Friday, October 25, 2013

Kasie West take the dare!

So yeah, the little girl wasn't supposed to be a floating head. I swear when I recorded it, more of her body was there. Ha. So that was fun. Thanks Riv Re (from for the dare! If you'd like to leave us a dare (or truth) click on the Truth or Dare tab above.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Alexandra Duncan Takes the Truth!

Today is the day when I offend everyone. I’m answering the following Truth, Be honest: have you read Fifty Shades of Grey? (and thoughts on New Adult/sexy YA/or whatever)

Short answer: yes, I have read Fifty Shades of Grey. Sort of. I mean, I read the first three chapters and skimmed the rest. That counts as reading, right?

Let's rewind about thirteen months. Late last summer, the director of the public library where I work asked my boss to read Fifty Shades to help decide whether we should carry it in the library. There weren't a lot of critical reviews available at that point, which is one of the main ways we decide which books to carry, but we were getting flooded with requests for "that sex book. You know the one." *significant look*
After about ten minutes of skimming, I found my boss sitting in the workroom with this look on her face. . . .

She looked up at me. “I can’t do this. Will you read it?”

How could I resist? Clearly, from her expression, there was something magnificently horrifying happening between the pages. I had to know what had brought that look to her face. I took the book home and managed to stop giggling like a 12-year-old long enough to crack open the cover.

In the end, I couldn't do it either. I stopped reading and started skimming around the time Bella and Edw. . . I mean, Anastasia and Christian have an extraordinarily awkward conversation (that was maybe supposed to be sexy?) at a hardware store. To me, the steamy scenes were just. . . kind of squicky.* It was not my cup of tea.

This Truth has me thinking about how we write about sex in Young Adult literature versus how it’s portrayed in New Adult like Fifty Shades. Granted, not all New Adult is straight-up erotica. Take the insanely talented Gayle Forman's novels, for example, or Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell, which I am dying to read. But Fifty Shades has brought erotica to the forefront of New Adult, and because of that, people are starting to think of N.A. as fundamentally characterized by cover-to-cover graphic sex.

In Y.A., however, sex is an incredibly touchy subject. If you don’t believe me, read this wonderful blog post by Beth Revis on a librarian’s response to learning one of her books contained sex, or take a look at the ALA’s yearly list of banned books. "Sexually explicit material" is the number one reason why books are banned or libraries are challenged for stocking them.

Source: American Library Association

On one hand, I get it. Adults want to protect children from situations and ideas they’re not ready to handle. I struggled with how to portray sex in Salvage, which deals in part with sexual relationships and pregnancy. As a librarian, would I feel comfortable recommending my own book to teen readers and their parents? Would I be okay with my fifteen year-old sister reading this? On the other hand, teenagers are surrounded by sexual content in daily life. It’s on TV and in movies. It’s in advertisements. It’s in music. It’s a topic of discussion on the school bus. It’s everywhere.

Sometimes we adults also forget that our teenage years were the time when we first fell in love, started dating, and became curious about sex and sexuality. Some of us even began having sex when we were in high school. If we’re writing honestly about teenage life and the process of becoming an adult, sex is a legitimate subject. For those teens who are sexually active, portraying sex in Y.A. accurately reflects their experience and gives adults a way to talk with teens about how to protect their hearts and their bodies. For those who aren’t, books are a safe place where teens can explore the idea of sex without becoming sexually active. It’s an opportunity to start a conversation about what is and what isn’t healthy in a relationship.

My personal philosophy about writing sex in Y.A. is that above all, it should be realistic. By that, I don’t mean I think everyone should be writing really extensive, detailed sex scenes. I mean that when it comes to talking about sex for a teenage audience, I don’t want to write the kind of unrealistic fantasy sex I’ve seen in Fifty Shades and other New Adult erotica. If I’m going to write about sex, I want to convey the combination of love, lust, confusion, anxiety, pleasure, and discomfort that go along with a real person’s first sexual experiences. I want to look at the dangers and the joys. I want to give teens the information they need to take care of themselves.

I think we owe teens honesty about this experience that’s looming large in their futures and imaginations. We owe it to them not to add to the misinformation they’re likely getting from locker room gossip and rumors on the bus. (Just to refute a few things I heard when I was fifteen - Yes, you can get pregnant the first time! No, taking monthly oral contraceptives is not the same as getting an abortion. Yes, sex can be great, but it doesn’t guarantee true love.) Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying every Y.A. book should deal with sex. Sometimes I just want to read about slaying dragons and things blowing up without the complication of a romantic relationship. But when we Y.A. writers do tackle this difficult subject, we need to do it with maturity, care, and awareness of our audience.

*One word: tampons

Alexandra Duncan is a writer and librarian (plus amateur photographer, crochet enthusiast, cinemaphile, and, or course, book fiend). She holds a B.A. in Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina at Asheville, and has been a frequent contributor to The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. She loves anything that gets her hands dirty – pie-baking, leatherworking, gardening, drawing, and rolling sushi, to name a few.Her first novel, Salvage, is due to be released by Greenwillow Books/Harper Collins April 1, 2014. You can find her online at Twitter, Goodreads, and her web site.

Monday, October 14, 2013

PARANOIA Cover Reveal and Giveaway!

Fact: J.R Johansson is one of the nicest people you will ever meet. She's friendly, generous with her time and a great listener/advice-giver. And yet, somehow, she has some of the creepiest book covers out there. Go figure.

You all remember the freaky awesomeness that was the INSOMNIA cover? You know: shattered glass, darkness, a soul-sucking evil eye? Yeah, that's the one.

Well, today, we present the cover to the sequel, PARANOIA. And let me tell you, it rivals the INSOMNIA cover in creeptastic delights. I truly can't decide which one will haunt my dreams more.













I wasn't kidding, right? CREEPY. In all the right ways. Check out the chilling back cover blurb:

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In the aftermath of the events that nearly killed him, Parker Chipp is trying to learn to cope better with life as a Watcher. And it seems to be working...until he wakes up in jail with a hangover and 12 hours of missing time. Darkness has somehow taken control and Parker doesn't have a clue how to stop him. He finds an unlikely ally in Jack, the mysterious guy in the motorcycle jacket who offers to help Parker master his abilities as a Watcher. But even as they practice, the darkness inside Parker is getting more and more powerful, taking over Parker’s body and doing everything he can to destroy Parker's life.

When Jack reveals that there is another kind of Night Walker, known as a Taker, Parker starts to wonder if the strange things happening in Oakville are more than just a coincidence. After all, people are more than just sleepwalking. They're emptying their savings accounts with no memory of doing so, wandering into strange parts of town and disappearing, they're even killing other people--all in their sleep. If Parker wants to find out what's happening or have any hope of seeing his father again, he’ll have to defy Jack and put his own life in danger...because the more he learns about these other Night Walkers, the more certain he becomes that his life isn't the only one that could be lost.
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To celebrate this awesome cover, there's an equally awesome giveaway! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Enter the contest! And feel free to stare at that cover, so long as you don't blame me for any nightmares that come as a result.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Ellen Picass-Oh takes a dare

Hello everyone! So I'm usually on the group tumblr these days (if you haven't checked it out - go here) but I came in to do a dare and make a fool of myself once again. So this dare is great if you are a fantastic artist, like all 3 of my kids. But not so great if you have problems drawing a straight line or a circle. Which would clearly be me. Knowing my inability to draw, Elsie dared me to draw my MC, Kira from Prophecy. And I foolishly took the challenge!

Here was my first attempt. It was important for me to make sure I was accurate by including the yellow eyes and a bow and arrow. The boots were just a special extra I did. But my youngest came by and berated me for drawing her naked. 

 So I gave her some clothes and a sword. But then apparently my middle daughter came by and asked me if I was drawing a sailor. Damn it, she is not a sailor! So my youngest said, put her on a horse!

 My oldest shows up because of the shrieks of laughter emanating from my room and she takes a look and says "why is she riding a platypus?" At this point, I decided to call it a night and loaded up my self-portrait.

They have now taken to calling me Mama Smurf.

And BTW - here's how real artists do it:

 Kira by our very own and extraordinarily talented Natalie Whipple.

Another Kira by the amazing Joni who blogs at Lace and Fog Authoress. 

From now on, I shall leave the art to the artists!!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Renee Collins Takes the Dare!

Today's dare comes from Alyssa Susanna! Share a passage from one of your old, non-contracted manuscripts.

Trunk novels. We all have them. Very few writers publish their first book. And that's okay! No novel is a waste. This is how we grow and improve, right? But let's face it, those early works can sometimes bring a cringe of shame. And that is what I present to you today. Not just a trunk novel. THE trunk novel.

Today I take you all the way back to 2005, to the very VERY first novel I ever began. You'll note I say "began," because I never actually finished this book. And the world is a better place because of that. This novel never made it past page 40, though I edited and rewrote those 40 pages half a dozen times. And yet, for all my efforts, I couldn't make myself *not* want to punch my MC in the throat. To be honest, the book sucked.  


But it wasn't all for nothing! Something good did come out of the dull, obnoxious, info-dumpy mass of pages. And that was the idea of magical relics, an idea which you should be familiar with, if you know anything about my debut novel.

Yes, it's true. These first awkward, embarrassingly bad attempts at writing yielded a concept which would get me my first contract.

But we didn't come here for a warm, fuzzy "no work is in vain" moment. You guys want the humiliation. So without further ado, I present a passage from The Trunk Novel of all Trunk Novels, which I lovingly refer to as "The Magic Twin Princesses Novel." The title pretty much says it all. But other than that, you should know that the father of said Twin Princesses is dying and has called his daughters before him.

Enjoy and you're welcome.

“Rose. Camellia. My daughters. I am sorry that it has come to this,” he croaked. Rose gave him more to drink. “Surely you must know by now that I am dying.” 

Rose felt her throat tighten. Camellia already had tears glistening on the corners of her eyes. 

“One of you must take my place to carry on the Coren dynasty.” 

There was a very long pause. Both of the girls had dreaded the thought and never spoken it to each other. 

“Do not be afraid,” he continued, “There have been fine Empresses in our past such as  . . .” The Emperor gazed at the wall, his mind perplexed with something. 

“Empresses such as Drucilla Coren,” Rose offered. 

The Emperor nodded slowly again. “Rose, my girl, you always knew your history of the Corenian Empire.” He smiled weakly and coughed. To his daughters’ dismay, despite his failing memory of history, Coren remembered the task at hand. “One of you must take my place. Take the Staff.” 

His hand made a motion to his right. There, in a marble alcove, built since the Emperor’s illness, stood the brilliant Soltarian Staff. 

Rose’s breath trembled ever so slightly, and she felt the tightness in her throat. The staff itself was carved from the finest, strongest trees in Tove. It had then been plated in gold from the Treeland Alps. Narabian jewels were encrusted in dazzling patterns down the staff. The Corenian Emperors were always eager to emphasize the fact that these countries and all their finery belong to them. 

Though, the glory of the Soltarian Staff was clearly the centerpiece. From the top of the staff rose a glimmering pearl unicorn horn. The only whole, unblemished magical object ever to be unearthed shone from the top of the staff, so close to Rose and Camellia that it seemed ridiculous. There stood the most coveted and legendary magical piece in history. It alone had ensured the dominance of the Corenian Emperors. 

Named Soltarian for it’s solitary status in power the Staff was so sacred to the Emperors that no one even knew what it looked like, unless they were one of the privileged few who had seen it with their own eyes. The Staff now existed as the only magical relic remaining in the Empire. 

“So important,” Coren said, almost to himself. His eyes suddenly fixed on the Staff. 

“Father?” Camellia asked hesitantly. 

But their father drifted into memory. 

Twelve years before Xavier Coren the 11th faced a terrible reality, one that threatened to destroy everything his ancestors had built over the centuries. So long ago, when the pristine horn of the Soltarian Staff fell into the hands of Alexander Coren the 5th the Corenian Empire was born. Alexander Coren wielded the supreme power of the Staff to solidify control on all borders. The magic of the Soltarian Staff bought peace for half of the world and they prospered. 

Jageth Coren the 7th initiated a mass mining enterprise and magic, once belonging only to the strong, became available to all. For hundreds of years citizens of the Corenian Empire used magic relics to help them harvest corn and scrub dirty clothes. The Corens condoned such magic. And before long relics could be found in every corner of the Empire. 

Unfortunately, power cannot be contained for long. On a pouring summer morning a messenger burst into the Court. With his clothes still drenched, the breathless page choked a deadly message to the Emperor, Xavier Coren the 11th. An unfathomable danger had been created in the North.     

“Magic had to be banned!” cried Coren so suddenly, and so loudly that Rose and Camellia both jumped in their seats.  Heaving coughs shook the Emperor. 

Camellia clasped her father’s trembling hands. “Rose, some water,” she said, and her sister again brought the goblet to his mouth. 

“Magic had to be banned,” he repeated weakly. 

“Yes father, we know. It was the only way.” 


*  *  *  
Renee is a YA writer and professional ponderer. She loves historical settings, fantasy, and semi-tragic romance. RELIC is her first novel, now available from Entangled Teen!