Wednesday, October 22, 2014

YA Guy Hosts... Linda Vigen Phillips, author of CRAZY!

Today on the blog, YA Guy hosts one of my very favorite people: Linda Vigen Phillips, debut author of CRAZY. I met Linda through the debut writers' group OneFourKidLit, and her generosity, humor, and insightful blog entries have made me a huge fan! And then there's her wonderful novel, which released on October 20. I guarantee that once you get to know Linda and her novel, you'll be a fan too! 

YA Guy: Welcome to YA Guy, Linda! Tell us a little bit about yourself and your path to publication!

Linda Vigen Phillips: I was born and raised in a small town in Oregon, and while it has some of the most majestic beauty on earth and an ideal climate, I couldn’t wait to see what was on the other side of the Rockies. After college I set out to save the world with my BA in Sociology, and New York City seemed like a good place to start. Then I met my husband, stopped saving the world to start a family, and started paying attention to the poems that kept popping out at all hours of the day and night. The rest is history, though not the kind that happens overnight, I might add!

YAG: Crazy is a novel in verse. Can you describe your decision to write the novel this way, and tell us about some other verse novels that inspired you?

LVP: The book evolved from a collection of about twenty adult poems that were destined to be included in a chapbook until a friend of mine suggested they should become a novel. There was never any question in my mind that the novel would stay in verse form. My father’s love for poetry influenced me early on, and I filled many childhood diaries and journals with my own versions of poetry. The verse form seems to be what I do best. I’ve trashed three versions of a recent novel that I was trying to write in prose. So I think I’ve found my comfort zone, at least for now. Karen Hesse’s Out of the Dust was the single most influential and inspiring book during the writing process. I literally kept it by my side and used it to prime the pump repeatedly. I also love Ellen Hopkins, but her style is becoming more influential with my WIP than it was with Crazy.

YAG: Crazy is told from the perspective of a young person whose mother suffers from mental illness. That seems like a difficult subject to write about. What were your reasons for taking on this subject, and what were your biggest challenges?

LVP: My mother suffered from bipolar disorder and she was having episodes during most of my growing up years. I knew it only as a series of “nervous breakdowns” and did not discover the exact diagnosis until I began writing the book. Of course the book is semi-autobiographical, and probably the biggest challenge, and the reason I’ve done so many revisions, was stepping out of the story enough to be able to write it objectively. I had to come to the point of reminding myself “this is now fiction, and yes, I can change this, that, or the other thing if I choose to.” That was both freeing and terrifying.

YAG: What’s been the most memorable part about your debut year so far?

LVP: I’m sure I should say something far more profound than this, but the best day so far was the first day, Jan. 1, when I saw that the calendar year now matched the year I had been waiting for for so long:  2014. On New Year’s Day when everyone else was hung over or stretched out on the couch watching football, I was dancing around the house and posting triumphantly on Facebook and Twitter. Even though I still had nine months and twenty days to go to launch, I felt like the fairytale was really coming true!

YAG: As a fellow debut, I know that once the creative juices start flowing, there’s no stopping them. What’s next for you?

LVP: I’m working on another story based on real events. There are three students, two from the same family, here in Charlotte, NC who are suffering from Batten Disease. Children usually acquire this rare genetic condition between ages five and ten, and often don’t make it to their twentieth birthday. I taught in the same school where these children once attended, and I am talking with the families to gather information. My protagonist will be the older sister telling the story--in verse, of course!

YAG: Thanks, Linda! Readers, to find out more about Linda and CRAZY, here's where to go!


web and blog:
Twitter:  @LVigenPhillips
Barnes & Noble
Facebook:  Linda Vigen Phillips (regular page, not author page)

Linda Vigen Phillips is a retired teacher living with her husband in North Carolina near two sons and two grandkids. CRAZY, a novel written in verse, is her debut book, drawn from her own experiences coming to terms with her mother’s mental illness while growing up in Oregon.  

Monday, October 20, 2014

YA Guy Discusses... His Top Three YA Sci-Fi Pet Peeves!

YA Guy loves science fiction. And YA Guy (needless to say) loves YA. So I'm thankful there's so much great YA sci-fi out there—in fact, more and more every year as the genre gains ground. It’s a good time to be a YA Sci-Fi Guy (or Gal)!

But as any genre becomes popular, the inevitable knock-offs appear: inferior versions of the real thing created quickly and sloppily to make a buck. This is, perhaps, even more common in the case of literature for young people, where the (very insulting) assumption seems to be that kids won’t care and won’t know the difference. It happened with Harry Potter, paranormal romance, dystopian, The Hunger Games, and it’s happening with YA sci-fi. I pick up a lot of titles that sound promising, only to find them derivative, predictable, and just plain bad.

The good stuff I review on Goodreads and Amazon. The bad stuff I don’t mention by name. But here, for fun, are three telltale signs of uninspired YA sci-fi. All of these techniques typically occur within the first few pages, certainly the first chapter—so it’s easy to throw aside such books before you get too deeply into them.

1. Caps Out of Control. Some things (namely, proper nouns and titles) are indeed capitalized. Sometimes, in the real world—and usually for marketing reasons—such capitalization gets a bit out of hand. But when you read a YA sci-fi book that starts like this, you know you’re in trouble:

“Kaitlin Woke. She rose from the Bed, checked the Wall, noted the time on the Clock. Today was the day she’d Take the Exam.  If she Failed, she wouldn’t get into the Academy. If she Passed, the Doors of Opportunity would be wide open.”

How does capitalizing these words make this a futuristic society? Isn’t it just, like, some teenager taking the SAT?

2. NewSpeak. There’s a strong tradition in sci-fi of coining new words, often in conjunction with new technologies. (As, for instance, the word “robot,” from the 1920 play R.U.R. by Czech sci-fi writer Karel Capek.) It takes real ingenuity to do this well, to invent a word that sounds plausible but that is not, in fact, a word in common usage.

That’s probably why one sure-fire sign of lazy YA sci-fi is bad word-coining. Typically this takes the form of using truncated, combined, or otherwise mangled real words to create ostensibly hip, newfangled, futuristic words. So the device that projects one’s inner fantasies will be called the MentProj. Or the gizmo that walks a dog remotely will be called the TeleSpot.

I mean, come on!

3. Techno Overkill. And while we’re speaking of technology: yes, science fiction relies on it. New technologies, altered technologies, lost technologies, alien technologies—all of these are fundamental to the genre.

But folks, just because sci-fi typically features unfamiliar technologies does not mean that merely introducing unfamiliar technologies makes something sci-fi. Throwing in a bunch of gimcracks and gewgaws for atmosphere or whatever misses the whole point of technology in science fiction: it needs to make sense. It needs to be integrated with—indeed, integral to—the society you’ve invented. It needs to have some logical connection not only to our world, but to the history and current functioning of the speculative world. It’s not good enough to have people flying around in high-tech cars and having their ear wax removed by VirtEarProbes.

Then again, that might come in handy. I think I’ll Look it Up on the GlobWebPurch and Buy a Couple.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

YA Guy Hosts... Erin Rhew's THE OUTLANDERS Blog Tour (plus a giveaway)!

You all remember Erin Albert's debut, THE PROPHECY? Well, YA Guy is thrilled to announce that Erin's back, with a new name and a new book: THE OUTLANDERS, sequel to THE PROPHECY! Read on for a blurb, excerpt, and great Rafflecopter giveaway!


With King Jesper dead and Prince Wilhelm mortally wounded, Halfling prince, Nash, and the Fulfilment, Layla, assume the throne of Etherea. They must contend with a new Prophecy Candidate who asserts her position, and Layla is surprised to find her fate intertwined with this challenger.

Facing a myriad of choices, Nash and Layla’s decisions affect not only their own futures but that of two kingdoms.

Unbeknownst to the Ethereals or the Vanguards, a menace stirs in the south, awakened after centuries of slumber. The mysterious Outlanders, a force shadowed in mystery, sit poised to tip the balance of power, sending ripples of fear throughout both warring kingdoms.

Elder Werrick proved a formidable foe, but Layla may yet meet her match in the monstrous Outlander queen. This mistress of the dark’s plans, rooted in revenge and ancient lore, now threaten the livelihood of all three kingdoms.

Racing against time, Layla travels to the Borderlands—home of the Voltons and Ecclesiastics—to discover as much as she can about the war, the First Ones, and the prophecy itself. Lives teeter in the balance, kingdoms sit on the cusp of ruin, and a beast, greater than any she’s ever faced before, plots a catastrophic attack.

Read this excerpt from THE OUTLANDERS:

Everything about Mia felt wrong. The girl, who looked so much like Layla, just happened to be where Samson could find her and came with him to the home of her enemy without any resistance? Whole generations of Ecclesiastics searched for entire lifetimes and never found the Fulfillment, yet Samson encountered two potentials in short succession. She couldn’t pinpoint the reason for her unease, but something tickled the back of her mind, inching toward the surface with painstaking sluggishness.

“I don’t understand why she would just come with you to Etherea.” Layla struggled to keep her voice level and calm to avoid raising Samson’s hackles.

“She didn’t have anywhere else to go. Vance killed her family in Vanguard.”

Layla made a mental note to confirm Samson’s version of the story with the information Nash managed to extract from Mia. “If she’s a Vanguard, why would she come with you to Etherea?”

“You came here,” Samson shot back, his inexplicable protectiveness for the mystery girl heightening her concern. 

She treaded with care. “Well, some insane man in a black and purple robe stole my brother, so I didn’t really have a choice.”

Mia stared at the young man before her with a mixture of curiosity and weariness. She understood why others found him so handsome—rich, dark hair and those shocking green eyes. If she succeeded, he would be her…she stopped herself, determined to keep her mind clear. She had to give off an air of mystery, to lure the Ethereals into her web so they followed her plan. More than anything, she needed them to follow her plan, so much depended on it. She could not slip up. She could not make a mistake. 

Taking a steadying breath, she refocused her thoughts and slid her amethyst colored eyes across the prince in front her. She wouldn’t even think his name or give any indication she already knew about him. She had to forget how much she’d been told about him…how much she’d been told about them all. Feigning ignorance factored into her plan. 

“Who are you?” he asked, after spending an inordinate amount of time regarding her. 

She noted how his gaze bounced from her eyes to her hair and back again. As planned, her appearance intrigued him. Though he’d asked a different question, she heard the real one layered beneath it. He wanted to know why she resembled the proclaimed Fulfillment. That question would then lead him to an inevitable one…could Mia be the Fulfillment instead of Layla? And if she were the Fulfillment, what did that mean for him? For Wil? For Layla? 

“I’m Mia.” She almost grinned, pleased she’d answered his question but given him nothing more. When his lips twisted, her grin broke into a full smile at his evident irritation. “And you are?”

He hesitated. “Nash, brother of the king.”

“The injured king?” He flinched, a subtle movement most might miss, but she caught it. 

“According to our friend, Samson, you’re an Outlander.” 

“He found me in the Outlands.” The less Nash knew, the better. 

Frustration flickered across his face, marring his otherwise handsome features. She smiled to herself, not trusting his patience should her lips turn up yet again.

“Sooo,” he dragged out the word. “Are you an Outlander?” 

“No. I’m a Vanguard.” 

Nash cocked his head to the right. “Why were you in the Outlands then?”

“I went to escape Vance’s oppression.” Mia stared at the wall behind him until her vision blurred. She willed tears to form. Given the pressure she’d been under, summoning them proved easier than she expected. When the familiar tight burning started near her lids, she blinked at the prince. He shifted in his seat. Mia wanted to snort at his reaction. Tears always made men uncomfortable. “Vance killed my family.” She paused and swallowed, hoping he believed she needed a moment to collect herself. “I ran as far as I could and ended up in the Outlands. Samson found me.”

Nash cleared his throat and shifted again; she increased the flow of her tears in reply. “What do you know about the Outlands?”

“Very little.” She sniffed. Looking as pathetic as she could manage, she attempted to wipe her eyes, an impossible feat given her bound hands. Nash frowned as his gaze landed on her restraints. She bid him to unbind her hands, and for a moment, she believed he might. To her disappointment, he gripped the side of his chair until his knuckles turned white and left her tied up. Mia ground her teeth. 

“Do you believe you are the Fulfillment?” Nash kept his voice steady despite the turmoil she read upon his face. 

Mia waited a moment to respond, both to further escalate his frustration and to collect herself. In this moment, she needed to be most convincing, to begin what she’d been tasked to set in motion. She gestured with her chin, drawing Nash’s attention to the blazing “F” upon her upper arm. The dark purple birthmark matched the shade of her eyes.

“The First Ones speak for themselves.”

Nash shook his head. “It’s too obvious.”

Mia’s head jerked back. She struggled to maintain her composure as his reaction, so unexpected, derailed her careful planning. Her mind racing, she grappled for a response. 

“Too obvious?” 

“Yes. See, Mia—” His clear distaste tainted the sound of her own name. “I know about the First Ones.”

“Who do you think you are? An Ecclesiastic?” She smirked at him, acting like she retained complete control, but her insides knotted. She couldn’t lose her ability to direct the conversation.

To her surprise, Nash laughed, though she noted no pleasure in it. “The Prophecy states, ‘In a time of war, when the land is divided amongst the two, she, with raven black hair, purple eyes, and a special blessing from the First Ones shall bring peace.’”

“I think everyone in the three kingdoms and in the Borderlands is familiar with The Prophecy.” Mia rolled her eyes for effect. “What’s your point?”

“My point is, the special blessing wouldn’t be something as simple as a birthmark. If it were, the First Ones would have just said raven black hair, purple eyes, and an ugly purple ‘F’ on the upper arm.” He flicked his hand toward her arm. “Special blessing is vague, indicating something mysterious. There is nothing mysterious about your birthmark.”

Mia’s heart pounded as she felt the tables turn and the conversation slip away. “And there is something mysterious about her?”

The word her hung between them for a moment. Mia took another deep breath, worrying she’d pushed him too far. Beneath his shirt, she saw Nash’s muscles ripple and hoped she’d managed to touch a new nerve. 

Mia clenched her teeth. She hated acting this way, so out of character, but she had to press on. No one could know the truth. She had to win this game…

About the author:

Erin Rhew is an editor, a running coach, and the author of The Fulfillment Series. Since she picked up Morris the Moose Goes to School at age four, she has been infatuated with the written word. She went on to work as a grammar and writing tutor in college and is still teased by her family and friends for being a member of the "Grammar Police." A Southern girl by blood and birth, Erin now lives in a rainy pocket of the Pacific Northwest with the amazingly talented (and totally handsome) writer, Deek Rhew, and their “overly fluffy,” patient-as-a-saint writing assistant, a tabby cat named Trinity. She and Deek enjoy reading aloud to one another, running, lifting, boxing, eating chocolate, and writing side-by-side.

Giveaway time!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

YA Guy Reports: Marketing Madness!

When YA Guy's debut novel, Survival Colony 9, was accepted for publication, the first thing people in the industry told me (after they said "congratulations!") was that I'd have to spend lots of time and money marketing the book.

Gone, they told me, were the days when publishers--even big ones like mine, Simon & Schuster--put up lots of money to promote unknown authors. Nowadays, they said, only celebrity authors like Hillary Rodham Clinton (whose autobiography appeared from S&S earlier this year) got the sizable promotional budgets. In other words, the authors who really needed the help--like me--got nothing, while the authors guaranteed to sell--like Clinton--got everything.

Turns out it's not quite that dire. I got plenty of promotion from S&S, ranging from mass mailings to book giveaways to conference pitches. I had my own very energetic and capable publicist on staff (though of course, I was only one of her clients). But I believed I needed more; I believed I needed to put significant amounts of time, as well as part of my advance (which was actually quite substantial for a debut), toward promoting my book.

And I did.

When it comes to writing, I don't believe in secrecy. I believe in honesty. So here, in more or less actual numbers (a few of the following figures are estimated or rounded), is what I spent to promote Survival Colony 9:

Publicist retainer: $5800
Publicist expenses: $225
Website hosting: $60
Website design: $850
Swag design: $100
Swag printing: $280
T-shirts: $120
Launch party game: $70
Launch party cake: $170
Curriculum guide: $500
Giveaway items: $600
Mailing supplies: $200
Postage: $400
Professional dues: $180
Conference fees: $250
Travel: $300
Miscellaneous: $1545

Total: $11,650

Amazing how things add up, isn't it?

And that's only the dollar amount. A lot of my PR I got for free--from friends, fellow authors and bloggers, and others. But even that PR wasn't free in terms of time spent.  How many hours did I devote to tweeting, responding to interview questions, updating my website and Facebook author page, writing guest posts, arranging appearances, and so on? I can't begin to calculate it.

But money's cheap. So is time. The real question is: was it worth it?

That depends.

The people I worked with were great. My in-house publicist and the freelancer I hired, my swag and website and curriculum guide designers, the companies that printed my various items, the conference contacts, the regional coordinators of my professional organizations, the folks who interviewed and/or hosted me--all of them, without fail, were great. It was a joy to work with them, and it's cheering to know so many good people are out there to support authors.

So if "was it worth it?" means "do you have any regrets?"--the answer is "no."

But if "was it worth it?" means "did all this time and money produce tangible results in terms of books sold, name recognition, and/or brand development?"--I honestly have to say I have no idea. So far as I'm aware, unless you have a clickable ad that tracks how many people actually buy your book after clicking, there's simply no way to know if one's marketing efforts paid off. Survival Colony 9 appears to be selling reasonably well--not appreciably better but not appreciably worse than many a debut. Would it have sold worse without the marketing push? No way to tell.

The only thing I can tell is this: the time I spent marketing is time I certainly could have spent writing. Every hour online or on the phone, every trip to the post office to mail a contest winner my book, every moment spent writing a guest post is time I didn't devote to my primary objective as a fiction-writer, which is to write fiction.

When it comes to marketing, everyone has to make her or his own decision. The numbers I've provided might help you to make yours (or they might help you to shop for better bargains than I did!). In my own case, though I don't regret how I marketed Survival Colony 9, I've determined to approach any future works I might publish very differently. This isn't to say I won't market them at all. But I won't do it in the way or to the extent I did with my debut.

Instead, I'll write. And write. And write some more. Maybe that won't sell books. Maybe it will.

Who knows?

But selling books was never why I became a writer in the first place.

Monday, October 13, 2014

YA Guy Reviews... SILVERN by Christina Farley (plus a giveaway)!

When YA Guy was asked to review Christina Farley's SILVERN, book two of the GILDED trilogy, I jumped at the opportunity. I loved Christina's debut, a YA fantasy based on Korean mythology, and I couldn't wait to read the follow-up. Now that I've done so, I have to report that it's not as good as GILDED.

Because it's even BETTER!

That's right, SILVERN ups the ante on its predecessor and creates an even more intense, inventive, involving read. Check out my review below, and then read about Christina and enter to win a SILVERN giveaway!

After destroying the demigod Haemosu, Jae Hwa Lee figures her life will go back to normal: hanging out with her best friend Michelle and her boyfriend Marc, learning about the Korean past from her grandfather, and trying to connect to her distant father, who's thrown himself into his work as a way of forgetting his wife's death. But then Jae Hwa is confronted by an even more powerful supernatural opponent: Kud, the god of darkness. Where Haemosu wanted only Jae Hwa's soul, Kud wants the power contained within the White Tiger Orb, a power that might give him control over both the Spirit World and the human realm. To defeat him, Jae Hwa will have to confront both man-made threats--in the form of a trip to the totalitarian state of North Korea--and horrifying beasts from myth and legend. And she will also have to face a terrible choice, one that pits the lives of her loved ones against her very freedom.

Everything I loved about GILDED is on full display in SILVERN: the action sequences, the imaginative settings and creatures, the strong teenage characters, the conflict between Jae Hwa's desire to live a carefree life and her awareness that other lives depend on her. But by producing a deadlier opponent in the form of Kud, and by placing much of the novel's action in North Korea, Farley has exceeded GILDED in tension, danger, and emotional complexity. In this passage, for example, we find Jae Hwa longing not only for power over supernatural events but for the ability to intervene in the human world:

"I stare at the picture behind me of the little girl, lying on a mat in a barren concrete house. I don't know her name, but I want to. Nearly everyone is exiting the gym to head outside to the soccer field, except Kag-dae, so I scribble my wish onto the lantern.

"To be powerful enough to stop the evil."

Evil, in this context, has nothing to do with gods or monsters. It has to do with inhumanity, the rule of the powerful over the weak, the insanity of a world where suffering has no easy source or solution. That's a much more difficult evil to defeat than the god of darkness, and it's a much more powerful lesson for young people to learn as they grow up to face the real world.

It's Farley's increasing maturity as a writer that enables her to approach these subjects, and to her credit, she does not try to wave a magic wand to resolve them. I can't say more without giving too much away--so I'll just say that the ending of SILVERN will haunt you. And at the same time, it'll leave you wishing for more from this talented new voice in YA.

SILVERN is available at Amazon, BAM, IndieBound, and Barnes & Noble

CHRISTINA FARLEY, author of Gilded and Silvern, was born and raised in upstate New York. As a child, she loved to explore, which later inspired her to jump on a plane and travel the world. She taught at international schools in Asia for ten years, eight of which were in the mysterious and beautiful city of Seoul, Korea that became the setting of Gilded. Currently she lives in Clermont, FL with her husband and two sons—that is, until the travel itch whisks her off to a new unknown. Christina holds a master’s degree in education and has taught for eighteen years. She is represented by Jeff Ourvan of Jennifer Lyons Literary.

To learn more about Christina, follow these links:

Twitter: @ChristinaFarley

And to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway, go here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, October 6, 2014

YA Guy Hosts... Darlene Beck Jacobson, author of WHEELS OF CHANGE!

Today, YA Guy is thrilled to host Darlene Beck Jacobson, whose MG historical novel WHEELS OF CHANGE releases October 14. Check out the blurb and other info about Darlene's debut novel!

Racial intolerance, social change, sweeping progress. It is a turbulent time growing up in 1908. For twelve year old Emily Soper, life in Papa’s carriage barn is magic. Emily is more at home hearing the symphony of the blacksmith’s hammer than trying to conform to the proper expectations of females. Many prominent people own Papa’s carriages. He receives an order to make one for President Theodore Roosevelt. But when Papa’s livelihood becomes threatened by racist neighbors and by horsepower of a different sort, Emily is determined to save Papa’s business--even if she has to go all the way to the President.

About the author:

Darlene Beck Jacobson has loved writing since she was a girl. She wrote letters to everyone she knew and made up stories in her head.  Although she never wrote to a president, she sent many letters to pop stars of the day asking for photos and autographs.  She loves bringing the past to life in stories such as WHEELS OF CHANGE, her debut novel.

Darlene’s stories have appeared in CICADA, CRICKET, and other magazines. When not writing, Darlene enjoys baking, sewing and tea parties.  She also likes hanging around forges watching the blacksmith work magic. She’s never ridden in a carriage like the one in the story, but hopes to one day.

Her blog features recipes, activities, crafts and interviews with children’s book authors and illustrators. She still loves writing and getting letters.  Check out her website at: