Wednesday, March 25, 2015

FINDING FEMALE IN FANTASY



In the realm of fantasy literature, male protagonists have traditionally reigned supreme. That could be because the vast majority of fantasy novels were written by men. Authors like Jules Verne, Lewis Carroll, Johnathan Swift, H.G. Wells, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkein dominated the genre all the way up to the late twentieth century when a few women fantasy authors began to emerge, such as Madeline L’Engle, Tamora Pierce, Ursula K. LeGuin, Anne McCaffrey and Marion Zimmer Bradley. Then along came Harry Potter.

The Rowling Revolution

Today the name J.K. Rowling is synonymous with success.  There isn’t a person alive in western civilization that doesn’t know about Harry Potter and his now incredibly rich and famous creator. So it may be hard to believe that in 1997 when Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published in the United Kingdom (The Sorcerer’s Stone in the US), Joanne Rowley’s publishers were so concerned that boys might shy away from reading a book written by a woman that they insisted she use her initials. (Since she did not actually have a middle initial, she chose ‘K’ from her grandmother’s name Kathleen). And of course, it worked. The Harry Potter franchise is the best-selling book series in history, and is cherished by both male and female readers the world over.

Rowling may not have been the first woman fantasy author, but she did do something no one else had succeeded in doing – she made it cool for boys to read books with girl heroines. Yes, Harry Potter is a boy – but he wouldn’t be worth a nickel if it weren’t for his sidekick Hermoine Granger. Hermoine is certainly not the first female fantasy heroine, but until she showed up, girls mostly read about girls, and boys mostly read about boys. Even books where there were both male and female protagonists were most often read by girls. But Harry Potter bridged that gap somehow.

Hermoine is my favorite heroine of all time. She is spunky, smart, courageous – and feminine. She is not a girl trying to act like a boy. She is all girl, so girls relate to her, and boys fall in love with her. Rowling hit on a truly magical formula.

The Gender Gap in Middle Grade Fantasy

Despite the huge success of Rowling’s books, the gender gap really vanished? Among the current list of popular middle grade fantasy novels, there are very few female protagonists.  Consider the following titles: Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan, The Ranger’s Apprentice by John Flanagan, The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Johnathan Stroud,  The Abhorson Trilogy by Garth Nix, His Dark Marterials by Robert Pullman, Eragon by Christopher Paolini, Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer….see a pattern here?

Even fantasy books written by women have mostly male protagonists:  Rowan of Rin by Emily Rhodda, Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke, The Spiderwicke Chronicles by Holly Black, Septimus Heap by Angie Sage, and The Unnamables by Ellen Booream. And among those books with females heroines, most are paired alongside boy heroes, such as A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snickett, Fablehaven by Brandon Mull, Rick Riordan’s The Kane Chronicles, and of course, Rowling’s Harry Potter.

Writing for Boys

Traditionally, the fantasy genre is an effective lure to get boys to read. My own book, The Rock of Ivanore: Book 1 in The Celestine Chronicles (Tanglewood Press, May 2012) is a traditional fantasy adventure with a male protagonist. Marcus is an enchanter’s apprentice who tends to botch all his spells. But when he’s sent on a quest to find the Rock of Ivanore, he must search deep within himself to find the courage and the skills necessary to face the dangers and secrets he encounters along the way. I wrote The Rock of Ivanore because at the time, my then eight-year-old son was a reluctant reader. I understood firsthand how difficult it could be to get some boys to read, so I created a story that would capture the attention and imagination of these boys. Fortunately, I have daughters, too.

The second book in the series, The Last Enchanter (2013) introduces Marcus’s female counterpart, Lael. Lael is a lot like Hermoine Granger in that she is resourceful, determined and all girl. She also happens to be very adept at her weapon of choice – a sling. When Marcus leaves their village in order to protect the man who raised him, Lael insists on tagging along. Years earlier her mother was sold as a slave, and Lael is determined to find and free her. My hope is that The Celestine Chronicles will appeal to both boy and girl readers.

Bridging the Gap Once and For All

But the question remains, will boys pick up a fantasy novel where the protagonist – the only protagonist – is a girl? I don’t know the answer, but maybe we’re getting there. Fifteen years post-Harry Potter, everyone knows J.K. Rowling is a woman and no one bats an eye at it. In fact, I think it is pretty safe to say that nowadays, kids (boys and girls) don’t care if a book is written by a man or a woman. And thanks to the proliferation of male/female co-protagonists, the gap between “boy books” and “girl books” is closing.

So maybe, just maybe, in the not-too-distant future it will be cool for boys to read fantasy stories starring females heroines. Here are a few titles that just might help this prediction come true:

Tuesdays at The Castle by Jessica Day George


Dragonswood by Janet Lynn Carrey

The Chronicles of Aneador by Kristina Schram

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

The Books of Elsewhere by Jaqueline West

Saavy by Igrid Law

[This post originally appeared as a guest post on Ellie Rollings blog.]

Monday, March 23, 2015

MEET WADE BRADFORD, author of CAMP OMIGOSH!

CAMP OMIGOSH!
by Wade Bradford
Skyrocket Press
Ages 8 - 12

Coming June 2015!!!

Connor's summer is off to a rough start: the camp bus almost crashes, his cabin mates don't trust him, and the girls on the other side of the camp constantly outsmart him. But when he and his friends Tasha, Parker, and Kimberly investigate the mystery surrounding the "Ghost of Dead Billy," they begin a hilarious adventure that is worlds away from your typical campfire story.
 
"A wild and zany camping adventure that will leave you begging for more. A must read for middle graders looking for something out of the ordinary."
- Dorine White, author of The Awakening & Cleopatra's Legacy series


So, who the heck is Wade Bradford anyway?

Wade is many things: a professor, playwright, husband and father, comedian (well, he's funny at least), picture book author, and now middle grade book author!

Stop by Indiegogo to find out to pre-order the book and invite Wade to visit your school!  https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/camp-omigosh-a-middle-grade-novel/

In the meantime, visit with Wade right here! And be sure to check out the excerpt at the end!

INTERVIEW:


SKYROCKET PRESS: Hi Wade. So we've heard it said you write plays. Is that true?

WADE BRADFORD: I have written over thirty plays, most of which have been perfomed by schools and community theaters across the country, and even on other continents.  Some of my more popular plays are: The Actor Games, CSI: Neverland, Tomorrow's Wish, and Sleeping Beauty and the Beast. As you may have noticed from the titles, I like mash-ups. 


SP:  What is your writing process?

WADE:  It depends on the project. I usually start a play by writing in my journal, and then once I finish a scene I create a second draft of it by typing it onto the computer. For Camp Omigosh, I wrote almost the whole book on my iPad. It took me about three months to write the first six chapters. And then after that, I started writing one chapter a day.


SP:  What is your favorite writing snack?

WADE:  Chocolate Chip Mint Ice Cream.


SP:  What do you want to be when you grow up?

WADE:  A time traveling plumber.


SP:  Who is your hero?

WADE:  My wife and daughters.


SP:  If you could rewrite the ending to any book, what would it be? (write new last paragraph here)

WADE: It might be a new ending to Mockingjay. (Spoiler Alert!) "Hey, Katniss! Guess who? It's me, Primm!" The End.


SP:  What inspired you to write Camp Omigosh?

WADE:  What is the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you?
Ugh... So many to choose from.... Can't decide.... and brain... does ... not want... to... remember!


SP:  Do you believe in ghosts?

WADE:  I don't know. I haven't met any... yet.


SP:  Do you have a secret dream?

WADE:  If I told you, it wouldn't be a secret now, would it?



EXCERPT FROM CAMP OMIGOSH:

That night in my bunk, after a jump in the uber-chilly Lake Wutt-Da-Heck, I couldn’t sleep. I kept thinking about Tasha. Did she like me or hate me? I couldn't tell. She probably didn't think about me at all.
            "Hey, Parker, you awake?" I asked.
            Parker snored in response. I shined my flashlight to see if he was faking. He wasn't. He slept with his mouth wide open and a string of drool stretched from his lip to his pillow. He held his lucky golf ball in his hand.
            I clicked off my flashlight and tried to go to sleep.
            Clunk - clunk - clink - clink - clink.
            It sounded like a golf ball hitting the floor. I turned the flashlight back on.
            The golf ball sat in the middle of the room. No. It wasn't sitting. It was spinning. I could tell because the little Spalding logo kept zipping around. Then, the golf ball began to slowly roll across the floor. It was heading for the door.
            "Parker," I called to him. Then, the golf ball suddenly stopped moving, almost as if it had been startled by the sound of my voice.
            I hopped out of my bunk to grab the ball. No one else was awake. It must have been almost midnight. When my flashlight found the golf ball, it started to roll again.
            "What the heck?" I blurted, and the golf ball stopped rolling.
            Was this place really haunted? No, it couldn't be. This stupid cabin was just built lopsided. That was it.
            But then the golf ball rolled again. Faster. It tapped against the wall and then it did something truly impossible. It rolled right up the wall. It strolled along in a zig zag pattern until it reached the windowsill. I was breathless. "Wait," I whispered. The golf ball didn’t wait. It hopped out the window. I rushed across the room and spied the haunted golf ball outside rolling through the gravel. It was headed to the suspension bridge. The girl's side of camp. The next thing I knew I was doing the dumbest thing you can do, the thing that every scary movie in the world tell you not to do.  I went off on my own. I climbed through the window and I followed the runaway ball into the darkness.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

INDEPENDENTLY PUBLISHED CHILDREN'S BOOK COMPETITION

MIDDLE SHELF MAGAZINE'S COMPETITION
FOR BEST INDEPENDENTLY PUBLISHED
CHILDREN & YOUNG ADULT BOOKS

http://www.shelfmediagroup.com/pages/competition-ms.html

$1500 in prizes!

$40 Entry Fee


Any independently published book for children or teens in any genre is eligible. The overall winners in each category (children, middle grade, young adult) will each receive $500 and a year's worth of full-page ads in Middle Shelf Magazine (rate card value $4,500). In addition, more than 100 books deemed by the editors as "notable" entries will be featured in the November/December issue of Middle Shelf Magazine.

"Independently Published" books include self-published books and e-books, and/or books and e-books published through small presses releasing less than 5 titles per year. The competition is open to authors worldwide; books must be in English. Any length book and any publication date is eligible.

The deadline for entry is midnight on August 1, 2015. The winners will be notified by September 4, 2015.

See website for complete details on how to submit.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

SPRING CLEANING GIVEAWAY HOP

Welcome to the
2015 SPRING CLEANING GIVEAWAY HOP!!!
co-sponsored by I Am A Reader & Bookhounds.

spring cleaning

Wow, have I got a great selection of books to giveaway. And it's really simple to win!
Just fill out the rafflecopter form below. U.S. residents only, 18+, please.
The winner will be chosen at random and announced on March 26th.

If you win, I will send you an email. You'll have 24 hours to reply.
And the books will be in the mail!

Be sure to check out the other 90+ participating blogs for more chances to win!

So, what's in that box already taped up and ready to ship?


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

LIVING MY DREAM


 When I was fourteen years old I wrote something in my journal that shaped the rest of my life. I wrote down a goal to publish my first novel by the time I was thirty.

From that time forward, writing was my obsession, the driving force behind nearly everything I did. I did not meet that goal. At thirty years old I was busy with two very young children, heaps of laundry and sinks full of dirty dishes. Somewhere along the line, I made a choice to be a full-time mom, and that choice took precedence over becoming the famous best-selling author I had always dreamed of becoming.ut I kept writing. In those early years I wrote articles about anything and everything - in local publications - for free. Then I became a columnist for those publications and a few others - and I got paid - a little. Then I ended up with my own newspaper column that ran in three different papers. Google revealed that I was being quoted on blogs and my words were spread abroad. It felt good to be noticed. But everything I wrote - in magazines and newspapers - was fleeting. Read once and then forgotten. That's the nature of magazines and newspapers. Tomorrow there is always something new to replace what is written today.

I yearned to write something that would last. My heart kept reaching back to that goal set long ago to be a novelist. Novels last. Some books stick in your mind and soul forever. They become a part of you. They are cherished. They are loved like part of the family. Some books I read thirty years ago still bring tears to my eyes when I tell my kids about them (and insist they read them, too.) That's what I wanted. Immortality. For my words to be remembered long after I am gone.

The truth was that during all those years of writing, I never wrote a novel because I was afraid. Afraid I wasn't good enough. Afraid I didn't have what it takes. But a funny thing happened. After thirteen years of writing all that other stuff, I got pretty good at it. And by the time I had had enough of magazines and newspapers, I had gained the experience and confidence to give novel writing a try. I was right, though. I wasn't good enough. At least not at first. My first novel sucked. But I kept writing. I never stopped writing.

When my first novel was finally published in 2012, I was forty-three years old, thirteen years overdue. But that's okay. Since then I've had three more books come out, and I'm having the time of my life.

I'm living my dream

Are you living yours? Why or why not?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

WHAT I'M READING NOW...

I always have at least three books going at the same time, one on my iPod in the car and a minimum of two scattered around my house. Maybe that's why it always takes me so long to read them all.

So here are the books I'm currently reading:

Eleven-year-old Kaden has managed to stay under the radar for most of his life. With the exception of Kubla, a pet crow, Kaden doesn't have any friends his own age and he's okay with that. After all, friends can ask inconvenient questions. Questions like Why do you live with your grandmother and where is your father? Questions Kaden doesn't want to answer. Apart from school and a few trips to town, Kaden and Gram keep to themselves, living a simple life at their cabins outside the small community of Promise. But now Kaden's life is getting a lot more complicated. He's starting middle school, which brings its own set of problems for a boy who doesn't fit in. And then he learns that his father, a man he has never known, is getting out of prison and moving to Promise. After years of being the outsider at school, Kaden is given a chance to come out of his shell when Yo-Yo, a new boy, moves to the area and offers friendship. But can Kaden trust him? Will Yo-Yo be a real friend after he learns about Kaden's father? The true meaning of friendship, love, responsibility, and loyalty is explored in this novel for middle-grade readers.


A mysterious island.

 An abandoned orphanage.

 A strange collection of very curious photographs.

 It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive. 

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.


On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane's bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.
The lieutenant's name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood, he'd been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent. As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics. But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.
Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will. Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit.

The third Captain Underpants adventure like you've never seen it before -- in FULL COLOR! 

George and Harold have played a trick or two on nearly everyone at Jerome Horwitz Elementary. When their latest prank causes the school's cranky cafeteria ladies to quit, Mr. Krupp hires a trio of unusual replacements -- who happen to look an awful lot like aliens! Will that curtain-caped crusader, Captain Underpants, save the day once more? Or will those outer-space cafeteria ladies have him for lunch?