Friday, April 30, 2010

Writing Post-Mortem: My first YA book - The Red Crossroads

"It's alive!" *cough* *cough* "Well, it looks alive anyway." *pokes with stick*

Like Frankenstein, I have gathered together the pieces and now I'm rearranging them into the perfect beast. My young adult steampunk is heading toward the finish line and I wanted to talk about the process of creating the book. For those that are new to the steampunk genre, its a sub-genre of science fiction and speculative fiction.

The idea for this book popped up in my head last summer while at a conference in Washington D.C. Since that point I chewed on the idea and worked out the synopsis. Over the months I took notes and eventually I jumped into the pool to write the book. I can't believe its done! =)

Here is the short description for THE RED CROSSROADS:
Most seventeen year-old girls don’t have to decide between rescuing the world and saving a dying brother. For Fiona Jacobs, the post-industrial society where she lives is a world of survivors and red dust drifting through the low lying mountains from the deserts to the east. After her parents passed away, she was left alone to support her older brother, Alvin Jacobs, as he lives out her dream of attending medical school.

Highly intelligent, she has learned her father’s craft of bioengineering and has spent her teen years maintaining the machinery her father implanted within Alvin. Even with all her hard work, she discovers Alvin's heart is failing and she must find a way to replace it with a mechanical one. Circumstances thrust Fiona before a dictator who is searching for a set of plans to fix an ancient weapon. Plans which could be adapted to help her brother. After Fiona escapes from the dictator's clutches, she falls into a life and death race where she must discover the key to saving her brother and the world at the same time.
Post-Mortem: First of all, I have to say writing young adult is not easy. My crit partner, Sarah Bromley, hit me over the head a few times with her YA-stick. I still have the bruises, but the lessons have actually helped me see young adult books in a different light. I've read YA before and I've critiqued it for over a year now. But its not the same as going into your own story line and developing a young adult character. Transitioning from writing adult to writing YA is not as simple as it sounds. The "what would I do if I was a child prodigy with engineering and medical skills" mantra kept going off in my head while I wrote this book. (It didn't hurt to watch a few episodes of Doogie Howser either. Flashback coming...) Its not the same as approaching my previous characters who have attended college and have had relationships. They have to deal with taxes, mortgages, and jobs. They have baggage. And well, my YA heroine has a different kind of baggage based on her childhood and I had to get into that mindset. Its a bit of a jump, but not impossible.

Writing this book was so much fun! I normally write contemporary books with a paranormal twist. For this one I got to tap into my inner ubergeek and go nuts with it. All my teenage years of reading Harry Harrison's WEST OF EDEN and Octavia Butler's sci-fi books influenced how I tapped into the genre. Of course I read classic steampunk titles as well as new ones. (right now I'm reading MONSTER BLOOD TATTOO by DM Cornish. The premise is so good!) But all in all, I really got to go beyond my previous manuscripts expand my world building to a bigger scale. Much much bigger. I could let my imagination go wild and create laws and norms for different societies.

The historical aspects were fun as well. Not only did I finish my first young adult, but technically I finished my first book with historical elements (Victoriana). I spent hours researching the clothes, the modes of transportation, and even the food they ate. (Watch this great video from The Supersizers Go Victorian. So funny, yet unappetizing in some parts.)

Now the final hurdle, where I had to figure out the engineering and medical concepts. In my book Fiona does surgical procedures. We're not talking about patching up paper cuts here. She actually goes in with scalpels. Thanks to my hubby who is a doctor, I made sure my scenes were up to muster. Then I had to take my ideas and bring them together in the subject of bioengineering. How would machinery work in the body? (How do I expand this within the context of a steampunk world?) I had to chew on and visualize the concepts in order to add them into my story. This wasn't as easy as it sounds. I was concerned I went too technical, but in the end I learned my descriptions were easy to understand. Whew! (Lesson learned: Just write the book and let your crit partners or betas let you know if your flux capacitor is too over their heads. I don't have a flux capacitor but you get the point.)

Lesson I learned:
  1. Create a timeline! If you have events from the past that you reference in the future a timeline helps so much.
  2. Write out the major events in the back story for reference. I wrote about five pages of backstory that will never be seen in the story. But they helped me get the story line right and I knew when to push in those tidbits. And who knows, maybe the story can carry on in another book. =)
  3. Work out the technical aspects early if you can. Of course there are folks who write by the seat of their pants and I tend to do that with world building, but the technical aspects take time to chew on so if they are mapped out early there will be less pain in editing.
  4. Let your imagination go wild. This is an easy one, but there's nothing like going through those what-if exercises in your head. How can I make this scene bigger in scale? Have I gone far enough in terms of how this society works? Whip out the pencil and paper and draw some pictures. You'd be surprised how visualizing concepts helps you write them.
I highly encourage others to write outside of their comfort zone. This is my first young adult manuscript. I've written fantasy before, but this is not the same with so many elements combined together. I've learned so much from writing this book and hope it gets a chance to run out in the wild.

Friday, April 16, 2010

My Book List - 2010 - For my sanity...

Last year I was too busy writing to read a lot of books. And that's a shame. But this year I plan to head of out the gate running! My goal is to read 50 or more books this year. Which actually isn't hard since I can read a good book under three days. I will only list a book here if I get it done. With kids and a personal life I don't have time for a snoozefest. I plan to keep coming back to update this list as the year goes on to keep myself motivated.

There are a few books which I started and plan to come back to so who knows what this year will bring. So here's my progress of completed books so far:

  1. Life as We Knew It - Susan Beth Pfeffer (Jan)
  2. Turning Japanese - Cathy Yardley (Feb)
  3. The Maze Runner - James Dashner (April)
  4. The Dead and Gone - Susan Beth Pfeffer (April)
  5. Wake - Lisa McMann (April)
  6. This World We Live In - Susan Beth Pfeffer (April - So good - Read in 4 Hours)
  7. The Jigsaw Man - Gord Rollo (April)
  8. The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins (April)
  9. Fade - Lisa McMann (May)
  10. Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins (May)
  11. Gone - Michael Grant (May)
  12. Hunger - Michael Grant (May)
  13. Silver Borne - Patricia Briggs (June)
  14. Lies - Michael Grant (June)
  15. Dirty Little Secrets - C.J. Omololu (June)
  16. Dead in the Family - Charlaine Harris (June 6-20)
  17. Midwife of Blue Ridge - Christine Blevins (July 7-10)
  18. Wings - Aprilynne Pike (August 8-11)
  19. Dream Called Time - S.L. Viehl (August 8-25)
  20. The Chosen One - Carol Lynch Williams (August 8-30)
  21. Poison Study - Maria V. Snyder (October 10-15)
  22. His Hired Baby - Jacqueline Diamond (November 11-30)
  23. Spellbent - Lucy A. Snyder (December 12-10)
  24. Forgotten - Melody Carlson (December 12-15)
  25. Shotgun Sorceress - Lucy A. Snyder (December 12-27)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Hello Chicka-dee! The Joys of Paranormal Chick Lit

Right now, I'm in the middle of working on a project that couldn't be classified as chick lit, but as far as the genre is concerned, I love it. Yes, people say chick lit is dead, but in my opinion sometimes a girl needs to sit back and follow someone on their journey and laugh at their life. There's just something about following a woman, or it could be a man as well, and seeing yourself in them and what they go through. In terms of chick lit and women's fiction, I believe one is a sub-genre of the other. Women's fiction includes chick lit as well as mainstream women's literature. For me, I prefer a quirky, snippy voice. No offense against Jane Austen, but either some Prada shoes or hilarious angst makes my day!

I love to write fantasy/paranormal chick lit! It's like a warm fluzzy blanket where I go deep into my character's head and I follow them around as they face the main conflict in the book. My first paranormal chick lit was Enchanted, Inc. I just loved the main character! Before her job at Enchanted, Inc her job sucked. I could related to her experiences with her horrible boss. But then the author took it a step further and gave into my cravings for the fantastical--she placed Katie Chandler at a company where magic is manufactured as a product and sold. Another book I enjoyed was A Girl's Guide to Witchcraft. So funny! I'm not looking for drama or a full out War and Peace, I just want to curl up and experience Jane Madison's drama. I want to laugh and cry, but most of all I want to have fun.

Other books on my TBR list (even some YA in there):

  • Confessions of a Werewolf Supermodel - Ronda Thompson
  • How Not to Make a Wish - Mindy Klasky
  • Undead and Unwed - MaryJanice Davidson
  • Carpe Demon: Adventures of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom - Julie Kenner (Need to finish this one! Great paranormal mommy chick lit!)


  • You Had me at Halo - Amanda Ashby
  • You are so Undead to Me - Stacey Jay
  • Oh. My. Gods. Tera Lynn Childs
  • Spells and Sleeping Bags - Sarah Mlynowski
  • The Salem Witch Tryouts - Kelly McClymer

In terms of writing, completing a paranormal chick lit isn't easy. For me, I love to push the envelope. What is the worse thing I can do this person? Can I take it a step further? I have a character already created for the next one and she won't shut up. I plan to take her from the normal life she's always known and turn things topsy-turvy by doing the worse thing possible. *evil laugh here*

Do you have any favorite fantasy/paranormal chick lit books? I'm open to suggestions! Especially young adults ones I may not know about.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Great Book - The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Last week I finished a great book which I devoured: James Dashner's The Maze Runner. The story revolves around Thomas, a teen who wakes up in an elevator with any memories of his past life. Once he reaches the top elevator his new life starts in the Glade, a place that is surrounded by a dangerous maze. The Gladers, or the teens who live in the Glade have those amongst them that are called Runners. The Runners search the maze for an escape from their current lives. Thomas arrives with a series of other strange happenings that signal the end of the Gladers existence in the Glade and a final battle to escape the nasty creatures that lurk in the maze.

This is my kind of book. The whole time I read it I kept wondering about what would happen next. This drove me to move the next page and the next. The pacing is great and Dashner did a fabulous job of holding back just enough to make me curious about what would come next. (Ok, not curious, a bit crazy.) I read it quickly and highly recommend it to others. By the time I reached the end, I was kinda sad since I'd have to wait a while to read the next one. =)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April Fool's Day and Why April will Rock!

Well, first of all Happy April Fool's day! Personally, I hate days like today. Why? Cause I'm gullible as hell. You know that friend you always had in school who believed everything you said--no matter how crazy it was? That's me! My hubby takes advantage of my gullibility at every chance possible. So a note to my friends, no matter how funny the joke is, I'm not laughing. Well, not at first anyway.

In other news, I'm closing in on the finish line of my steampunk. The journey has been so much fun! I had every opportunity to geek out on every page with steampunk yumminess. *Heavenly sigh* This is my first young adult book and so far its been a blast!

I've also fallen into a great book called The Maze Runner by James Dasher. So good. My TBR pile is a mile high, but I keep coming back to it again and again. I'm not even half way and I want to know what's coming next! So many great books to read. I can't wait to settle into editing and reading books out of the pile. My agent, Jim McCarthy, posted on the Dystel and Goderich blog about John Warner, one of the commentators for The Tournament of Books, who offered up a service. If you listed the last five books you had read, he would tell you what you should read next. So Jim did the same. I posted my last five books that I completed (meaning read from beginning to end - cause I have a few I never finished).

Jim wrote, "Shawntelle, I say what I said to some other folks before: this is harder when you know the person! So I'm gonna go out on a limb with my suggestion for you. Less outwardly fantastical than most of the titles you mention, but something about it feels right: Out by Natsuo Kirino."

Hmmm, I've never heard of this author before. She has a few titles at my library, but not the book in question so I'll order it online. I'll have to let you know if its any good. I can't wait to read it.