Friday, July 15, 2016

Friends

Friends and friendship are usually an important part of middle grade and YA books, no matter what genre.

Making friends, keeping friends, helping friends (or being helped by them), singling out a best friend - if these aren't the main focus of the story, they're usually a subtheme.

With most of the middle grade stories I've read recently, the friendships are always centered around school.

How well does that reflect real life? Even keeping in mind the real life changes among generations?

I'm of the generation that was shooed outside to play on our own. Friendships developed around kids in the neighborhood, no matter what age. We didn't all go to the same schools, though, so most kids had a different set of friends at school. And then came home to play with the neighborhood friends.

Nowadays, parents arrange playgroups of kids around the same age, who may or may not live within a few blocks. Next is preschool, so another set of friends, again of the same age. School may separate out some friends and add new friends.

If books are to be believed, once you start school, you leave all your other friends behind and focus only on school friends. Is that the case in real life? Or is this just for the convenience of the story?

At what stage do friends become friends because of shared interests, rather than because of location? When I was in elementary and high school, I was the only one of my friends who read science fiction. I didn't make friends who shared my interests until long after I had graduated.

Some middle grade and YA stories list friends by their characteristics, rather than as a person. One friend is fashion-savvy, another is the sports expert, yet another is bookish while one likes to cook, etc. Just writing that sentence reminded me of the ponies in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. Though I guess friends can be friends because they like each other, not for what they can do for each other or what interests they have in common.

What have you noticed about friends and friendships in middle grade and/or YA stories? What ones do you like?

Friday, June 17, 2016

Guest Blog: Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

Hi! We're Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, authors of the Liaden Universe® (and other things, but for today, we'll stick with Liadens).

First, we want to thank Kathy Sullivan, for inviting us to talk about our work, and particularly about the new book that's coming out on July 5, Alliance of Equals.

Just a little bit about the Liaden Universe®. Steve and I began writing together in 1980, and in 1984 completed our first collaborative novel, Agent of Change, coincidentally the first book written in the universe. It was action-adventure space opera, with a touch of romance, and established two on-going characters in the universe -- Miri Robertson, a Terran soldier, and Val Con yos'Phelium, a Liaden scout-turned-unwilling-spy.

The next two books were also action-adventure, continuing the adventures of Miri and Val Con. . .

And the two books after that -- went back a generation, and were what we've taken to calling Space Regencies -- Regency romances in a space opera setting.

As of this writing, there are nineteen novels in the Liaden Universe®, and we're not going to bore you with a description of each. We only want to make the point that we're working in a universe wide enough and deep enough to accommodate romance, action-adventure, YA, paranormal. . .

And! As if it weren't enough fun, being able to write in a multitude of genres within a universe of our own creation -- the universe is one where Life Moves On.

Loosely, the Liaden novels are (with a couple of exceptions) a family saga, following the doings of Clan Korval, and its various members. Which means that not only do we follow the adventures of the adults, but we get to know their kids, as they grow up.

Alliance of Equals is about one of those kids -- teenager Padi yos'Galan, heir to Master Trader Shan yos'Galan (another on-going character, with his lifemate, Priscilla Delacroix y Mendoza). As her father's heir, Padi is destined to follow in his footsteps, as Korval's master trader -- a destiny she has embraced with enthusiasm.

Padi, though. . .Padi also has a secret. A secret that might kill her, and everyone she cares about.

Now, you might be thinking right about here that you don't want to commit to reading eighteen books in order to catch up with Padi -- and the good news is that you don't have to.

We realize that eighteen books is a commitment, and we occasionally write a portal book -- a story that can be read by those with no previous knowledge of the Liaden Universe®.

As Alliance of Equals begins, Clan Korval has been knocked down a few pegs or more, thrown off their home world, threatened with annihilation, and generally suffered through Interesting Times.

So, too, has Padi. Her comfortable path to her comfortable, and expected, future has been disrupted; she was a key part of a plan that would have either saved the clan or destroyed it. And the return to normalcy -- well, "normal" isn't what it used to be. Not at all.

On the burgeoning edge of adulthood, Padi is determined not to let these unseemly disturbances put her behind. She throws herself into her studies, cramming, and skipping sleep. Also, there's that problem -- the one that she's not admitting to anyone, not even, really, to herself.

In other words, she's doing the best she can to build her future, while building a wall against her past.

* * *

If you'd like to dabble your toes in the Liaden Universe®, but don't think that Alliance is your cuppa, our publisher, Baen Books, is offering Agent of Change -- the little space opera that started it all -- and Fledgling, the beginning of the Theo Waitley story arc -- as free ebooks from Amazon, and direct from the Baen Free Library. Also free at Baen is a new short story, "Wise Child", set in the Liaden Universe®.

More information about the Liaden Universe® (including suggested reading orders) may be found at korval.com, and also at sharonleewriter.com

Thanks for listening.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

A CAT, EDITS, A CRAZY WRITER

Here's what's happening in my life lately.
 
 
First, a Cat

Tiger is looking it over.
Nope, I don't like water.
I know.

If I only had a pillow.
 
Second, edits!
 
Do they ever end?
 
Third, crazy writer.
 
Need I say more?
 
How is your world these days?
 
(I'm not complaining, just happy I have a story to edit and more are being typed on the computer.) Most of all, I'm happy Tiger and Patches adopted me. Her pictures later.
 
Happy Writing!
 
I cross posted this from my blog.
Enjoy!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Book Signings, Book Fairs and Conventions

Long ago, it is said, publishers used to set up book signings for their authors at book stores. You still hear of them out in the wild, usually for authors with one of the large traditional publishers. Book signings for authors with a small press, however, are often hit or miss nowadays. Most times the big chain stores won't consider a signing for authors with a small press or self-published authors. Some independent book stores will, but then there can be other problems. I've heard stories of author tables hidden in the back of the store, lack of publicity before the event, lack of signs promoting the event, even the manager forgetting the event altogether. Some of these I've experienced myself, which makes me hesitant when a convention organizes an author signing at a bookstore the evening before the convention starts.

I know some authors have set up signings at places other than bookstores, usually a type of store or coffee shop mentioned in their book. Some of those nontraditional settings (bait shop, beauty parlor, toy shop) work out well, especially with good publicity beforehand.

Book fairs and author fests appeal to readers and can be a good venue for authors. The biggest I know of is Printers Row in downtown Chicago. In 2002 this was renamed Printers Row Lit Fest and run by the Chicago Tribune. It takes up five city blocks - down the center of Dearborn Street from Congress to Polk - in what used to be Chicago's bookmaking neighborhood. I shared a table there with several other authors from my publisher in 2003. It was fantastic to see all those readers filling the streets looking for books. Another large gathering of readers and authors is the Twin Cities Book Festival on the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.

Smaller author fests I've participated in have been set up at craft fairs, at college campuses, resorts, even in shopping malls. Success in terms of sales can depend on so many factors: publicity, the mix of genres by the authors, table spacing, what events are elsewhere in town that day, and, most importantly, the weather.

Science fiction and fantasy conventions are good places for readers and authors to meet. Some conventions will often offer their participating authors a signing time. If the signing tables are near main programming or the dealers room, signings will go well for the authors. Some conventions, though, have the signings off on another floor, which means only the dedicated fans will go looking. When you're an author with a small press, you need your books to be visible for impulse buyers as well as fans.

How have your book signings gone? Do you have any book fairs to suggest?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

INK RIPPLES AND MEMORIES

#InkRipples is a monthly meme created by Kai Strand, Mary Waibel, and Katie L. Carroll. They post on the first Monday of every month with a new topic. They're all authors, but you don't have to be to participate. (I'm cross posting this from my other blog because the past weeks have  been hectic.)


The idea of #InkRipples is to toss a word, idea, image, whatever into the inkwell and see what kind of ripples it makes. You can spread your own ripples by blogging about the topic any day of the month that fits your schedule, just be sure to include links back to Katie, Kai, and Mary.

Or you can simply share your thoughts on social media using the hashtag #InkRipples. You might comment on one of our posts to play along. Tag us and we're happy to share your posts and thoughts to keep those ripples going and intersecting.

There's no wrong way to do #InkRipples (with the exception of following basic human decency!) If this sounds interesting, please participate in whatever way you can. Feel free to use any of the meme's images (created by the wonderful Mary Waibel).

Topics for 2016:

May: Memories
June: Movies
July: Inspiration
August: Guilty Pleasures
September: Banned Books
October: Masks
November: Heritage
December: Cookies


My Memories
 
It's really strange that this month is "Memories." For quite a while now, I've been remembering the past, I mean way back, years ago. I don't know why these memories have been with me lately. I suppose there is a reason.
 
The first one is of my firstborn son who lived for only two days. For years I didn't think about him. I think it was easier not to. It hurt less. Then a few months back I had this urge to do something in his memory. My oldest son made a lovely heart shaped necklace with his name engraved on it. Also with the granddaughter's name, who is in Heaven too. I wear the necklace quite often. And I feel a closeness to them. They lived, if not for long, but I now have their memories in the form of a locket.
 
I wanted to do more. So I wrote a memoir, A Lullaby for David. A lot of things I don't remember, but writing this brought back memories I thought I'd forgotten. I'm glad I wrote it.
 
Then there's my latest book, loosely based on memories of my mother's childhood as an orphan and foster child. I've wanted to write this for years, but I knew so few of the facts. Mom never talked about those years. So parts of my story are true, parts are fiction. It's labeled as historic fiction. And you know what? I understand her better today, after researching the lives of the children that rode the Orphan Trains west.
 
Memories are good. But I think we need them at different times in our lives. When we're ready for them.
 
Do you have memories you love to recall? This meme is a good place to share them.
 
Happy Reading!
 
 

Available at:

AMAZON             BARNESANDNOBLE           4RV PUBLISHING

If you'd like a PDF Review Copy, email me and I'll be happy to send you one.

Monday, May 9, 2016

#MHYALit: Shattered Illusions: Growing up with a Bipolar Father

#MHYALit: Shattered Illusions: Growing up with a Bipolar Father, a guest post by Kim Baccellia

MHYALitlogoofficfial“What’s wrong with Dad?”
No one spoke out loud about my father’s strange behavior, but I knew something wasn’t quite right with him.  My question would be answered with either silence or in a lowered voice, “We don’t discuss that.”

There were days he’d be like a helium balloon, filled with so much air and energy that I swear he’d be floating.  When Dad drank?  He was that funny drunk.  He’d tell these hilarious stories that would have me and my sisters laughing.  Dad could be very charming.  He was very impulsive. He loved animals and Grandma Baccellia once shared how he brought home an injured bird, asking her to help it.

Then there was the other side.  The nights he’d scream for the demons to leave him alone while he’d slam his fist into the drywall.  Our walls resembled Swiss cheese.  He’d stay in his darkened room for days.  My older half-sister told me that she remembered him taking his rifle and shooting out the windows of their house.  Police were called but nothing much came out of it.  When he was down?  He’d put his .57 Magnum to his head and threatened to kill himself.  Even now I can hear that click of his gun.

Other times he’d sleep forever.  There were more than a few times, he wouldn’t pick Mom and us up at the supermarket.  We’d walk home with the grocery cart loaded with groceries.  When we got home?  Dad would be asleep on the couch.

I was embarrassed and didn’t invite anyone over to visit.  You never knew when he’d go off on someone.  Even going to church came with conditions.  Dad didn’t like us going to the local Mormon church. Since Mom refused to drive, we walked everywhere and that included to church.  I still remember him following us in his truck, threatening to shoot and kill the bishop if we continued to the church.  Mom rounded us up and we went back home.

Fear ruled our lives.  It became a way of life and became my master.  I was on hyper alert 24/7 as I never knew what would set Dad off on one of those moods.  It was best to stay out of his way.

I also remember how isolated I felt.  Who could I talk to about what was going on in our home?  I was told that if we said anything?  Social services would come and take us away.  Or we’d end up on the street.  To this day homelessness is still my biggest fear.

What makes this all so tragic is Dad refused help.  I remember him saying, “I’m not crazy.”  The times that he did self-medicate with alcohol did help but even that was frowned on.  Yes, as a teen I purchased his favorite Yukon Jack whiskey.  That was until a bishop told me, “Good Mormon girls don’t buy alcohol.”

When I confided in a close friend?  The next day at the middle school I attended, she informed me that her father said, “No good Mormon girl said such terrible things about her own father.”  She wasn’t to hang with me anymore.  To make matters worse?  She introduced me to her new best friend. Yes, I was that girl who ate in the bathroom stall.

Once again I was the ‘bad’ one for trying to help make an unbearable situation lighter.

After Dad’s death, I asked my mother if he was bipolar.  I took an abnormal psychology class in college that nailed what I’d witnessed in my father’s behavior growing up.  She told me that yes, he was.  With that information, I went to my doctor and read up on this mental illness.  Knowledge is power.  I even attended a mental illness symposium that was held during BYU’s Education Week.  They ended up having to turn people away. Listening to the speaker, I was propelled to share my own story.  Afterwards, more than a few people came up to me and said, “I was your father.  That was me.”

Now I believe it’s important to speak out and not to be afraid.  That’s the only way the stigma against mental illness will lessen.  It’ll also help others to go get help and not end up like my father.

I need to make a disclaimer that not all of those who have bipolar disorder have similar situations.  Each experience is different.  One thing I do want to stress is that bipolar people aren’t all violent.  In my family case though, Dad experienced violence growing up.  Uncle Bud, who also was bipolar, was very violent.  One family member shared that my uncle would throw hammers whenever he was angry. So chances are good that others who witnessed similar violence in their lives might also respond the same way.  An example is my older half-brother who shot out the windows of his mother’s house which was very similar to what Dad did.

I wished that Dad had gotten help or that someone had stepped up and admitted him to the hospital. At that time though, the prevalent thinking was it was best to stay out of other’s lives as that was their ‘business.’ We did try to get him help but I learned that you can’t help someone unless they admit they need that help.

At the end of his life, Dad probably suffered another psychotic break.  He refused to bathe as he felt the government poisoned the water.  Mom told me he said that he was so angry at everything.  They found him dead in front of a restaurant in his Blazer truck with his Boxer dog.

How I wished that there had books for teens that addressed this mental issue.  Maybe then I wouldn’t have felt so alone and to blame.

I’ve been researching more on bipolar disorder and looking for YA books that handle this subject.  Here’s a list of ten books that I felt were authentic and resonated with me.

When we collidedWhen We Collided by Emory Lord
I could totally relate with the descriptions of Vivi’s mania as my older half-brother Ricky used similar descriptions. Lord nails the ups and downs of manic depression.


crazyCrazy by Amy Reed
A very realistic portrayal of a teen with bipolar disorder and a relationship that is at times loving and destructive.


impulseImpulse by Ellen Hopkins
Ellen Hopkins isn’t afraid to tackle sensitive subjects.  One reason why I love her writing so much.  In Impulse, readers visit a psych ward where one of the teens battles her bipolar disorder.


This is howThis is How I Find Her by Sara Polsky
What I love about this novel is how Polsky nails the emotional struggles of a teen with her bipolar mother.  A lot of these emotions I could totally relate with.


Mind gamesMind Race by Patrick E. Jamieson
This is more of a memoir of a teen’s experience dealing with bipolar disorder.  A must read for those who want to educate themselves on this mental issue.


The UnquietThe Unquiet by Jeannie Garsee
A must read for paranormal fans that shows bipolar disorder in a realistic light.


PerksThe Perks of being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Loved this coming of age story where bipolar disorder isn’t shown in the usual stereotypical matter.


bleeding violetBleeding Violet by Dia Reeves
Love how Reeves shows a strong bipolar protagonist in this paranormal thriller.


The rules of survivalThe Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin
This one really stuck a nerve as my father was also that violent, abusive bipolar. You never knew what to expect in our house. But once again, I have to stress that my experience might not be someone else’s.


the impossible knifeThe Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson
This book isn’t about bipolar disorder but shows a very realistic view of a teen that struggles with her father that suffers from PTSD.  Many times I wondered if Dad also had this going on too especially after I found he’d been abused as a child. Haunting and powerful, it resonated with me.

Meet Kim Baccellia

KIMI’m a YA author, Staff reviewer for YA Books Central, and a homeschooling mom.  I’ve been a part of the Cybils-Children’s and Young Adult Blogger’s Literary Awards and I’m very passionate about diversity in YA/children literature.  I graduated from BYU with a degree in elementary education and also attended CSU Fullerton grad program in bilingual/bicultural education.  I love parrots, yoga, poetry, Jaime from the Outlander series, and anything Parisian.  I’m a total bookaholic. A good place to find me is either at the local Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf with a nommy iced tea latte or a Barnes & Noble where I’ll be perusing the YA section.
Originally posted at:
http://www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com/2016/04/mhyalit-shattered-illusions-growing-up-with-a-bipolar-father-a-guest-post-by-kim-baccellia/

Friday, April 22, 2016

Occupations

Back when I first learned to read, I noticed that men in the stories had a large variety of jobs, while women had a very limited choice - mother, nurse, teacher, airline stewardess, secretary. Even in science fiction it took awhile before I encountered stories with women who were pilots, doctors, professors, captains, owners of companies, soliders, admirals, or leaders of colonies. Once I did find an author who wrote about women working the same jobs as men (not in a spotlighted manner, but just as if it was perfectly normal in that society), I hunted for more of her or his work.

Representation is important.

I've blogged before about gender roles, mainly in fantasy. But this is a topic that bears repeating.

In the real world, the glass ceiling hasn't been completely broken yet, but the cracks are still spreading. Gendered terms for occupations have slowly dropped out of usage - authoress, stewardess, hostess, actress (still in use but slowly fading). I don't automatically assume a doctor is male. I have worked with nursing students at a university long enough to know that not all nurses are female, either.

So where could someone come up with a list of occupations to use in a science fiction world? I start with what jobs exist in the present and spin off from there. The Occupational Outlook Handbook details numerous jobs in the U.S. Seventh Sanctum has a page of generators. The one under Classes/Professions allows you to choose a category (cyberpunk, fantasy, science fiction, or steampunk) and create a list of occupations for that universe.

Role models don't always have to be the main character. What about secondary or background characters? When I need a walkon character - someone to do something to help the main character (or villain) and not be seen again - someone identified by a occupation, I'll choose the occupation first, and then decide, does this character need to be a man or a woman? Does it matter? And if it doesn't matter to the story, why not a woman?

When you read, do you occasionally check to see how many male characters are mentioned versus how many female? Do you notice their occupations?