Posts Tagged ‘young adult’

Guest Post: The Secret Lives of Royals by Shalini Dua

Happy Tuesdays, squiders! Today I’ve got a guest post on process from Shalini Dua as part of the tour for her YA/NA fantasy novel, The Secret Lives of Royals.

BLURB:

Olivia can’t take it anymore. She’s had enough of the big city and it’s lack of fulfilling her dreams. Then, just when she’s about to give up and move home, out of the blue, she is offered her dream job. Olivia is suspicious but that could just be the New York in her. She decides not to pull at threads. Despite her best efforts to remain blissfully oblivious, the secret to her life upgrade is soon uncovered when she finds herself invited to be part of a secret society.

Olivia learns that there is a thin curtain separating our world from theirs. Just beneath the surface, an entirely different one exists. One that is controlled by those of Royal lineage. The chosen ones, the Royals, hold the fate of the world in their hands. Will Olivia be able to bear the weight of the crown?

Confessions of a Shopaholic meets The Adjustment Bureau, this contemporary fairytale is both relatable and aspirational. Taking a look at the current balance of media and power with a healthy dose of humor, fashion, food and wanderlust.

EXCERPT:

I’m getting a very weird feeling. I consider turning around and leaving, but getting a cab on a cold rainy night before 2AM is going to be tough as they don’t begin frequenting the area until the bars start to close, and the nearest Uber appears to be 25 minutes away. Plus, I did go to all of this trouble to get my lazy self dressed and over here.

There is a crest engraved in brass metal on the front of the red door, an intricately designed crown and some lettering. I tilt my head to read it all the way around. ‘Alea iacta est memores acti prudentes uturi modus operandi’ I read aloud, and below, ‘Posteriori’. I recognize the language as Latin from the three weeks we spent on it during Intro to Languages, which was designed to help us choose one to focus on during our tenure at the university.
—–
Against my better judgment, I push on the heavy door, which creaks open. I enter into a cold stone-walled hall with a stone slab floor, lit by what appears to be a row of fire lanterns on each side. I guess this place is a bit behind the times in converting, or maybe they think it’s super ironic and hipster to not jump on the modernization bandwagon. Or maybe it’s me. I’m not exactly the authority on architectural trends. Maybe converted vintage is over and re-vintaged vintage is back in. Ugh, I can’t wait until I’m old and have an excuse not to be hip.

I walk down a windy stone hallway that seems straight out of a period film. Wow, they are really taking this theme seriously. How cool would it be if this stuff was authentic? I take a few pictures with my phone just in case. I mean as Cultures Editor, it’s always nice to be the one to discover the next big thing, like Connor said.

As I round the corner I hear, before I see, a British male mumbling to himself, apparently in debate.

“It’s so bizarre. But it couldn’t be. Could it? Stranger things have happened.”

I find myself face to face with a short-ish man, though taller than me, with glasses, wearing a sports coat with suede elbow patches. I scream in surprise and jump about five feet in the air. He seems slightly taken aback as well but less jumpy than me, or at least less vocal about it. He’s good looking in an intellectual sort of way and his dark floppy hair is conservatively combed back. I’m not sure if he’s startled by our unexpected encounter or my scream, but he does a bit of a double back.

“Sorry,” he recovers charmingly, “I didn’t see you there.”

“No, me either.” I try to breathe. I feel like I know him from somewhere.

“Stuart Stephens.” He proffers his hand in greeting.

“Olivia Grace Thorpland.” I shake his in return. “But you can call me Gigi.”

“Hello, Gigi. Nice to meet you.” He is impeccably mannered even after our near death collision. Must be the British thing.

“So are you here for the party too?” I inquire. “Do you know where it is?”

“Party?” he asks, confused. “No, I just had a meeting here.”

“Ah, I see,” I say, although I don’t, given the hour. I definitely know him from somewhere. Got it, he’s a comedian.

“Well, care to join me anyway?” I offer politely. After all, he’s British, I’m being a good ambassador. He appears a bit bewildered.

“No, thanks. I best be going.”

“Are you sure? My friends are in there.”

“Really? Your friends are in there?” He seems surprised to see where I’m gesturing.

“Yup,” I tell him confidently.

“Oh, well, thanks for the invite, but I’m completely sure. Thanks anyway,” comes his nervous reply. “But, can I ask you a question?” I nod. “Is this all, um, kosher?”

“I, I, don’t know.” I hesitate. Is he Jewish and British? Is that a thing?

“Well, I’ll let you get on,” he says. “Have a good night.”

“You too. Bye,” I reply. And with that, we walk off in opposite directions.

Finally, I reach a semi-circled entryway that has the option of five doors, one straight ahead and two on either side. These are not your ordinary doors either. They are heavy, arched, rustic, dark brown, slated wooden doors. I’m not really in the mood to crash a wedding reception, murder, or worse, a live band performance; and, given that anything could be behind these doorways, I’m about to give up on this expedition completely, when one of the doors, the entryway smack dab in the center, starts to creak open, apparently of its own accord. A feeling of unexpected dread overtakes me. I brace myself, unsure of what to expect to find behind it.

You can pick up the book here: ( Amazon | iBooks )

AUTHOR:


An international upbringing and a love of stories laid the foundation for wanderlust. Shalini aspires to spend her time country-hopping and consuming pop-culture, comedy and good food but the reality is often frantically downing coffee, meeting deadlines at exactly the last second and working her unglamorous corporate job to fund all of the other pursuits.

The Secret Lives of Royals is Shalini’s debut novel. Her other work includes published poetry and scripts only she has read.

( Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Website )

 

 

GUEST POST ABOUT PROCESS:

My writing process is a bit haphazard and involves lots of procrastination. I get really hungry, get creative with my snacks, binge watch Netflix for a while. It’s the only time I clean my apartment. And then, just when I’m about to go to sleep, inspiration hits and I stay up all night writing.

Beyond the daily struggle, The Secret Lives of Royals has been rattling around in my head for years. Inspired by school history lessons, my travels and wanderlust for places I haven’t yet managed to visit, and by my love of food and art. I absorb inspiration from all of my experiences and I’ve been lucky enough to travel to a lot of places.

In addition to my suburban Northern Virginia hometown in the States, I’ve lived in London and New York and visited many wonderful and exciting places around the world. Walking past the eclectic doorways in New York, getting lost in the small back alleys of London’s side streets, enjoying cafes along the cobbled roads in France, sitting in view of the Italian ports and eating gelato, walking Barcelona’s gothic district, with its beautiful historical architecture, and visiting the palaces and mosques of pre-colonial India have all inspired so much of my storytelling.

I always wonder what is going on behind those varied and intricately designed doors as I’m walking past and what amazing things might have happened in the past that shaped our history. I think about the people who have walked these streets before me and imagine what their lives must have been like. Those musings eventually end up sparking story ideas.

Olivia’s story is a culmination of my journey thus far and the daydreaming I’ve done along the way. I tend to fill in the spaces in between my experiences with my imagination and google.

Shalina will be awarding a $50 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
Enter to win a $50 Amazon/BN GC – a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Announcing The Adventures of Kate Readalong

A lot of reading posts this week, Squiders. But hey, I figured you wanted some variety after hearing me talk about City of Hope and Ruin for months on end! (Speaking of which, you should go enter the giveaway on Goodreads.)

We haven’t done a readalong in a while, so let’s! This time we’re going to do a trilogy of books by T.A. Barron, referred to as either The Adventures of Kate or the Heartlight Saga. It’s not a trilogy trilogy–the books have the same main character (Kate) but the events do not directly follow from book to book.

The second book, The Ancient One, was assigned as part of a school project when I was in seventh grade. Each year my middle school would host a local author, and we would all read at least one of their books before the visit. The Ancient One was a formative book for me, but I haven’t revisited it since middle school, so I’m interested to see how it withstands the test of time.

(Eighth grade was Will Hobbs, and I was very thoroughly over Will Hobbs and the entire boy-gets-lost-in-wilderness-and-has-to-survive genre by then, so that was less enjoyable.)

Kate’s adventures are YA/MG scifi-y/fantasy-ish somewhat in the vein of A Wrinkle in Time.

Anyway, I’m excited, and I hope you come along with me! I’m really hoping the books hold up. T.A. Barron was a favorite author of mine in my early teens, between these books and his Young Merlin series. The three books in the series are Heartlight, The Ancient One, and The Merlin Effect. We’ll read Heartlight for June, so let’s say we’ll do the discussion on…June 28.

See you then! Have a lovely weekend, Squiders!

Thoughts About Orphans

Been reading some children’s books lately, and, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, parents are a bit scarce, especially in fantasy. Everyone is either an orphan, ala Harry Potter, or something else has happened to remove the parents from the story, whether they’re missing or merely completely irresponsible, absorbed in their own world with no time for their offspring.

The reason for this is simple. If you want a child character to go off and have dangerous adventures, it’s much easier if they don’t have a loving family to care when they disappear. If they’re tied down, it’s hard to get full freedom.

Also, it’s hard to believe that a loving parent wouldn’t do everything in their power to protect or chase after their child.

So storytellers throughout the ages have reacted to this by removing the parents. This is often true for everyone from the very young through teenagers.

I would argue, though, that it’s possible to have a character have parents and still have an adventure. It’s easier the older the character is because people naturally gain more freedom as they age.

To stick with my Harry Potter example, even though Harry’s an orphan, both Ron and Hermione have both their parents. And while Hermione’s are removed from the wizarding world, Ron’s are not, and are often in the thick of things.

In fact, one could argue that the HP world is more believable because adults are involved in the plot. There are very few worlds where children would truly have an adventure on their own. There are usually adults, and especially for something as epic as someone trying to take over the world, they would generally be involved.

But children don’t want to read about adults–they want to read about children, especially about children saving the day on their own.

Still, even then, there can be trusted or sidekick adults. As long as the kids drive the action, adults are welcome to play as well.

Well, enough rambling from me. What’s your feeling on parents in children’s/MG/YA stories? Is it possible for a main character to have their parents and still have adventures?

Trying to Figure Out Middle Grade Versus Young Adult

I have this novel.  I wrote it in 2006, edited and polished until the end of 2009, and began submitting at the beginning of 2010.  My query kept getting me partial requests, but nothing beyond that, so I rewrote the first chapter.  A couple of times.  And sent it out some more.

I had written it as a YA fantasy, but this year I started to get some interesting feedback – first, from my friends, and then confirmed by an agent.  The writing didn’t sound YA; it sounded MG.

Middle Grade is a growing age category, stuffed somewhere in between chapter books and YA novels, and, to be perfectly honest, not something I had spent a lot of time looking into.

Then a reader told me a different project – also supposed to be YA – also read MG.

So here we are.

There’s nothing wrong with MG – if anything, it may actually be a better age range to be focusing on since it’s growing so fast right now.  But the fact that I thought I was writing YA and apparently am not…that bothers me.

I get a little bitter at times.  I wonder if, in order for something to be considered YA these days, it needs to be dark and sexy and full of unnecessary angst.

My friend and writing partner Sarah tells me that it depends on the focus of the book.  Tweens will read adventure, will accept different things as true.  Teenagers want something different. 

The whole thing makes me wary of my perception of age ranges in general.  Do the adult things I’ve written read like YA?  Should I shift everything one age range down?

If I try to write something specifically MG, will it still read too young?

Do you have a tried and true way to tell what age group a story you’ve written is for?  Any good tips for being able to tell the difference between YA and MG?

The Frustration of Submission

I’m working on fixing up a book so I can continue submitting to agents with it.

The process has gone a little like this:

Step 1.  Write Book.
Step 2.  Edit Book.
Step 3.  Write Query Letter/Synopsis.
Step 4.  Submit Book.
Step 5.  Edit Book again.
Step 6.  Submit Book again.
Step 7.  Edit Book again.

I’ve gotten to the point where I know it’s different but I am not sure if it’s better.  I may just be splitting hairs at this point.

Let’s face it, squiders.  Submission is not fun.  Writing?  Fun.  Editing?  Fun, especially that first real edit, where you take the raw material of your first draft and reshape it into something coherent and awesome.  Planning and research?  Still fun.  Submission?  Not fun. 

Maybe there comes a point where you are so awesome that even submission becomes fun, probably because you don’t really have to worry about rejection.

For most people, writing the query and the synopsis tends to add onto the pain.  I don’t have that problem.  Whatever else may be said about my writing, I can write a damn good query.   Now, the prose…

Sometimes I wonder if I’m going about this wrong.  In the last year, I have sent out nine queries.  Two were no-responses, two were partial requests, five were rejects, though admittedly all of those had some pages attached.  I am aware that this is an embarrassingly small amount to have done in said time period.  Also, seeing how this is my second edit since I started querying, one could argue that I have some sort of weird perfectionism thing going that I need to get over.

I’m also starting to ponder if I’ve got my age range wrong, if it wouldn’t be easier to sell it as a MG than a YA, even though the main characters are 17.  I know YA tends to be dark and gritty these days, and this is neither.  Is there even a market for off-world YA fantasy?  What’s the difference between MG and YA anyway?

I’m beginning to think that I’m sabotaging myself.  I know this is a hard,  slow process, but I don’t have much to show for my work.  I know I have confidence issues, so perhaps I am afraid of success, and that’s why I keep rewriting instead of submitting?

Come and share your submission woes and successes with me, friends.   (Feel free to psycho-analyze my submission habits too.  Whatevs.)

ABNA Musings

I had a friend say that whenever she saw “ABNA” she thought “ABBA” and that it’s been a very strange week.

So the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award submission opened last night.  For those of you who don’t stalk the internet like I do, Amazon accepts 10,000 entries (5000 general, 5000 young adult) and through an elimination process ends up with one in each category that gets a publishing contract with Penguin and $15000. (Your advance.  Pretty generous from what I hear.)  They do accept self-published novels (Hidden Worlds is too short, for those wondering why I didn’t do anything with it) and any single-author novel that has never had a traditional publishing contract as long as it’s between 50 and 150K words and meets a variety of other requirements.

I first heard of the ABNAs last year.  I watched a couple of friends go through the process of entering and decided I would enter this year with WLBtB.  It’s probably my favorite of my own novels – I adore the characters – but I haven’t gotten around to doing an in-depth edit.  I’m still working on getting BM out to agents, so I’ve been putting WLBtB on a back-burner as kind of a “if this never gets published, this is my back-up plan” sort of thing.

I still didn’t really edit it beyond fixing typos and grammar and clarifying some scenes.

Here’s the thing – I don’t really think I want to win.

First of all, the ABNAs seem kind of random.  From my friends’ experiences last year, it seems like your chances of moving forward to the next round really depend on who’s assigned to read your entry.  It’s not really a commentary on the quality of your writing or your book as much as whether the reader you get is a good match for your topic/genre.  (Well, I take that back.  I’m sure some of it depends on writing quality.)

Secondly, let’s assume I somehow manage to win this, and Amazon says “here is your $15000 and your publishing deal.”  I wouldn’t know what to do with either.  I would want an agent to look at things.  I’ve read places that if you have a publishing deal, you can contact agents and ask if they’ll take you on, but man, pressure and streeeessssss.

One would wonder why I even bothered entering if it makes me nervous and I’m not even sure I want to win.  Well, a couple of reasons.  It’s practice.  I’m trying to get more things out there.  I can’t hoard my stories forever.  I would like them to be read, and the more I practice and the more I get out there, the more likely it is that some of them will escape and prosper.  The story I submitted isn’t my most polished piece of work – after I rewrite the first chapter (again) I’m going to continue submitting that and I didn’t want it tied up in this contest for however many months it takes before I get knocked out.  I’m kind of interested in seeing how far I can go on a first draft.  I am a masochist.  Things like that.

Did you enter ABNA?  Why?  What do you hope to get out the contest?