SNEAK PEEK

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With Jupiter Gardens closing its doors, I’ve decided to re-release INTO THE LAND OF SNOWS. I’ve had an amazing time working with Anna Spies of EerilyFair (https://www.facebook.com/eerilyfairdesign/). She is a talented and imaginative cover designer and here’s a peek at the new cover design. Freakin’ awesome job!

Here’s a Story for You:

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I was the kind of kid who read stories about kids doing things. Going places, discovering things, solving mysteries. Of course, there had to be obstacles. Maybe a bad guy, difficult situations to overcome, parents to get rid of (not in the kill’em off sense) but more in the way of finding freedom and doing what you want. In some ways, it was a huge fantasy! I grew up with four brothers and two sisters and doing anything without someone knowing was close to impossible. BUT, some of them could be bought off. Silly fantasy, really. I was the biggest tattle tale there was! Always being “on the straight and narrow” prevented lots of escapes and adventures except for in books and in my mind.

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photo: Laslovarga, 2013

A headline from this week’s news (try finding one that’s not about the insane election, right about now), has challenged my sense of adventure. What if a 15 year old boy discovers a lost Mayan city no one else knew was there? He’s a smart kid, maybe even gifted, and he gets this ludicrous idea that by studying star maps he can decode the placement of an entire civilization? He sets out to prove this, but silly adult organizations like NASA and the Canadian Space Agency won’t loan him their satellite photos. Said kid takes to the road, abandoning his sane life, and becoming a young version of Indiana Jones- except his temples turn out to be real. Anyway, once the book’s out, Steven Spielberg will be making it into a movie.

For more about the real kid, named William Gadoury, click the link. The space agencies did support him and it looks like he’s made quite a find!

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/forgotten-mayan-city-discovered-in-central-america-by-15-year-old-a7021291.html

HALLOWEEN YA HORROR

In an effort to satisfy my hunger for a good ghost story around Halloween, I stumbled on two firmly planted in the horror genre. Read at your own peril. Spoiler alert.

Beyond- A Ghost Story by Graham McNamee

Seventeen year old Jane was born dead and revived. In her short life she has escaped death four more times, but her shadow is after her. While Jane wrestles with these issues her best friend, Lexi, provides necessary comic relief. As the “Creep Sisters”, Jane and Lexi have to deal with being outsiders at school. Jane must find out why death haunts her before it’s too late and the opportunity comes when a skull is unearthed on the edge of town. Solving that mystery brings her face to face with a serial killer and reveals why her shadow is after her. McNamee successfully incorporates the idea of a dark, lost region that contrasts sharply to the bright light bliss of near death experiences. It’s a nice twist making it a unique ghost story. Sufficiently creepy, fast paced, and satisfying.

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Cas Lowood has inherited the job of ghost killer from his dad. Armed with a powerful knife, he seeks his prey. His next case draws him to Anna, a girl killed in 1958 on her way to a dance. Anna has the nasty habit of killing anyone who enters the house where she resides. This is a fairly well-crafted story, but not as original as Beyond. It has garnered quite a following seemingly attracting the Twilight crowd because of the romance between Cas and Anna. That part didn’t resonate with me. Cass witnessed a kid being ripped apart by Anna and yet he falls for her. The most unique aspect of the story comes from the idea of the Obeah- a creature seeking power and the Wicca traditions brought to the story by some of the lesser characters. This is a fast read, entertaining, but a bit familiar.      

Asylum (YA) by Madeleine Roux

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No doubt about it, the cover is creepy. This was one of those books with a promising premise. It’s somewhat reminiscent of the wildly successful Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children in its use of odd, black and white photos. But where that book was creative and different, this one fails to deliver. Don’t get me wrong- it’s not awful, it’s just not exceptional.

Sixteen year old, Dan spends part of the summer at a college prep program. His dorm is a former psychiatric facility. When things start to happen, the reader wonders if the school is haunted, Dan is going mad, or whether something else is going on. That part of the book works. Several murders and attacks ensue along with Dan becoming a possible suspect, but when a few too many co-incidents occur, the action starts to feel campy. In the end, the storyline is partially resolved but big questions remain (I guess this is so the author gets to produce a sequel. Anyone else tired of that ploy?). The initial idea, Dan’s history, and the location should have produced a better book.

 

CAN YA READING TRENDS BE PREDICTED?

 

Photo:Prettyboymycko

Photo:Prettyboymycko

Publishers Weekly did an article earlier this month pointing out what they view as “hot” in YA this year. Those themes included horror, mental illness, gender identity, and the apocalypse. Of course, these trends reflect what editors and agents believe will be popular. It really says nothing about what the reader may actually want. Getting a handle on the reader can be difficult because good statistics are not kept and predicting the future is always tough. But, is there a way to get a feel for what will interest teens of the future? Maybe.

Recently I watched an episode on Gaiam TV where Regina Meredith was interviewing an astrologer. I’ve been interested in astrology off and on since I was a teenager, but over the past year or so that interest has become more intense and I watch quite a few YOUTUBE astrologers as they explain what’s going on in a given month. It is fascinating and personal.

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What resonated with me in this interview concerned the movement of Pluto and how these long transits (248 years to circle the zodiac) influence generations. With Pluto in a given sign anywhere from 11 to 32 years, it defines a whole generation. In a way, this is the opposite of personal because I share influences with everyone in my age group. As a writer for young people, this idea intrigues me. It especially drew me in as the astrologer talked about my adult children’s group (Pluto in Scorpio). He talked about the attraction for this group to pagan religions and pure philosophy. My daughter describes herself as pagan and my son is currently exploring nihilism and its intricacies. Further extrapolating, I thought- wow, this was the perfect market for Harry Potter. Some people think JK Rowling had a unique idea or that the books were exceptionally well done. But most of us realize that young wizards going off to school has been done before. Perhaps then, Pluto in Scorpio almost guaranteed Harry Potter would make publishing history.

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The youngest of the children of the Pluto in Scorpio generation will turn twenty soon so as a children’s writer, I bid them farewell. My attention turns to the Pluto in Sagittarius (1995- 2008) group. This would be my target audience and astrology should help me see who these kids are. What are the characteristics of this generation?

Sagittarius rules religion, philosophy, long distance travel, and foreign countries. This generation should have a keen interest in these areas and Sagittarius has a can-do enthusiasm that Scorpio lacks. They value freedom, are easily bored, and may not be as well-grounded and realistic as some. If I were to try to predict what would appeal to the Pluto in Sagittarius generation in terms of books (and movies), I’d list novels with far away settings, diverse cultures, exciting plots, maybe some quirky humor. I’m not sure dystopia like Hunger Games and Divergent will continue to appeal. In fact, those dark, complex, and mature themes Publishers Weekly would have us believe will be hot, probably won’t be. Scorpio is all that, but Sagittarius is not! The Sags should be interested in religion and philosophy so perhaps visionary fiction will find its place. Time will reveal what this generation gravitates toward and what the next big blockbuster will be. I for one would not expect editors and agents to be able to see the next phenomenal success because they are looking to the past trying to recreate its success and it won’t be there. Just about the time we start to see how obvious it all should have been, the Pluto in Capricorn (2008-2024) kids will show up and we’ll be scratching our heads all over. But then Capricorn will reveal itself.

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