Monday, February 28, 2011

The "Twilight" Effect, Part 2

A boy would not pick this up!
Girls vs Boys

Now what? I'm seeing more YA paranormal books with strong female leads. I still see vampires, but now I'm noticing other creatures of mythology like trolls and even evil unicorns being featured. Aren't we sick of vampires yet? Geez!

It looks like the second wave of authors might be capitalizing on the popularity of a genre - a genre that might seem new, but it's really not. Writers are taking it to the next level with stronger, more defined female leads. Romance is such a necessity within this genre, but maybe less love triangles. Despite the difference, they will stil draw comparisons to Twilight.

Personally, I wonder if we're leaving out young male readers in the current YA paranormal frenzy. I remember not really finding a whole lot for me when I was in high school - other than Robert Cormier and maybe Richard Peck. If a book looked like it was targeting girls, I wouldn't touch it. On the other hand, girls read "boy" books all the time. Double-standard, I know.

I don't have any stats, but I'm pretty sure girls buy more books than guys. Authors can go ahead and create a great book geared exclusively for girls - plaster a gorgeous svelte woman on the cover and the sales will still come. They don't need boys to buy their books.

Adolescent female readers are much more likely to pick up a book that looks more "masculine" than a guy picking up a novel with a hot chick and muscular leading man on the cover. Just a personal observation. A girl is more likely to read Westerfield's Leviathan than a boy is going to check out Moulton's Angelfire. Just sayin'!

Many girls liked Harry Potter because of the character of Hermione. They had no problem with the cover and title depicting a geeky looking boy with glasses. But if J.K. Rowling had called the book "Hermione Granger" and plastered the covers with a girl, I highly doubt you'd have nearly as many boys reading it. Why?

I guess it's the same reason it's cool for a girl to wear a guy's jacket.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

My Website's New Address

I just had to get rid of that fugly "blogspot" with my website's address.

So it's official: http://www.jaynoel.com/ is up and running!

Friday, February 25, 2011

The "Twilight" Effect, Part 1

I hope to not make enemies with this post, but I'm trying to make sense of the Young Adult literature world right now. Having been a high school English teacher, I've been surrounded by YA books for so long and that's why it's very natural for me to write in the YA world.

But in a very short amount of time in the last several years, the genre has done a whole lotta changing.

Going back to Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling was sheer genius. She took many fantasy elements that have grown to become cliche and put a whole spin on it. After the success of her books, we saw a slew of books with a young outsider boy learning of his magical lineage, then going off to a school and becoming the badass that the "prophecy" said he would be. Rick Riordan anybody??? (I really do like Riordan, and my oldest son does too. I grew up reading Greek mythology, so I can't help but love Riordan's books).

I won't say Riordan is a copy-cat. Let's be honest here, though. The popularity of his Percy Jackson books rode the Harry Potter coattails for sure. The whole special school for special kids has been done before (i.e. 1985's Ender's Game), but Rowling made that setting a had-to-have for a ton of books that followd.

Which brings me to Twilight. I tried to read the first book, but I just couldn't get through it all. I understood immediately why so many young women (and even many women my age) love the books. It captures female teenage angst extremely well. The adolescent longing, and maybe the reader's secret desire, for a tremendously hot dude that not only saves your life, but also makes you tingle in all your nooks and crannies.

Let me preface this before I continue. This post is NOT intended to be Twilight bashing. I give Stephanie Meyer proper credit, but the fact that her saga has catipulted the genre, I cannot ignore the influence she has had on the YA publishing world.

Personally, I just couldn't get through this book. So many things really just bothered the hell out of me. Meyer is no dummy, however. Her story plays on many of the themes that resonnate with adolescent female desires and challenges. The way Meyer left Bella's physical characteristics undefined was also genius, as it sort of becomes a 1st person sort of deal where the reader can enter the character of Bella.

And having dealt with so many of my teenage female students' dramas (I was also a high school girls tennis coach), I can identify an abusive relationship when I see one. And Bella is pretty much abused by Edward (who is technically a pedophile). But hey, the guy is hot. That's all that matters, right?

Bella is a whiny little shit that really needs to be bitch-slapped. She's a horrible example for young women, in my opinion. I know that Meyer never intended Bella to be such a model example for teen girls to follow, but at the same time it is entirely naive to think the character's influence will not affect the young readers. The books glorify a weak pathetic girl in a relationshp with an abusive, stalking vampire. But the fact that he's amazinginly good looking makes it all OK. The movies help with the glorifying, maybe even magnifies it. So I do acknowledge that.

It's disturbing now to see all the novels coming out riding the Twilight coattails now, redifining love in their storylines. Adolescence really is such a dramatic time in one's life, where everything is felt 100 times deeper once the rational mind catches up. But these books glorify such a warped idea of love, which really isn't love. It's lust. Looks are the most important thing. And guys can treat you like shit as long as they're hot.

Is this the current state of YA literature these days? 

Part 2 will be my attempt to answer that.

Have a fantastic weekend!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"V" for "Very Bad."

As a child of the 80s and a science fiction lover, the TV movie and subsequent TV show V was really a lot of fun. The story of aliens that looked human and promised to come in peace but were really lizards that wanted to suck Earth of its resources and people (as a delicious food source) was awesome!

The V franchise was really about one thing - everyday humans banding together to fight against a common enemy (that also happened to be human-eating lizards). How cool is that? Machine gun fights, spaceship wars, and the human underdogs against a technologically superior race. Lots of fun. The local baker, plumber, and even janitor became legendary heroes when Earth needed them most.

So when the new V series came out in 2009, I was excited. With 21st century special effects, I was sure to get a nice shot of nostalgia and sci-fi goodness. I was looking forward to this reboot.

Holy crap I was wrong. The new show  sucks. It sucks bad. It sucks atomic donkey balls.

The plot moves ever so slowly...it's more psycho-drama now. And I'm tired of whiny humans worrying about collateral damage and not sinking to the Vs level, and blah blah blah. Where's the lizard ass kicking? Where are the machine gun vs laser gun battles?

And the V's leader, whats-her-name, even referred to herself and her race as a V to another V in private conversation. That's stupid. "V" stands for "visitor." That's what the earthlings nicknamed them. Do you think illegal immigrants refer each other as "illegal aliens" in private?

I don't expect this show to last much longer, as it seems many agree with my opinion. That's why I'm so weary of reboots of any sort. Voltron is coming out again this year. Transformers has been OK, but not very good. Superman Returns sucked even worse than the new V. Don't get me started on Speed Racer. Star Trek was actually pretty good, but not great. The only franchise I can think of at this moment that had a great reboot is the Batman/Dark Knight series by Nolan. The rest are just horrible.

What's next, a Wonder Woman reboot?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Land of Confusion

I'm about 260 pages deep in my latest project, a young adult fantasy/sci-fi steampunkish novel, The Dragonfly Warrior. So far so good, but holy cow, I've lost track of some things. Like what day it is (or how many days have passed between certain scenes), what does this minor character look like, and other fine details that I did not write down.

I'm not a big outliner, and I did create a flow chart of major events for my manuscript. I did also list all my characters. Funny thing is, I've stuck to maybe 50% of what I've plotted out. For some reason, the writing of a major story arc surrounded by sub-plots is more of an organic process for me that I originally thought. For me, I'm at home with flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants-writing.  All I can say is, thank God I can type very fast without looking at the keyboard. Otherwise, I'd be a goner!

So I've scoured the internets from various writers and editors. There's tons of software I could use to map out and track stuff, and there are many kinds of spreadsheets and tools I could employ. I think what I'm going to do, for now anyway, is go back chapter-by-chapter, scene by scene, and extract specific bits. Then put those bits into a table of some sort. Things I will track in my chart will be date/time, characters involved, quick plot points, important details (foreshadowing points), and major theme flow.

Kay Kenyon, author of the Entire and the Rose fantasy-sci fiction series, said that she does something like this. Not a chart, but a chapter-by-chapter list. And I think it will work for me. If not, I'll just try something else. Writing my first manuscript in two years has been fun and frustrating, but overall, I think I'm learning about my own personal creative process.

*If you haven't already, you NEED to read Key Kenyon's books. They are awesome. In fact, the first book Bright of the Sky is FREE on Amazon.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Run for the Border! (If ya still got one)

We saw this coming from a long way away, as Borders seemed to make a lot of very stupid (or late) business decisions that hurt profits. The biggest misstep was not acknowledging that the whole market was transforming before their very eyes. They were late in developing their eBook marketplace. They clearly lagged behind Amazon, Apple, and of course Barnes & Noble in adapting their business model to the changes of how people get books.

Even if you ignore the company being sold to Kmart back in the 90s, their ill-fated purchase of a toy retailer, or even their holding on to cash-drainer Waldenbooks.

Underestimating the power of ebooks killed them.

To put it bluntly, Borders was getting its retail ass kicked for the last several years and then took a swift strike to the balls in the last twenty four months.

I hope to write more on the topic of the changing publishing world as I learn more about where it is today and where it's going in the near future. But readers have more choices these days - and they want their content right NOW. If retailers and publishers don't get with it, they will follow the dark and depressing path Borders is treading on today.

Here's an official list of Borders stores that are closing.  If you have a Borders gift card, you probably should go spend it now.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Frustrations and Passions

I have always been a storyteller. Always
It's in my blood, and after so many years of trying and failing, and trying again and yet failing again, I've decided to make a real effort to write.
Okay, and I want to be published too.
How many of us are out there?  Geez. I was a high school English teacher at one time. I could count on two hands how many of us in that English department had pursued being the next Hemingway. 
I wrote a novel in college. It was 400-something pages. I read it. It was crap. So I dumped it.
I wrote started another novel in the late 90s. It was really good. But then I saw the previews for a TV show called "Alias." Yes, the one that made Jennifer Gardner a star. The storyline was identical to my manuscript.
So I dumped it too.
Then in 2008, I actually had a small publisher interested in my writing. Someone there was a fan of my old blog and podcasts and wanted me to write a novel. Of course, I was already 100 pages along in a fantastic idea of mine.
Months later, I saw previews for a movie titled "Push." Damn the luck. The storyline was identical to my manuscript again. So I dumped that one as well. Almost two years later, I thought about bringing that novel back to life. But recently, I saw a preview for a movie called "I am Number Four." Well crap. That movie is even MORE identical to that manuscript.
So I dumped the idea of writing an already dumped novel.

So now here I am again. Trying to be original. Trying to finish what I've started.
And gosh darn it...I've got some stories to tell