Rejuvenation Book 1

by Byddi Lee

Author Byddi Lee has created a dystopian tale in which she’s nailed all three facets of great science fiction:

  • a flawed, yet highly admirable main character readers care about
  • a plot that accelerates in intensity and speed toward en exciting conclusion
  • a deftly-written narrative where facts and descriptions about the world are slipped in around the character’s actions, thus creating a smooth read

Three reasons I loved this book!

The setting is some twenty years after aliens attack the earth, causing billions to die and ice sheets to melt so high there’s little arable land left. Most people live in subscrapers embedded in the ocean floor and that rise high above the surface. To control the population, no one can have a child until someone within the family dies, typically an older person, who feel pressured to die and make room for the younger generation.

Dr. Bobbie Chan is a doctor who works in a subscraper off the coast of Ireland with the ultra-elderly, 110 or older, whom she loves. Every day she tells her patients they have value and should live to the fullest until the very end, a passion that makes Bobbie extremely admirable. What she doesn’t divulge is that the death of her twin sister when they were young so traumatized Bobbie she fights the very existence of death.

When a strange disease spreads among her patients and the elderly elsewhere in the world, causing them to seemingly get younger, Bobbie at first sees the heightened quality of life potential. But when enough disturbing symptoms emerge, Bobbie begins to suspect foul play on the part of the Belus Corporation that runs the world. Bobbie’s diehard commitment to her patients’ wellbeing pushes her to investigate.

The author does such a fine job of slipping in descriptions of this new world and its advanced technology that there’s never a feeling of being overwhelmed. Instead, the story stays riveted on Bobbie’s changing emotional state and her fight for truth based on her belief that no one should be made to feel like a burden.

I’m looking forward to Book 2 in this trilogy!

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Cheers, Somebody

by Katie Lewis

Often books and conferences for writers focus on the big parts of stories, such as plot, characters, pace, dialogue, etc.

I tend to approach writing in the opposite manner. Specifically, that the best writers are those who start from the smallest of details and build upward. My logic is that if they’ve taken the time to imagine a single, spot-on gesture, they’ve thought through the characters and story with equal care.

In the short story collection titled Cheers, Somebody, author Katie Lewis consistently nails the minute details that make the characters and their interactions real. Often simply admirably precise, other details are appropriately blunt and crass, while others are painfully truthful. Together the constant and consistent attention to the smallest parts of each story quickly create the mini-universe that is a short story, while also providing that necessary spin of uniqueness on common themes of love, loss, conflict and culture.

Choosing an example from the multitude is difficult, but here’s one from the first story for which the book is titled:

Collins danced his empty cup on the table, making a pock-pock-pock noise with the indented bottom’s echo until Stew placed his hand on top of the cup to make it stop.

The author continues that careful attention to detail throughout the story’s dialogue. Here’s an example from Ink J, the story I found most powerful.

“I, uh, I don’t know how to bring this up,” Bilson after several silent minutes of chewing rubbery licorice. “Not ‘I got news today’ or ‘Here’s something,’ but, well, I suppose. Anyway. I found out today that my college roommate died.”

While I’d term most of the stories accessible literary, a few stretch the mind, including a dystopian love story and a tale that uses brief and highly intimate scenes to portray the narrator’s relationship, seemingly with one man.

And that’s where I’ll leave the mystery!

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What’s the Difference Between YA and Adult Fiction With a Teen Protagonist?

After reading Carolyn R. Russell’s dystopian young adult novel, In the Fullness of Time (due out March 17, see previous post), I got to thinking about the above question. What, for example, is the difference between The Giver by Lois Lowry (YA) and Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger (literary); between A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle and and Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card?

The teen age of the protagonist is obviously not a deciding factor. My upcoming novel, Winter Light, for example, has a 15-year-old protagonist, but is not a YA novel. And think of Scout, the protagonist who ages from 6 to 8 over the course of To Kill a Mockingbird, which is not YA, either.

The current definition of YA is a category of books for readers age 12 to 18. Interestingly enough, the YA Wikipedia page notes that almost half of YA audiences consist of adults. The page also mentions that in 1802, a young writer named Sarah Trimmer for the first time differentiated between books for adults and for those in “young adulthood” between the ages of 14 and 21.

The following decades produced a variety of classics featuring young adult protagonists, including Lord of the Flies by William Golding. Then in 1967, 15-year-old S. E. Hinton wrote The Outsiders about the troubled kids at her school. That was the first book specifically marketed to young adults.

And there you have it, the obvious answer to the initial question: marketing. YA has since branched out in the same categories that apply to adult books: mystery, romance, sci-fi, cyberpunk, Christian, etc.

Yet the more subtle answer seems to lie in the treatment of subject matter. While many YA novels deal with adult themes — sexuality, abuse, love — the language is typically softer and cursing is at a minimum. That and the stories often revolve around what’s important to young adults, such as working through the transition to growing up, establishing independence and developing principles to live by.

Literary works, which appeal to people who like to puzzle about human nature, tend to focus more on the underlying themes of humanity. Think of Lord of the Flies where the shipwrecked boys quickly establish a power structure based on the physical prowess necessary to survive along with the ability to charm and persuade, which mirrors the power struggle in most societies.

Similarly, in my novel, the underlying premise is how some people are born under a tremendous burden simply by virtue of who they’re born to.

If you have anything to add, please do! I live for literary discussion.

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In the Fullness of Time

I was happy to receive an advance copy of this book. I was even happier to truly appreciate the author’s restraint when it comes to telling vs. showing.

I’m not a fan of books that explicitly tell me everything, which implies I’m too stupid to figure things out for myself. Carolyn R. Russell, on the other hand, doesn’t make that mistake in this new YA dystopian thriller, In the Fullness of Time. Instead, she has confidence in the intelligence of her young readers and drops them into the States — a filthy, overpopulated urban environment — right behind the story’s teen protagonist, 17-year-old Somerset, where they have to fend for themselves just as she does.

The slang and terms used immediately create a sense of claustrophobia, both physically and emotionally. In this world, only the children of the elite go to school, where they’re fed propaganda. Somerset is one of the few who reads the “old-timey flatbooks” from the Lost Ages to learn how the world could have changed so drastically. She’s also one of the few who has access to Hydracomputers. She’s afforded such privilege because she’s one of the privileged, a status she despises.

The only hope of getting fresh air in this chokingly-controlled society is for Somerset to follow the trail of mysteries that begins on the first page when she snatches up a little girl who falls amongst the street masses and is almost trampled. By showing such compassion for innocence, and such intolerance for the few privileged at the top, Somerset reveals the bravery and independent spirit of a true hero.

Wearing her clerical robes, Somerset clandestinely performs acts of rebellion with her antiauthoritarian friends. With every action she takes and every questions she asks, she forges ahead to expose the government’s criminal acts, both in relation to the masses’ cheap food source, ‘Brix, and the mysterious means of Revving, an act the government bills as a spiritual transformation and that Somerset suspects leads to a much darker outcome.

At some point I plan to write a book about showing vs. telling, probably the trickiest aspect of writing anything. When I do, I’ll call upon such examples of how to respect readers’ intelligence.

Happy writing!

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I’ll provide you with updates about my newest book, Winter Light, forthcoming Oct. 6, 2020, by Vine Leaves Press. As a thank you, I’ll give you a FREE excerpt of my first novel, The Wind Thief!

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Photography for Writers

by Melanie Faith

I grew up in Chicago and about once every winter would wake up to a mountain of snow outside my window and more falling by the minute. At that moment, utter delight would shoot through me, because I knew this would be deemed a snow day and school would be canceled. That’s the same transformation — from this-will-be-good-for-me to fantastic! — that occurred upon reading the first page of this book.

I assumed by the title I’d be learning how to use photography to better market my next novel via social media. What an utterly fantastic thing to learn that the goal of the book is not to make us writers work, but instead invite us to play! That by messing around with photography, we can explore and improve our writing tenfold.

What a powerful concept!

We creatives tend to think we’re creative in one area or another. We’re writers, but not painters, or vice versa. Whereas this book espouses that people who create do so across their lives, so using one medium of creativity to fuel another makes perfect sense.

Rather than think of ourselves as just writers, we should consider broadening our self-image to think of ourselves as photographers, too. I have no idea why that didn’t occur to me before! I love photography, yet would never have considered submitting a photograph for publication, until now.

Melanie Faith

The chapters are flash-fiction-brief in the best way possible. Melanie uses a single, often humorous, anecdote from her personal or professional life as an all-around creative to illustrate one main concept, then ends with a writing and photography prompt. Such brevity encourages thought about basic, yet potent, concepts. For example, don’t worry about equipment. Use whatever camera you’ve got. And rather than worry about composition, take photos that snag your interest, then go back to look at why the image called out to you.

While I read the book once chronologically, I plan to use it as a long-term resource I can dip into regularly to flush my work with new creativity, almost like visiting a spa for writers!

Happy writing!

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6 Marketing Terms All Authors Should Know

To develop a plan for launching my upcoming literary book, Winter Light, which will be published Oct. 6 by Vine Leaves Press, I’m taking Tim Grahl’s online marketing class, Launching a Bestseller.

Tim Grahl of BookLaunch.com, author of Your First 1000 Copies

As part of the process, I’m identifying influencers — book reviewers, bloggers, podcasters, celebrity book clubs like the Ophrah Book Club, etc. — who can help sell my book to readers.

To evaluate how many people these influencers can reach, I found Feedspot, a media site where you can find the blogs, podcasts, new websites, YouTube channels and RSS feeds you need to target. Or if you’re a blogger, you can add your blog to the database.

The site lists a media source along with how many people the person or organization can reach. To fully appreciate the information, and be more effective in marketing efforts, here are 10 terms all authors should know:

  1. Social reach: The total number of people you can reach across all of your various social media networks.
  2. Social media engagements: The number measures the public shares, likes and comments for an online business’s social media effort.
  3. Domain authority: A score that predicts how well a website will rank on search engine result pages (SERP). The scores range from 1 to 100. The higher the number, the greater the ability to rank.
  4. Search engine optimization (SEO): The practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results.
  5. Organic search engine results: Any traffic you don’t have to pay for.
  6. Click-through rate (CTR): How often the people click on the call-to-action link in your post.

Let’s practice that last one: Please subscribe to my newsletter!

For those who want to read more, Hootsuite has a great article titled The most important social media metrics for marketers.

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I’ll provide you with updates about my newest book, Winter Light, forthcoming Oct. 6, 2020, by Vine Leaves Press. As a thank you, I’ll give you a FREE excerpt of my first novel, The Wind Thief!

I look forward to hearing from you!

How to Build a Regular Writing Habit (or any habit!)

A lot of people I talk to want to build a regular writing habit, but don’t know how. Here’s my process, which works for undertaking anything new:

1. Frequency: Start with a goal you know you can do. Rather than writing daily for 2 hours, for examples, try for two days a week for 45 min. Put the sessions on your calendar so they become a legitimate use of time and that you can honestly tell others, “I can’t make that time because I’ve got something else going.”

2. Motivation: Usually I’ll get at least 5 channels of energy moving me toward the endeavor. I’ll 1) network with friends to see if they want to meet and write, 2) take a  class that includes homework that makes me work in between sessions, 3) find a contest with a realistic deadline, 4) look at my schedule to actively find time.

3. Reward: I almost always tie the activity to something pleasant, like something simple as drinking my favorite coffee or following the session by eating my favorite thing for dinner.

4. Obstacles: My calculation is that for every 1 step I think I need to make to progress, there are actually 20 obstacles in the way. If I don’t meet the goal I set that day, I make sure to find the obstacle that kept me from succeeding so I can avoid it next time.

I’ve been writing my whole life, so writing per day is like breathing. But I have taken on a number of other challenges for which I’ve had to follow the above process. But there are certainly plenty more resources to help, like the above book. If you have particular methods or resources that work for you, let me know!

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I’ll provide you with updates about my newest book, Winter Light, forthcoming Oct. 6, 2020, by Vine Leaves Press. As a thank you, I’ll give you a FREE excerpt of my first novel, The Wind Thief!

I look forward to hearing from you!