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Author Spotlight: T.D Shields

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Written by
Michelle Lynn

What are the titles of your work and can you tell us a bit about them?
My first two books are Into Shadow and Into Light. You should probably read them in that order. I just heard from one of my beta readers for Into Light and she accidentally read it first and then started on Into Shadow… she was very confused!

Both books are set in the not-so-distant future… there has been an enormous war that involved the entire world and the country is only now beginning to recover from it. The country is led by a dashing, handsome war hero who you would like very much if I didn’t kill him off within a few minutes of opening the book.

After his death, his daughter Poppy has to learn to fend for herself and figure out what to do next. She ends up hiding in one of the many cities that were left decimated and deserted after the world war, only to learn that the city of Denver is not nearly as empty as she’d been led to believe.

Into Shadow is really about Poppy finding her way and figuring out how to be her own person after spending so many years as an extension of her father. Into Light is where she returns to confront the man who destroyed her life and killed her father. It all sounds kind of dramatic and dark, but I try to let my snarky sense of humor peek out enough to lighten the mood.

Who’s your favorite character from your books?
Poppy is my favorite, of course! She’s the center of the story and she’s really everything I would like to be myself. She’s smart and loving but tough and able to literally kick butt when the situation calls for it. And she’s a redhead – as I am myself. I have a hard time NOT making the heroine of one of my stories a redhead; I just think it’s the best possible hair you can have.

Your series consists of two books at a time when trilogies are very popular. Can you tell us a little about what goes into a decision like that?
I guess I have a little trouble with premature encapsulation… I wound up the whole story too early so it was only two books instead of three!

But really, so many stories ARE trilogies these days and often that’s just perfect. But sometimes it feels like the story is being stretched out unnecessarily just to make it fit into the three-book mold. Poppy’s story was done at the end of two books.

Besides, how many times have you loved the first two books of a trilogy and then the third was kind of a let-down? I avoided that by stopping with two. I won’t rule out revisiting the world at some point – maybe to give Rivers and Sharra their own story.

How important is reading to your writing? Any particular genres that get your mojo flowing?
If you want the really honest truth… reading is actually a barrier to writing for me. I LOVE to read. I will forgo sleep and slack off on my paying job occasionally when I get caught up in a great book. (Unless my boss reads this and then I definitely NEVER slack off on my day job to read a book! And if I ever did, I totally made up for it later, I promise!)

And when I’m all caught up in a great story from another author, I’m so into it that it crowds out my own stories. I do my best writing when I force myself to put down my reading and listen to the stories in my own head.

I like to read almost any genre, but my favorites are dystopian (big surprise!) and anything with a paranormal twist; ghosts, urban fantasy, and other things that go bump in the night are always fun for me.

What authors have inspired you to write?
It’s so hard to pick just one… but I will go with Kiera Cass, who wrote The Selection series. That is the series that I read just before I finally sat down at the computer with the intention of writing out one of my stories. The world that she created just felt so real to me that I wanted to stay in it a while longer. In the end, the world my books live in is not the same as Cass’s world – which is as it should be, because I want to be inspired, not a copycat. But it was definitely that view of the future that led to my version of it.

What’s your favorite book and what is it that draws you to it?
Another tough one! I love so many… The Dresden Files, the Mercy Thompson series, The Selection series, The Hunger Games, pretty much anything by Mercedes Lackey.

But if I really have to pick one, I would have to go with The Belgariad by David Eddings. This is a series of five books and it’s high fantasy – full of wizardry and drama and peril. It’s the first series that I really remember being completely immersed in. I have read it a dozen times at least and it never loses its magic (no pun intended) for me.

What age were you when you started writing?
As I recall, I wrote my first book at about age seven. It was around a dozen pages long, hand-written and self-illustrated on lined paper that I tore from a notebook and stapled together. I couldn’t tell you any of the storyline anymore, but I do remember that my heroine was named Philadelphia and liked to be called Philly. I also remember an illustration of Philly sitting in a nest. I don’t know if this is because the story ACTUALLY involved Philly sitting in a nest or if that’s just my lack of drawing ability coming to the fore – maybe the picture was supposed to be something else entirely.

To my parents’ great credit, they almost managed not to laugh out loud as they read my first attempt at a book. Since the story of Philadelphia was quite a serious drama, I was pretty offended by the laughter. That may be why it took another thirty years or so before I made another serious attempt at writing a book.

Do you ever experience writer’s block? How do you deal with it?
It’s not a huge thing for me, but I do run into it from time to time. My preferred method of dealing with it is to play lots of rounds of Monster Busters (a match-three game) on my tablet. It occupies just enough of my mind to let me bypass the block and work out some plot points in the background of my thoughts.

Do you work with an outline, or just write?
I have a very loose outline. I know where I’m starting out and I know where I want to end up, and I lay out a few major milestones along the way. Then I just write and find out where the story takes me.

It has been said that authors sometimes think of their characters as an extension of themselves. Do yours ever feel real to you?
Oh my gosh, yes! I sometimes have to remind myself that these are not real people. I think of my characters as my friends and it’s actually kind of sad to me when I have to stop and realize that they are actually just figments of my own imagination.

If you were a super hero, what would your power be?
I’m greedy. I would want a bunch of them, kind of like superman. I want the super-strength, the super-speed, the x-ray vision, and definitely the ability to fly. I would also like the power to be invisible, especially when the kids are looking for me to tell me more tales of Minecraft. I could just lie right there in the bed taking a nap and they’d never know where to find me!

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
The technical aspects were a little challenging at first. Just figuring out where to go, what to do, and how it all works can be intimidating. I kind of fumbled my way through it, but it worked eventually.

If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
I would learn more about the whole marketing side of things first. I really had no idea how much work it would be to handle the marketing for the already published stuff while still trying to write something new. For me it kind of turned into an either/or thing. I could either focus on marketing Into Shadow or I could focus on writing Into Light. Now that I’m making final tweaks on Into Light, I can move back into marketing mode again, I guess.

Can you tell us about your next book?
The next book is the start of a new series. Hey, maybe this one will be a trilogy! It’s more lighthearted than Into Shadow and Into Light. It will be called Catbird Seat and it’s urban fantasy, featuring a main character who is a crime-solving cat. It sounds kind of strange, I guess, but I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
The toughest critiques are the ones that are correct! When I read a comment about something that could have been better and realize that they have a very valid point, it stings a little, but ultimately helps me do things better the next time around.

I really dislike it when someone gives me a low rating of one or two stars, but doesn’t say WHY they feel that way. I’m totally on board with your right to not like my book, but I would like to know what it was that turned you off so I can try not to do that again. Then again, maybe if the one-star reviewers left comments I would hate it even more than when they don’t comment, so I should probably leave well enough alone!

The best compliment is when someone tells me they loved the book and can’t wait to see what happens next. The idea that someone else is enjoying my story and wants more is exhilarating. And my mom didn’t laugh at my book this time around (except in appropriate spots). That was a big relief.

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Just jump in and give it a try. Until you give it your best shot you don’t know what you can do.

Do you have any strange writing habits?
I can’t write in the daytime. Or when anyone in the house is still awake, really. I will procrastinate all day long and get nothing accomplished, but suddenly at midnight it’s like an alarm goes off in my brain and it’s time to be productive!

Dogs or Cats?
Cats, for sure. Dogs are cute, but I can’t stand it when they slobber on me. And with Roomie as a major character in my first books and my next series starring a cat as the main character, I guess it’s pretty obvious that I lean that direction.

Chocolate or Vanilla?
I’ll never turn down chocolate, but given a choice between the two, I’ll take vanilla.

What is your biggest fear?
It’s an oddly specific, but real fear… I worry that my car will catch fire while I’m filling it with gas. I try to never re-fuel the car while my kids are with me because I don’t want them strapped in their car seats while the car is on fire. I will postpone fueling up for as long as possible in hopes that my husband will just give in and go to the gas station before I have to.

I realize that it’s ridiculous, but in my defense, my brother’s car really did catch fire while he was filling it with gas. It burned down to a charred frame and nothing more, right there in the parking lot of the gas station! Ever since then I have obsessed over it a little.

Also, vampires. When I was a kid (around 4th grade) I slept with a jar of garlic salt and a fork under my pillow. Apparently my mom felt a stake was inappropriate? I’m still not entirely convinced that vampires (of the scary, non-sparkly variety) are not lurking in the dark when I have to go out alone at night.

So, pretty bleak view of the future. Are you insane? And should we be worried?
Yes. And yes.

Just kidding, I hope. I like to look at Into Shadow as the bleak future, but Into Light takes us past that into bright new possibilities (at least by the end of it all). But even amid the desolation of bombed-out, rubble-strewn cities, people still find friends and family and build good lives. Technology keeps progressing and finding new and better ways to do things. And most people want to do the right thing. So even though there’s plenty to worry about these days, I try to focus on the light, even when it’s almost hidden by the scarier stuff.

And as far as my own sanity goes… I wouldn’t lay any bets in favor of my clean mental-health evaluation. 😉

What People Are Saying About Tara and Into Shadow:

“With the verbal brush-strokes of a Renaissance artist, T.D. Shields crafts a vivid picture of a world two centuries in the future. Thousands of books are given such a setting, but it takes a skilled author to immerse us in that world without weighing the story down in descriptions.”

“The faultless writing style sweeps you into a survival story and leaves no reason to ponder how certain events occurred in this incredible adventure. Tackling bullying and inequality between the sexes, pointing out corruption in government officials, and veering between kindness and cruelty, this novel covers all the human conditions.”

Find out more about T. D Shields HERE

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The Importance of Telling Stories

 

Written by
Cammie Conn

Most of my friends/family/acquaintances know that when I’m not trapped in a good book or typing away at a keyboard, I’m onstage. Acting, like literature, is one of the many things that keeps me waking up in the morning. While the two are vastly different art forms in most respects, my love for them boils down to one thing: a love of storytelling. A passion for words. A compassion for humanity. The more I’ve read and written books and performed from scripts, I began to realize how intertwined theatre/films and novels are. I fell in love with reading as a small child, when I discovered that books could transport me to new and wonderful worlds. The same can be said of performing, after I was cast in my first show and began to watch theatre/film performances in earnest. What I so love about these art forms is that they convey everyday, human emotions that most of us don’t even like to admit that we have. Reading and watching performances provides for an emotional catharsis that we as human beings need in order to live healthfully. While enjoying art has many benefits, I find even more enjoyment in creating it. As a young person, it can be very daunting trying to find my place in the world; deciding which path to take, where I want to go, why I want to go there. But I’ve always believed that, no matter what happens, I want to change the world through art. Affecting other people’s lives for the better, while doing what I love … I can think of no higher calling. It always brings me such unspeakable happiness when I watch someone’s passion unfold after reading/viewing a story. It’s happened to me, when I read beautiful books that forever change my outlook on life. And I’ve seen it happen to others. Once, my school’s theatre department took a small field trip to a nearby professional theater that was hosting a well-reviewed performance of “Lés Misèrables”. We all had our tickets clutched in hand, bumping around on the dark school bus, eager to watch the show. Once we arrived at the venue and started filing off, one of our theatre teachers noticed that the bus driver — a burly, straight-faced man — was still sitting at the wheel, alone. He hadn’t a ticket to get into the show. Luckily, my theatre teacher had an extra ticket and offered it to the man, who accepted it gratefully. As the night wore on, we watched the production, which was beautifully performed and emotionally electrified. (For those of you who’ve never had the pleasure of seeing Lés Misèrables, I HIGHLY recommend it!) The basic plot is about a prisoner during the French Revolution, who was locked up for nineteen years after stealing a loaf of bread to feed his starving sister’s son. During the course of the show, the prisoner realizes that he can redeem his past by overcoming the hardships that life throws his way and making the right decision always, even if it places his family in danger. In the end, he dies a righteous man. When the show was complete, we stood, wiped the tears from our eyes, and made our way back to the school bus. On her way out, our teacher passed the bus driver. He was still sitting in one of the seats, and tears were rolling down his cheeks as he shook with sobs. I think of this moment every time that I start to doubt my ability to write or perform or tell a story of any kind. Art is not something that helps us live: it’s what we live for. It’s in our very nature to create and enjoy other creations. Stories are meant to be told. Stories NEED to be told, for your sake and for the sake of people like that bus driver.

You Deserve Your Own “Renegade Version”

Written by
George Sirois

In 1991, the first of three theatrical Highlander sequels opened in theaters, and it was looked at as a massive failure. The bonding company responsible for the film’s completion stepped in and took it away from the filmmakers, resulting in a 90-minute movie that made absolutely no sense. A few years later, the producers and director had an opportunity to re-visit the movie and they fixed what went wrong and streamlined the story in a much , the bonding company’s interference was a blessing in disguise, since the film’s failure allowed director Russell Mulcahy and producers Bill Panzer & Peter Davis to look back at the entire film, remove what went wrong (including their own storytelling issues), add what was left on the cutting room floor and basically re-invent Highlander II to such a degree that they took an abominable film and made it work.

To differentiate this version from the one that was in theaters (that was called Highlander II: The Quickening), this new cut was known as Highlander II: Renegade Version.

With that in mind, allow me to introduce myself. My name’s George Sirois, and I want to take a second to thank the good people of YA Author Rendezvous for giving me this brand new platform to speak to you each month. Now, why did I start my first blog post here with a random piece of film trivia? To prove a point, and that point is that no matter where you are in life, everyone deserves their own “Renegade Version.”

Back in 2002, I self-published my first novel. It was called “From Parts Unknown” and it was based on a screenplay I had written over ten drafts of between 1999 and 2001. It was a fun story to write, but when I tried to sell it, it went nowhere. So I thought that my chances of success were greater if it were a novel. A year-and-a-half later, I was finished and an acquaintance thought I should self-publish it since it catered to a niche market.  After finding a great deal from iUniverse, the novel was released in November of 2002.

And once again, it went nowhere.

I thought that I would just have to move on from this story, and eight years later, I did with the release of my second novel “Excelsior.” But by the time this one came out, the landscape had changed dramatically from what it was back in 2002. The Kindle was born, eBooks followed, and the self-publishing boom began. When I was asked by a veteran self-published author about “From Parts Unknown,” she told me flat out, “You gotta get those rights back. Get them back and re-publish the book yourself as an eBook.”

So I did, and when I re-read the book, I realized that it didn’t hold up. The quality wasn’t there anymore. (Maybe it was never there.) I still believed in the story, but I no longer liked the execution. Therefore, I decided to take the steps that led to what was going to be my very own “Renegade Version.”

These are the steps I took for this journey that officially began on September 4, 2011 and ended on January 19, 2015.

First thing I did was make sure the original novel was pulled. If you self-published, this is a pretty easy thing to do. Just go to KDP Select, click on your book, and hit the “Unpublish” option. If you worked with a company such as iUniverse, then you have to contact them and let them know you wish to discontinue your title with them. You’ll have to send an email or snail mail letter to the company, and unless your work is bringing in a lot of money, they’ll likely let you go without any problems. But you have to make sure you have the rights before you start. There’s no point in going on this adventure if you can’t.

Once iUniverse gave back the rights (it wasn’t selling, and they already had my setup fees, so why not?), I re-read the book and took notes. Like I said before, I still believed in the story, and so I made sure it held up. For the most part, it did. But when I looked deeper, here’s what I spotted, so when you’re looking at your own manuscript, keep these in mind:

Outdated Technology: For some reason, I still had characters using VHS tapes. That HAD to go, along with many other items that made my future look more like the 23rd century from the 1966 Star Trek point of view than the 2009 one.

Updated History: A lot happened between 2002 and 2011, so it all had to be considered for addition, whether as a specific moment being mentioned or people or events inspiring elements in the story.

Thin Characters: Several characters had just a couple of scenes and then dropped out or were killed off. If this new version was going to work, then I had to introduce readers to people they’d want to follow.

Blank Canvas: This is what I call a world without description. If your characters are to properly interact, they need a world in which to do so, and I only now realized how little description I had in the original story. Some color was desperately needed for this canvas.

I also asked my friends for their opinion on the book. If there were any logic problems that I missed the first time around, they let me know. If something needed further explanation, they let me know. And when I was in the editing stages and working with my beta readers, I listened to their suggestions as well.

As the story grew and grew, and my enjoyment of this new iteration grew along with it, I realized something very interesting. My characters were moving in a very different direction than they did back in ’02. And so I let them, and this is the biggest tip I can possibly give to anyone: If your characters are moving in a specific direction, follow them. Don’t pull them back and tell them to stay on the path you had mapped out.

This was especially true with two characters, the Gladiatorial Combat League Champion Kyle Flyte, and my main character’s wrestling teacher Verne Dappy. Originally, Kyle drops out of the story at the halfway point and Verne only has a few scenes. Early on in the new version, Kyle and Verne are old friends and share a long conversation that I absolutely loved writing. I wanted more of them both, and so I kept them around. Their roles in the second half allowed them to be heavily involved in the subplot I had come up with in early 2011, the subplot that made me want to write this Renegade Version more than anything else.

Fast forward to 2015 (maybe I should have just said “skip ahead,” there I am with the VHS references again), and the final version of “From Parts Unknown” is finished, it has a home with a publisher, and it’s now available on eBook with a paperback version coming soon. I’m thrilled to say that I’m happier with this story now than I ever was before, and I hope that you’ll want to go on a similar journey with your own work. But keep in mind that I’m not suggesting you go back and tinker with a story that already works just fine. At some point, you have to move on. But because of the freedom that the digital age allows us, we no longer have to dwell upon what might have been. And if you know what missed the spot the first time around, and if you know how to make it right, then go for it! Get your story right, because if you’re happy with it, your readers will be too.

No matter who you are, everyone deserves a “Renegade Version.”

Author Spotlight: Kayla Howarth

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Written by
Bethany Wicker

Time for another Author Spotlight and a chance to get to know Kayla Howarth, author of the Institute Series.

What are the titles of your works and can you tell us a bit about them?

The Institute, Resistance, and Defective (Books 1, 2 and 3 of The Institute Series) follow my heroine Allira Daniels and her struggle to live a normal life. Her brother is Defective, a term used for people who possess supernatural abilities. They are seen as dangerous and are segregated from the general population by law and forced to live at the Institute.

Everything Allira does is to protect her brother, Shilah, from having to be sent to the Institute. (Even if she completely screws that up sometimes … okay a lot.)

 

You have many great ones to choose from, but who is your favorite character from your books?

Are you really asking me to pick one of my favourite children? Because that’s what it feels like!

I feel closest to Allira, obviously being inside her head for three years while writing the trilogy.

But my favourite character might actually be Drew, the enigmatic boy who learned early on in life that to survive, he had to screw people over. He had the biggest struggle and growth as a character and earned a place in my heart. (And a lot of readers’ evidently.)  

 

Out of all the action, what was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?

There are so many scenes that I read and reread over and over again because I loved them so much, and looking back now, it wasn’t so much the action scenes, but the ones where friendships and relationships developed.

Any scene with Allira and Tate was always fun to write.

The awkwardness between Allira and Chad gave me butterflies of nerves.

Allira and Shilah’s sister/brother relationship.

Any of the interactions between Allira, Drew, Jayce and Jenna in book #3.

 

Your endings have the perfect closure, but were there alternate endings that you considered?

The Institute had a whole extra chapter at the end that was cut and reserved for Resistance. The scene answered a lot of unanswered questions readers have when they reach the cliffhanger ending of book one. I, myself, as a reader hate cliffhanger endings, and I hated that I did it to my readers, but the scene that was cut just wasn’t strong enough of an ending to the story. It lacked the punch that was needed and would have had readers questioning, “Well, okay … but what now?”

Both Resistance and Defective ended how I’d planned from the beginning.

 

What authors have inspired you to write?

Suzanne Collins. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a major Hunger Games fan. Before that series, I hadn’t really read much at all since high school. THG inspired me to start reading again, and that inspired me to write my own stories.

 

What age were you when you started writing?

I’d taken an elective writing class in high school, but didn’t do any writing after that until I was about twenty-eight. That’s when I started shaping The Institute.

 

Writer’s Block. A common enemy to all authors. Do you ever experience writer’s block? If so, what helps overcome it?

I hate it. I HATE it so much! I used to just force myself to push through it, telling myself I could just go back and fix the drivel later. That doesn’t work so much for me anymore.

I will try reading, but usually if I’m in a writing slump, I’m in a reading slump too. I will try different projects, which is probably why I have four … crap, FIVE unfinished works in progresses right now. *face palm*

But when all else fails… coffee.

 

Do you ever get sad when you realize that the characters that you’ve created aren’t real? Like Allira and her badass-ness?

They’re not real? What? I don’t understand the question. Why would you say such a mean thing?

 

If given the choice, would you be normal or defective?

Defective!

 

If you were Defective, what ability would you have and would you have a cool nickname?

I would really love the ability of power of suggestion. I write this as I beg my child to go put pants on for the thirtieth time today, only to get a resounding ‘no’ in response.

As for a name, right now I’d settle for anything other than, “Mummy… Mummy… Mum. MUM! MUMMY!”

 

Allira must have been fun to write. Where did you get the idea for her? Is she similar to you?

Allira started off very much like me until I realized no one wants to read about a socially awkward, insecure, second-guessing yourself kind of person for 350 pages. She ended up developing into the kind of person I want to be. She’s someone who will stand up for what she believes is right, and even though she does have flaws and insecurities, she doesn’t let them own her like perhaps I do.

 

Australians have awesome accents, but if you could have any accent from anywhere in the world, what would you choose? Would you keep the Aussie one?

I’d like to refine my Australian accent to sound more like Nicole Kidman and less like Rebel Wilson. I love the Aussie accent but not the bogan (trashy) version of it. Sorry Rebel.

 

Publishing books can be challenging and stressful. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

I put it out there before it was ready and had to fix it up after it was published. I didn’t realize how big the indie publishing world was or the amount of help available pre-publication. So I regret not doing more research beforehand.

 

We are all eager to see what comes next. Can you tell us about your upcoming book?

There will be very short novella written from Chad’s perspective. “Through His Eyes (The Institute #3.5)” fills in the eighteen month gap in between Resistance and Defective.

Then shortly after, “Losing Nuka” will be released. Nuka from The Institute Series is all grown up and gets her own book where she searches for her birth mother, only to find herself involved in an underground illegal fight ring called “Litmus” where Defectives are pitted against other Defectives. The Litmus Series will have three books, each from a different person’s perspective. It’s very different to The Institute Series even though it’s technically set in the same world.

 

As an accomplished author, do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

When I first published, there were so many times where I thought to myself “I’m wasting my time!” My husband kept having to remind me that it’s not an overnight success type of thing.

It’s easy to get disheartened when your sales are in a slump, or you get a bad review. You spend countless hours/days/months/years slaving over a story that you just hope others will love as much as you do, and when they don’t you feel like you’ve failed. For some stupid reason, our brains are wired to focus on the bad reviews and not the positive ones. It’s a lot easier to remember when someone says something negative than when they pay a compliment.

The key is to take it all in stride, improve where you can, and just continually learn to grow and master your craft. I guess I’m trying to say, ‘Don’t give up’.

This cliché (but true) piece of advice brought to you today by lack of caffeine.

 

Do you have any strange writing habits?

I have to edit out a lot of ellipses from a first draft. Generally, when I’m thinking about what a character should do or say, I reflexively type … like they’re actually thinking about it too. My first drafts usually read like all of my characters have stutters or can’t think straight.

 

Now, time for some random, fun questions. What toppings do you like on your pizza?

Meatlovers. Any kind of meat. NO PINEAPPLE EVER. Pineapple is a fruit. Fruit does not belong on a pizza. All of you smarty-pants out there saying “Tomato is a fruit and it’s nice on a pizza,” you just shhh now. It’s not the same and you know it! Pineapple is a fruity fruit.

 

Dogs or Cats?

I love both. Right now we have one dog at home, but I’d love to have a cat again one day.

 

What is your biggest fear?

Oblivion. No wait … That was Augustus Water’s answer in The Fault in Our Stars.

Mine? Anything to do with my son, really. I’m the overprotective mother who freaks out any time my child goes near water, falls over, gets sick … I try not to be, but it seems my mother instincts are stronger than my common sense.

 

So there you have it: a look into the mind of Kayla Howarth. If you’re interesting in checking out her books then the links have been placed below.

The Institute
Resistance
Defective

The Reader’s Perspective

Vertical stack of eight straw hats in a variety of shapes, textures, colors, and sizes, trimmed with ribbons, feathers, and raffia. Isolated on white background, vertical format.

Written by 
Elizabeth Woodrum

I have considered myself to be an author since I independently published the first book in my children’s mystery series, The Maisy Files, in 2013.  But, I have been a teacher for thirteen years.  During that time, I’ve taught reading and writing skills to students of a variety of ages.

I’m also an avid reader.  I simply cannot be without a book.  But, I often find myself wearing a variety of hats while reading.  I have my regular reader hat, my teacher hat, and my author hat.  It’s not uncommon for me to be piled high with imaginary headwear.

There are some books that I am able to get swept away in and simply enjoy as a reader.  But, often, inspiration strikes and I have to pause to jot down some notes for a future story.  Sometimes, the educator in me jumps up and down and screams something along the lines of, “This would be great for teaching metaphors!” or “This is a great text for introducing plot structure!” I have to pause for her, too. She’s a little bossy.

Though it is a bit tedious to manage my unintentional interrupting of my own reading, I have come to appreciate the different perspectives I have when it comes to reading great literature. I think it helps me to fully immerse myself in a story and identify with the characters.  But, I think everyone has different hats to wear while reading.  Each of us brings something different to our interpretation of a story based on our experiences.   Before I became a teacher and an author, I still appreciated and enjoyed a character-driven story.  I still do.  But, now I recognize learning opportunities and have a deeper respect for a perfectly constructed conflict.

So, the bossy teacher in me would like to assign you all a task.  The next time you find a great book, purposefully pause and consider it with a perspective that is uniquely yours, one that doesn’t often make its way into your reading time.  You may find a deeper meaning or even a little levity.  Share your thoughts with another person.  Find a teachable opportunity and bring out your inner teacher.  In other words, identify your own reader hats and wear them proudly.

Meow V. Woof: The Battle of the Book

Woof vs Meow

Written by
Cynthia Port

In the world of real things cats win—at least by the numbers.  According to the Humane Society, the US has 86 million purrfect domestic kitties but only 78 million tail waggin‘ doggies.  But in the world of fictional characters (books, cartoons, movies, etc.) the situation isn’t just reversed, it’s tipped over onto its adorable, swivel-eared head.  Sure, you can find examples of beloved dog and cat characters aplenty, but keep trying to name them, and you’ll run out of cat characters long before you run out of the Fido’s of fictiondom, the Cujo’s of crime, or the Lassie’s of late night.

On Wikipedia’s pages about fictional animal characters, the cat and dog lists are broken down into literature, comics, film, and television.  The cat list offers 26, including Garfield, the Cheshire Cat, the Cat in the Hat, Puss in Boots, Sylvester the Cat, Tom & Jerry, The Aristocats, and the cats in Stuart Little and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. But hold onto your leashes, folks, because the dog list has 285, including such well-bred notables as Scooby Doo, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Martha from Martha Speaks, Hank the Cowdog, Underdog, Einstein, Timbuktu, Snowy from Tintin, 101 Dalmations, Bolt, Old Yeller, Snoopy, Marmaduke, Toto, the Beverly Hills Chihuahua and on and on and on and (Down, boy!) on!

But if there are so many cat lovers on this planet (and as evidence I present to you the internet), why aren’t cats at least equally reflected in our most beloved forms of entertainment?   I suspect there are two main reasons:

  1.  Dogs love cars and walks and travel. They are at their happiest when they are on an adventure with you.  Cats not so much.  If you are featuring a cat in your book or movie, for the most part it will need to take place inside a house or within a relatively small geographical area.  That’s limiting for an author.

 

  1. While cats experience emotions just as intensely as dogs, they don’t express them as obviously. A cat’s emotional signs are subtle, but it’s easy to “read” the emotions of a dog – their eyes, mouth, eyebrows, tails, sounds—pretty much their entire being expresses how they are feeling. Dogs are SO expressive it feels as if they are talking to us, which probably explains the plethora of talking dog characters in books and movies.

 

Actually, talking dogs is something I’m a bit of an expert on because, while I am technically (full disclosure) a cat person, my award winning humorous fiction series, Kibble Talk, features a talking dog.  Readers also get to hear what a cat has to say, but the main focus is on Dinky, an enormous and cantankerous Great Dane. I love hearing from readers that they are never able to look at their dog quite the same way again after reading my books!

Book Paw           Book cat

http://www.abebooks.com/books/famous-dog-novels-lassie-marley/dogs-fiction.shtml

Introducing: The YAAR Blog!

YAAR logo 2

Greetings, fellow bookaholics!

Allow me to introduce ourselves. We are the Young Adult Author Rendezvous, a stalwart group of authors, writers and fanatics from all over the globe. Though most of us write in the Young Adult genre, quite a few of us write for younger audiences as well, from Middle Grade all the way down to picture books for preschoolers.

We have banded together as a group because we all have stories to tell, and, if I may be so bold, we are darn good at it. Our library of books is extensive, and we hold that you will browse our selection of books that are guaranteed to entertain readers of any age.

But more than that: we want to give you all the benefit of our experiences and our vast array of knowledge. Though we come from all walks of life, we are united by our love of books. Because you can’t be a writer without that, and, I think you’ll agree, there is a lot of ground to cover.

Starting immediately, people who visit our site regularly will be treated to blog entries from many of our members, with a new entry scheduled for every other day (usually the odd-numbered days, though we may fill in a few even-numbered days if there is a demand for it).

This is going to be SO MUCH FUN!

@YAARendezvous #YAAR #fiction

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