Thursday, April 30, 2015

#YayYA Critique Party: Entry #16

Name: Rachel Stevenson

Title: University Besieged

Genre: Weird Western

35-word pitch: In alternate 1924, slicker McKay and half-Indian cowboy Bobby, rivals, are trapped at their elite university between all-destroying sand and Mexican rebels. Starvation devours class unity, but each life lost narrows everyone's chance to survive.

First 500:
The sun sifted through thin clouds and my thinner shirt. My world was golden and full of my own pulse as round we went, shorts slapping pumping thighs.

Some guys glanced at the fences around the track. The girls stood there, booshwashing, hands pressing hats to heads and hats pressing shadows over sweet smiles.

I rarely looked that way. When I ran, I ran. And ahead of me, like clockwork, were Lindsay and Sander.

Lindsay laughed when he ran. Lindsay always laughed, waving and winking at the girls and still having enough time to whip me soundly across the line. He always did, even for warm-ups. It’s like he has to do it, and then laugh at me.

Sander destroyed both of us. Always. The three of us stumbled over the finish line, me gasping, Lindsay laughing and flailing, Sander grinning ear to ear. We linked arms over shoulders and felt each other sweat and breathe, as the rest of the team straggled over the line. Dolls clapped. Gents waved straw boater hats.

Behind us rose dusty little Homestead. And that’s when I first saw Bobby leaning over the fence, arms crossed and brow knotted under that greasy Stetson of his.

I forgot my surroundings. His hard eyes in his filthy face locked on mine. I remember I heard the incoming 5 o’clock train whistle pierce the summer blaze, and then Bobby nodded.

The pause on life snapped as Lindsay smacked my head with his own boater, freshly fetched from whatever blonde sheba he'd picked as an accessory for the month.

“Hey!” I exclaimed, and of course he laughed.

“Beat you again, Mr. Parrish.” He pumped my hand half off my arm before winking and darting off to his fluffy girl, whooping at the crowd and yelling good-natured insults to losers. Obviously, he’d forgotten we’d met for a workout, not for a legitimate competition.

I watched him go, balled up confused about the then-nameless-to-me dirty palooka who looked like he wanted to shoot me. Lindsay ran hither and thither, dragging his date behind him, one blazer sleeve on and his hat askew. Lindsay’s so energetic he probably makes life tired. Sander shook his head at us both.

But then Bobby scared the bejeebers out of me by coming up from behind.

“How do, Mr. Parrish?”

Startled, I whirled on one heel. Before I could grimace at the sticky sweatiness practically rolling off his crumpled self, he stuffed a fresh letter under my nose.


I took it, avoiding the fingerprints Bobby’s thick thumbs left on the envelope. Sure enough, my name was there in fancy script.

Right then, and I don’t know why, I noticed the polished Emmie badge dangling on Bobby’s shirt. This put more stance in my shoulders and I fought the urge to smear my fingers under my nose.

“I’m McKay Parrish,” I said.

Bobby’s mouth quirked. “I know, I said that myself. Most’ve us know anyway.”

Well, isn’t he the most pleasant greaseball I ever met.

#YayYA Critique Party: Entry #12

Name: Tiara Jackson

Twitter: @Shareesay

Genre: Romantic Fantasy

Title: Morrow

35 Word Pitch: Imani, an Orphan, never thought she’d be entangled in an (illegal) inter-class romance.  After spontaneously meeting Andrew, an Achiever, she must decide what’s more important: a broken heart or some broken laws.

First 500: 
Shielding herself against the chill of the dairy section, Imani skidded her cart to a stop, and briefly considered if she’d be the one grocery shopping if she had parents. Maybe she’d be sprawled on the couch, caught up in some stupid commercial, when their van rolled into the driveway. Then her dad, with jingling keys, would yell in for her to stop being lazy and come help with the bags. She’d sigh—maybe groan—and roll her eyes. But ultimately she’d get up to help. Walking past each figure with a heavy paper bag and a snarky-early-afternoon-smile.

Something like that.

The fantasy dissolved into a dark stretch of nothingness when she recalled something a teacher had made them repeat five times over back in second grade:There’s no sense wanting what Achievers have because you will never have it.

It made sense. The ‘you’ wasn’t personal, nor was it an insult, at least from that teacher’s mouth. It was a fact. Orphans didn’t covet because it was pointless. So instead of dwelling on what she lacked, Imani edged her cart over to the cool, metal shelves popping with bright yellows and oranges and subdued whites, and picked up a bag of sliced cheddar. Tonight was macaroni night. Pressing her fingers ever so slightly into the plastic, she mouthed the price. In this life, she was mom, dad, everything.

The bag landed atop two boxes of cereal with a small smack as she whipped the cart around and started humming to herself. She’d taken two steps forward before clenching her fist and swearing emphatically. That was a little too loud.Glancing over her shoulder, she tentatively checked to see if anyone else was in the aisle, anyone close enough to get her in trouble. The old couple a few feet back didn’t even look up from their mozzarella.

I forgot to grab cantaloupes.

The last thing she wanted to do was march back across the store, but she couldn’t go back to the Andersons without everything on the list. Mrs. Anderson was a great woman (Imani wouldn’t mind having her as a mom), but she did not appreciate carelessness. Sighing, Imani thumped her fingers against the cart handle and started walking, drifting in and out of the classical music lilting from the overhead speakers. With every step, she made a game out of stepping on only the colored tiles, all the way to the produce section. Sidling up next to the overflowing cardboard bin of melons, she inhaled the fresh scent of newly showered vegetables. Propping one leg lazily on the cart, she grabbed the highest one of the scaly pile and shook it to determine the ripeness.

“Nope,” Imani popped the ‘p’ and grabbed another cantaloupe, shaking it like the maracas she’d played with in elementary school. The second one failed the test, so she squeezed it more firmly. Too hard. Tossing it back, she grabbed another one and mindlessly returned to quality testing, listening for the seeds.

#YayYA Critique Party: Entry #10

Name: Nicole Panteleakos

Genre: Contemporary

Title: By a Thread

35 Word Pitch:
Eleanor hates her brother Ezra for many things. For being smarter. Being dorky. Being her shadow. But mostly, she hates him for dying. Because it was a choice. His choice. And her fault.

First 500 Words:
The Head Doctor
She said to keep a journal. “It will make you feel better.”
So I said, “I already keep a journal.”
And she asked, “Where do you keep it?”
And I answered “None of your business.”
So I guess that’s kind of a theme with me.
But here it is.
My Journal.

Tuesday Morning
The funeral was short.
            There were a lot of people, especially people from the community that Mom said she’d never seen before and didn’t want nowhere around her baby’s last goodbye. People from the school who didn’t care enough to listen when he was still alive, but suddenly care enough to come sit in the pews and cry and pray and act like they wish they could’ve done more to help.
            Shut up.

Thursday Afternoon
My father finally showed up.
            Like Mom says, “Too little, too late.”

I didn’t bother to get out of bed.
            Neither did Mom.

I still didn’t bother to get out of bed.
            But I couldn’t sleep. Every time I closed my eyes I’d relive that last day.

That Last Day
            “Do you ever think about what it would be like?” he’d asked.
            “What what would be like?” I wasn’t in the mood for one of his downer conversations. I was taking this quiz in a magazine I borrowed from Alexis.Who’s Your Rocker Soul Mate? I was hoping to score Nick Tristan, lead guitar from Broken Dream, because they’re the hottest band ever.
            “Death,” he said. “Dying. I wonder if it would hurt, or if it’s peaceful.”
            I rolled my eyes. “I guess it depends on whether you kick it in your sleep or catch on fire when you’re awake.”          
            “I won’t catch on fire,” he said. “But I don’t think I’ll be sleeping either.”
            “Whatever.” I went back to my magazine.  
            I should have been paying attention.

I didn’t feel like going back to school.
So I stayed home.

 More of the same.

Memorial Day
Aunt Cammie and Uncle Brent threw a barbeque.
Cammie showed up early to pick me up and drag me there. 
I got back in bed and pulled the covers over my head.
            “She shouldn’t spend all her time cooped up in her room.” I heard Aunt Cammie tell Mom from my spot on my bed. “It’s not healthy. She’ll get depressed.”
            “We’re all depressed,” Mom answered.
            But Aunt Cammie refused to take no for an answer.
            That’s why I found myself in the backseat of Uncle Brent’s car on my way to their house in the nice part of town while Mom stayed home alone, cooped up in her room, depressed.
            It was a miserable day. Overcast and ugly. Not ideal Memorial Day BBQ weather. But it wasn’t raining, so Uncle Brent and the other men made a big show of going out to fire up the grill, because nothing says “Honoring Our Troops” like slightly undercooked hamburgers and char-broiled hotdogs.

#YayYA Critique Party: Entry #7

Name: Roxanne Lambie

Genre: Sci-Fi/Romance

Title: Quantum

35-Word pitch: 

16 year-old Willow can be in two places at once, but she doesn't know it. With a fated love and a terminally ill mom, she risks losing memories from both sides that are irreplaceable.

First 500: 

   “More right rudder Willow!” Paul yelled.
   “Ok.” My response was quiet, but only because I was gritting my teeth. I wanted to yell back at him. I hadn't been this frustrated while flying since I had switched flight instructors early on in my training. Paul was usually much more patient with me. I tried to shake it off. I’d deal with that later. I needed to do this right. Today had been a crap day. I hadn't done any of my maneuvers to standard. I really needed to redeem myself.
   I pushed harder with my right foot. I pulled back on the yoke and held it there. Then I heard the airplane get quiet except for the buzz of the stall warning horn.
   Maybe another couple of seconds. Get ready for it. Just when I expected it, the airplane quit flying and the nose fell toward the horizon. I pushed the power in all the way but I didn't apply forward pressure on the yoke quick enough.
   The airplane stalled again. This time it was much more abrupt and I hadn't been ready. The left wing dropped immediately. I had never had it snap that hard. I froze for a second. Then I pulled myself together and remembered what to do.
   Don’t use the ailerons. Right rudder. Ball in the center. Get the airplane flying again.
   Within a minute the airplane was flying straight and level again, but I had totally botched the stall.
   I breathed out a long sigh. I wiped my sweaty palms on my jeans and shook my head. “Sorry,” I said as I looked over at Paul.
   He looked exhausted. “We need to do that again. You really should have these stalls down by now,” he seemed more calm but I could still hear the irritation in his voice and I wasn't surprised. I couldn't seem to get it together today.
   “You know what?” I asked. “I think I need to call it a day. My head isn't in the game anymore. I’m too frustrated to do it right. You don’t seem happy either.”
   I wanted him to know that I had noticed his volume and tone earlier and it wasn't helping.
   Paul nodded in agreement. “I’m sorry I got so upset. Maybe you’re right. Maybe we both need a break. Let’s head back.”
   The short flight back to El Paso was quiet except for the necessary radio calls. We were on the ground and taxiing in before I knew it. The sun had started its decent toward the mountains that would make it disappear for the night. The heat was almost unbearable so I opened the window and let some air in. The fresh air and the fact that we were on the ground was making me feel better all ready. I was mentally exhausted though so I knew I had made the right decision by calling it quits for the day. 

#YayYA Critique Party: Entry #5

Name: Molly Cluff
Genre: Contemporary
Title: House of Murals

35-word pitch: Starving for close relationships after her stepbrother’s death, CIMBER must determine if the students at her aunt’s art school can offer her genuine friendship, or if they’re using her to suck up to their director.

First 500:

“Light cue 98, standby.”
I stood far enough away from the curtains backstage that I didn’t need to peer, but I could see Prospero center stage. He delivered his line with a crisp, practiced diction: “And deeper, than did ever plummet sound, I’ll drown my book.”
 “Light cue 98, go,” I muttered into my headset. In response, the lights deepened to an interplanetary purple, star-like points dotting the scrim.
The actors playing Alonso, Sebastian, and Ariel filed out onto the stage. With stage left mostly empty now, even in the semi-darkness, I could see that Jackson wasn’t there—and that he hadn’t moved his chess set onstage.
Probably sleeping in the dressing room again, the lazy cuss. And he needed to go onstage soon.
I buzzed out a breath, then scooted the table with the chess set myself, careful not to disturb any of the pieces. I understood that the chess set was expensive and putting glue on it would have been a horrendous sin, but moving the table when the pieces weren’t secured down was like trying to make a house of cards on a raft out at sea.
Jackson rushed in from the hall, throwing on his velvet costume jacket. Noticing me hefting his set piece, he stepped in to lift from the other side. “Sorry, it won’t happen again,” he said.
Well, yeah, I thought, giving a humored eye-roll, happy closing night.
“Thanks, Cymbeline.”
            My name was actually Cimber, but the fun part of being in a high school Shakespeare troupe is that they come up with killer nicknames. Although, Cymbeline was a guy.
I thought the nickname was great. Normally the actors referred to me by it just when talking to each other—but this was the first time I’d heard it actually directed to me. Actors hardly ever spoke to me directly anyway. I lived on the outskirts of their gaggle, because between my marking tardies and shushing everyone backstage, being Stage Manager basically made me an eighteen year old killjoy.
            I loved it.
            Finished placing the table, I paced back to my post, and noticed an actress crouching, examining her lower leg.
            I was about to tell her, “Stay on deck for your entrance, Eva,” but instead said, “Oh my gosh” when I noticed the fat line of blood stretching from her knee to ankle.
            “I cut myself walking through the scene shop.”
            “Don’t let it get on your costume.” I bent down to hold the end of her knee-length vest away from the blood. “Jackson,” I said, “Get us a bandaid.”
            “Is there time?”
            I listened. Over the sound system, I heard Prospero deliver his line: “I do forgive they rankest fault . . .”
            The progression of the script blazed before my mind; I could even envision where the lines fell on the page. Alonso and Prospero both have more lines before Jackson’s entrance. And Prospero has a long bit of monologue.
“We have time,” I told Jackson.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

#YayYA Critique Party: Entry #2

Name: Cayla Norseman

Genre: Fantasy

Title: Dragons In Our Hearts

35 word pitch: Tangled/X-men: Awkward inventor Perrien, possessed by a dragon, and three similarly cursed teens are exiled to wastelands. He has to find a cure before his curse forces him to destroy his friends and family.

You cannot avoid it.
Perrien tugged a huge clump of the ground, feeling it crumple through his fingers, and threw it away behind him aimlessly.
You were wrong.
He ignored his own thoughts and looked up, squinting in the sunlight streaming overhead through the trees and leaves. Perrien let out a deep breath.
He didn’t want to believe it, even though it was the truth.
Three scars that buried deep into and stretched across his face, from his forehead down his left eyelid and down his cheek told him the truth. Just as his eyes had.
Perrien automatically rubbed his eyes and let out a sigh, blinking out the dirt that came off his fingers and snuck in.
It was their fault he was too afraid to show up at his dad’s celebration ceremony. His dad had been elected the Baron of Grotesque by King Lidane and now the entire city was at the city hall, celebrating and feasting.
Except for Perrien. Normally, he would’ve gone. Until last night, when everything fell apart for him.
Perrien’s family had celebrated his dad’s election with a special dinner after the news was announced. He'd been the most excited.
He had seen the election as a chance to become special and important, and most of all, have a group of friends, like everyone else his age. He had always been looked down on by everyone, except his parents, considered the punching bag for his school peers.
But last night, he had dreamed he had been eaten alive from the inside out by a dragon and woke up with the three huge scars covering his face and weird eyes. The weird eyes… that were not his.
Something was now dwelling inside him.
Perrien shivered and hugged his knee, digging his face into them.
He had always kind of known since he turned sixteen and weird things began happening to him. Along with after the time his hands suddenly grew long black claws and scarlet scales as he broke out into an unexpected fit after ranting to his mother about the bullying peers.
For six months, he tried to find ways to explain the event with theories and gave excuses to his ‘friends’ for his anger boiling quicker every time someone ticked him off. He also spent hours trying to convince himself the exact same excuses.
But then, he woke up with the scars and eyes, which he could see through but didn’t belong to him.
Perrien tugged out more grass and tossed it over his shoulder.
He had escaped his parents and school peers from finding out and seeing the strange, cursed looking eyes, hiding in the forest behind his old school building, and avoiding his dad’s ceremony.
So far, it seemed no one had gone out to find him.
“Now,” Perrien told himself, on the thought. “I just have to avoid being elected as the hero of the city.” He tossed more grass behind him, getting some of it in his hair.

#YayYA Critique Party Schedule and Guidelines

Yay! It's time for a critique party! The sub window opens Thursday, April 30th, 9am to 6pm EST, or until the twenty slots fill up.

If you haven't seen the entrance guidelines yet, find them HERE. Failure to follow guidelines will result in deletion without notification.

All entrants will be notified if they made it in. Those who make it in will be given their entry's number.

After the sub window closes, entries will be posted on my blog, and links to the entries will be posted at the bottom of this post on Friday, May 1st.


1. The first critique round will be open from Friday, May 1st until 1pm, Friday, May 8th. There will be a revision round afterward from Saturday, May 9th to Wednesday, May 13th.

2. Entrants must critique the first five entries before and below their number. So, if you are entry #6, you will critique entries #1-5 and then #7-11. If you are entry #1, then critique #16-20 and #2-6, etc. Feel free to critique more! And if you are simply a spectator dropping by, feel free to leave your two cents! I already have some awesome tweeps who have offered to add their comments.

3. When you critique, always say something positive about the writer's work! No bashing, rude remarks, or "getting back" for criticism you might receive. Note: the comments will be unmoderated. Therefore, please do not use profanity, as I have a large MG-age blog audience. Foul comments will be deleted without exception.

If you have any questions about the rules, feel free to ask!

Now here's the fun part! We'll be hanging out on Twitter throughout the week using the #YayYA hashtag. Since it's a party, we'll have fun questions to answer throughout! Feel free to participate whether you enter or not.

Thursday, April 30th: What is your MC's favorite book? #MCfavbook

Friday, May 1st: What's one of your antagonist's quirks? #antagquirk

Saturday, May 2nd: If your book was a film, who would direct? Who would be in the cast? #myYAmovie

Sunday, May 3rd: Day off.

Monday, May 4th: Happy Star Wars Day! Who's your favorite Star Wars character? #SWcharacter

Tuesday, May 5th: Share a line from page 100 of your MS. #pg100

Wednesday, May 6th: What's your favorite scene in your novel? #favscene

Thursday, May 7th: What are your comp titles? #comptitles

Friday, May 8th: Yay! It's Friday! What would your MC do on a Friday?

Saturday, May 9th: Time for revisions! Share a line from page 55 of your MS. #pg55

From Saturday until the contests closes, feel free to come up with your own questions for each other! :D

Yay! Let's party! :D


Entry #1

Entry #2

Entry #3

Entry #4

Entry #5

Entry #6

Entry #7

Entry #8

Entry #9

Entry #10

Entry #11

Entry #12

Entry #13

Entry #14

Entry #15

Entry #16


Entry #1

Entry #3

Entry #4

Entry #6 

Entry #8

Entry #9

Entry #11

Entry #13 

Entry #15

Monday, April 27, 2015

500 Followers YA Critique Party!

Yay! 500 followers on Twitter and 5,000 blog hits!

As promised, I'll be hosting a YA critique party! This is a great opportunity to polish up before #QueryKombat and #PitchWars.

What is a critique party?

A critique party is where writers submit a sample of their work and then critique each others' entries.

In this critique party, entrants will email me their submissions during the entry window. The first twenty subs will make it in. Once the submission window is closed, or the slots fill up, I will respond to you to confirm that you made it in! Afterward, I will post entries on my blog, and you will get the opportunity to critique your fellow entrants and get feedback on your own work.

Here's what you need to enter:

1. 500 words from your YA manuscript. Your MS can be finished. It can be unfinished.

2. Follow me on Twitter (@whatshewrote). This is where all conversation about the party will take place, with the hashtag #YayYA. You can still enter if you don't have Twitter, but I won't be able to contact you on updates.

3. Follow my blog. If the follow button doesn't work, then don't worry too much about this rule. You will still make it in if the follow button decides to reject you. It doesn't like me either and I'm working on fixing it :D (UPDATE: I've been told by different people that my follow button isn't working. If it doesn't work for you, then go ahead and skip this. I'm trying to work it out and it isn't, but hopefully it will be resolved soon :) )
Here's how to enter:

1. On THURSDAY, April 30th, the submission window will be open from 9AM to 6PM EST (or until the slots fill up)!

2. In the subject line, put YayYA: Genre/TITLE

3. In the body of the email, list your name (you can use a pen name for this), Twitter handle (if applicable),  genre, and title. Below, paste your 35-word pitch to give your fellow critters background, and your first 500 words (keep it at 500 words. If your last sentence makes it 505 or 529, cut that sentence and keep it under 500.) If you do not follow the guidelines, I'm afraid I'll have to delete your entry. You're welcome to re-sub as soon as you notify me, but if you miss the slot or the window, I won't be able to give it back, sorry.


Subject line: YayYA: Historical Fantasy/THE RED AND THE SCARLET

Body of email:

Name: Rachel Stevenson

Genre: Historical Fantasy

Title: The Red and the Scarlet

35-Word pitch: Les Miserables/Mulan: Eighteen-year-old bounty hunter Fyr's chasing down the politician who helped massacre her race. When she discovers a magical army's plot to invade their nation, she must choose: warn her people or get her vengeance.

First 500: Fyr stood under spinning snow, book and dozing brother in hand.... etc.


I have a large blog audience of great young readers in the MG age group. Because of this, I ask most respectfully that if there is any language in your first 500 words, please can it. Keep your entry PG, or I will have to either can your language for you or delete your entry without explanation. 

Once the entries are in, I'll post the critique guidelines.

If this party is successful, I may host an MG equivalent in the future :D

Can't wait to see your entries! :D See you soon!

500 Followers Critique Giveaway!

Yay! Thanks to you awesome readers, I've gained 500 followers on Twitter and 5,000 hits on this blog!

As promised, I'm hosting a giveaway. Entrants will have a chance to be randomly selected for one of FIVE first three chapter critiques. Your MS doesn't have to be complete or polished, you just need to have three chapters :D

All you have to do is comment on this post. Give me your title, age category and genre (note: YA is an age category, not a genre. Fantasy is a genre, not an age category), and then your Twitter handle. After that, tweet about the contest to spread the word. I recommend following me (@whatshewrote) if you want to win. It'll make it easier for me to find you.

Winners will be announced/contacted on Saturday, May 2nd.

Note: No NA or Adult with adult content, thank you. All picture books (send your full MS if you win), all chapter books, all MG, all YA, and clean Adult in the fantasy, sci-fi, and historical genres are welcome.

Well, let's go! Can't wait to see your chapters :D



PS. If you don't get selected, and you write YA, I'll be hosting a critique party very soon! See details HERE.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Newbery Review: The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (1979 Medal Winner)

Ah, The Westing Game. I first read this short read, one of my favorites to this day, in seventh grade. When I went for standardized testing in eighth grade, it was recommended to we who were being tested to bring a book to read on breaks. I think there were at least six out of fifteen of us who had brought different editions of The Westing Game, compact, black, and decorated with chess pieces. Of course this led to laughs and a book discussion, where we all came to the same conclusion:

Ellen Raskin must've been some sort of wizard to write this story.

I still wonder that today, to be honest.

In The Westing Game, sixteen mismatched and unlikely heirs are selected and roped into renting at Sam Westing's Sunset Towers apartments. While there, they discover Sam Westing's will, which cannot be unlocked unless the heirs solve a puzzle based on America the Beautiful, together.

My favorite part of The Westing Game, and many of my fellow fans agree with me on this, is the characterization. The leading cast is massive, considering not only the sixteen heirs but also their families, with each of the characters getting a relatively equal share of page time. It isn't until later in the story that it becomes obvious that Turtle is the main character. Ms. Raskin was ahead of her times with her characters, as well. Her cast's diversity in race, situation, and especially personality is presented flawlessly and without politics.

Also, the plot is full of twists and unexpected turns. I understand this is the case because Ms. Raskin was a pantser (someone who sits down and writes as opposed to plotting the story out) when it came to writing her stories. As far as I'm concerned, pantsing a mystery is a gutsy thing to do, and she pulls it off, stretching your brain but not breaking it with Westing's puzzles. You do have to look twice towards the ending to grasp the entire concept, as Ms. Raskin won't spoonfeed her readers the answers to the questions she created.

Therefore, in a lot of ways The Westing Game is the perfect read for smart middle schoolers and junior high-ers like the kids I met at standardized test. Turtle is the only character under high school age in the entire book, but nevertheless, Ms. Raskin doesn't talk down to her readers. As another reviewer put it (I'm paraphrasing), "Most people write for the kid inside the adult. She writes for the adult inside the kid."

And that couldn't be more accurate.

Rating: Five stars

Recommended reading age: 12+

Favorite character: Chris

Content for parents: someone sets off bombs, possibilities as to how Sam Westing was murdered are speculated, it is suggested a background character committed suicide.

For more Marvelous Middle Grade Reviews, visit Shannon's blog here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

500 Followers?? Time for a Giveaway and a Party!!

Hi readers!

Guess what?

I almost have 500 followers on Twitter, and 5,000 hits on my blog!

That means you all are awesome!! :D And I would like to say thank you by hosting both a giveaway and a YA critique party! So go follow me on Twitter, follow my blog, check out my posts, and when I hit 500 followers and 5,000 hits, we'll celebrate!

Here's the details:


After the goal is reached, I will have a separate post on which you can comment. Commenters will be entered into a draw to win one of five first three chapters critiques by yours truly!


Also after the goal is reached, I will have another post where I will post further details on the critique party. Basically, during a short time window, you will send in the first 500 words of your YA novel. I'll post each entry, and fellow entrants will give you their thoughts on your work. Your MS DOES NOT have to be complete and finished to enter. If you have 500 words of YA, you can enter! 

Sound good? Good! See you then! Please share... it's time to party because you're awesome! :D



Monday, April 20, 2015

Newbery Review: Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze by Elizabeth Lewis (1933 Medal Winner)

Young Fu was another one of those Newbery medal winners I had never heard of prior to picking it up, but afterwards was surprised I hadn't.

Living in turbulent and morphing 1920s China, thirteen-year-old Young Fu is employed as an apprentice to a talented coppersmith. As a novice, he soon learns he has to fight his way to the top as an aspiring artisan, through the steps and stairs of Chinese tradition, while in the background his country struggles with Western influence.

This latter aspect is what has dropped Young Fu off most recommendation lists. Most negative reviewers will tell you that the book was obviously written by a Westerner, as the sporadic Western characters mentioned in Young Fu are all sympathetic, and those against Western ideals are unsympathetic and often labeled as foolish.

While this is true in some ways, I found the book barely focused on political correctness, and because of that I didn't have as much of an issue with it as some others. The main character does briefly experience both sides of the Western influence, and over time concludes, while they are strange, that he admires some aspects of Western civilization. But this is thrown much in the shadow of Young Fu's personal development and experiences.

The best way I can describe this novel, which due to reading level and the main character's age is probably better qualified as a Young Adult historical, is  Chinese Johnny Tremain. There's a number of big similarities: the main character is an arrogant teenager who works metal and argues with his pranking co-apprentices, and over time becomes humbler and heroic. The story is episodic, the setting is emphasized, and the political upheaval is hidden behind the veil of personal development and relationships over several years (the main character is 18-years-old by the close of the story, which is a longer time frame than Johnny Tremain, but the flow of time and narrative is similar).

As a big Johnny Tremain fan, I enjoyed Young Fu a lot. It does get a little long in places, but as a sucker for unusual historical settings, I didn't mind in the least.

Rating: Four stars 

Favorite Character: Lu

Favorite quote: "No task which a man puts his heart into is too bad. For the lazy, all work is difficult."

Recommended age: advanced 10+ (this is more YA due to narrative level and the character's age than content/topic/themes)

Content level for parents: Robbers attack a child, different characters steal (but later confess and apologize), a building burns, skirmishes are elaborated on by word of mouth

For more Marvelous Middle Grade reviews, check out Shannon's blog here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Dialogue 101: Secrets to Writing Accents, Part Two

So before a rather long hiatus, I had posted part one of Secrets to Writing Accents, in which we covered ways to research accents before writing them into a story. Of course, I had promised to post part two the next week, and obviously that didn't happen, my apologies!

Without further ado, here is part two!

Today, we look at just how much brogue/twang/drawl/slang to allow in your paragraphs.

Have you ever read a book where you couldn't understand a thing a character said because the author wrote too much of their accent into their dialogue? Did your eyes trip over the apostrophes and deliberate misspellings and unexplained colloquialisms? You probably answered yes.

Since, as writers, we want to write books that we would want to read, let's keep that incident in mind and write just enough accent in our dialogue to get it across, without sending your readers sprawling in confusion over dialect. Remember: your readers shouldn't ever have to pause or look back on the last paragraph to make sense of something in your story, especially dialogue.

That being the case, handle accents incrementally. But what does that mean?

Well, first, consider your POV character. If the characters in a scene are all from the same region as she is, she won't notice their accents. However, if she's a New Yorker and the man she just met and is talking to is a Texan, she's likely to notice his accent is different. But if she's known this Texan for a while, his accent will become less noticeable to her over time, with the exception of the occasional colloquialism. Considering this, write his dialogue according to her POV.

This applies not only to first person POV but even third person, unless omniscient third. I say this out of experience. When I was writing my Celtic Urban Fantasy The Shards of Tara, my South Carolinian main character Sean was thrown into a situation where he was the lone American with a troop of Irish and a few Scots, who continue as supporting characters throughout the series. At first, Sean felt bombarded by their accents, and I allowed their dialect to be prominent in their conversation (insofar as it wasn't strangling the prose!), but as the story progressed and Sean got used to their lilts, I turned down the dialectical writing to a minimum. Had someone picked the book up and read a passage towards the end, they might not know these characters were Irish and Scottish except for their word choice, as opposed to dialectical writing.

For the sake of visual example, here's two quotes from the aforementioned MS, both spoken by the same Scottish character. The first one is upon Sean's introduction to him, and the second, later on when they're known each other for a few months.

1. “Don’t you fret, I’m in the cercle, ye might say. Yer leprechaun friend, Bran, I know him. Once ye finish here with Lady Scathach, ye’ll be coming with me. But not another word to the lads, yeah?” 

2. "Something drastic will happen and change their minds for you, you know? It's pathetically convenient how that happens with conflicts here."

In another WIP of mine (this one co-authored), in a reverse of the situation above, the MC Ruby is a Londoner. When she falls in with Americans, she has to adjust to their own varied accents in the same way, especially as a fighter pilot and talking over radio systems to them.

The point of this incremental method is just a small way to achieve deeper POV, whether in first or third person, and also to keep your readers from having to look twice at dialectical writing.

At the same time, though, accents can be used for comic relief. One of my favorite scenes in War and Peace was when the Russian soldiers transporting French prisoners allowed some of the French to join them around their campfire. Since the French soldiers couldn't handle even a little of the Russians' vodka, the Russians  had some fun and had the French sing Russian folk songs. Of course, the French botched the Russian pronunciation, much to the soldiers' (and my own) amusement. Tolstoy often uses accents as comic relief, between Napoleon's own pompous mispronunciations to Denisov's lisp.

Accents, like all writing tools, should be used cleverly and with moderation. What accents and dialects are featured in your stories?