at least one of them to read.

2. Create a family reading time. This can be a family ‘read aloud’ or a family ‘read together,’ where everybody gets cozy on the couch with their own book in their hands. Either option can be 15 minutes a night, or a longer, once a week gathering—whatever works with your family’s schedule.

3. Read books for fun yourself, and do it at a time when your child or teen sees you reading.  It’s tempting to read only after the kids are tucked in, or only when they’re at school or sports, but as with most everything else in a child’s life, if they see YOU enjoying reading, they will forever associate reading with something fun and pleasurable.

4. Movies that have been made from books can also be a great incentive.  Right now my daughter wants to watch the Lord of the Rings movies.  We’ll make each one a special movie night just as soon as we finish each book.

5. You know I’ve gotta say it—check out the great books for children and teens at YAAR!  We’ve got so many amazing titles, and there’s always some on sale. Plus, every YAAR author LOVES to hear from readers.  Nothing sets reading more firmly in the joy column than the chance to make friends with the author of a book that inspires, delights, makes you weep, or gives you the shivers.

What ideas do YOU have for keeping reading in the joy column?

Learning Through Books For All Ages

Rita Goldner - Learning - Young Adult Auhor RendezvousWritten by Rita Goldner.

A friend recently shared with me this quote, from T. H. White, The Once and Future King:  “The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds.  There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”

My friend meant it as a general “life-advice” thing, but since I am an obsessed author/illustrator I interpret it in the context of my writing, reading, researching, publishing and marketing world. My current opportunity, shared with all my fellow authors, is to present that remedy for “being sad”, the “thing that never fails” to our reading audience. Before anyone assumes that the learning has to be sophisticated and profound, be aware that in my case, the audience is 5-8 years old. This group, usually with an adult reading to them, seems fascinated with dinosaurs, construction equipment, and underpants.  I recently bought the trifecta to read to my grandson: a picture book about dinosaurs, in their underpants, operating cranes and bulldozers. Needless to say, a big hit.

In my own reading escapes, I’m only looking for entertainment, but the unintended byproduct is learning “why the world wags and what wags it”. I never liked history or geography presented academically in school, but since I’m a fan of James A Michener, I couldn’t help but learn about Hawaii, Texas, Colorado (Centennial) Chesapeake Bay (Chesapeake) and Israel (The Source).

Since I’m now immersed in researching children’s literature, I’ve come to realize that for the little ones,  the learning isn’t just about the subject matter, it’s about the power of communication, the whole palette of adventures they can explore, how the world works, and even their own self-worth.  It’s a humbling and very exciting challenge for me!


Rita’s blog and website can be found here.

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Kickstarter for Authors

Rita Goldner - Kickstarter - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by Rita Goldner.

At a recent meetup for Phoenix Publishing and Book Marketing, a few people were interested in my experience with Kickstarter, a crowdfunding company I used to fund printing for the children’s picture book I wrote and illustrated, Orangutan: A Day in the Rainforest Canopy. I’m blogging my own personal journey here, not the framework of Kickstarter, because that can be easily researched at https://www.kickstarter.com/

My publisher suggested Kickstarter to me at an early planning meeting. Dancing Dakini Press, a small but well-established entity, had used this method previously to fund printing of their award-winning books, and promised to guide me through their steps. I was reticent, not fully understanding the “how”.

My only exposure to crowdfunding had been a few projects I had seen online, for GoFundMe. I later learned the agenda of GoFundMe, as explained on their website, is to help raise money for  “medical expenses, education costs, volunteer programs, youth sports, funerals & memorials – even animals & pets.”  It’s obviously not appropriate for us in the book business.

The perfect fit for authors is Kickstarter. Their mission statement welcomes entrepreneurs in the fields of art, music, theater, journalism, publishing and technology. Their rules exclude any charity, focusing instead on projects for “creating something and sharing it with the world”. In my opinion, an author must think of the work as bigger than him/herself, and that it will make the world a little better, raising the bar for literary excellence, and/or showcasing an important concept, which in my case was an endangered species.  My biggest supporter was my son-in-law, who owns a search engine optimization business, and knows a lot more about marketing than I do. He endorsed my plan, saying that it was vital to have followers sharing the adventure and being part of the success.

My publisher recommended that I build my followers list to a minimum of 1 person for every $10 (800 followers for $8000). For me the list comprised Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, Pinterest, and a business Facebook page I started, named after the book title. On the business page, one can’t “friend” people, so I increased my list by posting the book illustrations on non-profit organizations’ pages about rainforests, orangutan rescue, etc. Then I asked people to “like” my business page to see more illustrations. I also occasionally posted a short question on these pages, to elicit a response, and then asked the responders to “like” my business page. One of my questions was “Do you think education or penalties are more effective in stopping wildlife habitat destruction?” I was thrilled to see I got a response from Jane Goodall (my hero) on that one. I started this follower-building two months before the Kickstarter launch. I posted an illustration and/or a comment every other day on the business page, and shared it with all the other social media. I also bought two ads, for 6 days each, $5.00 per day, but I have no way of knowing if the followers were coming from the ads or the posts. Once I launched the campaign, I emailed almost everyone I knew, and posted frequent updates on social media.

The prizes for backers have to be something personal, from you. The obvious prize is an autographed book, but I also used notecards and color print enlargements, too. Some authors give lessons for prizes, on plot or character development, pacing, climax, conflict resolution, or any tricks of the trade they’ve learned along the way. It was an exciting (although sometimes bumpy) ride, and I have not only the money to show for it, but a group of interested followers who share my passion.

You can see Rita’s campaign here.


Rita’s blog and website can be found here.

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Characters from History

Written by Paul Briggs

Sometimes I notice certain patterns in my work. Protagonists who are smart, but not too smart and with a very practical bent to their intelligence. Geniuses who are given a choice between trying to save the entire world — and possibly failing — or trying to save only a small part of it and being more certain of success. Strong female characters with medical conditions that cause them to dominate whatever room they’re in whether they want to or not.

When I start to worry that I’m starting to create the same characters over and over again, I work on historical fiction. Specifically, alternate history, which is usually classified as science fiction, but which I like to think of as historical fiction that’s broken its chains. Suddenly you aren’t confined by actual events any more — you can kill Hitler if you feel like it, or have St. Petersburg overrun by zombies and vampires.

Up to a point, that is. Just as in regular historical fiction, if you’re going to put historical figures in your writing you have to read about them enough to get your facts straight. More than that, you have to consider their life experiences and what they learned from them in order to figure out what they would do in a given situation.

Doing this for my own timeline at alternatehistory.com (called “The Dead Skunk” — don’t ask) has meant studying all sorts of people, including James Madison, Lord Liverpool, the Duke of Wellington, Napoleon, Lord Castlereagh, Joachim Murat, John Quincy Adams… and these were just the beginning. When I started writing my version of the Caroline Affair, I was exposed to a whole galaxy of wonderful and horrible personalities I never could have invented on my own, most of whom I had never heard of.

But the biggest challenge I’ve faced in getting inside the head a historical character was in writing a monologue about John F. Kennedy. It was about his struggles with Addison’s disease — a thing Kennedy never spoke of in real life and in fact took pains to conceal, inventing other stories to account for his stays in the hospital. I called the monologue “The Picture of Health,” because that was what JFK tried so hard to present to the world.

Wrapping my mind around the contradictions of the man was one of the hardest writing tasks I’ve ever done. When healthy, he was strong enough to swim three and a half miles towing a wounded sailor — when sick, he could barely stand. He was brave enough to attack Japanese warships in pitch darkness, but not to join in the vote censuring Joe McCarthy. (The Boston Irish had a certain loyalty to McCarthy.)

So… writing historical fiction is a great challenge. By forcing yourself to get inside the heads of real people who were very different from you, you expand your ability as a writer to invent your own characters and make them more real.

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