Tag Archives: YA

Writing Horror Chills and Thrills

I’m a sucker for all things scary. Except for zombies. Those freak me out a bit too much. As one of the YA Scream Queens, I’m privvy to a variety of YA horror novels and I find it fascinating that out stories are so different and yet all have the same intention: to unnerve our readers in some way.

Horror is so subjective, and that makes it–like comedy–a very hard genre to write. What terrifies one reader gets a “Meh” reaction from another. When my agent has had my work on submission, I had one editor say they just didn’t find the story that frightening and another editor said she had to sleep with the lights on and still had nightmares.

Because of the subjectivity of scariness, I approach writing horror in this way: write what scares you. If you the author are legitimately unnerved and ready to jump out of your skin when writing a horror scene, that energy will translate into the story. I remember writing one scene in a project that had me so disturbed that I had to turn on more lights and walk away from the computer to check the windows several times when writing it–and every single one of my crit partners and my agent pointed to that scene as being scarier than all get out. I wrote something that frightened me, the author. Even though it was my creation, it scared me, and my unease bled into the page.

And when you go back to revise those scene, don’t wince. Don’t soften the scare. Timing is everything, and tone is important, too. But if you are unsettled, your readers will be, and that is the ultimate goal of any horror novel.

THE GIRL FROM THE WELL emerges today!

Ready to get seriously creeped out? Good! Rin Chupeco has a little something for you.

Today we’re celebrating the launch of Rin’s THE GIRL FROM THE WELL, a book that is as scary as it is insightful. Here’s there word from Goodreads:

girlfromthewellYou may think me biased, being murdered myself. But my state of being has nothing to do with the curiosity toward my own species, if we can be called such. We do not go gentle, as your poet encourages, into that good night.

A dead girl walks the streets.

She hunts murderers. Child killers, much like the man who threw her body down a well three hundred years ago.

And when a strange boy bearing stranger tattoos moves into the neighborhood so, she discovers, does something else. And soon both will be drawn into the world of eerie doll rituals and dark Shinto exorcisms that will take them from American suburbia to the remote valleys and shrines of Aomori, Japan.

Because the boy has a terrifying secret – one that would just kill to get out.

The Girl from the Well is A YA Horror novel pitched as “Dexter” meets “The Grudge”, based on a well-loved Japanese ghost story.

~

You’re ready to get this, right? Good news! You can find it at Indiebound, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and pretty much wherever books are sold!

Here’s what some other young adult writers have to say:

vigilantepoets“I confess–I was creeped out just by reading the description. If you’re looking for a chilling story with some serious literary chops (starred PW review!), THE GIRL FROM THE WELL is the book for you!”

– Kate Hattemer, author of THE VIGILANTE POETS OF SELWYN ACADEMY

wordless“It doesn’t get much better than “Dexter” meets “The Grudge” as far as what I look for in a horror novel. I love the international setting, and the voice sounds so unique and powerful–I can’t wait to read this!”

– AdriAnne Strickland, WORDLESS

b2ap3_thumbnail_Gilded_final-cvr-comp_12-11-13“THE GIRL FROM THE WELL sounds creepy in the best possible way. I love how diverse and unique this book sounds. This book is going to be one thrilling, chilling ride.”
– Christina Farley, GILDED and SILVERN (forthcoming)

“An eerie YA horror reminiscent of movies like TOne for sorrow, two for joy A destructive girl, a damaged boy Click to see largerhe Grudge and The Ring, THE GIRL FROM THE WELL is sure to scare you senseless!”

– Sarah Bromley, A MURDER OF MAGPIES

DREAM BOY by Mary Crockett and Madelyn Rosenberg“‘I am where dead children go.’ Holy crap! I’ll be reading this one with all the lights on throughout the house!”

– Mary Crockett, DREAM BOY

 

 

 

 

 

THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS: The Book That Is!

Here’s the first thing I will tell you about this book:

It is far, far better than that awful pun in the title of this blog post.

Here in the Bookyard, we’re all sprinting around, screaming in glee, overcome with fits of uncontrollable fist-pumping — because today, Skylar Dorset’s book is OUT IN THE WORLD!

Chuck Taylors, a red rose, and a reflecting pool that breaks the laws of optics: what's not to love?
Chuck Taylors, a red rose, and a reflecting pool that breaks the laws of optics: what’s not to love?

“Romantic, suspenseful, and witty all at once — ALICE IN WONDERLAND meets NEVERWHERE.” — Claudia Gray, New York Times bestselling author of the EVERNIGHT series

This book features Boston, young love, AND faerie princesses. How, you may ask? Take a look at the jacket copy.

THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS is the story of Selkie Stewart, who thinks she’s a totally normal teenager growing up in Boston. Sure, her father is in an insane asylum, her mother left her on his doorstep—literally—when she was a baby, and she’s being raised by two ancient aunts who spend their time hunting gnomes in their Beacon Hill townhouse. But other than that her life is totally normal! She’s got an adventurous best friend who’s always got her back and an unrequited crush on an older boy named Ben. Just like any other teenager, right?

When Selkie goes in search of the mother she’s never known, she gets more than she bargained for. It turns out that her mother is faerie royalty, which would make Selkie a faerie princess—except for the part where her father is an ogre, which makes her only half of anything. Even more confusing, there’s a prophecy that Selkie is going to destroy the tyrannical Seelie Court, which is why her mother actually wants to kill her. Selkie has been kept hidden all her life by her adoring aunts, with the help of a Salem wizard named Will. And Ben. Because the boy she thinks she’s in love with turns out to be a faerie whose enchantment has kept her alive, but also kept her in the dark about her own life.

Now, with enchantments dissolved and prophecies swinging into action, Selkie finds herself on a series of mad quests to save the people she’s always loved and a life she’s learning to love. But in a supernatural world of increasingly complex alliances and distressingly complicated deceptions, it’s so hard to know who to trust. Does her mother really wish to kill her? Would Will sacrifice her for the sake of the prophecy? And does Ben really love her or is it all an elaborate ruse? In order to survive, Selkie realizes that the key is learning—and accepting—who she really is.

And if you’re as hooked as I am, check out the excerpt on Amazon!

GIVE ME THIS BOOK, you say!

You can have it with a few clicks: Indiebound | B&N | Amazon

You see that head? There’s some weird stuff going on in here.

Who’s behind THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS? The brilliant Skylar Dorset, a born-and-bred New Englander who lives in Boston (mostly, it seems, due to her love for JOHNNY TREMAIN: our kind of woman!) with her cardboard Doctor Who cut-out and a head full of stories. You don’t want to miss her website, which includes lots of behind-the-scenes information about the book as well as a veritable smorgasbord of tastefully chosen GIFs.

What’s that you say? You want to hear more about why we’re so thrilled that June 3 has, at last, drawn nigh?

Well, if you twist my arm…

“Half-ogre and half-faerie? Gnome-hunting guardian aunts and a Salem wizard? There’s nothing I love more than a fantastical romp, whether it be through beautiful Boston or at the perils of a Seelie Court, and THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS has that in spades — plus enchantments, faery magic, and prophecy! What more can you ask for from a gorgeous new debut?” — Rin Chupeco, THE GIRL FROM THE WELL

“Faeries, secrets, and finding love while trying to survive? I cannot wait to dive into Skylar Dorset’s THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS!” — Sarah Bromley, A MURDER OF MAGPIES

“I had the luck to get my hands on an ARC of THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS, so I can tell you that you’re in for a treat! Imaginative, fun, and wonderfully written! The world of books is better for having Skylar Dorset in it!” — Mary Crockett, DREAM BOY

“I also got my greedy hands on an ARC of THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS, and it blew me away. The voice and writing are absolutely captivating, and the comparisons to ALICE IN WONDERLAND and Neil Gaiman’s NEVERWHERE are wonderfully apt. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up!” — AdriAnne Strickland, WORDLESS

“I’m such a fan of magic and fairy tales so this book is right up my alley. I love Dorset’s twist on selkies. THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS gives enchantments and hidden pasts a whole new meaning.” — Christina Farley, GILDED

“As a new mom of a three-month-old baby girl, trust me when I say that I need books to whisk me away from diaper duty and infant howling! That’s why I’m so looking forward to Skylar Dorset’s THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS. A story about a teenage girl who finds out she’s a half-faerie, half-ogre princess and who happens to have potentially murderous queen mother? Sign me right up!” — Caroline Richmond, THE ONLY THING TO FEAR

You had me at gnomes and Beacon Hill. Toss in a bat-ass crazy dad and hot Selkie, and what’s not to love? Cannot get my hands on this book fast enough!” — Trisha Leaver, CREED

Okay. I’m trembling, either from bookish excitement or the large quantity of coffee ingested while drafting this post. I’ll impute it to the former. Skylar, from all the Bookyard writers, a sincere congratulations — and HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY!

3 Fairy Tales That Should Never Be YA Novels

Everyone loves an updated fairy tale, a rewritten myth. Ella Enchanted is one of the greatest children’s books of all time. Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles are rabidly popular. C.S. Lewis used the story of Cupid and Psyche as the basis of Till We Have Faces, and Shakespeare started with Pyramus and Thisbe for Romeo and Juliet.

And Wicked, if nothing else, gave the makeup artists of the world a chance to use up their green face paint.

But the realm of mythos is fraught with peril. The forests of Grimm are black. Here are a few stories that — I beg of you — should never be reimagined as YA novels.

The Red Shoes (Hans Christian Andersen)

A girl loves her red shoes — loves them so much that she wears them to church (an obvious no-no).  The shoes take on a life of their own: the girl can’t stop dancing! They dance her into the dark woods! They’ve melded with her feet! “You’ll dance till you’re dead,” an angel tells her, “and even when you’re nothing but bones.”

Desperate, the girl asks an executioner to chop off her feet. He does so — yet the shoes (and feet-stubs) keep dancing.

She dies.

I can’t even imagine how draconian high school administrators could fashion this into a morality tale. “Your skirts must be to your knees,” they’d say, “or we’ll cut off –” No.

The White Snake (Brothers Grimm)

Too weird to summarize. It involves, however, (a) eating white snakes, (b) receiving wisdom from eating white snakes, and (c) a goose who whines about a ring that’s stuck in its throat.

I can see the goose analogue being that annoying guy who never stops whining about his trig homework, but I am not sure how anything else would work.

Procne, Philomela, and Tereus (Ovid, et al.)

If you’re strong-stomached, go read the Wikipedia page.

Otherwise, all you need to know that the YA novel from this story would involve cheating, a traumatic break-up, and an even more traumatic revenge plan. And that plan would center around a burger. A burger made from the cheater’s dog.

In the final chapter, naturally, they would all turn into birds.

A Celebration of The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy

Hooray! The lovely and funny Kate Hattemer is releasing her debut novel, The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy out into the world tomorrow!

Anchorman

We here at the BookYArd are thrilled to sound its barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world! (Yep, this book has gotten me so excited that I’m quoting Whitman.)

Yelling

We’re yawping, Steve, not yelling… and here’s why:

vigilantepoets

Witty, sarcastic Ethan and his three friends decide to take down the reality TV show, For Art’s Sake, that is being filmed at their high school, the esteemed Selwyn Arts Academy, where each student is more talented than the next. While studying Ezra Pound in English class, the friends are inspired to write a vigilante long poem and distribute it to the student body, detailing the evils of For Art’s Sake. But then Luke—the creative force behind the poem and leader of the anti-show movement—becomes a contestant on the nefarious show. It’s up to Ethan, his two remaining best friends, and a heroic gerbil named Baconnaise to save their school. Along the way, they’ll discover a web of secrets and corruption involving the principal, vice principal, and even their favorite teacher.

I bet now you want your very own copy of The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy. Well, you’re in luck, here’s where you can get it:

Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes and Noble

And as if that’s not enough, check out what KIRKUS REVIEW had to say about it:

Blending Ezra Pound, rhetoric and reality TV, this hilarious, subversive debut about a cadre of friends at an arts high school is a treat from cover to cover.

In seventh grade, popular, good-looking Luke rescued Ethan, Jackson and Elizabeth from misfit nerd-dom. Four years later, Luke still leads while Narrator Ethan is cheerfully resigned to a spot in the “Untalented caste” at Selwyn Academy. Disturbing the status quo, the school’s chosen to host a new reality TV show, a student talent competition with a $100,000 scholarship prize and a familiar format: interviews, clichéd romances and rivalries, and two smarmy hosts. The obsequious vice principal and most students are thrilled, but For Art’s Sake feels like an insult to Ethan and friends. Luke, the most offended, leads a counterattack, writing guerilla poetry inspired by Pound’s Cantos that ridicules the enterprise, which the conspirators secretly print at school. However, the masterminds behind reality TV are several steps ahead of them—money and fame are powerful currency, and they know how to use them. Maura, the beautiful, talented ballerina Ethan fancies, has been accepted at Juilliard, but without the scholarship, she can’t attend—participating is a no-brainer. Ethan struggles with ethical conundrums (Does Pound’s anti-Semitism invalidate his work? Are compromises the price of an arts career?) as he works out his own place in this world and among his friends, especially Elizabeth.

A sparkling, timely tour of the complicated intersection where life meets art. (Fiction. 12 & up)

Or, to translate for Andy Samberg fans:

CoolBeans

So, just who is the woman who wrote this amazing book?  Here’s the nutshell version:

The oldest of eight siblings, Kate grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio. She attended Yale and taught high-school Latin in Virginia before returning to Cincinnati, where she now works at an independent bookstore. The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy, out in April 2014 from Knopf, is a contemporary YA novel about reality TV, an arts school, Ezra Pound, and a heroic gerbil. In spring 2015, Knopf will publish her second novel, The Land of Ten Thousand Madonnas.

For more about Kate, check out her website where she talks books, obscure grammatical rules, and life on a pogo-stick.

Finally, here are a few words from members of the BookYArd about why we’re so ding-dang excited to get this book in our hands.

“What an awesome, unique concept! Love the idea of getting a truly behind-the-scenes look at some of the people caught up in one of those crazy reality T.V. shows. And a heroic gerbil named Baconnaise? If I hadn’t already been sold on this book’s premise, that line would have clenched the deal.” — Stefanie Gaither, Falls the Shadow

“Who doesn’t want to read about vigilante poetry in action? This is like Victor Hugo and Maya Angelou’s artsy lovechild with a hamster sidekick. This is looking to be a great commentary on friendship, on standing up to one’s own principles at the cost of fame and money and, of course, on poking fun at the unrealness and strange dichotomy of reality shows!” — Rin Chupeco, The Girl from the Well

“Vigilante poets?! How could I not be looking forward to this? I love academy-type settings where students make clever mischief. I might be totally off, but this strikes me as a modernized cross between The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys and Dead Poets Society, with a lot of humor thrown into the mix. I can’t wait!” — AdriAnne Strickland, Wordless

“This book has Ezra Pound poetry, reality television, and a heroic gerbil. ‘Nuff said. If that hasn’t convinced you, did I mention the gerbil is named Baconnaise? Yes, I *will* join you in your dance of delighted glee.” — Skylar Dorset, The Girl from the Well

“I don’t have to read past the title to know I want to eat this book whole. The fact that Kirkus calls it ‘hilarious’ and ‘subversive’ just makes me want to drink it too.” — Mary Crockett, coauthor Dream Boy

Quiz! What crazily successful YA novel are you?

You’ve read them. You’ve loved them. But have you fully identified with them?

Keep track of your answers to find out what recent YA novel you are!

When you and your friends talk, bystanders…
A.  think that you must be quoting movie dialogue, since you sound so polished.
B.  compliment your Scottish accents.
C.  do not understand your references to deep Internet-nerd culture.
D.  What friends?  You kill your friends.

What are your views about names?
A.  I always use middle names with my nearest and dearest. How else would I show affection?
B.  I have several code names.
C.  Why have a whole first name when I could have half of one?
D.  Normal names should be tweaked and twisted to give them the allure of the future.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?
A.  Stop using “literally” to mean “figuratively,” people! It’s literally nauseating.
B.  Disloyalty.
C.  People who like college right off the bat. It’s supposed to be a tough transition.
D.  Did someone mention pets? I would be happy to take that pet off your hands. And I’ll give you half the meat, too.

Your favorite music is…
A. Twangy, acoustic, and somewhat emo, with obscure yet profoundly meaningful lyrics.
B.  “God Save the King”
C.  Kanye West, though only when desperate times call for desperate measures (i.e., emergency dance parties).
D.  A soothing lullaby, which comes in handy when small children die nearby.

What do you think of math?
A.  Math is intriguing, in a philosophical sort of way.
B.  Math is useful and often fun.
C.  Math is to be avoided.
D.  As long as I can count from one to thirteen, I’m good.

If you were a book title, you would…
A.  Faintly reek of Shakespeare.
B.  Enigmatically juxtapose three nouns in a row.
C.  Be short and sweet.
D.  Evoke a gladiatorial past.

And now, for the results!

If you chose mostly As, you are… The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green!

If you chose mostly Bs, you are… Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein!

If you chose mostly Cs, you are… Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell!

If you chose mostly Ds, you are… The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins!

[Disclaimer: These quiz results mean nothing.]

Writing with a Partner – The Real Scoop, Straight Poop & Loop-de-loop

When people find out that my debut novel DREAM BOY is co-authored, they generally do one of two things:

#1: Share with me their great idea for a novel (usually involving a toilet that doubles as a space-time portal, a grandmother who comes back from the dead, and a treasure map)–followed by the suggestion that I abandon whatever project I’m working on currently so that I can write that book with them instead.

#2: Ask me what it’s like to write a novel with someone.

Space Toilet complements of NASA. Time travel compliments of Awesome.
Space Toilet complements of NASA. Time travel compliments of Awesome.

Let me be clear: I love the idea of potty-time travel, unlikely resurrection, and treasure. I DO want to write that book with you. Eventually. But since the purposes of this blog are not expansive enough to allow me to do so here, for now I will turn my attention to #2.

And no, that doesn’t mean I’m going to talk about poop. I am referring instead to the aforementioned question numero duo:

What is it like to write a novel with someone?

Well, my answer may depend on your someone. After all, the who, not the what, is the most important part of the collaborative writing equation.

You probably know some writers. You might even know some writers you like. That doesn’t necessarily mean you should try to write a novel with them… or even a haiku, for that matter.

“Like” is certainly a good place to start, but it might not hold up to the stresses of collaborative writing, especially the wear and tear of a multiple-year, 300-page project.

It’s equally important that you find someone who shares your aesthetic, emanates kindness and reason, and knows how to disagree without making a fruckus.

While of course you’ll want a partner who equals your skill, it can also be a good thing if your particular strengths vary. Look for someone who (in the immortal words of Jerry McGuire) “completes you.” A strong plotter, for example, might be well paired with someone with a great ear for dialog.

But whatever talents you bring to the table, you need first and foremost to respect and be respected by the person sitting across from you.

I have been tremendously fortunate in my collaboration with Madelyn Rosenberg. Not only is she smart, funny, and easy-going about all things unimportant, she also has the special talent of disagreeing in a way that makes me (a woman my own husband has called out for my bad habit of “arguing for the sake of argument”) simply laugh and shrug and try again.

But perhaps, after all my rambling, Madelyn describes the process best in this video she made about overcoming some of the obstacles we faced as we wrote DREAM BOY together:

Have you ever considered writing with a partner? How did it turn out? Let us know in the comments below!

~

MaryCrockett LookawayMary Crockett is a fan of the tongue-stud and coauthor with Madelyn Rosenberg of the upcoming novel DREAM BOY–a book which, like Sally Field, really wants you to like it. You can make the book happy by adding it to your Goodreads bookshelf or pre-ordering at IndieBound, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble. Connect with Mary on Twitter @MaryLovesBooks and Madelyn @MadRosenberg.