Musings on YA fiction and projects left unfinished

I’ve been writing fiction since I was ten years old–for fun, serious writing, not because I had to for school or any other reason.  Most of it has been crap.  Some of it’s been okay.  I haven’t reached a point where I have a manuscript ready to send off to agents or publishers…but that will come sooner rather than later, I’d suspect.

Today, in the midst of cleaning the house and weeding out in the garden, I came across a few of my writing magazines that I hadn’t finished reading–this happens often enough, that I’ll get one of them and not finish reading them to my satisfaction and then they get shuffled someplace in an effort to get my mother to stop complaining about how everyone’s stuff is everywhere cluttering up her house (not going to offer commentary on that one).  So, at some point today I sat down on the couch and thumbed through an article from the May/June 2010 issue of Writer’s Digest that had YA agents and editors talking about the category — how to break into it, what they’re looking for, that kind of thing.

It got me to thinking a bit.  I’ve always written younger protagonists (there are a few notable exceptions, including several of the major supporting cast members in Epsilon and The Last Colony–heck, Adam Windsor is a PoV character in The Last Colony and he’s in his fifties–as well as characters in Fate and Second Chances and its untitled sequel…though I’m not entirely sure elves and dragons count as “older protagonists”), characters ranging from their late teens through their twenties.  In some ways, my characters have aged with me and in others, they certainly have not.

Paranormal and speculative fiction have become huge in young adult fiction, and that subsegement of the genre have yielded works that have transcended the age category (see: Harry Potter and as much as I hate to mention it, Twilight–Vampires do not sparkle thank you very much!).  To carry this even further and away from the article I read, manga, Japanese graphic novels, tend to have speculative, paranormal, and fantastic elements to them as a matter of course.  Manga is extremely popular in the United States–and growing in popularity all the time.

Which brings me to what really got me thinking–the untitled sequel to my D&D-inspired Fate and Second Chances already has two very strong teenage protagonists in it–Alysta Riverden and Kaelen Verrel–and could quite possibly be transformed into a YA novel.  It’s something I’ll have to think about, because the story as it stands right now (in its very early stages–there’s only about 23500 words of ramble to it) is planned to be about as much about Alysta’s father, Talasin, as it is about Lysta and Kael.

But it’s entirely possible, and could be fun.  I’ll just have to do some homework on it, and some thinking.  But maybe.  Just maybe…

…after all, high adventure does well, too.

Truncated 30 days of world-building, part 4

Back to 30 days of world-building.  Only got a couple days to go before the commencement of Nanowrimo this year.

Skipping Days 17 and 18

 

Day 19 – Characters and what they’re all about

I’m not going to bore most folks with the character list.  Hell, I want to keep a lot about the characters a secret, since characters are often the key to my success in writing.  Instead, I’ll just offer a brief taste of some of them.

Here they are, in alphabetical order.

  • Grant Channing – Member of the Psychean Guard held by the Eurydice Compact for at least fifteen years.  Father of Lindsay Farragut.
  • Alana Chase – Born to the Eurydice Compact conglom, heavily cybered soldier.  She escaped to E-557 eighteen years before the story begins.
  • Brendan Cho – Born to the Chinasia Corp conglom and trained as a military pilot.  He is the only survivor of a ship shot down over E-557 eleven years before the story begins that was allowed to stay.
  • America Farragut – Member of the Psychean Guard held by Chinasia Corp. for at least fifteen years.  Mother of Lindsay Farragut and sister of Rachel Farragut.
  • Lindsay Farragut – Born a member of the Psychean Guard two years after the decimation of Mimir, the home of the Psychean Guard.  She is the Oracle and came to E-557 with her aunt twenty-three years before the story starts.  Member of the Rose Council.
  • Rachel Farragut – Member of the Psychean Guard who came to E-557 twenty-three years before the story starts.  Aunt and surrogate mother of Lindsay Farragut, the Oracle.  Member of the Rose Council.
  • Ezra Grace, MD – Born and bred on E-557, Ezra is of genius-level intelligence when it comes to medicine and the interactions of humans and cyberware.  He’s not quite thirty when the story starts.
  • Adam Windsor – Member of the Psychean Guard who came to E-557 shortly before Rachel Farragut, after the destruction of Guard HQ on Mimir.  High-ranking military officer on E-557; one of the Guardians (military commanders of E-557).

 

Day 20 – Oh, the plot!

This particular directive — that is, starting to outline plot — is something I started a bit ago, as scenes started to form themselves in my head.  Basically, the exercise for day 20 asks the writer to say what the story’s about — what’s the overarching plot.

On the Nanowrimo forums, there’s a thread that was fantastic: the 20-word summary of your plot.  This was mine:

Humanity has killed dozens of worlds. They’re not allowed to kill this one.

Thirteen words to describe the plot of The Last Colony.  We’ll see what the ending holds.

I do have one major subplot already in mind, which deals with the rescue of America Farragut and Grant Channing from the Chinasia Corp and Eurydice Compact congloms respectively.  Of course, Lindsay isn’t going to like the plan that Ezra (since it will be Ezra that comes up with the majority of the plan) comes up with for rescuing her parents.

 

Day 21 – Flora and Fauna

Largely skipping this one, except for to jot down the note that there are various terrestrial species that have been preserved since the loss of Earth that have become semi-domesticated.  Other species were used to populate the lands of E-557 long before the colonists ever landed there.  No one’s really sure who terraformed the planet or seeded it with terrestrial species.  There is some data to indicate that E-557 was a world that had once harbored life before being terraformed, but for some reason had been abandoned in a very distant past.

 

Skipped to Day 24 – Mood (again!)

Day 24 is all about artwork, mood, and music playlists for working on your project.  Of course, this can take a long while to put together, especially the artwork.  So, for the moment, I’m going to forgo some of the artwork but share some of the music that’s evocative and inspiring lately…

Other songs include “Keep Holding On” by Avril Lavigne, “Now or Never” by Three Days Grace, “Wonder” by Natalie Merchant, “Believe” by Staind, “Carry You Home” by James Blunt, and “World” by Five for Fighting.

 

Day 25 – The Sky (and what’s in it when)

This isn’t so important, since I don’t have any nighttime sequences in mind that will require moonlight.  I love the moon in all its phases, and if it becomes important to have the moon be a certain way at a certain time, I’ll be sure to keep track of phases.  Though the exercise is a wonderful cautionary tale.

 

The rest of the days on the world-building lists are mostly wrap-ups — finish up with this, that, and the other thing.  So I’ll be spending my last few days before Nanowrimo working on school work and doing some outlining for November 1!

What I’ve been reading

So over the course of the past week or so, I’ve had the opportunity to do a bit of pleasure reading, which is a welcome relief from everything else in my world. The house has been quiet and I haven’t felt incredibly guilty about taking some “me” time to curl up with a good book–or three, in this case. In this case as well, I’m reading something that’s a touch different from my standard fare. I tend to generally keep to fantasy universes for my pleasure reading unless it’s a shared universe such as Star Trek, Star Wars, and Battletech. The sole exception to this has been Jack McDevitt‘s Alex Benedict series, which straddles the line between mystery and science fiction (don’t ask my why I like it so much–it’s probably the beautiful relationship between Alex and his assistant/pilot, Chase).  Coincidentally, in hunting down his web site, I found out that he’s released a fourth book that I’m going to have to pick up when it’s released in paperback (I can’t justify buying the hardcover since it’s out of stock at my local Borders).

Fantasy novels in author-created universes tend to be what attracts me, though in the past few days, I’ve found at least one science fiction series that I’m going to have to start following.

I discovered LE Modesitt Jr.‘s work purely by accident when I picked up The Chaos Balance on a whim at the drugstore–my family had been nagging at me to read something other than the Star Trek and Star Wars novels I’d become addicted to–and my affair with the Saga of Recluce began.  I never did make it all the way through The Chaos Balance, but Fall of Angels got me hooked on the series completely.  I kept reading until after the release of Scion of Cyador and never quite caught up again after that (I don’t know, something about Hamor doesn’t really interest me the way Candar and Recluce did).  Then, the first summer I was home after graduating from college, I picked up one of Modesitt’s science fiction works (as well as a couple books of the Corean Chronicles)–it was The Ethos Effect.

The book was and still is amazing, even reading it again.  I finally picked up a paperback copy for myself a few weeks ago but hadn’t read it because I was waiting on getting to read another book–this one for the first time.

The Parafaith War is set in the same universe as The Ethos Effect, though the latter book takes place more than three hundred years later.  And it was every bit as good as The Ethos Effect.  It centers around an Eco-Tech officer by the name of Trystin Desoll, an outsider despite his family being amongst the founders of the Eco-Tech Coalition.  The Ethos Effect centers on a similar character, though by no means the same, in Van Cassius Albert, a RSF officer who’s too good at what he does and is very clearly an outsider amongst his fairer, lighter-skinned peers.  Both men have to make hard decisions about the fate of the universe they live in, and both pay a price for making the ethical choices they make.  Both books are amazing and I highly recommend them because they’re a good read–so long as you’re not afraid of a little social commentary and intellectual stimulation during your science fiction experience.

Then, in browsing through books on Amazon (I try not to buy on Amazon, though I’ll occassionally use it to check release dates and the like), I came across another series that was often purchased by people who bought LE Modesitt Jr.’s science fiction.  It happened to be Jack Campbell’s Lost Fleet series.  So yesterday, I picked up the first book, Dauntless, after work and started reading it after I got home.

The humor in The Lost Fleet: Dauntless mixes well with the darkness and desperation of the situation the ship of the book’s name finds itself in.  I do not often find myself laughing or shaking my head and smiling–physically reacting to and interacting with–novels I read.  It’s a very rare thing for me.  But this is what I found myself doing as I began to learn more and more about the situation John Greary, sudden commander of this lost fleet, finds himself in.  I’ve already decided that I’ll have to pick up the rest of the series when I go to work tomorrow.  It’s been a wonderful read thus far and I’m looking forward to making it all the way through–and finding out if Black Jack Greary can actually live up to the reputation that was built around him while he was in cold storage.  He’s sort of a science fiction King Arthur sort of figure–which makes it even more amusing for someone like me to be reading it.

On to chapter two! (and other such fun things)

Chapter one of draft 3.5.1 seems to be largely complete with a scene between Aaron and Jack wrapping it up.  Ahh, Jack!  How we will miss thee when you’re gone!  Chapter one came in at about 3700 words and I’m into chapter two already.  iTunes is up and playing (bought more music — again), the main floor of the house is vaccuumed, and I’ve got a fresh cup of coffee and an hour before I’m supposed to find out whether or not I’m working today.  We’ll see what pans out.

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Enter the A’duuin!

So I came up with what the consortium of non-human races that have positive relations with the Epsilon Alliance call themselves:  The A’duuin.  It fit better than something like “the League” or anything like that (the League just makes me think of the League of non-aligned worlds from Babylon 5).  Colloquially, humans of the Alliance simply term their non-human trade partners and sometime allies as “the Races.”  But these people wouldn’t call themselves that.  Hence, A’duuin.

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