Young Adult vs. Middle Grade

So until about three years ago, I’d never heard of the term “middle grade.” Young Adult fantasy had always been my favorite genre – or so I’d thought. Until I started researching agents and discovered a whole new freaking genre that I’d been reading all along and never knew it wasn’t YA.

To me, the lines dividing Young Adult and Middle Grade can be fuzzy, although most agents and publishers are pretty firm on distinguishing one from the other when you’re submitting a manuscript. Here’s a little of what I learned when looking to define the two categories. These are the points that matter the most to me in identifying whether a story is YA or MG – like I said, it’s not always clear to my strange little mind, but others might have entirely different opinions.

  • Age of the characters. MG characters are around pre-teen age or even early teens, while YA characters are usually 16 or 17.
  • Romantic elements. Although there can be romance in a MG story, it’s usually just lightly touched upon, while the main focus is on the action. YA books usually have some sort of romance, with the romantic element being a main theme for many YA stories.
  • Story and plot. This is where it sometimes gets fuzzy for me, and I’d think I was reading a YA book when in fact it was MG. Younger readers are smarter than a lot of people give them credit for, and you might be surprised at some of the themes that MG books touch on. A few can get pretty dark, and most are quite complicated. What I think should be the line that divides the two categories is the way the themes are presented. Some particularly dark, violent, or disturbing themes should really be saved until the reader is older and better able to handle them.

Other writing elements, like voice and length, can also define a YA or MG book, but to me the above three are what I look at the most. And I really do have a point to all this rambling: recently I’ve had to look carefully at The Moongate to decide if it’s really the YA book I’ve always thought it was – or if it fits more into the MG category. (I’ll also include Cobalt, because I meant for that one to be MG from the very beginning.)

  • Age. In The Moongate, the main character Nissa is 16, and most of the supporting characters are the same age or older. (In Cobalt, Kate’s almost 13. Her friends are a little older, 15 and 16. I purposefully wrote it that way so the story might appeal to older readers as well.)
  • Romance. An editor told me the lack of romantic tension in The Moongate (as well as Nissa’s voice) confused their readers as to my intended target audience. She told me that as a rule there should be at least some hint of romantic tension in a YA story. Originally, there was some romantic tension between Nissa and Theryn, which I simplified to just plain tension. I have to respectfully disagree with her on that point, with at least some books. I’ve read plenty of obvious YA series that don’t have any romance until at least the second book, sometimes even the third. What this editor couldn’t know is that in The Moongate‘s sequel, romantic tension suddenly ambushes Nissa like nobody’s business and she’s like what the crud(In Cobalt, there’s romance between the older characters and even kissing! *giggles*)
  • Story. Plenty of action and suspense in The Moongate that could work in either genre, I guess, although I don’t feel some of the violence in the sequel is appropriate for the MG category. (Cobalt gets pretty dark and spooky, but that’s on purpose. Scary stories are fun!)

Because of the editor’s feedback, I’ve planned out a complete rewrite of the first half of The Moongate – I’m not talking your general revisions and junk, but a literal do over. I’m changing the whole story so it fits more into the YA mold, because I’m just digging in my heels where that’s concerned – even if it does seem that MG fantasy is my favorite genre. 🙂 I’m excited about the change, and my toughest critic (besides myself), Lia, also approves.

Here are a few of my favorite stories that are either strictly MG or, in my opinion, sit on that fuzzy line between the two genres:

In 13 Treasures, the characters range in age from 12 to 14, and they all age about a year in the course of the trilogy. It’s a well-written, adventurous Middle Grade story about fairies who aren’t all sweet and pretty like they are in fairy tales. The climactic scene in the first book would have given me nightmares as a 12-year-old!

The main character is 11 or 12 at the beginning of this series, which I haven’t finished reading yet. Time passes as the books continue, and at the point I left off, there were hints of romance. As you can tell by this cover, the books are deliciously scary, with themes that many kids have to face, like the death of a parent, betrayal, and confronting your worst fears.
You can tell just by the prologue in Bones of Faerie that the story is going to be heartbreaking and mature. This is one of those stories that hovers between MG and YA; the main character, Liza, is 15 in the first book. By the end of the second book, the romantic “requirement” for YA catches up quite nicely. The dark horror elements in this story inspired the bloodthirsty Forest in Cobalt.

As most people know, Harry’s 11 when he gets his Hogwarts letter. The first few books fit right into the MG mold, with intelligent, dark, and scary plots. Romance is introduced as the characters age, and as the plots get darker, more mature, and more dangerous, I think the books themselves shift to YA. But of course, Harry Potter is loved by readers of all ages.

12-year-old genius protag Artemis Fowl fits the MG age, but because he’s so intelligent, the story’s voice follows suit. The result is a brilliant series that crosses the border to fit comfortably into both MG and YA worlds. Artemis ages throughout the series, but there’s little romance (although there are hints now and then). Instead, the amazing action, wit, and genius carry the plot for the entire series.

What are your thoughts on how Middle Grade compares to Young Adult?

Any favorite Middle Grade books, or examples of some that could go either way?

Do you have any opinions on the rule of Young Adult always including some sort of romantic tension?

This time last year:

Cobalt Gets the Lia Treatment – Again – My 8yo was reading out loud over my shoulder, almost doubling up with laughter. “Did you write this?” he gasped. Lia became his new favorite author when I told him who really wrote the scene.

Happy Steampunk Christmas!

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Being Your Own Reviewer?

A random thought hit me in the brain today. I’m still rubbing the bruise. What if…as an author, you wrote a review of your own book on sites like Amazon and Goodreads? I’m sure that happens actually, an author could totally boost their ratings by making up fake screen names and writing reviews on their stuff, right? I wouldn’t (who has time for that anyway, gotta write!), but I thought it would be funny to make up false (as in, they would never actually get posted) reviews for my books.

For example:

The Moongate

The honest review: 4 stars. Would give it 3 1/2 stars if I had that option. Pretty good story overall, but you can tell it’s the author’s first book. She likes fairies and unicorns a little bit too much – she probably collects them. (true enough) Still, it had its fair share of action and conflict, so I’m looking forward to the sequel!

The fake review: 5 STARS OMG!!1! Best book I’ve ever read! I can’t wait for the next one to come out! The characters are soooo awesome and hawt and I’m like team Theryn all the way even though there’s no love triangle! When is there gonna be a movie?!

( I rarely do that; I’m usually a 4-star reviewer if I like the book. Unless it’s Harry Potter or The Hunger Games, then I’m one of those raving 5-star fans. Most of us could use a little bit of constructive criticism!)

The snarky Goodreads review: 1 star, and if I could give it 0 I would. Or negative 50 billion. Can we say Mary Sue? This author needs a serious trip to reality-ville. Or she’s on a serious trip. I read somewhere that she’s a Mormon stay-at-home mom with no English degree, so it’s obvious she’s just trying to cash in on the success of Twilight!

(First time I ever heard of the description Mary Sue was when I was writing The Moongate’s first draft. For weeks I obsessed over whether Nissa was a Mary Sue. I did all the tests to see if she was, I lost sleep over it, and I’ll admit I even cried over it. In the end, I accepted that if this book ever gets published, some people will probably think she’s a Mary Sue and others will think she’s all right. At least she’s likable.)

Cobalt

The honest review: 4 solid stars. (Told you I like giving out 4 stars!) Now we’re talking. The author has a few books under her belt now, her writing is more solid, and the action and imagination in the plot make up for her slight difficulties in character development. Plus – killer trees and airships! Pretty cool. Good introduction to lighthearted steampunk for the tween to young adult.

The fake review: 5++++!!! There are goggles and airship pirates and gears and corsets! This book is so steampunk it makes me want to barf cogs.

The snarky Goodreads review: A big fat zero in the shape of a clock gear. Obviously this author thinks she’s a steampunk just because she’s friends with some of the members of Abney Park. Poseur. I mean, sentient moving trees? Since when did steampunk shift from Victorian sci-fi to fantasy? Just because there are a few airships in the story? I bet she glues gears on her knickers and calls it steampunk. She probably wears Hot Topic goggles too.

That was actually more fun than I’d thought it would be. I especially had fun being snarky at myself! *giggles*

So anyway. My buddy ol’ pal Samantha (who is in college so she won’t have to deal with any comments about being a writer without a degree) tagged me in a fun meme!

The rules:

1. Go to page 77 of your current MS/WIP
2. Go to line 7
3. Copy down the next 7 lines, sentences, or paragraphs, and post them as they’re written.
4. Tag 7 authors

Okay, so I’m the world’s worst tagger. I’m going to tell you guys to look at my follower list, and if you’re in my top 7 newest followers, then you’re tagged and you should do this meme! Or if you’re not one of those lucky 7 and you like this meme, do it anyway.

So here’s my excerpt from Cobalt. It shows up as more than 7 lines here on Blogger, but it’s about 7 3/4 lines in my ms. I had to keep in the little bit of extra to avoid cutting a sentence short.

“All this time,” he squeaked, “all these years flying over the trees and making port in the most remote Forest villages possible, if only to catch a rumor or a glimpse. To think, I could have found one of you here on Murdock! I never knew that’s what old Stark dealt in. Everyone knew he was an expert on Cobalt, but I’d have never guessed how he gained his knowledge…”

Kate shrank back against Anthia, who wrapped one hand around her shoulder and rested the other on her knife hilt.

“Oh, don’t you worry,” Fletcher said with a chuckle. “That must be why I wasn’t in the loop. Never did want to trade my ship in for one of the bigger ones, see, those that could handle human cargo.”

So. If you wrote a review on your book or WIP, how would you write it? How many stars would you bestow upon your pride and joy, and would you be honest or would load up your review with sugar and a cherry on top? Come on, you can be honest here!

Last Time–I Promise!

This is the version I’m going to use for now, because it’s 1:30 am and I’m freakin’ exhausted, and the deadline for the hook contest is today. (If you’ve already figured out I’m annoying, be glad I’m not a family member!) I’ll give it a week or so before I re-read, edit out mistakes, decide to re-write it entirely again, query it, or whatever.

However, I’m still iffy about the first two sentences as a hook. The first two paragraphs, even.

The 250 words for the contest are highlighted. 🙂

*

Maybe it was weird for a sixteen-year-old girl to still be afraid of the dark, but everyone has their phobias. Actually, I was fine with normal darkness–but when you mixed in wind and trees, I’d start to freak out. I blamed my grandma for that.
There was this ghost story she would tell my brother Drew and me when we were kids. Of course, a few years ago I’d stopped believing in ghosts. Or in the story that, to this day, she swore was true. But when the wind came howling up out of the trees, I found my skepticism wavering…
The door of the coffee shop rattled. I looked out the window, then jumped up, slamming my book shut. The clouds were already darkening to lead-gray, streaked with purple and pink at the edges.
The cashier shot me a perky smile from behind the counter. “Leaving already, Nissa?”
I barely heard her as I stuffed the book into my backpack and tossed out the remainder of my hot chocolate. Waving goodbye over my shoulder, I pushed the door open and hurried out into the gusty evening.
The air smelled like pine and chimney smoke. I stuffed my hands into my jacket pockets and quickened my pace, dashing across the street to the empty field in front of the woods. The tall yellow grass lashed against my knees. I already knew I wasn’t setting foot inside the trees with the wind whipping up the branches like this.
I got to the dusty trail that circled the small forest and started left, keeping a nervous eye on the black spaces under the boughs. But only a few steps along, the wind died, cut off as abruptly as if someone had placed a giant glass over the field, stilling the air. I stopped dead too, and stared into the pines, debating.
Walking around added another half hour–twenty minutes if I ran. Either way, night would be complete by the time I got home. I hated the thought of how I’d react if the wind picked up again in full darkness. And I was already cutting it close. If I took too much longer, Ben would have an accident on the carpet and Mom would kill me.
It would take five minutes to cut through the trees at a jog. The full moon shone through a break in the clouds enough to illuminate the narrow path between the trunks. I’d taken this route countless times before, so why hesitate now?
Something felt different tonight, like the motionless air was heavier. Expectant. I paused just inside and wasted another minute peering into the gloom, seeing nothing but pine needles and scattered bushes. The only thing different, I realized, was that I’d been obsessing over Grandma’s tale ever since the wind knocked on the door of the coffee shop. Of course I felt jittery. I rolled my eyes, then went in at a casual walk to spite my fearful mind.
Shadows carpeted the trail. Despite my attempts to push it out of my head, the ghost story replayed itself in Grandma’s voice.
I had just turned eighteen, barely out of high school. Back then there were a lot more trees around town. The little stretch of woods at the bottom of the hill was part of a bigger forest–before the shopping center and the new school took its place. Your neighborhood hadn’t been built yet, but the walking path I used to take was close enough to where you live now.
I found myself jumping at sounds, and sang an annoying song under my breath as a distraction. Still, I imagined Grandma talking.
You could say it was a dark and stormy night. She’d always laughed at this. The wind sounded like a pack of hyenas coming straight from the heart of the trees. It made me nervous, even though I wasn’t a girl anymore. I swore I could hear voices in those gusts, like evil things coming closer, looking for me. I walked faster, trying to control my steps so I didn’t twist an ankle, and also to convince myself it was all in my imagination. Only then, the wind died to a gentle breeze. The voices stopped, and I saw a silvery glow bobbing toward me from a few yards away.
The slightest breath of air whispered through the pine needles, kissing my cheek with icy lips. I came to a halt, suddenly aware of how dim it was under the canopy, the clouds concealing the moon’s light. A burst of panic bloomed in my chest as I realized I’d wandered from the trail. Every tree trunk, rock, and shrub looked exactly the same as I whirled around, trying to find the dirt track.
Grandma’s voice continued unbidden in my mind. I waited a moment to see if it was someone approaching with a lantern, but instead it was only a light: a disembodied, glowing ball floating between the branches. Thin, bright streams, like arms, were growing out of it and reaching for me. My head felt slow and fuzzy, almost a happy feeling, but I held on to enough of my senses to turn tail and race out of there. I didn’t look back, and I never went into the woods again. She would shake a finger at Drew’s laughing face here. And I never will go into any forest, and that’s how you know I tell the truth.
Mom often told us of how Grandma would hide beneath blankets, trembling and whimpering on windy nights, and how Grandpa would have to calm her down. That was the part of the story that always made me wonder whether I shouldn’t have stopped believing.

Whoops. I Need to Sharpen My Hook

Big, snuggly thanks to everyone who gave their opinions on the two hooks I posted yesterday! I’d been working on similar versions for so long that it never occurred to me until today to try something completely different. I thought about everyone’s advice, and how they liked the 2nd clip better than the first. I agree, actually. I prefer a little character development too, rather than jumping straight into the action.

I’m pretty excited about what I wrote tonight. I tried to capture a sense of Nissa’s personality, introduce a bit of her family life, create a sense of tension and conflict, give her a difficult choice, and reveal why she’s afraid of going into the woods without that internal narrative info dump. Let me know if this sounds better than the other two.

I’m pasting the entire new scene, and highlighting the first 250 words that I’d use for the contest.

*

The wind picked up, sending a shivery howl through the branches, and I skipped a few steps away. Like it was laughing, the forest flung a handful of dry needles after me. The air smelled like pine and chimney smoke. I stuffed my hands into my jacket pockets and quickened my pace.

Eva rolled her eyes, hurrying to keep up. “Seriously, Nissa? You just turned sixteen. Don’t tell me you still won’t take the shortcut home.”

“I’m not going in there.” I spared one glance at the dark spaces between the tree trunks before marching off along the field.

“But going around the woods takes another twenty minutes! My mom’s picking me up in an hour. We’ll never get our project done in time.”

“Let’s jog, then.”

My best friend yanked my arm, forcing me to stop and face the trees again. “Nope. You’re getting over this right now. I’ve walked down that trail a million times to get to your house and nothing’s happened. And your brother practically grew up in there.

It was my turn to roll my eyes. “Go ahead and laugh, but I believe what my grandma saw–”

Eva did laugh. “Yeah, about some guy swinging a lantern around in the forest a hundred years ago. She was just messing with you.”

“No! I know she was serious. She always stuck to her story, no matter how many times she told it.” I pulled my arm out of Eva’s hands, and the well-rehearsed words spilled out in a rush. “When she was like eighteen or so, she was walking down the path and thought she heard voices in the wind. Then she saw a light moving straight toward her. And it wasn’t a lantern, it was this disembodied glowing ball. Something like arms were growing out of it and reaching for her. She said it made her head feel slow and fuzzy, but she turned and ran. She never went back in after that.”

Eva made an impatient sound. “No matter how many times you tell me what your grandma said, it always sounds like a campfire ghost story.”

“Well, if she was making it up to scare us, then why did she freak out when Drew tried to get her to go with him one time? Why was she always afraid of the wind? She never went back in!”

“It doesn’t mean you have to be stupid.”

“Your mom’s stupid.”

A slow, wicked grin crept across Eva’s face. “Okay, I dare you.”

“Grow up,” I sniffed.

“No, you grow up, Nissa! Haven’t they cut down half the woods since your grandma was young? This can hardly be called a forest anymore. Listen, I’ll make you a bet: If you can get all the way through by yourself, I’ll buy you a smoothie twice a week after school for the rest of the year.”

I snorted and took another step on the dusty path that circled the trees. Eva cut in front of me.

“Okay, and…you can pick out any pair of awesome shoes you want and I’ll get them for you too. As long as they’re not a hundred dollars or anything.”

“Why would I want you to buy me shoes when I can borrow yours anytime?”

She came up close to my face, lowering her voice. “But if you don’t do this, you have to convince your dad to give us movie passes every weekend until New Year’s.”

“He lets us watch movies for free all the time anyway.”

“Yeah, but you’ll have to bug your brother at the concession counter every time for snacks and drinks, no charge. Drew hates that.”

“You’re not convincing me, and you’re not threatening me. Come on, we could’ve been halfway to my house by now!”

Eva tossed her wild blonde hair out of her eyes. “I’m curing you! All right, if you’re not going to take a bribe, then…I’m telling Ethan you’re in love with him.”

I froze, forgetting how to talk for a second. “You wouldn’t…”

“You know I would!”

“Oh, come on, Eva, really!” Smirking, she folded her arms, knowing she had me. I fixed her with my angriest glare. “Fine. Forget the shoes, though. You’re going to be my personal slave every day until after winter break, and buy me the smoothies, and get me a Barnes & Noble gift card that doesn’t count as my Christmas present.”

“Done.” Eva waved toward the trees. “Go on, get it over with.”

The purple-streaked sky contrasted with the shadowy, waving branches above the path. I hesitated just under the first pine. “Why alone, though? It’d still be bad enough even if you went in with me.”

“No, it wouldn’t. You’re not really facing your fears if I’m there holding your hand. I’ll give you a two-minute head start. Run through if you have to, and just wait for me on the other side.” Eva gave me a reassuring pat, then a firm push, on the shoulder. “Better make it fast. It’s starting to get dark.”

The vivid image of a ghostly light creeping through the trees flashed through my mind. Before I could decide otherwise, I charged up the path between the trunks.

Where’s My Fishing Pole?

Can I hook a teen? Sure, I have two teens of my own, so I have years of experience. All you need is a really good, sturdy hook, like the one below, and then you gotta bait it with some pizza or an iPhone–

Okay, I’m going to stop now before I get in trouble! This particular contest is about an entirely different kind of hook: The beginning of your story. For me, crafting the perfect First Page Hook is scarier and more painful than a big, sharp fishhook right in the butt (which happened to my sister when she was a kid).

I have a great time writing once the story gets going, but that first page is a killer. I think I’ve revised it 10 times, and last week my wonderful writers’ group told me it’s still not hooky enough. (What would I do without them? Working on a MS which is nowhere near as polished, is the answer!)

Back to that in a minute. Brenda Drake is hosting a super-fun and challenging contest to show off our amazing, shiny, perfect 250-word hooks. Not just any old 250 words, but the book’s very beginning – the exact part which is likely to hook and draw in the readers you’re trying to attract. Kate and Taryn of Teen Eyes Editorial Services will be the judges, and boy am I as nervous as a worm hanging onto the end of a fishing line!

I’ll definitely be tweaking and polishing my entry some more before the deadline on September 23. I haven’t changed anything since writers’ group last week, thinking I’d let it stew, but nothing has really come to mind yet. They think the 2nd paragraph is a bit of an info dump that can be written into the action instead. I’m also going to post the original beginning, in the hopes that maybe some of you can help me sort the problem out.

So this is what I’m using now:

The wind flung debris into my eyes over the pages of the book, jarring me back to reality. A faint glow from the full moon was just starting to show over the tops of the trees. Nighttime had sneaked up on me again. Great. I stopped walking long enough to stuff the paperback I’d been reading into my backpack before I fell on my face, then quickened my steps.

The little pockets of evergreen woods dotting my town are supposed to be haunted. It’s said when the wind moans through the branches on moonless nights, it’s really the sound of otherworldly creatures roaming the trees in search of something they lost centuries ago. Whether or not anyone believed it, they couldn’t deny the trees here seemed older and wilder than in the big mountain forests above town. Especially the narrow strip of pines below the hill near my house: It was always too dark and cold in there, even in the middle of the day. And the sound of the gusts blowing through the branches: Unearthly is the only word to describe it. More like the howling of animals than air rushing through leaves.

So it really sucked that the trail through the woods was the quickest way home. I hated my brother for telling me the old ghost story too many times as a kid, with that embellished, sadistic way only older brothers can do.

And the original beginning:

The wind rattled the door next to me like it was trying to get in, making me jump. My cup of hot chocolate fell off the table, spilling all over my backpack. I grabbed napkins from the dispenser and mopped the chocolate up, then wadded them into a sopping ball, which I tossed at the garbage bin. It hit the side with a juicy splat and slid to the floor.

The cashier shot me a perky smile from behind the counter. “You aren’t leaving already, are you, Nissa? The only book you’ve cracked all afternoon’s been that corny romance.”

“It’s getting dark.” I stuffed the book into my backpack and aimed my cup at the bin, where it bounced off the rim to join the dripping napkins on the floor.

“See you tomorrow?”

I scooped my garbage up into the bin, then cast a nervous glance at the purple sky, where the faintest glow from the full moon was just starting to show over the tops of the trees. “Maybe. It seems like night is starting to come earlier now.” I waved goodbye, then headed across the parking lot. If I hurried, I could probably still make the shortcut through the woods. The wind blew harder as I reached the crosswalk, biting my cheeks with a chill that felt like early winter and smelled like log fires.

Darkness and wind. Not a good combination. There’s an old legend about the little pockets of woods dotting my town.

Maybe it’s just me, but I didn’t think the cafe scene was really necessary. Just after that part, she gets to the woods, and then there’s the description about why they’re so creepy. It was this original beginning that hooked Sarah LaPolla of Curtis Brown and got her to request a full – but then she broke my heart anyway! 😉

I’d love to know what parts of either version you find to be the most hooky. When you start a book, what is it about the first page that sucks you in? An intro to the main characters before adding the conflict? Starting right in the middle of the action? Dialogue, internal narrative, or a combination? What books have you read recently whose beginnings you just loved?

I can’t wait to read the other entrants’ first 250 words and find out all the creative and amazing ways they’re beginning their books!

Beginning, Middle, and End: Parts 2 and 3

Well, these are the last two parts of a two-part three-parter because I’m posting the beginning, middle, and end of two more books after posting my official blogfest entry with Blood Moon yesterday. (Does that even make sense? No.) Oh well. Whatever.

The Moongate‘s beginning:

The wind rattled the coffee shop’s door as if it were trying to get in, making me jump and spill hot chocolate all over my backpack. I grabbed napkins from the dispenser and mopped the chocolate up, then wadded them into a sopping ball, which I tossed at the garbage can. It hit the side with a juicy splat and slid to the floor.

Middle (hee hee):

“Hey, you have irrepressible instincts too,” I shot back. “Might I remind you of Mom’s flower beds you couldn’t stop peeing all over last summer?” If he answered, I didn’t hear him. I was already running down the hill. The Gate pulled me in like I was attached to the other end of a rope.

Aaand, the end. You saw it here first. Except I’m thinking of changing it slightly, not sure yet though:

The moon was rising. Its light embraced me, converting to magic that danced around my face and arms in silver-white sparks. I hurried over to my tree’s roots, where I would help the others find the source of life so they could plant her back in the soil where she belonged.

A part of Aronaur, where both of us belonged.

And now for Cobalt, my WIP. I’m actually going to post the beginning of the second chapter, since I posted the entire first chapter not very long ago. Chapter two takes place several years after the death of Kate’s mother, which takes place in the first chapter, so it could almost be considered a beginning.

Auntie Gerta was a big woman, pale and solid like a whitewashed wall, a wall which now towered over Kate as she washed the breakfast dishes. She jabbed a pudgy finger between the girl’s shoulderblades. “Don’t think I’ll let you off easy after yesterday’s mischief.”

The middle:

Kate turned her head and saw Ania nearby, leaning against the lower deck’s railing and staring down at the trees as intently as if she’d just dropped a sack of gold. Other crew members were arrayed along the deck, so she withdrew slightly back into the compartment but continued to look in the direction they all faced. A distant scream cut through the motors’ humming. Ania tensed, swinging her crossbow in the direction the sound came from. Another shriek followed the first, louder and closer. Kate had thought it to be a human scream at first, but then realized it was coming from the forest.

The end – which isn’t the real end, obviously, just the latest paragraph I’ve written:

“The sea air does something to calm the forest.” Ania reached up and grasped a twig. It wrapped around her wrist, its leaves waving feebly around her hand, but she easily broke it free and flung the twig to the ground. The branch crept closer for a moment, then gave up and settled back into the canopy. “And most of the Cobalt lies deep within the country, near your village, not so close to the coast. It’s the Cobalt, you know, that makes the trees come alive.”

Also, go check out my latest post at ANWA Founder & Friends. It’s probably boring or something, because I need some comments! LOL Give them a follow if you feel inclined. My fellow ANWA bloggers have some great insights on writing, our LDS beliefs, and life in general.

Whee! Look at My Characters! (and a plug for an artist friend)

Okay…I used to be a rather good artist, but then some kids came along and started hogging all my time, and I decided I’d better pick just one hobby until they all grew up and got out of my house. So, since I’m slightly better at writing than I am at drawing–also since I couldn’t paint flesh tones to save my life and then digital art came along and when I saw all the awesome digital stuff done on Deviantart and realized I had no hope of competing with the younger, art tablet-savvy artists there–I decided writing was definitely more up my alley.

I’m sure many writers like to see their characters on paper or a computer screen, rather than always in their own heads. I know I do! Plus I’d just finished Blood Moon and felt I deserved a little something other than rejection letters to reward my hard work. My friend Dana Hill, Albinoshadow on Deviantart, who has done some amazing drawings of the members of Abney Park, does commissions at very good prices, and needed some help after a big move to another state (where she gets to hang out with Abney Park sometimes, grrr jealous Kristin is jealous). So I threw some money at her and told her to get to it. ;B Dana is really good at anime-style art and whipped up an awesome colored drawing for me super fast.

I freaked out when I saw it! Nissa’s wings are just super cool, very fun Fey ears, perfect facial expressions, and the eyes…LOVE LOVE LOVE. If anyone else wants to help Dana get on her feet in her new home, click HERE to see her work and her rates.