Not-so-fictional fear

Since October is traditionally (if you don’t live down under) the month of all things scary, we decided to go with a fear theme. From scary books to personal fears to writing fear–we’ll delve into it all this month.

Now, fear is a funny thing. It’s not rational. It’s not discriminatory. It often makes zero sense. It comes in all shapes and sizes and when it hits it can knock even the bravest of creatures out for six. And that’s what I want to talk about today … the biggest fears, those that knock you flat on your rear and don’t only make breathing hard, they make living feel near impossible. Some people would call them phobias, others might refer to them as mental illness. Either way, I want to share some books with you where fear bursts off the pages in such a realistic way the reader gains a first hand understanding of living in constant fear.

Image courtesy of graur codrin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Under Rose Tainted Skies (Louise Gornall): This is an amazing story about a girl whose fear of, well everything, leads to Agrophobia (fear of the outside world). By the time I reached the end of Gornall’s book I really understood how fear could take over.

The Boyfriend List (E Lockhart): The main character suffers from anxiety and although her fear doesn’t define the story it’s a very realistic recount of what living with anxiety is like.

Am I Normal Yet (Holly Bourne): OCD is about way more than compulsive hand washing and a fear of germs. Holly Bourne does a great job of showing this through relatable characters and a riveting plot.

Fangirl (Rainbow Rowell): This book portrays social anxiety beautifully. A fear or phobia of interaction with strangers and even friends is something that many people can’t relate to, but let me tell you, Rainbow Rowell nailed it.

I love that modern fiction has cast awareness on what it’s like to live with fear. I read Tomorrow When The War Began in my early teens. The concept of that series still sticks with me as an adult, making me fearful of situations happening in our world today. Statistics say that 1 in 5 Aussies are affected by mental illness. It’s surprising that with the sheer number of affected there’s still so much stigma around the issue. So much in fact, that many sufferers don’t seek help or feel accepted.

It’s mental health week here in NSW, the perfect time to pick up a new read focusing on a real life issue. These books showcasing fear are a wonderful empathy-creating tool.

Have you read any books featuring characters who live with fear? I’d love to hear about them.

Stacey Nash writes about characters who have to overcome their fears. To find out more about Stacey’s books or to connect with her on social media, check out these places: www.stacey-nash.com, instagram, twitter, facebook.

Review: The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich

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There is a secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. The agents are called Love Interests because getting close to people destined for great power means getting valuable secrets.

Caden is a Nice: the boy next door, sculpted to physical perfection. Dylan is a Bad: the brooding, dark-souled guy who is dangerously handsome. The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boy will pursue her. Will she choose the Nice or the Bad?

Both Caden and Dylan are living in the outside world for the first time. They are well-trained and at the top of their games. They have to be—whoever the girl doesn’t choose will die.

What the boys don’t expect are feelings that are outside of their training. Feelings that could kill them both.

 

The Love Interest was one of my most anticipated reads for the year. A corporation that specifically manufactures people to fulfil a common YA trope? YES PLEASE.

It had everything. A m/m romance, a science geek girl, a SPY corporation *drools*

But for me…it fell kind of flat. I don’t know if it was because I was soooo excited for this book, or other factors, but I’ll try to break it down.

Okay, so this book was fun. Like a whole load of enjoyment. It didn’t take itself too seriously and I love the self-awareness from the characters and how they poked fun at the YA genre as a whole. To be clear, YA is totally my thing and everything can basically be done well, but breaking some tropes down to their simplest forms can make them sound seriously ridiculous. Like, ridiculous enough to make a Love Interest organisation which should have been all kinds of awesome.

Then there’s the ending. It wrapped up so quickly, and had a ton of action. I loved seeing some of Juliet’s inventions come in handy, and the scenes with Caden and Dylan smouldered.

To get right into it though, it felt kind of…simple? Basic? I don’t know.

There was some weird stuff going on. Like, it was so ridiculously meta it became its own parody? I dunno. We have the good guy vs the bad boy, but unfortunately Dylan is so UNREADABLE. For the first time in my whole entire life I was begging for a dual-POV so I could find out a little more about him other than he hated the roll he was assigned.

Then, everything was just way too convenient. Maybe its because the world building wasn’t detailed and fleshed out enough so everything that happened reeeally pushed my suspension of disbelief.

The struggles most characters go through were just kind of meh. There was never any fear for Caden’s life, and when building towards the big climax (and MAN was there some great build there) they ended up taking out this decades-old corporation in like one afternoon. They were literally home in time for dinner.

But, I will give the book credit where it is due. It opened conversations that are really important to have and break down. Homophobia, gender stereotypes, normalizing flaws in YA, and tokenising gay people were a few. The thing is, in trying to tackle them all at once, it missed the mark on them all.

This book was one great big sigh. I wanted to love it, I had fun with it, but at the end it fell short.

It was the literary equivalent to gorging myself on ice cream. I enjoyed it at the time, but there was no nutritional value and it left me feeling kind of off.

I’m glad I read it, because not every book has to be poignant or have a complicated plot, but I don’t think I’ll ever do a reread. I hate when books I’m dying for turn out to be nothing like I hoped.

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(and a half)

 

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Heather is rep’d by Carrie Howland of Empire Literary

 

So You Think You’re Funny? 3 Ways to Add Humour to Your Writing

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Image: Ryan McGuire via Gratisography

September is all about exploring genre on Aussie Owned and Read, so I stuck my hand up to look at humour. Okay, so technically humour isn’t a genre, rather more an element of style and voice which can be employed across any genre, but if you look at the genre categories in physical and online bookstores, there’s usually a humour section. So I’m sticking to my guns – or in this case, maybe water pistols.

I love reading fiction with a humorous voice, so it’s no surprise my own writing is sprinkled with good doses of humour (or so I’m told). Like most people, though, I can’t really pinpoint what makes someone else’s – or my own – writing funny. So I Googled! Don’t judge. You would have too! Why reinvent the wheel when somebody else’s wheels have come off so nicely for the sake of a laugh?

  1. Think Ks for Giggles

Words with sharp ‘k’ or ‘c’ sounds are apparently king when it comes to laughter mileage, and words with ‘g’ sounds aren’t far behind in the giggle stakes. Go figure. This phenomenon is widely known in comedy writer circles as the K Rule. Now you know why words like ‘discombobulated’ or ‘gargoyle’ and ‘goggles’ make you smile. Put them all together – a discombobulated gargoyle wearing goggles – and you’ll have readers rolling between the pages! Okay, moving on.

2. Go NUTS on the Metaphors and Similes!

Punchy metaphors and similes are a comedy writer’s best friend, which is a good thing because I love metaphors and similes like a newly washed Labrador loves rolling in garden fertilizer. A well crafted metaphor or simile can only add to the humour in your story. The trick is to keep it fresh and creative, and to avoid cliché. Apparently you can overuse this brilliant comedic tool in your writing, or so my editor tells me. We agreed to disagree – after he made me edit out a good chunk of my metaphor and simile brilliance. I’m okay bout it. Really.

3. The Rule of 3s

Patterns are generally a useful device for writers, but a pattern of three, where the first two items set up the reader to expect one thing only to be given something unexpected in item three, is a great tool when writing humour.

‘Meredith couldn’t understand why her friends didn’t want to come hang at her place on a stinking hot day like today. She had her own air conditioned teen retreat. The fridge was stacked with heaps of cold soft drink. And she had found twelve of her fifteen pet tarantulas that had escaped their terrarium that morning.’

You get the idea.

And because all good things come in threes, here are three of my favourite YA titles that do humour really well:

If you’re after more tips on writing funny, check out Four Commandments to Writing Funny by Joe Bunting and How to Mix Humor into Your Writing by Leigh Anne Jashway.


Kat Colmer AuthorKat Colmer is a Young Adult author and high-school teacher librarian who writes coming-of-age stories with humour and heart. She lives with her husband and two children in Sydney, Australia. Her debut YA The Third Kiss is out now with ENTANGLED TEEN and may or may not contain a few too many humorous metaphors and similes. Learn more on her website, or come say hi on FacebookTwitter and Instagram!

In the here and now: Contemporary

This month on Aussie Owned and Read, we’re talking about different genres and what makes them awesome. Today I’m talking about contemporary, or books set here and now.

Something I particularly love about these books is that they feel like they could be happening to someone, somewhere right now! And depending on where they’re set, to someone I know. I love how they can touch on topical events and create brilliant discussion.

This is real.

Or, at least, someone’s real. And reading about other people’s real can give hope and teach tolerance and empathy and create understanding.

They can be light and wonderfully romantic.

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Confronting.

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Painful.

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Brilliantly aussie

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And wonderful books can be found both traditionally and indie published.

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Do you love contemporary books? Have a fave?

🙂

Beck

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I always wanted to write. I’ve worked as a lab assistant, a pizza delivery driver and a high school teacher but I always pursued my first dream of creating stories. Now, I live with my family near Adelaide, halfway between the city and the sea, and am lucky to spend my days (and nights) writing young adult fiction.

 

Review: Collision by Alexandra Wright

When a collision of two parallel worlds creates a portal, Ella’s eyes-and heart-open to the impossible. Eighteen-year-old, tell-it-like-it-is Ella Beuchene is about to graduate from a prestigious high school, and yet she’s never felt more trapped. Her family is hell-bent on forcing her into a future she doesn’t want. Her boyfriend no longer gets her. And her best friend is keeping something secret. Something that could shatter their friendship for good. Ella is desperate to escape her “privileged” existence. Then, one warm summer night, Ella finds herself in the woods behind her house. The forest is lusher than ever before, the creatures of the night louder, and the moon brighter. Beneath its green canopy, she meets a mysterious, striking stranger. A man who gets her, who shifts her perspective of the world, and who…wait for it…glows in the dark. From that moment on, Ella’s not sure that it’s just her life she wants to escape. It may be her world.

Collision drew me in and held me prisoner until the *almost* bitter end.

An enticing out of this world romance – Collision is the story of Ella, an eighteen-year-old girl on the edge of adulthood. Trapped by the life her father has laid out for her, and terrified of the prospect of turning out like her alcoholic mother, she is delighted to wake up in another world completely, though she does take some convincing to begin with that she is in fact in another world and not simply dreaming.

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Setting this story in parallel worlds, Alexandra Wright gives us a look at what our world, the land of Australia in particular, could have turned out to be had we not achieved such technological advancements.

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The rough and tough nature of the world Ella visits is made softer by the connection she has with Colton, the handsome woodsman she met that first night in the woods. Their connection is forged by the power that brought her to his world, but their feelings for one another grows with each night they spend together, and it was far into this tale, that I was dreading where this story might lead, should Ella be forced to never return to Colton’s world.

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I became so enamored with Wright’s storytelling that I read the last half of this book in one sitting, unable to literally put it down.

Your heart will thank you for reading Collision, it is everything that love stories should be.

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I give Collision four out of five hearts, and can’t wait to read more form Alexandra wright.

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Rebecca Bosevski is the author of Enchanting the Fey, and Alpha Nine. Keep an eye out for her next novel, Uniting the Fabled due out later this year.

Genre Month: Fantasy

This month on Aussie Owned and Read, each of us are looking at a different genre, talking about why we think it’s awesome! I’m starting us off with Fantasy.

When I was a teen I read some fantasy, thanks to my mother. I was a fan of David Eddings’ Elenium series (I was so in love with Sparhawk) and the Keltiad series by Patricia Kennealy-Morrison (which is a bit of a Fantasy/Science Fiction mash-up).

When I went off to uni, I didn’t read as much, and when I did get back into reading I was so hooked on Science Fiction. But lately, Fantasy has been tugging at me with so many great titles coming out in recent years that push the boundaries of Fantasy. I love being transported to another world, whether it’s a constructed realm with its own rules and world-building, or a real-world setting with fantastical elements introduced.

One of the reasons I love Fantasy (and most genres under the Speculative Fiction Umbrella) is that the only limit is the author’s imagination. The author makes the rules, bends rules, and occasionally smashes them out of the park to create an amazing piece of literature.

Some of my recent favourite reads include:

  • The Name Of The Wind: It was a slow start, and I was honestly may have given up if my friend didn’t push me. But now I’ve devoured books 1 & 2, as well as The Slow Regard of Silent Things, which is one of the most beautiful stories I’ve ever read.
  • Throne of Glass: I loved the anti-hero aspect, I loved the twists, and I really enjoyed the world building.
  • The Grisha Trilogy and Six of Crows: Six of Crows took Fantasy to a whole new level with the infusion of more modern world aspects in a fantasy realm. And the Darkling is a bit swoon worthy.
  • Daughter of Smoke & Bone and Strange The Dreamer: Like Six of Crows, Strange the Dreamer took a different approach to fantasy, and had a more middle-eastern and mystical feel to the story. Daughter of Smoke and Bone series took what appeared to be an over-done genre on the surface, and turned it into something unique.
  • Raven Cycle and Scorpio Races:  I adored the lyrical writing in both of these stories, and the infusion of mythology into modern world settings was just magical.
  • Red Sister: This has gorgeous writing that slips between time periods, taking the reader on a magical journey.
  • Court of Fives: Beautiful otherworld fantasy with Roman Empire influences, and dealing with issues of colonisation that parallels the real world.

I’m sure there’s many more I could name, but these are some of my favourites. Add your recommendations in the comments!

Pink 1Sharon is a YA and NA author from sunny Queensland, who writes by beaches and fish tanks. She loves spending time with her family and watching her free range guinea pigs run around the back yard. Occasionally she has pink hair.

 

Elements of a Great Story: Editing

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Aussie Owned and Read has spent this month exploring the elements of a good story. Their awesome articles have explored ingredients such as the importance of authentic characters – by identifying their values, their beliefs, their reactions; the power of dialogue – by including conflict and subtext; the importance of pacing – how we can pick it up with action and dialogue and short, punchy sentences; and the power of setting – one that has been artfully woven through our scenes and characters. It really impresses on us the complexity and layers a good story needs to grasp readers. That’s a lot of balls to juggle…

How do you make sure the creation you’ve spent untold hours and sacrifices for has ticked all these boxes? You harness the power of editing.

Editing is the process of putting a new, very valuable and incredibly important, lens on your story. Stories are our babies. And just like our children or siblings, we tend to overlook (or plain old not see) their flaws. In our eyes, their strengths outshine any flaws they might have. With our family, that’s the way it should be. With a product that’s going out to for stranger’s consumption, we need to raise the bar. Editing creates the space you need to look at your story in a new way, find the weaknesses, and shore up the strengths. Luckily, there’s more than one way to do it, and it can be free.

  1. Self-Editing

There is a lot of information out there, blog, books and courses, about undertaking your own editing. If you want to hone the skills, then I suggest spending some time with Google. In the meantime the first step I recommend if you’re going to self-edit is to let your manuscript rest for a spell. And I’m talking at least a month. The first thing that will happen when you come back with fresh eyes is issues (that you hadn’t considered) will leap out so fast you’ll wonder how you missed them. Next, consider a lens that you’d like to elevate to next level; maybe dialogue, maybe pacing, maybe weaving setting through more seamlessly, and go through your manuscript with that filter in mind. Last, read your manuscript out loud, you’ll be surprised what you pick up.

This stage is important and shouldn’t be skipped, but it depends on you knowing your strengths and weaknesses in the craft of writing, and I’m not sure I’ve found a writer who has that level of objectivity. I know I don’t. This is why I recommend the next step as a vital part of making your story ready for publishing.

  1. Critique Partners

The discovery of my critique partners took my writing from a level I didn’t know I’d settled into, to a level I couldn’t have predicted. Critique partners are fellow lovers of the written word that have some understanding of the anatomy of a good story. As a general rule, these are fellow writers, and you exchange your work to provide honest and encouraging feedback. Critique partners can find things you missed, plot threads you’ve left dangling, characters that are hard to connect with. What’s even more rewarding, is finding critique partners that share the writing journey with you – the highs, the lows, the unexpected turns. They provide a level of support and encouragement that is impossible to quantify.

The points you need to keep in mind is being selective in your critique partners – you want a critique partner you can trust; one that is insightful, knowledgeable, discerning, and kind. Sometimes that takes more than one try. The other point to consider is that critique partners are still invested in your writer’s ego (they don’t want to hurt your feelings), which can cloud judgement and complete honesty. They also don’t necessarily have the qualifications, knowledge and experience a professional editor can offer.

  1. Hire a Professional Editor

As a developmental editor, and a writer that has had my manuscripts professionally edited, I’m a firm believer in the power of hiring a professional editor. If you hire an editor, you get the experience and knowledge I just mentioned, but more importantly, you’re paying for objectivity that values the power your story over the protection of your ego. An editor will delve into your masterpiece, pull out the gems, and shine a light on the holes. Character inconsistencies, POV issues, story structure slumps will all be identified in a constructive way. Because you’ll be given a road map on how to make your story the best it can be. And you’ll learn from it. You’ll experience ‘aha’ moments that will open a whole new world of possibilities, which will shape your future writing endeavours. In my opinion, that’s money well spent.

What’s your experience of editing your book? How did you take your manuscript to the next level?


Tamar Profile PhotoTamar Sloan is a freelance developmental editor and the creator of the PsychWriter blog – a fun, informative hub of information on character development, the science of story and how to engage readers. Come and explore it at www.psychwriter.com.au. Tamar is also a passionate writer of award-winning young adult romance. You can find out more about Tamar’s books at www.tamarsloan.com. You can connect with Tamar on Twitter or Facebook.