Wanted: Teen Writers

Wanted: Teen WritersThere’s so much to learn when it comes to being an author, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wished I started sooner. Writing a book is only part of the process. You also have to market your book once it’s released. I know from experience that helping an author with their book release is a fantastic way to learn what it takes to launch a book successfully.

Multi-published author Lesley Ann McDaniel and launch group veteran Mindy Peltier are starting a YA book launch group, and they’re looking for young adult team members. It’s a chance for teen writers to get a head start on the learning process.

If you’re a teen writer, don’t miss out on this great opportunity. If you know a teen writer, be sure to pass along the news. Visit Lesley’s blog for details about their YA book launch group.

Jupiter Winds

jupiter-winds-400Award-winning author C.J. Darlington makes her YA debut with Jupiter Winds, and she’s already off to a great start with an endorsement from sci-fi veteran Kathy Tyers (Firebird). Tyers calls Jupiter Winds “A fast-paced, character-driven space adventure that’s reminiscent of science fiction’s golden age.”

THE FACTS: C.J. is the award-winning author of the contemporary novels Thicker than Blood, Bound by Guilt, and Ties that Bind. Her new novel Jupiter Winds is a YA/space adventure/dystopian. She is a regular contributor to various websites. In 2013 C.J. co-founded Mountainview Books, LLC, an indie publisher of Christian fiction. She makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of animals. You can find her on her website cjdarlington.com as well as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

THE FICTION: In 2160, a teenager becomes the bait to capture her missing revolutionary parents she thinks are long dead.

Grey Alexander has one goal–to keep herself and her younger sister Orinda alive. Not an easy feat living unconnected in the North American Wildlife Preserve, where they survive by smuggling contraband into the Mazdaar government’s city zones. If the invisible electric border fence doesn’t kill them, a human-like patrol drone could.

When her worst fear comes true, Grey questions everything she thinks she knows about life, her missing parents, and God. Could another planet, whose sky swirls with orange vapors and where extinct-on-Earth creatures roam free, hold the key to reuniting her family?

THE BIG QUESTION: If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

C.J.’S BIG ANSWER: I’d want to fly! That would be awesome, don’t you think? 🙂

Make sure to add Jupiter Winds to your summer reading list. It’s available through both Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

©2014 C.J. Darlington and Kim Vandel

Teen Read Week

TRW_logo_October 13-19 is Teen Read Week, an annual literacy campaign run by YALSA—the Young Adult Library Services Association (part of the American Library Association). The best part is that it doesn’t just focus on literacy. The point of Teen Read Week is to encourage teenagers to read for fun.

Libraries, schools, and bookstores across the country schedule reading-focused activities that include things like a book-themed “spirit week,” recipes for edible books, and short story contests. But you don’t have to be a teacher or librarian (or even a teen) to participate. Anyone can be a part of Teen Read Week—parents, bloggers, readers, the average citizen on the street.

You can find suggestions for activities in the Teen Read Week Manual, brainstorm on the TRW forum, or come up with your own ideas. The important thing is to encourage reading.

I’m participating this year by blogging about Teen Read Week, sharing information through social media, and encouraging my teenagers to read something just for fun.

How can you encourage a teen to read this week?

©2013 Kim Vandel

The Missing Book

the detectiveIt’s hard to wait for the next book in a series to release. It’s even harder when the release date gets pushed back a month or two (or more). But the worst thing ever is when the next book goes missing. One day you see it on Goodreads or Amazon with an expected release date. The next day it’s gone.

Heather Brewer, author of the bestselling Vladimir Tod series (Eighth Grade Bites), released her first Legacy of Tril book in 2012. I even reviewed Soulbound. It was entertaining and different enough from what I usually read that I planned to read the second installment, Soulbroken, when it released this August. August came but the book didn’t.

Brewer explained (as much as she could) what happened in her vlog. She implied that book two was cancelled because book one didn’t sell well enough. (I have a guess as to why it didn’t sell.*)

It has to be heartbreaking for an author, and it’s disappointing for readers. (Especially when the previous book ends on a total cliffhanger!) But I’m optimistic that the ever-changing publishing industry will provide an avenue for some of these disappearing books to make their way to readers.

I hope—for her sake and for her readers’ sake—that the part Ms. Brewer “can’t talk about” is getting her rights back from Penguin. Maybe she can find a different publisher or maybe she can become one of those hybrid authors and self-publish her Legacy of Tril series.

Have you ever looked forward to a book only to have it disappear?

©2013 Kim Vandel

*Both The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod and The Slayer Chronicles are urban fantasy (supernatural elements in a real world setting). They have an angst-ridden teen boy as the main character, and the age range for readers is 12-17. Legacy of Tril is set in a fictional world and features a butt-kicking teen girl. The age range is 14-17. My guess is that it all comes down to “branding.” Legacy of Tril was too much of a departure from the type of book Heather Brewer is known for, so it didn’t do well with her audience (who she affectionately refers to as her “minions”). Her new series, The Cemetery Boys, returns to the genre that made her a bestselling author, and I have a feeling it will do much better than Legacy of Tril.

Book Review: Aquifer

327836-xsmallSixteen-year-old Luca will one day take his father’s place as the Deliverer. He will make the annual descent into the depths of the earth, following the secret route that only the Deliverer knows. The burden will fall on Luca to negotiate with the “Rats” who guard the aquifer and ensure that water keeps flowing to the surface. He will be the difference between life and death for “Toppers” living in a world where rain is something read about in history books. For now, Luca’s responsibility is to commit the route to memory.

When Luca’s father, Massa, fails to return from his annual duty, Luca is the only one left who knows the route, but that knowledge puts him in danger. The Council of Nine has grown tired of negotiating with the Rats, and they resent their dependence on the Deliverer. They want control of the aquifer. Luca’s only choice is to run, to follow the route he’s memorized and find Massa.

In Aquifer, author Jonathan Friesen takes us on a journey of discovery. Luca struggles with the burden suddenly thrust on him, and we feel his longing to go back to the state of innocence he enjoyed before learning the truth about the aquifer and the Council of Nine. He starts off searching for Massa, expecting his father to fix everything, but being forced into a position of leadership is exactly what Luca needs. He slowly realizes just how capable he is.

There were a few story elements in Aquifer that didn’t make sense (at least not to me), but there were also some moments of great writing, and Friesen scores a few extra points for the Australian setting. Aquifer makes the perfect vacation read. It’ll hold your interest and keep you entertained, but you won’t get so sucked into it that you can’t put it down long enough to take a dip in the pool.

©2013 Kim Vandel

The Perfect Clouds Virtual Book Tour

Today it’s my pleasure to introduce you to Laura Anderson Kurk and Rajdeep Paulus. I met Laura and Raj at a writers’ conference two years ago, and not only are they fantastic YA authors, they’re a lot of fun to hang out with. Today’s your opportunity to share in the fun because they’re celebrating the release of their books Perfect Glass and Swimming Through Clouds with a blog tour and giveaway. First I’ll introduce you, and then I’ll tell you about the giveaway.

THE FACTS: Rajdeep decided to be a writer during her junior year in high school after her English teacher gave her an “F” but told her she had potential. She studied English Literature at Northwestern University, and she writes masala-marinated, Young Adult Fiction, blogging weekly at In Search of Waterfalls.

June 13 STC Puzzle Piece
June 13 STC Puzzle Piece

THE FICTION: Swimming Through Clouds

When high school, cell phone disruption forces a classroom ban, the words on a Post-it note spark a sticky romance between two unlikely friends. Transfer student Talia Vanderbilt has one goal at her new school: to blend in with the walls. Lagan Desai, basketball captain and mathlete, would do just about anything to befriend the new girl. One Post-it note at a time, Lagan persuades Talia to peel back her heart, revealing her treasure chest of pain—an absent mother, a bedridden brother, and an abusive father. In a world where hurt is inevitable, the two teens search for a safe place to weather the storms of life. Together.

THE BIG QUESTION: If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

RAJ’S BIG ANSWER: Umm… Good question. Flying with a cape that has MM on it. For Masala Mama. And being able to read minds. But with an on/off switch. 🙂 Does that count as one!? 🙂

THE FACTS: Laura Anderson Kurk writes unconventional and bittersweet contemporary YA. She lives in Texas with her husband and two children. You can find her Writing for Young Adults at laurakurk.com.

THE FICTION: Perfect Glass (sequel to her debut novel Glass Girl)

June 13 Perfect Glass secret letter: R
June 13 Perfect Glass secret letter: R

Things get messy when Meg Kavanagh gets involved—first with Jo Russell, the eccentric old artist, and then with Quinn O’Neill, the intriguing loner who can’t hide how he feels about Meg. Her senior year isn’t turning out like she planned it, but sometimes the best parts of life happen in the in-between moments. And Henry will be home soon, right?

He commits to one year in an orphanage that needs him more than he ever dreamed. Thousands of miles from Meg and the new punk who has fallen for her, and absent from the ranch that’s in his blood, Henry Whitmire finds out what it means to trust. When you’re so far from home, it’s terrifying to realize you’re not who you thought. But the perfect glass of calamity makes the best mirror.

An identity crisis, long distance love, new temptation, and growing pains teach Henry and Meg how to hang onto each other and to what really matters.

THE BIG QUESTION: If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

LAURA’S BIG ANSWER: No question. Invisibility.

Now for the giveaway…

The PERFECT CLOUDS Virtual Book Tour

Saturday, June 1 – Thursday, June 26

 Giveaways will be chosen from items listed below:

Free deleted scenes and/or other Swimming Through Clouds extras,

such as “Letters From Lagan”

Swimming Through Clouds notebooks, stickers, Post-its, and coffee mugs

Glass Girl/Perfect Glass iPhone cases, t-shirts, posters, and greeting cards

Copy of To Kill a Mockingbird (Meg’s favorite book)

Copy of Catcher in the Rye (Henry’s favorite book)

At each stop on the tour, Rajdeep and Laura will give a clue that builds to a final reveal at the last stop. (Tour schedule below.) Those clues are the STC (Swimming Through Clouds) puzzle piece and Today’s Secret Letter for Perfect Glass. (The pictures above.) Collect these clues and put them together for the final reveal!



Saturday, June 1 –  Laura Anderson Kurk

Sunday, June 2 –  Rajdeep Paulus

Monday, June 3 –  Melanie Brasher

Tuesday, June 4 –  Tessa Emily Hall

Wednesday, June 5 –  Melissa Tagg

Thursday, June 6 –  ReganStar McBeigh

Friday, June 7 –  April Hamrick

Monday, June 10 –  Diana Garner

Tuesday, June11 –  Stephanie Karfelt

Wednesday, June 12 – Bethany Baldwin

Thursday, June 13 –  Kim Vandel ⬅YOU ARE HERE!

Friday, June 14 –  Sarah Tipton

Monday, June 17 –  Jennifer Watrous

Tuesday, June 18 – Marni Jarman

Wednesday, June 19 –  Peggy Warren

Thursday, June 20 –  Bethany Jett

Friday, June 21 –   Amy Leigh Simpson

Monday, June 23 –  Summer Andrews

Tuesday, June 24 –  Arlette Geuverink

Wednesday, June 25 – Jennifer Murgia

Thursday, June 26 – JoJo Sutis

Book Review: Slated

Slated takes us to a future United Kingdom where teen criminals are sentenced to Slating. Their memories are erased, and they’re given a new identity. A clean slate.

Image courtesy twobee: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It seems simple enough, but as sixteen-year-old Kyla tries to adjust to her new life, she can’t help but wonder what she did wrong. What horrible crime did she commit? And even though Slating erased her memory, some part of Kyla remembers to be afraid. Something warns her to hide what she thinks and what she feels from Dr. Lysander and to make sure she gives the teaching assistant Mrs. Ali the right answers. More importantly, she knows to not ask too many questions.

Kyla is all too aware that she isn’t contented and submissive like the other Slated kids. The harder she attempts to blend in, the more she sees how different she is, and different is dangerous. There are worse punishments than being Slated. When government officials show up at school and start arresting innocent people, Kyla realizes that she might not be the criminal they say she is. But if she’s not a criminal, then why was she Slated?

Slated is a welcome addition to the Young Adult genre, and author Teri Terry does a great job of creating the environment of constant fear you would expect in a dystopian society—weighing every word spoken, hiding thought and emotion, adhering to expected behaviors. Sometimes smiles and kindness are the biggest lies of all. Terry also give us the flip side, the reassurance that there are always people willing to do the right thing. Sometimes those we think are enemies turn out to be our greatest allies.

Some reviews claim the dystopian element wasn’t developed enough, but I’d argue that Slated is more of a personal story than a tale of a society gone wrong. The focus isn’t teens having their memories stolen from them. The focus is Kyla and why she was Slated, and the story poses some interesting questions about accountability and self-identity. Is there something inherently wrong with her? Should she be considered a criminal if she can’t remember what crime she committed? If Slating “cured” her, why does everyone still treat her like a criminal?

Slated will appeal to fans of Lauren Oliver’s Delirium or Ally Condie’s Matched. While the romance element in Slated isn’t as strong as it is in Delirium or Matched, there’s still enough to keep readers happy.

Kyla’s story continues in Fractured. It’s scheduled for US release in September 2013.

©2013 Kim Vandel


Book Review: Altered

When I picked up Jennifer Rush‘s Altered, I expected an X-Men-type story, but it turned out to be more like The Bourne Identity. (Not a bad thing.)

Image courtesy of dream designs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of dream designs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Anna and her dad live in an isolated farmhouse with a secret lab in the basement. The lab is home to four teen boys named Sam, Cas, Trevor, and Nick. The boys have no memory of their pasts. All they know is that they’re part of the Branch’s program to create the perfect soldier.

Anna’s dad is in charge of administering the gene treatment that has altered the boys, and Anna has tried to make life more than an ongoing science project for the four of them. They’ve become more than test subjects to her, especially Sam, and when representatives from the Branch show up to collect them, Anna doesn’t want to say goodbye.

The boys have no intention of cooperating and use the Branch’s arrival as an opportunity to escape. Anna’s dad begs her to go with the boys and help them discover the truth about their identities, but the more they discover, the more Anna begins to question her own past.

Altered starts off with an interesting premise then starts to wander into formula fiction. Just as I was getting ready to sigh over its predictability, Rush managed to squeeze in a couple of twists that renewed my interest. Altered has plenty of action and a touch of romance, but if the F-bomb offends you, then be warned that several are dropped. Most of them are dropped by one of the boys in particular and they fit with his character, so I didn’t feel like the author did it simply for shock and awe. It didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the story. It’s just something for sensitive readers to keep in mind.

Altered bears some similarity to Jill Williamson‘s Replication: The Jason Experiment. Replication might be a good alternative if you want a profanity-free read, and it’s being released as a paperback in March with an awesome new cover. (In case you couldn’t tell, I’m a Jill Williamson fan.)

©2013 Kim Vandel

The Amazing Thing About Spider-Man

The Amazing Spider-Man came out on DVD last week. When I took my boys to see the movie this summer, I was very impressed, but it wasn’t the special effects or action scenes that impressed me. What caught my attention was Peter Parker. I instantly thought he was a Peter Parker my boys could relate to, and the proof came when we left the theater. My boys announced they liked the 2012 Spider-Man better than the previous version.

Image courtesy Ian Kahn: freedigitalphotos.net

This time around, Peter Parker isn’t some nerdy genius. He’s a punk with a skateboard, baggy sweatshirt, and attitude. His jeans are hanging so low that we all know what brand of boxers he wears. He has family issues. He gets picked on at school. He’s the kid everyone thinks is a waste of space, that angst-filled kid sitting in the back of the classroom plugged into his iPod. The kid who wants to be something more but doesn’t know what that something is or how to get there.

The Amazing Spider-Man gave audiences a vivid picture of an imperfect hero. It showed that heroes make mistakes—sometimes really big ones—but heroes also learn from their mistakes. They keep trying until they discover something inside themselves that isn’t defined by family circumstances, report cards, or a bank account.

A hero isn’t someone who gets it right every time. A hero is someone who makes a choice to step beyond their circumstances and do something extraordinary, and that’s the most amazing thing about The Amazing Spider-Man. It showed that even a punk kid can find a purpose. Anyone can become a hero.

I can’t honestly say that I like the 2012 Andrew Garfield version of Spider-Man better than the Tobey Maguire version, but it was pure genius to update Peter Parker and make him someone teens could identify with. Movie-makers found a way to connect with an entire generation of young adults, and they might just inspire a few of them in the process.

©2012 Kim Vandel

Writing Advice From a Ninth-Grade Slacker

One of the things I enjoy the most as a mom is listening to conversations between my children. I especially love the conversations where child #1 gives advice to child #2. If you’ve seen Diary of a Wimpy Kid, then you know what I’m talking about. Teenagers can be very insightful when they want to be. (Now if you would only use your powers for good…)

The most recent piece of advice involved a writing assignment that had to be at least two pages long. Child #2 complained about this cruel and unusual punishment, prompting a heartfelt response from his older sibling. Child #1 (being a worldly-wise ninth-grader and self-professed slacker) bestowed his knowledge on child #2 as follows:

Image courtesy sixninepixels: FreeDigitalPhotos.net
  • Use a bigger font.
  • Double-space.
  • Make the margins bigger—but not too much because you don’t want the teacher to notice.
  • Write the same sentence twice. Just change the wording.

I cringe at the thought of their teachers knowing I’m a writer. This ninth-grade advice goes against most of the advice given by professionals, and it makes me wonder when we writers make the switch from not writing enough to usually writing too much. I remember groaning over the same kind of word or page count requirement, and now I’m constantly reminding myself to “write tight.” So what makes the difference? My guess is subject matter. When the subject is something we’re interested in, we can’t seem to say enough.

Maybe advice on how to look for the good in all things would prove more useful for writing assignments, but I don’t think that particular bit of wisdom will be shared among my children anytime soon.

So what’s the best (or worst) piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

©2012 Kim Vandel