Saturday, September 24, 2016

YA Guy... Meets the Authors!

It's easy to get so wrapped up in the day-to-day anxieties of the writing life that one loses sight of the big picture.

At least, that's what YA Guy has learned.

As a writer, you're always fretting about something. The manuscript you're working on. The manuscript you should be working on. The revisions due back to your editor. The upcoming release of your book. The marketing for that release. The sales figures for your previous book. The next project you have to write, and the sales figures for that one.

What can be forgotten in all of this is that you've realized a dream many aspire to but relatively few achieve.

I was reminded of this fact most recently when I received the following flyer via email:

Look at that title: "Meet the Authors." And I'm one of them. Whatever might be going on in my mind or my life, in the eyes of the rest of the world, I'm an author.

And that's pretty cool. It's something I've wanted to be for most of my life. It wasn't in any way guaranteed. It took hard work, lots of support, and more than a little luck. But it's here now, and whatever happens from this moment forward, it's here to stay.

I'm not saying I won't fret anymore, that I won't from time to time lose sight of the big picture, that I've become some kind of Zen writer. I'm sure I'll need reminders like this one every so often.

I'm just saying to other authors: you should be on the lookout for reminders like this. And when you find them, you should revel in them.

YA Guy can't wait to meet you.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

YA Guy Co-Sponsors... A Great Giveaway!


Click on a Rafflecopter giveaway for your chance to win $220 to spend on books!

Fourteen YA authors,  including YA Guy, are sponsoring a giveaway for your chance to win a $220 Amazon e-gift card to restock your bookshelves this fall. The giveaway runs from today (September 8) to September 22. Participating authors include:

***Click on a Rafflecopter giveaway to enter!***

Fine Print: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A PURCHASE DOES NOT IMPROVE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. Time Period: Begins on 09/08/2016 at 12:00 AM (Eastern Time) and ends on 09/22/2016 at 12:00 AM (Eastern Time). Eligibility: Open to legal residents of USA and Canada. Must be 13 years old or older to enter. Winner Selection: The winner of the giveaway will be selected in a random drawing from among all eligible Entries received throughout the Promotion Period. The random drawing will be conducted within 48 hours by Sponsor or its designated representatives, whose decisions are final. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible Entries received. Winner will be notified by email at the email address provided in the Entry Information on or about 48 hours after the random drawing.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

YA Guy... Takes a Break!

YA Guy's been writing novels for over forty years.

Well, that's not entirely true. I started writing novels when I was a bit under ten, and I'm a bit over fifty now, but I didn't complete a novel until I was sixteen, and I took a major break from novel-writing between graduate school (when I was in my early twenties) and my mid-forties. Plus, you know, I take the occasional break to eat, sleep, spend time with my kids, and so forth.

But my point is, I've been writing for a long time. And particularly in the past five years, from the completion of the first draft of Survival Colony 9 in 2011 to the publication of Scavenger of Souls just last week, it sometimes feels as if I've been writing nonstop. No sooner have I completed one project than I've moved on to another. That's the writing life: you're either working on one thing or promoting something else (usually both at the same time). It's relatively easy work physically, but it can be exhausting mentally and emotionally.

So I've decided to take a little break. Roughly four months, to be precise. From now until the beginning of 2017, I won't be writing anything new.

The timing is actually quite good. My daughter's a high school senior, so we'll be driving her around to visit colleges and so forth this semester. I'm teaching five classes (one more than usual), so there'll be a bit of a time crunch there. Plus I'm traveling some to promote Scavenger of Souls, so that's another time commitment. I've heard back from my editor about my forthcoming YA science fiction novel, Freefall, and she wants only minor changes, not any major rewriting. And I'm scheduled to have a sabbatical this coming spring, so for a solid four months I'll be able to devote the full workday to my current work in progress, the YA historical horror novel I'm calling Polar.

When I resumed writing novels five years ago, I had no idea how much work it would be. How could I? Like many novice authors, I had the illusion that I'd write a book, it would become an instant bestseller, and I'd be able to sit back and collect royalty checks while leisurely producing my next classic.

Well, live and learn.

When I told my agent, with some trepidation, that I'd be taking a little break from writing, she had this to say:

I support this 100% and am here whenever you are ready. Writing ebbs and flows and I totally respect that you need time to revitalize. Do what you want to do – take your time – write when the mood strikes and know I am always here!

So now you know, for one, why she's my agent. But you also know why I needed this break. Writing does ebb and flow; authors do need time to revitalize. Much as I respect those writers who seem able to work pretty much nonstop, I'm not one of them. Each writer needs to recognize his/her own strengths and needs and limitations; otherwise, you run the risk of burning out for good.

I'll still be blogging from time to time--when the mood strikes--and you'll probably see me around on Twitter or Facebook or live and in person. I hope you'll read Scavenger of Souls, and I hope you're looking forward to Freefall. Down the road, I'm sure you can expect more from me, starting with Polar and moving on from there.

But for now, YA Guy's taking a break.

Monday, August 15, 2016

YA Guy Announces... The SCAVENGER OF SOULS blog tour!

YA Guy's beyond thrilled to announce the official blog tour for SCAVENGER OF SOULS, which releases on August 23!

Here are the great bloggers who are participating in the tour:

8/19 Kat Ross

On these blog stops, you'll find interviews, reviews, and an excerpt from the book, and you'll have a chance to enter a giveaway to win a signed copy of SCAVENGER OF SOULS plus swag (bookmarks and T-shirt)! Here's the Rafflecopter giveaway, which will also be available on the above-named blogs:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Scavenger awaits! Let the tour begin!

Monday, August 8, 2016

YA Guy Reviews... THE RECKONING by Chris Howard!

YA Guy's been saying it for years: Chris Howard is one of the most inventive and original writers in YA science fiction.

I hope people have been listening.

Howard first caught my attention with ROOTLESS, the series opener in a post-apocalyptic trilogy about a future Earth without trees and the young man, Banyan, who builds facsimiles thereof. Ingeniously bizarre--bordering at times on the Boschian grotesque--and written in a voice like none other, ROOTLESS convinced me that Howard was something special.

It was a long while before the next book in the trilogy, THE RIFT, appeared. That one upped the ante on its predecessor, giving us such gleefully weird imagery as a man with trees for legs, resuscitated mammoths with purple fur, and upside-down mountains under which strange dreams are dreamt. I waited an even longer time for the denouement, THE RECKONING; in the meantime, Howard put out another book, NIGHT SPEED, narrated by a teen who's hooked on the drug she takes to chase down criminals who've been given superhuman strength and speed by the same drug. Make no mistake, Howard doesn't tell neat or easy stories, and he doesn't cleave to formula. He writes his own thing, and leaves it to his reader to decide.

THE RECKONING, it must be said, wasn't my favorite book of the ROOTLESS trilogy; I'd probably give pride of place to the first book, if only because it so blew me away when I read it. (But then, that's the way it often is with trilogies; THE HUNGER GAMES is the best book of the three, as is THE MAZE RUNNER.) THE RECKONING drags a bit in the first third, as lots of exposition gets packaged as dialogue; conversely, the final third feels rushed, with the action taking place in a city we've waited the whole trilogy to visit but then don't spend enough time exploring. Part of my disappointment, I'm sure, stemmed from the fact that I knew this was the last time I'd have the chance to sink into this particular world, and so I set the bar impossibly high. Notwithstanding, I still loved THE RECKONING, and the trilogy as a whole remains a personal favorite.

So I'll say it once more: Chris Howard is one of the most inventive and original writers in YA science fiction.

I hope people are listening.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

YA Guy Announces... Launch Week for SCAVENGER OF SOULS!

YA Guy's gearing up for the release of SCAVENGER OF SOULS on August 23, and I've finally scheduled two events for that week. Though I know that most readers of this blog don't live in Pittsburgh and aren't likely to be here in August, I figured I'd post the events anyway:

Launch party, Saturday, August 20, 2:00-5:00
Mystery Lovers Bookshop, 514 Allegheny River Blvd., Oakmont, PA 15139

Signing, Sunday, August 28, 2:00-4:00
Classic Lines Bookstore, 5825 Forbes Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15217

If you're in town and can make it to either of these events, I'd love to have you!

Friday, July 8, 2016

YA Guy Reviews... RESCUED by Eliot Schrefer!

When YA Guy was a lad of five, I visited the Pittsburgh Zoo with my father. This was in the days that zoos were essentially prisons, with animals held in solitary confinement in barred, concrete cells. Being too young to realize the full implications of that, I wandered with my dad to the ape and monkey house, my favorite part of the zoo. I enjoyed watching the gorilla in particular, though even at that age, it puzzled me that he was alone, that he did little but stare dully out of his cage all day, except when on occasion he'd regurgitate his food and pick through it. But again, at age five, I was thinking much more about my own pleasure at seeing such an awesome animal than about that animal's well-being, much less his rights.

On this particular day, a surprise awaited me: a trainer had a baby chimpanzee named Geraldine, and was offering visitors the chance to hold her. I eagerly volunteered, and when the little creature wrapped her furry arms around my neck and rested her head on my cheek, I felt something that Eliot Schrefer captures expertly in his book RESCUED:

"It was the first time I'd held something so delicately alive, something it was in my power to drop or save. I went silent with responsibility."

In Schrefer's book, it's a baby orangutan that the narrator, John, is holding, a present from John's irresponsible and eager-to-please father. But the feeling is almost entirely the same. It's from the moment I held Geraldine that I date not only my love for great apes but, far more importantly, my sense of responsibility to them.

RESCUED is the third book in Schrefer's planned four-book YA series about the great apes: bonobos, chimpanzees, orangutans, and gorillas. Each book, though entirely different from the others in setting and character, features a young person's relationship with one of the four species of ape. In the first two, ENDANGERED (bonobos) and THREATENED (chimpanzees), the settings are African and the apes living in a wild or, at least, semi-wild condition. In RESCUED, by contrast, the setting is the U.S., and the orangutan, Raja, grows up as a captive house pet. The book's action revolves around John's growing realization that Raja is not rightfully his and the teen's subsequent efforts to return him to Sumatra, from which he was stolen as a baby.

I'm going to put it out there right now: Schrefer's books are my favorite YA series of all time. That's partly because of their subject matter, but it's also because of their beautiful writing, vivid characters (human and ape), lush descriptions of ape behavior and human-ape interaction, and keen moral sensibility. Schrefer doesn't preach, but he doesn't pull punches either: John comes to learn that it's wrong, plain and simple, to keep wild things captive, and he takes enormous risks to rectify a crime to which, as a child, he was a willing if unknowing accomplice. Late in the book, the following moment of intimacy between ape and human clinches John's determination to set his childhood friend free:

"Raja kept probing me. When his golden eyes met mine directly I felt more fully seen by him than by any human in my life. It was like he was navigating back and forth in my heart, sifting and sorting every little feeling he found. Neither of us had a self while our eyes were linked: John and Raja were shared between us."

Apes are as close to human as non-human animals can be. But they're also utterly unique creatures, with lives and needs and agendas distinct from ours. That we've come close to extinguishing all of our nearest relatives on Earth (orangutans, along with mountain gorillas, being the most critically endangered of the great apes) speaks very poorly for our humanity. But in a book such as RESCUED, we glimpse what our relationship to these creatures could and should be: one of mutual interest, love, and respect, starting with respect for their right to live their lives without our interference. Maybe, if we can learn this about the apes, we can learn it about the rest of the world's inhabitants as well.