What Do Young Adults Want to Read? - from article by Cyndi Etler
Funny Meme Introducing Tahani Nelson Doug Farren's new website
Virtual Fantasy Convention Oct 15-21 (Read the articles & comment on my pages for points - and it helps me too!)
A Dragon in the Americas. This year, On October 9 citizens of the United States celebrate Columbus Day. In recent years as we have become a more diverse nation, some have become uncomfortable with such a holiday and prefer to celebrate Native American Day. For the purposes of this blog, I decided to choose a different angle and explore a comparative mythical creature.
As a Science Fantasy author and reader, I've encountered many tales set in medieval Europe or Europe-like other worlds that feature dragons. These great creatures are so beloved by readers of all ages that it makes me wonder if they might have existed in ancient times. Did their long ago existence become ingrained in our memory? Every land has something like a dragon. This creature can be small or larger than a planet. It can be benevolent and protective in one legends, but destructive and wicked in others. A dragon, or race of dragons may be neutral but perceived as alternately good and evil. In addition to the European model of dragon, there snake-like models such as the Midgard serpent, the Greek Erichthonius who was part serpent and part man, and the Egyptian Apep the world and sky serpent. The Choctaw have Misi-kinepikw (great snake)represented in the Ohio Serpent mound. There are countless Asian dragons who, like the European model are more lizard or dinosaur-like. All have wings or at least the power of flight.
Meso-America has Quetzalcoatl. (Kate-zal-co-ah- tal)
Quetzalcoatl was a flying reptile like a dragon, but with green quetzal feathers. He was a boundary-maker and traveler between earth and sky or between dimensions. He was a creator deity who created mankind. The Maya knew of him as Kukulkan (Koo-cull-kahn)
If we take his image as symbolic rather than a depiction of a real creature, the feathers represent flight and air, just as the serpent represents earth. The combination of feathers and serpent then becomes an image of two worlds in one creature.
Quetzalcoatl is a primordial god of creation, a giver of life
As the Lord of the East he is associated with the morning star, his twin brother Xolotl (Zo-lot-uhl) was the evening star (Venus).
As the morning star he was known by the name Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli, (Tlah-weez-cal-pan-teh-coo-tli)"lord of the star of the dawn."
He is also Ehecatl(Eh-heh-ca-tul), the Wind God praised in round temples. He taught science, art, magic, the all-important calender and communication to the fledgling race of men, then went away stating he would return on a certain day.
At right is one of many stone
Quetzalcoatl heads on a pyramid just outside Mexico City where the ancient city of Teotihuacan (Tay-oh-tea-wa-kahn) was located.
In Aztec legends he was depicted as a bearded man with red hair and pale skin who came from the east sailing on white clouds with the symbol of the four directions. The date predicted was two days away from a European date in 1519 AD. On that date, Hernan Cortes arrived from the east. He was bearded, had red hair and paler skin. His ships had high cloudlike sails emblazoned with red crosses. By the time the Aztecs realized Cortes was NOT Quetzalcoatl they were already victims of an alien invasion and conquest.
Last week I interviewed Brhi Stokes and learned of her prize winning novel Caligation. Prize-Winning? Her Novel won a silver award in Virtual Fantasy Con 2017's recent competition in the Urban Fantasy Division. Here's a review.
5 stars Couldn't put it down It reminds me of "His Dark Materials", "Keys to the Kingdom", "Neverware" and the "World of Darkness" roleplay game. A great book, especially for the price. I loved all the characters and the story managed to keep me constantly engaged and excited for what was coming next.
I think what I really loved about this book was that it was easy to read without sacrificing any of the stories intellect. There was just enough characters for me to wonder about the people offscreen without having to constantly remind myself who people were. It was sexy without being smutty, brutal without being gratuitous and knew when to laugh at it's own conceits and tropes and knew when to take itself seriously.
I had to reread the last two chapters a couple times to decide on my opinion of it. The conclusion I finally came to was that I was hungry for more of the story given in the reveal, but satisfied that it was left as vague as it had to.
In most of my interviews I post the author interview first, then give the author the option on a character interview. Ms. Stokes elected a third option...an excerpt. Here is once from Caligation
"The Melee" - Brhi Stokes
By the time he headed back home, the sun was hanging low in the sky and the streets were beginning to come alive.
Too alive, Ripley realised, rounding a corner and then stopping abruptly. A few metres ahead of him, in the centre of the street was a melee. Several creatures with elongated limbs, angular heads and a mottled mix of fur, skin and scales were on the attack. Without the pitch of night to hide their forms, Ripley could clearly see the deformities; the spines and horns and tufts of fur that covered the sinewy muscles of the creatures. Some moved with speed and grace, others in lumbering strides that impacted heavily on the road. Guttural sounds ripped from the group as they lunged and snarled at their opponents.
A gunshot ripped the air and one of the creatures reeled, blood pouring from the side of its face. Once it had gathered itself, it lashed out with a viciously spiked claw sending the shooter sprawling. It leapt, only to find its jaws clamped around the thick of a heavy crowbar as one of the woman’s compatriots dove in with such great strength he was actually able to hold the beast off.
His crowbar snapped, and the creature fell upon the man with claws and teeth. The woman he had saved leapt towards the creature and thrust out a hand. Even from this distance, Ripley could see the sudden melting and hissing that came from where her hand touched its bare flesh. The creature reeled once more, a good chunk of its skin turned a brackish red, steaming.
The two other creatures were under a barrage of gunfire, but they weathered it well. He watched as one of the humanoid men darted out of the way of oncoming teeth and clung like a spider to the wall nearby, sticking even without holding it.
One of the less occupied creatures spun suddenly, its eyes glowing a deep, angry red as it scanned the street. It caught sight of Ripley and, with a growl like nails in a whirling drain, dug its claws into the ground and bounded towards him. Pink saliva bubbled from between its innumerable teeth and a long, snake-like tongue lashed out at him.
Ripley stumbled back, hands reaching down to his pockets in search of any sort of weapon but the creature had sprung.
It reeled suddenly in mid-air as something exploded in front of it, sending liquid and fire splattering across the ground. From the liquid, a sickly green gas rose and the creature began to prowl backwards, snarling and gargling as small bits of fire licked at the tufts of fur across its scaled face.
He did not need to wait for a second chance. Ripley turned and bolted down the nearest alley. Behind him, the sound of sirens was accompanied by the screeching of tires.
His apartment was safe and warm in comparison. He did not leave, and no one came to collect him. A small part of him wondered if he should call someone but he pushed it aside.
He made an informed decision never to go outside again.
What Do Young Adults Want to Read?
Let My Students Tell You
Posted on October 3, 2017 by Cyndy Etler
author of We Can’t Be Friends and The Dead Inside. (excerpt of article from Jane Friedman's blog)
I’m the most privileged young adult author on the planet. It took me ten years to write my first book, The Dead Inside, but during that ten years, I taught high school English. Cha-ching! I used my work-in-progress as a textbook. Translation: my 958 beta-readers were real, live teens, I got feedback from them five days a week, and they trusted me enough to be honest. Whoa, Nelly, were they honest. I’ve boiled their lessons down to four key points on how to write killer-engaging YA; read on to let my students school you.
Lesson 1: Make it real. If you want your book to be the one that teens scarf down in one sitting, talk to their friends about, and consider a part of their actual life, you’ve got to give them the dirt most adults won’t touch. Real language—meaning cuss words, if you can deal. Real sex stuff, instead of cutting the scene when the going gets going. Real substance use, if that’s how your characters would spend their Friday night. This is a scary prospect. It feels like it violates some sacred oath: “Protect the children!” But here’s the thing: the children aren’t protected. They’re doing this stuff—the cussing, the sex, the drugs and the booze—or if they’re not, they know that their peers are. It’s ourselves we’re protecting, by pulling down the blinders. In avoiding these topics, we get to feel like righteous role models. We’re able to maintain the sweet myth of innocent childhood. In the process, though, we’re leaving teens to their own (developmentally immature) devices to deal with life’s strongest influences. Because you know, and I know, and D.A.R.E. and Planned Parenthood know, that teens find, and do, whatever they want. What we don’t know, unless we have direct contact with forthright teens, is this: teens are desperate for this information. They’re dying to understand how sex and substances work, to know how their peers are faring with them. And possibly, quite possibly, to learn that they don’t have to participate, because they’re not the only one who doesn’t want to. When we cloak the taboo stuff under the guise of “protection,” teens turn to their peers for information, the same peers who will do and say anything to appear #cool, #chill, #down_for_whatever. If we’re willing to present gritty topics in a way that rings true—that sounds and smells and feels like their reality, without a moralizing agenda—teens will bust a library door down to get it. And more importantly, they’ll consider their own behaviors, and possible consequences, as they read about characters they identify with.
Lesson 2: Make the protagonist a kid with no parental oversight.
When you hang out in schools you learn, whether you’re a student or not. This tidbit came to me because my “classroom” was a conference room in the school library. During hall duty one day, the librarian told me this: “The books that get checked out most frequently, in school libraries nationwide, are the ones where the kid has no parent on the scene.
”Baby bird needs to grow wing muscles to fly; teen kid needs to grow independent thoughts to get their own apartment. Books that feature teens who are forced into this autonomy, with no pressure or bad feelings from the parents they’re peeling away from, are a combination guidebook/escape hatch. No wonder they rocket off the shelves.
Want proof? Okay, but I almost feel guilty, like I’m beating a five-year-old at Thumb War. You ready? Google “most popular books for teens,” and you know what pops up? Dude, The Outsiders. As in, kids who are exiled from society because they have no parents.
Need I continue? The Hunger Games, where teens are shipped off to fend for themselves or die, as the adults wordlessly watch. The Catcher in the Rye, which, duh. I don’t want to keep insulting you. Just name any successful book for teens; you’ll spot the trend.
Lesson 3: Feature the topics making headlines vis-à-vis teens: anxiety, suicide, bullying.
Have your characters experience these struggles, but don’t describe them in a way that’s instructive or glamorous. Lord, and you thought simply writing with cuss words was scary!
Let’s tackle the danger zone first. When we’re writing for youth, there’s an implicit understanding: we’re writing for youth. Our readers are impressionable. If our stuff is good enough to hold teens’ attention, they like it. And if they like it, they want to align themselves with it. That means—and this goes into the flipside of Autonomy Theory, to what teens are reaching toward, as they move away from their parents—they want to imitate it. If self-destructive behaviors can be perceived as a solution, especially if they’re committed by a character with whom teens connect, those behaviors can look mighty appealing. However. If we convey the actual experiences attendant with these behaviors—the horror, the pain, the repercussions—then we’re not idealizing them; we’re edifying on the reality of them. We’re painting a deterrent.
Given the risks, why even go there? Long short: because so many desperate kids need to know they’re not alone. Abused kids. Depressed kids. Bullied kids. Anxious kids. The list is endless, and the struggles are taboo. Nobody wants to go there. There’s no quicker way to earn a lunchroom status of “nobody to sit with” than to throw your ugly truth on the table. So not chill.
Author Ellen Hopkins, a pioneer of the “edgy YA” genre, has written multiple New York Times bestselling novels. She writes about teens dealing with hardcore issues—drug addiction, sex trafficking, child abuse, mental illness, teen pregnancy—with a gloves-off, take-no-prisoners style that has landed her, multiple times, on the American Library Association’s “Most Frequently Challenged Authors of the 21st Century” list.
But that’s the adults talking. Know what the teens say? Thank you. Your books helped me understand someone I love. Thank you. Your books saved my life. Tens of thousands of readers have written; they all send the same message: without your edgy, dangerous books, I’d still be lost.
Lesson 4: Include hope.
As my students read my book, they highlight the stuff that relates to their lives. I watch as they carefully press bars of fluorescent ink over abuse scenes and drug experimentation and painful interactions with peers. And then we talk. The readings open them up. The bolder kids share their stories with the class; the shy ones wait ’til it’s just them and me. Their histories differ, but their wrap-up is always the same: “But now things are getting better.” Maybe optimism is another youthful imperative, because the kids, they keep looking up. They believe it’s gonna get better. Until, maybe, they don’t.
Long short, what do young adult readers want to see in the chapters of your book? They want to see themselves. Their pain, their experimentation, their autonomy. They want to read about what they’re living, what their friends are living, and they want it in detail. At the end, they want to see themselves figuring out how to win. Such truth can be scary to write. That’s good. Scary is real. Bathe in the fear; use it as your ink. Because when it comes to YA, the real is what gets you the win.
A funny Meme struck home this week. I'm sure all authors have felt this. It came from my son Thomas Woldering who is now in the throes of revising his first novel.
The next author I'd like to present is brand new to the world of Hybrid Publishing .
Let's welcome Tahani Nelson.
1. Who are you as a person? (brief bio paragraph)
I grew up in Arizona amidst towering saguaros and a blissful ignorance of snow. Then, when I was sixteen, my family and I moved to Montana and books became my sanctuary from the brutal winters. Now I teach high school and live with my husband, two cats, and a blatant disregard for the existence of snow boots.
2. How long have you been a writer?
It depends on what you mean by “writer.” My mother says I’ve been “writing” books since I was five. I started writing and publishing poems when I was about ten. I wrote an insanely long (and absolutely terrible) novel in Junior High. There have been a lot of steps so far in my becoming a writer. But I think it’s all about to pay off and I might actually let myself believe I’ve earned that title. My first book released on October 3rd!
3. Are you Traditionally or Indie published? If not yet, what are you considering?
Actually, neither. Or kind of both. I’m publishing The Last Faoii through Inkshares, a crowdfund-based publisher. It’s like KickStarter, but for books. So I get a lot of the perks of a traditional publisher, but the freedom of an indie author. It’s been really great so far!
4. What writers inspired you? Favorite Authors?
JK Rowling has to be one of the most inspirational humans on the planet. Before she introduced the world to Harry Potter, she was a single-mother battling suicidal depression, a world that still treats women like second-class citizens, and hundreds of publishers turning her down. Her writing is amazing, and I love her books, but for as awesome as the world she’s created is, it’s nothing compared to HER. She is definitely one of my heroes and a constant source of inspiration (though I don’t think my writing is anything like hers).
5. What is your book/series about (elevator speech or quick tweet post)
After her monastery is destroyed and her sisters slaughtered, young Kaiya-Faoii must raise an army to save her people and preserve her heritage.
6. What is the setting and genre?
The Last Faoii is a YA Fantasy set in a matriarchal society with medieval European and Middle Eastern influences.
7. Who is your favorite character from your book and why?
I love Kaiya because you get to watch her grow throughout the book. This is her story and watching her discover the world and her own history is thrilling. I also love Lyn, though, because she’s snarky and clever and just a fun character all around.
8. What character is most like you?
I don’t know if any of the characters are really like me. I like that Kaiya isn’t really sure of herself all the time, but she’s willing to do whatever she can to make the world better than it is. And I like that she starts the story completely immersed in her culture’s dogma and propaganda, but as she learns more about the world outside the monastery she starts to realize that every story has more than one side. I’d like to believe that I would learn to accept things like that if I was thrust out of my comfort zone.
9. If you had a supernatural power, what would it be?
I’d want to be a polyglot (be able to speak and understand any language). Imagine what you could do with that! Imagine what you could learn and the bridges you could build. So much of our walls our built from a lack of understanding. Being a polyglot wouldn’t fix that completely, but I think it could help. Also, Google Translate is terrible.
10. Would you say your book has a message or underlying theme? What is it?
The book has some very strong feministic overtones, but it’s strange because the message is given from the other side of the conflict. Kaiya is from a matriarchal society. Faoii are always women, and they’re the only ones who can use magic or become warriors. So when the opposing force turns out to be men who are just trying to fight for equality, it really puts an interesting spin on the argument, because of course Kaiya doesn’t realize she’s an oppressor when it all begins. She thinks SHE’S the one being attacked.
11. How are you marketing your book?
I’m still figuring that out. It comes out on October 3rd, and I’ve sold about 320 pre-orders thus far just by talking to people about it. I know the best way to market is by word-of-mouth. It’s a story worthy of being told, and I think people will take to it once they know it exists. But if anyone out there has suggestions, I’d love to hear them!
12. Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
I’d love to meet Gina Torres. Her character in Firefly was actually one of the inspirations for Kaiya. I would love to thank her for being such an inspiration growing up. Actually, Nathan Fillion also seems like such a neat person, and I’d love to say Hi to him as well.
13. A wonderful thing has happened! Hollywood wants to make a movie of your book! You get to pick the actors & actresses. You want________________for your lead characters.
Honestly, Hollywood needs more POC in Fantasy roles. This book was a dream of mine that came true. I would love to see a brand new actress get the chance to say the same thing. (Gina Torres was the inspiration for Kaiya, but Kai is really young in this book. If it did become a movie though, I’d love to have Gina Torres be one of the ascended Faoii, or something. One of Kaiya’s mentors. That would be neat).
14. What music do you hear (what songs) remind you of your story?
Two Steps From Hell is my go-to when writing battle scenes and any sort of action. I also listen to a lot of Abney Park when I’m writing (even though I don’t write Steampunk).
15. What Favorite foods
I love sushi. I don’t get to treat myself very often, but when I do sushi is my go-to! Yum.
16. What makes you laugh/cry?
Everything! I can’t hide my emotions at all. I love to feel things! That’s what makes us human. So I laugh and cry without shame or regret. Life is too short keep things bottled up.
If I have to pick one thing, though, it’s probably youtube videos of pygmy goats. I love them so much!
17. What do you want written on your head stone and why?
I don’t really want a headstone. Or even an urn. What am I going to do with those things? Donate my body to science or give it to young Med students so they can use it to learn how to save future lives. If there’s anything leftover burn it and spread it in the forest so new things can grow. Let me be part of the Cycle, and don’t waste space with a shiny rock.
18. Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
You can’t learn to write if you don’t read. I read ALL the time. I love stories. I love watching people grow and change and learn. Which is also why I love story-rich videogames and D&D campaigns. The opportunity to tell/live a story that you can partially control? Yes, please!
19. What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I can’t remember the last time I watched a TV show, but I love watching Fantasy/Sci-Fi movies with my husband. Also, superheroes. I was a HUGE comic book nerd growing up, so seeing my favorite characters on the silver screen is great! I know a lot of people like to complain that “it’s not like the source material!” but that doesn’t bother me. Our culture is constantly evolving, and our superheroes need to reflect that. So, I like watching things I remember from my youth grow up and adapt to the world I live in now.
20. If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I teach High School English and LOVE it. Because it’s teaching other people how to think and speak for themselves. Some of them are even starting to write, too. I can’t wait to see what this next generation adds to our world in the coming years.
21. What are you working on right now?
My first novel, The Last Faoii comes out on October 3, so right now I’m preparing for its release. This book has been six years in the making, and the road to publication was so long and bumpy I actually gave up on it a couple times. But it’s finally happening and everything was worth it. What an exciting ride it’s been!
22. What future plans do you have in writing?
I actually have two sequels for The Last Faoii planned, following the evolution of society and the unforeseen consequences of war and drastic change. I’ve already started the second book and I have to admit that it’s deliciously dark. I really look forward to seeing what people think.
23. What links or website do you have? List them below.
Reviews/excerpts/updates and more: Inkshares.com/books/the-last-faoii
Twitter handle: @TahaniNelson
Book trailer link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dt5c9g70uCo
Science Fiction Author and occasional contributor to this blog Doug Farren has created a new website. Doug is the author of The Galactic Alliance Series, The Dragonverse Series and others. The site is interesting in that it contains Tables and Calculations for space travel. other Science Fiction Authors. Check it out at:
You've seen the awards, perhaps you voted too! You've watched authors prepare their Virtual Booths. Maybe you have received an invite.
October 15-21 is the week of the con. I'll be posting links every day of the Convention on my Facebook sites, because I have a Booth and other presences.
Come, meet Authors, learn about the books they have written and maybe with any number of prizes for participating in these booths
The General website link is: http://virtualfantasycon.wixsite.com/vfc2017
It's a Wrap.
Next week: More on Virtual Fantasy Con, Feral Cat Day, Tahani Nelson’s Faoii-Kaiya, Edward Buatois, and MORE.