Friday, May 25, 2012

The Content of YA Books and Maturity

There’s been some talk about the content of teen books lately. About the violence, sex, cursing and other content that some find unsuitable for their children. Some kids aren’t old enough to read these books. Some are. Twelve is a very transitional age. Some kids are more mature than others. And some of these books are probably really written for the older teens.   

When I was twelve, I read a wide range of things. My mom bought me the classics in paperback, and my grandma had a selection of leather-bound books like THE COMPLETE WORKS OF SHAKESPEARE. I read everything from Hans Christian Anderson to Jack London to Jules Verne. I read more. DRACULA, many novels by Stephen King, Anne Rice, and Dean Koontz. My mother’s historical romance novels. (I learned the answers to Jeopardy! questions from some of those historical romance novels.)   

The topics in these books weren’t new to me. Violence was in the news; death was on my bus route when a guy on a motorcycle got hit by a van. For that matter, death was in my second grade reading book. (Thank you, educational reading text for the story of the little dog entombed in lava while fetching bread for his boy. That story will haunt me always.) I knew violence, death, sex, and cursing. The antidrug programs in elementary school probably taught me more about drugs than anything on TV.

And I grew up to be drug-free, nonviolent, and fairly well-adjusted.

Teens are out in the world. They know what sex is. They curse. They see violence on the news every day. Some see it in their lives. Television, movies, other people: they’re going to learn about these things one way or another.  YA books are probably not going to be their first introduction to these topics.  

You know your teen best. You know what their maturity level is, and you can determine what they’re exposed to. If you’re concerned about what might be in a book your kid might read, there’s a simple solution:

Read the book first. Read it, consider the context of any content you might be concerned about, and then determine if your child is mature enough to read it. If not, there are some fine middle grade books out there. If so, then you and your child can discuss it. Then it becomes family time, too! Win-win, right?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Poetry: You Never Went Back

The sesame seeds stuck to your teeth
Started the chain reaction
Laughter, like an infection
spread like Rome’s consuming fires.

An accident, that first giggle
became a epidemic as the
next table caught the fever.
My laugh arced like electricity
across the room.

Composed, you stood
Outcast, you turned to go.
I offered frantic protests
amidst hiccuped chuckles.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

It's Got Layers!

No, I don’t mean a clove of garlic, or head of lettuce, or that other veggie often served up bloomin’ style.

I’m talking about stories, be it a short story or a monster, 1000 page novel. A story with layers has depth. It makes the world you created real for the reader, and if it’s done right, will boggle my mind. If someone one day says, “That Brandi Lynch chick writes crazy layers!” I think I could die happy.

Well, I’d jump up and down a lot.

What makes these awesome layers? Details. Stories beneath the story. They don’t even have to be explained or resolved in the end. For example, Robert Jordan’s WHEEL OF TIME series. There are so many details and interwoven stories in those books that 13 books hasn’t been enough to cover them all.  I sink into the world Mr. Jordan created, and I can believe that at one time, somewhere all those sculpted palaces and strange hairless-cat creatures existed. I can see it, walk the streets, smell the bread in the cities or the cook fires in one of the war camps. There are cultural rituals throughout the people of his world, sometimes even varying town to town. And books! There are books that tell the ancient tales of the lands. Do we know what’s inside The Adventures of Jain Farstrider? A little. Eventually. But the fact that there are books and someone like Rand, a simple sheepherder, reads them. (Of course, Rand is more than that, but origins!)

The thing is, not everything is explained. There are situations among the Aiel that I still don’t quite get what they mean, but that makes it even more intriguing.

Another example. George RR Martin. The world in his series, THE SONG OF ICE AND FIRE, evolves right before our eyes. We see the shifting of political powers, religions, and the renewal of things long thought dead and myth. It’s not a simple replacement, either, but an overlapping of old and new and ancient.

I could name tons of books, but then this post would become a tome.

Can layers be overdone? Why yes, yes they can. They can slow down your story. And not every story needs a whole lot of layering. If you’re writing a fast-paced suspense novel, you don’t want to bog it down with detail. You only want enough to make the world believable.

If your story sounds a little flat, try adding a story under the story. 

What are your favorite examples of layered stories?

Monday, May 14, 2012

From the Casual Webcomic Reader: The Awesomeness that is Unsounded

A girl with a lion’s tail and an attitude to match it. An eloquent, somewhat outdated, badass zombie spell caster. Smugglers. And the local authorities chasing them all.

Welcome to Unsounded.

I tumbled into this world because I was lurking around the website of author and outstanding artist, Ashley Cope. I’d found her artwork some time ago while feeding my Final Fantasy art jones, and when I saw her gallery, I was overwhelmed. A mixture of game art and her own characters, the level of badassery is beyond my comprehension. Each piece has a depth to it, especially those of her characters like Murkoph. Maybe because they have backstories (a lot of them are RPG characters), they feel deeper to me. I don’t know all the stories, didn’t know any of them before I read the little explanations underneath each one, but it was like I could feel a story behind them. I knew Murkoph wasn’t scarred just to be scarred. I knew there was a story behind each one. And behind that grin.  

Enough gushing fangirl!

So, I came across the Unsounded link and read, I think at the time it was three chapters, straight through. The story is amazing. The interactions between the characters are genuine and fluid, and the artwork is mind-blowing. Unsounded’s world is complex, full of gray-area morals, political and cultural details given with just the right amount of explanation, and laws of magic that any fantasy writer or game programmer would envy.

And the characters! Realistic emotions and reactions that demand devotion. You want to know what happens to them; you care if it’s bad. And as the story progresses, the relationships between the characters do, too.

If you like clever fantasy and great artwork (and intelligent zombies), check out Unsounded. With updates on MWF, it’s easy to keep up with the storyline.

Fangirl, out.      

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Poetry: Summer Morning After a Heavy Rain

Earthworm on a hot sidewalk
Heat drying
Your protective slime
I toss you into the grass
For those I have used
As bait.

Everything’s Connected: Or the Roundabout Ways I Discover Things

I don’t listen to the radio much. Less than three hours a day, and the first hour is mostly a talk morning show. (I love the morning show, but not much music is played.) I pretty much listen to the one station, and every so often, I’ll hop on Pandora or I Heart Radio and listen.  So, how do I find new music?

In so many ways.

I have picked up lovely new tunes through many various avenues. For example, thanks to Jeri Smith-Ready’s SHINE, I am now a fan of Glasgow band, Frightened Rabbit. All it took was a mention, and I got curious enough to search iTunes. Now I’m in love, hehe!

I discovered the awesomeness of Within Temptation in a similar fashion. I was sitting in the car bored, waiting, and I pulled out my phone to look up anime music videos on YouTube. As an already confessed Final Fantasy fiend, I searched out FF videos. I came across a FF: Crisis Core vid set to Within Temptation’s Angels, and was blown away. I got chills watching that video, and I had to hear more songs after that. I own three of their albums now.

I’ve gotten other lovely music from bands such as Spence and Lovers and Liars through social media. MySpace actually was helpful in finding these two gems, or rather, they found me. (If a member of the band sends me a witty and somewhat silly message, I will no doubt investigate the tunes. Looking at you, Daniel!)

But music isn’t the only thing I discover in this fashion! As a fan of Lovers and Liars, of course I had to watch the fan-made video set to their song I’m Not Him. I watched it to hear the song, but the cuts from the anime Clannad made me watch the entire series.

I also find new books, music, and games through regular channels, but there’s just something magical to me about discovering a band through a book or because they sent me a clever message. It’s exciting to me to think that a fan video can introduce me to a show, game, or song that I might never have discovered otherwise.

So, have you ever discovered something you loved through a roundabout way?  Leave a comment!

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Writer's Voice Contest Entry

Okay, now that I can breathe, yay! There's an awesome contest going on, and I got in by the skin of my teeth! Here's the details:

“The Writer’s Voice” is a multi-blog, multi-agent contest hosted by Cupid of Cupid’s Literary Connection, Brenda Drake of Brenda Drake Writes, Monica B.W. of Love YA, and Krista Van Dolzer of Mother. Write. (Repeat.). We’re basing it on NBC’s singing reality show The Voice, so the four of us will serve as coaches and select projects for our teams based on their queries and first pages.

And here's my entry!

YA Contemporary Fantasy
68,000 words


Every night when the houselights go down, seventeen-year-old kinetic Charlie Brimm secretly feasts on the brilliant auras of the human crowd around him. Their music-heightened, upbeat energies replenish Charlie’s own rapidly depleted energy, keeping him alive and healthy—if not completely satisfied.

Then Charlie meets bard-faery and rock singer, Len. One taste of her unusual silver energy leaves him speechless, breathless, and satisfied like no human aura has ever done. The best part? It’s so abundant, he can’t drain her.

But her faery band mates have another mission besides rocking the ears off the local teens. They’re collecting the darkest, most troubled auras from the crowds. In order to fulfill their sacrifice to an ancient faery on the fall equinox, they need lots of negative energy bottled up in one tidy package. The teens provide the auras, but they need someone with Charlie’s ravenous appetite to hold it all. Now that they’ve found him, they need to keep him hungry.


There’s a problem. The more of Len’s aura Charlie absorbs, the less energy he needs to recharge. That’s bad news for the band, but Charlie creates another kink in their hopes for power and glory. Len’s falling for him. The closer she and Charlie get, the more defiant she becomes about gathering the city’s teens for the offering. And an empty vessel won’t do.

Charlie doesn’t want to drain the teens of their energy or to be eaten in turn, but letting Len and her stabilizing aura go means returning to a life of nightly feedings and an insatiable hunger. But getting caught will not only end his life, but the other teens’ lives as well.

First 250:

Everyone gives off colorful haloes of energy. Human seers like to call them auras.
I like to call them dinner.  
Dinner’s where I’m headed right now. With all the clubs, concerts, and parties a guy can crash, the city of Kroewe is the perfect place to get some energy. Which is important for a kinetic like me. All I gotta do is throw myself into a crowd, get close to the auras that appeal most to me, and draw some energy here and there until I’m satisfied. And no one knows anything happened.
 I’m hitting a club called Beatz tonight. Techno’s not really my style, but the place is always packed when they’ve got DJ FYXE. I love watching the kaleidoscope of energies as everybody hits the dance floor. With all the reds, blues, yellows, and greens mixed together, it’s like my own light show. In front of me stands a cute redhead. I know she’s interested because she keeps glancing over her shoulder at me and then giggling with her friends. Too bad her aura’s a funky mix of greenish-pink and red. She’s got some issues going on I’d rather not taste. The glances over her shoulder are becoming longer and slightly uncomfortable stares, but since I’m curious why the line seems extra-long tonight, I introduce myself. “Hey, I’m Charlie.”
Red giggles with the girls around her before she answers. Already I’m wishing I’d kept my mouth shut. She’s gonna be hard to ditch when feeding time comes, and I’m not in the mood for her brand of bruised energy tonight.