Guest Post: Five Tips for Taming Your Muse by Kat Colmer

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Five Tips for Taming Your Muse

One question frequently asked of authors is “Where do you get your inspiration?” For me, that spark of “what if?” can come at any time and from anywhere: an overheard conversation in a café, a news headline, an image on a billboard, a line in a book. Getting inspiration is the easy part. The hard part is kicking your muse into gear to do something with that initial kernel of inspiration, and if your muse is anything like mine, you’re tearing your—and possibly her—hair out almost every day to get her to cooperate.

My muse is called Mildred. Don’t let the mild mannered name fool you; she is an obstinate, fickle, and self-serving creature who, more often than not, deserts me at the drop of a hat. So I’ve come up with five strategies to keep her in line.

  • Exercise

Our characters might be rushing around in their story worlds, fighting monsters, slaying demons, or just running for a cab, but a writer’s job involves a lot of bums on seats. Well, at least your own bum on your own seat. Our work is very sedentary and Mildred is one of those twitchy, flighty, can’t sit still kind of muses. Taking her for a walk, jog, or a gym session, is a good way to help her regain focus. Even a twenty-minute stroll around the block can be enough to help her sit still and focus on the story.

  • Music

Once you’ve got your muse in her chair, a good way to channel her thoughts into a creative direction is to play her some music. Choosing something that reflects the mood of the scene you’re writing is best, otherwise you might end up with a too soppy fight scene or too aggressive dialogue during what was meant to be a romantic exchange. I listened to Two Steps From Hell—a movie trailer music production duo—while writing my debut YA paranormal romance, as it gave me a nice mix between epic, fast paced pieces and reflective, romantic tracks. Check out their music here: https://www.youtube.com/user/TwoStepsFromTheMusic

  • Reading

This is a crucial point. To keep your muse at the top of her game, she needs to see what other muses are helping their authors create. An innately proud animal, this will have her sitting up straight and pointing to the keyboard, urging you to put words on the page, so that she can show off the awesome stories she’s helped create.

  • Time with other muses

Just like it’s crucial to read other writing that inspires, it’s also good to get together with other like-minded authors. This way your muses can hang out together at the bar and bounce ideas off one another while sipping away at something bubbly. Mildred would never admit it, but she has my critique partners’ muses to thank for many of the ideas she claims as her own.

  • Chocolate

Chocolate is an excellent muse incentive! Mildred will happily help me dig myself out of a plot hole or provide an idea for a story twist if I dangle the prospect of some chocolate in front of her. Note: it’s a good idea to combine point five with point one, for obvious reasons.

If none of the above work and your muse still refuses to cooperate, tie the little blighter to a chair and force her to inspire words onto the page. After all, she lives in your head—so no one will hear her furious complaining but you!

 

Aboutthebook

9781640631540

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Love curses don’t exist. At least that’s what Jonas, master of the meaningless hookup, tells himself when a letter warns him he’s an Eros Guardian cursed to endure a test of true love or forever be alone. His levelheaded longtime friend Cora figures it’s a revenge prank by an ex. The way Jonas stamps each girlfriend with a weeklong use-by date, it serves him right.

But when an impulsive kiss between the two friends reveals potential for more, Cora becomes the target of the Groth Maar: demons sent to wipe out the Eros Guardian line. And suddenly the curse becomes dangerously real.

Breaking the curse means Jonas’s biggest challenge yet. Failure guarantees Cora’s death. But success may cost him his own life…and the loss of his carefully guarded heart to the one girl far too sensible to fall for him.

Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo | Entangled Publishing

 

abouttheauthor

kat-colmer

Kat Colmer is a Sydney-based Young and New Adult author who writes coming-of-age stories with humor and heart. The recipient of several writing awards, she has won the Romance Writers of Australia First Kiss contest, as well as the Romance Writers of America On the Far Side contest for her debut Young Adult Paranormal Romance.

Kat has a Master of Education in Teacher Librarianship and loves working with teens and young adults. When not writing, teaching, or reading the latest in YA fiction, Kat spends time with her husband and two children.

Website | Instagram |  Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Entangled Publishing

Guest Post: Jus Accardo, YA Author

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There’s a saying…write what you know. Obviously I don’t have much experience with demons, extraordinary abilities, or multiverse travel, but I do know a thing or two about being a person. Specifically, a…less than graceful person.

Have you ever wiped out so spectacularly that people have considered erecting a monument in honor of your…uniqueness?

I have. Multiple times.

In most of my books, there’s at least one character who will inevitably trip over the cracks in the sidewalk. There could be a pebble in their path and it’s going to cause them to face plant in the most epic way. That character is me.

Today I’m going to share my three biggest public wipeouts.What about you? Share yours in the comments below!

  1.  The car incident. l think I was 25ish when it happened. My husband had stopped at a red light, in the middle or rush hour traffic. My cousin was in the car behind us, and had left her bag in my back seat. My brilliant idea was to just quickly run it back to her before the light changed. There was plenty of time. Well, I opened the door and tried to get out, but my foot snagged on a plastic bag. The end result was me on my ass in the middle of the road, climbing to my feet to a musical symphony of car horn salutes. In case you’re wondering, yes. I did take a bow.  😉
  2.  That one time, at the bank… I used to work in a Waldenbooks inside the mall. Fridays during lunch, I’d run down to the bank at the other end to cash my check—just like everyone else.One day I decided to take a shortcut by stepping over the divider rope instead of going around it. I didn’t raise my foot high enough, and ended up pulling a gravity defying flip that left me on the ground. Did I mention this was the one and only day I wore a skirt? Everyone saw London and France…. You could have heard an ant fart as the entire population of mall workersstared down at me.
  3.  BEA. So you know that book conference? Book Expo America? Yeah. My grace and poise struck there, too. Picture this. My very first time attending. Hundreds of people milling around. A set of impossibly long stairs heading down to the registration area. Two steps and a single comment from my friend. Careful, you don’t want to fall down all these stairs! The universe has a nasty sense of humor. I put my foot down and missed the third step. I ended up on the landing right before the bottom, bouncing down nearly the entire flight of stairs…. The rest of the day, people kept passing, asking if I was okay. That’s me. Memorable for all the wrong reasons!

The single most important thing I’ve learned living as an incurable klutz? I mean, besides the importance of a good shoelace knot and a pocketful of Advil…. Learn to laugh at yourself. Don’t take people, situations—and most importantly, yourself—too serious.

 

abouttheauthor

jus-accardo

JUS ACCARDO spent her childhood reading and learning to cook. Determined to follow in her grandfather’s footsteps as a chef, she applied and was accepted to the Culinary Institute of America. But at the last minute, she realized her true path lay with fiction, not food. A native New Yorker, she lives in the middle of nowhere with her husband, three dogs, and sometimes guard bear, Oswald.

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Aboutthebook

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OMEGA (Infinity Division Series, Book 2) by Jus Accardo

Audience/Genre: Young Adult/Sci-Fi, Romance Element

Published by Entangled Teen, Entangled Publishing LLC.

 

One mistake can change everything. Ashlyn Calvert finds that out the hard way when a bad decision leads to the death of her best friend, Noah Anderson.

Only Noah isn’t really gone. Thanks to his parents’ company, the Infinity Division, there is a version of him skipping from one dimension to another, set on revenge for the death of his sister, Kori. When a chance encounter brings him face-to-face with Ash, he’s determined to resist the magnetic pull he’s felt for her time and time again. Because falling for Ash puts his mission in danger.

But there’s more going on in Ash’s alternate universe than either of them knows: a mysterious project called Omega. A conspiracy spanning multiple Earths and revolving around none other than Ash. Its creators would do anything to keep Omega secret…

Anything.

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Author Interview: Lynette Eason (CHASING SECRETS) + {giveaway}

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CHASING SECRETS
Elite Guardians, Book 4
by
Lynette Eason
  Genre: Romantic Suspense / Christian
Publisher: Revell
Date of Publication: August 1, 2017
Number of Pages: 336
Scroll down for giveaway!
Intensity. Skill. Tenacity.
The bodyguards of Elite Guardians Agency have it all.
When a photo leads investigators in West Ireland to open a twenty-five-year-old cold case, Elite Guardians bodyguard Haley Callaghan’s life is suddenly in danger. Haley knows how to take care of herself; after all, she’s made a career out of taking care of others. But after she has an uncomfortably close call, Detective Steven Rothwell takes it upon himself to stay with her—and the young client she has taken under her wing. A protector at heart, he’s not about to let Haley fight this battle alone.
In a sweeping plot that takes them into long-buried memories—and the depths of the heart—Haley and Steven will have to solve the mystery of Haley’s past while dodging bullets, bombs, and bad guys who just won’t quit.
Praise for the Elite Guardians Series:
“A thrill ride from the first page until the last.”
—RT Book Reviews, top pick, 4½ stars for Always Watching
“Witty dialogue and a simmering attraction will have readers flying through this tension-laced thriller.”
—Family Fiction on Without Warning
“Fast, furious, and flirty, Lynette Eason’s relentless suspense barely gives her readers time to catch their breath.”
Relz Reviews on Moving Target
CLICK TO PURCHASE:

AuthorInterview

Are you a full-time or part-time writer? How does that affect your writing?

Full time…sometimes that’s good, sometimes that’s not. When I wasn’t working full time as a writer, I had specific time that was mine for just writing. Now that I’m writing full time, it’s easier to procrastinate.

 
What are some day jobs that you have held?  Did any impact your writing?

I’ve worked in fast food, retail, and full-time teaching. I can’t say it’s really impacted my writing other than I’ve used the experiences to enhance it.

 
Why did you choose to write romantic suspense?

I’ve always love suspense stories and I’ve always loved a good romance, so choosing to write Romantic Suspense seemed like a logical step for me.

 
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author?

No, I’m pretty open to writing whatever is laid on my heart.

 
What did you find most useful in learning to write?  What was least useful or most destructive?

I think the most useful thing was just pieces of good advice. One of those was “Just write. Don’t worry if it’s good or bad, just get the words down. You can fix words, you can’t fix a blank page.” When I’m staring at a blank screen or the start of a new chapter, I just write. Then I go back and fix it. I think the most destructive thing—or a bad piece of advice is the phrase “finding time to write.” I’ll often hear pre-published writers say, “I just can’t find the time.” Well, no one can. We all have packed schedules. In my opinion, it’s not a matter of “finding time” it’s a matter of “making time.” Is your writing a priority? My morning looks like this most of the time when school is in session: Get up, fix my breakfast, sit at the kitchen table, have a quiet time, then open my laptop and work until my son comes down. So, before I even see my child in the morning, I’ve already written for about an hour or an hour and a half. Yes, I could have stayed in bed, but I chose to get up and make the time to write. That’s just one example. And everyone can do it. I don’t care what your hours are or whether you have one kid or six kids. So, I don’t accept the whining about not being able to find time to write. Because if you’re looking for it, you won’t find it. You have to carve out that time.

 

Readers have been devouring your Elite Guardians series. What makes Chasing Secrets, the final book of the series, different from the rest?  

I’m so thankful that readers have enjoyed the books! I must say, I’m truly sad to see this series come to an end. I’m thinking there might have to be a novella in the future to really wrap it all up. As for what makes Chasing Secrets different, I would say that it’s only different in that it’s a completely different story in and of itself. It takes you to Ireland and back to South Carolina. Haley, the heroine, learns who she really is when the past comes back to confront her. She has to work to protect herself as well as the client she’s taken under her wing. Not only is she chasing her own secrets and trying to find out about her family, but she also commits to raising two boys who need a home. This book is really all about family. Blood relatives or adoptives, we find out that it doesn’t really matter. All that matters is love.

 

How does your Chasing Secrets relate to your spiritual practice or other life path?

Since I’m always putting a faith element in the story, I’m always looking up scripture that relates to the story. This keeps me in the word. And being a writer ALWAYS ensures my prayer life is active and consistent!

 

Many of the scenes in Chasing Secrets have readers racing to the next page. Were there any scenes that took you by surprise when writing?

What took me by surprise was the way the scenes all fit together. Finally! But, yes, there was one character I ended up killing off that took me by complete surprise. I didn’t expect this character to die, and when it happened, I was so sad!


Lynette Eason is the bestselling author of the Women of Justice, Deadly Reunions, and Hidden Identity series, as well as Always Watching, Without Warning, and Moving Target in the Elite Guardians series.

She is the winner of two ACFW Carol Awards, the Selah Award, and the Inspirational Readers’ Choice Award. She lives in South Carolina.




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Booklover Basket (18 items including a coffee mug, retro library memo cards, coffee & tea, delicious snacks) & Set of the Elite Guardians Series
First Runner-Up:
Personal library kit & Set of the Elite Guardians Series
Second Runner-Up:
$10 Barnes & Noble gift card and Set of the Elite Guardian Series
August 1 – August 10, 2017
(U.S. Only)

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Author Interview 1
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Guest Post
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Guest Post: REJECTION DOESN’T ALWAYS MEAN NO by Taylor Anne

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The familiar ding sounds on your computer. You have mail. Your heart beats faster as you scroll through the messages to the unopened one. Yes, it is from the publisher! No, it is from the publisher! You swipe your sweaty palms across your pants, then click the mouse to open the email. It’s what you have been waiting for. NO. Your heart sinks as you read that your manuscript just isn’t a good fit. Wiping away the tears, you swear you will never submit another manuscript. This avenue is simply not for you.

Well, guess what. A rejection letter does not always mean no. Sometimes it means, not now.

This is a true story of my first rejection. First, not last. Seems like those dreaded letters N and O appear more often than any of us like. So, I mulled over this email for a few hours. (Okay, more like one hour because I am a rather impatient person at times.) I sucked in a deep breath, and let my fingers hit the keyboard. Several backspaces and deletes later, I was satisfied with my response to this editor. I graciously thanked her for taking the time to read my manuscript and I said that I would take her advice and work on my writing skills. And there it went… out into cyberspace.

To my surprise, the editor emailed me back with an amazing offer. If I was interested, she would work with me one-on-one, at my pace to see if we could whip this story into something acceptable. I was floored. Why would she, a total stranger, take a chance on me? I couldn’t answer that question, but I was so ecstatic that I jumped on the opportunity. I wanted to go all mushy on her, but had to hold back not wanting to scare her away with my emotional junkie side.

Months later – I believe it was close to a year – my story was complete (again). Now it was up to the committee at the publishing house as to whether it was acceptable to them. Again, I found myself staring at an unopened email message from the editor. It was either yes or no. Only way to find out was to open the message. YES!!! The committee accepted!!

My debut novel, HEAT FLASH, was published in 2013 by The Wild Rose Press. In 2015 the eBook rights were obtained by Amazon Encore. And now, 2017, I am working on edits for my fourth book to be published by TWRP, and I have one book indie published. And yes, I still have the same editor!!

All of that to say again, no doesn’t always mean no. Sometimes it just means, not now. If writing is your passion, never stop at the no’s and negativities you will encounter. Get your head on, talk to other authors, and see what readers are interested in. Your dedication and positive thinking will bring forth more opportunities than you can imagine. Let those characters out of your head and put them on the paper where they are meant to be.

My advice to beginning authors is never give up. Seek your dreams and pursue your goals with everything you have. One day that NOT NOW will turn into your REALITY.

Taylor Anne

 

abouttheauthor

tayloranne     

I am a romance author, leaning more to the suspense side. I enjoy the challenge of getting my characters stories on paper. Sometimes they want to argue – and they usually win. It doesn’t matter who wins that battle as long as they help me write the best story for you! I bring you romance and life that is comfy, cozy, and always fun!

I live in Southwest Louisiana with my husband. Our combined family consists of two daughters and two sons – and growing with in-laws and grandbabies. I love spending time with family and friends, relaxing on the beach, cuddling with my cat (Oscar), sipping on a glass of wine, and bringing happiness and smiles to others.

Website ǁ Twitter ǁ Facebook ǁ GoodReads ǁ Amazon Author Page ǁ Taylor’s Tidbits

Aboutthebook

GENRE (S) Fiction: Romance, Mystery, Suspense; Contemporary: Romance, Romantic Suspense

PUBLISHER: Amazon Encore; eBook Price: $3.99; Paperback: $12.99

                         

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When Kendall’s life is threatened, he has no choice but to risk body and soul-and even his heart-to save her.

When FBI agent Mason Black left Kendall Reed without warning, it devastated her, but she managed to bounce back. Now on the run from a maniacal stalker, she must learn to trust the man who betrayed her in the past. Dealing with his own insecurities and secrets, Mason will do anything to protect Kendall from the dangerous lunatic terrorizing her. But the bigger threat may be the one Kendall poses to his heart. Scared of Kendall’s reaction if she learns the truth about him, Mason puts his own problems and emotions on hold to find her stalker. But when Kendall’s life is threatened, he has no choice but to risk body and soul–and even his heart–to save her.

 

Excerpt                         

Look,” Kendall said, irritation lacing her words. “I know you don’t want me here. You did your duty by protecting me. You saved my life tonight, and now you’re stuck here. The least I can do is keep you company.” She silently hoped that explanation would satisfy him. She was wrong.

Mason watched her. A flicker of some emotion flitted across his face before he rasped, “It was my job to watch after you. This,” he gestured to the bed and rumpled sheets pooled around his waist. “This is one of the drawbacks of my job. It’s something I’ve learned to get used to. And, it’s just that, my job, it’s nothing personal. You don’t need to babysit me.”

“I see.” She turned away from his cold stare so he wouldn’t see the hurt his words had caused. He dismissed her, just as he had done in the past. So much for thinking they could talk. So much for the flutter in her heart at knowing that Mason was back in town. She fought hard to hold back tears.

Fear of going home to an empty house turned her stomach. She lifted her hand to rub her throat. She had to get control of her emotions. She wasn’t afraid of much and didn’t want to allow herself to be scared now, even though the night’s events justified a little fear. With confidence she mustered up from somewhere, she took a deep breath, removed her hand from her throat, stubbornly set her jaw, and faced the man lying in the bed.

Her clipped words took them both by surprise. “Nothing personal. It never is with you, is it?”

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Interview: Tonya Kuper, author of the YA New Release, ENIGMA

How long have you been teaching the Writing Young Adult Literature Writer’s Workshop?

I’ve taught WYAWW since spring of 2016 at a local university, so it is still relatively “new.”

What is your approach to teaching writing? How are your classes structured?

My writer’s workshop class is a little different than most offered on our campus. Instead of reading and writing short stories, my class focuses on reading current YA literature and students start writing a novel length YA manuscript. We start with defining YA lit, various methods for plot/or not plotting, and each week build on writing elements such as character development, setting, etc.

What are some special considerations for teaching how to write for a Young Adult audience?

The one thing I always remind my students of is that kids ALWAYS read up. Technically, YA is geared toward 12 years old and older. My son, like many students, was ready to start reading some YA novels in fourth and fifth grade because he needed longer books, a wider vocabulary, etc. BUT he was only 10, so he wasn’t ready for more mature content. I encourage my students to have their audience in mind when writing, younger YA versus upper YA, or even more specific than that.

Can you give us an example of YA literature that you use with your class to show good writing?

Well, students are required to about seven YA novels through a semester (and the list changes every semester), but I also use tons of examples from a plethora of authors because “good writing” looks different to everyone. One book I’ve used a couple times is A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, a younger YA story. I’ve also used An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and many, many more.

What are the main things you would like your students to take away from your class?

I want them to know Young Adult Literature is all about feelings, no matter if it’s high concept, a quiet story, a non-conventional novel, or whatever. It’s about letting young adults know that they are seen, heard, represented, not alone, loved, unique, and valuable. Craft-wise, I want them to remember GMC – Goal, Motivation, Conflict.

What two pieces of advice would you give to someone just starting out in writing for Young Adults?

Make sure you know the main conflict and make the reader feel.

Has teaching writing for YA affected your approach to writing YA?

Yes, I think I’ve become even more aware of how I write, what I caution my students about, what I encourage them to include. You know the saying, “practice what you preach?” Welp, that definitely fits. 😊

Are there underrepresented groups or ideas featured if your book?  If so, discuss them.

I try to mirror the world in my writing, so there is a diverse set of characters. The most underrepresented group/idea in Enigma is the occurrence of anxiety (anxiety attacks) in Josie. I wanted to show that even a sort of super-hero suffers from anxiety, that there doesn’t have to be stigma around mental health issues.

Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?

I fell in love with reading/books in second grade. Some of the first books I remember being addicted to was The Celery Stalks at Midnight, Bunnicula, and anything else by James Howe.

How long have you been writing?

I started writing my first manuscript the summer of 2009.

Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?

I loved all the “firsts” as a teenager and I love remembering them. Our teen years are so transformative, I was drawn to writing those characters. As far as scifi goes, I grew up reading and watching scifi and fantasy, so it’s just a part of me.

What do you think most characterizes your writing?

I think the fact that I write in a way that is approachable to anyone. The dialogue in my writing is pretty natural and relatable.

What do your plans for future projects include?

I’m starting to work on a secret YA manuscript this summer!

If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?

Katherine McNamara, the star of Shadowhunters on Freeform, would play Josie – in fact, she was my inspiration for Josie way back in 2013 – and, though he’s a bit too old, Chase Crawford would be Reid.

Where is one place you want to visit that you haven’t been before? Ireland. (ME TOO)

 

Aboutthebook

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Worst. Road Trip. Ever.

Escaping with Reid Wentworth should have been fun, but how can I enjoy it when I just (accidentally) killed someone, my mom and brother are in danger, and the Consortium is trying to enslave humanity? (Yeah, they aren’t fooling around.) So feeling something for Reid Wentworth was not part of the plan. Trying to help unite the Resistance against the Consortium means I can’t be distracted by hot boys.

The Resistance secret hideout isn’t exactly the rebel base of my dreams. A traitor there wants me dead, but we have no idea who it is. And with both the Resistance and the Consortium trying to control me, the only one I can trust is Reid. If we’re going to have any chance of protecting my family, controlling my unstable powers, and surviving the clash between the Oculi factions, I’m going to have to catch this traitor. By using myself as bait.

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abouttheauthor

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Tonya Kuper writes young adult science fiction and contemporary novels. She first fell in love with reading in elementary school, which eventually lead to earning a BA in Elementary Education and a MS in Reading Education, but she never thought she’d write a novel, let alone several. When Tonya isn’t writing, she teaches Young Adult Literature Writing Workshop at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, laughs as much as possible, loves music, and nerds-out over Star Wars, Marvel, Sherlock, and all things pop-culture. She lives in Omaha, NE with her husband and two rad boys.

 

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Guest Post: PULLING OFF A POLARIZING CHARACTER by Melissa Chambers

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Writers want our heroes and heroines to be likable so our readers will attach to them and root for them. We can give them all sorts of characters quirks like type-A personalities, neuroticism, perpetual clumsiness, etc., all treated in a lovable and forgivable way. But every once in a while, it’s fun to challenge ourselves with a heroine who may be tougher to like.

One of my favorite examples of an unlikable character carrying a book is Darcy in Emily Giffin’s Something Blue. We met Darcy in book one, Something Borrowed. (Remember the movie? Kate Hudson played Darcy.) Darcy is the obnoxious best friend in book one who always gets everything she wants, including the guy who Rachel (our lovable heroine) has feelings for. Book one ends with Darcy losing everything she held dear, so book two starts us out with Darcy pissed off, resentful, and downtrodden. She’s not at all the kind of girl I would ever typically see myself connecting with, but I did right from page one. It probably didn’t hurt that I’d read a couple of Ms. Giffin’s books and knew that I was in good hands with this author.

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When I set out to write book one in my Before Forever series, I went with a heroine who was shy and awkward. We learn right in the first chapter that Chloe has been through a serious situation that is easy to sympathize with. She has a best friend who outshines her in every way possible, and a tense, almost cringe-worthy situation with her father. She’s sweet and polite, but not overthetop precious. So out the gate, I set myself up for a likable and endearing heroine that the reader would hopefully want to root for. My job from that point was to not screw it up.

However, in book two, my challenge was much greater. Jenna Quigley, Chloe’s best friend, couldn’t be more opposite. Extrovert doesn’t begin to cover it. She’s confident, talented…just placed eighth on the fictional show America’s Newest Sensation (think The Voice or America’s Got Talent), and is ready to take on the world. She’s also a little self-absorbed, but fiercely loyal and encouraging to Chloe. I heard mixed reviews of what readers from book one thought about Jenna. Some loved her to pieces while she rubbed others the wrong way, which honestly, was the job of her character in that book. Chloe needed to break out of her shell, and I wanted to pair her with a best friend who would make her life uncomfortable to help her do that.

So my challenge with making Jenna a likable, relatable heroine of her own story was quite large. I had to show the reader that what Jenna portrays on the outside may not always reflect what’s going on in her head. Additionally, I wanted readers to see that life at home wasn’t always hearts and flowers for her, as one may think when they saw how close she was with her dad. I also needed to pair her with a hero who was going to constantly call her out on her crap and set her firmly in her place, helping her gain perspective and learn some things about herself by the time the book came to an end.

I had so much fun writing Jenna. She’s so opposite from me, so I was able to sort of try on a different personality in writing her. I would keep on writing her if someone would let me! But alas, there are different characters banging away at my brain, begging for their stories to come out.

Characters need flaws, because none of us are perfect. Seriously flawed characters need high arcs and plenty of time for redemption (which may be why this book ended up a little on the long side!). Sometimes the job of a polarizing character may be to get us out of our comfort zones. I know Jenna got me out of mine!

 

 

Aboutthebook

9781640631342

The second Jenna Quigley turns eighteen, she’s headed to L.A. to extend the timer on her fifteen minutes of fame. Too bad her dad made her promise to graduate high school first. Silver lining? Her new school has a serious talent competition with a $25,000 cash prize, which would go a long way in L.A. Jenna’s got plenty of talent—she didn’t almost win America’s Newest Sensation for nothing. But it’ll take everything she’s got to bring down the music nerd with a stick up his butt…no matter how cute he is in those glasses.

Miles Cleveland needs to win that talent contest. When some hot girl stole his audition spot on America’s Newest Sensation, his chance to study music flounced off to New York with her. Now, not only can he win enough money to pay for his education, he can get revenge on that very same girl. He can’t start to question his plan, though…no matter how deep Jenna buries into his heart.

 

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abouttheauthor

 

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Melissa Chambers writes contemporary novels for young, new, and actual adults. A Nashville native, she spends her days working in the music industry and her nights tapping away at her keyboard. While she’s slightly obsessed with alt rock, she leaves the guitar playing to her husband and kid. She never misses a chance to play a tennis match, listen to an audiobook, or eat a bowl of ice cream. (Rocky road, please!) She’s a member of RWA and serves as the president elect for the Music City Romance Writers. She is the author of The Summer Before Forever and Falling for Forever (Entangled Teen).

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THE SUMMER BEFORE FOREVER

 

 

Guest Post: What is Noir? by Elka Ray

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As an author, editor and avid reader, I’m excited to have been invited to write a guest post for The Librarian Talks.

My name’s Elka Ray. I write crime fiction, mystery, suspense and noir.

If you’re like me, up until fairly recently, I didn’t actually know what noir was. So I’m going to explain it today.

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Noir is the French word for Black – which is a clue. There stories are not about rainbows and unicorns – it’s a dark genre.

Noir has its roots in the hard-boiled private eye stories of the 1920s – you know the kind – gritty tales of violence, murder, dirty cops and dangerous dames.

What sets noir apart from those hardboiled PI stories is the main character – in those old PI stories, while the world around them is grim, you know the hero’s a good guy trying to do the right thing. That is not the case in noir. In noir, you’re not really sure if the lead is a good person. Can they justify what they’re doing? Maybe. Is it morally right? That’s trickier to answer.

It’s this moral ambiguity that defines noir.

My latest book – Saigon Dark – is noir and follows a woman who – faced with tragedy – makes a terrible choice. She’s not necessarily a bad person – but she is selfish, isolated and deceitful.

In noir, the main character is often cynical and self destructive. A modern day example would be Gone Girl – you just can’t trust the main point of view. Or The Girl on the Train. The main character is not doing herself any favors.

Another great example of a contemporary noir author is Dennis Lehane. In Live by Night, for example, he leaves you questioning whether a gangster can be a good person.

If you want your stories to be black and white – with a happily ever after ending – noir is not for you. But if you like mysteries that are complex and thought-provoking, give this genre a try.

You can find my latest book – Saigon Dark from Crimewave Press – on amazon. Or visit me at elkaray.com – Happy reading!

abouttheauthor

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Elka Ray is a UK/Canadian author and illustrator based in Hoi An, Vietnam. The author of one novel, Hanoi Jane, Elka also writes and draws an expanding series of children’s books about Southeast Asia, including Vietnam A to Z, 123 Vietnam! and The Warrior Queens.

For adults, Elka focuses on crime fiction and mysteries. Her short stories have appeared in Monsoon’s Crime Scene Asia: Asia’s Best Crime Fiction 2014 (Hong Kong); New Asian Fiction (India) 2013 and Lontar: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction (Singapore) 2014. Her travel writing has run in a wide range of publications, including Fodor’s, Forbes, Executive Traveller and Persimmon Asian Arts. Elka holds a Canadian degree in Journalism and Asian Studies and a Canadian diploma in Creative Writing. She has a sporty husband and two kids, works as a magazine editor, and has an author’s site at www.elkaray.com.

When Elka’s not writing or drawing, she’s in the ocean.

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Check out her introduction video here

Aboutthebook

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SAIGON DARK

Good and bad. Life and death. Some choices aren’t black and white.

A grief-stricken young mother makes a rash decision, then spends the next decade living a lie. She’s rebuilt her life and is starting to feel safe when she gets a note: ‘I know what you did’.
Can she save her daughter from her dark secret?
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Excerpt

Saigon Dark

by Elka Ray

Black and white. Life and death. She made a choice. Can she live with it?

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I am on a Ferris wheel by the sea, in the tropics. Although it’s dark, it’s still hot. A warm breeze lifts my hair and pushes the night’s smells into my nose. I can smell salt, woodsmoke and frangipani flowers, plus the irresistible scent of Vinh, a mix of warm skin, tobacco and cinnamon. The lights of distant squid-fishing boats sparkle on the horizon.

Vinh has both arms around me, shielding me. We are laughing. Our carriage rises and stops to allow more passengers onboard, sways a little. This is repeated: rise, stop, sway. But each time, I’m caught off guard, that heady mix of anticipation, excitement and unease, deep down in my belly.

When the last carriage is full we glide upwards, smoothly. Down below, the town’s lights twinkle. There are more diamond-lit boats out at sea. Vinh pulls me even closer and begins to kiss me.

I have never been happier. I have everything I want and yet the best is still to come. I am heavy with fulfilment and buoyant with anticipation. We glide higher, Vinh’s long fingers twisting in my hair. The carriage sways a little.

And then we are at the top, poised, and everything changes. That warm, salty breeze turns cool. I smell decay instead of flowers. My heart plummets. I will fall. I know this with total certainty, the way you know a dropped stone won’t float. It’s a natural law. It’s the order of things.

I start to twist away, frantically, but Vinh has a hold on me. Just before he throws me out, I wake up.

The dream is always the same. I wake up screaming.

Part 1: Ho Chi Minh City

April 9th, 2005

I’m woken by the sound of breaking glass. A woman screams. It’s the neighbours, again. A boy—one of the older kids—yells, and a younger child starts to sob. I roll over. If only it would stop. Their youngest is smaller than my daughter.

Tired as I am, I know sleep is impossible. How can I sleep when the kids next door are being tortured? Without turning on the light I walk to the window. A row of trees hides their shack from view. I can hear the dad yelling. I want to punch him. But given that I’m five foot one, it wouldn’t help. Another bottle shatters.

Even with the aircon full-blast, I’m sweating. April in Saigon. The hot season. I press my forehead against the glass. My yard lies dark. The child’s cries are louder now. I think of Evie.

The man bellows. While my Vietnamese isn’t perfect, I can understand this obscenity. He’s calling his wife a fucking whore. I unlatch my window. “Stop it!” I yell. “I’m going to call the police!” I wish my voice sounded tougher, without that waver in it.

For a moment there’s silence. But then the guy yells back. “Mind your own business you foreign traitor slut!”

I lean back. While this insult shouldn’t matter, it does, for some reason. I left Vietnam at the age of three, on an overloaded boat. I was lucky to end up in the States. Behind the trees, I can hear the woman sob. I slam my window shut.

What am I doing here?

For a moment, I think of calling Vinh. But what good would that do? Why would he help with this when he’s made it clear he wants nothing to do with us? He’s never even seen his own daughter.

I sit on the bed, fighting the urge to cry. Should I call the police? Would they even come? But then I remember my maid’s warning: The family next door are squatters, landless peasants come to Saigon from the countryside. The authorities would just evict them. Then where would they go—that small, thin woman with her thin dark children and her alcoholic asshole of a husband? I make a fist, feeling angry and helpless.

I’ve just gotten back into bed when my phone rings. My bedside clock glows 2:14. My heart rate picks up again. Is it about my mom? Or an emergency at the hospital? A ringing phone in the middle of the night is never good news. Unless it’s Vinh, calling to say sorry. I take a deep breath, absurdly hopeful. “Hello?”

Lily?” It’s Yna, my best friend in Seattle. Just from the way she says my name, I know everything is fine.

“Yna,” I say. “It’s two in the morning.”

“Oops.” There’s apause. “Sorry.” She doesn’t sound sorry at all. “I guess I got the time difference wrong.”

I met Yna at the University of Washington, where we all went to med school. She and Vinh were the stars of our class, the ones everyone wanted to be–or jump into bed with. During the time Vinh and I specialised as surgeons, Yna did an MBA at Stanford. She just got a new job, managing some investment fund. “Is it something important?” I try to keep the irritation out of my voice. Brilliant as she is, Yna is a ditz—and details like time differences mean nothing to her. Like my ex-husband, she barely needs sleep.

“What’s up with you?” she says. “You sound upset, Li.”

For a moment, I consider telling her about the guy next door, how he beats his wife and kids. How helpless I feel. But how could Yna understand? She lives in the kind of gated community where people call security if neighbours play loud music after 9pm. I can picture her now. Sharp black bob. Size nothing suit. Smart, successful and beautiful.

“I’m just tired,” I say. “It’s been a long week. I’ve been working double shifts. “

“How’s Evie?”

I fight back a sigh. I don’t want to talk about Evie, especially not now. “She’s fine,” I say. “Look, I need to work early, Na, so I’d better get some sleep.”

“The Evergreen Clinic is looking for a plastic surgeon. I told Harvey you might be interested. They have a lot of paediatric patients–“

“I’m not interested,” I say.

“But it’s a great place to work,” says Yna. “Great neighbourhood. Not far from a good school.”

“Yna,” I say. “I’m not ready to leave.”

Throughout our conversation, I’ve heard her tapping on a keyboard. Multitasking. The tapping now stops. “But why?” she says. I can hear the mystification in her voice.

Why indeed? Although I was born in Saigon, I never felt any desire to return. I came because of Vinh, who was raised in an orphanage in Go Vap, then got a full scholarship to study in Seattle. He wanted to go home, said he wanted to give back. Like a fool, I believed him.

“Lily?”

I realise I’ve been lost in thought, trying to work out why Vinh changed. Or didn’t he change? I rub my eyes. It’s a waste of energy thinking about my ex. And it makes my stomach hurt. I take a deep breath. “It’s interesting work,” I say. “Meaningful work. Kids without access to modern medicine. Kids with facial tumours and cleft palates. I…I’m doing god things here, Na.”

She sounds unmoved. “Those problems exist here too.”

“I know,” I say. But I also know that the bulk of my work at the Evergreen Clinic would be cosmetic. “I ah, I like it here.” This comes out sounding lame, as it should, since the truth is, I don’t like it here. The real reason I’m staying, which I can’t even explain to myself, let alone Yna, is that being here helps distract me from my failed marriage. If I were back in the States, and back in real life, I’d feel even more humiliated. Everyone I know knew Vinh. They all loved him. How can I explain he was Jekyll and Hyde, the perfect husband back in the States, then AWOL in Saigon’s sleazy bar scene?

These thoughts are interrupted by a child’s scream in the shack next door. My grip on the phone tightens.

“Lily? Are you still there?” From Yna’s somber tone, I know what’s coming next. We’ve had this conversation before. “It’s time you came home,” she says. “Why would you want to deal with this on your own? Has Vinh even seen her yet? Are you still hoping to work it out with him? Two epileptic fits in three months!” Her voice has risen. “She needs medical care they don’t have over there. What tests are you running? Lily? Can you hear me?”

I’m tempted to hang up. I can call her tomorrow and say we were cut off. Instead, I take a deep breath. I know Yna means well. She was charmed by Vinh too, his dark dazzle. She’s almost as bewildered as I am.

I take a deep breath. “I’m a physician,” I say. “And I’m her mom. I’m on top of things, Yna.”

I can hear her sigh. “I hope so,” she says. “I just… You’re so far away. First, everything with Vinh, and now Evie. I feel helpless. It’s like…like bad luck over there.” She gives a nervous laugh. “You know what I’m saying?”

“Evie will be fine,” I say. I have to believe this. “How’s Sofia?”

Sofia is Yna’s baby, conceived after four rounds of IVF. Her voice lifts. “She’s great, Lily. Six months old and already sitting up.” I try to pay attention as she fills me in on Sofia’s latest achievements. But I’m tired. She must realise she’s been rambling because she says: “Wait. It’s the middle of the night. I should let you sleep.”

“Good night Na.”

“Yeah, sleep tight. Don’t let the bed bugs bite.” I hang my head. Vinh and I used to say that to each other. How could he have left me when I was eight months pregnant?

Only after I’ve hung up do I notice that next door, all lies quiet. No yelling. No crying. I guess that bastard passed out.

I wish he’d choke to death on his own vomit.

Guest Post by Katie McElhenney

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Writer

Three of my favorite activities are running, reading, and writing. Besides being alliterative, those activities have another thing in common—they’re all solitary endeavors. And while exercising and spending time with a book can be great solo ventures, the same isn’t necessarily true for writing. Unless you’re writing professionally, most of the time you need to be creative about when you fit in your keyboard time; before work, after dinner, in those few precious moments when a child is napping. These times are chosen precisely because they allow for solitude and quiet. Yet, I’m going to make the case for adding community to your writing routine and here’s why:

Productivity

I love walking into places bustling with activity. There is something about the energy that thrives in those environments that is contagious. This is why so many writers flock to coffee shops and shared workspaces. It’s true that those places aren’t for everyone and can get pricey after a while, so it helps to explore other options. Libraries are a great place to work, as are larger bookstores (and you’re surrounded on all sides by inspiration!).

Accountability

Back in school there was no question you were going to turn in that big term paper that was worth 50% of your grade. You had a hard deadline and you didn’t give yourself a choice in meeting it. When you’re writing for yourself it’s easy to get off track with your progress because you don’t have any accountability for your work. Having a community of writers who know your goals and (kindly) remind you of them will help keep you focused and motivated.

Feedback

No one wants to complete a three-hundred-page novel then get the note that your main character needs more of an arc starting back at page twenty-five. This is the kind of thing that happens if you aren’t getting feedback as you go along. Getting other sets of eyes on your work will lead you to a much cleaner first draft. Also, I’ve found that there is value in both getting and giving feedback. If you are reading another’s work critically, you tend to look at your own in that way too. It’s a great way to hone your craft.

 Embracing the social side!

Writing is tough. There are days when the words just seem to fly out of your fingertips, and days when you want to toss your laptop out a window. Having a network of writer friends to commiserate with is essential. Whether this a group that meets weekly at a coffee shop or a forum you check in with online when you need it, having people who understand what you’re doing and have been there themselves helps you rejoice in the victories and power through the bumps in the road.

I know that this isn’t practical for everyone. Life is busy and there are many demands on your time. However, even if you can carve out a little time each week to connect with other writers, you’d be amazed at the benefits you’ll see. Check out sites like Meetup or the bulletin boards at your local library and coffee shops to find groups of writers in your area. Your book will thank you for it!

About the Author

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About Katie McElhenney

Katie McElhenney was born in Philadelphia into a big family of curious kids and patient adults. A voracious reader and unapologetic daydreamer, she knew she wanted to become a writer someday. With the support of an amazing family, great friends, and some truly spectacular teachers she has written short stories, poems, and novels. A solar-powered human, she now lives in Los Angeles and uses the great weather for year-round trips to the beach and long runs (where the best inspiration happens).

Find out more about her at katiemcelhenney.com

About the Book

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The Things They’ve Taken

All Lo Campbell wants is to be a normal teenager—to go to one high school, live in one place, and have one real friend. Instead, she travels the country with her mother, chasing the unknown, the “what else” that’s out there…

Until one day, the “what else” chases back.

Determined to rescue her mom from whatever supernatural being took her, Lo will need more help than a badly dressed demon obsessed with country music. She’s going to need a Tracker—and lucky for her, she finds one. Shaw is strong, good-looking, possibly available, and utterly infuriating. Sure, he may have secrets, and his help costs more than a brand-new car, but she’ll have to deal with him if she wants to find her mother—and get her home alive.

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Guest Post by Merrie Destefano – author of LOST GIRLS

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How Writing is Like Combing Your Hair, Sort Of

There are many stages in the writing process. There’s the glittery, I’ve just fallen in love and all of this is SO wonderful stage. This is where words fly off your fingertips, ideas come when you’re trying to fall asleep, and most of your friends get a glazed look on their faces when you ramble on about random plot elements. This is the part of writing that can get you addicted. It’s wild, it’s like caffeine and adrenaline mixed into a yummy cocktail and can I have another one of those, please?

Fortunately, this stage doesn’t last very long. You’d think it would be perfect, if only you could capture this feeling and keep it in a bottle, like lightning bugs. The thing is, not everything that comes out on your computer screen during this stage really makes sense. Some of it is a little bit disjointed and crazy.

It will have to go through another stage first before it sparkles. This next stage is a little bit painful. It’s where you need to look at your work like a reader, instead of a head-over-heels-in-love-with-my-own-creation writer.

For a long time, I’ve thought of this second stage almost like combing your hair. If you’ve ever had long hair, you know that mornings aren’t fun. You wake up with a snarled, tangled mess of hair. It can hurt to straighten out that hot mess. The comb acts like it hates you, snagging on knots that you can’t even see. If you go too fast, there’s a big OUCH waiting for you.

So, at this point, I try to look at my work from a different angle. If I’ve been working on a computer, I print out the pages. I even lay out the document in a graphics program (QuarkXPress), so it will look more like a book. Another trick you can try is to email your story in a Word document to your Kindle. Every time you read your book in different format, it will force you to see it in a new way.

Things I look for include: sentences that sound too much alike, bad rhythm, too much information, not enough information, scenes that seem to have more than one central focus, places where I get bored, characters that aren’t responding correctly, dialogue that feels off, and long scenes where there’s no dialogue.

This is a process that I repeat throughout the writing of my book. I mark the snags and tangles, go back and do my best to fix them, print out the corrected pages and read through them again. Every time, it feels like I’m combing my hair. With each pass, the comb goes through a little bit easier, my hair starts to look a tiny bit better, and I think, hey, this is working!

Because I do this throughout the process of writing, by the time I’m completely done with my ‘first’ draft, it usually doesn’t take a lot of editing. I can almost always finish my final round of edits within a couple of weeks.

Of course, then there is the next round of edits that I get from my agent and my editor. Those usually require a jackhammer, a couple gallons of Coke Zero, and a series of frantic emails and phone calls to my writer pals where I ask them why I ever thought I could write. It can even turn into an existential crisis at that point. But I try to take a few deep breaths and let some time pass. Because I know that if I can make it through this last stage, there will be this thing called A Real Book.

The Real Book stage? That’s the absolute best part. It’s the reason I got started in this business in the first place. It’s pure magic, it’s starlight and fairy wings and feet that can’t touch the ground.

In fact, it’s so amazing, it makes you want to start all over again and write another book.

 

abouttheauthor

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Born in the Midwest, magazine editor Merrie Destefano currently lives in Southern California with her husband, two German shepherds, a Siamese cat, and the occasional wandering possum. Her favorite hobbies are reading speculative fiction and watching old Star Trek episodes, and her incurable addiction is writing. She loves to camp in the mountains, walk on the beach, watch old movies, and listen to alternative music—although rarely all at the same time.

Connect with Merrie online:

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Aboutthebook

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The only rule is: there are no rules.

“Merrie Destefano weaves magic.” —Rachel A. Marks, author of Darkness Brutal

Yesterday, Rachel went to sleep listening to Taylor Swift, curled up in her grammy’s quilt, worrying about geometry. Today, she woke up in a ditch, bloodied, bruised, and missing a year of her life.

She doesn’t recognize the person she’s become: She’s popular. She wears nothing but black.

Black to cover the blood.

And she can fight.

Tell no one.

She’s not the only girl to go missing within the last year…but she’s the only girl to come back. She desperately wants to unravel what happened to her, to try and recover the rest of the Lost Girls.

But the more she discovers, the more her memories return. And as much as her new life scares her, it calls to her. Seductively. The good girl gone bad: sex, drugs, and raves, and something darker…something she still craves. The rush of the fight, the thrill of the win—something she can’t resist, that might still get her killed…

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Guest Post by Kendra C. Highley, Young Adult Author

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Writing for a YA Audience

Many people ask YA author’s what it’s like to write for a YA audience, and what the challenges are. Personally, I love to write Young Adult, finding it a fertile ground to explore things like love, friendship, struggles, and triumphs. Teenagers face things for the first time, and that adds a richness to each situation that isn’t there in Adult fiction. It gives an author a license to explore things on a whole different emotional level.

Think about being a teen—I know for some of us it’s painful—and how BIG everything seemed. When you look back from an adult lens, it’s easy to say “melodrama” and “angst” because you’ve faced those issues many times as you grew and aged, but back then you hadn’t. Are teens “melodramatic?” They can be, but it’s not an unreasonable reaction when you understand where they are in life. Most of the teens I know are actually far more levelheaded than we give them credit for. And more mature, too. But when you’re dealing with your first breakup, and your heart is broken, it’s a little difficult to be rational.

But, to me, the biggest challenge is staying real. Is my vocabulary too adult? Now, I’ll argue with anyone who says “a teen wouldn’t say esoteric”—have you looked at the SAT vocab list lately? I literally heard a band kid use that on the bus when I chaperoned a few weeks ago. But, it’s not the vocabulary, per se. It’s the voice. Do they sound teen; do they sound less aware of themselves and issues? Do they tackle things with less information than an adult would? Do they make decisions that makes my mom-self shake my head? If the answer’s yes, then you’re closing in on authentic.

My other challenge is “adult” situations. Here’s the thing…as much as we parents don’t want to believe it, our teens (even as young as thirteen) hear—and say—curse words every day. They hear about sex…and many of them are having sex. They drink, too. I don’t love to hear about underage drinking one bit, but they do. So, when a YA uses foul language, explores sexuality, and shows drinking, here’s what we’re actually doing: we’re creating a risk-free space for your teen to experience things, and hopefully showing them what responsible relationships look like. Oh, and demonstrate that bad decisions can have consequences. That’s not to say we preach to teens, but we want them to see a character acting in a way that might keep a reader safe down the road. To parents who take issue with these themes in books…sheltering your kids from literature doesn’t mean you’re sheltering them from the thing itself. In fact, you might be taking away the one place they can learn how things should go.

All in all, I find YA to be one of the most exciting areas of literature today. The rules are very broad and creativity soars. Teens can suspend disbelief for anything as long as the emotions strike a chord with them. I think that may be why so many adults read them too.

 

Aboutthebook

The Bad Boy Bargain by Kendra C. Highley

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance

Publisher: Entangled Teen – Crush

Publication Date: November 14, 2016

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Baseball player Kyle Sawyer has many labels: bad boy, delinquent, ladies’ man, fearless outfielder… Only one of them is actually true. But then sweet ballet dancer Faith Gladwell asks him to help wreck her reputation, and everything goes sideways.

Faith knows a thing or two about love, and what she had with her cheating jerk of an ex wasn’t it. When he starts spreading rumors about her being an Ice Queen, Faith decides it’s time to let a little bad into her life.

Lucky for her, Kyle Sawyer—dark, dangerous, totally swoonworthy Kyle Sawyer—is landscaping her backyard over Spring Break. Shirtless. And if she can convince him to play along, “dating” Kyle will silence the rumors.

But Faith’s plan threatens to expose Sawyer’s biggest secret of all…and that’s a risk he’s not willing to take.

Disclaimer: This book contains drop-the-book-and-fan-yourself kisses…and touches. Fall in love with a bad boy at your own risk.

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abouttheauthor

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Kendra C. Highley lives in north Texas with her husband and two children. She also serves as staff to four self-important and high-powered cats. This, according to the cats, is her most important job. She believes in everyday magic, extraordinary love stories, and the restorative powers of dark chocolate.

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