About Me

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Using Graphic Novels as an Inspiration for Teen Books by Pamela Kelt

How many people have tried their hand at fantasy novels with a ‘quest’ theme? The answer is, I suspect, just about anyone who’s enjoyed Lord of the Rings. That’s a lot of folk.

Some years ago, I began to develop a story set in the icy wastes of the north. It was based on a trip to northern Norway. The story only took off on the third edit, when I tried a different approach. I decided to ditch the traditional fantasy scenario and go for the flavour of a graphic novel.

Not everyone likes graphic novels. Our favourite country pub is owned by a chap, a former graphic artist, who’s lined the walls of the establishment with original front covers of graphic novels from the 1970s. Catwoman, the Incredible Hulk, Superman, The Shadow. Others were more obscure, but the powerful images are filled with exciting promise.

In my view, the figures and backdrops are striking and brilliantly drawn – with obvious good and evil connotations. This made them the perfect inspiration for an adventure story for teens and tweens.

Some say it doesn’t matter what you read, as long as you read something. This sentiment was often quoted to assist teachers hoping to encourage youngsters, especially boys, to read. So, I thought I’d try and create a graphic novel – without pictures.

So, what are the key ingredients to a graphic novel? After some poking around the web, I came up with some ground rules.

Graphic novels require super-human heroes and heroines. I wasn’t about to create new wonder-beings, so I didn’t worry overly about this aspect, although I made sure the characters were strong, with my young heroes achieving staggering feats of endurance against unpleasant villains.

Action is paramount, and descriptions are relegated to a few brief words of scene-setting. This seemed to make sense. The characters jump in, enabling the reader to be there in their imagination. This is just another way of saying ‘show not tell’, I suppose.

Memorable scenes, those staggering set pieces where the imaginary camera takes in the action, are a must for the so-called ‘visual novel’. Instead of describing the lousy weather, I tried to create an image of my stalwart heroes stranded in a snowstorm as a villainous army of mutant creatures moving in. No escape! Duh-duh-duh.

In graphic novels, captions and word balloons are critical. When it came to language, I went for a direct, simple style, as contemporary as possible without being too ‘street’. In every plot twist, someone restates the predicament so less experienced readers know what’s going on.

 Obviously, word balloons weren’t feasible (it’s not illustrated), but I tried different routes to express thoughts, such as different punctuation, style, typefaces – although too many exclamation marks weren’t deemed such a great idea by my editor. I have to agree. They looked out of place.

In a sidebar, I once had the oddest translating job. It was to convert the speech in the bubbles of a graphic novel from American English (‘Jeez, bud. You’re so dumb you drive me nuts.’) to British English (Hey, mate. Stop being such a plonker.’) The difficult thing was, we had no access to the graphic artist, so I literally had to make the words fit the space.

Back to Ice Trekker. When I read the stunning The Edge Chronicles, I could hear the forest, the strange animals, the evil armies moving in the undergrowth. I’m not saying I wrote ‘thunk’ every time someone fell off a rock, but a good bit of onomatopoeia works wonders.

Good graphic novels have terrific back-stories, some as powerful as myths. This seemed like fun, so I created a few myths to explain my mythical planet and the creatures upon it. (I put the full version on the blog for anyone who’d care to read it – http://icetrekker.blogspot.co.uk/p/the-legend-of-mount-vulkanen.html.) Such mythology reinforces the moral tone, and I feel younger readers enjoy learning from myths and fables about good and evil, and how the world should work.

Good graphic novels have a tight script, often laced with dark humour. Humour is how people often deal with tension, so I allowed myself a dry comment here and there. Unleavened seriousness can be a bit much. For example, our intrepid heroes are under attack and have to defend themselves, but they don’t have much. The cook pitches in: “I’ve got a few kitchen knives,” said Big Ben, who popped his head up. “And there’s a fair bit of damage you can do with a milk frother if you set your mind to it.”

A vital aspect of the graphic novel is the impact of cinema. I was brought up on books by John Buchan, with pages of worthy descriptions of the lay of the land. Today’s generation sees things from the cameraman’s point of view. Every time I created a new scene, I tried to think of interesting angles, extreme close-ups, panning, long shots, wide or panoramic shots, scenes over the shoulder, a bird's eye view. They’re all worth exploring.

A part of this is the use of landscapes. In graphic novels, landscapes set the mood for the whole novel. It’s time to have some fun – but the characters should interact with it. The aim must be for the reader to ‘see’ the story and its themes rather than realising they’re reading about them.

 Well, now you can decide for yourself. Here’s a short extract of Ice Trekker, due out on MuseItUp in September.

Extract of Ice Trekker:
“Hide!” hissed the old sailor, eyes white with fear. He slithered across the icy decking and burrowed into a tangle of fishing nets lying on the dock.

Midge turned his face upward. The navy night sky turned green, laced with purple and orange like oil in water.

“What is it?” he asked, ducking into the doorway of a battered wooden boathouse. A rippling movement swept over his head in a giant tidal wave of light. He held his breath as though he were being sucked under water.

“Skythons!” came the terrified reply. “You gets them in Kr√łnagar. But never seen ’em so big before. Horrible things. Horrible!”

Midge stared upward to watch a shimmering snake-like pattern weave and twist across the sky. The effect of long, rippling muscles struck him as so strange and beautiful that he forgot to feel afraid as he gazed at the shifting colours.

“They mean bad luck,” howled the sailor, arm over his eyes.

Up in the cold sky, colours still shimmered. “Surely it’s just superstitious nonsense?” Midge said, still staring. “They can’t be real. Just a trick of the light.” He couldn’t drag his eyes away from the sight as the shape swooped toward the dark line of mountains, arched up, over, and back toward where he stood on the little jetty. He jolted as he thought he saw a giant violet eye, bloodshot and terrible, staring right at him. It was so close he could see it gleam.

Looking round quickly, he found an old fish head. He scooped it up and flung it as far as he could into the harbour waters where it landed with a loud splash. The purple eye swivelled, following the movement of the bait, and the Skython swerved, changing direction with the ease of a supple salmon, skimming the dark waters. Then it snatched at the water, and zoomed upward, the fish head in its claws, before cresting the distant hills.

Author biography:
Pam’s background is in languages. She took Spanish at the University of Manchester then went on to Oxford to complete an M. Litt thesis on ‘Comic aspects of satirical 17th-century comic interludes’, which was far more interesting than it sounds.

After becoming a technical translator, she moved into copywriting, PR, proofreading and teaching English. On a stint in Australia, she landed a sub-editor’s job and entered the world of journalism, especially enjoying page layout and writing features and reviews.

Educational magazines and online publishing followed. Then, one bright day, while walking the dogs, thinking ‘to heck with a career’, she took the plunge into writing for herself. She is now the author of six books for adults, teens and younger readers. Pam writes full time in leafy Kenilworth where she enjoys walking her two daft dogs, watching her windowsill orchids grow and keeping up with the best mystery and adventure stories around.

Find Pam here:
Find Pam on Twitter and Facebook; or visit her author website and blog. Ice Trekker is the companion blog. Orchidmania is for orchid fans.

Pam’s other work:
Tomorrow's Anecdote Crooked Cat
Dark InterludeMuseItUp
Half Life (with Robert J Deeth) – out 16 August 2013 MuseItUp
The Lost Orchid – out soon Bluewood Publishing
The Cloud Pearl (Legends of Liria) – out November 2013 MuseItUp
The Deed Box – free short story to download from Smashwords

Monday, August 26, 2013

First Day of School

Today was the first day of school for my oldest.  He's a first grader this year.  He was excited to go, and promptly took off running to find his friends from last year.  It's going to be a great school year!

Yesterday, we went out fishing in our new boat.  It was a great way to relax before having to get back on schedule.  The boys had a great time and caught some fish.  We just love the outdoors!

The boys always seem to find dogs hanging out on the beach.

Watching the waves and waiting to throw in the lure.

Just checking out the water.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Being Lazy

In our house, we like to do nothing.  We like sitting around and watching TV or playing video games or reading books, but we don't get to do it very often.  Between work, day care, school, and sports, we keep pretty busy.  Occasionally, we have some days where we get to be lazy.  But no matter how lazy us humans are being, the cat always has us beat.  She has mastered the art of laying around!  I think we need to take lessons...

Friday, August 9, 2013

Lucky Phoo by Stacia Deutsch and Rhody Cohon‏

Seventh grade best friends, Caylie Jiang-Kahn, Lauren Blindell, and Sabrina Robinson have busy middle school lives.

Sabrina wants to make a movie about their friendship, but a stray dog shows up and ruins the day. In frustration, Lauren curses, “Oh Phooey.” The name sticks. The crazy mutt will forever be named Phoo.

Sabrina pieces together bits of the footage she shot. She highlights Phoo’s silly antics and puts the video up on a movie contest website.

The video goes viral and suddenly, Lauren, Caylie, and Sabrina are celebrities at school. When a volunteer at the dog shelter sees the film, she assumes the dog belongs to the girls and calls them to come collect Phoo.

The girls arrange to take turns caring for Phoo until he can be adopted.

While sharing Phoo, Caylie, Sabrina and Lauren begin to notice that if the dog is around, lucky things seem to happen. The moment he’s gone…the luck disappears.

When they all need the dog’s magic at the same time, it’s up to the girls to decide once and for all: Is Phoo truly a lucky dog?

Q) What inspired you to write this book?
I have been published for many years through major houses. I write constantly. This was a book f my heart. When I partnered with my friend Rhody Cohon to work on LUCKY PHOO we fell in love with the idea and the characters. Three girls, a magical dog, fashion, movies, and romance – what wasn’t to love.

The characters were kids we knew. The complexities of their lives felt familiar. This cute little dog comes in and seems to make everything better for a while. Who wouldn’t want a little Phoo? At the end, we wanted the reader to raise more questions than it answered, and we hope it’s done just that.

Q) What is your favorite thing about writing?
I love spending all day at my computer making up kids who do exactly what I want them to do and never complain, then at three PM, I pick up my own real kids who are never as predictable. Writing keeps me balanced. It’s the perfect job for a busy mom – I work while the kids are at school and get to spend all afternoon with them , enjoying their activities. I’ve been so lucky and am grateful everyday.

Q) What is your favorite candy?
I like Big Hunk. I know, Mom warned me it would pull out my fillings, but it’s the best. I have to pick out the peanuts though. They put too many in. I wish they’d make a version without them. That would be the best.

Q) What is your favorite cartoon?
I love Scooby Do. I also write mystery novels for kids and love uncovering a puzzle. There’s nothing better than at the end of a mystery when you think you know who did it, and it turns out you had no idea.

Q) When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always written stories. I just didn’t know I could do it professionally until recently. One day, I had an idea for a story. Rhody encouraged me to write it, offering her help. We published a series called Blast to the Past about kids who time travel. Then we went on to partner on other stuff. LUCKY PHOO is the most recent book we worked on together.

Q) What can readers expect from you in the future?
I have been very busy. In addition to the work I have done with Rhody, I write on my own. I have penned mystery novels (top secret…you’d never guess I was the ghost author), I have a tween zombie book from Scholastic called Mean Ghouls, I did the Smurfs 2 movie novel, and recently, I just finished writing a mermaid book, that I hope will come out soon. I am busy – and that’s the way I like it!

Rhody Cohon wishes she could adopt a million pets! Until her house is big enough she'll pamper the few she has and help others find the perfect home.

Find Rhody at www.rhodycohon.com.

Stacia Deutsch sits at the keyboard crafting stories all day and then, plays with her own crazy, lucky, dog at night. She and her three kids live in Southern California. You can visit Stacia at www.staciadeutsch.com or on twitter at @staciadeutsch.

Website: www.staciadeutsch.com, www.rhodycohon.com
Twitter: @staciadeutsch
Facebook: www.facebook.com/staciadeutsch or www.facebook.com/luckyphoo to post your own pet photos and videos

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Drinna by Jared Gullage

Drinna is a young girl from a race called the Kunjels on the cusp of adulthood, which means she is beginning to rage. She must get back to her homeland with her parents (both of whom are merchants in a foreign land) before losing control of herself. Unfortunately, she awakes in a hostile place called the Sea of Grass, alone, frightened, and unaware of what just happened. She must find her way back to someone who can help her. As she journeys through this place, she must also survive. Monsters and beasts...and someone else...watch her as she makes her way.

Q) What inspired you to write this book?
A) This book was written to address the issue of self-control and prejudice. The young protagonist is part of a race and culture that has to endure as well as control the rage. The rage is good for protecting people from danger and should only be used to right wrongs, but left unchecked, it can be a dangerous liability. For Drinna, she must learn (all on her own) to control her rage and put it to use adequately and for the right purposes or let it consume her. In one way, this novel comments on the fallacious idea that emotions should be allowed to overrule reason or responsibility. Drinna must subject her emotions and her fear to her learning from her parents, or risk losing everything. The novel also addresses the notion of prejudice, as it puts Drinna in a position where she must carefully judge those people she meets out in the wild. They may not all be what they seem.

Q) What is your favorite thing about writing?
A) I love the ability to create new worlds and explore them. I love comparing these worlds, and cultures, and histories to our own real world and see how they differ and, more importantly, how they are alike. I love exploring universal truths this way, coming to an understanding of real humans through the telling of stories about fake ones.

Q) What is your favorite candy?
A) Dark chocolate with almonds.

Q) What is your favorite cartoon?
A) Right now, the new Loony Tunes Show is becoming my favorite. I love Lola Bunny's new characterization. I find it to be a refreshing new look at the Loony Tunes characters. However, and perhaps ironically, growing up I enjoyed the Loony Tunes (the original ones) quite a bit. I have a problem picking favorites, but these seem to have been very formative in my life.

Q) When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
When I learned how to write. When I learned I could make up stories. Perhaps it was when I was in third grade, most notably. I can remember a time when I was asked to write an additional chapter or an alternate chapter to a book we read in class, and I ended up adding ten hand-written pages to the book. My father encouraged me, giving me ideas or adages about how much reading had influenced him. He read my earliest manuscripts and gave me notes.

Q) What can readers expect from you in the future?
A) Hopefully, they can expect fantasy that challenges preconceived notions and which explores interesting ideas in interesting ways. I am working on a sequel to Drinna, but it may be a while. I am also working on other novels involving the kunjels of Trithofar, which I hope will become my home territory.

About the author:
I am currently an Alabama resident and have been a lifetime writer. Currently, I am a high school English and literature teacher. Ever since I knew how, I have always enjoyed writing, and much of what I am writing now has much to do with the imaginings of my childhood and what my friends and I played as children. I went to high school, during which time I learned how to play D&D and other fantasy role-playing games, which developed my story-making skills ever further. In college, I sort of fell into an English major and eventually went to school for my masters degree for teaching literature, where I get to study what makes a good story and teach how to write better and more clearly. As I am a teacher, so also am I a student, of literature now and use what I teach to help me improve my writing and get my world out of my head and into other readers'.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Fishing Trip!

The 6 year old loves to fish.  He wants to do it every day.  It amazes me that he has the patience to stand there with his rod in the water, waiting for a bite.  He knows that he isn't going to catch a fish every time, but that doesn't stop him from trying.

His brother is a little less patient.  He'll put his line in for a little while, but then he gets bored and starts exploring.  That works too.  As long as everyone has fun, that's all that matters!

What's your favorite thing to do on the weekend?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Seven Shades of Luminosity by Beth Bowland

When 13-year-old Ralph and his two friends enter a magical world called Norwaeja, they find themselves on an unexpected quest for seven keys, each of which leads them closer to a dark and dangerous kingdom.

Ralph thought he was an ordinary kid, just trying to become the junior fencing champion in his state. Shortly after being chased into Norwaeja he learns of the prophecy declaring him the warrior that will lead the Great Army into battle against Apep, the evil one.

Epic battles against Trolls, dangerous treks through kingdoms, and one pesky, egotistical meerkat will pit friend against friend while Ralph discovers just who he really is and what he is capable of achieving in a world that he is not a part of. Or is he?

Buy Links:
eTreasures Publishing

Beth Bowland, a native Ohioan, has always enjoyed reading and creating stories of her own. As a child she devoured every book she could get her hands on and spent numerous hours at the library each week. She loves writing stories for tweens and young teens and is now the author of three novels. Beth’s characters are of often described as quirky and fun, but always relatable. She is currently working on her fourth novel, a middle-grade fantasy with a dash of sci-fi. When Beth is not writing, she loves watching HGTV. Beth resides in Arlington, Texas with her husband, Phillip.