This post by Brandon Sanderson is a good one, and is an interesting discussion point for anyone swimming with YA Speculative fiction. Check it out!
I am really digging Babel Clash, by the way. It’s fun.
Yes, it will be a romp. A ROMP I say!
Max writes in a letter dripping in awesomesauce:
“I am of that population segment that is constantly derided as “not reading anymore,” and is therefore treated by publishing companies as a vast, mysterious demographic that’s seemingly impossible to please. Kind of like the way teenage boys think of girls. The reason we read so little in our free time is partially because of the literary choices available to teenagers these days. The selection of teen literature is even more barren now that the two great dynasties, Harry Potter and Artemis Fowl, have released their final installments. Those two massive successes blended great characters, humor and action in a way that few other books manage. When they went for laughs, they were genuinely funny, and their dramatic scenes were still heart-poundingly tense, even after I’d read them dozens of times.”
Let’s review shall we:
The reason we read so little in our free time is partially because of the literary choices available to teenagers these days.
Sound familiar? It should.
Max goes on further to state:
Finally, here is what I consider the cardinal rule of writing for young adults: Do Not Underestimate Your Audience.
Oh man, Max’s letter just goes from great to, well spectacular as Max hits a lot of people with a clue-by-four.
Max, this is my plege to you: My YA Fantasy novel will be as you say. I call it the Max Leone YA Novel – Winter Pledge 2008. Who’s with me?
If it gets published or not is something else entirely. I promise to give you and your friends what you are looking for. I promise to play my part, it remains seen if others will step up to the plate and deliver.
The Baby Dancers is a book that starts in Idaho (since Washington, Idaho and Oregon are the places I know) and eventually winds it way to someplace else. It is Young Adult Fantasy. I’ve noticed, however, my setting is very time period generic. So here I am plodding (1000 words a day is plodding for me) on The Baby Dancers and I write this:
Big Jim found a fallen log, brushed it off and sat down. “It was easy. I taught you that equipment to make a point. It is so easy that we learned only one thing: how to hunt with modern weapons. We did not learn other lessons, such as what happens when those modern weapons break down? The men who built those weapons are gone. Their technology outlasted them, but someday it too will die, and then what do we have? No understanding of the finer arts of the hunt—so we too will pass.”
“What about reverse engineering?” asked Josh.
“What about it? We know everything there is to know about making those rifles. We do not have the society to manufacture them in any numbers worth their cost to produce! Nano tube woven composite construction, adaptive software, advanced computer chip manufacturing, environmental agnostic superconductors, etcetera—the list is endless of things we know how to do but cannot do. Even the ammunition is too expensive to make.
“So, if we are to learn about the world around us, we must make do with the things we can make, not what somebody long dead left behind.”
??? Why why why why? Why did I write that? It’s not in my outline. It just came spewing forth. Was it too much wine? Am I tired? Was this a bolt of creativity, or ust silliness?
Inquiring minds want to know.
This is an excerpt from an unnamed YA book that I will start to write in… oh let’s see… 2010. I think I will make it the beginning chapter. Maybe. I don’t know. What do you think? Is it any good? I sorta kinda did the literary equivalent of pulling it out of my butt one evening.
Lisa sat in the car in the airport cell phone lot, staring at her phone, contemplating the worst call ever. She sighed and pressed the send button when her dad’s picture displayed on the screen.
“Hi Kitten,” Dad said.
“Hi Daddy.” She tried to say more, but the words just caught in her throat. It had been a great effort to convince her father that she would be okay at home. It had only been a month since Andy died. They needed the money and she needed to catch-up at school.
Now there was… this.
“What’s up? Are you going to be late picking me up?”
“No, I parked at the cell phone lot; I wanted to call you when you landed right away.”
“What’s up?” Her father sounded somewhat worried.
“You know how you don’t like surprises?”
Her father sighed. “Just spit it out Honey. Whatever it is, we can work through it.”
“I have a tattoo,” she blurted out.
“Ugh,” her father grunted. “Wow Lisa that is just… wow. Please tell me it’s somewhere you don’t normally see, like on your butt or something.”
“Weeell… it does go down… there… eventually.”
“Oh? Where else does it go?”
“It kind of wraps around, it starts over my left eye and works its way to my right foot.”
It was quite the lovely tattoo, actually, Lisa thought, other than the almost dying part.
“Lisa. This isn’t a funny joke to play on the Old Man. The flight was long and bumpy. I think I am actually green.”
“Sorry Daddy, but it is a real tattoo. Can we talk about it after I pick you up? The only reason why I called was I didn’t want you to freak when I picked you up. You can freak in the car.”
He sighed. “Fine. I’ll have my bags in ten minutes. Door 6.” He hung up.
Oh no, not the ‘fine’, thought Lisa. She fought hot tears, and then bit her lip. She was her father’s daughter. She would not cry; she had already spent an entire month crying for Andy, she would not!
The tears suddenly stopped, almost as if it was… magic.
Lisa shared a belated sigh with her dad. It was going to be a long day.
This book review is for novelists. If you simply have love a reading, John Grant does an excellent review on Infinity Plus.
Enchantress from the Stars by Sylvia Louise Engdahl is an extraordinary Young Adult novel—an entertaining, thought-provoking story and a fine technical achievement. The novel itself encompasses not one or two genres—but three, one for each point of view. From the forward by Lois Lowry:
“How rich a literary landscape is the one that enables the reader to enter several worlds and make a home in each.”
Reviewers throughout the decades have attempted to define this gem as a blend of science fiction and fantasy. This, perhaps, is an incorrect interpretation of the novel. Enchantress from the Stars is a book that deftly switches between three points of view: Elana, the daughter of a field agent from an advanced galactic civilization, Jarel, a medical officer from a space faring race and Georyn, the youngest son of a woodcutter whose life is turned upside-down when the Dragon invades the Enchanted Forest.
The plot is thus: A space-faring race has invaded a planet where the inhabitants are in a primitive, medieval state. They go about clearing their landing site of their future colony with little thought to the impact of the people already there. The Dragon is a mechanical demolition machine, but to the natives it is a fearsome beast. Above both these two peoples, Elana, her fiancé and her father must try to save the primitive civilization, but they must do so in a way as to not interfere with the cultural advancement of the colonists. Simply, without a doubt, a marvelous bit of plotting.
One point of view in the book comes from Georyn, and as such is “fantasy.” The other point of view is from Jarel, and could be classified as “science fiction.” The third point of view, and the most important, comes from Elana, and is, in my humble opinion, visionary fiction. The three genres come together in a rapturous conclusion that is both harrowing, contemplative and finally, bittersweet. If you do not become misty-eyed, or at the least wistful at the conclusion of the book, then you heart is hardened to the likes of love gained and love lost in sacrifice for a noble purpose.
As a writer this technical achievement deserves your study, for Engdahl carries it with finesse and a unique style that has stood the test of time and is without peer. That is only the half of the reason I recommend this novel.
You will never find me disparaging the Young Adult novels that have reached a resounding success yet never come near the thoughtfulness offered by Engdahl. How many new-writer doors have opened because of Rowling and Meyer? Not just from a commercial perspective, but simply from an audience-building standpoint. This week, there is agent calling her client with a book deal that never would have seen the light of day without the expansion of the teen market. No matter how much the protagonist personally grates on one’s nerves, we owe that literary vampiric mouse of a girl a debt. Would the reprints of Enchantress from the Stars be possible if Harry Potter only existed in an Edinburgh coffee shop? It is not for me to say, but the influence of Rowling’s speculative work on publishers is as obvious as the sun rising each morning.
This is the heart of my review. There is, in my mind, the achievement of this novel from 1970 and the commercial success of the contemporary mega author. Like a greedy child, I want both. I demand both. I want novels that meet the standards presented by Engdahl, while commercially fulfilling the dreams of agents and publishers because their audience is legion.
Enchantress from the Stars explores personal ethics and morality and presents a cosmos that demands personal sacrifice not just for the good of who we know, but also for a greater purpose beyond our immediate universe. The personal growth of Elana through her great efforts, sacrifice and loss was awe-inspiring as it was a heartbreaking journey to behold. I could go on and on about the little gems inside this book, such as the psychological insights offered to the reader on human nature and matters of the heart. Nevertheless, I will not for that is not my purpose in writing this review. What I will do is toss down a literary gauntlet.
Dear writers, this is my challenge to you. If you are a fantasy author, there is much to learn from Enchantress from the Stars in the creation of legend and myth and the personal trials of the human spirit filled with curiosity. As science fiction, it is a wondrous universe filled with more questions than answers. As a Young Adult novel, it is, simply, without equal. Read this novel and then read your work in progress, and attempt to rise to a higher measure.
Firebird reprinted Enchantress from the Stars in paperback. I encourage you, however, to order the signed hardcover edition published by Walker, and send the author a note thanking her for her efforts. If you already have a copy, blow the dust off it. Enter once more a universe that does not talk down to you, assumes you can handle characters that grow and wonder despite hardship and love lost, and, ultimately, expands your mind to new horizons.
This morning, Thing Two could not wait to show me his book order catalog from kindergarten. Remember the book order, the magical list of books you could check off? Then your parents would erase most of your choices, and the agony of only picking one or two? The books would someday show up at your desk like magic?
I almost passed out from a terminal case of teh cuteness! He was smiling and showing me the books he wanted to order. Gosh, I love you, you little book lusting squirt.
My boys are little readers and it fills me with pride. Truly, I am blessed. It provides my inspiration, and sometimes when I am alone by myself with my thoughts… I smile.
There are good people in this world.
I see them all around me.
I envision some going on to defeat evil, and triumph over wickedness.
That no matter what the odds, their intellect and attitude carries them across the chiasm.
This is the foundation of the worlds I create in words.
Other then the relentless line editing of Bunny Trouble (almost done!) my thoughts turn to the setting of The Baby Dancers.
This is where my years and years of Dungeon and Dragons geek outs paid off. I have a treasure trove, nay a mountain of world-building material. Indeed, from a gaming perspective I am a world-building expert. Who knew all those years of nerding out would show benefits (other then the loads of fun at the time of the game)?
My goal for The Baby Dancers is to keep my momentum going at a serious pace. Actually, even if it were not YA Fantasy, that is a worthy goal. This is where setting, world-building in particular, collides with momentum. Can I take my setting expertise from other mediums and apply it to a fantasy novel?
Yes. I believe I can. I have a marvelous setting all ready to go. It only needs strong characters and the proper stakes. One could say I adore my setting.
How exciting this all is!
Sunday July 6, 2003, I wrote Chapter 1 of a YA Fantasy novel and gave it the working title The Baby Dancers. A warm and thought-provoking story, I was enamored of the theme and setting.
2003 was a dark time for my writing ability. I wrote outline after outline trying to kick start The Baby Dancers, never realizing the outlining process I employed was the wrong process. I set it aside, along with all the other failed novels. Baby Dancers needed solid characters–not plotting–and now I know how to do that.
Today I thought through the book end-to-end and have a clear path. I am poised to begin anew, and very eager to get cracking.
I am setting aside my Gaterunner project. It is a interwoven story, and in my heart, I do not want to write a novel similar to the plotting I did on Bunny Trouble.
Working Title: The Baby Dancers
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Current Word Count: 720
Est. Word Count: 80K
Started: 2003 (!)
Est. Draft 1: January 2009
Such fun! Such a dramatic departure from my last novel!