Heroines in YA fiction


It is disturbing that in YA, often the female hero’s main redeeming characteristic is that she is “selfless.” Yes, there is no greater love than to lay down your life for your friends, but women need to be valued above what they have to give to others. What about solving a problem without violence? And why is life the “go to” sacrifice? Why is death even on the table?

There is a better way.

Bella asks the Volturi to kill her. 
Katniss volunteers to become a Tribute. 
Tris gives herself over to the Erudite. Alone, these actions seem noble, but these heroes are still playing by the establishment’s rules.

Why don’t we break ‘em?

Show me the anarchist, pacifist, peacemaker. Give me the daisy, lovingly placed in the mouth of an AR-15 instead of an arrow piercing the attacker’s heart. Write a dark hero that will not abide by death on either side of the war.


A letter to Honey, just before Pearl Harbor, on November 17, 1941

Hey friends and fans,
I’ve been recovering from surgery, but the edit on my second work (the YA Fantasy EMPIRE) is coming along.

I thought I’d share a letter that helped me in writing my first book, Why Aren’t You Sweet Like Me?? (which is still on sale for Kindle this week for $4.99). At this point in history, Don was still a Private at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. He enlisted in the Army after his father bought him out of his Navy commission. Here, you can see how much the training took out of him. Hope you enjoy Don’s words to Honey as much as I did:

November 17, 1941 – Fort Leonard Wood stationary

Dear Honey,

Baby, I haven’t written much lately. I’ve been too beaten down and disgusted, I’ve just hated to write and make you feel miserable too. First and foremost I want to thank you a thousand times for that swell birthday stuff – you are really OK, Blue, 100% and tops and cream of the crop etc.

Blue, I’m a little bigger than that lovely sweater is but I believe it will stretch.

My dream and ambition has been to get into Officers Training School and if I made the grade we could get hitched decently and honestly. As it is, I’m nothing – I’m just beginning to realize how God-damned poor a man I am – I’m really getting my damned conceit knocked out.

Blue, I believe maybe your mother is right not liking me – she sees something in me that’s lacking – some damned big fault that it took the army to bring out. But I’m the one that will decide if I’m good enough for you.

Captain Carroll hates my guts. Makes everything worse. I’m about ready to go completely nuts here.

I have to go on a trip for strike duty. I probably won’t be back for a few weeks as they try to contain the strike crowds, which I hope, doesn’t interfere with Christmas.

Blue, I love you but the way I’m beginning to feel, I’m not so sure it’s for the best.

                                                                        I love you, Blue.

Lt. DK Sanders

Image credit: everythingsright.com

What’s my villain’s name? Please vote!

Ok, fans, I need some help again! I’ve been reading a lot lately, and I’ve come across several characters (however, they are never villains) with the same name as a major character in my next work, EMPIRE. So please take a second to vote for your favorite! Thank you all.

Here’s a short description:

Samantha “Sam” Bruce is the spoiled yet neglected daughter of a top tier fashion designer. She enjoys modern dance and sailing. In prep school, she befriends Haven (the main character, named after my daughter) only after perpetrating an act that leaves her friendless. She is willowy with straight black hair, fair skin and blue eyes. She is manipulative and holds onto secrets until an advantageous moment arrives, but she has a generous spirit and a way of helping/comforting others when no one else can.


Update: After this poll and speaking with my editor and an author friend, we are going with Sonora Bruce! Thanks so much for your input (as I’ll be asking for it again soon!)


EMPIRE is finished, but still in the editing stages. Here is a small clip from chapter 6 which is a key turning point in the story:

I have my father’s hands: large palms and long, graceful fingers. I feel their weight, their size. I think of the nimble gestures, their quick-responding ligaments: possessing surgical accuracy and yet I know they will never have that possibility. Careful. I think about what they’ve held, what they never can. They seem like strong hands. But they couldn’t respond. When I needed them most they were sloppy and disordered. And now they are here. Empty. Lacking. Like a dream deferred but they do not explode. They simply sit and wait for nothing.

Image credit: everythingsright.com

What’s my name?

OK, so I’m sorry I’ve been MIA (having major evacuation lag, which I will explain soon) but I’m currently editing my second work: the YA Fantasy, EMPIRE. I have a seventeen-year-old, auburn-haired girl named Shannon (my MC’s best friend) with cystic fibrosis in the manuscript and I’m having the issue of giving her a surname. It will either be Brandstater or Bolingbroke (I have different reasons for both but I’m not particularly set on one), so I thought I’d ask you to help! What’s her name?

UPDATE: Looks like “Brandstater” won! Thanks, all! I appreciate your input. Now, onto editing…

image: everythingsright.com

Rereading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

This post really should be called “Gleaning Lessons from Rowling’s Work” because I wanted to share my critical observations from this novel, but c’est la vie…

Summer reminds me of reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and eating Otter Pops in my college house at night. I’m currently rereading the fifth book in the Harry Potter series (ice pops included) and since EMPIRE (my second work) is almost done, I’m recognizing the things about the narrative that made it so successful. Firstly, Rowling can pull a scene together with helpful and exquisite detailing without overwhelming the reader. For example, she uses specific street names (Magnolia Crescent, Magnolia Lane) but then only describes the homes of Little Whinging to be “square.” Her specificity is a hook in itself. As an audience, we have the ability to imagine the houses. We get to dictate the colors, the dimensions, without being weighed down with excess.
Also, she reminds us of the Harry that we’re used to: misunderstood, undervalued, and above all, magical. What’s more is that she presents us with a new, more adult (and as such, more flawed) Harry: the bully who can use magic as a weapon; here, it’s simply a distraction, a dalliance to keep his mind of things that really matter. He uses his cousin as a verbal punching bag, siphoning his stresses into Dudley (who surely deserves it); this is our first view into Harry fighting dirty, which he taps into later in the novel. Eventually, Harry returns to himself and saves Dudley from the Dementors.

In a series, the main character is already fully developed in the first chapter. We know him. We have expectations. But that also sets us up for surprise…

In the novel’s introduction (particularly YA), authors must present an expectation and irony in the first few lines to make the character’s true self shine. Contradictions are interesting but don’t make it unbelievable (you need to settle in that if you’re working in a fantasy genre). The fickle audience needs to latch on, but in a series, well, that’s like a sales clerk trying to tell a customer how great they look after they’ve already bought several outfits. The work is done. The goal now is to get the consumer through to enjoy the book over and over until the next one comes out (as many Hunger Games fans can tell you, the only way to stem the need to read the next book is to read the book you have…again).
Introductions are important because they are the first things your audience sees (and the second thing that an agent sees).

So if you’re having difficulty with your intro, spend time reading your favorite books to get a good sense of the characterization it provides (though characterization often bleeds into setting as well). I recommend Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, Mother of Pearl by Melinda Haynes, Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, anything by Christopher Moore, and Rowling’s later books…


In my second work, EMPIRE, a massive Colorado wildfire clouds the hills and colors the sunsets, but also instills fear into my main character. This detail may seem like it has great timing, however, given my firefighter husband and his working knowledge of the pine beetle infestation, the fires that are going on now (just miles from our home) are expected.

For those of you that are familiar with forest or structure fires, what is memorable about them? What do you wish that you knew (or didn’t know) before you had that experience? What is burned (pardon the pun) into your brain after seeing such a destructive force?

I remember that 10 years ago, the Hayman fire decimated large swaths of land and homes just west of Colorado Springs. The wind would carry the scent of smoke and drop yellowed ash on my windshield. There have been two fires at my mother’s house (while I was living there); they were quite small, smouldering fires that cost a lot of money to fix but there wasn’t any degree of trauma that occurred.

So if there are any details that you find interesting that I should add to my manuscript before my editor gets his hands on it, please let me know!

image credit: everythingsright.com