Young Adult

Five Rules for Engaging Readers of Young Adult Fiction + Giveaway

Posted by on Oct 15, 2014 in Publishing, Writing, Young Adult | 1 comment

Five Rules for Engaging Readers of Young Adult Fiction + Giveaway

Do you write young adult? Ever wish you could get advice from a top literary agent? We’re guessing yes. Today we have a special treat of an excerpt from Regina Brook’s novel WRITING GREAT BOOKS FOR YOUNG ADULTS to help answer those questions of yours. Bonus: we’re giving away a copy! Don’t forget to enter to win. Five Rules for Engaging Readers of Young Adult Fiction by literary agent and author Regina Brooks   Before you even start putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard), there are some issues that need to be addressed. A lot of writers out there think writing YA fiction is easy. It’s not. Some mistakes you might make will condemn your book to languish on the slush pile forever. So before we even talk about the nitty–gritty of how to shape your book—-character, plot, setting, point of view—-we need to talk about the five key elements that can make or break you as a YA writer.   The Holden Caulfield Rule—-Don’t Be a Phony! Imagine traveling to a planet where your survival depends on hiding out among the inhabitants, where being recognized as a phony would mean instant annihilation. In that situation, you’d want to study the locals until you knew just how to look and sound and respond like them. It is the same in YA fiction. In this case, sudden death occurs when the reader, stumbling upon a false image, loses interest. The book closes with the splintering sound of a fatal bullet. It’s no exaggeration. Holden Caulfield, the protagonist of J. D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, was always railing against the phoniness of other people, particularly adults. The enduring popularity of Catcher in the Rye demonstrates that teens today are the same way—-they despise fakes. YA Fiction Rule #1: The life of the story depends on the writer’s ability to convince READERS that the protagonist is one of them. The key to writing a successful YA novel means knowing kids well enough to channel their voices, thoughts, and emotions. (“Kids” is used as an operative word here. The official YA audience encompasses twelve– to eighteen–year–olds, but it is expanding as children’s book publishers work to attract readers as young as ten and eleven, and adult publishers reach to capitalize on the growing market.) While some of your readers may be a little younger than the twelve–to–eighteen target—-children aged ten to twelve tend to read above their age—-and some may be a little older, keep in mind that you have to convince all segments of your audience that you know what it feels like to be a young person today. If you can’t convince your audience that you know how they feel about the world today and express yourself the same way, you will never reach them.   Avoid the Preach ‘n’ Teach Whether YA readers attend elementary or secondary school isn’t an issue when it comes to the importance of YA Fiction Rule #2. YA Fiction Rule #2: Don’t be condescending to your readers. Young people won’t abide stories that suggest that their turmoil or idealism will pass when they “grow up.” Brent Hartinger, author of Geography Club, says, “I’m a big believer that kids are smarter than we think they are.…I think kids can handle complexity and nuances, and the advantage to writing that way is that the book appeals to both teenagers and adults.” Many adults read fiction as an escape—-teens are no different. Imagine spending a long day in school, learning boring lessons ’cause you’re supposed to, having everyone from parents to teachers to employers telling...

Read More

5 Things I’ve Learned Between Deal and Debut by Andrea Hannah

Posted by on Oct 10, 2014 in Publishing, Writing, Young Adult | 1 comment

5 Things I’ve Learned Between Deal and Debut by Andrea Hannah

My debut novel, Of Scars and Stardust, has finally arrived in stores this week! It sold in July 2013, and let me tell you, it’s been an intense 1.25 years since that sale, filled with whiplash-inducing highs and the kind of lows I was sure didn’t exist after “the deal.” Here are some things that were true for me along the way: It’s all sorts of exciting the first time someone reviews your book. And then it’s not. I remember when my first review popped up on Goodreads back in the spring. Five stars! Woohoo! Such an adrenaline rush to see that someone had actually read my book and liked it. But as debut-day (D-Day?) creeps closer, and the reviews start flooding in, the whole thing loses some of its appeal. There comes a point where you have to be at peace with what you’ve written, and suddenly scanning the Internet for your book’s title becomes way less enticing when that happens. You will not be busy at all, and then all of a sudden you’re so busy you want to cry. This is what I’ve noticed about publishing so far: Absolutely nothing happens for months, and you feel like you’re slogging through mud. Then all of a sudden copy edits are on your doorstep and you have two weeks to finish them, and you’re moving at break-neck speed to meet that deadline. Months will go by before your book comes out, and then all of a sudden you have a million blog posts to finish and swag to mail out and giveaways to run and, and, and…forever and ever. Just go with it, and realize that it’s temporary and eventually you’ll be back in the mud hole again. A lot of things will not go as planned. In fact, most of them won’t. I had a specific plan for my cover reveal. My cover data got sent to media outlets a month earlier than was planned, so there was a lot of scrambling to find a new host. The awesome blurbs from VOYA and SLJ Teen didn’t come through in time to have them printed on the back cover of my book. Barnes and Noble got the shipment of my books in late, so some weren’t even in stores on release day, while Amazon shipped them out a week early and some people had read it before release day. It is what it is, and it’s okay. There’s nothing you can do about it besides focus on writing the Next Book. There will come a moment where you say, “What have I done?” I’m going to be honest, these past two weeks pre-debut have felt a lot like giving birth (metaphorically). The anxiety, the waiting, the “what-ifs” and the panic that threads through you when you realize you have no idea what you’re doing and you’re not at all prepared for this and everyone is about to see your heart’s work and you stop and ask yourself if you’ve made a terrible mistake. There has been a flood of anxiety and sleepless nights and nitpicking at things I should have done differently. Apparently, this happens to a lot of authors, from what I’ve been told. It’s normal to feel so overwhelmed by this huge life change, this thing that you’ve been waiting and wishing for. Just go with it. It’ll lighten up after release day actually happens. Promise. You will feel more love than you ever thought possible. In the end, all of the crazy-making circumstances and curveballs are worth it. I will tell you, this book has...

Read More

The Muses Read: Open Road Summer

Posted by on Oct 7, 2014 in Reading, Young Adult | 0 comments

The Muses Read: Open Road Summer

There’s a reason why I always pay attention when someone recommends a book for me. I was asked if I wanted to participate in a summer readathon of OPEN ROAD SUMMER by Skye from Skye’s Scribblings. Admittedly, such…cheery sounding… YA contemporary isn’t exactly my go-to. But didn’t I say I was going to expand the genres I’m reading from? (I’m pretty sure I did!) Thankfully, Open Road Summer made me entirely glad that I gave it a shot! OPEN ROAD SUMMER by Emery Lord Blurb: After breaking up with her bad-news boyfriend, Reagan O’Neill is ready to leave her rebellious ways behind. . . and her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery, is nursing a broken heart of her own. Fortunately, Lilah’s 24-city tour is about to kick off, offering a perfect opportunity for a girls-only summer of break-up ballads and healing hearts. But when Matt Finch joins the tour as its opening act, his boy-next-door charm proves difficult for Reagan to resist, despite her vow to live a drama-free existence. This summer, Reagan and Lilah will navigate the ups and downs of fame and friendship as they come to see that giving your heart to the right person is always a risk worth taking. A fresh new voice in contemporary romance, Emery Lord’s gorgeous writing hits all the right notes. Find it at: Amazon Muse KJ’s Thoughts A few pages into Open Road Summer and you feel like you should be on the beach. It’s light, endearing, and absolutely perfect for summer. The friendship between Dee (short for Delilah) and Reagan is the driving force of the book, and will keep you coming back for more. What would you do for your best friend? For the person who’s always been there for you, who can read you like a book, and never ever judges you – even when she should. Reagan’s running away with Dee’s tour for the summer, to give herself a second chance – and maybe just to run away from her past. After all, she can’t do anything to mess up Dee’s reputation as the famous Lila Montgomery. It’s a sure thing. It’s safe. Dee’s her anchor, keeping her from staying too adrift in life, and she’ll provide some security for her BFF. I absolutely adored the characters (even though a large part of me really insists on believing Dee is Taylor Swift). You can’t NOT love these characters. Dee is gracious, kind, and endearing – exactly how you wish more celebrities were. She’s also been thrown into a crazy world in the middle of her teens, so some of that comes out from time to time.  Reagan is snarky (although a few times I thought it went past snarky into the zone of judgemental for no reason), spunky, and spirited. Both friends are devoted to their friendship in a way that you just don’t get to read about enough. Matt was a wonderful fresh take on the love interest -he seemed truly realistic to me. He’s the type of character I can imagine many of you will make your next book boyfriend. Thoughtful, witty, and appreciates the bonds of friendship? Yes, please. End of story – I finished the book, cried my eyes out, texted my BFF that I loved her, and texted other BFF to ensure she read the book. If that doesn’t sum up my feelings, I don’t know what...

Read More

Review: BRUTAL YOUTH by Anthony Breznican

Posted by on Sep 25, 2014 in Reading, Thriller, Young Adult | 2 comments

Review: BRUTAL YOUTH by Anthony Breznican

When I received Brutal Youth in the mail from the publisher in exchange for an honest review, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The cover is delightfully sinister, with a prep school jacket going up in flames, and the novel is blurbed by some pretty big names, including Stephen Chbosky, James Dashner, Gillian Flynn, and even Stephen King. I mean, when a book is blurbed by the one and only Stephen King, I obviously go in with really high expectations. The big question going into this reading was- would it stand up to all that hype? Brutal Youth by Anthony Breznican    When incoming freshman Peter Davidek arrives for his first day at Saint Michael’s, tensions are already high at the private Catholic school known best for its enrollment of expelled delinquents and overtly religious students. After a cruelly tormented upperclassman snaps and goes on a rampage, violently attacking cruel students and corrupt faculty, everyone is on high alert. But this sense of unrest does nothing to stop the culture of hazing that has gone on for years as a sort of tradition at Saint Michael’s. Peter befriends fellow freshman Noah Stein, who bears the scars of a tough past, as well as the beautiful and desperate Lorelei Paskal, and the three navigate the uneasy halls where upperclassmen senselessly torment freshman and haze them with no respite. It soon becomes clear that nobody can be trusted, with even the closest of friends hiding secrets and turning on one another.   As if the cruel upperclassmen vying for revenge weren’t bad enough, the faculty is corrupt and seems to be out to get the students in increasingly sinister ways. Father Mercedes is blackmailing students and running off with church funds; while the embittered guidance counselor Ms. Bromine is upholding the rampant bullying culture of Saint Michael’s in her own ways. As these students fight to make it through their day-to-day activities, alliances are formed and broken, and they find that it really is every student for himself. Find it at: Amazon  | Barnes and Noble This was one of the most thought-provoking and intense stories I’ve read in a long time. The Catholic school setting is the perfect backdrop for the corruption and terror that befalls these students, and with every page bringing a new agreement or a broken alliance; the plotting captivated me. From page one, this novel is packed with action that never lets up, from the initial rampage of an embittered and tormented student, to the final Hazing Picnic when things start to become very real for many of the students. Tensions are high throughout the book, and it is deliciously unclear whom the main characters can trust. Just when you think they’ve found someone to protect them and their secrets, another lie is told and it becomes clear that absolutely nobody in this book can be trusted.   Brutal Youth has a little bit of something for everyone. There are friendships being tested, romances being forged and then thwarted, and corrupt faculty out for only themselves. The book is listed as Young Adult, but often seems to veer over into Adult Literary Fiction. It will captivate audiences in a wide range of ages. Teens as well as older readers will identify with the spot-on feelings of adolescence, including feeling alone and misunderstood amongst peers, and will be riveted by the complex system of alliances and the underhanded motivations of the adults in this novel.   It’s been a long time since I devoured a 400-page novel in one sitting, but I did it with this book....

Read More

Forest of Whispers by Jennifer Murgia Blog Tour and GIVEAWAY!

Posted by on Sep 9, 2014 in Reading, Writing, Young Adult | 4 comments

Forest of Whispers by Jennifer Murgia Blog Tour and GIVEAWAY!

I almost lost it when I first heard of Forest of Whispers. I thought, holy crap, this book looks fantastic! I eagerly searched for any blog tours and thankfully found one run by Rockstar Book Tours and of course, immediately joined. Jennifer, the author, was kind enough to let me interview her for the post today and I couldn’t be happier! Just look at this cover– it’s gorgeous! I love the intrigue here. The tagline Magic Haunts Her… is SO good. And then of course I read the blurb and was hooked. Check it out. About the Book Title: FOREST OF WHISPERS Author: Jennifer Murgia Publisher: Spencer Hill Press Pub. Date: September 9, 2014 Find it: Goodreads|Amazon|Barnes& Noble Raised by an old fortune-teller within the dark veil of the Bavarian Black Forest, Rune has learned two valuable lessons: only take from the forest that which you can use, and never, never look anyone in the eye in the village. For something terrible happened in the forest long ago… and now, the whispers of a long-dead mother with a vengeful secret have come haunting. Forced to flee all she has ever known, Rune soon learns of a legacy she is bound to–one that is drenched in fear, witchcraft and murder–a birthright that stretches beyond the grave to the trees where Rune is no longer safe. Interview with Jennifer Murgia Hi Jennifer! Thanks so much for being a guest today on Pen & Muse. I’m so excited to have you and your novel Forest of Whispers.  Let’s get started! How long have you been writing? Have you always known you wanted to be an author? I first fell in love with writing when I was nine years old and knew it was something I wanted to do.  I would dabble in poetry and stories which later morphed into darker, longer works of fiction. My first book, ANGEL STAR, was published in 2010. FOREST OF WHISPERS is my 5th published Young Adult novel. Wow! All of your books look fantastic! I just author stalked you on Goodreads. So many to add to my must-read list! I have to ask, are you currently working on a new project? I am currently writing a YA Horror that centers around an insane asylum. *dabs away drool at the corner of my mouth* I can NOT wait to read this. There’s nothing I love more than YA horror. There’s not enough of it! So speaking of books, what book do you wish you could have written? Oh wow . . . Is it odd to say I wish I could have written THE MAZE RUNNER? That was epic! Not weird at all! I haven’t read that yet, but I need to! So, not to change the subject, but what writing tips or advice do you have to offer others writers and authors? I’ve learned it’s important to set time aside to write—like every morning or whatever works best for you. If you let too much time pass between projects, it’s so much harder to begin again. Solid advice Jennifer! Noted! So what are your habits? Do you have any writing habits/practices? Tea and music? Silence? Coffee and absolute silence. And my cat. He snuggles up to my laptop and stares at me. Really, he’s telepathically convincing me to write him into the story . . .  cats are sneaky like that. Hehehe. I’m pretty sure you HAVE to write him in! He may start demanding it soon! So, speaking of cats. I automatically think of villains. Who is your favorite book villain? Hadrian from my ANGEL STAR series. What a dark angel bad-ass he is. Which novel...

Read More

How To Date a Rock Star (And Get Away With It) by Ashley Poston

Posted by on Aug 1, 2014 in Reading, Romance, Young Adult | 0 comments

How To Date a Rock Star (And Get Away With It) by Ashley Poston

HOW TO DATE A ROCK STAR (AND GET AWAY WITH IT) IN TEN EASY STEPS When you’re in love, you do some pretty crazy things. And when you’re in love with a rockstar? Nothing is ever easy. So I will impart to you the wisdom I have collected, so when you meet a suspender-wearing, orange-headed rockstar at the beach, you’ll know exactly how to handle that hipster hottie. 1. Do not buy underwear with anyone’s face on them. (Even if it’s sexy Mc-Sexy-Sex Bruno Mars, don’t do it. Restrain yourself. Go for the granny panties instead.) 2. Kill his ego with fire. (Unless, of course, he’s already hit rock bottom. Then just let him buy you an ice cream and enjoy the free food. Ice cream doth not serious commitment maketh… but it can lead to a second date.) 3. Your best friend is wise, young padawan. (Seriously, your best friend is obsessed with this guy. She knows everything about him down to his pinky toe that sort of overlaps his fourth toe and the toe is kind of weird but kind of cute, too—but obviously more weird than cute.) 4. Don’t hesitate to get physical. (Especially when the paparazzi attack. And they will attack in droves. The rockstar you’re dating is like the Waldo of pop culture. If the paparazzi decide to ruin date night, ruin them right in the sweet spot.) 5. Don’t judge his best friend by his kilt. (In fact, make friends with the mohawk-stylin’ guy in the kilt. He’ll be your greatest ally. True story, brohaho.) 6. Your parents can and will ground you. They will also chase the paparazzi harassing you off their lawn. (Use this power wisely. You still live under their roof. Their word is law. And for the love of God, don’t step on the daisies!) 7. Try to be inconspicuous. (Nothing says ROCKSTAR’S GIRLFRIEND quite like pink hair.) 8. If Plan A fails, always have a Plan B. (This goes for pretty much everything in your life, but if you find yourself in a pickle and there are paparazzi breathing down your neck, Plan B will be your saving grace. It might also land you in jail.) 9. Break things. (Rules, hearts, guitars, someone’s face—use your imagination!) 10. You Are Enough. (Even when people tell you you aren’t, even when the rag mags wonder why a guy like him is with a girl like you—You. Are. Enough. You are more than enough. You are everything, and anything, and all things combined. He is with you because you are enough. Because you are plenty. Because you are everything he needs. But even without him, You Are Enough.) Now go forth, my fellow rockoholics! Be wild, be free, be exceptionally skilled at singing along to your favorite songs! And hopefully, with just a little luck, you can hook a hipster hottie, too. Just remember that with great power comes great responsibility, and sometimes the greatest of romances fall from the greatest of heights. THE SOUND OF US by Ashley Poston America’s favorite pop band, Roman Holiday, is done, dead, and so totally last year. For eighteen-year-old rockoholic Junie Baltimore, this is music to her ears. But when she discovers their sexy ex-lead singer hiding out on the boardwalk, her summer vacation becomes the cover story of the year.She’s willing to keep him a secret, but when a sleazy paparazzo offers her the cash she needs to save the bar her father left behind, could she sell out for the chance to save her future? Who is she kidding? That’s a no-brainer…but she never planned on falling head over heels for the lead singer. ASHLEY POSTON’s debut novel, THE SOUND OF US, is a quirky...

Read More