Friday, February 28, 2014

YA Guy Reveals... Tolkien Was a Pantser!

YA Guy's hard at work on a manuscript tentatively titled Skaldi City, the third book in a series that starts with my debut, Survival Colony Nine. I haven't sold Book Two yet, but so what?

Now, as I've probably announced on this blog before, I'm a classic pantser: I don't plan my novels before I write them. I make my best discoveries when I don't know where I'm going, so generally I just sit down and write. With Book Three, I had a little more of a plan--most of the characters were in place, plus Book Two ends on a cliffhanger that needed to be resolved, plus the whole thing needs to be resolved in a way that I have at least an inkling of--but still, I'm mostly pantsing it, waiting to see what will happen.

And it's a comfort to me in this process to learn that my favorite author of all time, J. R. R. Tolkien, was something of a pantser too.

Here's the story: Tolkien published The Hobbit in 1937. It was moderately successful, and his publisher asked for a sequel. Tolkien sat down to write a follow-up, with the same genial tone, the same whimsical characters, the same children's storybook feel. (Hence the first chapter of what would become The Fellowship of the Ring, which has a much lighter tone than the rest of the novel.) But somewhere during the writing, the book veered into the deeper, darker past, and it became the trilogy we know.

It took nearly twenty years for the book to evolve. Fellowship wasn't published until 1954.

What led this "tale to grow in the telling" (as Tolkien put it), no one is quite sure. Tolkien's son, Christopher, who's performed the invaluable service of publishing and commenting on many of his father's unpublished manuscripts, describes the unfolding of Tolkien's magnum opus in the four-part History of Middle-Earth series beginning with The Return of the Shadow. He traces the evolution of his father's manuscript, the many changes that led to the finished product. But he can't account for the element that shifted the manuscript irrevocably toward its final form: the appearance of a Black Rider on the road to Bree.

At the time Tolkien introduced this character, his son speculates, he likely had no idea what it was and how it related to Sauron and the Second Age. It may only have been a complication Tolkien threw in to make the journey more interesting. But once it appeared, and once Tolkien started to think about its implications, the book would never be the same.

It's funny to note all the changes that took place from early drafts to finished product. Here are only a few:
  • Frodo was originally named (ahem) Bingo
  • Strider/Aragorn was originally a hobbit, Trotter, who had (??) wooden feet
  • Treebeard was originally an evil ogre who captured Gandalf
  • Saruman was a late addition to the manuscript
  • There was no balrog in Moria
  • Gollum was nothing more than the funny little creature he'd been in The Hobbit. In fact, Tolkien had to rewrite the "Riddles in the Dark" chapter (which had originally included Gollum's willingness to give Bilbo the Ring) after Fellowship was published to make it accord with the later book. He did so, ingeniously, by suggesting that the previous version was Bilbo's tale, concocted to justify his possession of the Ring
There's much more to the story--I strongly recommend the History books for those who are diehard Tolkien fans--but you get the picture. One of the greatest works of imaginative literature of all time was written by a guy who was basically winging it.

Of course, it was only a genius like Tolkien, a man who'd immersed himself in invented languages and histories for years, who could wing it so brilliantly. I'm not at all disdaining those writers who plot things out beforehand, nor am I suggesting that pantsers are invariably more successful than planners. I'm simply pointing out how mysterious the writing process is, how unexpected and wonderful.

There are no Black Riders in Skaldi City. But I wonder what will enter without my conscious intention and make the book what it finally turns out to be.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

YA Guy Hosts... Rachel O'Laughlin's KNIGHTS OF RILCH Release Day Blitz (plus a giveaway)!

You all remember Rachel O'Laughlin, who visited YA Guy last year to talk about her debut YA fantasy COLDNESS OF MAREK? Well, Rachel's back, this time with the sequel and second book in the Serengard series, KNIGHTS OF RILCH! Rachel's provided a deleted scene from her new book, plus a discussion of why she deleted it, which I thought offers some really cool insight into the writing process. And if you scroll to the end of the post, you'll also find a great Rafflecopter contest!

So, take it away, Rachel! (Ooh, bad pun!)

This scene was originally attached to Chapter 9, but I ended up cutting it for two reasons. One, it was long and rambly and was slowing down the action. Two, it gave a little more info on past Orion reigns and the Drei military than was necessary at that point, so it felt like an info-dump. After taking it out, the scene where Ric gets drunk in Chapter 13 had so much more snap, and Kierstaz gets to react to Ric’s remarks about Queen Izannah in her own scene, which I like far better.

They made a warm camp that night in a circular manner, just beyond a ridge in a glen, east of the river. Their number was just above five and twenty, if one included the armor bearers. Ric could not shake the feeling that he was the only man among them who was truly prepared for a war--perhaps even the only one who knew what it looked like.

I hope winter comes slow…and mild.

As soon as sparks hit the dried grass for the evening fire, Ric started in on them. “Anyone here ever been inside the borders of Dreibourge?”

One of the sons of Romianz--the shorter one--answered. “I have.”

“And you are?”


Ric held a cup over the fire, although there was nothing hot enough to warm the liquid yet. “What did you see there?”

Tofer rubbed his hands together in spite of the mild weather. “I saw one of their steep, rounded castles built into a mountain stream bed. Didn’t get to go inside, but I met two of the knights of the Class of Stealth. Very pretty architecture. Not as strong as ours, small, and I don’t know how you’d defend such a thing.”

“It does not need to be as strong as ours,” Ric snorted. “They are more cunning warriors than we.”

Zven, Tofer’s twin, said, “Our people have always been taller. Better built.”

“You are Border Guard. You should know the Drei have the mind for war. Our people are farmers, mostly.” Ric attracted a glare from Mikel but no other warnings, so he continued. “They move with a hard, cold logic; not with the sentimentality of the Seren. Today they come to seize a stronger defensive position against whoever emerges victor in Serengard. They won’t stop until they’ve secured the border castles.”

Ric looked at Mikel, hoping his message was clear. Once you have what is left of the Guard, what then? You will fight the Drei sooner or later if you attempt to hold that border.

Mikel turned away, fingering the clasps of his wrist guards, his armor bearer planted firmly next to him. Ric let his lips curl in amusement. That boy had not been at Ashlin--at least, not with Mikel. Wherever he got his cuts, they were fresher than the battle. The armor bearer saw Ric staring, walked away from Mikel and closer to the twins of Romianz. Tofer raised an eyebrow and settled down next to the fire.

“You’ve a story or two, haven’t you? How do you know much about the Drei?” Tofer prodded.

Ric smiled. “Stories are for nights colder than this one.” But no one else was speaking, so he might as well ramble. “The Drei wish to be one step ahead, to force Kovim to fall back from the border. If they hold that, they’ll have an edge on him. We share an enemy, for now.”

Tofer shrugged. “Are you saying we should back down and let them?”

“I am saying we should consider. The Seren people are burning bridges with friends of peace faster than Altrun Orion did in his day. We may be the saviors--Izannah’s warriors, as the songs say--if only because we’ll meet the same fate.” Ric saw a dark glimmer of recognition between the armor bearer and himself. “You’ve a home in Ashlin, boy?” Ric asked.

The boy looked away.

Ric tipped his head, tried to see the face beneath the helmet. “Did the mob kill your family?” There was no gentle way to ask it.

Zven interrupted, “I think he’s an orphan.”

Ric narrowed his eyes. No, that wasn’t it.

Tofer cleared his throat as if something made him uncomfortable. “I’ve not heard a song of Izannah’s warriors. Not painted in a goodly light.”

The fire was beginning to warm. More of the men slowly removed armor and came closer. Ric would have scoffed at them for following Mikel were he not doing so himself. Perhaps he did it for an old friend.

“Queen Izannah employed a picked force of sport fighters, fresh and angry, an idea borrowed from the Elloyans.” Ric picked at the dirt with a stick. “Her warriors went after the new nobles, brought them in to speak for their crimes against their neighbors, and she sent them as emissaries to those King Altrun had turned against us. Most of them were never seen again. But after that Queen Izannah had enough support to reinstate the Castle Guard and the Border Guard. She preserved Ashlin as the brilliant city we have enjoyed, teeming with life commerce. Although you probably do not remember a day before the unrest of thousands of politicals again brought discontent to the streets.”

Tofer shook his head. He looked annoyed. “I have always lived at the border, and it is a mystery why Queen Izannah needed warriors at all. She hadn’t an armed enemy.”

Ric glanced about him, looking for a face forty years or older, but there were none. “Has your generation not learned a coin’s worth of history?”

“My father tells it differently, as do the trainers of the knights.”

“Before the reign of Altrun, industry was in a boom, trade agreements were seamless. The common folk worked for themselves and for the Kymsai, and the Orion monarchy did little but duel the occasional thief. I say Altrun merely wanted to be remembered, and no one is remembered for keeping the peace the way Allel intended.”

Mikel’s armor bearer shifted, and Ric looked up sharply. Just in time to catch a heavy smirk.

Ric shifted. “Why do you laugh at me?”

The armor bearer just shrugged again. Maybe he was mute, unable to speak.

Zven again had suggestions. “He laughs because you are such a poet?”

Tofer slid a leg out toward the fire and turned so that he was between Ric and the armor bearer. “No Orion would seek to destroy his own rule,” Tofer insisted.

“He did not intend to, surely. Altrun told every man to go to war for himself, to stake his claim on any land he wanted, produce anything he chose, hold any slaves he could, just as Kovim does now. I wonder myself whether he was truly mad.”

Again the armor bearer smirked at him.

“But it was no disaster,” Tofer argued. “As long as an Orion remains on the throne, the fields will produce and the rain will come. A new class of nobles built themselves in the days of Altrun--any who could afford a guard of their own built one. They overthrew some of the Kymsai who had owned property for generations. It was a time of freedom, it is said. Then Queen Izannah reversed what had been gained.”

“Your father tells you this?” Ric snorted.

“Altrun is seen as a hero by everyone.”

Ric knew that, but it was a surprise in the son of Romianz. Ric had assumed the older of the Guard--those who had held rank for generations--would be as dedicated to the rule of Orion as he had been raised to be.

Petrolai, I guess I am all there is.

Ric scuffed at the dirt. “For true, Tofer, I was not there. I’ve been told by those who were that our land was riddled with fright and darkness for thirty years. The reinstated treaties with the Drei and mountain people were, I’ll grant you, flawed--but generally agreed to be better than Altrun’s anarchy.”

Tofer grinned. “All right, old man.”

Ric laughed. “Who you calling old?”

“I just said, I agree with you. Izannah’s warriors were necessary.”

“You bend like a reed, boy. Ciar speaks one mind, Ashlin speaks another. Hold your head up and tell me the world through your own eyes.”

Tofer shrugged. “You said Altrun was mad.”

Ric sobered, distracted by his own thoughts. He remembered being told as a boy that someday Serengard would erupt from within. They would throw off Orion rule simply because they were tired and wanted a change. There was always the promise of something better, something cleaner and purer than what one already had, if they could just find someone to blame and kill said someone. “But we have not met him,” he mumbled to Tofer. “And will never know how mad he could have become.”

© Copyright 2013 by Rachel O’Laughlin

About Knights of Rilch:

When Serengard rebelled and the Orion monarchy fell, former crown princess Kierstaz Orion’s love for her people became a burning desire to set things right. With a price on their heads, Kierstaz and her brother Mikel led a handful of men against the new army, fighting skirmishes all along the border of Dreibourge. But months of heavy bloodshed forced her small band of knights to abandon the border--and all of Serengard--to the rebels.

Nine years and a thousand betrayals later, Kierstaz and Mikel again find themselves on the run--only this time, they’ve a boy in tow: Malcom, the son of two of the Seren rebellion’s strongest leaders. The new regime wants him dead, Mikel wants him alive, and it’s all Kierstaz can do to keep their tracks covered. Desperate to preserve the innocent life she swore to protect and the brother who has always stood by her, Kierstaz must gamble the last thing in the world she owns: her identity. Secrets are a staple of the Orion family, and those Kierstaz keeps are as dangerous as the ones kept from her.

KNIGHTS OF RILCH is the sequel to COLDNESS OF MAREK, and the second book in the SERENGARD Series.

Author Bio:

Rachel O’Laughlin grew up writing adventure stories in which heroines tend to get their hands dirty, bad guys sometimes win, and someone always gets kidnapped. Her passion for history morphed into a love for fantasy in her mid-teens, when she took a brief pause from reality for immersion in the arts and a hands-on education in sustainable living. She lives in New England with her husband and two boys, listens to The Fray, and drinks too many lattes. Two novels in her SERENGARD fantasy series have been released, and a third is scheduled for October 2014.

Author Website:

Thursday, February 20, 2014

YA Guy Rants about... Fishing for Followers!

A few days ago on Twitter, YA Guy was followed by someone who (so the profile said) writes “fictional novels.” Yesterday, when I didn’t follow back, the selfsame fictional novelist unfollowed me.

Which I didn’t mind so much, because I write real novels, and I didn’t want any followers who might try to steal them.

But this tiny bit of ridiculousness raises a larger issue, one I’ve tweeted about from time to time: the phenomenon of fishing for followers. Given the built-in limitations of Twitter, I haven’t been able to say as much about this phenomenon as I’ve liked. And so, though it’s not the kind of thing I normally post about, I thought I’d take it up here.

There are people out there, apparently--or perhaps there are programs employed by people--that blindly blanket-follow everyone in the freaking Twittersphere in hopes of follow-backs. When they don’t get what they’re after, these people/programs unfollow within a day or two.

It’s one of the more inane and annoying practices on Twitter, which for the most part I find a lovely little social media platform. (Equally inane and annoying are those who spam you with “buy my stuff!” tweets. Some of these people are, no doubt, the same as the follower-fishers.) The theory behind such bizarre behavior, I assume, is that having a ton of followers builds your platform, enhances your stature, and makes you just about the hottest piece of beef jerky on the web.

But I’ve got news for those of you who are fishing for followers. I hope you’re taking notes.

It’s stupid. If you have 10,000 followers, none of whom has the slightest interest in you or whatever crap-bag piece of garbage you’re selling, how is that advantageous to you? What, it makes you feel good just because it’s a big number? Would you feel just as good if you had 10,000 zits? Because 10,000 followers who don’t care about you are essentially as useful as that.

It’s childish. What are we, five years old? “I’ll be your friend if you’ll be mine.” Twitter is a platform to connect, communicate, and confab with people you find interesting or likable. As adults (or near-adults), we should be using it that way, not as a way of scoring points with Ritchie Bob against Billie Sue.

It’s rude. Yeah, okay, I know my notion of “rude” is outdated. Social media--for that matter, the anonymity and lack of accountability of the internet as a whole--provide the perfect breeding-ground for rudeness. But by any reasonable definition, isn’t it rude to expect people you don’t know to give you something just because you gave them something they didn’t want or ask for in the first place?

Look, no one’s ever called YA Guy perfect. When I was starting out on Twitter, before I understood what it was really all about, I automatically followed anyone who followed me because, well, people had told me you had to have followers (why I didn’t know), and I was too new to the Twitterverse to attract people who actually had a reason to follow me. Over time, I’ve weeded out those early matches that made no sense. So yes, I’ve unfollowed people. I’m not saying it’s a sin.

Nor am I saying it's a problem to follow interesting-sounding people and then, if/when they follow you back, feeling a little bit excited. Because you just made a new contact whose conversation you might enjoy, right? And isn't that what Twitter is all about?

But these two scenarios are totally different from making it a daily practice to follow scores of perfect strangers then unfollow them in a fit of digital pique when they do the only sensible thing they can do under the circumstances, which is to ignore you.

I doubt this post will change the ways of the hardcore fishers, but I’m hoping it might cause some people to rethink what they’re on Twitter for in the first place.

But if not, I hope you enjoy your fictional novels.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

YA Guy Reveals... Cherie Colyer's cover to CHALLENGING DESTINY!

Today, YA Guy is excited to participate in the cover reveal for Cherie Colyer's forthcoming novel CHALLENGING DESTINY. Cherie's a buddy of mine from Darkly Delicious YA, a group of traditionally published YA authors who blog here. She's authored two books in the YA paranormal vein, and her latest, CHALLENGING DESTINY, will be out this Spring. Are you ready for the cover?

Then here it is...

Intense, yes? Awesome, yes? Can't wait to read, yes? Here's more about the book:


Coming spring 2014 from the Wild Rose Press, Black Rose Imprint

Being Chosen is a terrible thing when there's no one you can trust


Logan Ragsdale and his younger sister, Ariana, have been marked, chosen to be unwilling participants in a war between angels and demons. Logan can sense something's not quite right. Like an unexpected chill on a summer's day, he can feel the unseen closing in. He's had these feelings before and, each time, someone close to him died. He's afraid this time it might just be Ariana. Logan's fears are soon confirmed when he discovers their new friends aren't human, but rather representatives from Heaven and Hell sent to Earth to ensure he and Ariana accept their roles in an ancient prophecy. Demons want Logan to open the gates of Hell. Ariana has the power to stop them, but if she chooses to side with Heaven to spare the lives of thousands of innocent people, she'll damn her brother for eternity. Together, they must derail the biblical event if they hope to save themselves and the future of mankind...but what price are they willing to pay to keep the other safe?

More news on this exciting new title coming soon!

About the author:

Cherie Colyer is the author of YA paranormal thriller/romance, EMBRACE and HOLD TIGHT from Omnific Publishing. Her latest novel, CHALLENGING DESTINY will be available this spring from The Wild Rose Press, Black Rose Imprint. Check out her website and blog for news on her books and bonus material. Follow Cherie on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and/or Goodreads to get the latest updates on her books.

Friday, February 14, 2014


What do you get when you put together 14 great YA authors debuting in Fall 2014?

Why, the FALL FOURTEENERS, of course!

That's right, YA Guy has teamed with fellow Fall 2014 YA debuts to spread the word about great times and great books! Our debuts range from science fiction to historical fiction, contemporary to fantasy. We launch today--NOW--with a colossal giveaway: a Kindle Paperwhite plus selected YA e-book titles!

So head on over to our website, enter the contest, and join the fun! To keep updated on our doings and on future contests, follow us on Twitter @FallFourteeners.

You'll see why we Fall14Books (Fall For Teen Books)!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

YA Guy Hosts... THE STAR CATCHER Book Blitz!

Today on YA Guy, I'm thrilled to host the Book Blitz for fellow Pittsburgher Stephanie Keyes's new novel, the YA fantasy THE STAR CATCHER! Read all about the book and its author, and check out the great prizes at post's end!

Book & Author Details:

The Star Catcher by Stephanie Keyes
(The Star Child #3)
Publication date: November 10th 2013
Genres: Paranormal Romance, Young Adult


Magick and destiny intertwine as he fights to save his kingdom and the goddess he loves.

Her kiss…the feel of her skin…the beat of her heart…For seventeen-year-old Kellen St. James, each memory is marred by a single sentence on a lone strip of paper.

Cali has been taken…

Armed with an amulet that channels the ultimate power of Faerie, Kellen searches for his love. However, control of the amulet’s energy comes with a price, and Kellen soon learns that Cali’s captor has plans for the stone. With the threat of the Star Catcher’s evil looming above Kellen and his kingdom, he’ll have to free the Heart of Faerie and break the curse that binds the Children of Danu to the darkness. But before that, he has to find his real father, the king. No pressure, right?

Kellen and Cali will battle bewitched armies and unknown foes as they fight to stay together. Will Kellen embrace his immortal destiny? Or will his world, and the man he is fated to become, be destroyed by The Star Catcher?




Stephanie Keyes has been addicted to Fantasy since she discovered T.H. White as a child and started dreaming up incredible journeys in her head. Today, she's still doing the same thing, except now she gets to share those ideas with readers!

When she's not writing, Stephanie is also a graphic designer, international speaker, teacher, musician, avid reader, and Mom to two little boys who constantly keep her on her toes. In addition, she's best friend to her incredible husband of eleven years.

Steph holds an undergraduate degree in Business and Management Information Systems from Robert Morris University and a M.Ed. from Duquesne University. She is a member of the Society For Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), as well as a featured author in the global group of writers, Love a Happy

Steph is the author of the YA Fantasy series, The Star Child, which includes The Star Child (September 2012), The Fallen Stars (April 2013), and The Star Catcher (November 2013), all released by Inkspell Publishing. She writes YA novels because she's a hopeless romantic who lives to believe that Magick truly does exist. She is hard at work on a new YA novel.

Author links:

Enter to win:

-1 Complete E-book Set of the Entire Star Child Series (INT)
-Multiple e-book Copies of The Star Catcher (INT)

a Rafflecopter giveaway