Thursday, September 20, 2012

Great YA Lit Chat

Just a quick post to share an interesting YALITCHAT thread on twitter last night. The chat was on MEN/BOYS of Young adult and Middle Grade lit. The men who write the books, the boys who are in the books, and who are our fave male POV writers.

If you missed it you can search the hashtag #yalitchat and read the great conversation.

I had a great interest in it as my son is a middle grader and what I call a reluctant reader. I was looking for books he may be interested in and this thread was a great help.

Check it out when you have some free time!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Author Round-Up: What’s Cooking in the High School Caf?

I came upon a recipe recently that sounded suspiciously like the fantastic peanut butter cookie bars I used to buy in my high school cafeteria.  I ran out and bought all the ingredients and baked it up.  While the bars came out pretty tasty, they still weren’t “it.” Back to the lifelong drawing board...

But it got me to thinking about high school some, like my husband’s, were manned by local moms and provided memorable culinary experiences, or mine, your basic pre-fab offerings, with some gems still shining through all these years later.

I thought it would be fun to ask some of our YA Fresh author friends to share the memories of their high school cafeteria fare.  What say you, authors? 

Kelly Parra, author of Graffiti Girl and Invisible Touch:

High school food...I remember Domino's Pizza and Subway carts. Haha! My fave at school was the Subway cart for a turkey sub with chips. And of course, there were bagels and frozen burritos.

Josh  Berk, author of
Guy Langman, Crime Scene Procrastinator:

I had “first lunch” which began at 10:43. Hmm, do I remember the precise time all these years later because it was wonderful or traumatic? Mostly traumatic. Typically gross mystery-meat school lunch type stuff. But I did sure love the taco salad. Nothing nice a like taco salad at 10:43am. Mmmmm.

Stephanie Hale, author of The Alpha Bet and the Aspen Brooks series:

In high school I somehow survived on a little bag of BBQ chips and a carton of chocolate milk every SINGLE day. I'm not even kidding.

Trinity Faegan, author of The Manifesto Covenant:

It's been, uh, a few years since high school, but I remember...wait for it...corn dogs! They were sublime. I honestly think they made them from scratch - crispy and delicious. The number one very best thing they made, however, were rolls. I still remember sitting through morning classes with the scent of yeasty bread baking. They sold those fluffy, warm, amazing rolls for 5 cents each and a lot of us would buy 3-4 rolls and that's what we had for lunch. So healthy! Ha! The worst thing they made was chicken pot pie. That was some scary stuff on a crust.

Janie Emaus, author of Mercury in Retro Love:

I honestly can't remember ever eating in the cafeteria. I always brought my food.  Usually the same thing every day.  Salami on rye with mustard.   And would actually get jealous of those who did get to eat there.  I associated eating in the cafeteria with the  "popular girls."  I guess that's why I like to go out to eat these days! 

Amanda Ashby, author of the Sophie's Mixed Up Magic series:

I grew up in Australia and always got so jealous watching American movies and their cafeterias because at my school all we had was a tuck shop, which was a hole in the wall and it was run the PTA. It mainly sold sandwiches, rolls, meat pies and sausage rolls as well as things like chips, ice-blocks, cookies, cream buns and fruit. There were no vending machines and definitely nothing like chocolate or candy or sodas available.  One item that I really liked were the buttered pikelets (do you get pikelets in the US? If not, they are like a smaller version of a pancake). Though now I think about it, they always gave me indigestion but that didn't seem to stop me from buying them!

Thanks, authors, for your recollections!  And if any of our readers would like to jump in with memories of their high school caf experiences--or the ones they are still having today--we’d love to hear from you!  

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

What's Fresh with Ann Finnin's The Sorcerer of Saint Felice!

At the Romance Writers of America conference last month, I got the chance to chat with debut Flux author Ann Finnin.  She agreed to be in our "hot seat" today, to chat with us about her young adult novel and her writing career. 
Hello, Ann!  Could you please tell us a little about your writing background and how you made your first sale? 

I started writing when I was eleven and I wrote all through high school and college.  When I had to drop out of graduate school, I knew that I had to make a decision about what I really wanted to do with my life.  The answer was: more than anything else in the world, I wanted to be an author. Easier said than done, of course.  I wrote novel after novel that almost sold but didn’t.  The years went by and still nothing.  I kept writing, submitting, getting rejected, rinse and repeat, over and over again. 

Then, the Harry Potter series came out.  I had written a manuscript that was basically a medieval version of Harry Potter.  My agent had tried to market it as a fantasy, but since the protagonist was only 15, it didn’t sell.  All of a sudden, everybody wanted teenage wizard stories.  So, I sent it to Flux.  

Again, nothing happened for six months.  Then, I talked to a friend who had recently become an agent.  I asked her if she knew anybody at Flux and if she could make a phone call or two to find out what had happened to my submission.  She found out that Flux had a new acquisitions editor that loved the premise and wanted it ASAP.  Two months later I signed the contract for The Sorcerer of Sainte Felice

Readers and writers often like to get a behind the scenes peek of an author's writing routine. It would be great if you could please share your typical writing day schedule.
I really don’t have a “typical” writing day.  I have a full time job, so it all depends on what else is going on at work that day.  I’m a technical writer so work is sporadic.  I can usually write on a lunch hour.  But if it’s a slow day, I can work on a novel for an hour or two without too much of a problem.  

I’ve learned to write in small one-hour sessions.  If all of a sudden I have a couple of hours to kill before a meeting or review session, I take out my latest novel and work on it for awhile.  Sometimes, I’ll write in the evening or I’ll take a Saturday afternoon and go to Starbucks for a couple of hours.  Maybe one day I’ll actually be able to afford to write full time, but that day hasn’t happened yet.  So, this method works for the time being.
Please tell us about your novel, The Sorcerer of Sainte Felice, and what we can expect from your characters.

The Sorcerer of Sainte Felice takes place in the year 1480 in Orleans, France.  15 year-old Michael de Lorraine has run away from home in order to study magic.  However, he finds himself being burned at the stake for sorcery.  He thinks he’s a goner until he is rescued by the charismatic abbot of a nearby Benedictine monastery.  

Michael doesn’t want to stay at the monastery until he discovers that the abbot is actually a notorious sorcerer known as Seratois and that the five monks that inhabit the monastery are all alchemists, herbalists, astrologers and seers.  Michael eventually takes his vows as a Benedictine novice, becomes the abbot’s apprentice and learns the abbot’s secret method of conjuring angels. The monks make a wine using the alchemical process of distillation and mix in certain secret herbs that cures what ails you and cause angels to sing.  It becomes very popular among the local nobility.  But soon, the Grand Inquisitor comes to call.  He has discovered the abbot’s real identity and drags him from the monastery in chains.  Only Michael knows the abbot’s magical techniques.  But has he learned enough to save his mentor from being burned at the stake?

This is a classic sorcerer’s apprentice story, but with a twist.  I’ve set it in an actual time and place with a couple of historical characters (like the French king) thrown in for good measure.  All of the magic that the abbot and the other monks perform is historically accurate and documented.  In many cases, it’s the same magic that Rowling uses in her books.  I just put it back into the cultural context in which it was originally practiced.
It’s Harry Potter – only real.

What's up next? Do you have another project in the works? If so, please tell us about it.
The next project is a teen witch book called Moon Spell.  It’s a contemporary story about a 16-year-old girl who is studying witchcraft with her best friend.  Her friend performs a love spell that goes horribly wrong, causing the hero to be trapped in the fairy realms until the heroine finds a way to free him.  But the story takes place in an ordinary suburban setting in an ordinary high school.  The heroine not only has to deal with the world of magic, she has to still study ordinary subjects in school and live with her geek father and born-again Christian mother.  Again, I’ve tried to set a magical story in a real world setting to show how a real wannabe wizard or witch has to ‘walk between the worlds’ and live in both the mundane world and the magical realms at the same time.  After all, not everybody can go to Hogwarts. 

Would you like to close with a writing tip?
Never give up.  Never, ever.  Believe in your story.  Today’s rejected manuscript sometimes becomes tomorrow’s best seller.  And don’t pay too much attention to the people who will tell you that such-and-such a story won’t sell.  Maybe it won’t sell today, but in a few years it could be the Next Big Thing.  I’ve ruined a lot of stories over the years by listening to people who are “in the know’”telling me that you can’t have certain things in a novel because editors won’t buy it.  Work on your craft (characterization, voice, pacing, plot, etc.) and tell a good story.  It will find a market eventually.  Hopefully, you won’t have to wait thirty years like I did. 

Your perseverance is inspiring, Ann, and your book sounds terrific!  Thanks for visiting with us!