Saturday, April 30, 2016

Fiction Portal


March 20, 3748, was supposed to be the day when fifteen-year-old Sonny Knight would enjoy the clashball championship game with his family and two best friends. Instead, it set off a chain of catastrophes and adventures when terrorist clones invaded the stadium, capturing all the players and spectators and transporting them off to a secret island base in submarines crafted from bioengineered jellyfish.

Except for Sonny, who managed to escape thanks to sheer bad luck. Now he just wants to get back home and let the grownups sort everything out.

But the day wasn’t a total loss. Sonny got to meet one of his favorite sports heroes, he got a new dog, and he ran into an extremely tattooed man who has a really fast ship. Which might’ve been able to get Sonny safely home in a couple of days if they hadn’t run into the tsunamis, and the pliosaurs, and the cattle stampede, and  more clones, and all those other complications.

Complications multiply in this solarpunk adventure tale set in a way-past-dystopian future where humans face violent weather, cutthroat politics and bioengineered monsters, all of which make travel very inconvenient.

REVIEW at Book Review Directory
"One Sunny Night is a well-written tale of adventure ... very creative ..." 

Retrograde Horizon

In volume one, Sonny made his way home. Now he’s in volume two, and those pesky clones are still trying to kill him. Meanwhile, his family is still trapped on the clones’ super-secret mist-shrouded island somewhere in the South Pacific near the huge volcanic eruption. It’s starting to look like he’s going to have to go get them – if he can survive the roller coaster bomb, and the hacked robot, and the bioengineered unicorn, and the malfunctioning factory equipment … and his very first girlfriend.

A fast-paced epic science fiction adventure set in 3748 on an earth with a very different climate (not to mention configuration, chemistry and composition) for Young Adults, Old Children and practically anybody else who happens to have a little time on their hands.

REVIEW at Book Review Directory
"...plenty of action and danger to keep readers turning the pages."

Sieging Manganela

A long time from now, there was a war.

Very different from the normal sort of war. Turo’s side was full of brave, strong, dedicated soldiers. Their great-grandfathers modified their DNA to make sure they’d be the best warriors ever: strong, fast, smart and big.

Zeffany’s side sold them those DNA modifications. They’re not about to come outside and exchange blows with a bunch of hypermuscular giants. Not when they can kick back in air-conditioned cities sending out remote-controlled drones.

Turo doesn’t feel particularly gigantic. He’s heard rumors that the war is nearly at an end, and if they are true, he won’t have to keep hiding his anxiety, and his flashbacks. If the officers were to find out about that he’d get kicked out of the army in no time, and then he’d lose his pension, and no decent girl would ever talk to him. Turo is only seventeen but he’s seen some terrible things, and sometimes they come back to haunt him.

But maybe if the war ends, he might get a chance to spend some time with Zeffany, a girl he just met, who lives inside the city he’s sieging.  Assuming he survives the drones.

REVIEW at Book Review Directory
"Readers who enjoy science fiction that makes them think, with well-paced action and adventure and likable characters will be drawn to this novel."

Short Stories

            A graduate student attempts to observe a highly aggressive bioengineered unicorn without compromising her reputation.
(Just under 7,000 words)

            A criminal doing time in a virtual reality jail participates in a living history exercise designed to increase empathy.

            Lily’s mom is gone and she’s staying with her dad now, in the remote Outer Islands, disconnected from the connected world – and then she meets an intelligent sea cow who may have a solution to her problem.
 (Just over 7,000 words)

A shaggy dog story for Halloween.
(2,774 words)

Monday, April 18, 2016

Tattoo Appropriation

All this talk of cultural appropriation makes me slightly uneasy because I have a character who is a bit of a cultural appropriator, and he’s right in the middle of the cover.

His name is Kai, and he is covered with tattoos, including his face, which is decorated with black stripes. Meanwhile, on his hands, he’s got old timey European/American sailor tatts – pigs and chickens and “Hold Fast” across his knuckles. He became interested in getting tattooed during a period of his life when he was deprived of the company of the ocean.
The correct term for what Kai’s got is “kirituhi” – not moko. Moko is specific to the Maori people and contains coded individual meaning, and it is considered a grave insult for a pakeha to appropriate it. Kirituhi, meanwhile is Maori-inspired tattooing that can be worn by anyone, for any reason. I don’t mention either term in the story, but I figured that mentioning the blend of Polynesian and Western styles provided a clue. I have used the word “moko” in the past, but I’m correcting myself.

Why does the character have a tattooed face?  Because his introduction scene involves a flame being lit to suddenly reveal his formidable scary tattooed appearance. That’s an important adventure story element right there. As is his presence on an old-fashioned sailing ship (I pitched Ahab over the side and promoted Queequeg to captain in a Moby Dick callout).

DISCLAIMER: This blog is in no way suggesting YA readers should get tattoos. If you're under 18, do not get a tattoo. 

Instead, read about tattoos (and people who have them):
Succinct explanation of kirituhi:

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Back to Reading YA - Sherman Alexie, Tamora Pierce and The Wicked Pigeon Ladies In The Garden

Let’s get back to talking about YA.

I was on some forum the other day when someone asked everyone’s top three YA books, and I responded with:
A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle;
     [A science fiction story about a girl who learns how to take a shortcut between planets.]
 House of Stairs by William Sleator; and
     [A science fiction story about kids subjected to a behaviorist experiment.]
 The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.
     [A science fiction story about kids killing each other for various reasons.]
With The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as an ancestral selection [not really science fiction unless you include rafts].  Some old fashioned answers, appropriate for an old lady writer such as myself (yes, yes, I realize that I’m supposed to conceal my age/gender when writing YA, but that’s only true for apple polishers who work for corporate publishers; I’m writing for people who appreciate truly unmarketable writing, and we don’t care about demographics for obvious reasons). 

Then I started looking at everyone else’s answers. and as a result, my Kindle has lots of nice, new YA on it now. Also some child star bios – I’ve been reading a lot of those to kind of research how YAs feel when undergoing extraordinary things, as background for book 2 in the series. I’m up to page 30, but I’m not going to talk about that right now.

Instead I’m going to drop a cryptic, brief and infuriating reference to The Wicked Pigeon Ladies In The Garden, which is one of the most sublime books ever written. 

And then I’ll move along to what I’ve been reading lately.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

I enjoyed this story about an Indian kid who decides he wants to go to the rich white kids’ school and then on to college, despite a staggering array of obstacles including poverty, handicaps related to illness in infancy, parents that drink too much and a community that isn’t too impressed by his decision to turn white on the inside, like an apple. 

Further to my rant about cultural appropriation, this is a good example of a story about clashing cultures that respects both sides and doesn’t demonize or wallow in sanctimony. It’s full of casual offensiveness: I was impressed by a sequence where Junior is greeted with one of the foulest racist jokes I’ve seen in a YA story – then when he tells his wise grandmother, she informs him that the joker was actually testing him with a male power play, and tells him how to respond in a socially appropriate way.

Like the joker character, this is a book that likes to offend you, then reward you if you stick it out to see where the story is headed.  I understand it’s been banned a few times, and I can see why, but I still like it.

Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce

The Tortall series by Tamora Pierce is on several best-YA lists, so I jumped in with Wild Magic, the tale of a teen girl who is remarkably good at talking to animals. It takes place in a fantasy kingdom full of intrigue, adventure and mages. Yup, it’s Mary Sue as can be, but in all the right ways, encouraging the reader to step into the world and daydream about how they’d interact with it. 

This particular volume is a good place to start if you like animals. Especially ponies.  The plot keeps moving and twisting, sometimes in familiar ways and sometimes in unexpected directions.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Prescribing Books

In the UK, doctors are providing a recommendation list of books dealing with various mental health issues. I approve of prescribing books for this reason.

I’m not sure whether my own books would qualify as far as having any therapeutic potential, but I’ve only finished one so far. My protagonists do all tend to have fairly realistic PTSD, but since I gave it to them, deliberately, for kicks, I’m not really entitled to pat myself on the back for my nurturing sensitivity.

I’m also a little new to this YA thing, and sometimes I accidentally mention things on this blog that I retroactively notice are a little bit adult, such as Outlander. And then I briefly feel like a terrible person, which is the main reason most of my reviews tend to be Disney/Pixar. I’m not shilling for them, honest. I’m just fairly certain they’ve anchored themselves far to one end of the YA – A divide and can therefore serve as a reference point, so that I don’t end up accidentally adulting up the place.

I never actually thought I would be a YA writer, in fact. I thought I’d probably write brilliant litfic and/or brooding violent fantasy epics and/or terrifying tales of horror, but once I sat down and actually wrote books, it became apparent that I’m some other kind of writer. I profess no special abilities in child guidance or development, and truthfully I’m kind of a crappy role model. Mainly because I spent my formative years wallowing in cheesy pop culture instead of the kind that accumulates college credits – which made me fall in love with cheesy pop culture and aspire to create some of my own.

Some books are like medication and therapy, while others are more like delicious crispy greasy grilled cheese sandwiches, or brief relaxing vacations. 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Tomorrowland: Best Movie I've Seen in a While

I wish I’d seen Tomorrowland before making my Hugo nominations, and I hope enough others nominate it to get it on the ballot. In fact, Hugo Gernsback is literally a character featured in Tomorrowland.

The movie is a story about optimism and dystopia, full of gorgeous graphics and nods to people like Tesla and Gernsback. It has jet packs, and a glorious fight scene in a shop that sells nerdy science fiction memorabalia.  It has a couple of charming action girls and George Clooney, and the kind of futuristic cityscapes that fill my heart with joy.

It also has … I almost hesitate to say this … a twisty plot that owes more to the sparkly intellectual sci fi written by folks like Robert Sheckley than a lot of recent work. A plot that makes you think. A plot that isn’t afraid to call out science fiction that confuses sincere warnings with pandering deathporn.

I grew up around the time when the deathporn was replacing the more optimistic stuff. If you dared voice a theory that the world might not implode on 1/1/00 people would rant about how na├»ve and evil you were, and yet the world didn’t implode. It still hasn’t. And I got to the point where I felt a strong need to insulate myself from all that deathporny negativity. Since I’m trying to write in the other direction, I’ll just display the dreamer’s badge from Tomorrowland and hope it attracts more like minds.