Tuesday, February 12, 2019

YA Guy Can't Wait for.. These 2019 Books!

YA Guy's always on the lookout for great books. Here are five from the first half of 2019--all but one of them for young readers--that I'm particularly excited about. I'll freely admit that I have a personal connection to each of the five authors (heck, I'll even tell you what that connection is), but at the same time, no one's paying or even prompting me to promote their books. I've listed them in order of release date--and the first one on the list comes out a mere week from today!

Louise Cypress, NARCOSIS ROOM (February 19). We share an agent and (sort of) a moniker--she's the YA Gal, I'm YA Guy--but one other thing we share is a love of twisty, creepy sci-fi stories. Her latest, set in a world where one's looks and identity can be surgically enhanced--or destroyed--will definitely freak you out in the best possible way.

Jessica Khoury, LAST OF HER NAME (February 26). I've loved Khoury's books since her debut, ORIGIN, and I love space operas. (I also love the artwork she drew for two of my own recent novels.) Her latest is a sci-fi retelling of the Anastasia story set in a distant galaxy, and it's just what I need to get through the wintertime.

Kat Ross, INFERNO (March 15). Way back in 2014, Ross and I met as members of a debut YA novelists' group. Since that time, she's put out some of the highest quality fantasy novels I've read, including two series that span the centuries and are linked by common characters. INFERNO, the final book in the Fourth Talisman series, promises to be yet another wickedly fun adventure into the worlds of the weird, the monstrous, and the undead.


Cadwell Turnbull, THE LESSON (June 18). Currently one of the rising young stars in science fiction, Turnbull was once a student of mine at the college where I teach. But trust me, I didn't teach him how to write this novel, a wildly imaginative tale of an alien race that settles for unknown purposes in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Nick Courage, STORM BLOWN (July 16). Pittsburgh author Courage writes the kind of books my kids loved when they were still kids. (Now the one in high school reads ancient history, and the one in college reads what she has to read for her classes.) His latest, which focuses on children battling a hurricane, sounds like a high-energy thrill ride.


Tuesday, February 5, 2019

YA Guy Has... Trilogy Fever!

The final book in YA Guy's Ecosystem Trilogy is due out in April (on Earth Day, of course). Titled HOUSE OF EARTH, HOUSE OF STONE, it completes a series I first dreamed up in 2011 and have been working on pretty much nonstop for the past two years.

So I figured, while we're waiting for Book Three, what better time than now to offer readers a discount on Books One and Two? From today (which also happens to be my birthday!) through February 11, you can purchase the e-books of ECOSYSTEM (Book 1) and THE DEVOURING LAND (Book 2) for only 99 cents each. That way, you'll be all caught up on the adventures of Sarah, Isaac, Miriam, Leah, and the rest as they battle the Ecosystem, search for love, and defend the City of the Queens--just in time for the release of HOUSE OF EARTH, HOUSE OF STONE!

Here are the links. Enjoy, and let me know what you think about the Ecosystem Trilogy!


Tuesday, January 29, 2019

YA Guy Defines... Success!


What does it mean to be a successful writer?

For many writers--and, perhaps, for the general public--"success" means six-figure advances, bestseller status, big-ticket awards (including those just announced for this year's very deserving Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz Award winners).

By that definition, most of us--including YA Guy--are abysmal failures. Given the very nature of publishing, the very nature of any business venture, most people don't achieve that kind of success. Most of us plug along somewhere in the middle, perhaps making some money, perhaps not, perhaps making a career of it, more likely not, perhaps winning an award or two, perhaps not, but never becoming household names.

I've been writing since I was about eight years old. (Actually, earlier than that, but it was around age eight that I tried to write my first novel--on my mom's manual typewriter. After a page of typos and frustration, I gave up.) Since that time, and with increasing frequency from the year I started college (1983) to the present, I've produced numerous creative nonfiction essays, short stories, academic books and articles, and partial or completed novels. Some of the above has been published, some of it hasn't. None of it has skyrocketed to fame. But all of it, even the things I didn't finish for one reason or another (because the idea wasn't as good as I first thought, because I ran out of steam, whatever), has been written.

So I decided to pursue a different definition of "success," one based purely on page totals. In my calculations, I ruled out academic books and articles, as well as short pieces (fiction and nonfiction), and focused on novels. The numbers are skewed downward by that decision, considerably so, but since novel-writing was and is my highest aspiration (as it is for many writers), it made sense to me to narrow my output in that way.

For purposes of this quantitative analysis, I estimated a completed novel (whether published or unpublished) at 300 manuscript pages (except for my earliest novels, written in the years 1981-1987, which tended to be shorter, so I averaged those at 250 pages per novel). An unfinished novel--either one that I've discarded permanently or that I'm still working on--I assigned an average of 100 pages. With those estimates, here's what I came up with:

In total from the years 1981 (when I completed my first novel at age 16) to the present, I've written roughly 4,750 manuscript pages of novel-length works. This breaks down as follows:

  • On average, I've written 125 pages worth of novels per year over a period of 38 years, or about a page every three days.
  • Narrowed down to the years of my greatest productivity, from 2010 to the present, I've written about 3,900 pages, for an average of 433 pages per year. That's over a page a day for almost 10 years.
  • Limited to completed novels, it works out to approximately 3,300 pages or 366 pages per year.
  • Confined further to completed and published novels, it drops to about 2,100 pages or 233 pages per year. However, that number is unacceptably low--because, of the seven novels I've started but not finished, only three of them have been completely abandoned, so the other four might be considered "on their way" to completion and, hopefully, publication. Ditto with the four novels from 2010-2019 that are completed but unpublished; two of them will never see the light of day, but one is currently being shopped by my agent and the other I plan to self-publish.

The point is, any way you slice it, I've been pretty productive as a writer of novels throughout my life, and especially in the past decade.

Dare I say I've been successful?

Maybe yes, maybe no. If the almost 5,000 pages of novel-material I've produced in my lifetime have been complete and utter garbage, then maybe I'm less successful than delusional. But on the other hand, even if those pages have been junk, I've written them, and writing counts for something in and of itself. I like to think my success as a writer has been like my career as a writer: somewhere in the middle. No, I'm not one of the great writers of my own or any time, but I'm not a hack either. I'm a writer like most writers, producing as much work as I can that's as good as I can make it.

I hope this exercise doesn't seem merely a pep talk to myself. My purpose in conducting it was to offer words of encouragement to the many writers who are in the same place that I am: people who've been writing for years without the obvious signs of "success" that some writers have achieved. I'm thinking it would be a good idea for those writers to take the time, now and again, to redefine "success." You can do it quantitatively as I've done, or you can find some other qualitative measure: satisfaction, personal growth, positive reviews, the stranger on the street who recognized you. All of those measures (and many more) are valid, and validating.

So be a successful writer. Your own kind of successful writer.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

YA Guy Hosts... Erica George, author of WORDS COMPOSED OF SEA AND SKY!

YA Guy is delighted to introduce my friend and agency sibling, Erica George, whose debut YA novel, WORDS COMPOSED OF SEA AND SKY, will be published in 2021. That seems like a long way away--but as Erica so eloquently narrates in the following post, her writing journey, like so many others', has been long and unpredictable. (I can relate: though I've wanted to be a writer since age eight, I didn't publish my first novel until age forty-nine.) For all of us who dream of publishing novels, Erica's story is a true inspiration.

So enjoy the post, and make sure to follow Erica on Instagram and Twitter so you can keep track of her as she continues her journey!



Benjamin Churchill first appeared to me when I was thirteen years old. It was a rainy December night, and my family and I were driving home from having seen a production of A Christmas Carol put on in Princeton. I was consumed by the concept of change, whether we were all capable of change, or if, for some of us, it was too late.

I think that’s why he materialized that night, riding a horse, keeping pace with the car—to help me explore this question.

When I got home, I crawled into bed, pulled out my trusty notebook from the nightstand (I still keep one there, by the way), and wrote down everything I knew about Benjamin Churchill, a character that would stay with me for twenty years.

He’s changed a lot since then. He’s been British, he’s been American, he’s been in the Navy, the Army, and then finally I decided he was going to be a whaler. He’s been surrounded by multiple casts of characters, he’s been the main character, and now he’s a supporting character. He’s also been shelved for most of this time.

I’ve always been a writer, a teller of stories, but I didn’t think I was capable of being published until after college. I had just completed my teaching degree and was working with a group of fifth graders. We were reading a fairy tale retelling (that no one was particularly fond of), and one of the students said, “You know, I think you could write a better version of this.”

It was a challenge, but I did it. Having no idea what to do with a completed manuscript (well, at least I thought it was completed), I sought the advice of my neighbor who I knew was a writer as well. She invited me to join her writer’s group, and that’s where everything really started coming together for me.

Writing is a fairly solitary occupation, and it’s easy to be intimidated and keep your work to yourself. This was the first time I was sharing my writing with a group of like-minded people. I received feedback (some positive, some constructive—mostly constructive), and I kept working. Finally, when I felt like I had polished my fairy tale retelling, I decided to attend the New Jersey conference of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Something must have possessed me, because I also signed up to pitch my book to an agent.

As I waited in line for my turn, I kept rereading my pitch, trying to memorize every word. I was shaking. I was sweating. I could just picture myself trying to describe my book, something so personal and close to me, to someone who just wouldn’t be interested or see my vision. Finally, I sat down in front of Liza Fleissig, took a deep breath, and got halfway through my pitch before she stopped me and said, “I want you to send me the whole thing.”

You’d think the shaking would stop there, but no. Cue more incessant nerves.

Liza signed me as an author at the Liza Royce Agency in 2014, and I was positive, absolutely certain, that it would be smooth sailing from that point forward.

Only no one can truly prepare you for your personal voyage to publication. I figured that because it had been so easy to secure an agent, my book would obviously be snapped up in a second by an editor. That book ultimately didn’t go anywhere. My next two made it farther than that, but ultimately went nowhere as well.

Writing is hard, and giving up is so much easier. But I’ve wanted to be an author since I was little, since I sat in the children’s section of my local library, piling up books to bring home and devour. Books were my constant, and I knew that simply reading stories wouldn’t satisfy me forever. I had to write them. I had to hold my own book in my hands.

It was only this past year that Benjamin Churchill resurfaced for me, and this time, he took the form of a Yankee whaler. He was always tied to the sea, but I finally realized where he belonged, what his story actually was.

My Young Adult novel, Words Composed of Sea and Sky, debuts in Summer 2021 from Running Press Kids/Hachette. It’s told in two alternating points of view, one of Michaela, a girl living on present-day Cape Cod, writing poems in an effort to escape her home life, and the other of Leta, a girl living in the same town but during the height of Yankee whaling, who also uses poetry to escape the social conformities of her time.

You’ll find Benjamin Churchill among the pages, too.


About Erica: Erica George is a writer of Young Adult fiction and a graduate of The College of New Jersey with degrees in both English and education. She resides in scenic Hunterdon County, New Jersey, but spends her summers soaking up the salty sea air of Cape Cod. Many themes of Erica's writing rotate around environmental activism and helping young people discover their voices. You can find her writing, whale watching, or engrossed in quality British drama with her dog at her side.

Twitter/Instagram: @theericageorge