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YA Author Rendezvous

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How I got past Writer’s Block

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Steps to Getting Published

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

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

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

Step 1 – Turn intention into action

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

Step 2 – Write something

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

Step 3 – Editing

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

Step 4 – Book cover

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

Step 5 – Getting published

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

Don’t forget to check out our awesome giveaway here!

Spring Fever Giveaway

 

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We all need to get away after months of cold, dreary, monotony. But even while we’re dreaming of white sand beaches and rolling waves, our regularly schedule life must go on.

But does it really? Getting away is a lot easier than you think. All it takes is a bit of spare time, an open mind, and a good book. That’s why we’re giving away tons of books! There’ll be over TWENTY winners.

And one grand-prize winner will walk away with a signed, first edition hardback of Witch and Wizard which just so happens to be written by one of the biggest names in fiction – JAMES PATTERSON! On top of that, they get a $100 amazon gift-card! 

And all if takes is a minute or two and a few clicks of the mouse.

DON’T MISS YOUR CHANCE!

Check out these other amazing prizes we have for you.

Signed copy of XODUS by K.J. Mcpike!

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Signed copy of Seer of Souls by Susan Faw

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Signed copy of Lonnie the Loon Finds His Home by Barbara Renner

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Signed copy of Order of Seven by Beth Teliho

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Signed copy of Choices by Michelle Lynn

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Signed copy of The Keeper of Dragons by J.A. Culican

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Signed copy of The Hereafter by Jessica Bucher

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Signed copy of Autumn in the City of Angels by Kirby Howell

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Signed copy of Reality is in a Dream by Lauren Mayhew

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Signed copy of The Other Inheritance by Rebecca Jaycox

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Signed copy of Orangutan by Rita Goldner

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Signed copy of Glitter and Sparkle by Shari Tapscott

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Signed copy of Into Shadow by T.D. Shields

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Signed copy of The Convergence by Tenille Berezay

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Signed copy of Counteract by Tracy Lawson

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Signed copy of Dawn of the Dreamer by L.J. Higgins

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Signed copy of On Delicate Wings by L.J. Higgins

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Signed copy of The Clay Lion by Amalie Jahn.

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Signed copy of The Adventures of Charlie Chameleon by Ellen Buikema

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Audio version of Dawn of Rebellion by Michelle Lynn

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Kindle copy of Shine and Shimmer by Shari Tapscott

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Kindle copy of Seer of Souls by Susan Faw

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Kindle copy of Spark by Tracy Lawson

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Signed copy of Lonnie the Loon Learns to Call by Barbara Renner

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Kindle copy of The Adventures of Charlie Chameleon by Ellen Buikema

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Kindle copy of Jackson’s Aviation Adventure by Rita Goldner

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Kindle copy of Jackson’s History Adventure by Rita Goldner

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Bookmarks

Glitter and Sparkle series journal

Orangutan notecards

Most Popular YA Quotes

The Hunger Games Quote - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by Christopher Morgan

Most popular quotes from the most popular young adult authors

Have you ever pondered a popular quote from a popular author? Ever read something and thought Wow! That’s just too good not to share? Thanks to the miracles of modern technology, now anyone can share a special quote with everyone.

Of course, just because you find interesting or poignant, that doesn’t mean others will, right? Well, what if lots of people find the same quote interesting?

Here’s a summary of the top 2 most popular quotes taken from the most popular young adult titles as reported by Kindle readers…

The Matchmaker’s Playbook – Rachel Van Dyken
1) It wasn’t that it had been too long without a girl. It was that it’d been a lifetime without the right one.
2) Lex: Every night after practice he eats at Asian Fusion. Gross. You’ll find General Tso at his usual spot.

A Shade of Vampire 2 – Bella Forest
1) Just because sandcastles are temporary, it never stopped me from making them as beautiful as possible.
2) Derek was to wake once it was time to find the girl who would help him fulfill his destiny.”

A Shade of Vampire 3 – Bella Forest
1) Let the sandcastle collapse. In its place, I will build a fortress—one that the waves of nature and time could never destroy.
2) I might have underestimated my father, but he had no idea how much he had just underestimated me.

The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
1) The rules of the Hunger Games are simple. In punishment for the uprising, each of the twelve districts must provide one girl and one boy, called tributes, to participate. The twenty-four tributes will be imprisoned in a vast outdoor arena that could hold anything from a burning desert to a frozen wasteland. Over a period of several weeks, the competitors must fight to the death. The last tribute standing wins.
2) District Twelve. Where you can starve to death in safety,

A Shade of Vampire 5 – Bella Forest
1) I know an excuse when I hear one. Don’t you dare deceive yourself into believing that you’re the victim, Derek Novak.
2) eighteen-year-old Sofia Claremont made five-hundred-year-old me feel like a boy.

A Shade of Vampire 6 – Bella Forest
1) we hold our fate in our hands. We always have a choice. Don’t settle for less than the future that you dream of with her.
2) You are who you choose to be. No matter how much light is shed upon you, if you still choose to remain in darkness, that’s your doing, not anyone else’s.

Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins
1) It takes ten times as long to put yourself back together as it does to fall apart.
2) And it takes too much energy to stay angry with someone who cries so much.

A Shade of Vampire 7 – Bella Forest
1) You’re no stranger to storms. The waves may rage, but you can rise above them.
2) All of the bad and good things that come with living become worthwhile once we find love.

Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins
1) Because sometimes things happen to people and they’re not equipped to deal with them.
2) Life in District 12 isn’t really so different from life in the arena. At some point, you have to stop running and turn around and face whoever wants you dead.

Shades of Vampire 24 – Bella Forest
1) I was left to ponder over the power of a simple apology. A taming of one’s ego, an admission of being fallible… the effect that these things could have on a relationship was profound. I couldn’t help but feel that if more people were ready to apologize in the world, it would be a brighter, happier place.
2) Those ghouls really should charge for their service. Ghoul rehab. Guaranteed results for the assholes in your family.

The Banished of Muirwood – Jeff Wheeler
1) A friend does not abandon a friend during troubled times. That is when the friendship is needed most.
2) I have learned, mostly through painful experience, never to be dismissive of a friend’s accusation, even if it seems unreasonable. More often than not, it is well-meant, the truth, and something I have needed to hear but did not want to. It is an easy thing to be offended. It is difficult to learn something new about ourselves.

The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien
1) If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.
2) May the wind under your wings bear you where the sun sails and the moon walks,

The Fellowship of the Ring – J.R.R. Tolkien
1) The wide world is all about you: you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot for ever fence it out.
2) I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.

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Book Review and Rating Myths

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

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

Reasons you should leave a review:

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

Myths about Reviews:

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

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

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Author Spotlight: G.K. Derosa

gk-derosa   By Michelle Lynn

What are the titles of your work and can you tell us a bit about them?
I have one book series out called Wilder: The Guardian Series – there are 4 books in the series plus a companion novella. The story is about a young girl in her senior year of high school who discovers a huge family secret after a pair of handsome brothers move into her small town.

Who’s your favorite character from your books?
I really love my main character, Celeste Wilder. I wanted to have a strong female heroine as the lead and I think she embodies that. Sure she’s silly and naïve sometimes, she is only 17 after all, but she’s also strong and resilient and can kick some butt!

Your series is a great vampire tale. Is there a reason you chose to write about these supernatural creatures?
Who doesn’t love a good vampire story right? I know it’s been done a lot with Twilight, The Vampire Diaries, True Blood etc. but there’s a reason why we all keep coming back for more! There’s something so thrilling about the idea of eternal love and then of course there’s the whole bad boy thing. So that’s why J

Whenever a story has a human falling in love with someone who isn’t so human, there are complications – sometimes insurmountable ones. Some books such as Twilight or the Vampire Diaries solve this by simply turning their human into a vampire. You didn’t take such an easy route. How did you deal with these types of issues?
It’s true, it is a difficult challenge but from the moment I started the first book, I knew what I wanted to do with that. I don’t want to give away too much but that’s the beauty about writing YA fantasy, you aren’t constrained to anything. If you can think of a way to deal with a problem and explain it somewhat logically or “realistically”, you can accomplish anything you want in the story telling. 

You’ve chosen not to have a singular supernatural focus in your books. Along with vampires, you have werewolves, witches, fairies, and of course – the guardians. How did you keep all of this straight as you were writing it?
As you mentioned, there are so many vampire stories out there and I didn’t want Wilder to be just another vampire book. I think adding other supernatural creatures and mystical elements makes for a more interesting story. This way the characters all have their unique powers they bring into the mix.

Were there alternate endings that you considered?
Yes there definitely were a few different options I toyed with regarding Aleks and Lilliana. Again I don’t want to give away too much, but after you read it, if you want to know, shoot me an email and I’ll be happy to tell you the alternate endings I had in mind. As for Celeste, Roman and Nico I knew from the beginning how I wanted it all to end.

What authors have inspired you to write?
I’m obviously a big fan of YA myself and have read a ton of it! I loved the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and read the series about 4 times already. Then there are authors like Stephenie Meyer and LJ Smith who wrote Twilight and The Vampire Diaries. They inspired me in a different way – no offense to their writing, but after reading their series it made me think I could totally do this!

What age were you when you started writing?
Honestly, I loved writing when I was back in grade school and middle school but then I totally lost track of it. It wasn’t until I was in my early 30’s that I picked it up again. Wilder was the first novel I wrote and published.

Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Sure, I think it’s impossible not to, but it happens pretty rarely luckily! I have a very active imagination and love conjuring up the different scenes in my head.

Do you work with an outline, or just write?
For my first book, Wilder, I just wrote. I really had no idea what I was doing to be honest! I got more organized after that and you can probably tell if you’ve read the whole series! Even by my last book Wilder Legacy, I still didn’t do a very detailed outline. I like my characters to dictate where the story goes.

Do you ever get sad when you realize that the characters that you’ve created aren’t real?
Yes! I was so depressed when I wrote the last book in the series because I couldn’t believe that I wasn’t going to be able to spend time with my characters anymore. You definitely get attached and they become like real people to you.

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
I decided to self-publish from the get go so I never went through the thrill of rejection from publishers 😉 But I also had no idea what I was doing in self-publishing. I thought writing the book was going to be the hard part, but I was totally wrong. From finding an editor to a graphic designer to formatting and not to mention the all-important marketing, there were so many things to do. But it was totally worth it and I’m so glad that I did it on my own.

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?
Not really… except I wish I had known more about marketing and advertising from the beginning. That would have been extremely helpful!

Can you tell us about your upcoming book?
Wilder is currently included in Dark Legends which is a collection of urban fantasy/paranormal romance novels with 20 other amazing authors. That has been a huge project that has been quite time consuming lately. I am going to start working on a spin-off of Wilder that I’ve had in mind since I started on the last book. This is actually the first time I’m really talking about it, but it will feature some of everyone’s favorite characters in Oak Bluffs. I’ll give you a little teaser – a hot younger Constantin brother will be one of the stars J But… the main character will again be a female and I think you’re really going to love her.

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
Oh man, I had one review on Goodreads that was like 10 paragraphs long and she went through and quoted several lines from Wilder and tore it apart. Her criticism ranged from punctuation to dialog to overall plot. She was brutal! Mind you, this person was given the book for free for review! I’m really lucky that I get a lot of great reviews from my fans and they leave lots of wonderful comments on my website. I absolutely love hearing from them. One of my favorites, is this lovely lady who said she could totally see Wilder as a TV show on the CW! She’s an awesome supporter!

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
As Nike says, Just do it! As daunting as it may seem, writing and publishing your novel is incredibly rewarding, not to mention fun! I never thought I could make a career out of something that I enjoy doing so much. Never give up and no matter how scary it is, put your book out there and let people read it. It’s totally worth it!

What others are saying about G.K. Derosa:

“This story has layers upon layers of things happening that all somehow are interconnected. It’s like a bunch of story-lines melded into on in an exciting fashion. Ms. Derosa has once again impressed me, entertained me, and made me want more. She can count me as a fan.” 

“With twist and turns, and a new take on vampires, along with likable characters you root for from the very beginning, I found myself drawn into this world so immensely, that I read the entire thing in one day.”


G.K. Derosa is found at the Young Adult Author Rendezvous HERE.

G.K. Derosa is online HERE.

Michelle Lynn is found at the Young Adult Author Rendezvous HERE.

Keeping Cheese out of Romance Novels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author Spotlight: Rita Goldner

rita-goldner   By: Michelle Lynn

What are the titles of your works and can you tell us a bit about them?
Orangutan: A Day in the Rainforest Canopy is my first printed book. Before that I wrote/illustrated two Kindle books about a boy, Jackson, who gets bored with traditional school, and instead uses his art to learn and explore other things. They are: Jackson’s History Adventure and Jackson’s Aviation Adventure.

Who’s your favorite character from your books?
I fell in love with orangutans even before I wrote Orangutan, but I think Jackson is more versatile, kids can relate to him more, and I can use him for future books.

Orangutan is an interesting book. It not only entertains kids, but teaches them as well. Is there a reason you chose this animal to focus the book on?
I sketch and paint animals from life at the zoo often. I just bring my own folding chair, and really enjoy myself. Over the years, orangutans became my favorite, and I became more aware of their endangered plight. So I started doing research, and decided to write the book.

The images in Orangutan are incredible. Do you do them yourself? And if so, how are they done. Drawings? Computer generated?
They started as sketches of live orangutans. Then after studying the anatomy and expressions, I moved their limbs and bodies around to poses that fit the story. I scanned the final drawings into my computer and tweaked them, colored them, and added texture (hair) digitally. (I use an inexpensive program called ArtRage.) 

I imagine writing a children’s book has its own set of difficulties outside of the fiction world. What are some of the things you have to consider?
I wanted it to be scientifically accurate and educational, but never at the cost of fun. I also didn’t want it to be sad, and the danger of extinction is sad. I chose to leave that out of the story, since there’s not much a little kid can do about it.

Why have you chosen such a young age group to focus your books on?
As I mentioned above, a young child can’t do much politically, but can fall in love with orangutans, and when he grows older, help their critically endangered status. I also have another audience, the adults who read to the child. Hopefully, they can become aware about global environmental responsibility, and habitat protection, and help with their votes and contributions.

What authors have inspired you to write?
Good illustration is so appealing to me it almost eclipses the writing. When my kids were young, I read Richard Scarry books to them, mainly because the pictures were so much fun. I loved Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, too, for the same reason. In recent years, I was fortunate to have Molly Idle, a recent Caldecott Honor recipient and a fantastic illustrator, as my teacher and my inspiration. You’ll notice I said “almost eclipses”. I consider the writing vital, too, and I was influenced when writing Orangutan by several expert wildlife veterinarians, especially at orangutan rescue centers in Borneo. They weren’t writers, per se, but were so passionate about getting the word out, that they motivated me to write a story that would inspire children.

What age were you when you started writing?
I wrote poetry in high school, and occasionally wrote for fun while raising my family and having a different career. But I didn’t take it really seriously until I retired. 

Do you ever experience writer’s block?
All the time, as all writers do. But I also share with them the nutty experience of having writer’s “Aha!” moments in the middle of the night, while trying to sleep.

Do you work with an outline, or just write?
I always have an outline, and a ton of research, and a picture-book dummy I make for myself, so I can see the flow, and pacing. I also want to have a rough idea of the design while I’m working, and where to put the pictures.

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
It was actually serendipitous. I hired my editor to edit four books. I didn’t know she also owned a publishing company, and she then asked me if she could publish Orangutan. Her company only publishes books about the natural world, so she wasn’t interested in the other three, but did an excellent job editing. One of the others was the e-book Jackson’s History Adventure, which I am now re-writing as a coloring book. I plan to self-publish this time, and expect a boatload of challenges.

If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your book or getting it published that you would change?
Not really, my publisher/editor is great. Without even knowing what I was doing, I fell into the good fortune that my colleagues search for, for years. Before I met her, I had submitted other books to several agents and publishers, and collected my huge share of rejection letters, but I gave up doing that.

Can you tell us about your upcoming book?
I’m using my black and white drawings, for the reader to color, but it’s a story book, not just a coloring book, with text and “Fun Facts”. It’s about Jackson time-traveling back through centuries of civilization and all over the world to draw and paint his school assignment of a history report. It’s designed for left or right-handed colorists, so the coil binding is at the top. 

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?
A piece of really good advice, that’s a lot of hard work to follow, I got from my marketing group. It is to create a book that is as perfect as you can make it, in readability, presentation, and quality of writing, printing and binding. This is not just because of all the competition out there, but because anything less is a disservice to your readers.

What has been the best compliment?
The compliments have been mostly about the illustrations, which I found easier than the writing. My favorite compliments are about kids liking and re-reading it.

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
You have to pay a professional editor, and this is much more than a proof-reader.

With any luck, you can get proof-readers for free from among your school teacher friends, in return for your services. The manuscript should already be perfect in grammar, punctuation, spelling and usage before the editor gets it. Then they help you make it interesting to your audience.

I also think if you’re self-publishing, you should use a smorgasbord approach to buying services. Research and find an editor, a book designer, an illustrator if you need one, and a printer. I think this is cheaper and gives you more control than getting a package deal from a paid publishing company.

Do you have any strange writing habits?
I get a really slow befuddled start in the morning, sometimes not getting rolling until noon. Then I build up a head of steam in the late afternoon, and hit my stride at night.

What others are saying about Rita Goldner:

“The information relayed is very educational, but it’s the illustrations, which are so colorful and vibrant that give this book its appeal. Young kids will be entranced, particularly those who love monkeys (and oh so many kids do!).”

“Combining beautiful art, a nice story and good scientific facts’ this book for children get its act right. With fun facts in each page, kids are introduced to orangutans and their environment.”


Rita’s Young Adult Author Rendezvous page is HERE.

Rita’s Website is HERE.

Michelle Lynn at the Young Adult Author Rendezvous HERE.

YAAR Does NaNoWriMo!

NaNoWriMo Experience - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by Lauren Mayhew

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author Spotlight: Gina Azzi

Young Adult Author Rendezvous Author: Gina AzziInterview by Michelle Lynn.

An interview with author Gina Azzi.

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

Sure! My books are in the young adult and new adult genres. The first book I wrote is entitled Corner of Ocean and Bay. It’s a mature young adult novel that highlights the friendship of Nessa and Jacie during the summer before their senior year of high school. Primarily focusing on teen topics such as underage drinking, family issues, and first loves, the novel explores how Nessa and Jacie navigate these challenges and the impact certain situations have on their friendship.

After writing Corner of Ocean and Bay, I started working on The Senior Semester Series, a new adult and college romance series that follows four best friends as they embark on their senior year of college, new adventures, and love interests! The first book in the series, The Last First Game, focuses on Lila Avers as she completes a medical internship in California and meets football player Cade Wilkins at the airport! Their romance is a whirlwind but things grow complicated as Cade deals with the fallout of a sudden illness and Lila struggles to be there for him. The second book in the series, Kiss Me Goodnight in Rome, follows Mia Petrella to Italy and chronicles her romance with hot Italiano Lorenzo Barca. This book deals with body image issues, family financial concerns, and a looming long-distance relationship. The third book in the series, All the While, focuses on Maura Rodriguez and Zack Huntington and will release January 17, 2017. And the final book is Emma’s Story which is set to release next Spring.

Who’s your favorite character from your books?

Ah, what a tough question! I really like Lila a lot – I think she’s really laidback, fun, and easy to get along with. At the same time, she’s incredibly loyal, family-oriented, and genuine. I also really enjoyed writing Lorenzo’s character as he is rough around the edges, a bit arrogant, and pretty cocky before he falls for Mia.

In your book, The Last First Game, you tackle some pretty huge issues – namely cancer and sexual abuse. Is there a reason you chose to write about these massive topics?

In all of my books, I try to write about themes that are relatable and age-appropriate. The cancer element was really difficult to write about but it’s also something that most people can relate to – having known someone close to them that is struggling with an illness. How do they cope and handle these challenges? How does it change their relationship with this person? Sexual assault was a really important topic for me to include since statistics show that 1 in 5 women on college campuses experience sexual assault. That is mind boggling! It’s also a topic that is finally being covered in the media, discussed in politics, and receiving attention and education on college campuses. The Obama Administration launched the It’s on Us campaign in 2014 to combat sexual assault on college campuses. I think it’s a huge issue that deserves attention and awareness and I wanted to help do so through The Last First Game.

What advice would you give to someone writing about a topic that people tend to have very strong opinions on?

Be sensitive to the opinions of others, be factual in the information you provide, but never be afraid to write about something you believe in/believe deserves attention.

Amidst these big things that are happening to Lila and Cade, you manage to give them some normalcy as they fall in love and learn to rely on each other. Was this difficult?

It wasn’t that difficult since it’s very common for young people to experience a lot of challenges or things that bring them stress and pressure – and in the midst of all of that, still fall in love, form meaningful friendships, have these important relationships with other people. I think people are always dealing with things that are difficult for them but at the same time, trying to cultivate a support system is important, and connections with other people can’t be overlooked.

Were there alternate endings that you considered?

No! haha! I was pretty set on the ending of The Last First Game – I actually wrote it before I finished a good portion of the middle bit!

What authors have inspired you to write?

I’ve always loved reading – I was totally that kid that read under the covers by flashlight at night! Some of my favorite books growing up were Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Harry Potter – all of these books and more and so many talented authors have inspired me in different ways to write.

What age were you when you started writing?

Super young! I suppose about 7 or 8 – I used to write and illustrate stories to read to my friends!

Do you ever experience writer’s block?

Totally! Sometimes I have to take a step back from my work for several days and just do something completely unrelated before I can go back to it. Having that break from the story usually helps me look at the content with a fresh perspective.

Do you work with an outline, or just write?

A little of both. I usually make a general outline with major plot points, themes, scenes and then just free write from there. Most of the time, I begin without knowing the ending and at some point, I sort it out and then write the ending, sometimes before I finish how the story arrives at that conclusion.

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

Haha not really – they’re real to me because they exist in my mind anyway!

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

It was totally trial and error. I went the self-publishing route as I liked the idea of having complete creative control. I did some research about how to go about the process and spoke with some other self-published authors. Through learning about their experiences – and reading a lot of blogs! – I learned about how to find an editor, a cover designer, a formatter. Little by little it fell into place. Something I love about the self-publishing route is it’s a constant state of learning – and that is pretty exciting by itself!

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 – mainly because I really enjoyed the learning process and feel like every step of my journey has gotten me to where I am today. It’s tough to skip steps and even the mistakes I’ve made have taught me a lesson. I think experiencing these lessons first-hand is really important for me in order to value what I do and to encourage me to keep writing.

Can you tell us about your upcoming book?

Sure! All the While is a new adult, college romance book releasing on January 17, 2017. Here’s the blurb:

Consumed with grief for her twin brother Adrian’s death, Maura Rodriguez is spinning out of control. To cope with Adrian’s loss, she numbs her pain with bottles of vodka and sex with random men.

Consumed with guilt for his best friend Adrian’s death, Zack Huntington is yearning for a past that no longer exists. Reaching out to the familiarity and comfort an ex-girlfriend offers, Zack aims to recreate what once was but can never be again.

When their worlds collide while running on the trails along Boathouse Row, Maura and Zack find comfort in each other and in the memory of their shared connection, Adrian.

From their unlikely friendship grows an undeniable attraction, an irrefutable desire, and an unexpected love. While Maura and Zack struggle to heal, to forgive, to accept, they also learn how to let go and allow themselves to fall in love, a truth they’ve both known but resisted all the while.

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

The toughest criticism has been that my characters lack depth. That’s hard to hear as I really want my characters to resonate with readers and if they’re not, then I have to try harder to create more layers for them. Another criticism is the lack of sexual content in my books – I tend to imply sexual encounters rather than write more graphic content. The best compliment is when people tell me how much they could relate to a character and understand his/her challenges, point of view, experiences. That makes me super happy!

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

Keep writing! If it’s something you love to do, keep it up – even if it’s for your own peace of mind!

Do you have any strange writing habits?

I’m not sure – I like to write at coffee houses and cafes with my Spotify playlists and a sweet treat! I feel like that sounds pretty boring though.

What others are saying about Gina Azzi:

“This book tackled some very serious issues and it did so with a cautiousness I appreciated. I think it was a true representation of what might happen to a very young, very new couple when faced with these issues. They were very human.”

“Her characters are well-drawn, realistic, and could be people that you actually know (or knew). Her stories are invariably sweet and romantic, stories written about love and all the highs and lows that go with it.”

Find Gina on Amazon

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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.

Keeping Reading in the Joy Column

Love Reading - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by Cynthia Port.

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

Sadly, often yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!”

Anthem and City of Ember: A Comparison

The City of Ember by Jeanny DuPrau - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by Tracy Lawson.

City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau is a perfect stepping-stone to prepare middle grade readers to embrace and appreciate Ayn Rand’s 1938 novella Anthem.

The main characters in both books seek light, though in Ember the literal search for light is necessary for survival, and in Anthem, the light is not as much about the electricity discovered by the young man Equality 7-2521, as the illumination of the mind and soul that comes with an intellectual awakening.

The underground city of Ember was created and stocked with supplies to last two hundred years, which its Builders assumed was long enough to protect its people from the fallout from a nuclear war. An escape plan was in place, but somewhere along the way, the instructions detailing exactly how to get out of the city were lost.

Now, the city has survived well past its life expectancy, and the citizens of Ember are running out of food, clothing and supplies. Their electric generator is slowly dying, and temporary blackouts become more and more frequent. A few people try to venture into the vast darkness beyond the lighted city, but return in defeat.

Life goes on within the city, and twelve year-olds are given their first work assignments. Lina is assigned to work below the city in the Pipeworks, while Doon draws the job of messenger. Paper is scarce, and messengers have the very important job of delivering verbal messages all over town. Both children are disappointed with their job assignments. First jobs are for a three-year period, and may be switched if the young worker shows more aptitude for another job. But Doon can’t wait that long. He knows that the light brought by electricity is essential to Ember’s survival, and he’s determined to find a way to make electricity that can be carried, so people can search for a way out of the dying city. He asks Lina if she’ll trade jobs with him, and she happily agrees.

Lina and Doon discover corruption within the government. The mayor has been keeping a secret stash of supplies for himself so that when everyone else runs out, he’ll still have food and light bulbs. But they also find the Instructions for Egress left by the original Builders. The instructions have been badly damaged, and they have to literally piece together what remains and solve the puzzle that will help them find the secret door out of Ember.

When they report the Mayor’s hoarding to the city guards, they are accused of spreading vicious rumors, and a warrant is issued for their capture. The only way to escape from the guards and save everyone in the city is to follow the Instructions for Egress, which leads them to the thing they most fear—the rushing Underground River.

City of Ember offers an introduction to many dystopian themes, including:

-corrupt leaders that cling to a crumbling society

-a system where individuals are assigned jobs with no regard for their aptitudes or preferences

-frustration for individuals who can make legitimate contributions to better society, but are turned away by those in power

-the freedom found in exile for those brave enough to seek it

Anthem by Ayn Rand - Young Adult Author RendezvousIn Anthem, as in City of Ember, there are secrets to be discovered and adventures to be had in the tunnels under the city streets. But Anthem paints a grim picture of a collective society that punishes any form of individual expression. Family units exist in City of Ember, but in Anthem, children never know their parents. They are raised by the state, educated by the state, and given life Mandates, assigning them to jobs when they are fifteen years of age.

Equality 7-2521, the protagonist in Anthem, desires more than anything to be assigned to the Home of the Scholars and to be allowed to study science. He hopes to advance technology beyond the latest invention, which was found only one hundred years before, of how to make candles from wax and string. When he is assigned to be a Street Sweeper, he is crushingly disappointed, but accepts the Mandate as a way to atone for his sins against his brothers. For any thought that does not consider everyone is a sin. But he is unable to keep his thoughts strictly collective.

He singles out one young woman, Liberty 5-3000, and holds her in higher esteem than any other woman, which is strictly forbidden. In his mind, he calls her the Golden One.

He collects things that interest him and hides them in a tunnel under the street. After two years of study he builds an electric lamp. He presents his invention to the Council of Scholars, but instead of being grateful for his service to society, the Council demands that the lamp be destroyed. He escapes with the lamp, but is damned to exile the Uncharted Forest. Two days later, the Golden One joins him in exile. After many days they come upon a house from the Unmentionable Times, and sets about learning the wonders of the civilization that has passed away.  They live as a young couple in love, and start a family. Equality 7-2521 takes the name Prometheus, who in mythology was the bringer of light, and renames the Golden One Gaea, after the mother of the earth.

In both City of Ember and Anthem, the main characters find freedom in exile, and plan to share the wonders of their new worlds with people who are trapped in the societies they left behind.

What Ember doesn’t, and shouldn’t, examine are the horrors of life in a totalitarian collective society that brainwashes its population with statements like, “What is not thought by all men cannot be true” and eliminates the singular pronoun from the language to deprive people of the sense of independent thought.

Ayn Rand states in her introduction to the 50th anniversary edition of Anthem that “reason is the property of the individual. There is no such thing as a collective brain.”

I’ve mentioned in other posts that the nucleus of the idea for COUNTERACT, my first novel, began as a writing prompt proposed by a student I was mentoring. His exact words? “What if everyone were on LSD and all thoughts were communal?”

If there is no such thing as a collective brain, collective thought would only be possible if it were coerced.

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