E-Shorts: Why Read and Write Them?

Last month, my co-author Meagan Spooner and I released a free short story set in the same world as our Starbound trilogy. Titled This Night So Dark, it's designed to be read before or after These Broken Stars.

We had heaps of fun writing and releasing it, and the response from fans has been amazing! We've been asked lots of questions about it, so today I'm going to talk about the best reasons to release a free story like this, and why we did it.

It's a chance to give something back to the fans.

This is, above anything else, the best reason to write and release a story for free. We've been bowled over by the response to These Broken Stars -- from the emails to the letters, the awesome fan art (hoooow do you guys do that stuff?) to the recipes! Quite simply, we wanted to thank our readers for being amazing, and a free story felt like the best way to do it.

You can tell a story that doesn't fit into the big picture.

At the start of These Broken Stars, you learn two things about Tarver very quickly. First, he's considered a 'war hero'. Second, he doesn't want to talk about how he earned those medals. Meg and I always knew the story behind his fame, but there wasn't any place in the novel to tell it. It would have been a distraction from the main storyline. Releasing it as a short story gave us the chance to share it in a different forum, so those who have been wondering (and judging by the emails, you guys really wanted to know!) can find out the truth about Tarver.

It's a chance to meet new readers.

Picking up a whole novel is an investment in terms of time and money -- a short story is a way for an author and reader to get to know each other with less commitment. Think of it as catching up for a coffee, instead of launching into a dinner-and-a-movie date straight away. Short stories and novellas are a great way to check out the writing and world of a new author, to see if you want to jump into the series. We hope This Night So Dark will be a chance for new readers to check out the series, and perhaps join in the fun.

It helps with the wait!

Authors are readers too, and we hate waiting for the next book in our favourite series as much as you guys do! We can't waaaait to share This Shattered World with you all, next month. In the meantime, short stories are a great way to bridge the gap, help with the agony of waiting for the next instalment, and they're also a great way to ease you back into a world before you pick up the next book.

What about you guys? Do you read e-shorts and e-novellas? I'd love to hear your favourites!

Interview with E.C. Myers on The Silence of Six

What is it like working on a work-for-hire novel? Find out in my interview with Leaguer E.C. Myers - Lissa Price.

E.C., What should we know about your newest book?

The Silence of Six is a contemporary YA thriller about a group of teenage hackers who combine their skills to answer an intriguing question: “What is the silence of six?” As they investigate, they dig deep into a high level conspiracy that not only endangers the privacy of individuals, but their lives. And they have to work quickly because they’re being pursued by shady operatives online and in the real world, and the truth could affect the outcome of the presidential election just a few weeks away.

You’re one of two books published by a new publisher – Adaptive Studios. Tell us how they came to find you and why you went with them instead of one of the known publishers.

Adaptive Studios is a newish company that adapts orphaned works (such as an unproduced screenplay, in the case of The Silence of Six) into other properties, like television shows, novels, and picture books. I was introduced to them by fellow YA author Tiffany Schmidt, and on the strength of my first novel, Fair Coin, they offered me the opportunity to audition for the project. They liked what I came up with, so we worked together on developing an outline for the book; other than the title, the book bears little resemblance to the source material, which I haven’t even seen! This was my first work-for-hire novel, and I took it on because I loved the premise and thought I could write something really fun and interesting about hacking, conspiracies, and social media. I also liked the idea of having a new book out this year, particularly one so different from my usual work. My first two books were both published in 2012, and though I have some other manuscripts in the works, nothing else is scheduled for publication. Adaptive has a really fresh take on publishing, and it was great to participate in the collaborative process of writing and marketing the book.

The cover is especially haunting. Did you have any say in the design process?

Adaptive and their cover designer had several strong, compelling ideas for the cover, any of which could have worked well. I was surprised and pleased that they took my opinions into consideration throughout the process, as well as feedback from my literary agency, which has experience in designing and marketing their clients’ books. I thought it was important not to show a face (particularly following on Fair Coin and Quantum Coin), and I didn’t want to see a character of a specific gender. What we ended up with was one of the earliest concepts and I kept coming back to it because it was so mysterious and chilling — to me, it represented anonymity, and the hood added a Grim Reaper-esque element that seemed thematically appropriate. I especially love the title treatment.

How has winning the Andre Norton Award changed your career?

Not as much as you might think! I am incredibly honored to have the award, and it may get me a little more attention from editors and booksellers and librarians, but the Norton isn’t largely recognized outside of the speculative fiction field. I’m also usually the last person to mention that I won it, which I suppose makes me a poor self-marketer. When people do know about the Norton, they are often impressed, which makes me feel great. I think most of all it helps me with those moments when impostor syndrome hits — it gives me some reassurance that I’m not terrible at this writing thing.

Whose career would you most like to have?

That’s a dangerous road to go down. Of course it might be nice to be a rock star with multiple book deals, movie options, and all that jazz, but the only career I can have is my own. Money and fame are measures of success, but the only appeal there is that they usually signal a wide readership — which would be great because most of all I just want people to read my books! (I would also love to keep publishing them, which requires some level of financial success.) That said, if I ended up writing a few books that people love, I’ll be happy. One of my favorite authors, William Sleator, wrote a lot of terrific books that people still remember, although he didn’t seem to garner a lot of attention or riches. Robert C. O’Brien only wrote three books (one of those posthumously completed by his family), but they are amazing books. I want my books to outlast me and affect young readers the way books affected me.

What has been the biggest surprise for you in your publishing journey?

Boy, this is a lot of work, isn’t it? I was most surprised by how much of writing involves doing things that isn’t writing: marketing, signings, events, etc. I’m also constantly surprised at just how random and impersonal it all is; editors leave publishers, books get cancelled, contracts fall through. Make no mistake: Publishing is a business, and it’s hard to separate that from the “purity” of writing as art — something we’re driven to do because we have to tell stories. Talent is just part of the equation; you have to be in the right place at the right time with the right book. The only thing we can control is the quality of our writing, and we have to try not to worry about the rest.

If you could be something else other than a book author, what would you be?

I’ve tried a bunch of other jobs, and this is the best one so far! But all other things being equal, I would love to develop video games.

Anything else you’d like the League readers to know?

One of the best parts of being an author is getting to interact with readers and other writers, so I love participating in blogs like this one. Thank you for your support! And thanks for the terrific interview, Lissa.

Thank you, Eugene. Have questions? Ask Eugene in the comments below.

Twitter: @ecmyers



I have something to show you today.

So a while back, I wrote this book called Landry Park.  And then I wrote a sequel to it called Jubilee Manor.  Both are books set in a world where the wealthy live in massive estates fueled by nuclear power, and the main character, Madeline Landry, is poised to inherit one of the largest and wealthiest estates in the nation.  Of course, nothing is ever that easy, so when unrest erupts among the lowest castethe Rootlessand a boy who is strangely connected to it all moves to town, she is forced to choose between her destiny as a Landry and her conscience.

When my editor emailed me to show me the paperback cover for Landry Park, I was elated.  For one thing, I think it's beautifulyou get to see some of Landry Park itself in the background.  The new tagline is perfect.  And that dress.  

For another thing, and I have to be really honest here, pretty much my absolute favorite part of publishing a book is getting a cover.  And I got to get two for Landry Park!

Now for the really good stuff.  Because at the same time I got my gorgeous paperback cover, I got my even more gorgeous sequel cover!  First, here's a little blurb about Jubilee Manor:

The thrilling conclusion to Landry Park is full of love, betrayal and murder--perfect for fans of Divergent, The Selection and Pride and Prejudice.

In Landry Park, Madeline turned her back on her family, friends and estate to help the Rootless.  Now, she struggles to bring the gentry and the Rootless together, despite the prejudices that divide them.  But when a gentry heir is slaughtered in the ballroom of Landry Park, even Madeline suspects a Rootless is behind it, putting her at odds with the boy she loves and the very people she's trying to lead.

As more heirs are murdered, Madeline searches desperately for the killer, all while trying to keep the explosive city away from war. Violence and tumult rock through the gentry and the Rootless as Madeline risks everything to find out the truth--even her life.

Jubilee Manor will release August 11, 2015.

And now, here is the cover:

What do you think?  I can't stop bouncing happily in my chair as I look at it.  The blue swirls remind me of the cherenkov lanterns that are so prevalent in the book, and the crisscrossing pattern makes me think of the atomic symbol and of electrons whizzing around a nucleus. And I love that you can see more of the estate in this picture and get a sense of its scale and grandeur.  

And of course, that dress.

Pop Culture and SciFi, by Tonya Kuper

I am a self-proclaimed scifi-dork, fangirl, whatever. I love all things science fiction and always have. 

For some reason though, I’d never thought about how much science fiction and pop culture are interwoven, even one in the same at times, until I started writing ANOMALY, my young adult debut. I mean, think about how much we give a nod to science fiction in our everyday conversations - or how much some science fiction has become common knowledge in the United States and beyond.

ANOMALY is science fiction set in present day. Josie, the main character, is a science-fiction nerd and totally owns it. There are science fiction nods, analogies, and references throughout the novel. Science fiction within science fiction. Is it a no-no? I’m not sure, but I really don’t care, either. And here’s why: I attempted to make a character that readers could relate to, who was real. The predominance of pop culture and the influence it has on our society, especially teens, can’t be denied – so I used it.

My hope is that some readers will “get” Josie and her view of the world, seen through a pop culture/sci-fi lens.

Here is a short excerpt, to give an example of the science-fiction within the science-fiction:

She rolled said eyes and gave me the Vulcan hand gesture. 

“I think your Vulcan salute is backward. I thought you’d know that, nerd,” I said, trying to keep it light. 

She turned her hand the correct way, the palm facing me. “No, this is what Vulcans like Spock use, which means ‘live long and prosper.’” Then she flipped her hand so the backside faced me. “I’m using it backward, which means the opposite. ‘Die and languish.’” She flashed a fake smile. 

And Josie often says, “Oh, for the love of Khan.”

For more scifi goodness, action, and a bit of romance, you can check out ANOMALY, releasing November 25, 2014 by Entangled Teen! Or for daily scifi and general dorkiness, follow me on the interwebs! Thanks so much for having me on your rad blog, LoEW!!!

Reality is only an illusion. 
Except for those who can control it... 

Worst. Birthday. Ever. My first boyfriend dumped me – happy birthday, Josie!- my dad is who knows where, I have some weird virus that makes me want to hurl, and now my ex is licking another girl’s tonsils. Oh, and I’m officially the same age as my brother was when he died. Yeah, today is about as fun-filled as the swamps of Dagobah. But then weird things start happening... 

Like I make something materialize just by thinking about it. 

When hot badass Reid Wentworth shows up on a motorcycle, everything changes. Like, everything. Who I am. My family. What really happened to my brother. Existence. I am Oculi, and I have the ability to change reality with my thoughts. Now Reid, in all his hotness, is charged with guiding and protecting me as I begin learning how to bend reality. And he’s the only thing standing between me and the secret organization that wants me dead...

Tonya Kuper is a young adult author living in Omaha, Nebraska with her two cool boys and husband. ANOMALY, the first in the Schrodinger’s Consortium trilogy, is her debut novel and releases November, 25, 2014 by Entangled Teen. Tonya is a music junkie, Star Wars dork, and Sherlock lover.

Committing to the Shiny New Idea

Shiny new ideas can come at you with all sorts of speeds. There are the ones that slap you upside the head so fast, you twirl and forget your surroundings ("Groceries? Who cares! MUST WRITE NOW.") There are the slow brewing ones that squat like a frog in the corner of your brain, begging to be turned into something more majestic.

Either way, at some point, writers must commit to their new idea. Here are some of the steps I go through when deciding to spend the next months (or year? Years, even?) with the next novel.

What else is already out there?
Source: Giphy
Every story you write is uniquely yours. If you ask two people to write a story about paisley-patterned pixies that live in Greenland, they will still be different. But--I know that personally I don't like to write a novel if that type of story is already glutting the market. I want to write something that truly feels unique to me. How will I know readers will find it different? What can I add to the already plentiful number of beautifully written books out there? So I always take that into consideration.

What is my main character's journey going to be like?
Source: Giphy
So. The journey. There are lots of classic journeys that main characters go through. Will it be a classic hero's journey? How will the MC change and grow? What are the stakes? Are they important enough? When I ask these questions, I try to feel if this is a story I actually care to create, watch unfold, and be involved in.

How familiar am I with this genre?
Source: Giphy
I am a genre-hopping writer. CONTROL and CATALYST are firmly in the realm of science fiction, defined by the genetic manipulation and near future realities within it, but I've also written historical, urban fantasy, and have high fantasy and even more historical on my list of things to write. I've lived in YA but also dabble in MG. I always try to read lots of books when I'm entering into new territory, so I can get a feel for how other authors tackle them (also known as the most fun homework, EVER.) I know we hear the common phrase "Write what you know," but part of writing is about using our imaginations to expand into what we're unfamiliar with. However--if it's so unfamiliar that you're deeply uncomfortable in that territory, well. That's telling.
Can I speak the language?
Source: Giphy
This is really a research/brainstorming question. Before I can write a single word, I have to know what my characters are going to sound like, what they wear. I have to know what the buildings look like, if the food is spicy. I have to know about the politics of the time and the historical background--and I'm not just talking about writing historical novels. This is true for epic fantasy, and futuristic thrillers, and contemporary. If you can sit inside your world and really see it--you're ready to live there a while.

Who else lives here?
Source: Giphy
World building is one thing, but who else lives there? These are the people and animals and creatures that can really bring vibrancy to your world. A main character is nothing without the supporting cast. So I have to meet them and be just as entranced with them as the MC and world.

Am I in love with it?
Source: Giphy
This is the biggest question of all. After all this work, am I still in love with it? Because to tell you the truth, I've never written a novel where my heart didn't flutter at the very concept of it. I can't explain why, but the spark sometimes disappears after fleshing it all out. Those books have never been written. However, if I'm still swooning over the idea, then Spock isn't allowed to destroy it all. I open up my Scrivener program and start writing page one. :)

Twirl that Moustache: Your Favorite Villains

We love our heroes. But villains are worthy of our love, too, for so many reasons. These days, villains seem to have as many (or more?) fans than the heroes of our favorite SF/F stories. 

Here, our Leaguers share some of their favorite villains, and why!

Beth Revis:
My favorite villain is The Operative in the movie Serenity. He is absolutely evil, but he absolutely believes that what he is doing is the right thing. He's not a mustache-twirling bad guy (which, despite the helmet, Darth Vader totally is); he has explicit, specific--and even reasonable--logic for doing the horrible things he does. His reaction to everything that happens in the end of the novel is amazing, something very few villains do, and that makes him even more perfect.

The Operative, from Serenity. "Darth Vader is flat Stanley. Because Beth says so and I agree."
Mindy McGinnis:
My favorite SF/F villain is Black Jack Randall from the Outlander series. Every villain has a reason for what they're doing, and Gabaldon actually made me cry for him at one point. HOW!??! I don't know, but she did.

Black Jack Randall. A keen eye and a bloody good hat.
Bethany Hagen:
Both Victor and Eli from V.E. Schwab's Vicious.  They are both so clever and original, plus I really dug the idea that they were battling each other, and it wasn't necessarily a hero vs. villain.  More like villains versus each other.

This is Victor, turning his back on you.
Lissa Price:
I will go with the Master from the David Tennant version of Dr Who. 

The Master, from Dr Who. Source
"This? Oh, it's just a fork. Trust me."
E.C. Myers:
I am going with General Zod, specifically from the film Superman II. He isn't the worst villain, but he's definitely evil and ambitious and a match for Supes. He's also inadvertently funny and entertaining. "Kneel before Zod" is classic, and there's this great moment in the film where he's being interviewed on TV and he ends it by using his own name as an exclamation: "Zod!"

General Zod. "Kneel before my superlative facial hair stylings."
Lydia Kang:
I would say Loki from Thor. He's so devilishly evil but with a squishy heart inside. And then there's Khan, from Star Trek into Darkness. I also had a major villain crush on Pitch, from Rise of the Guardians. That scratchy voice was too much. Who doesn't want to strive to just exist? I could go on...

Here's Loki looking SO evil. Um. Wait. Let me try another. 
Hmm. Evil looks too good. Let's try another.
That's better!

So do you have a favorite villain? Tell us who and why in the comments below!

Interview with Meagan Spooner, author of LARK ASCENDING

We are so excited here at the League that our own Meagan Spooner's final book in the Skylark trilogy just released! The book is called Lark Ascending, and it's AMAZING.

We're here today with Meagan to find out some more about her process and how she came about writing an end to a series with characters we've fallen in love with.

Peggy: You have an incredible ability to write compelling, complex, real characters that readers fall in love with. Tell us a little about your process-- do your characters come to you fully formed, or do they become who they're going to be as you are writing and editing?

Meagan: My main characters are usually greatly informed by the worlds they live in and what the story needs them to be. I had the setting of the Skylark trilogy before anything else, and thought about whose story would be most interesting to tell in this world where magic is a fuel source, and rapidly dwindling. The answer: a girl with the power to generate magic herself. Of course, for those who've read Skylark, the first book, they know that's not really the whole story on Lark and her abilities, but I won't spoil the twists for those who haven't! For side characters it's usually an archetype that first comes to me. Like "the teacher" or "the familiar." That allows me to see how the character will fit into the story, and lets me build him or her (or it, in Nix's case!) out from there into a more realistic person.

Those touches inevitably come from the characters' histories, most of which never show up in the books themselves. Kris, for example, has a lengthy origin story that will probably never see the light of day. Oren does as well--I wrote quite a bit of what happened to him in his childhood and what happened to his parents, and how he survived on his own. Sometimes you see side characters who only exist on the page, seemingly coming into existence for the first time when they're introduced in the manuscript. But real people have stories that span years or even decades, and for me, figuring out what brought each character to the place they enter my story makes them feel more real for me.

Peggy: You have been applauded by so many advance readers for writing a satisfying ending packed with action, tension, tough choices, romantic conflict, and reveals, with an incredible series arc and character arcs. Was the ending one you knew from the start, or did it surprise you?

Meagan: Let me tell you first what a relief that is to hear! Any series writer will tell you that there's nothing more terrifying than trying to end a series. If you can't please everyone with one book, you certainly can't please everyone with three! For me, the ending of Lark Ascending feels inevitable. I wasn't 100% certain exactly how it would end, but I knew the feeling I wanted to end with. For me, that's often where my plot structures and twists come from. I figure out how I want my reader to feel at any given point in the story arc, and then I figure out what would make them feel that way. So I knew exactly the note I wanted to strike with the ending, and by the time I got there, I knew how to do it.

The real trick was to keep that feeling of inevitability, like everything was always leading to that climax, that decision that Lark has to make in the end (no spoilers, don't worry!) from the very first words of the very first book—while also keeping it surprising. You don't ever want to feel like you can see what's coming--what you want is for readers to look back after finishing and think "Oh my god, I should have seen it!" That's what I aim for with every book—surprising yet inevitable.

That said... it surprised me, so I hope it surprises readers too!

Peggy: I think readers are going to LOVE it! Want to find out more about Megan and her books? Check out the links below.

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Meagan Spooner grew up reading and writing every spare moment of the day, while dreaming about life as an archaeologist, a marine biologist, an astronaut. She graduated from Hamilton College in New York with a degree in playwriting, and has spent several years since then living in Australia. She’s traveled with her family all over the world to places like Egypt, South Africa, the Arctic, Greece, Antarctica, and the Galapagos, and there’s a bit of every trip in every story she writes.

She currently lives and writes in Asheville, North Carolina, but the siren call of travel is hard to resist, and there’s no telling how long she’ll stay there.

In her spare time she plays guitar, plays video games, plays with her cat, and reads.