Monday, February 27, 2012

Researching Teenagers

Last week author Kira Harp was kind enough to join us and talk about how she keeps it real when she's writing YA. This week I'd like to share with you a vlog that YA author Jo Ramsey put up a few weeks ago about how to research teenagers.

What do you guys think? Do you have any other tips for researching teens? Do you guys do something differently.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Paypal Plays Morality Police

Paypal has decided to throw their weight around by playing morality police. They've begun to dictate what can and cannot be sold on websites that use Paypal to process their transactions.

This letter was recently sent out from Bookstrand, one of the leading ebook sites for romance and erotica.

Dear Publisher,

 We were informed by PayPal, without notice, and by our credit card processing company, that we are required to remove all titles at with content containing incest, pseudo incest, rape, and bestiality, effective immediately. 

 We request that you immediately log into your account and unpublish all titles that contain the restricted content. If you have uploaded titles containing restricted content and do not unpublish these titles as we are requesting, we will deactivate your entire publisher account, which will remove all your titles from sale.

Who is Paypal to decide what other websites can or cannot sell? If Bookstrand decided that didn't want to sell those books, I wouldn't like it, but it'd be their right. But for Paypal to step in and force another company to comply with their morality is absurd. This is no different than your bank telling you that you're no longer allowed to purchase things they deem immoral.

What's next on their chopping block? Will menage books be banned? Will GLBT books be banned?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Keeping It Real, Staying Within Bounds

Hey guys! Today we're joined by YA author, Kira Harp!

Kira has been telling stories since she was old enough to put words together, but never thought about writing as a career. Real life had its own adventures, with forays into psychology and teaching and then a biomedical career and children. Then several years ago, her husband gave her a computer. And her two girls were getting older and developing their own interests. So she sat down and typed out a story. Or two. Or three.

She currently writes constantly, read obsessively, and shares her home with her younger teenager, her amazingly patient husband, and a crazy, omnivorous little white dog. She can be found on her author page on Goodreads. She has two recent YA stories, Intervention, and The Benefit of Ductwork. Both were published by Featherweight Press in January 2012, as part of the Helping Hands line of books with the profits going to LGBT charities.

Hi, I'm Kira Harp.  I'm the author of a couple of young adult stories, and under a different pen name I've written a few adult gay romances.  Ralph, who has edited my young adult work, was kind enough to let me come on his blog and chat. Or ramble. Or pontificate.  You decide.

As I get deeper into the YA novel I'm currently writing, I've been thinking about the differences between writing for the adult romance market and writing for young adults.  And as a moderator of the Goodreads Young Adult GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender) book group I also read other authors' books, trying to decide where they fall on the dividing line between YA and adult reading material.  And boy, is that a challenge sometimes!  I don't want to keep a good book off our YA site.  But I do have limits, even if it takes some work to define them.
The first basic element is explicit sex content.  That would seem to be simple, but it is sometimes the most difficult line to set.  Teens have relationships and they have sex.  A good book about teen characters rarely can avoid that issue, and particularly not a GLBTQ book.  After all, it's the emotional and sexual desires of the characters that define their GLBTQ identity.  A book where no character under 18 can possibly have sex will be rejected by teen readers for being out of touch with reality.  However I've read books where sex scenes involving an older teen are explicit enough for me to feel voyeuristic and uncomfortable.

I think the most critical thing is the feel of the scene.  Do we feel the emotions, the tensions and anxieties and love, or guilt because there isn't love?  Great.  Do we see the actual mechanics and imagine the specific physical sensations?  Too much.  Does it seem hot or erotic?  Definitely too much.  In my own work, I want the reader to be in the character's head for the emotional journey but not the physical one.  It's a difficult balance to achieve – the question of when to fade to black.  But choosing well is essential to make a book appropriate for teen readers.

Strong language is more of a personal-preference issue to me.  I've sat on a bus next to a group of fourteen-year-old boys, and I guarantee you there is no swearword I can think of that they do not know.  And use.  In fact, f***ing has become the all-purpose adjective and adverb for American teen boys, as far as I can tell. 

At the same time, some young readers are uncomfortable with strong language.  Also language is an easy weapon for parents or school-boards to use on a book they want to ban.  Instead of saying, “We want this story about gay kids out of our school” they can say, “Just look at all these obscene words.”  Chris Crutcher wrote The Sledding Hill partly so he'd have a book with no swearing in it, so if they wanted to ban it they would have to admit why. 

For all those reasons, I do work on a balance between having my characters sound real when they drop a hammer on their foot, and yet not overstepping the bounds of YA comfort.  Ralph and I take swear words out, modify them, find euphemisms, laugh at our euphemisms,  and put the originals back in.  It is a challenge all out of proportion to just writing twelve words in a sixteen thousand word manuscript.

Beyond those two content issues there is the question of tone.  YA almost by definition has at least one young adult main character.  Making a teen boy (who is not allowed to use the f-word) sound real is hard for me.  My adult characters tend to be mature, introspective and loners. (I leave you to guess why those are easier for me to write.)  Finding a young adult “voice” that is real, sympathetic but not too perfect, and interesting, is my goal. 

Ralph as my editor helps me realize when I have strayed. (I get little notes - “ I don't think young guys have used that expression since the 1980's.”)  I also try to find the right emotions.  I want to reflect the intensity with which I remember reacting to everything as a teenager. The way time could stretch and shrink drastically depending on the feelings involved.  The way one small thing could seem as huge as a mountain.  The mixture of impatience and anxiety with which I looked ahead to adult life. Even more than adult books, I think teen books are about getting the emotions right, and true and real.

Why does it matter whether it feels real to teenage readers , as long as the story is entertaining? To me it matters because I believe YA literature is more important.  My adult stuff entertains.  If someone is touched by it, that's wonderful.  But I know as a teenager, books were far more to me than entertainment.  The best books reached out and touched something inside me.  They were my solace and my refuge, my source of different world views, my mirror that sometimes showed a geeky, unattractive,  solitary girl as the heroine of her own story. They kept me going.  They were my friends.  I want to write books that have that connection in them. 

As the author of adult romance, I want to give readers a few hours of wonderful entertainment.  As a YA author, I want to write friends.

Thank you for your wonderful post, Kira! If you guys want to know more about Kira you can find her on Goodreads or leave a comment for her here!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Wednesday Calls for Submissions

Dreamspinner Press:

Time Is Eternity
2012 Daily Dose - A Story a Day in the Month of June
Edited by Lynn West

“Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.”

-Henry Van Dyke

Millennia, centuries, decades, years, months, days, hours, minutes, seconds... if it’s a love for the ages, then past, present, or future has no meaning. In these stories, time travel--forward or backward, for an instant or for a lifetime--is the way to fulfilling romance.

Editor’s Note: Because of the packaged nature of the set, all stories need to stand alone. No sequels to or spin-offs of previously published works, please. Contemporary and Historical settings only. No Bittersweet Dreams.

Submission Deadline: March 1, 2012

Publication Date: June 2012

Daily Dose/Advent Calendar story length: 5,000 - 18,000 words
Manuscripts shorter or longer will be considered but will have to be extraordinary.
Follow general Submission Guidelines for instructions and formatting.
Send all submissions to List the anthology title in the subject line of your e-mail. Ex: TIME TRAVEL anthology submission

Note: Dreamspinner Press is a publisher of adult M/M romances and as such, is not safe for those under the age of 18.

More information can be found at:

Less than Three Press

The Beastiary

Dragons, firebirds, griffons, kirin, unicorns, centaurs, demons, chimaera—these are but a few of the countless monsters that endlessly fascinate. What about them draws us in? What brings us back to them over and over?

More importantly, what is capable of taming these unconquerable creatures? Who or what could ever bring to heel these peerless beasts? A human? An equal? An enemy? The answers are endless, and yours to provide.

This collection is centered around the theme of monsters and mythical creatures. All stories must have a strong tie to this theme. We are looking for creative stories featuring a wide range of creatures, not simply a whole bunch of stories about dragons (not to say dragons are bad; we like dragons). Any sub-genre is gladly accepted: sci-fi, mystery, contemporary, steampunk, etc.

The Bestiary is a collection of ebooks, meaning each story will be sold as an individual ebook and readers will also have the option to purchase “bundles” or the entire collection for a reduced rate. Standard ebook royalty rates will apply.

Stories should be complete before submitting, and as edited as possible. They can be submitted in any format (doc, docx, rtf, odt, etc), preferably single spaced with a space between paragraphs, in an easy to read font (Times, Calibri, Arial) with no special formatting (no elaborate section separation, special fonts, etc). Additional formatting guidelines can be found here.

Stories will also be collected into a print book (or books, depending on total length), and each contributing author will receive two copies of the book containing their story.

Submission Deadline: June 30, 2012

Stories should be approximately 15,000-30,000 words in length (a little longer or shorter is fine).
Stories must be m/m or f/f romance (threesomes, etc. are acceptable, but all parties must be the same gender).
Stories must have a happily ever after (HEA) or happy for now (HFN) end.

More information can be found at