YA 101: Urban Fantasy

Today I finish up my series, YA 101 with what may be one of the most popular genres among YA fiction – Urban Fantasy.

Urban fantasy in a nutshell is all about mythical, fantastical creatures living in our contemporary times.  Writing about a vampire/werewolf romance in Forks, WA?  Urban fantasy (though I’d check on this one.  I think it’s already been done :-))  Have you got a shapeshifter haunting the streets of NY?  Urban fantasy.  Does your protagonist in Savannah, Georgia have tons of demons living around her that are all about to go to war and she’s the only one that can stop it?  Urban fantasy.

Rules to writing urban fantasy?

  • almost always written in 1st person.
  • don’t use magic as an excuse for plots – big or small.
  • make your ‘monsters’ different.  Vampires and werewolves in YA is overdone.  They still have an audience but look at other creatures you can use:  leprechaun, pixies, gargoyles.  The list is vast.  Experiment.  Be different.
  • Protagonists/heroes/heroines are usually sexy and there is some romance.  There doesn’t have to be  a lot of romance but there should be some.  Romance sells to young female readers which make up the majority of books sales in the age group.  Remember, the romantic partner doesn’t have to be gorgeous, but the reader needs to fall in love with him/her.

What are some of my favorite YA urban fantasy novels?


YA 101: Realistic Fiction

For me, realistic fiction is probably my least favorite genre.  When I read, I want to escape the humdrums of normal life and be swept away by something grander, more romantic, more fantastical than every day life.  I have only read three  pieces of realistic fiction recently that knocked my socks off:  THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green, THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER by Stephen Chbosky, and THE FALL: An Autobiography of an Altar Ego by Elle.  However, I own several copies of classic realistic fiction that I re-read to this day:  LITTLE WOMEN, LITTLE MEN, THE ADVENTURE OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN, THE GRAPES OF WRATH and OF MICE AND MEN.

To find the characteristics of realistic fiction, one doesn’t have to go far from looking in the mirror or examining the world.  The characters are believable, the themes plausible, and the plots convincing.  The language is often colloquial, and there are very view romantic perceptions of the world.  The world is what it is and you and the characters travel along trying to deal with it.

Common themes in realistic fiction, especially YA fiction include problems, humor, and coming- of-age.    Problem themes can include bullying, sexual/mental/physical abuse, drug addiction.  Humor themes have the characters in peculiar, funny outrageous predicaments and they have to use their ingenuity and crafty skills to get out of the mess.  I find this a lot in middle grade novels as younger kids, I think, relate more to this than more serious issues that arise in the later teen years.  Coming-of-age stories are always a winner with teens as they show how the protagonists leaves his innocence behind and grows into a confident, strong individual.  In my opinion, if you’re writing any YA story, this later theme should be prevalent across the board, in any genre you write.  The protagonist has to grow, has to learn.  It’s part of growing up.

What are some good YA realistic fiction novels to dive into?  I’ve been told the following are fantastic.  They’re on my TBR list.



YA 101: “Contemporary” Genre

Hi all.  Welcome back to  day 5 of sifting through the YA genres.  Today’s victim:  Contemporary fiction.

Stories set in modern-day times that don’t bring in any elements of fantasy are considered contemporary.  It is also known in a large circle as ‘realistic’ fiction.  Stories in this genre usually focus on offering the reader an insight into a person’s everyday experience and what it feels like to ‘walk’ in their shoes.  There should be little exaggeration as fans of this genre tend to shun ‘contemporary’ stories that stray from authenticity and far-fetched notions.

There are sub-genres to contemporary such as contemporary historical, contemporary romance and contemporary christian.

Popular novels that fall into the Contemporary genre include:


Agents and Publishers accepting YA contemporary:

Taylor Martindale of Full Circle Literary 

Entangled Publishing


YA 101: “Bildungsroman” Genre? What the heck is that?

Good morning people weeples.  Happy Friday.  I was supposed to post this topic yesterday, but I forgot to hit the ‘schedule’ button.  Then Tropical Storm Andrea came through which kept my PC in the dark all day (even though I had to drive to work.  Don’t you feel bad for me?  Of course you do.)

First things first.  Pull up a comfy seat and relax.  Here, have a cup of coffee.

cup of coffee  Don’t like coffee?  Here, have some tea.

cup of tea Don’t like tea?  Sorry kiddo. You’re on your own.

Okay, today we’re going to dive into Bildungsroman.  I bet some of you are scratching your heads, wondering what the word even means, much less if your novel falls into this category.  Don’t worry.  Odds are if you’re writing YA, your entire book is based in this genre, or, at the very least, you probably have a touch of it lying on the pages.  What is bildungsroman?  Simply put, it’s a coming-of-age story.  In these stories, (i) the main character portrays his struggles and growth, (2) he must have suffered some loss or discontent to jar him away from home or family at an early stage, (iii) the process of maturity is long, arduous and gradual where there are repeated clashes between the hero’s needs and desires and what society demands of him/her, (iv) in the end, the protagonist discovers himself and asserts himself in society.

Examples of bildungsroman YA novels?

 (that’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower if you can’t read it)


Do you have a MS that fits this category?  Are you ready to submit?  Try the following agency to represent your novel.  They take unsolicited manuscripts, too.

The Greenhouse Literary Agency

Okay, folks, that wraps up today’s post.  I have to go now and get ready for work.  I’m happy, though, as today is  a short day for me.  My youngest graduates from high school tonight.  Where did the time go?

See you, Monday, everyone!  Have a great weekend.

Gaining a publisher’s trust as a reviewer

A couple of years ago I picked up Heather Burch’s, Halflings, read it and reviewed it on my blog.  A few weeks afterwards, I received an e-mail from the publisher, Zondervan.  They liked my review and wanted to know if I would like to review more books for them.  Of course, my answer was a big YES!!!  They proceeded to send me two more books.  Sadly, I wasn’t particularly fond of either one of them, so I didn’t review them online.  I felt I wouldn’t do justice to the authors or to Zondervan.  I mean, let’s face it.  I’m still a newbie author myself.  Who am I to slam someone else’s dreams on a public forum.  If I was a professional reviewer and people waited with bated breath to know what I thought, then that would be a different story.  Right now, I’m not that person.  I’m a start-up author with a blog who likes to talk up the books I like or that I think others will enjoy.

To make a long story short, after a long hiatus, Zondervan contacted me a few days ago with a request to pick books from a list I might be interested in reading and reviewing.  There was a picture and a blurb for each one in the e-mail and they were all MG or YA reads.  I sent a message back saying I couldn’t pick just one but if I had to, I’d go for the paranormal/fantasy first.  Their response?  “We’ll be happy to send them all.”  Really????   How crazy is that?  There are around 8 books all together AND all but one happened to be on  my TBR list.  The first four arrived Wednesday and Thursday.  Want a peak?

zondervan books May 2013


I’m so stoked!

I think my luck in landing my review gig with Zondervan has a lot to do with being in the right place at the right time as well as being honest in my review without being disrespectful.  The books they send and that I read are Young Adult, and Zondervan knows my blog caters to their target audience.  It’s a win-win situation all the way around.

Since my review of Halflings, I have met Heather Burch, and in February of this year, I received a signed copy of her second book in the series, Guardian.  The third and final book in the series, Avenger, is propped in that pretty little picture above.  I am thrilled to have the opportunity to read and review this series.

And all it took was one honest review of one book.

I am thrilled Zondervan chose me to periodically review their YA books.  Maybe this will lead to another job all together:  book reviewer extraordinaire.  🙂  How much fun would that be?  I mean, where else can you get copies of books for free that you want to read in exchange for a review?  To me, that sounds like pure bliss.

So for those of you who don’t think reviews drive people to your blogs?  Think again.  All it takes is the right person to get you noticed.  Zondervan Publishing has my utmost respect, and I am honored to have theirs.


K – Kedge

Hello peeps of the world!  Welcome to day 11 of the A-Z challenge.  Today’s letter is “K”, which in my world stands for Kedge, as in “The Eye of…”

What is Kedge?  It was once a central meeting place of the mages buried deep in the Sankara Mountains.   It served as their secret headquarters during the great Dragon War.  Fingers of tunnels spanned from the base, serving as safe passages to all of Fallhollow.  The eye of kedge is a magical stone that energizes the crystals that hide the tunnels from creatures of black magic.  It went missing at the end of the great war. With the possibility of war looming over Fallhollow once more, it is important to find the Eye of Kedge.  The mages are gathering.  Time is running out.

What does the eye of kedge look like?  Click here to see my inspiration.


I – Insecure

Happy Wednesday,and welcome to day 9 of the A-Z challenge.  Thank you once again for visiting and reading my contribution to this fun blogging event.  Please take some time to visit the other A-Z participants to see what they’re up to.

Now on to the letter I.

I’m insecure about my YA novel, The Eye of Kedge.  This novel has been in the works for years.  It started off many, many years ago as a thought that went dormant for a very long time.  Then, in 2003, it resurfaced again and I took out my pen and starting plotting it out a bit.  I wanted to get a feel for it, to see if I had something.  I dabbled with it here and there.  Did some research, wrote a bit but didn’t devote myself to it full-time until the spring of 2010.  Then, I whipped it out and sent it off to a publisher.  Thankfully, that publisher saw a diamond beneath all that black coal, and they gave me some really great advice on how to fix it – something unheard of in today’s publishing world.

I sat on it.  Mulled over their suggestions.  Some I liked.  Some I didn’t.  Then life sort of got a hold of me and well…let’s just say the past 2 years were really, really tough – physically, mentally and emotionally.  Now, I’m perked back up again.  I have a job.  I’m bringing home the bacon and frying it up in a pan, but I can’t seem to finish editing my novel.  I told a friend of mine tonight I’m scared – scared of succeeding.  Scared of failing.

I’m insecure.

We keep hearing and reading about how our novels have to have that special ‘umph’, that ‘new thing’, that ‘wow’ that hasn’t been done before.  But no one tells us what that is.  Is it enough that I love the story I wrote?  Will it hold up to scrutiny?  Will it garner such horrible reviews I’ll want to climb under a table and die?  Will I ever think it’s good enough to see the light of day?

A publisher two years ago thought so.  Otherwise they wouldn’t have taken the time to hand out page after page of suggestions with an offer to resubmit.

So why am I so insecure?

Do any of you feel insecure about your passion?  How do you pump yourself up?  How do you find the courage to believe in you?

H – Havendale

Happy Tuesday, everyone, and welcome to day 8 of the A-Z challenge.  Thank you once again for visiting and reading my contribution to this fun blogging event.  After you’ve lingered, please jump on over to see what the other participants are blogging about.

Now on to the letter H.  From my YA novel, The Eye of Kedge, I bring you the town of Havendale, Tennessee.

Havendale is a fictional mountain town nestled in the heart of the Cherokee National Forest.  As the name implies, it is a quiet town, a refuge, a sanctuary from the rest of the world – that is until inexplicable events begin to happen, and David and Charlotte come face to face with a mysterious little man with ill intent.     

D – David Heiland

Good day everyone, and welcome to day 4 of the A-Z Challenge.  Thanks for stopping by and reading my contribution to this fun blogging event.  Please feel free to stay as long as you like, then jump on over to see what the other participants are blogging about.

Now on to the letter D.  From my YA novel, The Eye of Kedge, it gives me great pleasure to introduce you to David Alwyn Heiland, one of three main protagonists.  Charlotte you met yesterday, David is today, and Eric follows tomorrow.   Anyone interested to see how I envision David?  Click on the little guy below to find out.

anime boy

David was born March 31 and is almost 18 years old, extremely wealthy and lives with his godmother, Lily, in an 1860’s mansion in Havendale, Tennessee.  His father died 3 months before David was born.  His mother died from complications after David’s birth. His car:  a steel-blue 1967 Shelby Mustang GT500.

He is a champion archer, great at shooting paper targets, but his love for living creatures makes it impossible to shoot and kill.  He’s secretly in love with his best friend, Charlotte, and his OCD tends to get him in sticky spots.  He takes pride in his appearance, is always stylish.  He can be  short-tempered, stubborn, and quick to judge, but those traits are quickly squelched when thrust into the care of Sir Trogsdill Domnall, a highly respected and lethal knight of the kingdom of Hirth.  David may not be fond of Trog’s methods of teaching, but when he comes face to face with two enemies determined to kill him, David  realizes Trog may not be such a bad teacher after all.


David woke upon a straw mattress in a moon-lit room cluttered with strange items.  Braided vines hung from the rafters, piles of river rocks and unusual stones, talons, teeth and amulets perched on weather-beaten shelves.  Sloughed reptilian skins hung like party streamers from the ceiling while red and black ink blot paintings clung to the walls at a tilt. A high-backed rocking chair sat in the corner like a lone, forgotten figure, its seat in bad need of repair.  Soft moonlight reflected off the water in the basin, casting ripples of glimmering brilliance upon the planked walls.

A knock on the door broke his concentration.  He flung his long legs over the edge and sat up as the gangling, paper-thin stranger entered carrying a wooden bowl and mug, both with knots, branches and leaves protruding from their sides.  He set them on a nearby round table, along with a lit candle, its yellow wax dripping like lemon tears down its tapered form.

“I have brought you nourishment.”  His voice was soothing, lyrical, like the gurgle of a babbling brook on a Spring day.  “I figured you could do with some stickies on your insides.  I have drawn you a warm bath. It awaits you at the end of the hall.  Fresh clothes are on the chest at the foot of the bed.  Take your time.  When you are done, come downstairs.  We have much to discuss.”  The stranger turned to leave.

“Wait.”  David stood and swept aside fringes of dark hair clumped together by briars. “Who are you?  What are you?”

The stranger flashed a mouth of paper-flat teeth.  “My name is Finnegan.  Finnegan Aginagin and I am a sestra, an emissary of the mages.  You may call me Finn.”