Friday, September 27, 2013

Author guest post: Book series: to be or not to be (and when to stop being) by Jade Kerrion

Ok, so before I get started on today’s post – I’ve just realized that for the month of September, I’ve been posting a host of author guest posts, blog tour stops and a cover reveal, but no book reviews as of yet.

I’ve been a little scarce on this front due to an eye operation that has seen me out of action for quite a bit. I’m finally back online though and while my vision’s still a little hazy, everything’s pretty much ok from my side, so expect some reviews coming up on the blog soon.

Anyway… on to today’s post.

With the release of her latest book, Perfection Challenged, the fourth book in her Double Helix sci-fi series, author Jade Kerrion, has kindly agreed to stop by to chat about a topic that is constantly being debated: Book series.

Now whether you love them or hate them, book series’ are probably here to stay for a long, long time to come. As an author of a book series herself, Jade’s decided to weigh in on the debate and chats about when books should be a series and when it should all just come to an end.

Check out her post below:

SERIES: To Be or Not To Be (and when to stop being)

If Amazon (the company) were a river and all the books in its vast online repository were drops of water, you wouldn't be able to skim a pebble across its surface without hitting a book that is a part of a series. Series are popular--they work in movies, on TV, and in books--and for good reason.

No one ever likes saying goodbye to the people they've fallen in love with. We like to see our heroes and heroines overcome adversity, and then do it again, and again. Novel series come in at least three different flavors.

1. Standalone books within a series with a rotating focus on various protagonists. Each novel within the series focuses on, and resolves, one major storyline, but the protagonist (usually a side character in one of the other novels) will claim the spotlight for one book within the series instead of all of them.

Romance novels tend to lean this way (after all, happily ever after usually happens only once per couple.) Nora Roberts has written many trilogies of families and friends, with each book focusing on a particular person finding his or her happy ending. Sherrilyn Kenyon does this with her (apparently unending) Dark Hunter series as well.  

2. Standalone books within a series focus on one or two key protagonists. Each novel within the series tackles one major problem and resolves the problem by the end of the book.


Many detective and mystery novels adopt this flavor. As a teenager, I enjoyed Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. These days, I read P.L. Blair's Portals series that features human detective, Kat Morales, and her elven partner, Tevis.

3. Non-standalone books within a series focus on one or two key protagonists, and story is typically best enjoyed in order from the first novel to the last.


Fantasy and science fiction novels, with their sweeping storylines and their tendency to put entire worlds and civilizations at risk of extinction (hey, high stakes, right?) tend to lean in this direction. Each book should resolve a major crisis, but some threads are clearly left trailing as feeders into the next book.

Some of my favorite authors fall into this category, including David Eddings who wrote the Belgariad and Mallorean series, and Neil Gaiman, author of the Sandman. Just about all of my favorite authors are series writers. In hindsight, it’s no surprise that I would, as an author, lean toward writing a series. My Double Helix series is a series of four novels.

When I finished writing the fourth book, I finally tackled the issue I’d been avoiding since November 2010, when I first started writing Double Helix series.

When do you stop?

Sometimes, the answer is easy: “when you save the world.” But what if the answer isn’t as obvious? What if the world careens from crisis to crisis (sounds like our world, doesn’t it?) What if the world always needs saving? 

I wrote the Double Helix series as a blend between a type 3 series (non-standalone) and a type 2 series (standalone.) The fourth book, Perfection Challenged, was actually the transition book between a non-standalone and standalone series. In theory, I could have gone on forever, coming up with yet another crisis for Danyael Sabre, the alpha empath, to handle.

Challenges would always abound in a society transformed by the Genetic Revolution. Danyael would likely encounter most of them, but did he have to be the protagonist?

Let’s segue briefly into another series—Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Legacy series. Occasionally a storyline or plot transcends each book and unifies the series. In Kushiel’s Legacy, it is the rocky path to love and happiness between the heroine, Phedre, and her protector, Joscelin.

That storyline is the single thread that runs through the series, and for the series to end, the thread needs to be neatly knotted by the final book. My readers love Danyael. It was hard to make the decision to move him to the sidelines, yet in practice, I knew that Danyael’s story was done, and for one primary reason.

His story had come a full circle. He dealt with different challenges and antagonists over each of the four books, but the storyline that unified the series—his apparently unrequited love for the assassin Zara Itani—reached its conclusion in the fourth book.

It was my gift to Danyael, the ending he deserved.

“But,” dismayed readers howl, “you haven’t yet done this, or that, or another. You haven’t finished telling all the stories…” I’ve moved the spotlight off Danyael, but that doesn’t mean he won’t appear in a smaller role in another novel.

Spin-offs are popular among series writers.

Some side characters in Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunter series show up as focal characters in her Dream Hunter series. And so it will be for my Double Helix series. I’ve already written a young adult spin-off.

I have others planned, including a standalone series of romantic thrillers featuring mercenaries from Zara’s agency, a novel about Xin, the Machiavellian clone of Fu Hao, a 1,200 BC general, priestess, and queen (busy woman indeed…), and a novel about Galahad, the genetically engineered perfect human being. Inevitably though, those novels and series will someday end.

Quoting one of my favorite characters, Death from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series: “It always ends. That’s what gives it value.”

“The best of the four books…the perfect ending to an amazing series.”

Perfection Challenged
, the thrilling conclusion to the multiple award-winning, bestselling DOUBLE HELIX series, is finally here. Grab your copy today. If you've never picked up the DOUBLE HELIX series, keep reading for a special offer on the six-time award-winning novel, Perfection Unleashed.

perfection-challenged-600x800

PERFECTION CHALLENGED

An alpha empath, Danyael Sabre has survived abominations and super soldiers, terrorists and assassins, but he cannot survive his failing body.

He wants only to live out his final days in peace, but life and the woman he loves, the assassin Zara Itani, have other plans for him. Galahad, the perfect human being created by Pioneer Labs, is branded an international threat, and Danyael is appointed his jury, judge, and executioner.

Danyael alone believes that Galahad can be the salvation that the world needs, but is the empath blinded by the fact that Galahad shares his genes, and the hope that there is something of him in Galahad? In a desperate race against time and his own dying body, 

Danyael struggles to find fragments of good in the perfect human being, and comes to the wrenching realization that his greatest battle will be a battle for the heart of the man who hates him.

E-books available at Amazon / Amazon UK / Apple iTunes / Barnes & Noble / Kobo / Smashwords

Paperbacks available at Amazon / Amazon UK

Perfection Unleashed

PERFECTION UNLEASHED

"Higher octane than Heroes. More heart than X-Men." Recipient of six literary awards, including First place in Science Fiction, Reader Views Literary Awards 2012 and Gold medal winner, Science Fiction, Readers Favorites 2013. FOR A LIMITED TIME, E-BOOKS AVAILABLE FOR JUST $0.99 (Discounted from $2.99)

E-books available at Amazon / Amazon UK / Apple / Barnes & Noble / Kobo / Smashwords

Paperbacks available at Amazon / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Book Depository


Connect with

Jade Kerrion: Website / Facebook / Twitter


*Please note that this post originally appeared on the Double Helix website.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Cover reveal: Shadowplay by Laura Lam

I am in absolute love with the cover I’m revealing on today’s cover reveal post. 

Sometime ago, I read and reviewed Laura Lam’s Pantomime, a mesmerizing and incredibly unique YA fantasy novel that features Micah Grey, a character that breaks all the moulds in YA (can’t really say more without spoiling things for those who haven’t read it yet – although, to give you a clue, the cover of both Pantomime and Shadowplay cleverly say more than what you see ), an incredible story line and a wondrous and magical world where plot twists and turns are just waiting for you around every little corner.

In today’s post, I’m revealing the cover for Shadowplay – the sequel to Pantomime. I can without a doubt, say that it’s one of the most beautiful covers I’ve seen this year so far, and it’s definitely amplifying my excitement for when the book is finally published, which is in January 2014. 

Sigh. We have to wait for just under 3 months? Oh woe is us.

I’m sure it will be worth it though. I’m eager to see where Micah and Drystan’s journey will be taking them next.

For information about Pantomime, you can check out my review and add it to your Goodreads TBR. Laura also wrote a fabulous post on her book world, which I featured on my blog and that is definitely worth checking out.

And now, *drum roll please*…

Here’s the cover for Shadowplay, followed by the official synopsis. Gorgeous, isn’t it?


About Shadowplay


The circus lies behind Micah Grey in dust and ashes.

He and the white clown, Drystan, take refuge with the once-great magician, Jasper Maske. When Maske agrees to teach them his trade, his embittered rival challenges them to a duel which could decide all of their fates.

People also hunt both Micah and the person he was before the circus - the runaway daughter of a noble family. And Micah discovers there is magic and power in the world, far beyond the card tricks and illusions he's perfecting...

A tale of phantom wings, a clockwork hand, and the delicate unfurling of new love, Shadowplay continues Micah Grey’s extraordinary journey.

You can add Shadowplay to your Goodreads TBR pile.

Pre-order your copy of Shadowplay from the following sites:

UK: AmazonThe Book Depository
US: AmazonBarnes and NobleIndieboundPowell’s
Canada: AmazonIndigo
Australia: BookAdda
NZ: Fishpond 

About Laura Lam
Laura Lam was raised near San Francisco, California, by two former Haight-Ashbury hippies.

Both of them encouraged her to finger-paint to her heart’s desire, colour outside of the lines, and consider the library a second home.

This led to an overabundance of daydreams.

She relocated to Scotland to be with her husband, whom she met on the internet when he insulted her taste in books. She almost blocked him but is glad she didn’t. At times she misses the sunshine.

Find Laura here:

Website
Twitter
Facebook
Goodreads

Thursday, September 12, 2013

When the World was Flat (And We Were in Love) Blog tour: On Writing Rituals by Ingrid Jonach

It’s an absolute pleasure to be hosting Ingrid Jonach, author of When the World Was Flat(And We Were in Love), on my blog, as part of her blog tour today.

Now, I don’t know about you, but something that has always intrigued me are the various different writing rituals authors employ when writing.

Questions that run through my mind often include the following: When do they write?, where do they do their best writing?, what times are best for the specific writer?, and what helps them to keep their focus during the time that they’re writing.

On today’s blog tour stop, Ingrid gives us a glimpse into her writing world and tells us a little more about her writing process – including a little info about the snacks she loves to buy (Ha, I love it when authors tell us about their favourite snacks to eat when they’re writing, don’t you?).

Before I hand over the reins, here’s some info about When the World Was Flat (And We Were in Love).

Gorgeous book title, isn’t it?
 
About the book:
Looking back, I wonder if I had an inkling that my life was about to go from ordinary to extraordinary.

When sixteen-year-old Lillie Hart meets the gorgeous and mysterious Tom Windsor-Smith for the first time, it’s like fireworks — for her, anyway.

Tom looks as if he would be more interested in watching paint dry; as if he is bored by her and by her small Nebraskan town in general.

But as Lillie begins to break down the walls of his seemingly impenetrable exterior, she starts to suspect that he holds the answers to her reoccurring nightmares and to the impossible memories which keep bubbling to the surface of her mind — memories of the two of them, together and in love.

When she at last learns the truth about their connection, Lillie discovers that Tom has been hiding an earth-shattering secret; a secret that is bigger — and much more terrifying and beautiful — than the both of them. She also discovers that once you finally understand that the world is round, there is no way to make it flat again.

An epic and deeply original sci-fi romance, taking inspiration from Albert Einstein’s theories and the world-bending wonder of true love itself.

Add When the World Was Flat to your Goodreads TBR pile.

Over to Ingrid

Blog tour post: On writing rituals

A lot of my writing is on the go, which means rituals like where I sit and what is around me are not always an option.

I need to be able to write in the car on the way to visit family interstate. I need to be able to edit a chapter in a café or library without worrying how many pencils I have lined up in front of me and whether they are facing west. I need to be able to crash on the lounge after a long day at work and muster the energy to bash out a few hundred words on my laptop.

Author of the beloved Winnie the Pooh, E. B. White, famously said: A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.

White said he could work with any distractions and often wrote in his living room, which was full of noise from his family. Although, he did admit that he had places he could go if it got too much.

William Faulkner did not wait for inspiration to strike before writing. He said: I write when the spirit moves me and the spirit moves me every day. He did, however, follow a routine when he was writing As I Lay Dying. He would write in the afternoons before he started the night shift as a supervisor at a power plant.

There are authors who crave this kind of routine, as well as solitude while they write. J. K. Rowling checked into the lavish Balmoral Hotel to write Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (and left a message on a bust of Hermes).

Stephen King sits down between 8am and 8.30am every morning to start writing, with a cup of tea or a glass of water.

Roald Dahl wrote in a shed in his garden and would sharpen six yellow pencils before he started writing on the yellow legal pads he had sent to him from New York. 

I admit that while I need to be able to write anywhere at anytime, I can be very ritualistic when it is an option. I will often buy snacks the day before a ‘writing day’ – sliced cheese, stuffed olives, M&Ms and Pepsi Max. This covers both my sweet and savory cravings.

 I find I am more focused if I have something to eat or drink while I am pondering a paragraph or plotting a chapter.

I also spend these writing days in solitude, usually shutting myself in the bedroom where I will sit and write on the bed, with the sunshine coming through the window. I will often change my scenery halfway through the day, to give myself a shake up.

This often means moving into the lounge room, but I have to resist turning on the TV. If I do, the solitude is broken by Keeping up with the Kardashians or Dr. Phil (my not-so-secret shame!).

Thanks for having me be part of the blog tour Ingrid.

About Ingrid: 
Ingrid Jonach writes books for children and young adults, including the chapter books The Frank Frankie and Frankie goes to France published by Pan Macmillan, and When the World was Flat (and we were in love) published by Strange Chemistry.

Since graduating from university with a Bachelor of Arts in Professional Writing (Hons) in 2005, Ingrid has worked as a journalist and in public relations, as well as for the Australian Government.

Ingrid loves to promote reading and writing, and has been a guest speaker at a number of schools and literary festivals across Australia, where she lives with her husband Craig and their pug dog Mooshi.

Despite her best efforts, neither Craig nor Mooshi read fiction.

Find out more at www.ingridjonach.com

You can also follow her on Twitter, and find her on Goodreads.

To check out the rest of the blog tour schedule, click on the banner below.





Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Author guest post: Why the Twilight hate needs to stop (Part 2)

Without further ado, here is the second part of South African YA author Joanne Macgregor’s guest post on The Twilight Franchise.

To find out what got this age-old debate started up again, head on over to part 1 of this post.

Over to Joanne.  

She is condemned because her heroine isn’t “feminist enough” (as if there were some calibrated thermometer), though heaven help the writer whose heroines are “too feminist”!

I don’t know if the definition has changed, but last time I looked, being a feminist included such things as making your own choices, according to your values, and not succumbing to individual or societal pressure to conform to a set of “suitable” standards.

Bella does this.

She dates who she wants, though everyone else judges her. She trusts her own judgement.

She refuses to exclude her male friend from her life when her boyfriend desires this, and refuses to drop her boyfriend when her male friend, his father, her father, the community, the mostly male “pack” demand it.

She insists on going to college. She holds out on marriage for years despite enormous pressure. She takes charge of her sexuality and pushes for a sexual relationship.

She isn’t scared to show her intelligence to her love-interest or to disagree with him. She makes her own decision about whether or not to keep her pregnancy, despite pressure from all quarters. She busts a gut trying to survive as both a mother and an individual.

She saves her partner and his family and hers on more than one occasion. I don’t know what else critics expect her to do – what they would do, I suspect, but this is not their story. It is hers.

If I bring my shrink brain to bear on trying to understand why else Meyer has come in for such ill-will and enmity, I come up with some other theories.

The books are not about traditional tropes, they have subverted many of them and made them much more to do about issues which are of deep concern to women.

Whether or not she did it consciously, Meyer has encapsulated, in mythical terms, a dilemma which, like it or not, faces every girl and woman.

The truth is, in real life you are more likely to be harmed, hurt, bruised and killed by your boyfriend or husband than any other person on the planet.

The danger is domestic, it’s here and now – stalking you in your bedroom, your kitchen, your school. It’s not some in some castle comfortably distant in Transylvania.

 The person most likely to abuse or even murder you, is the very one you may love most deeply.

How do we, as women, get our heads around that fact? How can women love men when men may be dangerous, how can we trust when we cannot be sure, how can we return even when we have been battered?

And how can the man who says he loves you with all his heart, sometimes, in some small or not-so-small piece of himself, maybe want you dead?

Specifically, in the books, Bella could die from sleeping with Edward. So can we all, if we make unwise choices in our sexual lives.

There have been some truly interesting analyses of the Twilight books in terms of AIDS, Edward being the outsider who never asked to be infected and who could himself spread the contagion to his beloved, how it seems it will stop him from having children in cause he passes the illness to his offspring, etc., and they are worth reading.

So Bella falls for someone who she thinks is fabulous, who says he loves and wants to protect her, especially from himself – because Edward recognises that he, himself, poses the biggest threat to her.

This is a fascinating theme, but not one that people are necessarily comfortable acknowledging or exploring, so they get very judgy about Edward hanging about in Bella’s room, watching her sleep.

Of course this is odd behaviour – in real life.

But this is not real-life – it’s a freaking story! You don’t expect teens who read the Hunger Games to start killing each other, and teens who read Twilight will not find it unremarkable or un-creepy should they discover a man huddling in their curtains.

But on a deeper level, many young and older women we do have stalkers in their bedrooms – literally and metaphorically.

I have worked with women patients whose husbands/lovers follow them, check their phones, inspect their underwear, demand an accounting of time and money, plant tracking devices and apps in phones and cars, hire private investigators, and sometimes – yes, it happens – just stand and watch their female partners.

Girls and women want to be in love, to be loved AND to be safe. Edward offers this – he tries to have himself destroyed when he realizes how the intersection of his life with Bella’s endangers her.

In him you have the hero who loves you, who will protect you from all dangers, including and especially that posed from himself. No wonder he is such an appealing hero!
But the intimate-enemy is not the only theme that Meyer examines.

How about all that messy blood, all over the place?

How about that if/(when?) you are targeted by strange men who follow you and intend you serious harm, that you cannot rely on your male partner to rescue you, and that if he does, you may have to dissuade him from going back to wreak murderous revenge – I often see this in the male partners and brothers and husbands of rape victims, for example, and it contributes in no small way to secrecy and under-reporting.

Something else which is a serious threat most women will have to contend with – is having children. Oh sweet heaven, I can already hear the outrage from all quarters, but hear me out.    


Being pregnant comes with risks.

To some small degree, all foetuses feed on and may strip nutrients such as calcium from their mothers.

They certainly leach energy! And there may even be risks to life in carrying a foetus to term – something not many YA books even conceive of.

Giving birth is both profoundly natural and unarguably dangerous, and many women have a deep, archetypal fear of death in the days before birth.

Symbolically, or figuratively, many women experience some “deaths” after they have a child – they may struggle to maintain their own, individual identity apart from their roles as wife and mother; they are likely to lose the body shape they had pre-pregnancy; they will lose time and energy and money for themselves; their careers may be put on the back burner.

Everything changes when that baby comes out and some parts of your identity and lifestyle “die”. Most women eventually understand these “necessary griefs”, and embrace them as part of the joy and fulfilment and never—ending worry and hard slog that comes with being a parent.

Many women, however, suffer intensely with post-partum depression for these and other, biological, reasons.

We are so conditioned, as consumers of popular culture, to expect the big climactic fight-ending in which people are attacked, shot, blown up and everything is “resolved” by means of (dare I say it?) testosterone-fuelled force, that Meyer has been criticised for crafting a different series-ending – a non-violent, negotiated settlement.

But surely it is just as valid, and probably a good deal healthier, to talk your way through and out of dangerous situations.  Why can’t characters live to fight another day?
 

No, the books aren’t perfect – either in terms of their ideas or their writing.

But many books aren’t.

Arguably, none are. Are they the best books ever written for young adults? Certainly not, in my opinion. Is Bella my favourite heroine of all time? No.

But she’s not my worst. Many books have much dodgier content (torture-porn anyone?) but don’t come in for the same vitriol, especially directed at the author personally.

We’re allowed to love or hate or be completely indifferent these books according to our own tastes. 

We’re allowed not to be drawn to reading certain books or genres, but I think it’s damn unfair to criticise work you’ve never read, and it’s never acceptable to attack authors personally for not writing a story you approve of.

And it becomes sad and obnoxious to shame readers for reading and enjoying whatever pleases them.

Here’s what I have to say to the critics sitting so smugly on their moral high-horses: You want stories where the female protagonists are less passive active, more kick-ass, more outspoken, less blinded by love and more determined to change the world?

Good! Go write them. (I did!)


Thanks for stopping by Joanne. So glad to have you on the blog today!


About Joanne:
When not writing books,  Joanne Macgregor is a Counselling Psychologist in private practice in Johannesburg, South Africa, where she deals mainly with victims of crime and trauma. It’s tough work and her brain escapes by dreaming up stories when she’s not consulting.


 She started her professional life as a high school English teacher, and has also been an IT trainer, theatre dogsbody, and a business consultant.

She has always been in love with words and with nature, and is a pretty good cook.


 Joanne’s published books for Young Adult readers are Turtle Walk (Protea, 2011), and its sequel Rock Steady (Protea, 2013).

She has also written two books for younger middle grade readers: Jemima Jones and the Great Bear Adventure (eKhaya, 2012), and Jemima Jones and the Revolving Door of Doom, both of which are available as ebooks. Her first book for adults, Dark Whispers, is due out early next year.

Where you can find her:
Website
Twitter

Disclaimer:
This post originally appeared on Women24.com, a South African women's lifestyle website where I manage, amongst other things, an online books section.  


What are your thoughts on Twilight? Do you think Meyer is still being unfairly maligned for writing a series that got many people reading? Is the vitriol justified? Or has the ship sailed on this topic? I’d love to hear your thought on this – whatever they may be.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Author guest post: Why the Twilight hate needs to stop (Part 1)

Today’s guest post is quite an interesting one about the Twilight book series.

Now I know that many people consider this topic one that’s (a), old and (b), done to death, but having had a recent conversation with some lovely Twitter book folk, we all came to the conclusion that there is a lot that’s still left to be said for a series that has garnered so much love and so much hate over the past couple of years.

The specific conversation that started a few weeks back, was one which sparked a shared amount of empathy for Stephanie Meyer after reading an interview, which mind you, was actually about her production company and the direction she’s currently in.

In this specific interview, it wasn’t about what Stephanie said that counted, but more about what was not being said that we found decidedly disheartening.

In the interview, Stephanie confessed to feeling rather burnt out on writing. In another interview, one which followed on shortly, she went on to add that she was so over the Twilight saga.

Naturally some backlash followed.

Of course she didn’t mean that she wasn’t grateful for the success or the fans, but what she did confess to feeling, was that the amount of vitriol directed towards her and the book series was something that simply didn’t leave her feeling like she was in a good writing space anymore.

And that’s where our debate started.

Because, let’s face it. Twilight has opened up a lot of doors to many YA authors out there. Many people still don’t realise that if it wasn’t for this series, our teens and young adults out there would probably not be reading as much as they do today.

While I certainly loved the series back when I first read it, I recognised (and still do) that the book had its flaws. That, however, didn’t stop me from enjoying the books.

Then again, I’ve also never really bought into the belief that there is a singular perfect book out there; but unfortunately it just so happens that because Stephanie Meyer became so successful as a result of the franchise, it just seemed incredibly easy to make her a target for all the vitriol that she’s had to face ever since.

Never mind the fact that she’s also a successful, female author – which is another topic entirely on its own.

Honestly speaking amongst my fellow peers, we all agreed that there were and are books that are far worse than Twilight that somehow managed to get published and have never received the amount of large-scale hatred her book series seems to have begotten.

In light of this, one of my fellow and lovely book followers (who also happens to be a South African YA author), Joanne Macgregor has written a response to the debate that we had.

This post is quite long, so I’ve decided to break it up into different parts. 


Why you need to stop hating Twilight – Part 1
... especially if you've jumped on the "I-haven't-read-the-book-but-I-have-an-opinion-on-it-anyway " bandwagon.

I’ve watched, over the years, as Stephanie Meyer has been targeted, in the most ugly, vitriolic and personal way for her books, and I’ve wondered about it lot.

Often the criticism comes from people she never wrote the book for – adult men, teen boys, literature professors, and way too often it comes from people who have never even read the books.

Which counts as a sin in my world philosophy.


It’s become so bad that Twilight and Twihard-bashing has assumed a life of its own, independent of the books and any literary merit they may or may not possess.

So Twilight has become dismissive, judgy shorthand for the opposite of “good”, or “thoughtful” or “adult” or “quality”.

Which is really strange and makes me uneasy.

The books never claimed to be literary or intended for an adult audience, they never claimed to be more than an engrossing love story for teens, and mostly teen girls since these are the typical readers of high-schoolers in love.

So where does all the hating stem from?


Partly, I think it’s pure jealousy and sour grapes. Stephanie Meyer didn’t “pay her dues”. She hadn’t written a bunch of books before she struck it big (ala Suzan Collins), or been a single, unemployed mother eking out a single coffee in a warm coffee shop (JK Rowling), and she hadn’t been sweating at it for years receiving hundreds of rejections (like most writers).

She just dreamed (literally) the essence of a story, wrote it down, and after a handle of rejections, landed a four-book, bum-in-the-butter deal. Some writers, I sometimes think, want other writers to suffer – success shouldn’t come too easy.

I say, good for her! Lucky thing to dream of boy vampires sparkling in meadows – my nightly visions tend to be disappointingly mundane.

But it wasn’t just luck – she wrote and finished the book. And then she conceptualised and finished another three. And there was something about them that hit a nerve with millions of readers across many cultures worldwide.

To say that the books are junk is to insult that massive group of readers – and I am just paranoid enough to say that’s part of the (unconscious) agenda here.

Just one in thousands of ways in which women and girls are put back into their (“stupid, superficial, ridiculous”) place.

Romance writing generally suffers from this prejudice.

Write a book where armies massacre aliens or blow up the world, or comic-book heroes do frankly ridiculous feats – you’re good. Write a book which celebrates romance, love and messy “female” feelings – you’re a light-weight, the book is automatically drivel and its audience is, by extension, lamentable.

I’m going to go on record saying the apparently unsayable and the definitely unpopular – the books are perfectly competently written.

They have a coherent plot, consistent voice and interesting characters. I have read scores and scores of books, traditionally published that are so much worse than Meyer’s fare.

They are badly edited, inadequately conceptualized, full of one-dimensional characters and story-wide plot-holes. And they have come in for none of the criticism directed at Meyer. Why? 


Maybe because their authors made less money and thus provoked less envy.

Yes, her teenage protagonist raves on and on about her hot boyfriend.  


Show me a teen who doesn’t admire, idolise and rave blindly about their crush.

That’s what it’s like for many teens, and it’s nothing new.

Back (wayyy back) when I was at school, we would procure our crush’s timetable and hang about outside his classrooms between periods hoping to catch a glimpse of him, we’d write his name on pencil cases, on desks, on school bags – some girls carved onto their arms with compasses so his name would be spelled out in scabs and scars!

We’d practise signing our first names with his surname, obsess with friends about what his look or comment or call might mean, wonder whether he knew we existed, pray that he would ask us to dance at the party.

We’d go moony-eyed when we day-dreamed about him, and endlessly chat to our friends about how handsome, gorgeous, amazing, talented, good he was.

From my interactions with modern teenagers, not that very much has changed in essence. 


Actually, there are neurological reasons why the brains of teens are over-developed in the areas of emotion and memory, and not yet fully-developed in the areas of logic, rationality, and self-control.

 As adults, we might find this obsessive or funny, but it’s not stupid or deplorable or pitiful.

The world would be a better place if we held onto more of our adolescent love and idealism!

Meyer captures this experience well. Not everyone, perhaps was like this, or – more probably – remembers that they were.

But she can’t be blamed for nailing down the emotional roller-coaster that millions of teens immediately recognised at first read.

She is condemned for not writing Life Orientation textbooks (what teenage girls should do when they are stalked) rather than a fantasy novel. It’s a strange double-standard that, again, other authors don’t come in for this criticism.

Has anyone tackled JR Rowling because her 11 year-old protagonist goes off in a boat for parts unknown with a large, male stranger who has broken his way into the place where the boy is with his family, threatened them with violence and left another young boy with a severe disfigurement?

No! Because it’s a story, not a how-to guide on dealing with stranger-danger.

(CLICK HERE TO READ PART 2) 


About Joanne:
When not writing books,  Joanne Macgregor is a Counselling Psychologist in private practice in Johannesburg, South Africa, where she deals mainly with victims of crime and trauma. It’s tough work and her brain escapes by dreaming up stories when she’s not consulting.


 She started her professional life as a high school English teacher, and has also been an IT trainer, theatre dogsbody, and a business consultant. 

She has always been in love with words and with nature, and is a pretty good cook.


 Joanne’s published books for Young Adult readers are Turtle Walk (Protea, 2011), and its sequel Rock Steady (Protea, 2013).

She has also written two books for younger middle grade readers: Jemima Jones and the Great Bear Adventure (eKhaya, 2012), and Jemima Jones and the Revolving Door of Doom, both of which are available as ebooks. Her first book for adults, Dark Whispers, is due out early next year.

Where you can find her:
Website
Twitter

Disclaimer:
This post originally appeared on Women24.com, a South African women's lifestyle website where I manage, amongst other things, an online books section.  


What are your thoughts on Twilight? Do you think Meyer is still being unfairly maligned for writing a series that got many people reading? Is the vitriol justified? Or has the ship sailed on this topic? I’d love to hear your thought on this – whatever they may be.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones pre-screening movie tickets giveaway

Hello book blogging lovelies

It’s been a while since I’ve done a giveaway on the blog, so I’m really excited about this one. Oh, and also, because it’s been such a long time since I’ve done one, not only will this not be the only giveaway for September, but I’ll be running another comp on the blog next week for a gritty YA novel that I’ll be reading and reviewing over the weekend.

… But, more details on that later.

In today’s giveaway, the fabulous folk from Pan Macmillan South Africa have given me the awesome opportunity to host a competition in which you can win movie tickets to check out an exclusive pre-screening of the City of Bones movie.

Now, most of you would have seen that this movie has already been released in some parts of the country, but here, the actual release date for it is the 13th of September.

However, if you enter this giveaway, you’ll stand a chance to win tickets to see the screening on the 11th of September – a good two days before the time.


Rules and details of the giveaway are as follows:


This giveaway is only open to residents in South Africa, who are either based in Cape Town, Johannesburg or Durban.

Those in Cape Town will be joining me, while those based in Johannesburg and Durban will most likely bump into the lovely folk from Pan Macmillan.

There are 5 tickets up for grab for each screenings in the different cities.

The venue for where the screenings will take place are as follows:

Cape Town:
Nu Metro
Canal Walk
Time: 8pm

Durban:
Nu Metro
Galleria
Time: 8pm

Johannesburg:
Nu Metro
Monte Casino
Time: 8pm

Please only enter if you really have the intention of going.
I certainly wouldn’t want to select a winner only for you to end up not going!

Conditions for this giveaway:


1. Leave a comment on this post.

2. For an additional entry, it would be great if you could give the wonderful publishers from Pan Macmillan your support by liking them on Facebook and following them on Twitter.

Giveaway ends Monday, 9th September.

And that’s all there is to it!

P.S. Fret not lovely international bloggers.  I’ve got something coming up that will definitely include you as well.

Enter away bookish friends.

- Tammy