Tag Archives: paranormal

Interview: P. J. Hoover Talks About E-Publishing SOLSTICE (Part 2)

P. J. Hoover answers more of my questions about her new YA e-book, SOLSTICE, which she e-published with the help of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. (Read Part 1 of this interview.) SOLSTICE blends teen romance with dystopian elements with Greek mythology.

Parker Peevyhouse: What about marketing–is that all up to you or will the agency help with that? We friended your book on Facebook, by the way. :)

P. J. Hoover: Thanks. I think they will do what they can to help market the book as far as advertising on their Facebook page, and Laura Rennert will be talking about it at a panel at BEA.

Parker:  I would guess it’ll get press just from the angle of “ABLA takes psuedo-publishing role.”

PJ: I hope so.

Parker: What specifically will you do to market SOLSTICE? You’ve got the book trailer, your blog, this interview…

PJ: I plan to really focus on the online. There is no book party at a store to plan, no postcards to mail. So I am going to focus on blog tours, twitter… I’m going to Dallas Comic Con. I made trading cards to hand out with secret content–each card has a special QR code.

Parker: Those weird boxes that you take pictures of with your phone?

PJ: Yes, with a barcode scanner app. It takes you to a hidden website link with maybe a secret vlog or a deleted scene or a chapter from another character’s POV. That sort of thing.

Parker: So I will get one of these cards, when?

PJ: I’ll mail you some! Teens are totally savvy about these things. I handed out cards last Saturday at an event and had hits on my hidden links before I got home.

Parker: Wow. So your marketing will target teens, not gatekeepers like booksellers, librarians and teachers.

PJ: Librarians are definitely in the mix because you can loan out e-books.

Parker: How will sales of your e-book affect future sales of other projects to publishers?

PJ: I think with as much as the market is changing, my options are wide open. I also think, for my career, marketing is very important. I don’t think it’s enough for an author to e-publish a book and put it on Amazon and expect it to just take off. I really think author marketing is huge. HUGE.

Parker: Did author marketing work well for your EMERALD TABLET books [which were published by a small press, CBAY Books]? Is there a difference here?

PJ: There are a few differences. First, those books were middle grade. MG readers are not online, so online marketing is very hard. So much depends on librarians and bookstores. Also, the CBAY books are hardcover and priced at $16.95. Some parents are reluctant to spend that on a book for their kid. SOLSTICE is priced at $2.99. So now I have a book aimed at teen readers who are online and moms who are online. And it is less expensive than a cup of coffee.

Parker: Are you going to aim any marketing specifically at older women?

PJ: Yes, I would like to. It has enough romance in it that I think older readers will enjoy it, too. There are lots of blogs for teens that readers of YA love, and then there are writers, and romance blogs.

Parker: What’s your next project?

PJ: Well, I do plan to write a sequel to SOLSTICE, and I’m also working on another standalone YA but I’m not going to talk too much about it except to say that it’s the first thing I’ve written without mythology in it.

Parker: I ask because with Hocking and others it seems like the strategy is to get as many e-books out there at one time as possible to up visibility and keep the hype going. That’s not your strategy?

PJ: I would love to be able to write that fast, but I can’t. :) I do see the genius behind doing that, though. I may work on some short stories in the same world.

Parker: What if a publisher sweeps in and wants to publish the sequel(s)? Would you do that or stick with e-books? Is getting a contract with a “Big 6″ publisher your end goal?

PJ: For SOLSTICE?

Parker: For any book at all.

PJ: I certainly wouldn’t say I’m sticking with e-books forever and never traditionally publishing, but I’m not in the mindset that I have to be at a traditional publisher either. I think so much is changing that even in a year, it will look different.

Parker: So SOLSTICE is not a stepping stone?

PJ: No! It’s just an awesome way to get the book in the hands of readers.

Parker: Before the mythology/dystopia trend dies.

PJ: I think with dystopia we see so much of the same type of thing–the government is bad or the world is destroyed. But what I love about SOLSTICE is that it is a totally new take on the subject.

Parker: I happen to know what that take is and it is pretty cool :)

PJ: Thanks!

SOLSTICE is available now on Amazon and Smashwords, and will be available soon on Barnes&Noble.com.

Parker Peevyhouse

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Interview: P. J. Hoover Talks About E-Publishing SOLSTICE

With the explosion of chatter online about authors who make their careers by self-publishing e-books, I was eager to talk with former Spectacle contributor P. J. Hoover about her new YA novel SOLSTICE, which has just been e-published with the help of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. This is a new model for literary agencies who are interested in finding a place in the e-publishing process, and P. J. explains here how that partnership worked in her case.

SOLSTICE is set in a future plauged by a Global Heating Crisis and is about a young woman who becomes entangled in a love triangle of Greek mythic proportions. It’s available now on Amazon and Smashwords, and will be available soon on Barnes&Noble.com.

Parker Peevyhouse:  It’s been a while since we’ve seen you here! Looks like a lot has been happening since then. Let’s hear about why you chose to self-publish. Why this book?

P. J. Hoover: This book is really timely for right now. It’s a mythology-based dystopian novel, and right now both of those elements are hot. I think the tipping point was really looking at the market and seeing the books that were coming out and knowing that even if we did sell to a traditional press it could take over a year to come out. Like even into 2013.

Parker: Which means you might miss the trend for dystopian or mythology-based novels.

PJ: And also, given how exciting all the e-book news is these days, it seemed like a really fun thing to do.

Parker: Had you previously submitted the manuscript to publishers?

PJ: My agent [Laura Rennert] and I had subbed a very different version earlier (about a year ago) with minimal dystopian elements. We got close to selling but never found the right fit.

Parker: How did you talk to your agent about self-pubbing?

PJ: I didn’t. I had a phone call scheduled with her to talk about what our submission strategy would be. We talked about that a bit and then she said, “Well, there is another option.” And she suggested the self-publishing route.

Parker: Was this before or after Amanda Hocking’s success with self-publishing?

PJ: This was two months ago–so after her news went viral.

Parker: Had the agency ever suggested self-publishing to their other authors or was this a new view they were taking?

PJ: I’m not sure if they had suggested this to any of their other clients or not. But once I decided I wanted to go the indie pub route, they took the ball and ran with it. We did another round of edits. And then a copy edit, and two proofreading edits.

Parker: Is that more editing than an e-book usually gets? I guess it probably varies.

PJ: We did many rounds back and forth. My agent and her reader are some of the most gifted people I can imagine when it comes to editing.

Parker: Were you always cool with the suggestions?

PJ: There are definitely some things I stood against changing. For example, the character of Piper’s mom–I really had an idea of how I wanted her to be, and though it was mentioned a few times, I didn’t change her (too much). I think in some ways, they imagined a happier world in the world of gods, and I viewed the world of gods as a bit of a cruel and deceitful one.

Parker: The agency did a lot more than editing, though, right?

PJ: They chose the cover picture and found a cover designer. (The POD book should come out a while after the e-book.) So, the agency arranged for cover design and layout and editing, and they are getting their regular 15% of royalties.

Parker: Did you get to approve the cover? How much say did you have? You like to think e-pubbing gives you more control…

PJ: They sent me the cover photo, which I loved, and then they sent me the actual cover and really, it was so gorgeous, I never would have even thought to say anything should change. I was in love with it the second I saw it.

Parker: That worked out well!

PJ: It really did.

Parker: It is a really great cover!

PJ: Thanks!

On Tuesday, I’ll talk with P. J. about marketing and more…

Parker Peevyhouse

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Lois Ruby, author of The Secret of Laurel Oak

Today I’m chatting with Lois Ruby, who is offering a book giveaway of her ghost story, The Secret of Laurel Oak!  Post a comment on this interview, and we’ll randomly choose one lucky winner to receive a copy. Please be sure your post links to your e-mail or website so we can contact you, or check back on Sunday’s post to see the winner.

Lois, tell us about your books.

The Secret of Laurel Oak is a gen-u-wine ghost story – my first.  Daphne was born an African slave around 1830 and sent to spirit after a violent death at the age of fifteen.  She’s modeled after a girl named Chloe whose brief life was spent at Myrtles Plantation in Louisiana. Myrtles is on the Smithsonian list of the ten most haunted houses in America.

What’s come down through history is that Chloe poisoned two little girls at Myrtles. Whether by accident or design, or if she even did it, we do not know, but her ghost has been spotted by dozens of visitors to the plantation. Nor does Chloe herself (Daphne in my book) know what happened that horrific night.  For 160 years, she’s waited patiently for the right person to show up to solve the mystery.  Now Lila has arrived, and all the spirits of Laurel Oaks are quickened.  The book’s written in alternating voices, half in Daphne’s and half in Lila’s, as the shocking story unfolds both from the here-and-now and from the other side. Will Daphne’s spirit finally be released to eternal rest?  Maybe.

The Secret of Laurel Oaks

I’ve also done another novel, yet to find a publisher, set in the early years of spiritualism, the 1850s. Two intrepid girls fake séances, enthralled by the popular new belief that we can all talk to dead loved ones in the realm beyond.  It’s just a profitable game for them – until they discover that one of them actually has the gift and begins to hear the wails of  six children murdered by their mother.  Based on a true story of Polly Frisch, who poisoned her children with arsenic-laced bread and butter.  Cold, hunh?

Are there challenges in writing in this genre?

Let’s be honest.  In my normal life, I do realistic fiction for middle graders and teens. I’m so steeped in realism that my toes are growing roots like trees.  But as I’ve gotten more rings around my trunk, I’ve hungered for flashes of the visionary life.  So, I’ve begun studying about other realities, in hopes that some day I’ll experience what now is only wide-eyed speculation.  The challenge for me is to escape from the bonds of having to explain every phenomenon in some logical way.  It doesn’t have to make sense; it only has to sense. But that’s hard for a prove-it girl like me to reconcile.  I’m working on it!

[Chris’s note: Lois’s powerful realistic novels for middle grade and young adult readers include Miriam's Well, Skin Deep, and the humorous The Moxie Kid. Her historical novels include Shanghai Shadows, Journey to Jamestown, and Swindletop. Two of her previous books also cross between the past and the present: Steal Away Home and Soon Be Free. Learn about them all on her website.]

Skin Deep

Have your loyal readers followed you down this new path?

They’ve led me down this path.  It’s where young readers already are.  Now that Laurel Oaks is in Scholastic book fairs, I hear from kids around the country who never would have opened my other books.  They take speculative fiction very seriously and clamor for more.

What are some of your favorite speculative books for young people?

I love classic science fiction.  The old Robert Heinlein and Ray Bradbury books are among my favorites, probably because they’re strongly written, character-driven novels about  brave new worlds, and they don’t depend on super technology and flashy special effects.

I like some time-travel books, especially Jane Yolen’s wonderful The Devil’s Advocate, which catapults a contemporary girl into the milieu of the Nazi Holocaust, then gets her safely home again.  I’m not interested in magical, fantastical books or vampires or elves and faeries, either in medieval or urban settings.  I’d rather read post-apocalyptic, dystopian novels such as Rosoff’s How I Live Now, Beth Pfeffer’s Life as We Knew It, and Haddix’s Among the Hidden series.  Of course, I join the zillions of fans of the Hunger Games trilogy – unmatched for heart-thumping excitement coupled with contemporary satire.

However, in my estimation, as a librarian and author, the finest book for young readers in this genre (maybe any genre) is Lois Lowry’s The Giver. That’s a book I can read over and over, holding my breath all the way through the quiet, understated horror of a world without color, art, music, blemish, passion, memory – and the awakening of Jonas, who is given the gift of these forbidden emotions by the one dying old man who safeguards them all for future generations.  Magnificent book.  Fifth graders can read it for sheer story, seventh graders get the subtleties and begin to think about the implications.  Adults are devastated by it.

Why do you think young people are drawn to dystopian novels?

Some say the 21st century high school is the quintessential dystopian society.  It can be a cruel and hostile place with its social stratification, intense bullying and hazing, and its refusal to accept those who are “different,” however that difference is defined from within a clíque.  Other people say that we live in a gloom-and-doom world that is totally out of control.  The young heroes of dystopian novels find and earn ways to out-smart and overcome the doom of their worlds and change society for the better.

Once you read your way through the muck and joylessness of those post-apocalyptic worlds, you see hope at the end of the dark tunnel.  Young people want to know that there are ordinary kids just like them who summon the determination and courage to triumph over incredible obstacles, foes, and threats, and come out whole on the far side of the adventure.

Steal Away Home

Is the same true for ghost stories?

It’s different.  I think people of all ages wonder about what’s beyond life.  Very religious people think they know, but most of us see death as a mystery, and life as something we don’t want to let go of.  So, we speculate about reincarnation and a vibrant spirit life after we shed our bodies.  Besides that, young people just love to be scared witless and then to be reassured that things will be set right again when the nail-biting, heart-racing story ends.

Anything else we should know about you?

I have a wonderful husband that I met the first day of college at Berkeley, three sons, three daughters-in-law, and five grandchildren.  I’m older than permafrost, but I made the decision way back when that I’d never totally grow up if I wanted to write stories for and about young people.  You could say I’ve stayed blissfully immature.  I have the pleasure of visiting schools all over the country and have encountered some awesomely good teachers and librarians.  It’s the kids, though, who make it so much fun.  Oh, one more thing.  I  collect pigs, though not live ones.  Yet.  Please follow me on Facebook and visit my Website.

Post a comment on this interview, and we’ll randomly choose one lucky winner to receive a copy of The Secret of Laurel Oak!

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Chatting with Cynthia Leitich Smith

Today I’m chatting with Cynthia Leitich Smith, who is well-known in children’s literature for both her books and her informative blog. Here’s a chance to get to know her better — and to win an advance reader copy of BLESSED, due out January 25.

Cynthia Leitich Smith is the New York Times and Publishers Weekly best-selling author of ETERNAL, TANTALIZE, and BLESSED (forthcoming), all Gothic fantasies from Candlewick Press. She also has written several YA short stories as well as books for younger readers. TANTALIZE was a Borders Original Voices selection, honored at the 2007 National Book Festival, and The Horn Book called it “an intoxicating romantic thriller.” A graphic novel adaptation of TANTALIZE is in the works. ETERNAL was a YALSA Teens Top Ten nominee, featured at the Texas Book Festival, and Publishers Weekly said, “…readers should be hooked by this fully formed world, up through the action-packed finale.” It debuted at #5 on the New York Times best-seller list and #13 on the Publishers Weekly best-seller list.

Wow, that’s an impressive bio. Cynthia, please tell us more about your books in your own words.

TANTALIZE is the story of Quincie P. Morris, a teen who’s trying to help save her family’s struggling Italian restaurant by re-launching it with a vampire theme. It’s supposed to be kitschy, all in fun. Then some real vampires show up.

ETERNAL is the story of a one-time guardian angel and the girl, turned vampire princess, whose life he failed to save.

BLESSED crosses over the two casts, picking up where TANTALIZE leaves off, and an additional novel is in the works.

I am also is in the process of writing two graphic novel adaptations, TANTALIZE: KIEREN’S STORY and ETERNAL: ZACHARY’S STORY.


Why did you choose to write in this genre? What inspires you?

I write Gothic fantasy, which is basically old-school horror, though my books are set in present day. These are stories with make-believe monsters, touching on timeless themes/circumstances like alienation, plague, invasion, gender-power politics, and the “dark” other (which, in Abraham Stoker’s day, translated to “Eastern European.”)

I’m writing for my young reader within. As a teen, I was an avid reader of Dean Koontz, V.C. Andrews, Stephen King, and mysteries—everything from Nancy Drew to true crime.

I remember my parents leaving me home alone in my early teens (I was old enough to have already begun babysitting). It was a dark and stormy night. Really. And I was reading King’s IT.

Is anything scarier than a clown? I don’t think so.

The house was quiet, and I was spellbound, reading in bed, hiding beneath the covers. I turned a page, half convinced that It was lurking on my own street, in the storm drain, when my dad leaped into the room and shouted, “Boo!”

I mean, really! “Boo.”

I screamed and jumped into the air, the book flying up to collide with my canopy.

Now, that’s effective writing.

Beyond that, I’m a huge Whedonverse fan and especially adored the girl-empowered, take-back-the-night theme in “Buffy: The Vampire Slayer.” (Which is still required viewing, if you want to write Gothics for teens.)

And I learned how to read on picture books and superhero comics.

In sum, call me a Geek Girl. I’m happy to own that.

See the Eternal book trailer

Are there special challenges in writing speculative fiction? How do you deal with them?

World building is one of the biggest. In crafting my fantasy landscape, I did my homework. I studied the related YA novels and many of the adult novels that preceded them. I took a look at the films and pop culture representations. And from there, I dived into the classics and the traditional stories that inspired those. I compared, for example, shape-shifters from various cultures, looking for distinctions and commonalities.

But it wasn’t all book research. I also stepped directly into my fictional world. I took a camera and went to open houses, picking out places for my characters to live. I went to the Austin Nature and Science Center and interviewed the animals.

Of course there’s more to it than that. Measuring the cost of the magic. Making sure the monster is earned. But those are posts unto themselves.

Have you found any special challenges in finding publishers? In reaching readers?

Not really. TANTALIZE sold quickly, and Candlewick Press has been my principal YA house ever since. I’m in excellent hands. At CP, on every front, the quest for quality reigns supreme.

Prior to publishing Gothics, though, I was best known as a Native American author, and for some folks, it was an adjustment to think of me doing any other kind of work. I lost count of the people who warned me that Indian readers would be insulted by my “defection” to additional types of work.

They couldn’t have been more wrong. Many of my most enthusiastic readers are from the Native community.

It was odd. My Native characters were consistently praised for their diversity of interests, so I’m not sure why it surprised anyone that I’d want to do more than one kind of thing, too. But in any case, it makes me a stronger writer, shifting between formats, age markets, and genres. It’s also great fun!

If you could live in a sci-fi or fantasy world not of your own making, which would it be? Why?

“Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.” Maybe it’s the Kansas girl in me, but I clearly remember thinking once, when something terrible happened: I wish there was a Superman.

What would readers find surprising or interesting about you?

My favorite actors are Harriet Samson Harris (Bebe Glazer, “Fraiser;” Eve, “The X-Files,” etc.) and the late Lane Smith (Perry White, “Lois and Clark;” Jim Trotter, “My Cousin Vinny,” etc.).

Also, I strongly feel that Aquaman is shockingly underappreciated.

Visit Cynthia’a website or her CYNSATIONS blog for interviews with writers and editors, plus news and insights on the world of children’s literature. And don’t forget to post a response for a chance to win an advance reader copy of Blessed! The winner will be posted on Sunday. ETA: This giveaway is now closed. Try again in our next giveaway.

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Middle Grade Trends in Speculative Fiction

Yesterday I discussed speculative trends for teen readers. (By the way, I forgot to mention some prime paranormal examples: the Dead Girl series by our own Linda Joy Singleton, the Ghost Huntress series by Marley Gibson, Dead Is the New Black by Marlene Perez, and ghostgirl by Tonya Hurley.)

So what about middle grade readers? Vampire romances and dystopian suspense haven’t trickled down to preteens, but paranormal is supposed to be on the rise with preteens. That should be good news for my Haunted series. But how new and strong is this trend, really?

Most of the current ghost series are targeted at teenagers, like the ones I mentioned above. It seems like most of the single title, middle grade ghost stories I pick up at the library are from the 80s and 90s.

Of course The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman is a recent bestseller. Peg Kehret has been writing suspense novels for years, mostly contemporary realistic stories involving robbers or kidnappers. She came out with The Ghost’s Grave in 2007

But let’s look back a bit…. Richard Peck’s series that began with The Ghost Belonged to Me started in 1975, and that title was re-released in 1997. Bruce Coville released The Ghost in the Third Row in 1987, and continued the trilogy with The Ghost Wore Gray in 1988 and The Ghost in the Big Brass Bed in 1991. Haunting at Home Plate by David Patneaude came out in 2000.

(Read my Amazon list mania “More spooky ghost books” for brief descriptions and links to all these books.)

Then, of course, there’s Goosebumps. According to Wikipedia, the Goosebumps umbrella featured 62 books published between 1992 and 1997. An average of 10 books per year from one author, and that doesn’t even count his Ghosts of Fear Street (a spinoff of Fear Street targeted at younger readers), which started in 1995. Now THAT’S a trend.

So when, exactly, did paranormal go away? Based on this very unofficial survey, it seems like the 90s were a prime paranormal time, though the trend may have dipped in the early to mid-2000s.

Maybe the lesson here is that some topics are eternal (just ask Dracula, who made his appearance in 1897). Or perhaps there’s a message about the futility of trying to write to trends. Or the inaccuracy of all this trend prediction, anyway (look at yesterday’s post about the supposed decline in fantasy). Or maybe the real point is, we just shouldn’t worry about it, and focus on reading and writing what we enjoy.

Chris Eboch with Haunted books

Chris Eboch needs to go investigate that strange noise in the basement now. Oh wait, she doesn’t have a basement. CREEPY!

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Teen Trends In Speculative Fiction

Three years ago, I interviewed some editors for an article on horror and paranormal fiction, and asked what they saw as upcoming trends. Let’s see if they were right….

“There’s definitely been a rise in the popularity of thrillers, ghost stories, and stories based on the paranormal,” a Delacorte editor said. “I think the most popular books are the ones that set the ghost story in the contemporary world. There’s something about believing those things are out there right now that is thrilling for young readers.”

“Pure horror will probably never explode the way fantasy or sci-fi have exploded at different times,” a Scholastic editor said, “but the wave of terror ebbs and flows. During any given year, some subgenre or another seems to take off. For the past couple years, apocalyptic zombie stories have been big, thanks to Max Brooks, Brian Keene, and others.”

At Llewellyn, an editor said, “We see good, steady demand for well done paranormal thrillers, books that might even be called ‘dark fantasy’ or ‘urban fantasy,’ especially for girls. Witty, graphic horror, such as the books by Darren Shan, seems to work well for boys.”

In a Candlewick Press editor’s opinion, “I think we’ll see more graphic fare in all of these areas as the graphic novel continues to gain popularity. It’s a natural fit. For middle-grade readers and younger, the emphasis seems to be on series publishing and story collections, while YA readers range more between genre/series fare and lush, literary novels like Twilight.”

Seems like they did pretty well. And how about today? At the SCBWI New York conference a few of months ago, Susan Raab said that mystery and ghost stories are thought to be growing. Vampires and werewolves are still big, but not expected to last. Fantasy in general is softening, but dystopian fantasy is growing.

Of course, who really knows? A fantastic book may be ready to launch, and pull back up one of these trends, or start a new one. And as for fantasy, editor Ari Lewin noted that eight or nine of the top 10 books on both the hardcover and paperback children’s bestseller list that week were fantasy of some kind. We keep hearing about the death of fantasy, but that seems to be wishful thinking on the part of editors who are tired of it. Readers just keep on reading. (Note that these were not high fantasy (knights and dragons), but lots of dystopian and paranormal books.)

So what’s the next big trend? Have you read — or written — a book that you think will light some fires? Personally, I’m hoping that Rick Riordan’s new Kane Chronicles series will reignite interest in ancient Egypt, both historical fantasy and straight historical fiction. Because, you know, I have this Egyptian novel I haven’t beChris Eboch with Haunted booksen able to sell yet….

Chris Eboch has this fantasy that she’ll start a new trend and beginning authors will submit their manuscripts with covers letters that says, “It’s the next Chris Eboch” so often that it becomes a cliché.

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Why are scary books popular?

Many people, from children to adults, love books, movies and TV shows that are scary. This can include spooky paranormal stories, creepy Gothic romantic dramas, adrenaline-packed action flicks, or true terrorizing horror.

“I’ve always loved stories of the supernatural,” Christopher Golden, author of the Body of Evidence series, once said in an interview. “As a child, I enjoyed anything creepy or unsettling and I loved monsters of all shapes and sizes. Ordinary life is so mundane, and things that went bump in the night were always the most intriguing to me.”

What’s the appeal?

Part of it may simply be the adrenaline rush, the excitement we don’t always get easily in daily life. We are still wired for action, the fight or flight response that our ancestors probably had to face on an almost daily basis as they hunted, or defended themselves against wild animals and other tribes. Now the stress builds up slowly, at school or at work or at home. A good scare can release it.

Scary stories can also help you deal with your own fears. They can give you specific tools to use, like examples of how to escape from kidnappers or fend off a mugger. Watching characters survive dangerous situations, or overcome the bad guys, can give you confidence that you could survive a similar challenge.

“One of my all-time favorite books is Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak,” editor Joshua Glazer has said. “It introduced me to my first monsters—and taught me how to make friends with them. I think that’s the role of scary literature in a kid’s life. It provides a safe and neutral realm where kids may engage their fears without becoming consumed by them.”

Granted, it’s unlikely that your average reader will ever have to face a true Wild Thing, diabolical super villain, alien, ogre or vampire. But sometimes the example is more of a metaphor.

“Growing up is intrinsically horrific,” Cynthia Leitich Smith, author of Tantalize, has said. “You’re a shape-shifter in your changing body. You’re a vampire in your thirst for life. Your emotions can turn you from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde. Essentially, Gothic fantasy is all about reflecting this reality through metaphor.”

We hear a lot about escapist literature. But sometimes literature helps us to face our fears instead.

What does your choice of literature say about you? Does it change depending on the circumstances of your life? Do you feel better after a good scare? Why?

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What’s in a name?

Hey folks — I’m a new blogger in this group (you can find out more about me under Authors or Books, above), and I’m thinking about just why I’m here.

My first novel, The Well of Sacrifice, was historical fiction. I then wrote several other (unpublished) historical and contemporary fiction novels, without a hint of fantasy in them. I also did some work for hire nonfiction and fictionalized biographies. My first nine published books have no fantasy, science fiction or alternate reality elements. And yet, here I am on a blog about “speculative fiction.”

True, my Haunted series involves a girl who can see ghosts. Technically, the book is a fantasy, or even horror. Yet I never even noticed that I was changing genres, and the editor who acquired it claims he doesn’t like fantasy. I guess we both saw it as more of an action series, which happened to include ghosts.

In 2008, I wrote an article for Children’s Writer on horror and ghost stories. In an interview, Delacorte Editor Krista Marino said, “There really hasn’t been much true horror done for YA, but there’s definitely been a rise in the popularity of thrillers, ghost stories, and stories based on the paranormal.” What defines horror, then?

Agent Ashley Grayson said, “My definition of a horror novel is one where a group of ‘good’ people encounter a malignant entity, whither a ghost, werewolf or psychotic killer. The novel of terror can include the quite different type of story where simple acts of malice by the protagonist or her circle of friends avalanche into worse acts. Fortunately or not, classic monsters like vampires are the new buddies of romantic interests for teens.” So is Twilight a horror novel, because it involves vampires, or a romance? Or a romantic horror?

Scholastic Editor Joshua Glazer noted, “Scary stories are always popular, but not everybody self-identifies as a horror fan. I often encounter people who say ‘I don’t like horror,’ but ask them if they’ve read The Stand or seen The Exorcist, and they’ll answer with an enthusiastic ‘yes.’ Horror also hides in unlikely places. If Beowulf debuted in stores today, it would probably be shelved in the horror section, and the recent mega-properties like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter all contain horrific elements.”

I would say I don’t like horror. I haven’t even read The Stand or seen The Exorcist. And yet, I’m a fan of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series, and Haunted: The Ghost on the Stairs involves a scary ghost possession. I have even called the Haunted series “horror light,” though it never occurred to me to use the word “horror” as an Amazon tag word. Instead I stuck with terms such as ghost stories, action and spooky.

When you read a novel with ghosts, vampires or werewolves, do you think of it as a horror novel?

Or do you prefer the term paranormal (defined as supernatural or not in accordance with scientific laws, including phenomena such as ghosts, telepathy, UFOs and Bigfoot), or speculative fiction (dealing with a world outside normal life, and generally considered to include science fiction, fantasy, alternate histories and horror)?

On the one hand, maybe it doesn’t matter. Someone can like ghost stories or vampire romances without needing to define them further. But finding the right language could be key in helping readers find the right books. For example, kids who enjoy Goosebumps might look for other “horror” books. And they might enjoy the Haunted series …. So I guess I need to go back and add “horror” to my Amazon tag words, and embrace my status as a horror author!

Chris Eboch with Haunted books

Chris Eboch thinks feeling horrific might not be so bad.

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The Four Plots of SF&F… As Found in Our Books

Discussing the four plots of science fiction and fantasy (as outlined by Orson Scott Card) got us thinking about some of our own books. We asked ourselves, which of these four main elements–milieu, idea, character, or event–dominates our recent novels?

lindaiconLinda Joy Singleton:deadgirl2

I suppose my DEAD GIRL series could be considered an Event story (my character having a near-death experience and then making a wrong turn into someone else’s body on her return.) But the actual story is more the growth of my character Amber as she goes into 3 different bodies, helping other people and learning about her herself as she evolves with confidence and insight into friendships.

cherylicon5Parker Peevyhouse:

LAST MIDNIGHT is either an Idea story or an Event story. It’s about a girl who comes to suspect that her family might no longer be able to perform their annual job of preventing the end of the world. Keen has a mystery to solve: why does the world seem to be ending despite her family’s efforts, and what can she do to stop disaster from striking? Her story is only complete when she solves the mystery and sets things right for the city of Roil.

Even though the main character of LAST MIDNIGHT spends some time searching through the city of Roil for the legendary black unicorn, and even though we get to visit a lot of landmarks along the way (Penny & Dreadful’s Candy Shop, Winding Stair School, the Fishtail Tavern, Mostly and Otherwise), this isn’t a Milieu story. And while Keen must grow out of her naivete and settle on what she believes about her family’s role in saving the city of Roil, the story’s main focus isn’t Character. The book is quite a puzzler, so I would probably call it an Idea story, but it also requires a specific action to set things right again, which makes it a bit of an Event story.

pjicon4P. J. Hoover:

THE EMERALD TABLET is about a brand new world (okay, two worlds, but we won’t actually get to Atlantis until Book 3). Sure, the world of Lemuria is cool and all, and there are lots of neat new inventions, places, and species. But the story doesn’t progress for the reader to get a look at the world. Thus, THE EMERALD TABLET is not a Milieu structured story.

THE EMERALD TABLET is somewhat of a mystery. There is, of course, a bad guy, and some mystery as to who Benjamin really is. Not to mention, some ancient relic has made Benjamin champion of the world. But the story doesn’t revolve around the discovery of this mystery. Thus, THE EMERALD TABLET is not an Idea structured story.emerald-tablet

THE EMERALD TABLET is rife full of characters who aren’t even human. Benjamin and his friends are telegens (think: really smart humans). Jack is a Nogical (think: little and green, but big on attitude). When Benjamin starts his journey he is not the same person as when he ends. There’s no way he possibly could be. He’s seen things, been through experiences, and made allies and enemies that have changed him. But the main focus of the story is not this change within Benjamin. Thus, THE EMERALD TABLET is not a Character structured story.

So where does that leave us? THE EMERALD TABLET has a quest. There is a search for three keys. There are journeys to new places, new challenges to face, new people to meet, new tests to take. There is action and adventure, not to mention a bunch of tween fun mixed in. The structure of the story follows the quest. Each stage leads to the next. One can’t be reached until the previous is finished. So if my vote counts for anything, I hereby declare THE EMERALD TABLET an Event structured story.

(THE EMERALD TABLET by PJ Hoover is the first of a trilogy: The Forgotten Worlds Books.)

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Love is Dead… or Undead

Why is it that paranormal and romantic elements mix so well in YA?

You’ve got girls falling in love with ghosts, vampires, dark fairies, angels, aliens… It’s all very popular right now.

Maybe it’s because these “creatures” have a built-in danger to them? A boy who’s a ghost or vampire is automatically a bad boy. And anytime we’re dealing with a paranormal romance, it’s definitely a forbidden love, which is always exciting to read about.71335416

Is it the thrill of danger that makes these love stories so popular or what do you think?

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