Wednesday, October 18, 2017

YA Guy Interviews... Lisa Maxwell, author of THE LAST MAGICIAN! (Plus a giveaway!)


YA Guy's had the good fortune to share a stage with several bestselling YA authors: James Dashner, Kristin Cashore, and others. (Well, okay, maybe I didn't quite share the stage with them; they were the headliners and I was just one of many fellow panelists.) But I've never had the chance to hang out with a bestseller who also happens to be a friend.

Until now, that is. Because the ultra-fabulous Lisa Maxwell, bestselling author of THE LAST MAGICIAN and other magical, marvelous YA tales, is my buddy from way back when we debuted in Fall 2014. And recently, I had a chance to chat with her about her book.

But why stop with a chat? I'm also raffling off a signed copy of THE LAST MAGICIAN, which is simply one of the best YA historical fantasies out there. Don't believe me? Here's my review.

So, let's hear from Lisa first, and then you can enter the giveaway via the Rafflecopter thingie below.


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

THE LAST MAGICIAN is a bigger book than any of your previous books, not only in terms of sheer length but in the complexity of the plot, the multiple points of view, the historical background, and so on. Do you think this reflects your maturation as a writer? Or was this book something you'd been saving up all along?

Lisa Maxwell: I think it definitely reflects the experiences of writing my first three books. I have one book that’s shelved where I tried to do a multiple perspective, interwoven story, and I think that mistakes I made trying to write that one very much helped me figure out how to write this one. That being said, I didn’t originally start out to write this book as complexly as it turned out. At first, I thought I was just writing a dual POV with Harte and Esta, but the other characters and their stories and arcs were too complex and essential to the main story to leave out.

YAG: I love the historical richness of THE LAST MAGICIAN, and I know that some of the minor characters (e.g., J. P. Morgan) were actual historical figures. But what about the principal characters? Were any of them either real people or based on real people?

LM: Actually, kind of? I took some of my inspiration for Harte’s background from a book called A Pickpocket’s Tale. It was written by a guy named George Washington Appo, who was a pickpocket and common green games runner in the city, who was also literate enough to write his autobiography. Harte isn’t him, of course, but some of his background was an inspiration for Harte’s backstory. Dolph Saunders was a real guy, but I mostly just stole the name since I really loved the way it sounded. Dolph is a compilation of a couple different historical gang leaders. As for Esta and the rest—they’re all mine.

YAG: I also love time-travel narratives, but I know they can be tricky to write. Did you encounter any specific challenges or plot problems with this aspect of the novel? If so, how did you resolve them?

LM: Everything was a problem. Time travel is so much harder to write than I thought it was when I came up with the idea of making Esta a time traveler. Originally, I hadn’t planned on my thief to be a time traveler, but once I settled on the setting, I realized there was probably no way, historically speaking, that Esta could be the person I imagined with the sensibilities I wanted her to have if she were born and raised in the late 19th century. 

The biggest challenges, though, were rules I imposed on myself. I needed her to have limitations to how and when she could travel, or else she could just magically time travel back to the beginning of the Order and solve everything before it starts. But those limitations meant that I had to make sure there weren’t any inconsistencies in the rest of the book. Don’t even get me started on multiple timelines and time travel paradoxes. The whole thing makes my head hurt, and I’m nowhere close to done thinking about it yet.

Though, I will say that I have solved one paradox/multiple timeline issue AND managed to create a twist that I’m really, really happy about for the next book.

YAG: I can't wait to read it! Thanks again for visiting the blog!

LM: Thanks so much for having me!

Readers, if you want to find Lisa on the web, visit her at http://www.lisa-maxwell.com/. And for a chance to win a signed copy of THE LAST MAGICIAN, enter below. The contest is U.S. only, and it runs from now through Halloween (fitting for a book about magic)!




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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

YA Guy Participates in... the Fall 2017 YA Scavenger Hunt!


YA Guy's super excited to participate in this year's FALL YA SCAVENGER HUNT! Not only is Fall my favorite time of year, but I've got a brand-new book out, the YA science fiction adventure FREEFALL, which released September 26. So I'm totally ready for the Hunt, and I trust that you are too! (I mean, why else would you be here if you weren't?)

As you can probably tell by all the purple lettering in this post (not to mention the banner at the top), I'm on the PURPLE TEAM, 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 PURPLE TEAM page, and you can enter for our prize--one lucky winner will receive one signed book from each author on the hunt in our team! There are SEVEN 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 OCTOBER 8! (My personal giveaway, though, will run a little longer, until October 10.)

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 purple 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 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, October 8, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered. For more information, go 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 a signed copy of my new novel FREEFALL! Like the Hunt itself, this personal giveaway is open internationally. Use the Rafflecopter form below to enter!

Okay, got all that? Then let's meet the author I'm hosting, BRENDA DRAKE!

New York Times bestselling author of the Library Jumpers series, the Fated series, and Thunderstruck, creator of #PitchWars, #PitchMadness, and #PitMad, fueled by 22 cups of coffee and Goldfish crackers (but not together), and represented by Peter Knapp with The Park Literary Group.

To find out more about Brenda, go to her website at brendadrake.com.


About GUARDIAN OF SECRETS: Being a Sentinel isn’t all fairy tales and secret gardens.

Sure, jumping through books into the world’s most beautiful libraries to protect humans from mystical creatures is awesome. No one knows that better than Gia Kearns, but she could do without the part where people are always trying to kill her. Oh, and the fact that Pop and her had to move away from her friends and life as she knew it.

And if that isn’t enough, her boyfriend, Arik, is acting strangely. Like, maybe she should be calling him “ex,” since he’s so into another girl. But she doesn’t have time to be mad or even jealous, because someone has to save the world from the upcoming apocalypse, and it looks like that’s going to be Gia.

Maybe. If she survives.

To buy the book, follow this link!

*********************************************************************************


The Hunt's over, but my personal giveaway for a chance to win a signed copy of my new YA science fiction adventure FREEFALL runs until October 10!

About FREEFALL: When the 1% and the 99% clash, the fate of the human race hangs on the actions of two teens from very different backgrounds in this thrilling sci-fi adventure.

In the Upperworld, the privileged 1% are getting ready to abandon a devastated Earth. And Cam can’t wait to leave. After sleeping through a 1,000-year journey, he and his friends will have a pristine new planet to colonize. And no more worries about the Lowerworld and its 99% of rejects.

Then Cam sees a banned video of protesters in the Lowerworld who also want a chance at a new life. And he sees a girl with golden eyes who seems to be gazing straight through the feed at him. A girl he has to find. Sofie.

When Cam finds Sofie, she opens his eyes to the unfairness of what’s happening in their world, and Cam joins her cause for Lowerworld rights. He also falls hard for Sofie. But Sofie has her own battles to fight, and when it’s time to board the spaceships, Cam is alone.

Waking up 1,000 years in the future, Cam discovers that he and his shipmates are far off-course, trapped on an unknown and hostile planet. Who has sabotaged their ship? And does it have anything to do with Sofie, and the choices—and the enemies—he made in the past?

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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

YA Guy Releases... FREEFALL!


That's right, folks: today is release day for YA Guy's deep-space adventure FREEFALL!


It seems like forever ago that I first conceived this book--and in fact, I originally drafted it back in 2013, the first time I participated in NaNoWriMo. Then there was the year I set it aside to work on other projects, then the year of revising, then the acceptance by my publisher in early 2016, then the interminable wait for the actual publication.... But it's here now, and I hope you'll agree it was worth the wait!

To celebrate the release of FREEFALL, here are some things you can do:

BUY THE BOOK



READ SOME REVIEWS



ENTER GIVEAWAYS



READ THE FIRST CHAPTER


WATCH THE TRAILER


You can also take a picture of the book and post it to social media, or help spread the word by tweeting, reblogging, chatting with friends, or whatever. If you post a picture of the book online and tag me to make sure I see it, I'll send you one of these cool prop-replica packs as a thank you!


I hope you enjoy FREEFALL, and thanks for helping me launch it to the stars!


Thursday, September 14, 2017

YA Guy Creates... A FREEFALL Glossary!


It's less than two weeks until the September 26 release of FREEFALL, and YA Guy's getting excited!

Since FREEFALL takes place in the twenty-second century, lots of things have changed in terms of politics, culture, technology, and media—and the language has adapted to reflect those changes. Here's an alphabetical list of some of the terms that have arisen in the world of Cam Newell and Sofie Patel. (Italicized words can be found in the list.)

Adjournalist: a paid propagandist who circulates falsified news accounts in the financial interest of one or more of Earth’s corponations.

CanAm: an Upperworld corponation, responsible for administering the former nations of North America.

Catastrologist: a combination of meteorologist and mystic who predicts future outcomes, typically of a catastrophic nature, at the behest of one or more of Earth’s corponations.

Centurion: a biomechanical soldier employed in outer space by JIPOC.

Chatshow: a talk show on the worldlink, offering viewer interactivity through selfone interface.

Classification: a corponational training program for all Upperworld children, taking the place of the banned public and private educational systems.

Close supervision: a euphemism for military attacks on Lowerworld sites believed to harbor dissidents.

ColPrep: an abbreviation for Colonization Preparation, the physical and mental training regimen required of Upperworld residents chosen to depart Earth on a mission to colonize outer space.

ConGlo: a Lowerworld corponation, responsible for administering the former nations of Central Africa.

Cons Piracy: a rogue group of computer hackers who attempt to leak top-secret data held by one or more of Earth’s corponations.

Corponation: a corporate entity that has taken over the functions of government (territorial management, population control, distribution of wealth, etc.) and that operates on a for-profit basis.

Data Recruitment Specialist: an Upperworld technician who performs the functions of a scientist, engaging in corponation-funded research to support profitable initiatives.

Deepsleep: a form of suspended animation, developed in part by Cam’s mother, that enables deep-space colonists to survive voyages much longer than the span of a human life.

ExCon: an Upperworld corponation, responsible for administering the former nations of western and northern Europe and Russia.

Frackia: a Lowerworld corponation, responsible for administering the former nations of southern Africa.

Funding Fathers: the revered ancestors who established the underlying principles and secured the original financial security of the Upperworld.

INTERCOLPA: the Intercorponational Colonization Protection Agency, responsible for overseeing security surrounding the deep-space colonization mission and for deporting or incarcerating perceived threats to the mission.

JIPOC: the Joint Intercorponational Panel on Otherworld Colonization, the Upperworld conglomerate that pursues and finances the mission to colonize space.

Lower-life: a derogatory term for a resident of the Lowerworld (plural Lower-lifes).

Lowerworld: the 99% of the world’s population that lacks access to wealth and basic resources, geographically separated from the Upperworld.

MediTerri: an Upperworld corponation, responsible for administering the former nations of southern and eastern Europe and North Africa.

Megazine: an entertainment site on the worldlink, offering paid access to media content, tabloid news, and consumer products.

MexSanto: a Lowerworld corponation, responsible for administering the former nations of South and Central America.

MicroNasia: a Lowerworld corponation, responsible for administering the former nations of the far East.

Nanoroids: injectable nanotechnologies that build muscle mass and bone density while enhancing endurance, balance, agility, and nerve conduction velocity.

Nanoserum: any of a number of nanotherapies delivered through injection.

New York CITI: New York Central Intercorponational Telecom Interface, the hub of the worldlink, located at the site of the former New York City.

Peace Corp.: a private paramilitary force employed by Earth’s corponations to suppress individual liberties and political activism in the Upperworld and Lowerworld.

Plutocrats and Publicans: two defunct political parties from the waning ages of the old world, when governments rather than corponations ruled the planet.

PMP: Primary Medical Personnel, an Upperworld technician who performs the functions of a physician (often aided by an AMP or Auxiliary Medical Personnel).

Privacar: a privately owned vehicle, extremely rare due to its financial and environmental impacts and thus the prerogative solely of the super-rich.

Selfone: an advanced version of a cell phone, providing instant access to the worldlink along with other functions.

SubCon: a Lowerworld corponation, responsible for administering the former nations of southern Asia and the Indian subcontinent.

Techgame: a video game played on the worldlink, with full immersive VR and interactivity among multiple players engaged with each other either synchronously or asynchronously.

Terrarist: an individual or member of a group who engages in violent political resistance, ostensibly in the interest of preserving the planet Earth (Terra).

Terra Tank: a slang term for Centurion.

TranSpeaker: a hovering device that enables speakers of different languages to communicate.

UniVers: an Upperworld corponation, responsible for administering the former Australia.

Upperworld: the 1% of the world’s population that has monopolized access to wealth and essential resources, and that plans to abandon Earth to colonize outer space.

Worldlink: the twenty-second century equivalent of the internet, providing entertainment and indoctrination on public channels, and strictly regulated to prevent unlicensed content from being viewed by the general population.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

YA Guy Says... ARGH!!! to ARCS

ARCs. Advance reader (or review) copies. You know 'em. You love 'em. You need 'em.

YA Guy hates 'em.

Well, let's clarify that. I don't have a problem with ARCs as such. In fact, it's kind of thrilling to see your book in physical form for the first time, even if it's a flimsy paperback and the text will probably undergo changes ranging from minor to ginormous before the actual book is published. I understand, too, why others like ARCs: a chance to read and review a book before it's on the shelves. Some people collect ARCs. And publishers keep churning them out in hopes of generating buzz and early reviews.

But I've got to tell you, my personal experience with ARCs has been an exercise in frustration.

With FREEFALL, I received about 20 ARCs (not to mention the digital ARCs on NetGalley). Being a good boy, I sent out emails to various reviewers in my genre, asking if they'd like a physical or digital ARC. Many reviewers responded enthusiastically, so I sent them the ARC of their choice. Then I sat back and waited for the reviews to roll in.

Which they didn't.

I got a few reviews, sure. Some were very positive, some weren't. That's life. The not-so-positive reviews aren't what I'm annoyed about.

It's the people who don't review the book at all. Ever.

I sent follow-up emails to those who'd requested an ARC. Several responded with firm or tentative review dates. Most, however--if they responded at all--told me that they were too busy to review, or something had come up, or they'd changed their minds. No review for you, kid. Sorry, better luck next time!

This bothers me. And not because it signifies that I'm not a big enough name to merit instant reviews. For all I know, this happens to everyone. But it shouldn't happen to anyone.

Look, I'm busy too. Things come up for me. And I have been known to change my mind from time to time.

But when someone asks me if I'll review their ARC and I agree to do so, I review the darn thing. I recognize that it costs the author (or somebody) money to mail me that ARC, and I also recognize that if I take it, someone else who might have reviewed it doesn't get it. If I'm honestly too busy or foresee that the book's not quite up my alley and I might change my mind about reviewing it, I tell the author or publisher not to send it to me.

We all know of the dishonest things that happen with ARCs. Some people request them only to sell them online. Others, even worse, digitize them and then give them away on free download sites. I can't do anything about those people, who are either outright crooks or just plain jerks.

But to the people who are less criminal than inconsiderate, I'd ask that you remember the investment the author makes in her or his writing, along with the expectation that's attached to the ARC she or he sent to you. It's not a formal contract, of course. You're not REQUIRED to read and review it. If the author was the one who made the initial overture, you might think you have no real obligation to review it. But wouldn't that be the right thing to do? The nice thing to do?

In any event, I think I've finally wised up. For my next book, I'll either survive without ARCs or go digital only. I really don't have the time or money to be shipping books to people who plan to use them only to prop up the furniture.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

YA Guy Launches... FREEFALL!


YA Guy's newest science fiction novel, FREEFALL, hits the shelves next month (September 26, to be exact), so I'm celebrating a few days early with a launch party on September 24. If you're in or near the Pittsburgh area, please stop by--there will be good conversation, signed books for sale, food and drink, and cool giveaways (I promise).

Hope to see you there!

Monday, August 21, 2017

YA Guy Reads... Really Long Books!

YA Guy recently finished reading Frank Herbert's DUNE--all 900 pages of it--and it made me think about other really long books I've read in the past. Since I'm gearing up to read two additional epics--THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME and DON QUIXOTE--I thought it would be fun to post mini-reviews of ten previous examples, listed in order from best to worst.

1. THE LORD OF THE RINGS. My favorite book, hands down. I've read it four times throughout my life--once when I was twelve, once during graduate school, once when I taught a Tolkien course to college students, and several years ago just for the heck of it--and I never tire of it. I confess, in my most recent reading, I found the elevated diction and inverted syntax ("Lo! Then did the Lord Aragorn come unto the Plains of Pelennor, and he was as one that was wroth!") a bit forced. But the story, the characters, and most of all the unparalleled world-building were as impressive to me as they were back when I was a kid.

2. DUNE. Another long book I loved as a teen and decided to re-read as an adult. I found it really slow-moving this time around; the first third is pretty much prelude to the uprising that kicks the story into gear. And hero Paul's unflappable, messianic self-confidence was a bit hard to take. But as with Tolkien, Herbert has to be credited for one of the greatest feats of world-building--or universe-building--of all time.

3. ULYSSES. I started Joyce's epic in 1990 and finished it in 2015. But no, it didn't take me 25 years to read it; I started it for a class in grad school, then stopped midway through once the semester ended and never picked it back up until 25 years later. Undeniably a great book, earthy and funny and sensual and smart, with enough daring, dazzling narrative choices to fill up a shelf-full of novels.

4. TOM JONES. This 1000-plus page picaresque is at once an early masterpiece of the novel form and a parody of the same; it pretty much defined postmodernism 200 years before that was a thing. I read it in grad school and don't remember many of the details, except for the fact that the hero kept getting into various affairs and peccadilloes and the author kept commenting on his own book. But I do remember that it kept me entertained for a solid month, and that's something.

5. GONE WITH THE WIND. Yes, it's racist as hell, and I would never excuse or rationalize that racism the way some people do ("oh, everyone was racist then, so it's not a big deal!"). I would say, however, that as a glimpse into the mind of the South, both antebellum and postbellum, it can't be beat. And Scarlett O'Hara remains one of the great fictional inventions of all time.

6. SHOGUN. I read this way back in high school, after I'd watched the miniseries. It's hard for me to recall from all those years back exactly what I thought about it; I don't think I understood it all that well, and I really had (and have) no idea if its representation of feudal Japan is at all accurate. But I remember that the story kept me engaged, and the characters, both Western and Japanese, struck me as simultaneously realistic and of epic proportions, which isn't an easy balance to strike.

7. PARADISE LOST. The only poem on this list, Milton's masterpiece was another book I was required to read in my Ph.D. program. It's not all that long in terms of page or word count, but the difficulty of the language and the complexity of the theological ruminations make it a book that feels much longer than it is. (That's not necessarily said in a negative way.) Of the central quartet of characters, Adam is a shallow pretty boy, God is a vengeful whiner, Eve is an interesting early example of a woman straining against the bonds of patriarchy, and Satan is a recognizably human and sympathetic villain.

8. CATCH-22. I received this book as a prize in college for an essay contest I won, but I didn't read it until a few years ago. I definitely get what Heller was up to, taking the "good war" and making it every bit as pointless, absurd, and depraved as every other war. But the darn thing is so chaotic and fractured, it took me forever to read. And I didn't feel that I connected with it until near the end, when we finally discover what Yossarian witnessed that drove him mad.

9. MIDDLEMARCH. Yet another massive novel that was required of me--or, in this case, inflicted on me--during grad school. I know many people love this book and its self-actualizing heroine, but I found it plodding, dull, and almost impossible to finish. It was ironic, I thought, that Eliot presented Casaubon's Key to All Mythologies as such a tedious, self-indulgent venture when, to me, her own novel felt very much the same.

10. GAME OF THRONES. Without a doubt, the worst long book I've ever read. I'd heard so many people raving about it, I felt I had to read it--but when I did, I discovered that it wasn't at all what I'd been led to believe. An epic fantasy? What's epic about it? And where's the fantasy? There's a wraith-like creature in the first few pages, and a baby dragon on the very last--and then, for the rest of the book, there's nothing but court intrigue and royals engaging in love affairs and other questionable behavior. Who cares about these people? And why did the author decide to kill the one character I had started to care about in the slightest--Ned Stark--in the most pointless, trivializing way possible? Add to that sexagenarian Martin's creepy fascination with nubile nymphet Daenerys Targaryen's genitalia and the various things that can be inserted therein, and this book was complete and total trash, basically soft-core porn masquerading as fantasy fiction.

So that wraps it up. Any suggestions for other really long books I should sink my teeth into? As I said, I've already got Hugo and Cervantes on tap, but I should be ready for something new by the middle of 2018 or so!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

YA Guy Discusses... Discussions!

As you've probably already figured out, YA Guy's kind of old-fashioned. (Which is another way of saying that YA Guy's kind of old.) I didn't encounter a computer until senior year in college. I don't own a cell phone. I'm on social media, sure, but I don't use it to flog, bully, and ridicule other people.

Which, it seems, is the purpose to which all too many put it.

I was thinking about this when I read a recent discussion of science fiction and fantasy literature on Goodreads. Ordinarily, I avoid such discussions, because I've learned that the comments tend to degenerate into tantrums, tirades, and taunts. But I thought, "what could go wrong with a discussion of science fiction and fantasy literature?" So I read.

Turns out lots of things can go wrong.

Right at the start, one participant denigrated dystopian literature--particularly YA dystopian--and those who read it. In no time, others jumped in either to defend the genre and its readers or to pile more ridicule upon their unsuspecting and inoffensive heads. Someone used the occasion to make a scurrilous remark about liberals (?), whereupon someone else berated that person for bringing politics into the forum. A couple of times, calmer heads tried to steer the discussion back on track or to suggest gently that different readers have a right to their own likes and dislikes, but to no avail. The troll train had left the station, and it wasn't about to be turned back.

I don't know why people like to attack other people online. I guess the relative anonymity (and hence safety) of computer-mediated discourse brings out the worst in some folks. Or maybe it's just a game for certain people (though why flinging profanities at perfect strangers should constitute some kind of game is beyond me). Whatever the case, in YA Guy's esteemed opinion, this kind of behavior is just plain cruel and pointless.

On Facebook--which, dinosaur that I am, is my favorite social media platform--I have a policy: I don't argue with other people's posts, and I don't permit argument with my own. On the rare occasion that someone violates this policy by calling me a pointy-headed liberal or whatever, I remove their comment and post a reminder that I don't abide such incivility in cyberspace, just as I don't abide it in face-to-face contacts. Life's too short, and damage too easily done by words as surely as fists, for me to engage in shouting contests on the computer screen.

So I'm here to make a plea for restraint in online discussions. Try to be nice to others. If you must disagree, do so respectfully. What purpose is served by adding to the sum total of vitriol in the world?

And if you find yourself posting a nasty response to this column, be assured that your words will be deleted by your friendly neighborhood dinosaur.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

YA Guy Gives Away... FREEFALL Swag!

YA Guy's got some very cool FREEFALL swag I'm just dying to give away to readers! This includes an item modeled on a scene in the book where the narrator, Cam, dons a backpack imprinted with the logo of JIPOC, the company that finances a deep-space colonization mission that goes horrendously wrong. Here's an image of the replica bag:



Pretty cool, huh?

From now until I run out, I'm giving away this bag, filled with other FREEFALL goodies, to anyone who tweets a picture of the book. Here's what you have to do to claim your swag:

--snap a picture of FREEFALL in a bookstore, a library, your own bookshelf, or wherever else you like

--tweet the picture, using the hashtag #Freefall and making sure to tag me so I see it @TheYAGuy

I'll DM you for your mailing address and mail your bag right out to you, so you'll be able to carry your copy of FREEFALL (and anything else you want to carry) wherever you go!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

YA Guy Reveals... The FREEFALL jacket!

YA Guy loves the cover to FREEFALL, my forthcoming YA science fiction adventure. I thought it was one of the most beautiful things I'd ever seen.

But then I saw the complete jacket.


Nice, huh?

There's a jacket reveal running on YA Interrobang for the next week, with a chance to win a signed copy of FREEFALL. Check it out!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

YA Guy Gives Away... FREEFALL ARCs!



Just a very brief post to let you know that YA Guy (i.e., me) is giving away three signed ARCs of my forthcoming YA science fiction novel FREEFALL! Head on over to Goodreads to enter. The giveaway runs from now until June 30, so don't miss it!

Wow, I think that's my first post ever where the picture is bigger than the text.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

YA Guy Answers Questions... from Students!

One of YA Guy's favorite things about writing for young people is that I get to visit schools. The energy and enthusiasm students show are truly amazing--and the questions they ask about my novels and the writing process are great. To give you a sample of what I mean, here are some questions that I received from eighth grade students at a recent school visit, along with my answers.

Michael: Did you ever test your writing on your own children?

Me: As a matter of fact, yes! My daughter was my first reader for SURVIVAL COLONY 9 when she was twelve years old (she's now eighteen and about to go to college). I'd written a single chapter and wanted to see if it was any good, so I asked her to look it over. Fortunately, she gave it the thumbs up!

Conner: What were some of the main changes you made in the draft of SURVIVAL COLONY 9?

Me: One of the biggest changes was that I removed a chapter that included a lot of backstory about the world, the wars, the coming of the Skaldi, and so on. It was too much information all at once, and it slowed down the story. So I took tiny parts of it and included them in the chapter where Querry and Korah talk by the pool, and I sprinkled some other parts throughout the sequel, SCAVENGER OF SOULS. If, as I'm currently planning, I publish a prequel, some of the information will find its way in there too!

Brittany: Were any of the characters inspired by real people?

Me: Most of them were, in one way or another. But in particular, I think the character of Laman was inspired by my own father, who's a great guy but (as is sometimes the case with fathers and sons) who sometimes rubs me the wrong way. The scene in which Querry and Laman play catch was definitely modeled on my own life--because the one thing my dad and I can always talk about without risking an argument is baseball.

Alex: Is writing your full-time job?

Me: I wish! Like many writers--maybe most writers--I have a full-time job that pays the bills, and then I write whenever I can. Balancing the two can be difficult, because writing takes so much time. But luckily, I'm a teacher, so I do get summers off!

Abbey: What's the favorite book that you've written?

Me: I'm tempted to say "all of them," but the reality is, one of the books I really, really love is also one that will probably never be published. It's a strange, quirky, satirical science fiction novel that is so personal, I can't see it finding a mass audience. It's what writers sometimes call "the book of my heart," the book I really wanted to write. But as a writer, one has to accept that a book like that won't always be published.

Gaven: Are you a fan of post-apocalyptic movies?

Me: How could you tell? Yes, I love the Terminator series, the X-Men movie Days of Future Past, and a number of other similar stories. Someone told me when SURVIVAL COLONY 9 came out that it was somewhat similar to The Walking Dead, so I watched the first episode of that series. But alas, I've never been a fan of zombie movies.

Austin: How did it feel to create a novel?

Me: This is a sort of dorky answer, but in all honesty, it felt similar to creating a child. I remember how it felt to hold my daughter for the first time, and it was similar to holding my own novel for the first time. (Holding my daughter was better, though. I have to say that or she'll kill me, but it's really true!)

Rocco: Did you ever try to publish any of your novels from the past?

Me: That's an interesting question. Like most writers, I've written more books than I've published, including a fantasy novel I wrote when I was sixteen. These days, with self-publishing, I could easily put those novels out there. But I feel as if that would be a mistake, because there's a reason most of them aren't published: they're not very good. They were the novels that helped me develop my skills to the point where I could write publishable novels, so it's probably better they remain in my closet or on my hard drive!

Lindsey: Is there a particular character you relate to?

Me: I definitely relate to my narrator, because he's the most me: a guy who tries to do the right thing but sometimes fails and sometimes doubts himself. But I also relate to Aleka, the character I'd most like to be. I find her really admirable, because she has a very strong sense of justice that I wish I could live up to in my own life.

Christian: How did you handle criticism from your editor?

Me: Another great question. Like all people, I feel bad when I get criticized, when someone doesn't like my book, when I get a negative review, and so on. But as a writer, you have to learn to deal with criticism--which doesn't mean ignoring it, but putting it to productive use. My editor always has critical comments to make about my manuscripts, and at first they sting a little. But then I take a step back, think about what she's saying, and do my best to learn from her criticism and make the manuscript as good as I can.

Hannah: With all the disappointments in a writer's life, what gives you the strength to go on?

Me: I think the answer to that is simply that I've wanted to be a writer almost as long as I can remember. If I'd given up, if I'd let disappointment stand in my way, I wouldn't have achieved my dream. So every time the going gets tough, I remind myself of why I'm doing this, and that helps me find my way.

Nadia: If you were living under the circumstances Querry lives under, what would you do?

Me: The reality is, I'd probably die. I'm not saying that facetiously; in order to make this book work, I had to take certain liberties with reality (such as the scarcity of water in Querry's world) that probably aren't actually survivable. But if it were possible to live under these conditions, I like to believe that, like Querry, I'd fight for the future, not only my own but that of others.

Jared: Did the ending of SURVIVAL COLONY 9 stay the same from draft to draft?

Me: Yes--but the middle changed a lot! That's usually how it is with me as a writer: I know where I want to go, but I don't know how I'm going to get there. I do a certain amount of planning, but for the most part, I enjoy being surprised by the twists and turns that occur during the act of writing.

Mike: Are there any of your characters that you dislike?

Me: I've definitely written unlikable characters, but that doesn't mean that I, the author, don't like them. Or maybe it would be better to say that I identify with them--I know what makes them tick, I get where they're coming from. I believe it's important for authors to know all their characters through and through, which often means recognizing qualities in them, even negative qualities, that are part of one's own make-up.

Madison: What's the most important struggle in SURVIVAL COLONY 9--the internal one or the external one?

Me: Wow, fascinating question. I tried to make Querry's internal struggle--to accept himself and grow into a confident leader--connect with his external struggle--to defeat the Skaldi. That's not to say he needed to defeat them to prove himself. It's to say he needed to learn to take risks, to get outside himself and act for the good of others, and to overcome his own insecurities and doubts. The Skaldi, as creatures that steal identity, became important antagonists in Querry's quest to discover who he is.

Santiago: Is there anything you'd tell your younger writing self?

Me: I'd tell him to calm down, to take his time, to not worry so much about the future. When I was a teenage writer, I was so desperate to be published I don't think I enjoyed the journey as much as I should have. I know it's relatively easy for me to give this advice now, since the journey did end in publication. But even if it hadn't, I would have wanted the younger me to be less hard on himself and to feel better about who he was, without worrying so much about who he wanted to be.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

YA Guy Interviews... Sabrina Fedel, author of LEAVING KENT STATE!

It's a little known fact that one of YA Guy's first novels was written when I was a college student back in the 80s. The tale of a college campus that's taken over by a revolutionary cabal, it was going nowhere until I decided to do some research into an actual college campus that was subjected to military rule. My research naturally led me to the shootings that took place on the Kent State University campus on May 4, 1970, forty-seven years ago today.

In my book, the historical research formed only the lightest thread in an otherwise boisterously absurd comic novel. But I've been fascinated by the history of Kent State ever since. And that's why I was so excited to discover Sabrina Fedel's debut LEAVING KENT STATE, a YA historical novel set in Kent, Ohio in the days before and during the on-campus massacre. I've reviewed this amazing novel here, and I was fortunate enough to have Sabrina visit the blog to talk about her book, her research, and her current works-in-progress.


YA Guy: Hi, Sabrina, and welcome to the blog! As someone who's intrigued by the history of the Vietnam War and the anti-war movement, I was wondering how you came up with the idea for LEAVING KENT STATE?

SF: The idea for LEAVING KENT STATE came to me while watching television (we can’t always be reading!) and ironing. There was a documentary-style program on about the shooting, and it struck me that it was really a story about young people clashing against their world order. I knew I wanted to write about it. I researched and found that there were almost no books that even mentioned the incident, and no YA stories. Because many YA editors don’t want to see a protagonist over 18, I made my protagonist a high school senior. It wasn’t difficult for me to imagine the rest of Rachel's story, as I was a girl who had to go to the university where my dad taught, even though I didn’t want to, just like her.

YAG: What was your research process for this novel? Did you uncover any unusual or out-of-the-way sources? What was the most interesting or surprising thing you discovered?

SF: To research this story, I started with non-fiction books about the shootings. When I felt like I had a beginning, I made trips to Kent. I studied maps and drove around looking for the neighborhood (and house!) that Rachel would have lived in. I saw where she went to school, where the Twin Lakes were, Main Street, and the campus of KSU. I dove into the archives there, reading the local paper for every day between October 1969, when my story starts, until the end of May, 1970. Every year on May 4th, KSU hosts a memorial commemoration, and I attended a number of those where I spoke to people who worked in the archives or who had been there that day. I went to the local historical society and talked with people there, as well.

One of the neatest things, to me, is that KSU has an online oral history project about that day. Anyone who wanted to come forward and describe what happened to them that day could participate. I found these stories really fascinating and got a lot of contextual information that I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to experience. I also went online to research speeches by President Nixon, and I read autobiographies and nonfiction books about Vietnam. Finally, I interviewed a Vietnam veteran who very generously helped me understand what it was like for him during his service and then coming home.

The thing that surprised me the most was that many people felt that the students deserved what happened to them. The vitriol against the students, even sometimes by their own parents, was horrific. One woman told me that her father was among those who said that the Guard should have shot them all. When she pointed out that she would have been killed if they had, her father told her it was what she deserved. That was really shocking to me. Another thing that surprised me was that during law school, I had lived VERY near to the grave of shooting victim Allison Krause. I learned that from the Vietnam veteran whom I interviewed, who had been a history teacher and had studied the shootings. When he took me to her grave, I thought it was very ironic that I had lived practically across the street from her little Jewish cemetery for a year and never knew it was even there.

YAG: That's an impressive amount of research, and it really shows in your book. At the same time, one of the things I love about LEAVING KENT STATE is that you never let the historical detail overwhelm the story. How did you make sure that didn't happen?

SF: Thanks! I tried to make sure that every detail had a purpose to the story so that it would feel organic. There were things Rachel had to explain, and sometimes I relied on the fact that her family was a bunch of avid newspaper readers to make that happen, or other times I would have it happen in conversations. I tried to keep to a minimum the times that Rachel explained things to the reader. I also tried to pick details that were special to that era, that spoke of it. I did a LOT of research into guitar and car models, the Billboard top forty lists, and double-checked when things that I believed were iconic to the 1970s happened. Sometimes I was surprised to find that things I associated with the period were actually popular later (like the cartoon character Ziggy, who didn’t materialize until after my story ended).

YAG: You mentioned earlier that when you first formulated the idea for LEAVING KENT STATE, you had to develop a high school-age protagonist so it would fit into the YA genre. What do you like most about writing for young people?

SF: I love writing for young people because teens who are readers want to know about other people and cultures. They are eagerly looking to find out both what separates them from others and what is similar. They want to know what it would be like “if.” I’m always fascinated by the way people live and the choices they make, so I think in that way I am a perpetual teen. I want to know the "why" behind things, and so do teenagers.

YAG: Based on that description, I think YA Guy's a perpetual teen, too! So what's the next project you're working on?

SF: I recently completed a contemporary realism novel about a hockey playing girl who loses her mother and runs away to Venice. It’s all about grieving and the meaning of family. I am shopping that now while I work on my next project, which is also a contemporary realism novel that is kind of The Breakfast Club at a psychiatric hospital. This one is in verse, so we’ll see. I haven’t written in verse before. But so far, I am happy with it.

YAG: I can't wait to read those books when they come out. Thanks again for visiting, and best of luck with your new projects!

SF: Thanks so much for having me visit!

Readers, if you want to learn more about Sabrina and her books, here's where to go!

About the author: Sabrina Fedel’s novel, Leaving Kent State, released in 2016 from Harvard Square Editions. Her young adult short story, "Honor’s Justice," has been nominated for a 2017 Pushcart Prize, a 2016 storySouth Million Writers Award, and a Sundress Publications Best of the Net '16 award. Sabrina teaches English Literature at Robert Morris University as an adjunct faculty member, and is a 2014 graduate of Lesley University's MFA in Creative Writing program, with a concentration in Writing for Young People. Her poetry and essays have been published in various print and online journals. You can find out more about Sabrina at www.sabrinafedel.com, or follow her on twitter @writeawhile. She also can be found hanging out on Instagram, Facebook, and occasionally tumblr.

To buy LEAVING KENT STATE: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1941861245

Sabrina's Goodreads page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15403413.Sabrina_Fedel

Monday, May 1, 2017

YA Guy Participates in... the Mother's Day Kindle Fire giveaway!

YA Guy's mom absolutely loves books. She consumes ten or more a week (personally, I don't know how she does it). So I can't think of a better gift for Mother's Day than a Kindle Fire, along with plenty of extra cash to load it with books! The giveaway runs through May 13, and if you win, you can give it to Mom or keep it for yourself (YA Guy won't tell!).



2017 Mother's Day Kindle Fire Giveaway ($250 Value) The price of a Kindle Fire has come way down in the past few years, but this giveaway is still valued at $250. That's plenty of cash to buy a Kindle Fire AND load it full of books. The winner will have the choice of a $250 Amazon.com Gift Card or $250 in Paypal Cash! Thanks to this awesome group of authors, bloggers, and publishers for making this giveaway possible.

Sponsor List

I Am A Reader
Kathy Habel
Laurie Here - Cont Fiction and MORE
Heather Boyd, Regency Romance Author
Author Mary Ting
Author Dorothy Dreyer
Helen Smith
MagicalCoolCatMysteries
Toi Thomas Heather Gray, Author
Glistering: B's Blog
Geybie's Book Blog
Wishful Endings
Prism Book Tours
Lori's Reading Corner
Aubrey Wynne: Timeless Romance
Joshua David Bellin (YA Guy)
Author Crystal Marcos
Jo Noelle
Cynthia Luhrs Author
Pauline Creeden, Author
B. Kristin McMichael
Joyce DiPastena
Lise McClendon - Author
Simple Wyrdings
Auggie @ AuggieTalk
LeahSay's View

Giveaway Details

$250 in Paypal Cash or a $250 Amazon.com eGift Card. Ends 5/13/17.  Open only to those who can legally enter, receive, and use money sent via Paypal or gift codes via Amazon.com. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by Rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter, or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the authors, bloggers, and publishers on the sponsor list. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

YA Guy Wants You to... Sketch a Skaldi!


The e-ARC for my forthcoming YA science fiction novel FREEFALL is newly available on NetGalley, and physical ARCs have arrived as well, which means the published book will be out in a matter of months. (September 26, to be precise.) Which further means I'll soon be running out of space on my bookshelves.

So from now until the end of June, I'll be giving away a signed copy of SURVIVAL COLONY 9 or SCAVENGER of SOULS, free of charge, to anyone who asks.

But there's a catch: to get your signed copy, you have to draw a picture of a Skaldi and send it to me (electronically). I'm calling this the "Sketch a Skaldi" giveaway, and here's how it works:

  • The giveaway runs from this instant until June 30, 2017.
  • Each entrant can receive no more than one book (either SURVIVAL COLONY 9 or SCAVENGER OF SOULS, not both). If you want to send me multiple drawings, that's fine, but you won't get extra books.
  • Your drawing can be hand drawn or computer drawn, but it MUST be your own artwork. Grabbing an image off the internet and passing it off as yours is a big no-no.
  • You don't need to be Picasso--any drawing of a Skaldi, so long as it's your own, is fine with me.
  • Drawings must be of a Skaldi as described in Chapter 17 of SURVIVAL COLONY 9 or Chapter 6 of SCAVENGER OF SOULS. No fair drawing a picture of a regular person and saying, "Well, s/he was taken over by a Skaldi!" (For an example of an awesome Skaldi illustration, see the picture above, by fan Desiree Schreiner.)
  • Submitting your drawing gives me the right to feature it on my website, on this blog, or on any of my social media. However, I will never sell your artwork, and I will always give the artist proper credit.
  • Signed books will be sent to U.S. addresses only. I will honor international entrants, but books will be delivered via Book Depository (and thus won't be signed).
  • You should send your drawing (in jpg format) to: joshuadavidbellin@gmail.com. In the body of the message, please include your name, your complete mailing address, and the title of the book (SURVIVAL COLONY 9 or SCAVENGER OF SOULS) that you want.
Okay, I think that's it! Now start drawing!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

YA Guy Reveals... PIRATE ISLAND by Katie L. Carroll

YA Guy is beyond thrilled to participate in the cover reveal for PIRATE ISLAND, a new Middle Grade fantasy adventure coming this October from Katie L. Carroll! Check out the cover, add the book to your Goodreads list, learn more about Katie's books, and help spread the word about PIRATE ISLAND!


PIRATE ISLAND
by Katie L. Carroll (katielcarroll.com)
Cover Illustration by Susan Tait Porcaro (susantaitporcaro.com)
Coming October 2017!

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PIRATE ISLAND blurb:

A thrice cursed island, a legendary pirate treasure, and one not-so-brave boy. What could possibly go wrong?

For centuries, the whereabouts of Captain William Kidd’s lost pirate treasure has remained a mystery. When Billy’s best friend, Andy, proposes they look for the treasure on nearby Pirate Island, Billy thinks it’s just another one of their crazy adventures. It’s usually Billy who ends up in trouble as a result, but he goes along for the ride…like always.

But the more he delves into the life and death of Kidd, the more he thinks the treasure is real and that it might be buried on the small island in Long Island Sound. Billy—nope, call him William—becomes obsessed with the captain of the same first name. He even believes he’s possessed by Kidd’s restless soul. Now he and the spirit of a long-dead pirate are leading the crazy adventure on Pirate Island. And what they find is far bigger than the treasure they imagined.




About the Author:

Katie L. Carroll always says she began writing at a very sad time in her life after her sister Kylene unexpectedly passed away. The truth is Katie has been writing her whole life, and it was only after Kylene’s death that she realized she wanted to pursue writing for kids and teens as a career. Since then, writing has taken her to many wonderful places, real and imagined. She has had many jobs in her lifetime, including newspaper deliverer, hardware store cashier, physical therapy assistant, and puzzle magazine editor. She works from her home in Connecticut that is filled with the love and laughter of her sons and husband.

In addition to PIRATE ISLAND, Katie is the author of the YA fantasy ELIXIR BOUND. Find Katie on her websiteTwitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

YA Guy... Starts a Newsletter!

The title says it all: YA Guy has started an electronic newsletter!

Yes, with my third book, FREEFALL, coming out in just a few months, I decided it was time. I'm busy preparing my first newsletter, full of information about upcoming publications, giveaways, contests, appearances, and more. If you want to sign up, you can click the button below:


I promise not to overwhelm subscribers; at most, I'll email one newsletter per month (and you can always unsubscribe if you want). But to stay up-to-date on all things YA Guy (aka Joshua David Bellin), this is the place to go!

Hope you're as excited as I am!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

YA Guy Participates in... the Spring 2017 YA Scavenger Hunt!


Once again, YA Guy's taking part in the YA Scavenger Hunt! This time around, I'm on the GOLD TEAM, along with the other awesome authors you see below:




This bi-annual event was 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 signed book from each author on the hunt in our team! There are FIVE 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 April 9!

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 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 9, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered. For more information, go 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 a signed ARC of my forthcoming novel FREEFALL! Like the Hunt itself, this personal giveaway is open internationally. Use the Rafflecopter form below to enter!

Okay, got all that? Then let's meet the author I'm hosting, CECIL CASTELLUCCI!

Cecil Castellucci is the author of books and graphic novels for young adults including Boy Proof, The Plain Janes, The Year of the Beasts, Tin Star, and the Eisner nominated Odd Duck. In 2015 she co-authored Moving Target: A Princess Leia Adventure.  She is currently taking at least 22 weeks to write Shade, The Changing Girl, an ongoing comic on Gerard Way’s Young Animal imprint at DC Comics. And her newest Graphic Novel Soupy Leaves Home comes out in April 2017.

To find out more about Cecil, go to her website at www.misscecil.com.


About SOUPY LEAVES HOME: Pearl “Soupy” Plankette ran away from her abusive father, but has nowhere to go until she stumbles upon a disguise that gives her the key to a new identity. Reborn as a boy named Soupy, she hitches her star to Remy “Ramshackle” Smith, a hobo who takes her under his wing. Set in 1932, this is the story of two misfits with no place to call home, who build a relationship during a train hopping journey from the cold heartbreak of their eastern homes toward the sunny promise of California.

To watch a trailer of SOUPY LEAVES HOME, go here. And to buy the book, follow this link!









EXCLUSIVE CONTENT

The Spring YASH is over, but there's still a little time to enter my personal giveaway (below)!

PERSONAL GIVEAWAY

To enter my personal giveaway for a chance to win a signed ARC of my forthcoming YA science fiction adventure FREEFALL, use the Rafflecopter form below!

About FREEFALL: When the 1% and the 99% clash, the fate of the human race hangs on the actions of two teens from very different backgrounds in this thrilling sci-fi adventure.

In the Upperworld, the privileged 1% are getting ready to abandon a devastated Earth. And Cam can’t wait to leave. After sleeping through a 1,000-year journey, he and his friends will have a pristine new planet to colonize. And no more worries about the Lowerworld and its 99% of rejects.

Then Cam sees a banned video of protesters in the Lowerworld who also want a chance at a new life. And he sees a girl with golden eyes who seems to be gazing straight through the feed at him. A girl he has to find. Sofie.

When Cam finds Sofie, she opens his eyes to the unfairness of what’s happening in their world, and Cam joins her cause for Lowerworld rights. He also falls hard for Sofie. But Sofie has her own battles to fight, and when it’s time to board the spaceships, Cam is alone.

Waking up 1,000 years in the future, Cam discovers that he and his shipmates are far off-course, trapped on an unknown and hostile planet. Who has sabotaged their ship? And does it have anything to do with Sofie, and the choices—and the enemies—he made in the past?

Release date: September 26, 2017
Pre-order on Amazon
Add to Goodreads

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