trying my hand at a steampunk novel, here's what I have so far
Baron von Steamburg pumped up his revolver chamber and turned the corner. He flicked on his flashlight, causing a cone of luminescent steam to light up the dark corridor. “I have a bad steam-feeling about this,” he steamed.
Enter the players. There were seven of us then, seven bright young things with wide precious futures ahead of us. Until that year, we saw no further than the books in front of our faces.
On the day Oliver Marks is released from jail, the man who put him there is waiting at the door. Detective Colborne wants to know the truth, and after ten years, Oliver is finally ready to tell it.
Ten years ago: Oliver is one of seven young Shakespearean actors at Dellecher Classical Conservatory, a place of keen ambition and fierce competition. In this secluded world of firelight and leather-bound books, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingénue, extra. But in their fourth and final year, the balance of power begins to shift, good-natured rivalries turn ugly, and on opening night real violence invades the students’ world of make believe. In the morning, the fourth-years find themselves facing their very own tragedy, and their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, each other, and themselves that they are innocent.
Part coming-of-age story, part confession, If We Were Villains explores the magical and dangerous boundary between art and life. In this tale of loyalty and betrayal, madness and ecstasy, the players must choose what roles to play before the curtain falls.
I’ve been following the publishing journey of @m-l-rio for a few years now and I am so excited to have a copy of her book in my hands. Her sharp wit, hilarious bookstore and theater stories, and unflinchingly honest nature is bound to translate into a highly engaging, intelligent debut.
If We Were Villains has been likened to The Secret History by Donna Tartt, and I’m dropping every other book I’ve planned to read so I can start it.
You can get your copy from your bookstore on April 11th, 2017, but for now, add it to goodreads.
Artist: Norman Guy
Octavia Butler was the first African American woman to professionally publish literary science fiction. She used the genre’s unlimited vistas as a vehicle to explore the complexities of the human experience. With her exceptional imagination and unique perspective, she explored “race,” gender, otherness, religion, relationships, hierarchical behavior, slavery, hybrid beings, extrasolar aliens, vampires, what it means to be human, and whether we can even survive as a species.
“ A great sorrow, and one that I am only beginning to understand: we don’t get to choose our own hearts. We can’t make ourselves want what’s good for us or what’s good for other people. We don’t get to choose the people we are”
you said you were working on reading 10 trans and wlw books this year but you didn't mention what they were!
THAT WAS REMISS OF ME, because so far they’ve been mostly friggin’ awesome:
The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie ♥ (wlw 1/10) – light sci-fi, light dystopian, LESBIAN MOTHERFUCKING PIRATES!!!!!!!!
This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel ♥ (trans 1/10) – this is what I was reading when I made that post, and it ended up being the borderline-literary, adult fiction, family + trans kid saga of my dreams
Luna by Julie Anne Peters (trans 2/10) – old enough to be considered a Classic of the very small, very niche genre, but is now suuuuper dated compared to everything else on this list (that possibly makes it required reading, tbh)
Beast by Brie Spangler ♥ (trans 3/10) – I absolutely loved this book! it’s ANOTHER boy meets girl ~*~with a secret~*~ (i.e. she’s trans) book but actually really refreshing and lovely
Coffee Boy by Austin Chant (trans 4/10) – this is more of a novella than a novel and also NOTHING HAPPENS but it was still cute
Peter Darling by Austin Chant ♥ (trans 5/10) – PETER PAN SEQUEL IN WHICH PETER IS TRANS AND COMES BACK TO NEVERLAND AS A GROWN UP AND FALLS IN LOVE WITH HOOK, A.K.A. MY DREAM BOOK
We Are Okay by Nina LaCour (wlw 2/10) – a lovely, quiet, sad-but-hopeful book (in which the protagonist just happens to be gay)
The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson (trans) – I’m not counting this towards my goal of 10 because it’s a memoir by someone who’s married to a trans man rather than A Novel About A Trans Person, but it was a really great read!
Days Without End by Sebastian Barry ♥ (trans 6/10) – one of the most fulfilling Book Surprises of my life was realising that Thomas is trans!!! the cherry on top of an already stunningly beautiful and moving novel
This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp (wlw 3/10) – I wasn’t mad about this book, but two of the POV characters are lesbians who’re in a relationship with each other (and iirc they’re the only relationship in the book) so it counts I guess
Hold Your Own by Kate Tempest (trans) – this poem is trans in a THE GODS HATH TVRNED ME INTO A WOMAN way rather than a regular trans way, so I’m not counting it, but it was ELECTRIFYING and I loved it
The kind of literature that fan fiction is did not spring fully formed into being in the 1960s and 70s, though some journalists still seem to think so. Throughout this book I have been stressing the link, in literary terms, between fan fiction and any other fiction based on a shared canon […]. It is clear from the comments of fan fiction writers like Ika and Belatrix Carter that one major attraction of this genre for writers is the sense of a complicit audience who already share much information with the writer and can be relied on to pick up ironies or allusions without having them spelled out. Writing based on the canons of myth and folklore can do this too, though as Belatrix Carter pointed out in chapter 7, these canons have been so extensively used for so long it is becoming harder to do anything with them that feels original.
But there is another point, implied in Ika’s remark in chapter 2 - ‘What I like about fan fiction is that you can still get that very highly trained audience that can understand very, very complex and allusive things.’ The use of 'still’ alludes to the undoubted fact that for the traditional canons of myth, Bible, history, and folklore, this “very highly trained” audience is not as reliable as it once was, because the canon information is not as widely shared as it used to be. […] a writer can no longer allude to Lazarus, Circe or Alexander and be reasonably sure that most of his readers have in their heads the thoughts, stories or images for which he was aiming. The human need for heroes and archetypes does not go away, but their faces change with time, and one avatar takes the place of another. Ika’s point is a shrewd one: in an age of fragmented rather than shared cultures the fan fiction audience is unusual in having as thorough a knowledge of its particularly shared canon as a Bible-reading or classically educated audience once did.
Sheenagh Pugh, The Democratic Genre: Fan Fiction in a Literary Context, p. 219
I recently got asked about podcasts dedicated to YA lit, so I scoured the internet and compiled a handy list for your listening pleasure. I haven’t listened to them, so I don’t know if they’re good or not…let me know which are!
And correct me if any of these aren’t YA dedicated and tell me about any I’ve missed so I can add them. Enjoy!
Adventures in YA -
A podcast about all things young adult literature. (Still running)
Adventures With Words (YA episode monthly) -
Rob and Kate host a fortnightly podcast looking at fiction, poetry, non-fiction and much more. (Still running)
Authors are ROCKSTARS! - Features interviews with young adult authors, book picks from the hosts, as well as rockin’ music that relates to the books spoken about on that month’s program. (Ended)
Book Jawn (Not YA dedicated, but reads more YA books than adult) -
Hosted by booksellers Sarah Sawyers-Lovett and Grace Gordon, Book Jawn Podcast explores new releases and old favorites in literature with plenty of laughter, criticism, and puns. (Still running)
Clear Eyes, Full Shelves - A blog for readers featuring book reviews, television snark, opinions and other nerdiness. (Still running)
A weekly discussion and review of books for children, tweens, and teens by librarians. (Still running)
First Draft with Sarah Enni -
Podcast interview series featuring authors, an epic road trip, music, bookstores, tall tales & more, hosted by Sarah Enni. (Still running)
For most beginning fiction writers, the phrase Write What You Know sounds like advice to produce thinly veiled autobiography. That’s what I heard in those four words, and judging from what many of my MFA classmates churned out back in the day, it’s what they heard, too.
It makes perfect sense; what subject could you know better than yourself? The bitter realization that comes later—if you’re lucky—is that just because something happened in real life does not necessarily mean it will work in a story.
Let me repeat that. Something that happened in real life will not necessarily work in a story.
Kate Southwood, “Write What You Know Is Not Good Advice”
President Bill Clinton at a campaign stop in Philadelphia on the day before the
2016 presidential election. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)
James Patterson has a long history of collaboration. Of his
dozens of books, the blockbuster thriller writer has written at least 50 with the name of a co-author emblazoned on the
cover. Still, it’s fair to say none of them has the resume of the fiction
novice he’s teaming up with now: former President Bill Clinton.
(A table of contents will become available at the end of the series. Recent additions can be found in the meantime in either the posts by pear or the relationships tags. This series will remain open for additional posts and the table of contents up-to-date as new posts are added.)
Part Three: Parents in Literature
Each genre has its own understanding of parents–fantasy rarely has them, literary fiction places them as difficult and illness-riddled obstacles, contemporary fiction uses them as signposts of the past and a character’s origin, and on and on and on. It’s up to you to know what’s common in your genre and to try to work against or embrace those reader expectations.
There are countless tropes about parents, present and otherwise, however the most common–especially in fantasy literature–is the parents who die in a tragedy and the orphaned character is set adrift in the world, injured by the hole in them where their parents used to be. Maybe they know who their parents were, but more frequently, the orphan is plagued by the mystery of who their parents were, and by extension, who they are through their parents’ backgrounds. Often, the orphan sets out to discover the mysteries of their parentage as a major key to the story, and often, they don’t like the answers they find. The orphan owning who they are and who they’ve become through this search, disowning the trouble of their parents is also an exceptionally common outcome.
Absent parents, whether from death or leaving the family, provide an easy answer for writers who want to build tension–there’s emotion already charged in the very situation of missing parents. Alongside that, it’s also common for writers to remove parents from the situation because if they were present and they were good parents, how could the character ever actually go on their adventure, which is the whole point of the book? Getting rid of the parents or getting them out of the way of the story is a common and familiar crutch for writers. The challenge inherent in having present parents is building a plot that takes them into account. All of a sudden, you not only have the will of the main character to go or not go on the journey, but also the snarl of parents who want their children to live happy lives, unscarred and away from danger.
Parents also are often given similar sets of traits: Mothers are keepers of household knowledge, warm and comforting, food-providers, constant and all-loving; fathers are outdoor knowledge, rough, tough, protectors, changeable and unpredictable. Both may hold secret knowledge about the rest of the family. Of course the direct opposites of these descriptions are also very common (the devoted dad and the evil mother), so what I really want to push with bringing this topic up is that your parents are not just “the parents,” but are also people. Make sure your trait list for your character’s parents are broader than these, and in particular, be sure that your parental characters are defined by more than just their parenting. These are people just like the child character, with their own goals and wants and dislikes and fears, and they don’t always have the be directly associated with the child or the child’s future. Don’t let your characters become the tent pole for the trope.
While it would be great to see some deviation from the standard tropes, it’s absolutely possible to still work within the confines of them while changing their portrayal enough to feel new and different. I personally find the Parents Are Useless (Deceased Parents Are the Best) trope(s) dangerous (along with a few others that are more than a bit distasteful), so keep yourself very aware of the message tropes you employ may accidentally be sending to your audience.
It’s important to keep in mind that cultures across the world have each developed a very special connection with the term “parent,” their own definition of what it means to raise and be a guardian for a child. Alongside that comes the variety in the understanding of responsibilities assumed by an individual, or individuals, who are given that title. What is expected of them? For some, the biological parents of a person may not be responsible for some things like providing spiritual guidance; perhaps those tasks are ascribed to an aunt or uncle figure. For others, the community as a whole acts as daily caregivers for the children of everyone in that (often) village, and so each individual becomes the parent for each of those children, whether biologically related or not. Still yet come the influences of kinship systems (of which, there are at least seven worldwide, and likely to be more) which place responsibilities upon the biological parents or community members according to the cultural “rules.” Some only consider the biological mother a part of the family while the father does not have a role with his children; others live with extended family members and not with their biological parents at all; and yet more bring aunts and uncles into the foreground as the acting parents of their siblings’ children.
Since the most recognized and “standard” system is the nuclear family idea (two married people and their children), most stories focus on families also built in this manner, and many of the tropes and tragedies woven into the backgrounds of characters deal with only the nuclear family as it is “supposed” to function and what happens when that breaks. Knowing your tropes and reader expectations is only one part of the battle; figuring out how you can subvert those expectations is another. Take a moment to realize your own ingrained ideas of what it means to be a parents and examine how that relates to the tropes of your chosen genre, what you’re trying to tell, and they perhaps rethink the plate of possibilities you thought you had sitting in front of you. There’s more than you think.
Our fictional universe also turns out to contain words that male authors use to describe female characters but which a woman would rarely use to describe herself or another woman. These words seem to highlight the biggest differences in how male and female authors view the world.
One key word here: interrupted. In each of our three categories (classics, popular fiction and literary fiction), male writers are at least 75% more likely to have their female characters interrupt than their male ones. Meanwhile, female authors didn’t discernibly differ in the frequency with which they have their characters of both genders interrupt.
Similarly, female authors use sob at about the same rate for their male and female characters—but male writers hardly ever use it to describe their own male characters. Male authors seem, consciously or not, to hold that if “real men don’t cry,” then “fictional men don’t sob.”