Saturday, June 25, 2011

First 250 - The World That Does Not Bow

Hey guys! This is another entry for a Shelley Watters contest (honestly, she has the best ones, if you aren't already entered, check it out here.

The first 250 below are of my Sci-fi/thriller/post-apocalyptic YA called The World That Does Not Bow. Comments are loved and appreciated and most certainly returned in kind! Thanks again!


The first time I saw the headmistress, I was dying.

It wasn't a good death. I wasn't dying nobly, enlisted on the frontlines of the northern war like my dad would’ve wanted. Mom would’ve wanted me to die when I was old, surrounded by my grandchildren and a garden that was impossible in the diseased soil of our village. Both of them talked about how they hated the thought of dying at the hands of the Wave. Starvation, the raiders, mad dogs. Anything but the Wave. Too many had been wiped out before. Too many had been imbedded in the monster’s crimson skin and left to forever scream inhuman warnings as half-masticated corpses.

When the warning siren rang from the watchtower, the ocean was rippling just outside the driftwood wall that spanned the fishing ponds. I could see it from the stone windows. High tide. Rictor came running into the dark temple, his hat askew. The Elder had been in the middle of our song lesson. He talked in quiet voices with Rictor. Incense was thick and heavy around us, sweet enough to eat. The Elder dismissed us and we skipped out, thrilled to be free of class.

Around us, the village panicked. People ran and gathered up their children, baskets of the days gathering of fish spilled as feet tripped over them. Fires were extinguished. The rich-voiced birds in the tall palms were absent, the hushed whispers and terrified cries drowning them out.

The Wave was coming.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

My writing process is mostly...full of cake.

Anonymous reader here! :) I love your blog.

I have...I guess a post-request? I have been having writer's block, and it always helps me to know about other writers' processes - like, where they write, what time of day they do it, if there are any habits that help them, etc.

If you ever have the spare time, I'd be really excited if you'd post about your writing process. Thanks :)

Hello anonymous!! You're a wonderful person. I know this because you use the :) smiley, and anybody who uses that is a 100% bonafide AWESOME PERSON in my book. But seriously, I like your question. I like it lots, and I'm gonna try my best to give you an equally likeable answer!

Obviously, every writer is completely different. Our styles are different, the genres we choose to tackle vary, and that's only the start! What works for me might not work for you, but gosh darn it I sure hope it does.

In all seriousness, I'm the type of writer who likes to sit at the computer for three or four weeks and frenzy out a really, REALLY rough draft skeleton thing. I take one or two months to revise that skeleton. I've finished two books in this fashion, so it's worked out pretty well for me! If you're slower, that's awesome too!

If you wanna get in the mood to write, the most essential bit is MUSIC. Put on some jams you adore out the whazoo. Make a little playlist of songs you NEVER get tired of listening to, freshen it up with some new things you like, etc. Hit 'loop' and think about the scene you're writing as if it were a movie, with that music in the background. My favorite guilty pleasure (and loltastic nerdgasm habit) is to put some very epic trailer music, such as from 300 or Inception, and imagine my book, my characters, my plot being weaved through that music as though it were a movie. It gets me pumped to keep writing the book itself!

Music helps the creative juices to flow. Picture various action-y or other important scenes in your book playing to music. You might find new inspiration!

Another method of breaking writer's block in half like a boss is to become extremely attached to your characters. I do this a lot, because my characters are lovely and very real to me. Sometimes I hold conversations with them. It takes a lot of work to have a one-sided conversation, but if you pose them normal questions, it challenges your brain to come up with a correct response that would fit their personality. This can help you love them more/want to spend more time with them and will give you vital clues as to how to write them better!

Keep in mind, doing this in public might get you arrested! But, seriously, try it out right before you go to bed at night, when it is most quiet and easy to imagine things. It's almost meditative, and it's worked wonders for me.

The last resort I usually reserve for the VERY HARDEST of times is to bake. BAKE BAKE BAKE. For you this might be different - a mindless task that is completely NOT writing at all can help you gain perspective. Weeding, painting, going for a walk. All are totally legit and can really aid you when you need to step back from the work and see if you're being a nutcase about it.

Above all, what motivates me to write is the realization that I'm not getting any younger. Time is awastin'! I want to share those stories and help people like books helped me. Do all you can whenever you can, try your hardest every second. A lot of the time, that means forcing yourself to write when you don't want to. Do that. Don't let anything defeat you or slow you down, ever. YOU are making your own success or failure entirely. So fight hard and fight long!

PS. Caffiene and sugar are magic pick-me-ups!!

PPS. Stay in school

PPPS. When you get famous, don't forget me.




Saturday, June 4, 2011

The WSJ Debacle And How They Were Targeting The Wrong Issue

If you haven't heard of it yet, you will. If you're involved in books at all, or the YA industry, this news will circulate. The Wall Street Journal recently published an article on how YA books nowadays are chock full of violence, gritty issues, and general debauchery.


Let's start out by being nice. We like the WSJ. We do. The article was well thought-out, and very informed of the history of YA as a whole. We wonder, however, if they were perhaps aiming at the wrong issue in YA.

The 'censor what your kids read' issue is a very important one, of course. In a tweet chat about YA a while back, I said that YA should be the genre, out of all the literary genres, to push boundaries. I stand by that today. The entire debate is one that will rage between mothers/Wholesome American Values and authors for many generations.

However, I found it interesting that WSJ decided to tackle the issue of 'grit' in YA, when kids today are exposed to hundreds of the same things, but on TV. This is what we call a double standard. Many people brought up the contrasting issue; "God forbid my kid become an avid reader". There's no doubt YA is the darkest and most gritty of any sort of literary genre, except perhaps those murder mysteries, and even those are detached and tend not to hold a tenth of the emotional pull that YA does. If it gets kids reading and thinking, it's gotta be a good thing, right?

There's a bigger problem than 'dark' in YA. It's a problem no one really addresses, because everyone is fearful of stepping on toes. If WSJ ever decided to do an article on the alarming vapidness of today's YA, it would be very interesting. This problem is more prevalent in YA than even 'dark' trends, but much of it is waved off because that same vapidness tends to make the big money because it is so accessible. Watered down.

I'm friends with local teens in my area and beyond, I know teens all over the world thanks to this wonderful internet thing, and many of them are frustrated by the insincerity of the tone in YA. The soulless-seeming love interests. The lack of character and lack of heartfelt interaction that preaches some kind of whitewashed moral that sex, or anything outside of the middle america's comfort zone, is a thing to be frowned on. Is this what the moms, such as in WSJ's article, want us to write? The public would like us to dumb down YA EVEN FURTHER just so their minds can be eased?

This article may have been about 'dark' themes in YA, but it was subtly pointing out the dichotomy that is the biggest problem in YA today; the seemingly omnipresent state of 'distilled' teenage life that is represented in these books. If the book isn't 'dark', it will more than likely be what many teens deem a 'disappointment', in terms of characters, trying-too-hard tone, or even overall plot. The trend of (mostly fantasy) YA is, as of now, desperately gasping for some new blood, and this is evident in the way teens are now becoming more vocal about their dissatisfaction with YA today.

If the teens are feeling the lack of originality in YA, that means we're becoming too comfortable and stagnant in a world of books where we chase after trends, strive desperately and fail in crafting a believable 'teen' voice, and censor ourselves and hence, the quality of the work as well, to get published. Are we still writers if we aren't making works that speak to teens?

Thanks WSJ, for making us stop and think.