Blog Tour: Firebrand by A.J. Hartley + GIVEAWAY

I am glad to say that I am joining Jean Book Nerd for this Blog Tour of Firebrand.   I enjoyed both of these books, and you will find my reviews of both  at the end of the promo and BEFORE the link for the giveaway!

Firebrand

Synopsis 
 

New York Times bestselling author A. J. Hartley returns to his intriguing, 19th-century South African-inspired fantasy world in another adrenaline-pounding adventure

Once a steeplejack, Anglet Sutonga is used to scaling the heights of Bar-Selehm. Nowadays she assists politician Josiah Willinghouse behind the scenes of Parliament. The latest threat to the city-state: Government plans for a secret weapon are stolen and feared to be sold to the rival nation of Grappoli. The investigation leads right to the doorsteps of Elitus, one of the most exclusive social clubs in the city. In order to catch the thief, Ang must pretend to be a foreign princess and infiltrate Elitus. But Ang is far from royal material, so Willinghouse enlists help from the exacting Madam Nahreem.

Yet Ang has other things on her mind. Refugees are trickling into the city, fleeing Grappoli-fueled conflicts in the north. A demagogue in Parliament is proposing extreme measures to get rid of them, and she soon discovers that one theft could spark a conflagration of conspiracy that threatens the most vulnerable of Bar-Selehm. Unless she can stop it.

 
Praise for FIREBRAND

Hartley creates a world so analogous to our ownit hardly seems like a fantasy….Anglet has blossomed in this sequel, releasing her previously restrained sharp tongue and expanding her emotional range. Even as she learnsto put on a neutral face to be a more effective spy, her empathy for those whoare suffering and her relentless search for the truth are her most laudable attributes. Readers who come for the tightly plotted mystery will stay for the heroine who does all she can to resist.” ― Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“The well-crafted adventures of this feisty, diverse protagonist continue in thisworthy sequel to Steeplejack (2016), evoking Sherlock Holmes with its Victorian-esquesetting, and James Bond in its espionage-laced plot. Hartley has composed another electrifying fantasy that buzzeswith intrigue and timely political and social issues, making this a must-have additionto any collection.” ― Booklist, starred review

“Expertly written, never preaching or pointing fingers, but subtly applying pressure toexamine race issues, gender inequalities, microaggressions, and socio-economicproblems in our culture…. Teens will see themselves in the tough, realistic, and fierce yet vulnerable protagonist. The multicultural worldbuilding will draw in readers of many ages and backgrounds, while the well-crafted mystery and action will keep them wanting more….A delightful follow-up to the explosive first novel from an established author who clearly knows his craft.” ―VOYA

Hartley‘s story succeeds in building a detailed world of bothfamiliar (charging hippos) and unfamiliar (a precious mineral, luxorite, usedby the rich) elements while also tackling a wide range of complicated social issues….Most impressive is the genre-blending; the author adeptlymerges a political thriller with action, adventure, and mystery. Will have strong appeal to a wide range of readers, particularly those looking for complex novels that reflect a diverse world.”―School Library Journal

Praise for STEEPLEJACK

“A richly realized world, an intensely likable character, and a mystery to die for.” ―Cory Doctorow, New York Times-bestselling author

“A thought-provoking blend of action and intrigue, with a competent and ethical heroine in Ang and a fully imagined setting whose atmosphere and cultural cues also play important roles. The result is an unforgettable page-turner built on surprises and full of potential.”―Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Skillful writing, masterful pacing, and a capable and quite likable female detective are just a few of the things to love about this fantasy-adventure….In addition to the detective angle, Hartley thoughtfully explores issues such as race relations, both inter- and intra-racial, as Anglet deals with the censure of her own community, and class issues, as she attempts to work outside the political system to solve the murder. This one won’t stay on the shelf for long.” ―Booklist, starred review

“Smart political intrigue wrapped in all the twists and turns of a good detective story makes for a rip-roaring series opener.” ― Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“With its unique South African-inspired setting, richly-drawn and diverse cast of characters, and unstoppable plot, readers of any age won’t be able to put Steeplejack down!” ―Carrie Ryan, New York Times bestselling author

“With Steeplejack, A.J. Hartley introduces a dynamic, complex and likeable new heroine who combines wits, skill and courage to face deadly challenges in an exotic world. Teens and adults will love this book and want more, more, more!” ―Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of Rot & Ruin and The Orphan Army.

“A.J. Hartley has created an exquisite, explosive, nail-biting, tear-rousing masterpiece, in a world so realistic it might be right around the corner.” ―Faith Hunter, New York Times bestselling author

“What a world Hartley has created! Enough twists and surprises to keep the pages turning long into the night.” ―R.L. Stine

“A unique epic adventure set in a richly imagined world; lush, exotic and masterfully written. It’s Sherlock Holmes, Oliver Twist, and Indiana Jones rolled into one.” ―Lissa Price, internationally bestselling author of Starters and Enders

“Smart and socially-aware, this fabulous debut adds to the growing library of multicultural fantasy and is a loudly resounding success.” ―Nisi Shawl, Tiptree Award-winning author of Everfair

“With Steeplejack, A.J. Hartley creates a world as complex as its heroine, and a mystery that spans class, race and geography. You can feel the grit and glory of Bar-Selehm, a many-spired city teetering on the edge of the savannah, and the verge of war. The perfect setting for a street-smart young woman who is caught between three cultures, yet refuses to be trapped by them.” ―Sherri L. Smith, award-winning author of Flygirls and Orleans

Hartley has created a world so gritty and real I could taste the soot.” ―Maurice Broaddus, author of the Knights of Breton Court trilogy

“Steeplejack combines a lively and intelligent plot with an intriguing and well-drawn world, and caps all this goodness with a determined and indefatigable heroine.” ―Kate Elliott, author of Court of Fives and Black Wolves

“A rich, atmospheric tale of adventure, morality and consequence, Steeplejack will linger with you long after you read the last page.” ―Kady Cross, author of the Steampunk Chronicles and Sisters of Blood and Spirit series

“Elegant prose, a cracking good mystery, lots of action, and characters to fall in love with and root for. I read it cover to cover in no time at all. In fact, I did so twice! And I was on the edge of my seat both times.” ―D.B. Jackson, author of the Thieftaker series

“I was completely hooked from page one. Ang is a hero to cheer for heart and soul. A thrilling, clever, meaningful read.” ―Leanna Renee Hieber, award-winning author of Strangely Beautiful and The Eterna Files

“An exquisitely built mystery set in a lush, vibrant world. I was loath to leave Ang and Bar-Selehm behind at the end of it. Definitely a book to be revisited again and again.” ―Kat Zhang, author of What’s Left of Me

A.J. Hartley
 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
 
Author A.J. Hartley is the bestselling writer of mystery/thriller, fantasy, historical fiction, and young adult novels.

He was born in northern England, but has lived in many places including Japan, and is currently the Robinson Professor of Shakespeare studies at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, where he specializes in the performance history, theory and criticism of Renaissance English drama, and works as a director and dramaturg.

He has more hobbies than is good for anyone, all of which you can learn more about by friending him (odious word) on Facebook, by following his blog and by checking in on the What’s Going On blog page. He is represented by Stacey Glick of Dystel and Goderich Literary Management for books, and by Eddie Gamarra of the Gotham Group for film and television. And check out A.J.’s Amazon author page.

Photo Credit: Wade Bruton

Firebrand

Firebrand by A.J. Hartley

Alternative Detective #2

June 6, 2017 – Tor Teen

4 Stars

I was given a copy of this title, free, in exchange for my honest opinion.

Anglet is back with another mystery. This time she is chasing after a thief that stole the plans for a secret weapon. In the midst of this mysterious theft Bar-Selehm is going through their own refugee crisis. This mystery takes Ang deeper into the social elite of Bar-Selehm, places that even her benefactor cannot go. She must learn to become, not just pretend, that she is someone other than herself. The deeper that the mystery takes Ang, the more intertwined the events between the refugees and the theft becomes. Ang finds that her wit, connections and sheer determination is not enough for this case. She must become something that is foreign to herself, and she realizes that this is not easily done.

I enjoyed book #2 in this series a slightly bit better than the first. In the first installment, there were things that often pulled me out of the story, either by not being completely necessary for the story at hand or the blur between the familiar and the unknown. These elements were not present in this book. While the various races and cultures are constantly talked about in this one, the mystery is tied directly to the case that Ang is working on.  The political climate is charged and tense because no one can agree on what the right response to the surge of refugees flooding their shores. The timeliness of this mystery works very much in its favor.

I like the changes that are happening to Ang. She is growing as a character. She has been kicked out of the Drowning, not being the type of Lani that belongs there. She is no longer part of the Seventh Street gang, even after the leader who tormented and attempted to rape her is gone.  Though she is still dependent on the skills learned and perfected, she is also no longer a steeplejack. But she is so much more than all these things, and she has always been more. This is the time where she is learning this for herself.  She is not very good at staying in her place because she is so much bigger than the place that’s been allotted to her. We are also able to see how her friendships grow deeper as she goes about this mystery, a few of them turning into a newfound family.

Again. Hartley fills his book with a lot of things that are going on. Initially, they appear to be separate things but as the mystery unravels the connections are uncovered. I am not sure how long this series is supposed to be, but I’m going to see it through.

Giveaway is open to International. | Must be 13+ to Enter

– 2 Winners will receive a Set Copy of the Alternative Detective Series, Steeplejack and Firebrand by A.J. Hartley.
Check out my previous post to read my thoughts about Steeplejack!
Always Shine!

Review: The Hound at the Gate by Darby Karchut

The Hound at the Gate (The Adventures of Finn MacCullen, #3)

The Hound At the Gate by Darby Karchut

The Adventures of Finn MacCullen #3

January 13, 2015 – Spencer Hill Press

272 Pages -Young Adult, Middle Grade, Fantasy, Fiction

http://www.darbykarchut.com

Source: The author

A copy of this book was given to me, free, in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Goodreads: Autumn: the season of endings. And beginnings.
Especially for one young apprentice.
At the annual Festival of the Hunt, thirteen-year-old apprentice goblin hunter Finn MacCullen and his master, Gideon Lir, join other Tuatha De Danaan to honor their people’s heritage. But Finn soon realizes that there are some who denounce his right to attend due to his half-human bloodline.
As he struggles to keep his place by his master’s side, he finds himself embroiled in a decades-old grudge between Gideon and another Knight, bewildered (and beguiled) by a female apprentice with a temper as explosive as his own, and battling a pack of goblins determined to wipe out the entire camp in a surprise attack.
It’s going to take some fancy knife work, the help of a female Knight with a lethal bow, and one old pick up truck to defeat the goblins and prove to his people that Finn’s blood runs true-blue Tuatha De Danaan.

My Thoughts:

What can I say? I am in love with Finn, he is like the little brother that I didn’t know I always wanted. Again, I am really impressed with Darby, and she has proved once again why I say she is a D.E.A.R. author. But I don’t want to spend too much time on her, just take my word for it, she is awesome.

This is the third book in the series, and there is so much that I like about it. First it is rich with Celtic tradition and mythology. But, more than that, it is rich with family and growth. If you are just hearing about this series, and this title let me tell you what you find. There is humor and sarcasm, Finn and Gideon are such a pair, and I have to remind myself that they have not always been together. Lochlan and Finn run into the same trouble that young boys often do. There’s fighting-lots of fighting. I wish that the fight between Gideon and Tully had not been cut short, maybe that would have prevented the damaged he caused at the end, but probably not. The Amandan are out in bold numbers, and trying new and bolder moves. They have gotten stronger, forcing the knights to remind the creatures why the knights should be feared.  The festival brings them all together and introduces us to a few new characters, and I am looking forward to seeing more of them.

For those who have read the first two books and want to know what’s different in this book–There is a good side to Martin O’Neill. I think I spent most of my time like Lochlan, not really liking Martin (Lochlan’s dad) but also not completely understanding him. It may take forever but in the end Martin redeems himself a bit, and things happen (another character’s insight) that makes me understand his nature. I hope that this continues into the next book, so we can see more.

On the flip side, Ennis, Finn’s cousin, also shows  progress. While, I can’t say having a horrible master is an excuse for such bitterness, I am avid believer in we manifest in us whatever is encouraged and cajoled out of us. Ennis is an example of that. But, events that happen at the festival shows me two things. Ennis is really a strong leader, when given the opportunity and he would shine on the light side if he was an apprentice to a master that didn’t feed his negative side so much.

Finn. My boyo, also has some growth in this adventure. He is turning out to be such a swell lad. Even though I have never been a Tween boy, I remember what it was like in middle school and how everything seems to be changing so fast and in ways that leaves you spinning in confusion. I think that this transition is captured accurately with Finn, and that makes him a hero that boys can relate to.

Finn and Gideon’s relationship is tested in this book. The bond between them is growing, and you can see this not just at the end when they be separated, but throughout the whole book.

5 stars *****

I cannot stress this enough, if you have not started this series you must! If you have a boy that is middle school aged-he will love this series. If you are a middle school teacher, this book is definitely a must have for your classroom library.

Sadly, we must wait another year for the final book in the series. Darby, if you are reading this, I want you to know that when I told Henry that we wouldn’t be able to get the next book until next year he started crying. He flailed his arms and kicked his feet in protest. He was none too happy about that.

Always Shine!

Blog Tour and Guest Post: The Hound at the Gate by Darby Karchut

Yes folks! She is back! This time Darby comes to us with The Hound at the Gate, the third book in The Adventures of Finn MacCullen series. Have you not started this series? Shame on you, Go. Read. Now. Wondering what the first two books were like? Check out  my previous reviews here.

Darby was nice enough to stop by here for a guest post, which follows the book information. Than come back later today for my review. I have to tell you that Finn has made his way into my heart just as Griffin did. ( And if you don’t know who Griffin is, then that means you need to go ahead and get your hands on Darby’s other series, which starts with Griffin Rising. Again, Go. Read. Now.)

The Hound at the Gate (The Adventures of Finn MacCullen, #3)

The Hound At the Gate by Darby Karchut

The Adventures of Finn MacCullen #3

January 13, 2015 – Spencer Hill Press

272 Pages -Young Adult, Middle Grade, Fantasy, Fiction

http://www.darbykarchut.com

Goodreads: Autumn: the season of endings. And beginnings.
Especially for one young apprentice.
At the annual Festival of the Hunt, thirteen-year-old apprentice goblin hunter Finn MacCullen and his master, Gideon Lir, join other Tuatha De Danaan to honor their people’s heritage. But Finn soon realizes that there are some who denounce his right to attend due to his half-human bloodline.
As he struggles to keep his place by his master’s side, he finds himself embroiled in a decades-old grudge between Gideon and another Knight, bewildered (and beguiled) by a female apprentice with a temper as explosive as his own, and battling a pack of goblins determined to wipe out the entire camp in a surprise attack.
It’s going to take some fancy knife work, the help of a female Knight with a lethal bow, and one old pick up truck to defeat the goblins and prove to his people that Finn’s blood runs true-blue Tuatha De Danaan.

You can’t tell me that this book doesn’t sound interesting. I know you’re resisting the urge to stop reading so you can go grab your copy. But wait, there’s a bit more. Interested in what inspired The Hound at the Gate?  Read on.

The Story behind THE HOUND AT THE GATE by Darby Karchut

For writers, inspiration often springs from a weird blend of images, obscure facts from history or current events, a random remark, and even from a verse in a song. The Hound at the Gate has such a mix.

For those of you who have read The Hound at the Gate, these references will jump right out at you. For you who haven’t yet cracked Hound’s spine, watch for these as you read:

Mountain Man Rendezvous

During the mid-1800’s, fur trappers and traders and other rugged individuals who lived in the Rocky Mountains would gather together to celebrate their way of life. Over several days or weeks, there would be all sorts of competitions, singing, feasting and drinking and trading. I took this event and shaped it into a Celtic version of a Rendezvous and renamed it The Festival of the Hunt.

Hurling

The official sport of Ireland. The perfect sport to play at the Tuatha De Danaan’s Festival. Plus, it gave me a reason for Gideon to take off his shirt. You’re welcome.

The Legend of Cúchulain

Cúchulain, often called the Celtic Achilles, was a young, but formidable warrior of Bronze Age Irish mythology. While his birth name was Sétanta, he earned the name Cúchulain from a curious incident. He accidentally killed the guard dog of a local chieftain named Cullen. In payment, he offered to stand guard at the gates of Cullen’s fortress. Others then began calling him “Cullen’s Hound.” In Gaelic, it is Cú Chulain—the hound that guards the gate.

Curiously, young Cúchulain was also taken away, in his late teens, to be trained by warrior-goddess, one of them being the Scáthach.

Roles of Chieftains and Kings

Bronze Age Ireland was more of a tribal society, as opposed to have a central authority figure. While clans had their own leaders, and several clans might be under the rule of a chieftain, it was rare to have a king over all the clans. The High King, Brian Boru (who was a real person) was one such king, although he does not figure in Hound. (It was from the history of Brian Boru that the idea for a parallel series to the Finn MacCullen books was born. Thus: The Stag Lord and Unholy Blue. Bonus point for me to pimping my other series).

Boudica

The scene with the pick up truck was inspired by Boudica, a chariot-riding warrior-queen who led her tribe of British Celts against the invading Romans. She would have loved Kel O’Shea.

The song “The Minstrel Boy”

The version performed by the band, Enter the Haggis, is the official theme song for the Finnegan series. There is a line in the song, “warrior bard” which resonates with me, and confirms how I view my Tuatha De Danaan: fierce warriors with the souls of bards.

* * *

So, why the Irish in the first place? I wish I could point to one thing or event, but I can’t. Like many Americans, I have Irish ancestry on my father’s side. In fact, “Darby” is an old family name, and yes, it really is my given name.

And, as a teen, I fell in love with the art in The Book of Kells. That led me to explore Celtic art. Which led me to explore Celtic mythology. Which led me to the Tuatha De Danaan, whom I first learned about when I read How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill. That was back in 2009.

By 2010, I had written the first drafts of both Finn Finnegan and Gideon’s Spear, but put them aside to focus on my Griffin series, a YA series about a teen guardian angel and his beloved master. (Again, pimping). Once those books were published, I went back to Finn’s story.

Now, here I am, sending Finn and Gideon off on another adventure. What’s next for my heroes? Well, the fourth and final book in The Adventures of Finn MacCullen, entitled The Burnt Bones, is currently in the editing stages. I’ll miss my wild Irish boys; I enjoyed every minute getting to know them.

I hope you do, too. Cheers!

Thank you Darby, for stopping by and sharing the inspiration behind the story. I am looking forward to The Burnt Bones, but I will also be preparing my farewells. Now, come back in a couple of hours so I can tell you how amazingly awesome the third book is!

Always Shine!

The Stag Lord Blog Tour

In Case you have not heard. Darby Kaye (AKA Darby Karchut young adult author of the Griffin series and Finn Series) has a new adult fiction book, The Stag Lord,  out in just one more day!!!!  And she was kind enough to stop by for a brief interview. I was one of the lucky ones who had the opportunity to read it early, so I will follow up this post with my review. But first, let’s look at what the book is about.

The Stag Lord (Bannerman Boru, #1)

The Stag Lord by Darby Kaye

Bannerman Boru #1

December 2, 2014 – Spence City

376 pages – Adult, Urban Fantasy, Fiction, Series

http://www.darbykarchut.com

Facebook: yes

Twitter: @DarbyKarchut

From Goodreads:

“On the run across America from a vengeful shape-shifter, Bannerman “Bann” Boru has only one thing on his mind: keeping himself and his young son, Cor, alive.

At any cost.
Until he meets Shay Doyle, healer and member of a secret group of immortal Celtic warriors, the Tuatha de Danaan, living in modern-day Colorado. When Cor is injured, Bannerman is forced to accept her help. He quickly realizes that the golden-haired healer is shield-maiden tough and can hold her own onthe field of battle with the big boys. And Shay soon discovers that there is more to Bann than meets the eye.
Now, with the shape-shifter Cernunnos teaming up with the local pack of Fir Bolgs (Bronze Age creatures with a nasty taste for children), Bannerman, Shay, her wolf-dog Max, and the rest of the Doyle clan must figure out how to battle one insane god.”

If this book doesn’t sound awesome to you, I don’t think I can call you friend.  But, you can remedy that by ordering the book, getting it from the library or some other legal means of getting your hands on a copy and checking it out for yourself.  If you want to get to know Darby, check out the interview below. (She’s the trifecta-astounding awesome and amazing!)

SKG: What was the inspiration for your new novel?

 DK: It is based on a mix of Bronze Age and medieval history, as well as Celtic mythology. The Stag Lord and its sequel, Unholy Blue, is based on the Irish legend of the Tuatha Dé Danaan, immortal Fey warriors who are descendents of the war goddess, Danu. In my version, these exiles from ancient Éireann (and now living in modern-day Colorado) are engaged in an on-going battle with their ancient enemy, the goblins known as the Amandán.

The main character, Bannerman “Bann” Boru is the direct descendent of the High King of Ireland, Brian Boru (who was a real person and actually died 1,000 years ago this past April). Bann, and his young son, Cor, are also Tuatha Dé Danaan. They are on the run from the vengeful shapeshifter, Cernunnos (a well-know Celtic demi-god). By a twist of fate, they end up in Colorado and meet Shay Doyle, the Healer of the local clan. And thus, the tale unfolds…

SKG: This one is for adults. Did you find it easier or harder to write for adults?

DK:  I wish I could say one is easier than the other, but I find writing a gut-punching task. Story telling is story telling, with all the problems inherent in the art form, whether you are writing for teens or for adults. I always tell readers that the first draft is bloody. I hate it. Hate. It. I feel like I am flailing my way through a bog. It is such a relief to reach the end, no matter how sucky the rough draft is. That’s when the real work begins. Now, I can start adding layers to the skeleton until I have a living creature known as a book.

SKG: What were some of the challenges that you found while writing The Stag Lord?

DK: My biggest challenge was to go deeper. To find the very bottom of the cess pool. To make the good guys have faults, and the bad guys have admirable qualities. The other challenge was to turn off my Middle Grade/YA editor when I was writing the sex scenes. Yeah. That. I think I am getting the hang of it, though…

SKG: What were some of the joys that you found while writing The Stag Lord?

DK: Okay, I know I’m supposed to say it was the romance or the battle scenes or the underlying Celtic mythology, and yes, those were a blast to explore. But the greatest joy was the scenes between Bann and his son, Cor. Tender or playful – yeah, those got to me. I find men (real men, not bad boy guys) who are fathers, and embrace that role with all the courage and power that comes with it, incredibly appealing.

SKG: While writing, was there a character that stood out and that you wish you could have spent more time with?  If so, what made him/her stand out?

Hugh and Ann, Shay’s uncle and aunt, and the co-leaders of the Doyle clan. They are a vibrant, sexy, mature couple that embrace all the joys and sorrows of life while being each other’s best friend. And Ann is a delightful flirt and keeps Bann on his toes.

SKG: What are the first 5 words that pop into your head when you think of The Stag Lord?

“Bannerman Boru: Warrior, Lover, Father.”

SKG: Quickly, top 3 reasons that we should read The Stag Lord?

DK: Sexy men with Irish accents.

Women who understand and embrace the power of the Feminine.

A boy and his dog.

SKG: Anything else you want us to know?

DK: Only that I have never found a more gracious group of people than writers/readers (see Starr Griggs) From the early days of my Griffin series to now, I am constantly stunned by how supportive readers and writers are of each other. The rest of the world could learn a lot from us, ye ken?

See what I mean? This lady here is pure awesomeness. I am lucky that I was randomly selected to read her book Griffin Rising. it has been one adventure after another and I have yet to be disappointed by anything she’s written.

Check back in a bit for my review!!!!

Always Shine!

Writing Good Books for Young Adults Tour stop

Hi! Today I have the pleasure of spotlighting a great book for anyone interested in writing in the YA genre. I hope to have a review of this book available and posted soon, until then-

Make sure to scroll for an excerpt from the book.

Displaying 9781402293528-PR.jpg

Writing Great Books for Young Adults by Regina L. Brooks

October 7, 2014

ISBN: 9781402293528 ● Trade Paperback/$14.99

With an 87 percent increase in the number of young adult titles published in the last two years, the young adult market is one of the healthiest segments in the industry. Despite this fact, surprisingly little has been written to help authors hone their craft and truly connect with the young adult audience.

 Writing Great Books for Young Adults gives writers all the advice they need to tap into this incredible and innovative market. Literary agent Regina L. Brooks shows writers how listening to young adults will help them create characters their audience can identify with.

 Topics covered include meeting your protagonist, engaging your readers,, trying on points of view, and many more.

 Displaying regina image.jpg

About the Author: Regina L. Brooks is the founder of Serendipity Literary Agency and has been developing award-winning authors and books for over a decade. She has been highlighted in several national and international magazines and periodicals, including Poets and Writers, Essence, Writer’s Digest, andSister2Sister, Forbes, Media Bistro, Ebony, and Jet. She lives in New York City.

 Connect with Regina:

@serendipitylit

facebook.com/serendipitylit

serendipitylit.com 

And here’s the best part of this whole post, a glimpse into what this book has to offer!

Chapter 1

Five Rules for Engaging Readers of Young Adult Fiction

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 you what to do, how to think, what to wear, then picking up a novel—-and having someone else trying to shove another lesson down your throat! I can’t imagine a bigger letdown.

Don’t deal with young people by trying to push them in one direction or another. Deal with them where they’re at now.

Soak It Up!

A word of caution: don’t emulate your favorite authors, but learn from them. You’ll want to create work that is truly your own. In the resource guide at the back of this book, along with details such as schools that offer writing degrees with a YA focus, you’ll find listings for websites that recommend great YA fiction.

YA Fiction Rule #3: Read, read, read today’s
YA fiction.

The benefits to reading what’s already on the market are phenomenal. It will familiarize you with what’s selling, how kids today talk, what they wear, what issues concern them, and so on. If you don’t have easy access to a teen, reading books meant for teens is probably the next best thing to having a teen personally tell you what he or she would like to read.

Ideals First, Meals Later

Writing a successful book that aims to attract the widest possible audience should be every writer’s goal, shouldn’t it? The answer is yes and no. It helps to have a general audience age in mind, but you don’t want to be consumed with thoughts about how and whether you’ll sell your work.

YA Fiction Rule #4: Silence your worries about commercial considerations.

This allows you to concentrate on your primary objective, which is to tell your story. If a nagging inner voice surfaces or someone discourages you, rather than pulling on earphones and listening to music as a teenager might, transform the voices through the power of your imagination into “white noise.” This is the all–frequency sound emitted from machines that imparts a feeling of privacy, calming you and allowing you to focus on that world you’re creating. Keep your artistic integrity—-your ideals—-ahead of how commercially successful—-your meals—-you want your book to be. If you focus on writing the best possible book, commercial success will follow later.

As your manuscript develops while you work through the guidelines provided in the ensuing chapters, your audience will become as clear to you as if you were speaking on a stage and looking into an auditorium full of people. If you subsequently work with an agent, the two of you can determine whether the manuscript should be pitched to editors specializing in YA, adult fiction, or both. But the fate of your manuscript will still be up in the air. Editors, who are invested with the power to buy or decline a manuscript, will ultimately determine to whom the book will be marketed.

The significant rise in the success of YA novels has opened the way for a multiplicity of categories, and just to give you an idea, I’ve listed some alphabetically: adventure, chick lit, comical, fantasy, fantasy epics, futuristic, gay–themed, historical, multicultural, mystery, religious, romantic, science fiction, sports, and urban. If your story idea doesn’t fit into any of these categories, you may have to invent one. Consider it an opportunity.

The Undiscovered Country

From this point on, let your creative spirit be guided by YA Rule #5.

YA Rule #5: In your new world of YA fiction, erect no concrete barriers, wire fences, or one–way signs. Instead, forge new paths.

The YA field welcomes innovators. Encapsulating the newness of the time, YA novels are being published in nontraditional formats. Three YA authors banded together to compose a novel. Another entry is an interactive book with websites that combines reading with the world of Internet gaming. What will your contribution be? Think fresh.

Remember that young people are trendsetters—-they’re always looking to differentiate themselves from others. It’s how teens forge their own identities. Don’t be afraid to push the boat out as well. Coming up with a fresh idea will set you apart from the pack and might be the thing that sparks an editor’s interest in your work.

Okay, consider yourself warned. Now that you know what not to do, it’s time to learn how to craft the next YA bestseller. Step by step, this book will walk you through the mechanics of what makes a great YA novel.

Chapter 2 is about generating an idea, your story. It will talk about different ways to uncover stories that YA readers will want to read about. It will also help you discover new possibilities for stories within yourself that you may not have known you had.

Chapter 3 will discuss characters—-the heart of any manuscript. How to breathe life into interesting characters your reader will connect with is the main lesson of this chapter, but we’ll also discuss how to find the best characters for the story you want to tell.

Chapter 4 is all about plot, story, and how to tell the difference. Plot is like a machine that propels your manuscript forward, while story is the overall impression you want the plot to create in the reader’s mind.

Chapter 5 is about how to put together a believable plot. It’s all about action—-establishing the main conflict of your manuscript and putting it in motion. Of special concern will be integrating the events of the manuscript with the characters’ personalities, making sure that the characters react to events in believable ways.

Chapter 6 is about setting and timeline. Setting is the background of your story—-the when and where. This chapter is about understanding the atmosphere of your story and effectively manipulating the details of that atmosphere to influence your manuscript’s tone.

Chapter 7 is about point of view—-the perspective from which you tell your story. Point of view can be an extremely effective tool for connecting with character and clarifying or confusing the reader about events—-provided you use it correctly.

Chapter 8 is about the meat of your manuscript—-dialogue. Dialogue provides an opportunity for your characters to interact and opens up another way to build your characters.

Chapter 9 is about the theme of your manuscript. Theme is the overall impression you want your readers to take away. It’s a subtle but effective way for the author to express himself through the story.

Chapter 10 is about wrapping it all up, bringing your plot to a successful resolution. Endings can be very tricky, so there will be detailed discussion about what sorts of conclusions to avoid.

Chapter 11 is about how to find constructive feedback and incorporate it into your revisions. All authors need to edit and revise their manuscript, and this chapter will explain why the editing process is so necessary.

Chapter 12 is about getting published—what agents and editors do and how to get your work into their hands. This is the business chapter-—the one that details exactly how the publishing industry works.

Chapter 13 is about YA nonfiction and the emerging genre of New Adult. The YA market is constantly in flux, and this chapter will expose you to two recent developments in the market.

I hope all of these tools will be helpful to you as you begin the process of writing the next YA bestseller. Let’s begin exploring that magical new world.

 I know that I am looking forward to reading this book and hopefully putting some tips and suggestions into action. I hope that you are excited as well. Check back later for my review.

Always Shine!!