Friday, April 24, 2015

Middle Grade and Young Adult

At this blog we tend to use terms like "middle grade" and "YA", with the assumption being that the readers will understand them. I've been on a number of panels lately at science fiction conventions where questions from the audience demonstrated that people don't always understand the difference between the two labels. Even what YA is has been a major source of disagreements in discussions about whether there should be a YA Hugo Award. So this post will be an attempt to break those groups down and perhaps other posters to the blog will add their points of view as well.

Short history lesson. Back when I was growing up, there was no label for YA or middle grade. You started with children's books, and then at some point you, your parent, or perhaps a librarian knew you were ready for the adult collection. "Ready" didn't always mean "emotionally mature" - it might be because that's where all the good fantasy/science fiction was shelved or it might be because you had already devoured all the books in the children's collection and your parent/librarian was tired of hand-picking books from the adult collection. (Interlibrary loan was only for adults back then.) Publishers did have some authors who wrote 'juvenile' (I do remember the Heinlein Juveniles were a thing at one point) and those would be shelved in the children's collection. Sometimes.

YA emerged as a label in the mid-70s (some will say 1950s or 1960s, but not where I was) and at that point it was thought to cover ages 10 through 18. Middle grade as an age range for books started about the time midde schools/junior highs became the fashion in the US - around the late 80s in some areas, early 1990s in others. Why and how have some classics have been relabeled as YA even though the term never existed when the book was written? It's all about the protagonist.

In panel discussions, several points have been repeated over and over. Age of the protagonist is one factor in the split between MG and YA. Middle grade has the protagonist aged between eight to twelve years old. In YA, the protagonist is older, usually thirteen and up. New Adult is a new term for the college-aged protagonist, which up to now was covered (sometimes) under YA. Classics - those books published before these terms came into use - often are relabeled YA if the protagonist fits in that age range, even if the main character is actually an adult reflecting on their childhood/young adulthood (Jane Eyre and To Kill A Mockingbird). Tamora Pierce's Circle series starts with her young mages around 10 years old. That was considered YA when the series first appeared, so her books might be considered MG by some and YA by others.

Middle grade readers have gatekeepers - parents and librarians who evaluate the books before purchase. So panelists often agree that swearing and sex is a dividing line between middle grade and young adult, no matter the age of the protagonist. Violence isn't always an issue with some gatekeepers.

Other dividing points (and there are always exceptions): middle grade covers external situations and adventures while YA is more introspective. Middle grade is more optimistic, while YA can be more edgy with uncertain endings. Middle grade focuses more on friends and family, while YA focuses on society. Before Harry Potter, middle grade books had a low word count, but that's not always true now.

Some other websites and blogs that discuss the definitions and distinctions:

How does the proposal for a Hugo for Best YA stand? There was supposedly a committee set up at the last Worldcon to look into it. There is still a Facebook group for the YA Hugo Proposal, but it's been quiet since 2014, and with the latest uproar about the 2015 Hugo nominations I'm not sure if there will even be any discussion about the topic at the business meeting at this year's Worldcon. We shall see.

What do you think are the differences between middle grade and young adult?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


This month I've been busy with the A to Z Challenge and haven't a clue what to write about today. Posting every day but Sunday isn't easy. So I'm sharing interesting email with you today. Enjoy.

Visibility Generating
Authority Building

Writing and Marketing Information

Self-Talking Yourself Into Becoming a Better Writer, a Better

By Karen Cioffi

I’ve long believed the benefits of positive thinking and positive projection.

Now, in line with these philosophies, there is positive self-talk.

In an article at, “Why Saying is Believing,” it explains the

importance of not only talking to yourself, but how you talk to yourself.

Researchers delved into the influence that referring to the ‘self’ has on

how the individual thinks, feels, and even behaves.

Interestingly, the studies are finding that talking to yourself as ‘I’ or ‘me’ can

create stress.

Why does this matter?

According to “psychologist Ethan Kross of the University of Michigan led the

work, studying the pronouns people use when they talk to themselves silently,
inside their minds.” Kross went on to explain that the subtle linguistic shift
from ‘I’ to your name can have “powerful self-regulatory effects.” (1)

As an example, suppose I say every morning: “I’m going to take actions to

get 50 new subscribers to my mailing list this month.” According to the studies,
this is creating subconscious stress on fulfilling my goal.

If instead I said, “Karen, you’re going to take actions to get 50 new subscribers

to your mailing list this month,” I’m reducing the stress by kind of making
myself someone else who’s being talked to. Kind of like being coached or
advised. And, the ‘talking’ tends to be done in a milder, less demanding way
when done this way.

So, how will this help you with your writing and marketing?

Well, why not give it a try. Even if its only benefit is to reduce some stress in

your life, it’s powerful. On the other hand, if it reduces stress and helps
motivate you to take action to work toward building a successful business,
then it’s super-powerful.

I'll be giving it a try.
To check out the references, please visit the post webpage.


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You may reprint this article from "The Writing World” in its entirety in your own blog

or print/electronic newsletter. But, please include the following paragraph:

Article reprinted from The Writing World newsletter. Want more must-know writing

and marketing information along with updates on free webinars right in your inbox?
access to The Writing World ( today.

Karen Cioffi, Freelance Writer
For Individuals (Academic Papers, Essays, Editing, and More)
The Article Writing Doctor
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(Content Writing Services for Small and Home Businesses)

karencioffi [at] ymail [dot] com

I'm an affiliate for some of the products I recommend. I only tell you about

products I've checked out.


Send me an email with your question and I'll do my best to give you an

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Exciting Days in my Corner of the World

Last month I hinted at some big writing news, but I couldn't quite share it yet. Now I can share that I am now being represented by Steven Chudney of the Chudney Agency, for a MG trilogy about a feisty princess named Fritzi. Hopefully there will be more good news for that series soon!

In the meantime the fourth book of my Ali series will be coming out this Spring. ALWAYS ALI will have Ali questioning herself and what it means to be who she is. I'm excited to share this book with the world, though it's a little sad to be wrapping up the series, Ali and her stories have been a part of my life for a long time.

And finally, in one other bit of news, my daughter has chosen a college for next year. She's going to major in Marketing with a Creative Writing minor and wants to go into some aspect of the publishing business, so I'm guessing that good publishing news will continue to happen in this family.

What good news to you have on this Tax Day?

Friday, April 10, 2015

My DART Adventure!


Adventures can come from the unlikeliest places or reasons. And some adventures are more fun than others. This past weekend, hubby and I decided embarked on one of those.

My work place is moving to Las Colinas, which means a much more involved commute using already congested highways. (I leave at 6:30am just to avoid traffic! And even then it still gets congested! And the new location is farther and through some of the worst spots. Noooo!)

So trying to see how to avoid traffic and all the stress, annoyance, etc that goes with it, I figured I'd check out DART Rail since there's a station right by the new work address.

DART stands for the Dallas Area Rapid Transit - Texas has been slow in getting into this type of thing because Texas, unlike most states that embrace mass transit solutions, is BIG! And there tends to be lots of space between places. So between the expense and the distance, it's been slow to catch on. But Texas keeps getting more and more people, so it's become something of a necessity. There's been buses routes for many, many years, but the rail is relatively new. But both integrate into a rather large network that serves Dallas and 12 surrounding cities. So it's BIG too!

Anyway,  I spent a couple of hours doing research, finding out routes, comparing maps, and more. So Saturday, hubby and I set off to check it out and see if DART rail was a viable alternative or not.

This is the view from the DCTA platform off of Hebron in North Carrollton. The A-Train stops by here on its way from Denton to the Trinity Mills station. As you can see, aside from a roof and some metal chairs and ticket machines, there's nothing here. 

On a day like Saturday, that is not a problem. But any kind of inclement weather and passengers would find no protection here. Also, the big schedule on the marquee is only for weekdays, so we ended up missing the train, because... there are no TOILETS!

Took a panoramic once we got back (before we realized the marquee was wrong and we'd just missed the train).  Wahhhh! (We then got in the car and went to the alternate stop.)

Inside of the DART Rail - which we got onto at the North Carrollton Station. No bathrooms there either.

Ticket machines and helpful signs. Huge parking lot, big statue, no bathrooms. No real cover. And cover is important in Texas. Weather changes every five minutes, don't you know. :P

Incoming DART rail. (We're sitting in the other one.)

And we're off!

Water treatment plant in Carrollton

Some nice views on  the overpasses.

Each station stop had a different decor motif for their columns. Still no restrooms.

A lovely fluffy sky!

Passing strangers

You can see the conductor and the rail map from here. Typical multi transit train setup.

Walnut Hill Station - a nice southern feel to the columns.

The big radar thing/water thing. 

Some more of the stop decor.

Historical Park in Farmers Branch.

They've really fixed it up!

More column decor.

This is the extent of protection at all the stations we stopped at. :( Rain with some wind, and you'd be soaked.

Really can see a long way from up here.

Old Downtown Carrollton

More station decor

Big art thing at the North Carrollton Station. Wish they'd put in some bathrooms instead.

All the stations were clean and so were the trains. But...

We never did go all the way to our final destination. The bathroom situation caused us to hoof it in search of one and after that we were pretty much done. I now know why DART is losing money. I've no idea how the elderly or people with kids could afford to use DART rail without any kind of facilities being available. I spoke to a friend who uses the Red Line and said he'd seen plenty on that route, but the Green Line seemed to have none. Sadly, the lack of facilities definitely makes this a non-option for me.

So we had drama, frustration, and some cool stuff to this adventure. Next weekend? Maybe a new adventure, maybe not. :P

Friday, March 27, 2015

Wizards and Other Magic Users

The theme of this year's MarsCon earlier this month was "Heroes & Wizards & Fae OHhh MYyy!!" One of the two panels on wizards was "The Affairs of Wizards" with the description "Wizards, and magic users of various names, are prevalent in fairy tales, folk tales, and fantasy. What purpose do they serve? How do we make them and their magic believable to a modern audience? How much of the process of magic needs to be explained and how much is best left to the reader or viewer’s imagination? How do you make your wizards stand out as something new and interesting, and not just another Gandalf or Dumbledore knockoff? Who does this well? What tropes have been overused and need to be buried under a really large rock?" I was a panelist on the second one, which was entitled "Need a Wizard? Who You Gonna Call?". The description was "Different wizards excell at different tasks. What wizards are better for the kind of work you/your story need?"

Wizards are indeed one of the common characters of fantasy and usage of the term has varied over time and between authors. I remember in the fantasy books in my father's collection there could be good or bad wizards, and they were only male. Women could do magic, but they were called witches or sorceresses, both of which terms usually have a negative connotation. The Oz books did have Glinda the Good Witch of the South, who was also called a sorceress, but she was one of the exceptions of that time period. J.K. Rowling had her Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Andre Norton had her Witch World series, and other books in which female magic users were also called Wise Women. When I started writing my fantasy books, though, I noticed very few male magic users were ever called "Wise Men". "Wizard" was the term of preference and that was the term I decided to use for my female magic users. Other authors decided the same. Diane Duane in her Young Wizards series had both male and female wizards, as did Diana Wynne Jones in many of her books, while Tamora Pierce in her Circle series had both female and male mages.

Wizards don't always have to be human, either. I have elf, gryphon, and even horse wizards. Mercedes Lackey has gryphon wizards while Diana Wynne Jones has gryphons, centaurs and even dwarves becoming wizards. Diane Duane's wizards include not only alien centipedes and trees but also a planet.

Returning to the "Need a Wizard?" panel, it wasn't until I read The Lord of the Rings series that I encountered the idea that wizards could specialize. Radagast focused on animals, Saruman was the craftsman and metal-worker and Gandalf ended up as the warrior. Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden was one other wizard mentioned at the panel as another warrior. In Diane Duane's Young Wizards series, Kit's magic works well with machinery, while another specializes in stellar engineering. Tamora Pierce's Circle series has mages who can control storms, plants, metal and even thread.

What types of wizards do you enjoy reading about or writing about? What tropes have been overused?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


Do you ever hear a weird noise in your house or your car or elsewhere and wonder what it is? You search and search but can't find the cause. For the longest time I kept hearing this little popping noise. It wasn't loud and it was quick, so I never could find the source.
One day, I opened a bottle of water, took a couple of sips, then put the lid back on and set the bottle on the cabinet. I was busy doing whatever and then I heard it, that little pop that had puzzled me for ages. It wasn't a ghost  or an alien from outer space or rain.t Yep, you guessed it. The water bottle had made the weird noise.

What does this have to do with anything, you're probably wondering? I'll tell you.

My newest book is a picture book mystery for readers 6-9. Yes, it's the story of three girls that hear a weird noise.

Weird noises in the night send the imaginations of three young girls soaring. Is it the rain, a dragon, an alien from outer space, or a ghost? As Olivia and her best friends seek the source of the sound, they discover that the truth is not as scary as their imaginations.
Publisher: Guardian Angel Publishing
Illustrator: Eugene Ruble
Available at:

I've also chosen a theme for the A to Z Challenge Hop in April. I'll be talking about animals, one of my favorite subjects. To see what others' themes may be check it out here.
Happy Reading

Monday, March 23, 2015

Beware the Little White Rabbit AND YA Scavenger Hunt are coming!!!

I think I totally forgot to post last month! So much going on, work, and real life, yanno. But Spring is coming, and that means I kick into high gear. TWO book releases in the next two months, and events to attend and plan, publicity to arrange....

After NOT having a book come out last year, I kind of feel like I've been in writer-hibernation. So I'm making up for it this year.

Beware the Little White Rabbit comes out from Leap Books on April 14. It's a YA anthology that celebrates the 150th anniversary of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.  I've seen some of the interior artwork (though not for my story, yet, boo!) and I cannot WAIT to get my hands on this thing and get print copies to take to events.

The other thing I'm involved in next month is the YA Scavenger Hunt. There are a ton of authors participating. Basically, you search the author's blogs, getting exclusive content and guest blog posts and looking for SOMETHING in the post. When you have the SOMETHING, you write it down. When you have ALL the SOMETHINGS, you enter to win a boatload of cool swag.

I am on Team Blue this year. I think there are something like eight teams, all different colors. Click the link for the YASH site and stay tuned-- it starts April 2!

I forget what I said I was giving away, but I think it was one copy of one of my books, OR a copy of A Curse of Ash and Iron  when it's released in May. I have to double check.

And try to keep up, because I'm off to the races!!