Some newly published fiction: In addition to my novel prequel on Wattpad or Inkittshort story “Fleeting Delights” has been published by Sheepshead Review. You can also find what is perhaps my most controversial story to date, “All About Asses,” online from Every Day FictionDon’t judge too harshly until you consider the ending that all humans share…

What the heck is ‘Voice’?

bram_stoker

He was a great author, but Bram Stoker didn’t have the voice we want to read now.

Every writer who’s submitted anything has had so sit through a stern lecture about Voice. “The Voice isn’t quite right.” “Publishers are super-attuned to voice.” Or, my personal favorite: “Your narrative has no voice.”

No voice? None? With thousands of words filling hundreds of pages it would have to at least sound like me. When I speak, people hear my voice, so surely it’s the same when I write.

Agents may have been sparing my feelings when they gave me these actual points of feedback. They couldn’t have meant the narrative was silent, so maybe they just didn’t like the writing. I think there’s more, though. I think part of it might be that they want something in #ownvoices. Continue reading

3 Reasons to Rewrite the Marginalized

MedievalWoman

Women were known to fight in Medieval battles

It wasn’t long ago that academic medievalist and author, Adam D. Jones, shut down an argument by tweeting that women played much more prominent roles in medieval society than most of us realize. Despite that contribution to history, though, our fiction would have us believe that they spent their time languishing in locked-up towers, waiting for princes or knights to finally get off their horses for the rescue. Only recently have authors begun cladding medieval heroines in armour and chain, and some of those authors are copping more than a bit of flak for it in the often-hostile Twittiverse.

Jones says they’re right, though… and that’s the first reason for authors to rewrite what we think we know about minorities. Continue reading

Are Trends Really a Novelist’s Friends?

Will hashtags help or hurt Too Much Information?

When I first decided to focus on submitting novels, I assumed that trends were my friends. With all the #MSWL listings asking for them, I tried to write using strong female voices; because they dominated Young Adult fiction, I tried to create paranormal characters. By the time I had written revision after revision, though, I found that agents were already looking for LGBQ voices instead, and that the teenage obsession with friendly monsters had given way to the Dystopias that had probably always lived inside them. In other words, writing to trends was as often harmful to my chances as it might have been helpful.

KatnissVsBella

Katniss made us forget Bella, but neither are trending now.

How do we judge, then, whether something trendy will serve to enhance an agency query or just give it a shelf life? By the time my editor, Matthew Bird, gave me the tools I needed to craft my sixth revision of Too Much Information, the novel already had plenty of trends in it. It features a teenage girl, after all, who awakens from a coma able to see that everyone around her is a ‘Bully’ or a ‘Misogynist’ or a ‘Murderer,’ just by looking in their eyes. The novel is a murder mystery, but about a super-power that Jessica feels is a curse. It has girl-power. It has wacky sidekicks. It has threats from the darkest corners of our real-life fears, and teenage protagonists learning to face them.

It was about to get a whole lot trendier, though: some say too trendy.

Continue reading

Who are we Fooling? …Choosing Simplicity over Style.

April Fool’s, everyone!

fools-hatYes, I know it was last week; my mind hasn’t been that addled by free time and hard drives full of media. Last week, you might remember, is when I pulled my very first WordPress prank, by posting the ‘lyrics’ to the old Meow Mix commercial, and suggesting it might be literature. I then tweeted about it—twice, like I do for every other post—and invited the world to view it. I crossed my fingers, hoping that the world wouldn’t: hoping, despite myself, that world would prefer rich human debate over literary trends to the image of a long-deceased mouser lip-syncing one word.

Guess what? The world likes the cat better.

According to my stats, the singing tabby got more views than my last two editorial posts: one exploring publishing trends, and the other lamenting what the loss of Dana Plato could mean to writers. Continue reading

“Fire in the Sea” targets ages 12-15: the “Right Age” for Mythology.

If you have not already, please visit my award-winning Flash Fiction here, here and here. While you are there, take a moment to browse around the community at WOW; enter a contest, take a course and read their informative blog. Without hyperbole, they are as supportive and encouraging a group as any that a new writer will ever find.

minotaur

A Minotaur is fresh to some readers, but still recognizable.

When I first wrote Olivia of Olympus, I thought I was being original. After years of experiencing Dystopian YA fiction through the eyes of my students, I had begun to question why those familiar tropes should not instead be applied to existing legends. After all, it was the Norse and the Romans who first told tales of young heroes being pitted against impossible trials. It was the Greeks who proposed a society where women were freed, but at the cost of their lovers being killed and their sons enslaved. And when Zeus defied his wife, Hera, to express his overwhelming love for the human girl, Alcmene… well, a story like that has to give even Bella Swan a run for her mournful money.

Continue reading

The “Right Age” for Mythology?

 

For this entry in my series, The Right Age for Young Readers, I hope to start a discussion about whether existing mythology provides as valid an adventure in YA fiction as newly invented worlds. An excerpt from my edited 3-day novel project, Olivia of Olympus, is the starting point.

Olivia of Olympus, by K. Alan
from Chapter ε—A Long List of ex-Fathers

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By the middle of this fifth chapter, Livi has gotten over her anger at her nerdy classmate, Kent, for ruining her chance to dance for scouts at a talent show. The show is cancelled when Kent cannot bring back his nerdier friend, Steve, after making him disappear. Trying to untangle the failed magic act, Livi and Kent, along with their friend Elsie, discover a portal to the ancient Greek land of Themiscyra. After learning of the Amazons’ abuses against Kent for simply being male, Livi is angry, and no longer just looking for Steve. Olivia is now looking for justice.

 

“You’ve got a lot to answer for, lady,” I sizzled upward to the Amazon Queen.

Hippolyta seemed remarkably unconcerned. “The slave’s time was short,” she reasoned. “His passing was inevitable. Killing him was a mercy.”

A sunrise behind us was revealing more detail to the surroundings where the sentries had taken us. We were in the arena of some kind of coliseum, with circles of concentric benches all around us. Kent was seated on the lowest of these, while Elsie tended to the most obvious of his wounds. It was up to me, then, to face the woman who I had thought, up until now, might want to help us.

“Even if that’s true,” I countered about Ozzie’s death, “That doesn’t explain your treatment of the other slaves.”

Hippolyta shared a look with each of her attendants, taking a little too long to examine their flowing hair and the flowers decorating it. As if they were all sharing a joke, she shrugged down at me from her throne, explaining simply, “They are men.”

“They’re your sons.”

My comment passed darkly over her features, and I knew I had pressed a button.

Continue reading

Age 14: The “Right Age” for Current Events

It’s a tentative statement to make, but age fourteen seems about right, to me, for a reader to start learning about current events from their fiction.

Teenagers really should know more about events in the world than almost anyone. One would think that globegirlwith several phones, a tablet and a laptop constantly in tow, that they would be barking out current affairs and world trivia quickly enough to leave Anderson Cooper red-faced. We all know where we turn when we want data on the latest trends in fashion and entertainment, so why aren’t the most wired-in people on earth equally versed in global trends?

socialmedia

No Increase in Public Knowledge

The fact is, though, that they aren’t. According to Randi Mazella, as of 2014, there was “no increase in public knowledge” among this age-group Continue reading

The “Right Age” for Current Events?

Continuing with my series, The Right Age for Young Readers, here is another short YA story to consider. As before, I invite comments about the ideal age range for content like this, introducing serious current events. I will base a follow-up post on these comments early next week.

In the meantime, be sure to catch my guest-post on Cow Pasture Chronicles, questioning why loud voices get all the attention.

 

Capital Letters

By K. Alan

“It isn’t a problem,” my mother kept telling me. “It’s an opportunity for us all: not just your father.”

Easy for her to say. The last time she’d left a friend forever, the wooly mammoths had only just frozen over. My friends were different; they were here now. Alex was here.

Mother pulled off her irritating routine of trying to pretend that she knew how I felt. “You’re getting to know Alex,” she commented, folding a sheet, “and that’s a shame. He really is a nice boy.”

“He’s a sizzler,” I pouted. “I’ll never meet anyone like him, never, ever again.”

foldedsheetInfuriatingly, this made her smile. She fought it, but even behind the sheet, I could see the creases of age and gloom crinkling away from around her eyes. “He’s a nice boy,” she repeated, folding the discussion into her pile of linens.

Normally, having my mother brand a boyfriend a ‘nice boy’ would have been enough to sanitize the passion right out of me, but Alex really sizzled. He had sizzled in school, he sizzled in the uniform he wore to work, and he would sizzle, especially, singing to me through our window. We had a neighbor—Mr. Franco—who didn’t quite agree at three in the morning, but even his threatening shouts couldn’t douse the flame that burned from my boyfriend, Alex.

My boyfriend. Not anymore. We moved, just like my mother and father wanted. It was always what they wanted; they never thought about how I felt. The only time I had with Alex now was FaceTime. His only serenades came through YouTube. Our entire relationship was starting to depend on SnapChat and Wi-Fi, and other words with two capital letters.

On the ninth morning, Skype sang that I had a call. My heart lifted, but it didn’t stay aloft for long.

Alex was saying terrible things.

“Alex,” I was shouting at his image, “I miss you!”

“It’s me, Amira,” he was shouting back. “I can see… but the networks are…”

“What is it?” Alex was in his uniform, so he must have been working, but I could only see rocks behind him. “Do you miss me too?” I asked, needing to hear that he did.

That wasn’t the question he answered, though. “It is good that… Hungary, now, Amira… father was smart.”

“No, Alex,” I pleaded, unable to bear the rejection. “Don’t say that. It’s terrible that I’m in Hungary, and I miss you so much. When I’m older—”

His voice interrupted me in broken pieces, each stabbing like a shard. “…fight… terrible… defend…”

That was the moment I gathered my pride, and gave him an ultimatum. “Alex, if you’re ending things, just say so.”

Still, he ignored me, but his voice sizzled as the connection cleared a little. “…was the Free Syrian Army… attacked Aleppo. We were deployed… in their control.”

That was when Alex stopped moving, and I saw the rocks behind him more clearly. Only they weren’t rocks: they were pieces of buildings. Other boys, uniformed like Alex, were dragging charred bodies from them.

“Tell your parents,” he finally said, as if he were in the room, “Mr. Franco is dead. …glad they took you out of Syria, Amira.”

Then, the nice boyfriend who still burns in my mind said his last words to me.

“I’m glad you’re safe.”

– What is the “Right Age” for these Words from K. Alan?