Posts by Cassandra Page

Cassandra Page is a mother, author, editor and geek. She lives in Canberra, Australia’s bush capital, with her son and two Cairn Terriers. She has a serious coffee addiction and a tattoo of a cat — despite being allergic to cats. She has loved to read since primary school, when the library was her refuge, and loves many genres — although urban fantasy is her favourite. When she’s not reading or writing, she engages in geekery, from Doctor Who to AD&D. Because who said you need to grow up? Her latest urban fantasy, LUCID DREAMING, is now available. Credit for the photo goes to Sidd Rishi Photography (used with permission).

Five totally legit outside-the-box ways to market your book

This month at Aussie Owned we’ve been talking marketing. The others have written excellent posts covering everything from school visits and marketing plans to Facebook advertising and ways to go viral. Their posts have been comprehensive and, if you’ve missed them, are definitely worth a read. They’ve given me a ton of ideas.

They’ve also meant that I, as the person posting last in the month, have had to really rummage around in the old brainpan for other ideas. Luckily, I have huge ideas. The very best. (I am also drafting this on cold and flu medication, so … there’s that.)

Here are my five top totally legit ways to market your book (that the others haven’t already covered).

Book cover tattoos

Get a tattoo of your book cover somewhere visible on your body (or — with their consent — on someone else’s). Your upper arm would be a good spot for a summer release tattoo, but for winter releases I’m afraid it will have to be your forehead or cheeks, especially if you live somewhere cold. Don’t forget to leave space on the ol’ noggin for the next book in the series.

As an alternative, tattoo your website URL there instead. This is a good alternative for those planning a LOT of books. Just make sure you don’t let the domain name expire.

Sky writing

Sky writing — the scrawling across the sky of words by an aeroplane — is limited to, well, words. You won’t be able to emblazon your book cover across the heavens or anything. Think of what you’d put into a 140-character tweet and then go with that. For example:

Hot new urban fantasy <YOUR TITLE> out now! My mum gave it five stars! #aussie #ebookonly <YOURURL.COM>

Sky writing is about as temporary as a tweet is, and is a LOT more expensive. But you love your book baby, right? Besides, you will generate enough buzz that people will be talking about it for days. Or maybe minutes? Who knows?

Stock from pexels.com

Convince your friend to name their newborn after your main character

Speaking of book babies…

This idea works particularly well if you’re writing in a speculative fiction field where the names are made up, such as sci-fi or high fantasy. If your main character is an “Isla”, like mine, that isn’t quite as distinctive and will generate less word of mouth. (“Melaina” is more unusual, but people keep misreading it as “Melania” these days. Sigh.) It works even better if your friend’s child is the first one born in the new year or on Mother’s Day — or if they were born in the back of the car on the side of a freeway. The newspapers LOVE to write a heartwarming story about those kids.

Look at all the babies out there named Bella and Edward. It worked for Stephanie Meyer.

Serialise your book on Twitter (or in chalk graffiti)

This idea has the benefit of being free, if somewhat time-consuming. I just did the maths, and my Lucid Dreaming — which is a total of 407,501 characters (including spaces) would require 2911 tweets. And that’s if I don’t include any hashtags or links.

Unlike a lot of marketing ideas, this one has LEGS. That’s months or years of fresh content, and people will get so impatient to find out how the story (or sentence) ends that they will totes buy your book.

As an alternative for those who don’t like Twitter, consider serialising your book in chalk graffiti at the local pedestrian mall. I’d suggest using chalk rather than anything permanent as you can reuse the same space every time it rains. Besides, you don’t want to do anything illegal, right?

Sneak your book into the local bookstore; leave a fake “staff picks” five-star review

There are some drawbacks to this idea: if the bookstore then sells your book, you won’t see any money for it (unless you lurk near the till and wait to demand your cut, which can be … tricky). But this is about raising customers’ awareness of your book, right? And what gets more notice than a jaunty little note praising a particular work? I know I always read those things!

For bonus points, take a photo of the lovely review and share it on all your social media platforms so your grandma can “like” it. Maybe then she’ll forgive you for the facial tattoo.

Leave your other ideas in the comments

Book marketing is a tricky business, and the book community is a supportive place that loves to share its ideas. In that spirit, if you have any other totally legit, legal ways to market your book, please leave a comment!


Cassandra Page is a speculative fiction writer who doesn’t actually endorse any of the above ideas. Tattoos are kind of permanent, you guys, and book covers can change over time, what with new editions or changes in publisher. 

Still, if you want one, you do you!

Author interview: Sharon M. Johnston, speculative fiction author

This month on Aussie Owned and Read we’re celebrating the arrival of two new bloggers with round-robin interviews, so you can learn more about each of us — new bloggers and old. 

Today I’m interviewing Sharon M. Johnston, who has been with Aussie Owned since it started four years ago. Welcome, Sharon!

Sharon JohnstonI often think of you as the networking guru of the Aussie Owned team. What advice would you give a new writer trying to figure out where to start?

Ahhh! *blushes*

I think one of the keys to networking is paying it forward. Jump online, connect with influences, cool people and peers, and when one of them asks for help or you see a need that you can fill, put your hand up. For me it all started on a site called Inkpop (now defunct) where you reviewed WIPs. That’s where I met Wendy Higgins, who invited me to be part of YAtopia. Then I saw Pitch Madness needed a new blog host and I offered Brenda Drake the use of YAtopia. And it just keep rolling from there.

You also mentor in a number of pitching contests. If you could recommend one contest — or one type of contest — which would it be and why?

By far my favourite pitch contest is Pitch Wars. It’s got a great reputation with agents; has a better success rate than querying; creates strong communities of writers with the mentors, mentees and applicants; and the mentor works on the WHOLE manuscript. There are not many contests that do this.

OpenHeart_seriesThe first two books in your Open Heart series, Divided and Shattered, have hit the shelves after a fairly tumultuous beginning. How would you describe the series? And what can you tell us about book three?

The series is definitely a labour of love, and had a rollercoaster ride with unprofessional publishing peeps before finding a home with City Owl Press. The series focuses on love and what it means to be human, all wrapped up with some sci-fi and fantasy fun. The first book focused on Mishca’s journey to finding out about her origins, while book two saw Mishca understand that her family may not be traditional but that it is nevertheless important, and delved more into Ryder’s past. Book three reveals to readers the truth about Nerissa, and sees Ryder reunite with his mother and Mishca succumb to her dark side. (Cass: AAAAH! Need!) In each book I reveal more to the readers about the cast of characters and what makes them the people they are.

You’ve posted on the blog before about having OCD and anxiety. Given the push for #ownvoices works in the writing community, is this something you have considered incorporating into a work of fiction? Why?

I have definitely considered writing an OCD project, especially to break down some of the stereotypes and misunderstandings around the condition. I’m very open with people about my mental health as I believe by me being honest about it with people it will demystify some of the misconceptions around mental illness. If I don’t want to have mental health treated as a stigma, it has to start with me.

Tell us about your current project.

I’m working on and off on three projects. The first one is a speculative fiction set in Brisbane around a clan of warriors responsible for delivering karma. The second is a rewrite of a far future sci-fi called Dirty Rainbow. And the third is the latest book in the Open Heart series — I need to talk to the police about what happens in a raid so I can move forward with it.

Either/or questions

Plotter or pantser? Pantser

Speculative fiction or contemporary? Speculative fiction

Dogs or cats? Cats

Coffee or tea? Neither — chai latte

Chocolate or ice cream? Both, smooshed together and covered in caramel (I think I have a problem!)

About Sharon

After growing up listening to her father reading fables and folklore, it’s no surprise Sharon loves stories. As soon as she could read, her nose was firmly in a book. She loves reading, listening to audio books and writing.

She has a gorgeous husband and two wonderful boys. Well-known for her fantastic taste in shoes, Sharon has actually been stalked by women wanting to know where she got her high heels from. She also has a love of fur-babies – cats and guinea pigs, specifically.

Blog | Facebook | Twitter

sharon-and-cass

Cassandra Page is a speculative fiction author who one time got to help launch Sharon’s paperback, Shattered. Which was especially exciting as she (Cass) didn’t faint while public speaking. Not even once!

 

My top three romance likes and dislikes

Aussie_Vday Pink

This month on Aussie Owned and Read we’re talking all things loooooove. I don’t read much pure romance but I do enjoy romantic subplots in other genres, so this got me to thinking about what romantic plotlines I love … and which ones set my teeth on edge.

Loves

Characters who are friends first. There’s no doubt that the sizzling attraction of lust-at-first-sight is a thing (and is totally hot), but I love the slow build of a relationship that turns from friendship to romance. Traditionally this is written as one person realising before the other. Then awkwardness often ensues. But still, I like the basic idea — probably because it feeds into my own experiences.

The realistically developed romance. This is tied into the point above, but it applies regardless of whether there’s an existing friendship. I’m not saying that sometimes people don’t jump straight into the sack together (that’s basically a new adult trope!), but I like it when the development of the underlying feelings happens over a period of time.

Diversity in relationships. The more LGBTIQ+ plotlines I read, the more I adore them. I don’t know what that says about my own tastes, exactly — but it’s someting awesome, for sure! 😉

Loathes

Insta-love. I know I said I like lust-at-first-sight, but love-at-first-sight? No. Nuh uh. I’ve very occasionally seen it done well, but only in instances where some supernatural element — reincarnation, say — is at play. I get really grouchy when two sensible-seeming characters decide that they are destined to be together forever after one date. Ugh.

Plots that rely on characters not communicating. I hate it when characters don’t speak their mind when everything suggests that they should, including their own personality. I once threw a book against a wall because the husband commented that his wife must really like the father of the baby she just had, and she said yes (trying to be coy and meaning it was him). He assumed she’d had an affair, because his question was in the third person. And she didn’t correct him, even though he was standing right there. (I still get mad about that.)

Broody, unpleasant love interests. You know the trope: he is a prick to her, either because he’s caught up in his own thing or he’s “trying to drive her away for her own good”. I HATE THAT AS A PLOTLINE. It’s so patronising! I’d prefer to see a man* who is willing to fess up about whatever the problem is and let the female lead decide what she’s willing to tolerate. Even worse are books where the man is “fixed” by the woman tolerating his BS until he gets over it. Ugh.

* I realise this sounds sexist, and I don’t mean it to be. I simply can’t recall ever seeing the roles reversed, with the woman driving the man away for his own good. If I read a book with that storyline, I’m sure I’d hate that too! I’m an equal-rights hater of patronising, cranky characters.

Obviously this list is highly subjective. I’d love to hear what you think, regardless of whether you agree or disagree!

Cassandra Page is a writer of speculative fiction. You can find details of her books here.

Cassandra Page

Guest post: Where and how to begin writing your story, by K. A. Last

Hi everyone, K. A. Last here. It’s been a while since I’ve written a post for Aussie Owned and Read, and it seems fitting that this month’s topic is beginnings, because I was unsure where exactly to begin for this post … So, I’m going to tell you about a book I wrote to help authors with this exact problem.

Where and how to begin writing your story

Beginning a story isn’t always easy. We can have an amazing idea but absolutely no clue where or how to start writing that idea down. Well, I’m here to share a secret with you …

It doesn’t matter. The only thing that does matter is … beginning.

This is a rather long post, so bear with me, because I have some great points to talk about, and there might even be a couple of free things along the way.

As a writer, I often find it hard to get the thoughts in my head straight, and in any sort of coherent order. There are so many voices in there vying for my attention, and at times I feel like one big jumbled mess. Over the years I’ve tried different things, including pantsing and plotting my stories, and I’ve come to realise that for me, the best and most productive method is outlining my ideas in detail first. Once I have a solid outline, I find that when I sit down to write I waste less time, because I already know what I want to write about.

Sometimes I’m lucky enough that my ideas pop into my head fully formed with characters, and plot, and the entire world my story exists in. But mostly all I have is one concept, or a character name, or a theme, and it needs a lot of help to get started. And like I said before, getting to the point where you have a solid story idea or somewhere to begin isn’t always easy.

ani_cover_3dmockThat’s where A Novel Idea! comes in. I created this journal to help writers of all ages and skill levels—to help you be as prepared as you can be when you sit down to write your story. A Novel Idea! is divided into sections, much like the traditional three-act structure of a story plot, but with extra scenes. It will help you work through your story idea from the initial light bulb moment, to all the details about your characters, to visions for the world you want to create. By the time you finish filling in the pages, you will have a wonderful story idea to start writing, and a host of invaluable information to refer back to once your first draft is completed.

I know what you’re thinking, I’ve made it sound all too easy, but I know just how much it isn’t, and that’s why A Novel Idea! is not only a writer’s journal, it’s also a colouring book. When I get stuck on an idea, or I feel I need to work through the thoughts in my head, I often turn to colouring to help me clear my mind and set my ideas straight. The aim of including illustrations in this journal is to allow another creative outlet while working on your writing. If you find yourself needing time to think, but you would like to keep your hands busy, the illustrations can be used as a means to clear your mind. The borders on each page are also colourable, so switching between the two creative modes is easy.

If you want to know more about what A Novel Idea! contains, and how it can help with making a start on your writing, then read on …

THE IDEA

Okay, so the first thing I do is I tell myself to forget about the fact that I need to write around 70 thousand words to make a book. This is just a ball park figure. Some books are shorter, and many are longer, but I write for the YA market, so 70k is a good target number. But like I said, forget it. You don’t want that big, scary number holding you back.

Next, you need an idea. For anyone with a vivid imagination, these are not hard to come by, and we can find inspiration anywhere. But how do we shape and expand an idea into something that we can turn into a novel? This is where we start small, and work until we can see the bigger picture clearly.

Start by writing down the basics of your idea. It doesn’t have to be fully formed, but you need to get onto paper what your idea is so you can free you mind to think about all the other things you’re going to need to know to write your story. It could be as simple as one or two lines, or maybe you’ve been thinking about it for a while and you write a page.

Once you’ve done that, focus on working out the three most important aspects of your story. Take three sheets of paper, or use a notebook (you should have a notebook!) then write about the goal, the motivation, and the conflict of your story.

From here, you should try and briefly outline all the important parts of the story. Story structure usually goes something like this:

  • Beginning
  • First major plot point
  • Second major plot point or midpoint
  • Third major plot point
  • Climax
  • Resolution

If you know what the main obstacles of your story are, then filling in the gaps becomes a lot easier.

Once I’ve worked out the basics, something I like to ask myself when I have a new story idea is why is it exciting? If your story doesn’t excite you, then it won’t excite your readers. You need to pinpoint what it is about your story that will get people excited about it. This could be anything from the romance, to a rebellion, to who murdered someone.

By now you should have a pretty good idea about what your story is about, what the main plot points will be, and how it begins and ends. For me, the climax and the ending are very important, because that is what the story is working for and towards.

CHARACTERS

The next step is to cast the characters of your story. Sometimes my ideas start with a main character, and their conflict and story grow from there. Before I sit down to start writing my story, I like to know who I’m writing about. Of course I don’t know everything, because writing a character is sometimes like meeting them and getting to know them. There are a lot of things about them that I discover along the way. But I always work out the basics of their character profile. Usually a story will have the following characters:

  • Protagonist
  • Antagonist
  • Secondary characters affiliated with the protagonist
  • Secondary characters affiliated with the antagonist

Don’t forget that characters don’t always have to be people. You can download a printable character profile sheet to help with the development of your characters.

STORY WORLD

So now you know who the main character in your story is, and what their goal, motivation, and conflict are, you can build the world in which they will navigate and interact with other characters. World building is important for any story, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. The type of world your story exists in will depend on what your story is about, and there are many factors to consider. Not all of these will apply to every story, but they are a good starting point, and you should try to work out as many details as possible to understand how your story world will work.

  • Time or era
  • Place
  • Landscape and architecture
  • Reality or fantasy
  • Climate
  • Magic system
  • Weapons
  • Technology
  • Transport
  • Government
  • Social hierarchy
  • Currency
  • Language
  • Fashions
  • Rules

LET’S WRITE

By this point you should have the three main areas covered. Your story idea, the characters within your story, and the world they will inhabit. All that’s left is to sit down and write! Now is when I like to make a short paragraph outline of each chapter in my story. Sometimes I can’t outline all of them, but I outline as many as I can, as well as the most important scenes to do with the major plot points, climax, and the resolution.

My last piece of advice is nothing is set in stone. I often find that while I’m writing, my characters do something I hadn’t planned, or something I had planned doesn’t fit with their character development. When this happens, it’s okay to re-evaluate your story outline. As we write we get new ideas, and we see things differently. Our stories evolve, and that’s perfectly okay. It’s all part of the creative process.

(NB: the above section was first published at www.storyqueens.com.au for the full article, please go HERE.)

As a bonus to Aussie Owned and Read readers, I’m also giving you a FREE colouring page download. If you would like to know more about A Novel Idea! or any of my other books, come and say hi on my Facebook page, or check out my website.

Good luck with all your story beginnings.

K. A. xxx

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I am, you are, we are Australian

Today, in celebration of Aussie Owned and Read’s fourth birthday, we’re talking about being an Aussie author — why we love it and why we set our books where we do. (Note: The feature image above is from Shutterstock and is used under licence.)

Rebecca Bosevki

Australia has a plethora of inspirational people and places. We are a mostly relaxed culture and that makes for an optimal writing environment. I love reading stories and recognising an Australian landmark, and so too love to put such things in my writing. For those who live here they can see instantly the environment I write about, and for those who don’t, I love being responsible for instilling an impression of what our county is like …even if we don’t really have portals to magical lands hidden in our public parks.

Heather M. Bryant

All the fantasy worlds I create are set in fictional cities that exist within a greater real-world setting. I have two set in America, one set in the country Georgia, and another planned out and set in Australia. I love experimenting with these worlds because I get to research countries and places I previously knew nothing about, and then use those cultural influences to create a world purely my own. I like to think of it as a ‘best of both worlds’ scenario.

Lauren K. McKellar

I love being an Aussie author for many reasons! Firstly, in our country, there are many opportunities to sub to major publishing houses without first acquiring an agent, making access that much easier (although having an agent sure doesn’t hurt!).

Secondly, as our writing community is rather small, it’s quite supportive. I’ve met so many lovely authors and writers who are absolutely lovely and happy to talk to you based on the fact we’re all from the land down under — how cool is that?

Thirdly, if you’re looking for location inspiration, we have it in bucketloads! From beaches to rainforests to deserts to cityscapes, we have it all, making for lots of exotic and interesting places to write about.

I always set my stories locally for this reason, and a few others. They say ‘write what you know’, and I’m confident I know this country well! I also like setting novels here as a way to introduce those from overseas to Australia and our beautiful beaches. In some ways, we’re a great relatable choice — far enough away to be foreign, but similar enough to the UK and USA to have a sense of the familiar, like sliding into a nice warm bath. Although at this time of year in Australia, you sure don’t want to be doing that.

Overall, I love my country and I love writing here. While we may not have some of the opportunities those overseas do, I think we’ve got it pretty darn great.

Stacey Nash

When asked for a paragraph on why I set my books where I do I was a little stumped on how to answer. You see, as well as the two series I have published I have several works in progress that are more in the vein of the Collective Series than my contemporary NA, the Oxley College Saga. Most of my writing falls into the speculative fiction basket — fantasy worlds and distant planets, sometimes both at once.

I find there’s a certain freedom to explore and discuss some of the big world issues in these fantasy worlds that just isn’t possible in a real world setting. Plus, writing in a hundred per cent fictional setting gives me so much creative license. You want a red sky and green sun? Got it. Giant bell shaped plants that eat people in a single gulp. Done. How about a night that lasts for a week? Easy peasy. My imagination is limitless with speculative settings and I love it!

But then sometimes all that imagining gets a bit too much and that’s when I turn to my Aussie-set new adult series. Writing new books set in a familiar environment, with established rules, feels like a breeze and that is just the reprieve my tired muse sometimes needs.

Beck Nicholas

The more books I write, the more my stories become firmly set in Australia. It’s part of my voice and my experience. My next story includes a road trip along the Great Ocean Rd (a trip I’ve done myself a few times) and I’m reminded what a great country we have. The beaches in particular have always been a part of my life and feature often in my books. I’ve spent some time on a farm too and there’s that particular country feel in Australia that is unlike anywhere else. My first readers are Aussie teens and I want to speak to them; however, I’ve also head great feedback from readers the world over who love Australian settings. It’s my home and I love it. I adore travelling and will definitely include more of my experiences in coming books, but I know myself and my writing will always have a link to home.

Cassandra Page

I’m a speculative fiction writer, but five of my six completed novels have been urban fantasy — and all five have been either partially or fully set in Australia’s capital, Canberra. There’s a certain amount of ‘write what you know’ behind that decision, as well as a love for the city that means I want to see more of it in fiction. I love Canberra’s  wide open spaces; the grassy nature reserves throughout the city provide a perfect avenue for more nature-loving supernatural types to get around (a factor when I wrote the Isla’s Inheritance trilogy). And over the past couple of decades the city has become a lot more cosmopolitan, so there are avenues to tell maturer stories like Lucid Dreaming. Also — and I’m getting super-braggy here — Canberra one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen. The manicured lakes, the glorious sunsets over the Brindabella mountain ranges, the national monuments — I’ve been inspired to set particular scenes in places all over the city.

And no, I haven’t used federal politics as a plotline in any of my books! Boooor-ing. :p

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Beginning where the story starts

To celebrate the new year, most of this month’s posts will have a theme of “new beginnings”. 

One bit of advice you’ll often hear from agents and various other bookish folks — such as editors and competition judges — is to make sure your book starts in the right place. People are time-poor and there are a lot of competing entertainments, more than there were when I was a wee lass. Smart phones! Augmented reality! Reality-cooking-soap-TV shows! You need to hook the reader from the outset, draw them into the story. Start where the story actually stars, with the inciting event — not beforehand.

I’m basically giving you that same message, but thought I’d do it with song an example.

The inciting event — the first big, life-changing incident that triggers the plot — in my first novel, Isla’s Inheritance, happens at a Halloween party. That event is in the first chapter of the novel, and always was … but the first draft of that chapter started with Isla and her cousin Sarah receiving the party invitation and sorting out costumes. I’m still fond of that scene, because it sets up the relationship between the two characters, and Sarah is a lot of fun to write. But it wasn’t the best place. Isla thinking about whether she had time to get her homework done before the party wasn’t exactly the sort of thing that hooked the reader.

In my defence, it was my first novel, and I learned by making the mistake. :p

The fact my opening sucked bugged me all through drafting the book, so after I’d finished and taken the time to get a bit of distance from the writing, I went back again. (The distance is crucial. As I said, I was fond of the costume-choosing scene, which meant I needed to take the time to see it for what it was.) I cut the first part, and started the scene instead with the two girls and Sarah’s older brother, Ryan, arriving at the party. Fixed it!

Yeah, nah.

That was the version of the book I started querying. I entered it in PitchWars at the end of 2012, and the feedback I got from mentors really shook me. I was still starting in the wrong place, dammit! Again, I was still taking time to establish the characters. I had Sarah and Isla giggle over an old school crush. Dance. I thought I was setting the scene, but it was still slow.

I went back and amputated even more from the scene. By this point I’d probably removed around 2000 words (sob). Now it starts with Isla, at the party, meeting Dominic — her eventual boyfriend — and getting invited to participate in a séance. Sarah doesn’t even appear until the end of the chapter.

If you’re getting told your book starts too slowly, have a look at what you’re trying to show the reader in your opening scene. For example, say you start with your character jogging, thinking about their life (apparently this is a very common beginning, as is staring into a mirror). You want the reader to see upfront that your main character is a physical creature who has problems that need pondering. Instead, why not start with the manifestation of the problems. You can always have the character jog later, or mention the athletics trophies being knocked to the ground during the zombie attack — that sort of thing.

Obviously there are exceptions to every rule, such as if your character is doing a marathon and they rupture their Achilles tendon on the first page or get hit by a car, because the rest of the story is about their healing journey.

I’d like to think I’ve learned this lesson now. I’ve started (and finished; OMG!) five other novels, and all of them have a much quicker beginning to the plot. But I learned it the hard way. Avoid my mistake, grasshopper!

Cassandra Page is a speculative fiction writer. Her first novel, Isla’s Inheritance, is currently free in ebook format at all good (and some dubious) ebook retailers. You know, if you want to find out what happens next. 😉

Note: the featured image at the top of this post is from Shutterstock.

Cassandra Page

My top five YA reads of 2016

We’re almost at the end of 2016. It’s so close I can almost smell the beach and taste the Christmas pavlova. That means it’s time for summer reading (or winter reading, if the northern hemisphere is how you roll). So here are five of my five-star reads* from 2016**.

I’ve linked to my full review for each book if you want to investigate further. Just click on the book name in each heading.

* YA reads. And excluding books by Aussie Owned and Read bloggers. Because if I don’t narrow the category down I’ll never get the list down to five.

** I read them in 2016. They may have come out sooner than that! ***

*** Am I using too many footnotes?

‘Under Rose-Tainted Skies’ by Louise Gornall

I already blogged about this one during my post on must-read diverse books (and I could have also included the other book from that post, tbh) — but since my tastes usually run to speculative fiction, I thought I’d better include a serious contemporary for those of you that prefer your books to be unflinching, in-your-face and supernatural-free. Under Rose-Tainted Skies tells the story of a teen struggling with agoraphobia and anxiety, and it’s so engaging and heartbreaking and real.

The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl’ by Melissa Keil

Cinnamon Girl is another contemporary that I loved but, where Rose is heartbreaking, Cinnamon Girl is geeky and funny and sweet. It addresses the common teen panic about the future — that “what do I do now I’ve finished school and all my friends are moving away” theme — through the mechanism of a small town and the end of the world. (It is contemporary, I swear.) Melissa Keil is a wonderful Melbourne writer and I want to be like her when I grow up. I just wish she’d been writing when I was a teen.

‘Gemina’ by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Gemina is the sequel to NYT bestseller Illuminae, the groundbreaking YA sci-fi by notorious Melbourne crimefighting duo a pair of talented Melbourne* writers. It’s groundbreaking because it is presented in a “found footage” way: instant message and radio transcripts, emails, security camera footage, hand-drawn illustrations. If Illuminae is space zombies meets 2001: A Space Odyssey, Gemina is a mash-up of space terrorists and space, um, aliens. Like, aliens from the movie Aliens. (This isn’t a spoiler if you’ve read the blurb, btw.) You really need to read both books to get a full appreciation for the story, though. Have at it!

* What is it about Melbourne, you guys?

‘Winter’ by Marissa Meyer

Winter is the fourth (or fifth if you count the novella Fairest) in the Lunar Chronicles, one of the cleverest fairytale reimaginings I’ve ever read.This series is the queen of fairy tale retellings. But not the evil queen. (Okay, maybe slightly evil.) It’s set on an alternate Earth and is a little bit sci-fi — by way of example, Cinder, the Cinderella character, is a cyborg with a detachable foot instead of an ill-fitting glass slipper. If you want a series with a fairy tale feel, some kissing and an actual, honest to goodness “they all lived happily ever after” (because it’s a fairy tale retelling and that’s obligatory), I highly recommend this entire series! But, again, start at the beginning.

‘Every Move’ by Ellie Marney

I read both Every Word (#2) and Every Move (#3) this year, after reading the first book in this Sherlock-inspired trilogy last year. All three books in the series are fast-paced, with a murder mystery, some forensic science, some heated kissing and some moments that left me reeling. The characters, James Mycroft and Rachel Watts, are one of my new favourite young adult couples. I love how realistic and awkward they are with one another. The other thing I adored was how Aussie the characters are; Ellie Marney is from Victoria (but not from Melbourne — ha!).

So, there you have it. My top five YA non-AOR reads of 2016. What are yours?

Cassandra Page is a speculative fiction author who has a YA urban fantasy available free, and an adult urban fantasy currently on sale for $0.99. Because if you can’t shamelessly self-promote at Christmas, when can you do it?

Cassandra Page