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YA Author Rendezvous

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Author Spotlight – Amalie Jahn

An Interview with author Amalie Jahn

By Michelle Lynn

amalie

Amalie Jahn is a brilliant young adult author. She writes multiple series including some of the best time-travel books I have read. Her stories deserve some recognition and I am happy to introduce her to the readers of the Young Adult Author Rendezvous.

 

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

The Clay Lion Series includes three YA time travel books which are each stand-alones in their own right – The Clay Lion, Tin Men, and A Straw Man. Each book follows a different main character on a trip back in time to save someone they love. In The Clay Lion, Brooke travels back in time in an attempt to save her brother Branson’s life. In Tin Men, Charlie searches for his birth parents. And in A Straw Man, Melody tries to save her boyfriend, Nate, from the throws of addiction. I’ve also written an NA trilogy called the Sevens Prophecy Series about a group of psychic strangers who are destined to save the world.

  1. Who’s your favorite character from your books?

When you spend hundreds of hours with your characters day in and day out, crafting their personalities and sharing in their triumphs as well as their defeats, they become part of your family. So, choosing the one you love best is a bit like picking your favorite child. Diplomatically, I enjoy them all for different reasons, but if you’re making me choose just one, I supposed Brooke would be my favorite. There’s a lot of me inside of her, from her dogged perseverance to her desire to control the uncontrollable. Sharing her journey was a way for me to sort out some of my own issues, and I’ll always be grateful to her for that.

  1. Time travel – probably one of the coolest, but also most difficult ideas to write about. What were some of the challenges you faced in dealing with it?

The idea for the story about time travel came to me in a dream. I woke up and jotted clay liondown a few notes so I wouldn’t forget them. When I revisited my ideas at the start of the manuscript I began to realize that a lot of what was plausible in my subconscious imagination would not work realistically in the world I wanted to create for my characters. I struggled a lot with the fundamentals of how time travel was going to work in my world, and those struggles manifest themselves in many middle-of-the-night rewriting sessions, when I would wake up in a cold sweat realizing entire chapters would have to change because theoretically the timelines just wouldn’t sync. For example, in an early draft Brooke’s parents remembered Branson’s initial death after her first trip back in time, but of course that would be quite impossible because by going back in time, Brooke started along a new timeline in which she was the only one with any memory of that first death. There was also the issue of Brooke traveling inside her own conscious to avoid the possibility of running into her past or future self during her trips. I made rules for myself and then immediately break them. It nearly drove me mad. And although I’d like to say writing about time travel got easier as I made my way through the series, the struggle continued with the second and third books. I did the best I could with the challenges time travel presented, but at the end of the day I just had to trust that readers would read past the small plot holes and focus more on the storyline. I’m happy to report this seems to be the case.

  1. I’m a huuuuge fan of your books and one of the things that always amazes me is that even though time travel plays a big role, they don’t seem like science fiction books. The storylines seem more about relationships than the details of actually traveling back in time. Was this on purpose?

Absolutely. I’m not really a big sci-fi girl. I enjoy a good Star Trek episode as much as the next person, but what has always been the most important thing to me as a reader is my connection with the characters. I have to be invested. I have to feel what they’re feeling in a way that immerses me in their world. I wanted The Clay Lion to be Brooke’s story, her journey out of a dark place and into the light. Time travel was simply the means to propel her forward on that path of discovery. With that being said, as readers move through the series, the characters begin to delve more deeply into the more specific ramifications of time travel. Melody’s experience in A Straw Man is a deeply disturbing with regard to the significant damage it can cause.

  1. The Clay Lion is probably one of the most heart-wrenching books I’ve read. It’s a love story, but I found it also to be about family and learning some hard life lessons. How do you balance a desire to write about romance with a story filled with grief and so much pain?

Isn’t that the balance of life – taking the good with the bad and making room for them both? I knew what was eventually going to pull Brooke out of her depression in the midst of her grief was love, in all its forms. She starts out so broken, but when she allows the love back in, the healing process begins. I believe this is true in life, that love helps us overcome, and I wanted the simplicity of a blossoming romance to help Brooke find her way. As an author, I couldn’t keep taking from her without eventually giving something in return.

  1. What authors have inspired you to write?

Oh jeez, so many. From my childhood: Judy Blume, V.C. Andrews, Jerry Spinelli. The first book that taught me about the emotional power of the written word was Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. I read a ton of Dean Koontz in my twenties and still revere him for his prolific body of work. The author that made me want to become a writer, however, was Christina Schwarz. I distinctly remember reading Drowning Ruth and thinking “I want to write like this someday.” I’m not there yet, but I’m working on it.

  1. What age were you when you started writing?

I remember writing fiction as early as second grade. I wrote short stories in little steno notebooks I kept hidden under my bed. My spelling was atrocious (still is!), but I learned at a very young age how writing could be used as an escape and a way to sort out problems one story at a time. It’s always been a form of catharsis for me.

  1. Do you ever experience writer’s block?

Yes and no. Sometimes when I sit down to the computer I’m not sure how a particular scene is going to play out or (more rarely) what comes next. At those times, I either let my characters take over or work on something else for a day or two until the perfect solution presents itself. Most times, if I’m stuck, I force myself to write through it, knowing I can always come back and revise if necessary.

  1. Do you work with an outline, or just write?

among tsYes to both. I always have some sort of rough idea of where the story is headed, but it’s never very detailed. I liken it to knowing that I want to drive across the United States from New York to California, and I know I want to see Cincinnati and Las Vegas along the way, I just don’t know exactly how I’m going to get there. The characters make those more specific decisions for me. Which roads to take. Which detours to make. I love it when they surprise me along the way with ideas of places to stop I hadn’t even imagined.

  1. Do you ever get sad when you realize that the characters that you’ve created aren’t real?

Wait. They aren’t?

  1. 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?

Oh, yes. When it came to publishing I basically did everything wrong because I didn’t know what I didn’t know. If I had to go back again I would be more patient. I would have spent more time learning about the industry before diving in head first. With that being said, my publishing journey has been an amazing learning experience as well as one of the greatest joys of my life, missteps and all.

  1. Can you tell us about your upcoming book?

Absolutely. The final book in the Sevens Prophecy Series is due out this summer, and I’m patiently waiting for a release date for a YA contemporary I’ve written about a farm girl from Iowa named Tess Goodwin who moves to North Carolina when her father reenlists in the Army after September 11th. It’s a friendship story (and a love story) about Tess finding acceptance in the last place she’s expecting.

  1. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

tinWell, I believe you can’t actually call yourself and author until someone tells you your book is “garbage.” Thankfully I’ve only encountered a few comments as painful as that. I know most publishers encourage their authors not to read reviews, but can’t help myself. The truth is, as much as the good ones brighten my days, the critical ones often shed light on areas I need to focus on improving. I think the trick is not falling under the delusion that just because your body of work is successful as a whole that you don’t need to continue growing in your craft. Learn how to tighten the plot, be more descriptive, or improve the flow of dialogue. I know that I can always do better and that my readers deserve the best work I can produce. And as for the best compliment I’ve gotten? Nothing makes me happier that when I hear I’ve made a reader cry. Knowing someone has connected with my characters at such a deeply emotional level makes reading the handful of “garbage” comments worth it.

  1. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

Don’t give up.

Keep pushing yourself to try new techniques.

Write the story inside you, not the story you think will sell a million copies.

Read a lot. Then read some more.

Find a good editor.

Believe in yourself.

  1. Do you have any strange writing habits?

It has to be quiet when I write. No music. No television. No kids playing in an adjoining room. I have a desk set up on my treadmill, and I walk while I write so I’m not sitting on my butt all day. I go pretty slow, though, because I’ve found if I walk too fast my brain doesn’t get enough oxygen and my writing gets pretty mushy. About 3.5 mph is my max before I’m spouting nothing but gibberish.

What others are saying about Amalie Jahn:

“There’s a very profound message hidden in these pages. You get glimpses of it throughout but you don’t truly understand it until the very end of the story.”

“It will tear your heart out of your chest and piece it back together again, stronger than it was before. You will experience every emotion from A to Z and back again, and you will have grown as a person for having read it.”


You can find Amalie Jahn on Facebook HERE!

Check out Amalie Jahn’s website to learn more HERE!

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The Girl Who Owned a City by O. T. Nelson

The Girl Who Owned a City by O.T. Nelson - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by Tracy Lawson

At a recent talk, I cited The Giver by Lois Lowry (1993) as the first YA dystopian book, but at the time I hadn’t read The Girl Who Owned a City by O. T. Nelson. First published in 1975, it has been in the curricula in elementary and middle schools for years, and many adults of my generation cite this book as their first taste of the dystopian genre.

A book about post-apocalyptic Chicago might first bring to mind the Divergent series by Veronica Roth, but The Girl Who Owned a City might best be compared thematically to Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I don’t say this lightly–Atlas Shrugged is one of the heavy hitters of the genre, but consider the situation in this children’s book:

A great plague has swept the country, killing everyone over the age of twelve. Without public utilities, services or adult supervision, children band together in family groups for protection, and must forage and steal in order to get the food and supplies they need to survive.

Though it doesn’t fit my stated definition of a dystopia as a twisted version of perfection, it’s an excellent example of post-apocalyptic science fiction. Lisa, the ten year-old protagonist, makes some interesting observations about human nature as she struggles to survive and defend her home and the other children in her suburban Chicago neighborhood against marauding pre-pubescent gangs. In doing so, she becomes aware of her desire for liberty in a way that makes this a very timeless, and timely, read.

In one scene, Lisa discusses a group of children who’ve been adopted by her friend Jill. The children whine and bicker over their few communal toys, and Jill is constantly admonishing them to share. Lisa thinks the children will be happier if they are given jobs, and the opportunity to earn new toys that will belong to them, and only them. Out of earshot of the children, Lisa says, “I’ve been watching your children for days, Jill. Just watching and thinking about them. They do too much sharing and it isn’t working at all. They have nothing of their own—no real duties, no real way of helping. It’s nice to share things if you want to, but it’s stupid to force people to share or be nice. These are things people have to do on their own. Otherwise it’s no good.”

Jill argued that the children are frightened. They’ve lost their parents and their sense of the world. They need coddling, not jobs.

Lisa replied, “I don’t think they’ll ever be happy if you do everything for them. They need to work and be proud of themselves. They need to be able to say to themselves, “I worked hard and did a good job and earned my toy.”

The narrative goes on to say, ‘Lisa wanted to say something about how she had lost her own fear by solving problems and staying busy. It seemed to her that fear was what you felt when you waited for something bad to happen, and fun was what you had when you figured out a way to make something good happen.’

Despite Lisa’s attempts to create a neighborhood militia to protect the children on her street from the Chidester gang, and her idea to learn to drive a car so she could go to a grocery warehouse for food and other supplies, the gangs stage multiple attacks. She despairs until she notices a school building which has a wall around it, like a fortress. She decides to move everyone from her neighborhood into Glenbard and make it into a walled city. Everyone is enthusiastic about the plan, but after they move in and organize the school according to Lisa’s vision, some of the children begin to grumble that she calls Glenbard her city. Lisa’s response is a response worthy of a young Ayn Rand protagonist:

“Lisa, why do you keep calling it your city—saying it’s your property?”

“Because it is! I thought I told everyone that on the very first day.”

“But we’ve all helped build it, haven’t we?” argued Jill. “The kids are starting to call you selfish. They don’t like it when you call it yours.”

“Selfish? I guess I am. But there’s more to it than that. Don’t forget, it was my discovery. The place was sitting here empty…I found it. I planned it, filled it with my supplies, now I run it.

“I know you like to share things, but it just doesn’t work the way you’d like it to. In the first place, nothing would ever get done. With no one in charge and no one to make decisions, the group would argue all the time about whose property should be shared. And then …they’d be too busy to accomplish anything.

“I do own this place. I didn’t force anyone to come here…Call me selfish if you like, but I don’t want to own anybody. I don’t want anyone to own me…Freedom is more important than sharing, Jill. This is my city. I plan to run it well and build it into something good. But I have to do it the way I think is best.”

Lisa decides the best way to run her city is to offer something better to her citizens than they can find anywhere else.

Bumped and The Handmaid’s Tale: A Comparison

Bumped by Megan McCafferty - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by Tracy Lawson.

“The United States of America once ranked above all industrialized nations in the realm of teen pregnancy. We were the undisputed queens of precocious procreation! We were number one before, and we can be number one again!” –President’s State of the Union Address, Bumped

What’s to be done when a country faces an infertility crisis? Women of childbearing age become the most precious commodity, the most sought-after natural resource. Will they be celebrated and pampered—or subjugated—to spur the creation of the children essential to the society’s survival?

That’s the question in both Bumped by Megan McCafferty and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. The societies depicted in these novels both formulate plans to replenish their populations through surrogate mothers, and their governments launch propaganda campaigns that sanction and even glorify using women as breeders.

Though teen sex is glorified in pop culture and slang in the young adult novel Bumped, the actual details of bumping are kept appropriately veiled, while in the dystopian horror story The Handmaid’s Tale the rituals of mating with a surrogate are relayed in stark detail.

Religion and its influence on people’s attitudes toward procreation is central to both stories. In Bumped, the Goodside religious community seeks its own solution to the country’s infertility issues, and in The Handmaid’s Tale, the theocratic government blames the lack of healthy children on a permissive, promiscuous society, and aims to correct the problem by properly subjugating women.

In Bumped, 75% of the teenagers in Melody Mayflower’s high school class are infected with HPSV, the Human Progressive Sterility Virus, and will go irreversibly sterile sometime between their eighteenth and twentieth birthdays. These stats are the norm nationwide, and the teens in Bumped are bombarded with songs whose lyrics glorify pregnancy. Trendy stores at the mall that sell provocative clothing and “fun bumps,” strap-on bellies that show the girls how sexy they’ll look when pregnant. Even school clubs like the Pro/Am Pregg Alliance put the focus on procreation.

Teens are pushed to have as many children as possible before they reach the age at which they’ll become infertile. They use the drug Tocin, which lessens inhibitions and causes memory loss, to help set the mood and make it less embarrassing to bump with partners they barely know. Later, they’re told, after they become sterile, they can attend college, get married, and adopt children of their own, and build their lives with someone they love. But for now, bumping with lots of partners is a way to keep the human race going until the full effects of the virus are known.

“A free society cannot force girls to have children, but a free market can richly reward those who do.” Ashley and Tyler Mayflower, PhDs, Princeton University

Melody’s parents, both economics professors, adopted her when she was a baby, and they’ve spent her entire life developing her brand and molding her into the perfect Surrogette—beautiful, accomplished, and intelligent. When she was fourteen, Melody’s virginity was brokered to the highest-bidding couple, which was a radical idea at the time, but now pregging for profit is something to which teen girls aspire. Melody received a six-figure signing bonus, and, In exchange for giving birth to a healthy child, she can count on a new car, liposuction, and college tuition. She’s been paired with Jondoe, the most genetically flawless bumping partner available, and they’re scheduled to do the deed as soon as possible. Melody’s been preparing for this her whole life. So why is she having reservations?

It turns out there’s more than one obstacle blocking the successful execution of her parents’ plans.

The first hitch shows up on Melody’s doorstep, in the form of her long-lost identical twin, Harmony. The girls were separated at birth, and Harmony, the frail, sickly twin, was adopted into a religious sect called Goodside. Now, Harmony’s run away from her community to save her sister from a life of sin. And she’s got a few ideas about saving herself, too.

Though Harmony has been reared to believe that life for a woman is JOY: Jesus first, Others second and Yourself last, she’s not comfortable with all the tenets of her faith-based community, and is especially distressed by the scripture in 1 Corinthians, which dictates that the wife’s body belongs to her husband. Early marriage and procreation are of paramount importance in the theocratic communal society of Goodside. Girls are raised to be mothers, nothing more. Harmony’s not sure how she feels about arranged marriage, and she flees rather than commit to a lifetime with someone she doesn’t love. When Jondoe mistakes Harmony for Melody, she’s more confused than ever.

Melody’s BFF, Zen adds to the problems. He’s sweet and charming and would be the perfect boyfriend, except he’s not “upmarket” enough to be Sperm for a Surrogette like Melody. Though he’s desperately in love with Mel, is Zen destined to be just an “Everythingbut” for a professional pregger like her?

Neither situation is healthy for these young girls. Melody feels responsibility as the president of her school’s Pro/Am Pregg Alliance to set an example of pregging for profit that influences other girls, for better or for worse, never mind that she’s the oldest virgin in the club. The girls in Otherside may believe it’s easy to stay emotionally detached while having sex, giving birth and then turning their children over for adoption, but Melody learns that’s not always the case.

Harmony rebels against her austere and restrictive upbringing, while Melody rebels against her parents’ plan for her. But at least in Bumped, the girls retain some autonomy. The decision to bump or not to bump is still theirs, despite peer pressure and a growing demand for children to adopt. Many teens will enter the baby market, but they won’t have to pregg at the point of a gun.

Not so for the unfortunate Handmaids.The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Attwood - Young Adult Author Rendezvous

“Our big mistake was teaching them [women] to read. We won’t do that again.”

The Handmaid system of repopulating the Republic of Gilead (formerly the United States) came about after a decline in healthy births in the late 20th century, which was attributed to many factors, including the rampant use of birth control, abortions, AIDS, syphilis, nuclear accidents, and the uncontrolled use of herbicides and insecticides.
At first, surrogates were hired, but when the number of healthy births continued to decline, the government declared all second marriages and non-marital liaisons adulterous, arrested the women in those relationships, and confiscated and adopted out their children to upper class families. The women were given the option of becoming surrogates. But it was never really an option.

Childless or infertile older women were recruited as Aunts to help run the Handmaid indoctrination programs, and wives who were unable to have children of their own took part in and supported the system that made sex slaves out of other women. After all, a little power is better than no power at all.

“There is more than one kind of freedom, said Aunt Lydia. Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don’t underrate it.”

Commanders, men highly placed in the regime, chose Handmaids for their households from among the indoctrinated women who had demonstrated reproductive fitness.

“Not every Commander has a Handmaid; some of their Wives have children. From each, says the slogan, according to her ability; to each according to his needs. We recited that, three times, after dessert. It was from the Bible, or so they said. St. Paul again, in Acts.” Take away free access to information and enslave.

The mating ritual was an absolute horror which forced Commander, Wife, and Handmaid to take part in a regimented copulation designed to reduce the Handmaid to nothing more than a vessel held by the Wife to receive her husband’s seed. To say that it warped the sex act for all concerned would be a gross understatement.

Many Commanders of the regime came in contact with a sterility-causing virus developed by scientists, Pre-Gilead, which were intended to be used on the Soviets. But it was against the law to insinuate that a Commander could be sterile, so Commanders, Wives, and Handmaids went through the horror of the mating ritual, month after month, until the Handmaid either conceived, went insane, or was traded in by the family for a better specimen. Younger men of lower classes were shut out of marriage entirely. But Handmaids often risked their lives to use these men as studs when their Commanders failed to impregnate them. The risk was great, but the reward for producing a healthy child was even greater: it guaranteed that a Handmaid would never be sent to any undesirable location, never be made to shovel up the polluted waste in the Colonies or be a prostitute at Jezebel’s gentleman’s club.

Handmaids were identified by their red full-length robes and veils, and were tattooed on their ankles, a “passport in reverse…supposed to guarantee that they will never be able to fade, finally, into another landscape. I am too important, too scarce, for that. I am a national resource.”

The narrator in The Handmaid’s Tale never gives her real name. Handmaids were stripped of identities other than “Ofglen” or “Ofwarren” which associated them with their Commanders. If they changed households, they changed names. Handmaids were discouraged from forming relationships of any kind with the families they served.

“We lived as usual. Everyone does, most of the time. Whatever is going on is as usual. Even this is as usual, now.”

Both novels demonstrate how far things can spin out of control when people are forced into unnatural behaviors and brainwashed to believe that it’s just business as usual.

Author Spotlight: Miracle Austin

Young Adult Author - Miracle AustinInterview by Michelle Lynn.

An interview with author Miracle Austin.

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

Doll is my debut YA Paranormal novel—it is story about mean girl (Pepper Fox) versus the outcasts, since junior high. Outcasts are now in high school and so fed up with Pepper and decide to seek help from the paranormal world to teach Pepper a good lesson, but will they get what they always wanted or something much more they never expected. Twists, spells, and social awareness issues breathe in this work.

Boundless will be my second release. It will be a very eclectic collection of micro and short stories (some less than 20 words while others are over 5,000 plus words) with many social awareness themes weaved in. Some works will be light, while others will be much darker…May need a flashlight for a few…Make sure you have extra batteries, just saying…

I’ve written various short stories and they have been traditionally published in anthologies or ezines. I love writing short stories and will continue…

Who’s your favorite character from your books?

This is hard one. I will confess Lisette from Doll is one because of her inner and outer mystery…she is more powerful than she actually realizes… Tomie (Toe-me) is also one of my faves because he has no idea what breathes inside of him…I have others, but will discuss another time.

Doll is quite the creepy book – that’s a complement by the way. Lol. Is it difficult to go from writing parts of the book to living your normal life? Difficult to get out of that frame-of-mind?

Thank you so much. I absolutely take that as a lovely compliment. It was not difficult at all to write. In fact, I rushed home each day to dive into Frost High and its related worlds—they were my escapes, in fact every time I write, I have a chance to enter the character’s worlds—love that!!

The heart of Doll is about getting back at bullies, whether they do so in the right way or not. What made you take on this topic?

I took on this topic because of what I witnessed in junior high/high school/college, being a past victim of bullying myself, and my awesome mom sharing a story with me that ignited me to write Doll.

If she had not shared that story, then Doll would never be. In fact, my mom (so appreciate her) is my biggest inspiration for writing my stories—she has shared some pretty amazing stories growing up in the 40s in Crawford, Texas, (a lot of secrets live in small country towns) and living in the 50s-today. I just use my fictional magic to bring one story at a time to life.

I love the New Orleans voodoo feel of Doll. What kind of research did you have to do to get this right?

I did very little research because my mom lived in the Louisiana area for a short time. I utilized her experiences, she was the majority of my research.

What authors have inspired you to write?

So many—R.L. Stine, Stephen King, Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, Octavia Butler, Shirley Jackson, William Shakespeare, and so many more….

What age were you when you started writing?

Probably around 13

Do you ever experience writer’s block?

Sometimes—I will take a break, listen to some awesome music—classical, 60s love songs, or a little lite rock helps me find my way back to writing. I will also Netflix it or Hulu watch…I catch ideas from anywhere, which helps me write.

Do you work with an outline, or just write?

I do both, but now for longer works—the outline has become my writing/dance partner.

Do you ever get sad when you realize that the characters that you’ve created aren’t real?

No, because they are real to an extent. I know each character is a little part of me, others I know/observed, and/or mash-ups.

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

Short version–Doll was never supposed to be a novel, only a short story, maybe 10k words. It was only a distraction because Boundless was supposed to be published first. It met over 315 rejections. —I kept persevering.

I finally landed a small publisher and everything, but personal things in publisher’s life caused my rights to be returned back to me, which was a huge blessing in disguise. It sat untouched with the publisher for almost a year. After being inspired by other Indie authors, I decided to pursue self-publishing and BOOM for Doll!!

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?

No, definitely self-pub all the way from what I had to endure for almost two years.

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

Not so nice reviews, but I’m okay with criticism, but there is a way to express it in a constructive way versus being, well you know the rest… I know that not everyone will love my works for various reasons, but I write what moves me, like many writers, and there will be others who will enjoy. Best compliment—Cannot wait to read more from you!!!

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

A few things I would share:

Never allow someone to tell you not to write what you feel in your soul.

Don’t rush your teen years—take the scenic route

Surround yourself with positive bees because there will always be negative bees who will try to steal your honeycombs.

“Pay attention to those who don’t clap for you…” not sure who said the last one—love it and so true.

Praise for Miracle Austin:

“The characters were well-realized, and Pepper was deliciously evil (and I couldn’t wait for her to be taken down!). And even though one might think the ending would be predictable, it wasn’t. There were plenty of twists that I wasn’t expecting.”

“This story is dark, and full of so many twists and turns and suspicious characters that I had no idea what to expect. There were moments that sent shivers down my spine. There were moments that made my heart skip a beat. This story has everything: magic, revenge, romance, suspense…”

“With a flawless plot, descriptions and style, this book is the perfect combination of horror, suspense and a little teenage drama and romance. A definitely must-read for this year!”

A Review of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Written by Lauren Mayhew

***I’ve tried my hardest not to put any spoilers in this, but if you don’t want to know anything about this play, it’s probably best not to read my review!***

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling - Young Adult Author RendezvousHarry Potter and the Cursed Child – J.K. Rowling – 4 Stars

Blurb: It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband, and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

I was so excited to read this, and though I tried to hang on in the hope that I’d see it on stage first, I couldn’t. Tickets are almost impossible to get, and when it comes to Harry Potter, I have no willpower.

The fact that I managed to read this in the space of a few hours is a testament to how good it is. I couldn’t put it down – I just had to know how it would end.

I’m not going to spoil anything, so this may be a bit of a cryptic review.

However much I loved this play, I couldn’t give it 5 stars. It had nothing to do with the format, I quite enjoy reading plays. You get to skip a lot of unnecessary description, and the story moves along a lot quicker.

It was the actions of certain characters that docked a star. I won’t name names, don’t worry. One character in particular, one of my favourites, seemed very dumbed down and a bit of a loser. This was not what I was expecting from them and I was disappointed that my favourite character had changed so much.

A few other events take place with two other characters that were so unbelievable to me. I refuse to believe that one of the most good-hearted characters would ever turn bad. I can’t think of a way to describe the other characters’ actions without giving anything away.

I loved the appearance of the original Harry Potter characters, even though a few of them seemed a little different than before. I especially loved Draco’s appearance in this. He’s still the same old Draco, but there’s definitely some good in him too.

Overall I loved it, and would definitely recommend it to anyone who can’t make it to see it performed on stage. Hopefully I can get tickets one day!

Now I live in hope that J.K. Rowling will write something about the Maurauders. I’d love to know what they got up to at Hogwarts!!

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1984 and Little Brother: A Comparison

1984 by george orwell young adult author rendezvousWritten by Tracy Lawson

This was a difficult post to write. It’s been on the to-do list for months while I ruminated. And hedged. And procrastinated.

1984 is one of the big boys in the dystopian genre. I assume that most of you have read it, or are at least familiar with its theme.

1984 by George Orwell (1949) and Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (2008) are inextricably linked by their subject matter. Both serve as warnings. Both have the power to mesmerize and horrify the reader. Both should make us think. But today, I’m asking you to read Little Brother and think long and hard about what it has to say.

1984 is a classic cry against totalitarian government. It’s easy to assume that Orwell was railing against the post-World War II spread of communism, but he was also warning countries like England and the United States against believing that they could save freedom and democracy by continuing an arms race to find a stable “deterrent.” Orwell asserts that freedom cannot continue to exist in a world preparing for nuclear war.

In a world punctuated by war, oppression, deprivation, loneliness, paranoia, and despair, Winston reaches out for truth and love. And pays a terrible cost.

Little Brother relays an updated message: freedom cannot exist in a world that has given in to little brother by cory doctrow young adult author rendezvousthe fear of terrorism. Marcus Yallow (online handle W1n5t0n) is a hacker and a gamer who loves to outsmart surveillance technology. While skipping school one afternoon, he finds himself near the epicenter of a terrorist attack on San Francisco’s rapid transit system. Within minutes of the attack, Marcus and his three friends are taken prisoner by “military looking guys in coveralls.”

“Hey,” I said to the soldiers. “Hey, listen! We’re just high school students. I wanted to flag you down because my friend was bleeding. Someone stabbed him.” I had no idea how much of this was making it through the muffling bag. I kept talking. “Listen—this is some kind of misunderstanding. We’ve got to get my friend to a hospital—“

Someone went upside my head again. It felt like they used a baton or something—it was harder than anyone had ever hit me in the head before. My eyes swam and watered and I literally couldn’t breathe through the pain. A moment later, I caught my breath, but I didn’t say anything. I’d learned my lesson.

Who were these clowns? They weren’t wearing insignia. Maybe they were the terrorists! I’d never really believed in terrorists before—I mean I knew that in the abstract there were terrorists somewhere in the world, but they didn’t really represent any risk to me. There were millions of ways that the world could kill me—starting with getting run down by a drunk burning his way down Valencia—that were infinitely more likely and immediate than terrorists. Terrorists kill a lot fewer people than bathroom falls and accidental electrocutions. Worrying about them always struck me as about as useful as worrying about getting hit by lightning.

Marcus soon learns he’s been detained by the Department of Homeland Security as a person of interest in the terrorist attack.

“You think I’m a terrorist? I’m seventeen years old!”

Just the right age—Al Qaeda loves recruiting impressionable, idealistic kids. We googled you, you know. You’ve posted a lot of very ugly stuff on the public Internet.”

”I’d like to speak to an attorney.”

Severe haircut lady looked at me like I was a bug. “You’re under the mistaken impression that you’ve been picked up by the police for a crime. You need to get past that. You are being detained as a potential enemy combatant by the government of the United States. If I were you, I’d be thinking very hard about how to convince us that you are not an enemy combatant.”

Despite the threats made by his captors, Marcus refuses to unlock and uncrypt his cell phone, or give any information to them. He feels that he is a citizen who loves freedom, which makes him the patriot and his captors the traitors. He is detained for five days, and released when he agrees to sign papers that declared he had been held for voluntary questioning. He is then released and told to say nothing of what has happened to him to anyone, even his parents. He is told that he will be under constant surveillance.

When he returns to school the following week, he finds things have changed since the terrorist attack. The school board has installed closed circuit televisions in every classroom for the students’ protection.

Why did we have cameras in our classrooms now? Terrorists. Of course. Because by blowing up a bridge, terrorists had indicated that schools were next. Somehow that was the conclusion the Board had reached anyway.

I stuck my hand up.

”Yes, Marcus?”

“Ms. Galvez, about this note?”

“Yes, Marcus.”

“Isn’t the point of terrorism to make us afraid? That’s why it’s called terrorism, right?”

”I suppose so.” The class was staring at me. I wasn’t the best student in school, but I did like a good in-class debate. They were waiting to hear what I’d say next.

“So aren’t we doing what the terrorists want from us? Don’t they win if we act all afraid and put cameras in the classrooms and all of that?”

There was some nervous tittering. One of the others put his hand up. It was Charles. Ms. Galvez called on him.

“Putting cameras in makes us safe, which makes us less afraid.”

”Safe from what?” I asked, without waiting to be called on.

“Terrorism,” Charles said. The others were nodding their heads.

“How do they do that? If a suicide bomber rushed in here and blew us all up—“

“Ms. Galvez, Marcus is violating school policy. We’re not supposed to make jokes about terrorist attacks—“

“Who’s making jokes?”

“Thank you, both of you,” Ms. Galvez said. She looked really unhappy.

Marcus is watched and followed in the days to come. When he finally tells his parents what really happened to him, they are horrified at his ordeal, contact an investigative reporter, and from that moment on, Marcus is in danger. He organizes an event that will bring the overreaching arm of the DHS into the public eye, and things go horribly wrong, causing Marcus’ worst fears to be realized.

Both 1984 and Little Brother serve as warnings. In the Afterword to Little Brother, Andrew Huang asks whether the terrorists have already won:

“Have we given in to fear, such that artists, hobbyists, hackers, iconoclasts or perhaps a group of kids playing Harajuku Fun Madness could be so trivially implicated as terrorists?” He goes on to say that “technology is no cure for paranoia. Coercing millions of people to strip off their outer garments and walk barefoot through metal detectors everyday is no solution, either. It only serves to remind the population that they have a reason to be afraid, while in practice providing only a flimsy barrier to a determined adversary.”

We are fond of slogans like “Freedom isn’t Free.” We must remember that we win freedom by having the courage to live every day as free people—no matter how big the threats on the horizon.

Please don’t give in to fear and paranoia. Don’t forget to be brave. Don’t believe that the things the government does to take away our freedoms are merely a small price to pay for our safety.

http://cg68doc.newsvine.com/_news/2013/08/06/19885640-exclusive-us-directs-agents-to-cover-up-program-used-to-investigate-americans

Tracy’s original post can be read here.

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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Are you a teenager or know a few who love to write? Our Flash fiction contest is now open. Find out how to enter to win some great prizes. Contest details.

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Author Spotlight: Korey Ward

korey ward - authorInterview by T.D. Shields

An Interview with Korey Ward.

Tell us about you! Where are you from? What’s your family like? We want to know it all!

Well, I grew up in the small town of Flatwoods Ky. I was raised by my grandparents on my mother’s side. They took sole custody of me when I was about six, because I was in a really bad place at that time in my life. My father took off shortly after I was born, and my mother is an alcoholic who likes to throw wild parties. I could literarily write a book on all the things I’ve seen and experienced just with in the first 5 years of existence. And perhaps I will one day. I owe my whole life to my grandparents because without them I probably wouldn’t have one.

When and why did you begin writing?

My writing, I believe, was a progression of little ideas before I ever even dreamed of writing an entire novel. My first experience with writing, that wasn’t part of my schooling, was in the form of little poems that would pop into my head from time to time. Then after high school I formed a rock band called Fates Tragedy. We were together for about 8 years, and were becoming quite successful locally before we all went our separate ways. I wrote the majority of the lyrics for the band, which I found easy transitioning from poetry to structured lyrics. It wasn’t until after my daughter Zoey, was about 8 years old that I even thought about writing a book.  We were rather poor at the time and we couldn’t even afford cable and it was well before streaming services such as Netflix, so we started to buy a book or two a month and I would read it to my daughter, and even act it out occasionally. After reading the likes of the Grey Griffins series by : J. S. Lewis, and Derek Benz, someone suggested to me that I should write my own stories to read to Zoey since I had a vivid imagination. That is when I began writing the first lines to what would later become Rise of the Shadow Seekers. It wasn’t until years later that I buckled down and finished the book, due to my wife’s constant encouragement.

What books do you have published and where can we buy them?

I have two books published at this time. The first Being Rise of the Shadow Seekers: The First Seeker. It was published on November 3rd 2015 under Korey L. Ward. The second book is Strawberry Sorbet: A Noir, published on Valentine’s Day 2016, under my pen name, Landon Wake. You can find all of my books on amazon, BAM online, and Barnes and Noble online.

What project are you working on now?

Right now I’m working on a psychological suspense thriller called G.P.S I can’t reveal any more details than that at this time, other than it will be published under my Landon Wake pen name. In case you were wondering, I use Korey L. Ward as my young adult/ kid friendly books, and Landon Wake as my more adult themed books.

What is the hardest thing about writing?

The hardest thing about writing for me is the stick-to-itiveness. With life and work and family and just not being in the mood, gets in the way sometimes, but you just have to push through it.

What is the best thing about writing?

The best thing about writing to me, is that feeling of completion, and knowing that others will get the chance to hopefully enjoy the labor of my love.

Just for fun… If you were a superhero, what would your superpower be?

If I were a superhero, I would have the power to heal all diseases. If you really want to save someone I think that is the best place to start. Superman could catch a person falling from a tall building, wouldn’t be able to save that person from the cancer that will take their life next week.

What book are you reading now?

I’m reading Intensity by Dean Koontz right now.

Who are your favorite authors?

My favorite authors are the king himself Stephen King. Dean Koontz, Joe Hill, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. J. S Lewis, and Derek Benz.

Where can readers find you to say hello and keep up with your latest news and new releases?

You can find me at koreylward.com, Facebook, Twitter, and other various social media.

And finally, anything specific that you would like to say to our readers?

Yes, of course. I would love to thank you all for giving me a chance. I strive to entertain you all and poor my heart and soul into all of my books. I also have to give you props for actually reading to the end of this whole thing, Ha! Check you later.

Korey, out.

The Great Bobbert

The Great Bobbert by Debbie Manber Kupfer - Flash FictionBy Debbie Manber Kupfer

(A Flash fiction from the world of P.A.W.S.)

“Popgoes! Hey, Popgoes! Come back here! Where is that weasel?”

The Great Bobbert scratched his head unleashing a cascade of bluish purple powder from his long straggly orange hair. His many pockets bulged with a multitude of objects: cards, rings, whistles, coins, scarves, and balloons – all the tricks of the trade for a working clown.

He rushed through the park, puffing and panting, accidentally kicking a squirrel in his path that chattered angrily at him.

“No need for that kind of language,” muttered the clown.

“Now, where is that pesky weasel? Ah, there he is. What the . . . ? Is that a kangaroo? Where did it come from? They’re certainly not indigenous to Missouri, or at least I don’t think they are. Did it escape from the zoo? I wonder if there’s a reward?”

Clowning no longer was as lucrative as it used to be, especially as weasel food had become so expensive of late, so Bobbert was always looking for a way to supplement his income.

“Maybe if it’s not from the zoo, we can use it in the act? Maybe Popgoes is arranging a contract. Good weasel – they’ll be extra Purina Weasel Treats for you tonight.”

Cautiously the clown moved forward. “I wonder if it’s fierce. It doesn’t look fierce, but you never know. Appearances can be deceptive. Look at Popgoes. Everyone thinks he’s so cute, but he’s a devious little bugger with a nasty bite!”

“Popgoes, come here!”  The weasel looked up at the clown and then leaned towards the kangaroo as if sharing a joke or a secret.

Without warning, the kangaroo bolted out of the path. Bobbert pounced and grabbed his weasel before it followed. “No, you don’t,” he said, and returned the struggling Popgoes to the felt hat on the top of his orange thatch. Resigned the weasel sat there surveying the world around him.

“Now, let’s go see what happened to that kangaroo.” He scoured the park looking for the wayward critter. He saw squirrels and rabbits galore, and plenty of locals walking their dogs. He asked a couple if they’d seen a kangaroo, but they looked at him as if he was crazy.

Finally, winded and dejected, he sat down on a bench next to a boy with dark messy hair. He looked vaguely familiar.

“Hey Kid, have you seen a kangaroo, around here?”

“No mate!” the boy said smiling. “Now, why would there be a kangaroo in the park?”

“Joey!” a voice called from the other side of the path.

“Gotta go!” said the boy, and bounded off, but for just a second it looked to Bobbert that he morphed into a small brown kangaroo.

“I must have drunk too much schnapps,” said Bobbert, shaking his head. “Come on Popgoes, let’s go home.”

You can read more flash fiction, poetry, and general silliness in Tea & Dark Chocolate by Debbie Manber Kupfer.

 

Movies Are Never Like the Books!

Written by Melissa Craven

And they shouldn’t be. I know we love our YA books, and the movie and TV series adaptations leave us trembling with excitement for premier day, but there’s always a let down after that first viewing. “It didn’t follow the book!” We say. I’ve found myself muttering these same things (admittedly, sometimes there is wailing too).

But in reality, there are so many reasons why a movie or TV series has to deviate from the books we loved so much. The newest adaptation of The Mortal Instruments, City of Bones, by Cassandra Clare is a great example of successful deviation from the books. Shadowhunters just premiered on ABC Family earlier this month and I immediately took to Twitter to see what the general reaction was after the first episode. Opinions were all over the place, especially in regards to the way the series deviated so much from the original storyline.

The Institute from the 2013 City of Bones movie set.
The Institute from the 2013 City of Bones movie set.

The unsuccessful big screen adaptation of City of Bones in 2013, just didn’t do it for fans of the series, so I was extremely excited for this reboot on the small screen. Considering the first book was released nearly a decade ago, I thought the visual and technological updates, such as the hub of the Shadowhunter Institute, was a great way to bring a fresh, contemporary look to the story we love.

The Institute from the 2016 Shadowhunters set.
The Institute from the 2016 Shadowhunters set.

With that one change, everything changed. Visually, the story leaped forward from 2007 to 2016. The bump in ages from sixteen to eighteen, also brought a nice change to the storyline. A slightly older Jace and Clary, Simmon and Izzy (or Clace and Sizzy… and Malec! I can’t forget to mention Alec and Magnus!) elevated the story in a great way.

Many fans were disappointed in the changes, but I say, we’ve already read the books and we saw the movie, but with Shadowhunters, don’t we still want to be surprised? After two episodes, the show has accomplished that and then some.

Another view from the 2016 Shadowhunters set.
Another view from the 2016 Shadowhunters set.

The characters exude everything we loved about them in the books (and made up for the things many of us hated about them in the movie) but there is new life here. I’m looking forward to the rest of this season because I know the spirit of the story and the creativity of Cassandra Clare’s world is still there and it’s in good hands. And Jace… TV Jace has it in a way movie Jace never did.

So it’s not exactly like the books, but sometimes I’m okay with that.

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