Thursday, May 28, 2020

YA Guy Introduces ... A VERY SMALL CHILD CALLED EUGENE!



Years ago, before YA Guy was YA Guy, I wrote a science fiction short story about the rise of a white supremacist United States. It was published in a small journal, and I thought nothing of it until a few years later, when the rise of the #BlackLivesMatter movement brought increased attention to racism in our society and criminal justice system. I decided to expand the story to novel length, keeping the original title but bringing in a host of new characters and delving deeply into the history of the imagined world. I completed it somewhere around 2014, then sat on it, not knowing quite what to do with it.

Because the truth is, this novel is quite different from anything else I've written. It contains a heavy dose of objectionable language, graphic violence, and other material unsuitable for young or sensitive readers. It's a satire or dark comedy, and so it runs the risk of being misunderstood, the same way many of my students think that Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal" is actually advocating the eating of young children. Since it deals with race and racism, it's particularly likely to offend: some readers won't understand that it's a critique of racist ideology rather than a work of racist ideology, while other readers will get what I was trying to do but argue that I shouldn't have tried to do it. The book isn't political in the sense of attacking particular parties or persons, but it's deeply political in the sense of shining a light on the cancer of racism in the contemporary U.S., and that won't sit well with some readers either.

Nonetheless, I decided to publish it. Every day brings us new evidence of how deeply divided along racial lines the nation remains: the murder of unarmed black men and women by law enforcement and private citizens, the systematic inequities in our criminal justice system, the differential impact of environmental ills (including the current pandemic) on people of different skin colors, the inflammatory anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of our politicians, and too many other examples to name make it clear that those of us who walk around in skins somewhat lighter than the global norm enjoy rights and privileges that others have to struggle to gain, or can't gain at all. That's white privilege, but it's also the root of white supremacism, and as long as the former exists, the latter won't be far behind.

So if you think this kind of thing would be interesting to you, here it is. I've made it free for the rest of the month of May, so even if you read a few pages and throw it aside in disgust, you won't have lost anything except a few minutes of your time (and, possibly, whatever respect you might have had for me). But one of the most important things I've learned about writing is that you have to write what you feel, and this is what I feel. I hope others feel the same way.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

YA Guy Interviews... P.L. Tavormina, Author of AEROVOYANT!

YA Guy loves climate fiction (cli-fi), and P.L. Tavormina's novel AEROVOYANT is one of the most original and interesting works I've read in the cli-fi genre! (It also has a really cool cover, as pictured below.) The story of a planet not unlike ours in the early days of industrialization--and of the people who fight against the rapid rise in fossil fuel use, one of them gifted with the power to see the concentration of gases in the atmosphere--AEROVOYANT is both scientifically and narratively rich, and I highly recommend it for readers of cli-fi, sci-fi, and environmental literature.


I had a chance to catch up with the author recently, and here's how our conversation went....

YA Guy: Welcome to the blog!

P.L. Tavormina: Thanks for having me!

YAG: Let's start with some basics. How did you come up with the idea for Aerovoyant

PLT: So, for a little background, I grew up watching shows like The Beverly Hillbillies. You remember—this poor family struck it rich from oil on their property, and they moved to Beverly Hills, and hilarity ensued. As a country kid, I loved the whole bumpkin-meets-high-society story, and the idea of buried treasure—I loved that too. In the '70s oil was big, and we were just starting to understand that it's also hugely detrimental to the environment. So that's how I grew up—living through those decades where we collectively learned about the hazards of fossil fuels. When the Exxon Valdez spill happened (in 1989), it became clear to a lot of us that the fossil fuel industry wasn’t as interested in the environment as they ought to be.

So, I became a scientist. In some of my research, I worked on the BP spill (in the Gulf of Mexico, in 2010) and the Aliso Canyon methane leak (in Porter Ranch, California, in 2015). With methane, you can't see the leak except with infrared equipment. That gave me the idea for a character, someone who could see carbon emissions like methane and carbon dioxide, when we burn fossil fuels. My character, Myrta, sees methane, carbon dioxide, and everything else in the air that we don't see or really think about. The Combustion Industry on her planet wants her gone, in essence to hide the damage their industry does.

YAG: That is such a cool concept, and it made for a fascinating story. As a cli-fi writer, what do you think the relationship (or responsibility) of a writer is to the issue of climate change? 

PLT: The beauty of fiction is that it frames issues in creative ways, to help us think along new lines. Climate fiction can take real elements of this environmental crisis—from hurricane refugees to toxic sludge on the seafloor to drought—and place those elements in a relatable frame. 

If cli-fi writers have a specific responsibility (I think we do), it's to get people to act harder toward a better future. Our society needs a "space-race" level of mobilization to slash emissions. Most cli-fi writers agree, most of us bring our passion to our work, and many of us see our responsibility as one of clarifying the climate crisis through stories.

Independent of responsibility, cli-fi writers have an opportunity. We can bring our message at any of a number of levels, whether it's social justice, tangible impacts, or solutions. We're all in this together, and we're all fighting for the same outcome—a more livable future for ourselves and the species we share the ecosystem with.

YAG: As a fellow environmental writer, I share your feelings and convictions. Other than writing, what do you do to raise awareness about climate change? 

PLT: Whatever occurs to me, I do. 😊 When I teach, I integrate impacts of the climate crisis into my lesson plans. When there's a climate strike, I pull out my protest signs and march. Marching in a protest is always a great experience, because you meet so many people who want to protect Earth. I've also written letters to the editor, and I give talks at local libraries on climate and science. I've started bringing the issue up with strangers—saying something as simple as "climate change is real" can really bring a smile to their face and mine. It opens the lines of communication. I keep a blog at www.pltavormina.com, where I share ideas about reducing our carbon footprints. I do whatever I can to help.

YAG: That's great to hear! And what's next for you in the world of storytelling?

PLT: At its heart, Aerovoyant tells the story of a young woman and a young man embracing their strengths to make their world a better place. Having said that, the story also places Earth’s geological history and atmospheric chemistry into accessible form. The story "teaches," hopefully gently and enjoyably, about geology and the atmosphere. 

What’s next? A sequel. I'm writing the manuscript now; it's titled Telomeric. Ultimately, this story is about family. Family of origin and found family—it's a story about values, how we choose what to fight for. But there's a "science end" in the story, again, which is specifically climate impacts and sustainable technologies. 

This writerly journey has been fantastic. I'm meeting people almost daily who care passionately about Earth. The tide is turning. We're doing it—we're getting everyone on board. Look at how the crisis has made its way into Democratic primary debates, into books and movies, into public discourse. Look at the thousands of activists, young and old, turning out every day to raise awareness. There are so many reasons to hope. Human willpower is a force of nature—and what we're building is a better world. 

YAG: I couldn't agree more! It was great talking to you, and I look forward to reading your next book when it's out!

PLT: Thanks once more for having me on the blog, and let's talk again soon!

Readers, here's some additional information about author P.L. Tavormina and Aerovoyant. To buy the book, see the links at the bottom of the page!

About the author: P.L.Tavormina wrote Aerovoyant in 2017 and 2018, and queried agents and presses in 2018 and 2019. She was approached by a small independent press interested in buying the rights, but she ultimately decided to self-publish and get the story out into the world. As she says, the climate crisis is now. Tavormina published Aerovoyant in late 2019 and has been thrilled to have strangers regularly reach out to say they see the world differently after reading the story. 

You can connect with P.L. Tavormina on Twitter and Instagram: @pltavormina. Her website, www.pltavormina.com, has a newsletter signup at pltavormina.com/contact/, a blog at pltavormina.com/blog/ , and occasional climate news.





Buy Aerovoyant on Amazon in print:


or e-book:







Monday, April 13, 2020

YA Guy Launches... THE LAST SENSOR!

YA Guy is thrilled to announce the VIRTUAL launch party of The Last Sensor, the final book in the Ecosystem Cycle!



Yes, that's right, I'm launching the book via Facebook live stream. The event takes place this Thursday, April 16, from 7:00-9:00 PM (EST) at the following Facebook event page:


The event is public, so anyone on Facebook can listen in. There will be readings, Q&A, giveaways (of e-books to be safe), and other merriment. It won't be quite the same as a live launch, but it does have one nice wrinkle I've never used before: two of my writing friends from Pittsburgh will be joining me! Also, anyone who wants to purchase a signed copy of the book can order it through the bookstore that's co-sponsoring the event, Riverstone Books, at this web page:


Specify whether you want to pick the book up in-store or have it mailed to you, and once Riverstone reopens, they'll take care of the details. (P.S. I know the link says "Pre-order signed copies of Josh Bellin," but trust me, it means pre-order signed copies of my BOOKS.)

Come join us!


Tuesday, March 31, 2020

YA Guy Participates in... The Spring 2020 YA Scavenger Hunt!



These are tough times for all of us, but one of the things we'll never lose is the love of reading. Which is why I'm happy to be participating in the Spring 2020 YA Scavenger Hunt!

As you can probably tell by all the gold lettering in this post (not to mention the banner at the top), I'm on the GOLD TEAM this time around, along with the other awesome authors you see below:



The YA Scavenger Hunt is a bi-annual event first organized by author Colleen Houck as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors...and a chance to win some awesome prizes! Add up the clues on each GOLD TEAM page, and you can enter for our prize--one lucky winner will receive one e-book or audiobook from each author on our team! (We're doing it that way in order to avoid sending physical copies all over the country and the world.) There are four contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! But don't delay: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will be online only until noon Pacific time on SUNDAY, APRIL 5! (I'm also running a personal giveaway during the same period of time.)

HOW IT WORKS

Directions: In the author biography below, you'll notice I've listed my favorite number. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the GOLD TEAM, and then add them up (don't worry, you can use a calculator!). 

Entry Form: Once you've added up all the numbers, make sure you follow this link and fill out the form to qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.

Rules: Open internationally. Anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian's permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by Sunday, April 5, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered. For more information, follow this link to the YA Scavenger Hunt page.

Personal Giveaway: In addition to the prizes named above, readers who enter my personal giveaway will have a chance to win an e-book copy of the 4 books in the Ecosystem Cycle! Like the Hunt itself, the personal giveaway is open internationally. See below on how to enter!

Got all that? Then let's meet the author I'm hosting, BREEANA SHIELDS!

Breeana Shields is an author of fantasy novels for teens including The Bone Charmer, The Bone Thief, Poison’s Kiss, and Poison’s Cage. When she’s not writing, Breeana loves reading, traveling, and playing 22 board games with her extremely competitive family. She lives near Washington D.C. with her husband, her three children, and two adorable, but spoiled dogs.

To find out more about the author, follow this link to her website or visit her favorite social media hangouts:

Twitter: @BreeanaShields
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/breeanashieldsauthor/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/breeanashields/

About THE BONE THIEF: A deft exploration of the weight of grief and cost of revenge, Breeana Shields’s Bone Charmer duology reaches its spine-tingling conclusion in this high-octane fantasy-thriller.

To buy the book, follow this link!



The Spring 2020 Hunt is over, and winners have been chosen for the team giveaways and my personal giveaway. Thanks to all for playing!

Thursday, March 12, 2020

YA Guy Interviews... Darlene Beck Jacobson!

One of YA Guy's all-time favorite Middle Grade authors is Darlene Beck Jacobson, author of WHEELS OF CHANGE (2014) and, now, WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY, due out on April 7 from Creston Books. I had a chance to ask Darlene some questions prior to the publication of her new book, and here's what she had to say!


YA Guy: Hi, Darlene, and welcome to the blog!

Darlene Beck Jacobson: Hi, Josh. Thanks so much for hosting me on your blog to talk about my new book WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY.

YA Guy: Happy to have you here! I know that your debut novel, WHEELS OF CHANGE, came out in 2014. What have you been up to since then, and what have you learned about writing and publishing in the interim?

Darlene: I worked on a number of projects that for one reason or other didn’t quite work out. It can be discouraging to try and stay on top of publishing trends and the changes and decisions we authors have no control over. You can either give up, or keep writing. I kept writing and finally found a story that was a perfect match for CRESTON BOOKS--the publisher of my first novel.

YA Guy: I think "never give up" is the best advice aspiring (and established) writers can get! Let's talk about the subject matter you gravitate toward in your writing. Both of your novels are set in the past--the early 20th century in the case of WHEELS OF CHANGE, the Vietnam War era in the case of WISHES. Why are you drawn to historical fiction, and how do you go about researching different time periods?

Darlene: WHEELS OF CHANGE came about after discovering some interesting facts while researching my family tree. WISHES ended up set in the 1960’s when I realized I wanted a modern era, but also a time when kids could be outside all day without parents hovering about. No cell phones, video games to occupy time, just imagination and creative play. I grew up in the 60’s, so the research took me back to my own childhood. So much fun!

YAG: That's really cool--kind of a "write what you know" story. What about the form of WISHES? Why did you decide to tell the story in verse?

Darlene: I didn’t consciously make that decision. The main character, an eleven-year-old boy named Jack, introduced himself to me as I awoke from a dream. He spoke to me in that raw emotion, stream-of-consciousness way from the first moment I met him. He knew exactly what he wanted to say and all I did was write it down in his voice. It was the most amazing way I’ve ever written a story and a total joy to write.

YA Guy: Isn't it amazing how the characters we create end up seeming like real people with their own stories to tell us? And speaking of stories, bullying is a central aspect of the story in WISHES. Why is this issue important to you?

Darlene: For all that has changed in our culture, some things remain the same. Friendship, love, kindness, and acceptance are issues that are important to kids and always have been. Dysfunctional families are not new. Bullying is not new. Finding a way to talk about these issues and offering solutions that children can employ in their own lives seems important.

YA Guy: Definitely--literature has to hit both the timeless and the contemporary. So what's next for you? What are you working on now (or are you too busy and excited preparing for the release of WISHES to be working on anything else)?

Darlene: I am working on a contemporary novel in verse, which is in the early stages yet. The verse format is so intriguing and inviting. I don’t feel like I’m done exploring this form and am excited to be giving it another try.

YA Guy: Sounds great! Thanks again for visiting the blog, and congratulations on the upcoming publication of WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY (a title I love, by the way).

Darlene: Thanks for hosting me, Josh!

All right, readers, if you want to learn more about Darlene Beck Jacobson, here's her bio and social media info!

Darlene Beck Jacobson is a former teacher and speech therapist who has loved writing since she was a girl.  She is also a lover of history and can often be found mining dusty closets and drawers in search of skeletons from her past. She enjoys adding these bits of her ancestry to stories such as her award-winning middle grade historical novel WHEELS OF CHANGE (Creston, 2014) and WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY (Creston 2020).

Darlene lives and writes her stories in New Jersey with her family and a house full of dust bunnies. She’s caught many fish, but has never asked one to grant her a wish. She’s a firm believer in wishes coming true, so she tries to be careful what she wishes for.

Darlene's blog features recipes, activities, crafts, articles on nature, book reviews, and interviews with children’s book authors and illustrators.

Twitter: @DBeckJacobson

More on WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY
ISBN: 978-1-939547-62-0
B&N preorder link

Some reviews:

“Uniquely original and with an important underlying social message for children ages 8-12, Wishes, Dares, and How to Stand Up to a Bully is especially and unreservedly recommended for elementary school, middle school, and community library General Fiction collections.--Midwest Book Review

“Although it's set in the 1960s, the story reflects timeless issues that will resonate with modern readers. A fresh, inspiring exploration of a daunting issue.” --Kirkus

“Its free verse lines crafted with care and concision, the book captures Jack’s emotions, and his 1960s small town setting, because of its sharp attention to detail. References to John F. Kennedy, John Glenn, and Joe DiMaggio round out the period, and the shadow of the war hangs over everything. Still, the children roam unsupervised—fishing, biking, and camping—in a world that is otherwise familiar and safe. They’re dealing with serious issues all the while, from Jill and Cody’s abusive stepfather to Jack and Katy missing their father. By the end, they have all developed the courage and strength to deal with their struggles.

A historical childhood fantasy in verse, Wishes, Dares, and How to Stand Up to a Bully blends light summer fun with deep emotional challenges.”--Forward Magazine

Monday, December 9, 2019

YA Guy Presents... His 2019 Top 10!

Confession time: YA Guy didn't read as much YA this year as usual. There's a long story behind that, but here's the short version:

  1. I was working on two distinct book-length manuscripts, which cut into my reading time.
  2. In honor of my dad, who died in November 2018, I decided to read some of the books he'd loved. He tended toward epic-scale historical novels, so that left less time for YA.
But there's a happy ending to both of these stories: I did complete both manuscripts (one of which will be published in 2020, the other in 2021), and I felt closer to my dad after reading Giants in the Earth, Doctor Zhivago, and other similar classics.

And there's even more good news--I did read enough YA (and MG) in 2019 to compile a Top 10 list. In no particular order, here goes!

Jonathan Auxier, Sweep. The story of a girl who works as a chimney sweep in London, this multi-award-winning book showcases Pittsburgh author Auxier at his magical, whimsical best.

Jamie Beth Cohen, Wasted Pretty. A YA novel for the #MeToo generation, this book tells the story of a teenage girl's sexual assault by a family friend. The voice of the protagonist glows with honesty, authenticity, and acerbic wit.

Jim and Stephanie Kroepfl, Merged. What could possibly go wrong when the minds of dying geniuses are merged with those of teen hosts? (Hint: a lot!)

Clare Di Liscia, Neliem. A swashbuckling fantasy romance with a kick-butt heroine who, unlike so many in the sub-genre, genuinely merits the title.

Nick Courage, Storm Blown. Another Pittsburgh author (born and raised in New Orleans), Courage delivers a pulse-pounding hurricane saga told from the perspectives of the children--and animals--caught up in the storm.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Water Dancer. Not exactly YA though narrated by a teenage slave, this meticulously crafted debut novel by the National Book Award winner is slow but exquisite and powerful.

Cadwell Turnbull, The Lesson. Another not-really-YA with several YA-aged characters, this debut science fiction novel set in the U.S. Virgin Islands during an alien invasion features a wonderful sense of place along with a historically rich examination of slavery and colonialism.

Mindy McGinnis, Heroine. "Harrowing" doesn't begin to do justice to this novel about an injured high school athlete's descent into opioid addiction.

Jessica Khoury, Last of Her Name. An outer-space retelling of the Anastasia story, with a cast of humanoid species, romance aplenty, and one of the most mind-blowing alien intelligences you'll find in all of sci-fi, YA or otherwise.

Joshua David Bellin, House of Earth, House of Stone. Book Three in the Ecosystem Trilogy. Soon to be Book Three in the four-part Ecosystem Cycle!










That's all for now, folks. I look forward to more great books in 2020!

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

YA Guy Reveals... The Cover to the Final Book in the Ecosystem Cycle!

YA Guy's initial conception for the Ecosystem series was to wrap it up in three books. But Book 3 didn't quite conclude the series to my satisfaction, so I decided to add a fourth and final installment (thus transforming the series into a "cycle" instead of a mere "trilogy"). Titled The Last Sensor, it's due to come out early next year (by my birthday, February 5, if I can swing it).

Today, though, I'm ready to reveal the cover, which is (if possible) my favorite in the entire series.


Pretty cool, huh? Here's the blurb:

Fifteen years ago, war nearly destroyed the City of the Queens. In the time since, Queen Rebecca’s reign has been marked by reconciliation between the Ecosystem and its people. With the aid of Chief Sensor Miriam and her husband Isaac, an era of peace and prosperity seems to have been assured at last.

But then a new and unparalleled threat arises: the Ecosystem itself is dying, and Rebecca is powerless to restore it. Joining the Queen’s guard in their search for a cure to this mysterious malady is teenage apprentice Hadassah, daughter of Miriam and Isaac. For her, the quest is deeply personal: she seeks word of her friend and guardian Sarah, the former queen of the city who has been missing for years. Hadassah’s journey will take her to the ends of the earth, to a place of legendary wonder, beauty, and danger. And it will require her to tap a source of power even the queens have never imagined if she is to save her family and heal her world.

So enjoy the cover, and let me know what you think! I'm really excited to bring this series to a close; it's been near and dear to my heart for many years, and I hope readers will be as pleased as I am with the places the final book takes them!