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Posts tagged ‘young adult’

The Future of Books

As I sit here, I am surrounded by books. At the periphery of my vision, on either side of my desk, there are tall bookshelves filled with volumes. Somewhere in the dark behind me (I’m writing very early and my office/bedroom is being used for both purposes) there is a stack of books on my nightstand. There are books in my closet, for goodness sakes (I wrote all of those, and they are stacked neatly in boxes). The rest of the house is the same, and my dear reader, I would venture to guess that your homes are similarly accoutered. We are the past of books.

My children are the future of books. I have two still at home, and one who has moved out and is setting up her own tiny nest, well-feathered with her own things, and furniture the parental units set her up with. Which didn’t include a bookshelf. Read more

Three Panels, One Woman

So I was on three panels at LibertyCon… Wait, you’re saying, you did your AAR yesterday? Yes, I did. But the beauty of having two posts to do this in is that I can now talk about the nitty-gritty of writerly stuff that wasn’t the overall con. This is more about interactions with fellow panelist – ie writing professionals – and the audience, who are rarely if ever ‘simple readers.’ For one thing, the audience at a lit con (which LibertyCon is) is already self-selected to be interested in reading, and also in the process behind what they are reading, since they attended one of the most author-heavy events in fandom. So. Three panels, plus a bonus panel I literally was dragged onto.  Read more

The Grim and The Bright

(Thanks for rescuing me. They were threatening to make me write romance novels as a form of punishment until I showed them one of my pen names and the Harlequin-esque novel. They hurriedly gave in to your demands and now I’m free.)

Part of the issue today with aspects of science fiction is that some authors believe that there is no hope in the future. This reflects in their writing, and their public personae as well. Far too often we’re trying to hook teens and young adults on gritty realism and bleakness when we should be offering them hope and escapism in a story. I know that the kids at my work don’t want to read a book about the grim realities of life. They prefer superhero movies where there is a chance at the hero to be a hero.

Read more

Good Books for Young Readers

I had a question posed over on my blog yesterday, and I thought that I’d ask for help here (and on social media) in answering it. Here’s the question:

Thanks mainly to Sarah’s blog introducing me to writers like you, I’m on top of SF for my g’daughters, ages 11 and 12, but are you aware of other kinds of fiction that would be age appropriate? Or even any idea where I might start looking? So far almost everything I’ve found appears to be written by and for The Young Radical Feminists Guild, if yaknowhatImean, and the books I read in the 50s and 60s have been “edited” or are just hard/impossible to find in their original form.

*Any* suggestion would be gratefully appreciated. I’ve run out of ideas! The younger g’daughter does not like SF or even fantasy, and we wanted to do a little family book club this summer.

I have compiled a fairly nice curated list of books for young men, but I’ve neglected books for young Ladies in training. With some help, I think we can come up with great reads for them, ones that will inspire them to grow up into loving women who respect men just as they themselves earn respect. Far too many of the current crop of girls books infantilize boys, if not portraying them in more negative lights.

Actually, reading some of the ‘books for boys’ is a great place to start, I know I read a lot of those as a girl. But sometimes a princess wants a story about cats, horses, and that ‘castle ambiance.’

Please put your suggestions in the comments below!

The First Reader and I were talking about this, and he pointed out that as much as we all love the Heinlein juveniles, they don’t work well for most young people these days. The children find it hard to connect with the concept that not everyone has a phone in their pocket and a computer to boot. He’s right – I have coaxed and cajoled mine, and they have turned up their noses at “Have Spacesuit, Will Travel”, “Star Beast” and others. On the other hand, my son did start reading Mackey Chandler’s Family Law, and was enjoying it (he stalled out because of the length, but that’s a maturity issue, not the book which wasn’t written for children).

So what I’m looking for are good books that were written more recently than the 50s and 60s. Or perhaps ones that have a timeless setting that kid readers can identify with. Nobody expects an elf to have a cellphone, my First Reader points out. I respond with, wouldn’t that be a fun story to write?

I know from personal experience that young adult books don’t sell terribly well as a small-name Indie author. I also know that my daughters (currently aged 16 and 15) love angst and teenager stuff, so I hold my nose and buy it for them. I just can’t bring myself to write it for them… however. Younger kids – the 10 and 12 yo of the question above – want and need the more hopeful, happy, inspiring tales of courage, love (and not in a romantic sense), and adventure. Pam Uphoff’s Barton Street Gym is a good example of a Indie YA that gives all that – but of course it’s also SF with an artificial intelligence that manifests as a T-Rex. Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome is a glimpse into another world, one that offered even young children responsibility, freedom, and wholesome adventure with adults rarely present.

If I ever have time, I’ll write more for kids. Even if the books don’t sell well, it’s important to have good books that focus more on story than pushing formative-stage minds into molds the social issues of the day dictate. That way lies indoctrination and madness.

An Interview with Fanfiction Readers

So I see my teen daughters reading, a lot, on their phones. Turns out the stories that keep them riveted are fan fictions. One is sixteen, and her nom-de-blog is Otaku Princess, and the fourteen-year-old is my Junior Mad Scientist.

Me: So what site are you guys usually reading on?

OP: normally

JMS: sometimes on Tumblr.

OP: Tumblr is more of a ‘everything about life’ site.

Me: So why do you like fan fiction?

OP (speaking at the same time as her sister): Because… oh, hi, do you want to talk first?

JMS: same.

JMS (seeing me writing): Mama, no!

All laugh (honestly, there was a lot of giggling all through this. We were having a blast)

OP: I read fan fiction because it expands upon an idea you’re already familiar with, it’s also easily portable and you don’t have to buy them. It’s easier to read something on your phone since you have to jump from class to class and I’m already carrying a phone and more books… well,my backpack is already heavy enough.

JMS: Basically the reason I read fan fiction is that I enjoy reading shorter stories, and you can have one-shots in fan fiction. It’s also a little bit because I really enjoy the characters, and you can put two characters together. I can put them together in my head and play out little scenarios, but I like reading when other people do that. You get different styles of writing, different points of view

OP (muttering): Some suck.

JMS (ignoring her): people have different experience. With all that, you can have an entire ‘nother thing. For example Gravity Falls, it’s written mostly by this guy, Alex Hirsch, and I know he has like female coworkers that put in…

OP (speaking indignantly): female? He has multiple different coworkers not just female! Wait, are you talking about writing, drawing, or acting?

JMS: Writing! He’s writing female points of view and they help him. But then you can read a fanfiction written by a girl, about the girl parts, and you can see a different point of view. And you can see a different take. I’m in love with angst. So, like, I love angst and you can get so many stories about angst. And it’s [Gravity Falls] a show for children. Fan fiction can go deep into the angst with the blood and gore and stabbing people, and people dying and…

OP: Gravity Falls is pretty disturbed, fam.

Me: Guys, back to why you like fan fiction. I get that it lets you explore other parts of the story.

OP: No, it lets you explore the what-ifs of the story. So like, if you have characters that are, like One Piece where all the characters are pirates and that’s the world they live in. So you can say what if they were born in the world we live in. It lets you explore the other possibilities that the storyline can’t because it’s chained to its storyline and continuity. There are some great fan fictions, some awful fan fictions, some of them let you explore the gaps in storyline that happen.

JMS: Like Young Justice, where there’s a five-year gap.

OP: We know nothing about what happened in those five years, so we can go on about what might have happened.

JMS: we know a little about some characters, but…

OP: we’re going off on a tangent again.

JMS: Maybe we should go off on the smutty side of fan fiction.

OP: No, we should talk about shipping.

ME: I think we should talk about how you avoid smut, not find it.

JMS: Smut is easy to avoid. On there’s way to sort by ratings from k (which is the lowest) through teen (which is the second highest). Teen tends to have swearing or mild violence. Mature has sex, extreme violence, stuff like self-harm that can be triggering. I think you can flag it if you find sex in Teen rated.

OP: Or sexual themes.

OP: On Archive of Our Own (AO3) they have more settings, K-through-Teen, but then there’s Mature, which isn’t always smut, it really depends on what people think is the necessary rating. Some people are more lenient, others are like ‘ah, geeze, man.’ Mature is normally where the dark themes come in. Explicit is almost always smut.

JMS: The thing I like about AO3 is that they have archive warnings and tags on the outside, so I know I don’t want to read that. Not all authors choose to tag it thoroughly, so you have to be careful.

OP: I want to go on about the tags. You can have have specific tags on, but AO3 lets you tag whatever you want.

JMS: on AO# I’ve run into stories where it’s all tags and no summary.

ME: Can we move on to shipping now?

OP: YES!! I get to go first because I won Roux chambeaux for this one.

JMS (catching my mention of their contest): Mama, NO!

OP (laughing and chanting): shipping, shipping, shipping, shipping…

All laughing. Some squeeing from the younger set.

OP: So first off, not all ships are gay, despite what everyone says. Shipping is great because like, two characters that don’t get together in the show… it bothers me when it takes people out of canon ships. No, just no.

JMS: Incest bothers me.

OP: Incest is gross. Oh god why?

JMS: Even if they are adopted siblings it’s still weird.

ME: So you like the romance in fan fiction?

OP: It depends on the romance. There are some really weird definitions of romance out there.

JMS: I can barely find a well-written yandere.

OP: yandere is basically like Japanese for one person that is in love with this other person, but this other person does not know that they are in love with them. The one that is in love with them will kill, or stalk, or do anything to make sure that person stays theirs. It’s kind of like they will kill them if they can’t have them.

Me: I’m redirecting this a bit. Do you have much interest in reading original fiction?

JMS: There are some people who write original fiction and all they use is the character’s names. They are so OOC that they are not related to the original story.

OP: define OOC.

JMS: Off Original Character. They are still really good.

Me: I actually meant like, books.

OP: Like original original? I am interested in them, but I don’t have time to sit down and read a novel. I don’t know about Freshie over here, but as a Junior I don’t have time to read a novel that isn’t assigned for class.

JMS: You have time when you stay home sick.

OP: I haven’t been to the library recently.

ME: Can I blow your minds and tell you there is such a thing as short original fiction, too? (laughing)

OP: Yeah, but they are hard to find. It’s hard for me to go look it up.
ME: so basically fan fiction is easier to find?

OP: Yeah, it’s all condensed on one website.

JMS: creepypasta!

OP: Creepypasta is different. It’s all one genre and I’m not a horror person.

JMS: I tend to go on Taptastic, which is all webcomics, but it’s really good.

OP: There is also Wattpad. Wattpad is, technically, you can put any kind of story on it, but it’s hard to deal with. On a phone, you can’t even go from chapter to chapter.

JMS: On fan you can download a story on your phone, it has an app. AO3 it has all those tags, so you can see what you are getting into. Wattpad is the hardest to use out of the three of those.

OP: it’s harder to find stories on it, and there are a lot of twelve-year-olds who make mistakes on there. No offense to twelve-year-olds, but it’s not good.

ME: Have you tried reading from the Kindle library? You both have access to mine.

OP: Yeah, I’ve read everything I was interested in on there. Most of those are yours and not up my alley.

JMS: I’m particular about what I read, and I like fan fiction better.

OP: It’s not that I won’t read any books, it’s just that there’s nothing new for me to read. There are continuations of series I’ve been reading and need to finish. There might be novels out there that are perfect for me, but they are hard to find when I can get fan fiction.

JMS: I’m going to go read some fan fiction.

And that’s about it from our house about fan fiction, at least for today. I wanted to get the teen insight into what works for them. I don’t know if it comes across in this, but both of them are raving fans of it, and it’s very difficult for me to get them ‘into’ books I recommend. So they read, and read a lot, but it’s in a style I find very different. As a writer, I feel that I need to explore this – these young readers like my girls are going to dictate what becomes of fiction, in the coming years, and I want to find the rhythm they enjoy to incorporate some into my own work. I’m not inclined to write fan fiction, for one thing I plan to earn money with my work. But it’s important to see that styles change, and how they are doing so.

JMS pops back into the room: I think I found my least favorite type of fan fiction. The kind where the writer forgets how to use the Enter key.

An Interview with the rising generation

Shopping at our favorite used book store.

Shopping at our favorite used book store.

I’m on vacation in New Hampshire this week, dodging the rain and taking my kids to lots of used book stores! I was originally going to do an open floor, but the younglings agreed to let me interview them around the dinner table tonight. Here is the transcript, with me as Mother-Thing, the 15 yo as Eldest Child, the 14 yo as Redhead, the 12 yo as Junior Mad Scientist (you should hear the evil laugh, it’s the MOST adorable thing ever), and finally, the 9 yo as The Little Man.

I thought it would be interesting to see what they had to say about their reading, what they like and don’t, and how school works with pleasure reading. Hopefully this will make you laugh, and maybe think if you plan to write any young adult books.

The Mother-Thing: So what do you like to read? You’re going to be a sophmore in Highschool this year, are you going to have time to read?

The Eldest Child: I will read very little, I have too many activities, I have band, drama, jazz band, pep band, art club, and homework.

MT: I didn’t know there were that many kinds of bands.

EC: I look for a title, how it looks, like… then I’ll read the back, if that catches me, then I’ll take it. I’ll read basically anything. But I have assigned reading all year, so I’m not going to have time to read unassigned anything.

MT: So, next-eldest daughter, you’re going to be a frosh. What about you?

The Redhead: Yes, I’m going to have time to read. Anything that catches my eye, if it’s suggested to me I’ll try it. Last summer I went through all the teen section shelves at the library.

Junior Mad Scientist: All of them?

R: All of them. I was there five days a week.

MT: What do you not like to see in a book?

R: Fantasy in a real place. Like a past time, like the 1800’s. Seriously, who does that? I read a book in Slovakia in the 1700s with a dragon in the cast.

MT: So, Junior Mad Scientist, you’re going to be in 7th grade. Will you have time to read?

JMS: most likely. I like to read at night.

EC: Dude, she has stayed up until like three in the morning reading.

Little Man asked me to explain this cover, which is why I am Mother-Thing today.

Little Man asked me to explain this cover, which is why I am Mother-Thing today.

JMS: I don’t like non-fiction. I will only read it if it’s suggested highly. Or assigned.

MT: So what kinds of things do you like to read?

JMS: Fantasy, until I run into where I don’t understand what they are talking about and I have to stop the book.

MT: Do you have a favorite author?

R: I know I do.

JMS: Not really, but i like Rick Riordan and Veronica Roth. I highly suggest Divergent, highly.

MT: So, Redhead, what’s your favorite?

R: John Green.

MT: So What is it about John Green you really like?

R: I read Fault in our Stars and it was like, powerful. It’s foreshadowing, and it brought me to the other ones by him.

MT: So, little Man, you will be in fourth grade, how about you?

Little Man: I like realistic fiction. My favorite is the Boxcar Children. I read realistic fiction because it kinda sprouts ideas. I don’t want to be fake. So I read to know what I’m gonna grow up to be.

MT: So, Redhead, what would you recommend for the readers of this blog?

R: I don’t know how well known it is, but An Abundance of Katherines. It’s about this guy who has only had Katherines for girlfriends. He ends up on a road trip, and they meet this girl who has only dated a Colin. She’s going to get with him, obviously.

MT: Junior Mad Scientist, what would you recommend?

JMS: I guess, other than Divergent, Percy Jackson and the Olympus, the second series, Heroes of Olympus, isn’t as good.

MT: How about you, Eldest Child?

We climbed a hill and a fire tower...

We climbed a hill and a fire tower…

EC: Um, the Mortal Instruments series. I just finished it and I really liked it.

JMS: I want to say something else. In the back of Divergent, there is this site called Epic, you might want to check it out.

About then, our together time at the table came to an end… time for chores and maybe a movie tonight. If the rain holds off, we’ll go camping. If not, we have games, and plenty of books to read!

One of my finds so far this week! A Drake I hadn't read.

One of my finds so far this week! A Drake I hadn’t read.


Cross Genre – Everyone’s doing it!

(Note:  I was away from the computer most of yesterday and didn’t see that Rowena’s post didn’t go live.  So I’m putting it up now and will be back to put up my own post around noon CST — Amanda)

This weekend I’m at the crime writers convention in Melbourne. SheKilda. This is run by Sisters in Crime, the Australian branch of an international organisation. My para-crime (no sparkly vampires, I promise) is coming out next March with ClanDestine Press.

I ‘ve written books for five year-olds through to young adult books. They’ve been faction (fact dressed up as story to convey information) and every other fiction genre I can think of.

My short stories have covered near future sociological SF, through horror (now called Dark Fantasy), steampunk (before I knew it was called that) to fantasy. Funnily enough, I don’t write much fantasy in the short story form.

My published books adults have all been fantasy, until now. Not that I haven’t written other books. I have two SF novels based around mysteries.

In the past publishers tended to like you to write in the one genre so they could retain your readers. I don’t know why they thought readers only read in one genre, because from what I’ve heard people say, they read widely and will follow an author they like across different genres.

I’ve been doing a series of interviews with authors on my blog and many of them write across age groups and/or across genres, even across mediums. Rebecca Moesta has written across ages and genres and, with the publication of the comic, Grumpy old Monsters, across mediums. She says: ‘For a writer, there’s a exceptional joy that comes from seeing a story that I wrote come to life in illustrations.’

Sean Williams writes tie-in novels, like Rebecca, books for YA and adults, and across the fantasy and SF genres.  When talking about writing for YA he says: ‘ I’ve written eight books for kids and four for young adults, and I’d have to say that I find the YA mindset much more difficult. I like to write characters who see the world through a fairly rational lens, and of course being a teenager isn’t really about being rational. That’s one of the reasons why it’s such a wonderful, terrifying time, and why it’s such a rich vein to mine, creatively speaking. I’m drawn to doing difficult things–each book is a new challenge–hence my focus on YA in my solo work at the moment.’

Tracey O’Hara‘s books are marketed as paranormal, but they contain a strong element of mystery/thriller. She says: ‘I loved the Arthur Upfield, Napoleon Bonaparte (Boney) books when I was a teenager and I’m a big Agatha Christy fan, however mainly the TV series and movies rather than the books which I sometimes find a bit tedious.’

And then there’s Trent Jamieson, who has a humourous dark fantasy in Death Works and is now releasing a steampunk duology The Nightbound Land. Trent would have to be the cross-genre king. His short stories are particularly hard to define. He’s won both the SF and YA sections of the Aurealis Awards and been nominated in the fantasy section (often for the same story). He says: ‘I like to mess around in various genres. Believe it or not, my first published works were nonsense poems. But I don’t set out to write in a specific genre. Stories start as either a particular image, or a weird sentence or even a beat, I just follow the pulse to end.’

I’m happy to see my para-crime finally reach and audience. Like the authors mentioned, the story takes me and I just have to write it. I find it is the themes that can be similar across different genres, some genres give a writer more freedom than others. Some have great tropes and toys to play with that might suit a particular idea. Who doesn’t like a steamship dirigible!

Do you write across genres? What draws you to other genres?