Unbound (All Good Things #1) Available on Amazon/Smashwords/Unknown (All Good Things #2) coming soon.

Monday, 27 January 2014

If I Were a Boy

The male POV is scarce in YA. Which kind of makes sense given that YA is consumed, for the most part, by young girls, young women, and not-so-young women. That's not to say that some young men don't read YA - I know they do, I'm glad they do - but they won't find many same gendered narrators to connect with in this genre. Given that a lot of YA is written by women, if you follow the "write what you know" edict, it's easier to tell a story from the safety of your own gendered experiences. 

I've been thinking a lot about the male POV as I write Unknown. I wanted to pay more attention to Eaden's story in this book and consequently, I've been playing with writing some chapters in a third person narrative from the male POV. I want to do this well, but it's new and I've realized that I don't know much about being a boy. Don't get me wrong, I like boys and men. Very much. I married one and am really proud to be raising another. But I'm not sure I always understand their social experience or they way they communicate how they feel. As a result, I've been paying more attention lately to the male POV in the stories I read. And I've thought back on the male characters whose voices I've heard; how they talked, what they did, what they liked, and most importantly, how they reflected on their experiences (or didn't, for that matter). 

Below is my list of some of my favourite YA male characters, old and new, whose stories were told (mostly) from their own perspective.  

1. Park Sheridan from Eleanor and Park by Rainbow RowellI want my son to be like Park when he grows up. Curious and open-minded and committed to being a decent human being. Park is also the kind of guy I totally would have ignored in high school. Because I was an idiot in high school. 

2. Adam Parrish and Gansey (aka Richard Campbell Gansey III) from the Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater: Sigh. My love for The Raven Boys runs deep. Adam Parrish has made me wish hard that I were Blue. And Gansey, almost-on-the-spectrum-Gansey, circumvents all the stereotypes you find in books about rich boys. These are complex young men who have rich and colourful relationships with each other. If I could live in any book, right now I'd choose this one so I could spend more time with these Aglionby boys. 

3. Adam Wilde from Where She Went (If I Stay #2) by Gayle Forman: This book left me wanting more of Adam Wilde. His narrative was raw and painful, but also funny and self-aware. It would have been so easy for the story of a rock star to veer into hyperbole, but Adam's story felt true in a way that surprised me. 

4. Finnikin and Froi from the Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta: What? You've never heard of Marchetta or the Lumatere Chronicles? If you like high fantasy, get thee to a bookstore (or the interwebs) post haste. You'll want to meet these two young men, I promise. 

5. Noah Hutchins from Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry: Noah is a bad boy. I spent so much of my adolescence pining over a bad boy that I have little tolerance left for this trope. Noah won me over though. Yes, he's flawed and full of angst, but you never doubt that he's going to figure out how to move through the world a little less destructively. And he's sexy. There's that too. 

6. Thomas McKee from The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta: Another bad boy. But mostly just a mess. The kind of boy I would have tried to fix because he just seems so broken. It took me awhile to warm up to Tom, but once I did, he had me bawling like a baby. Marchetta does a great job of showcasing Tom's vulnerabilities almost as if he's unaware of them. We see why he hurts and when he catches up with the rest of us, it's lovely and painful to watch. 

7. Bugs Potter and Adam Webb from Who is Bugs Potter? by Gordon Korman: I haven't read Who is Bugs Potter? in several decades but I could probably describe particular scenes in great detail because I loved this book so much. Bugs is fantastic - funny and talented and completely oblivious to the trouble he causes. His friend and roommate, Adam Webb, is the quintessential straight man and together these two have a ton of chemistry. 

8. Rudy Miller and Mike Webster from I Want to Go Home by Gordon Korman: See above. Ah, Rudy Miller. Funny, taciturn, bored, and good at everything he tries. I loved Rudy when I was a girl. I loved his funny one-liners, his devotion to running away, and ultimately, his ability to recognize a good time when he saw it. 

9. Nick from Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan: I've met a lot of guys like Nick and although I've never heard their interior monologues, my guess is that they sound a lot alike. Nick is insecure and full of philosophical angst and so in love with being in love that he doesn't realize what he's looking for. At times I found him annoying, but he always felt very genuine. And really, most of the guys I know that remind me of Nick annoy me too. 

10. Adam Farmer from I Am the Cheese by Robert Cormier: It's been a long time since I read this book, but I've never forgotten how scared I was for Adam while I read it. Adam's story is creepy and lovely and sad, all at the same time. 

Your turn. Do you have a favourite YA story from the male POV that I missed? What do you recommend? 

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Excerpt from Unbound

“I know you’re there,” I said, pitching my voice towards the darkness. It echoed down the empty street. “We need to talk.” I waited, forcing myself not to move away, not to look away. My heart pounded in my ears and I took a deep breath to steady myself. A car moved down the road towards me and I watched it pass, the headlights glaring and then receding as it rounded the corner of the next street.

His shadow stretched out before him as he moved on to the sidewalk under the glow of the streetlamp. He said nothing, only stared at me with a bemused expression. I wanted to say something else, but found that now I could only stare back. He wore the same long dark coat and gloves he always wore, his clothes tailored, but nondescript, his hair disheveled, but not untidy. The familiar feeling of tranquility settled on me as he moved closer and my head swam as if each of my thoughts was sinking slowly through deep water. Looking up at him, his stormy grey eyes were as sad and as haunting as I remembered them.

We stood staring at each other silently, as if the other was something new and remarkable. I was puzzled by my lack of speech. After all of this time, there were so many things I had wanted to say to him. Why wasn’t I talking? Reaching up to touch my throat, I frowned, trying to remember how to voice the questions that waited patiently for articulation. Seeming to notice my confusion, his expression became strained and his eyes guarded. He stared down at his gloved hands as if he was unable to bear witness to my struggle for words.

Minutes passed and neither of us moved. 

Distantly troubled, I watched as he confronted whatever demons were wrestling within him. Eventually, his shoulders slumped in defeat and he nodded to himself – an acknowledgement that a decision had been made.

Moving slowly, he took off his gloves and placed them in his coat pocket, raised his hand towards my face with infinite care, and lightly touched my cheek. He let his fingers trace the line of my jaw, his expression now unfathomable as a shiver raced down my back.

“Hello,” he said.

I finally found my voice and my eyes locked on his. “Who are you?”

“My name is Eaden,” he said.

I nodded. It was a start.

“We need to talk,” I said again. It was unlikely that I had ever been guilty of such an understatement.

He stepped closer, our bodies almost touching. I was aware of every inch of him, as if somehow he had become an extension of me, another limb once lost and now recovered. My heart rallied and sped up as I tilted my head to study him. Sighing, he raised his eyes to the sky and then closed them, shaking his head before looking back down at me, a hint of a smile dancing around his lips.

“I’ll see you in the morning, Rachel,” he said and then turned and walked away. Within a few heartbeats he was hidden amongst the shadows once again.

“Eaden,” I said and went inside.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Navel Gazing 3.0

1. Veronica Mars. You saw the trailer, right? And the movie poster? If you haven't (and if you care) stop reading now and go HERE to watch. My hopes are high and this trailer has done little to diminish them. I can't wait to see how it all plays out on the big screen, but for now I'm just so glad to get a glimpse of my old friends. Mac! Piz! Dick! Wallace! And yes, of course, Logan. 
Logan + Veronica = 4ever. 

2. Outlander on Starz. If you're a fan of the Gabaldon time travel series you already know what I'm talking about. As with VMars (see #1), I'm really hoping they don't eff this up, because it's JAMIE and CLAIRE (see here). The trailer looks promising and there appears to be some natural chemistry between the two leads, which should bode well if certain (ahem) scenes are included (please, let them be included). 

3. Making friends. I have amazing friends - smart, funny, compassionate people who I'm incredibly grateful to have in my life. And most of my friends love to read, so I get to talk books to my heart's content. But I don't  know a lot of writers and lately I've been feeling a bit lonely on this side of the reader/writer divide. So, last week I put on my big girl pants and asked the lovely and talented Amy Good if, you know, she um, *scuffs toe in the dirt* wanted to be my writer friend? To my relief, she graciously agreed and has already been a great source of support in many ways. 

4. Reading many books at once. I used to be monoliterary* I only ever read one book at a time and what I started, I had to finish. Even if I hated it. Even if it took me months to slog through, because damn it, those were the rules. Thankfully, I've been able to be less rigid about reading. This is, in part, the result of having a child (so little time to read, why waste it on something I'm not enjoying?), and in part thanks to my dear friend, Sonia, who has a very Zen approach to reading. "It's just not the right time for that book," she told me once. "Doesn't mean you won't ever read it, just not right now". I was surprised (and pleased) to notice last week that I was reading FIVE books at once. And it's working out fine. Some nights I'm in the mood for one over the other, and sometimes I read a little bit from several. How about you? Are you a book multitasker or monoliterary? 

5. Audiobooks. One of my jobs requires a commute, which is about an hour drive each way. I went through a period where I did nothing but listen to This American Life podcasts, which were great. But thanks to my local library, I've now been downloading and listening to audiobooks on my iPhone while  I drive and it's fantastic (and free). Not only have I read quite a few titles that I might not have had time to read otherwise, but I've fallen in love with several narrators along the way (looking at you, Will Patton). However, I realized I seem to think of audiobooks as cheating, as if I haven't really read the books I've listened to, even thought the experience is very similar. So similar that I sometimes have trouble recalling whether I physically read or listened to a particularly story, although the details are still there. What do you think? Do audiobooks count as reading? 

*totally made up word - reading one book at a time.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

The Weight of a Book in My Hand

“There was something about the possession of a book that was important to me. Owning it gave me proprietary rights on the story. It meant that I could read as quickly or as slowly as I liked. No expectations, no deadlines, no proscriptions on bent spines or crumpled pages. I was not gentle on my books. I read while I ate, I read in the bathtub. At night, I rolled over on top of my books that had fallen between the covers as I dozed. For me, the worn pages and tattered covers were a sign of devotion. Like the Velveteen Rabbit, the books I read were only real when they were loved. And I understood that love was not always gentle.”  Unbound (All Good Things #1)

Back in the day when we lived in our one-bedroom apartment, my books lived wherever I could find room for them - on shelves, on tables, in book crates and baskets. When we moved into a bigger apartment, we bought more bookshelves, but the books continued to dominate whatever decorating choices I made. There were a lot of them. A bigger home meant more books, right?

And then we had a baby. Those with kids know how the STUFF takes over. And I felt less sentimental about my books in the face of overcrowding. I did the one thing that is usually really hard for a bibliophile to do. I culled my book collection. I gave them to friends, dropped them off at used bookstores, and when all else failed, recycled them (I know, don't judge me). My books now live on one (ONE!) bookshelf in my office and a small bookstand beside my bed. And unlike past attempts, the books have not multiplied in the night under the cover of darkness (I used to swear I could hear them canoodling after I went to bed, Asimov totally flirting with Austen, Dickens drinking shots with King).

But I can't blame it all on the kiddo, what really changed the game was my iPad. Now a good chunk of my book collection sits on electronic shelves, which are a lot less pretty and don't smell like anything at all (my husband looks at me strangely when I sniff the iPad). And I can't lend them, which sucks, because I love handing a book to a friend. It's like I'm passing along one of my really good memories.

And yet, I don’t resist the pace of progress. In fact, the iPad with its Kindle and Kobo apps all neatly alphabetical, has won me over. "But, but, but," my old die hard book-self would say (my die hard book-self sounds a lot like Willow Rosenberg, FYI), "you can't touch them and the no smell thing and you know, they're BOOKS." But the thing is Willow, ebooks are really convenient. You can read them in the dark when you’re trying to lull your kiddo into believing he’s tired, you can bring all ten of the books you plan to read on your holiday without a luggage surcharge, and it's so bloody easy to buy one. One click is like the best of times and the worst of times. And I’m reading more than ever (maybe not more than middle school. Books saved me in grade eight).

What I'm trying to say is that, somewhat reluctantly, I’ve adapted, and it’s not so bad. Falling asleep on top of my iPad is pretty uncomfortable and to be honest, really cold, but so far  I haven’t dropped it in the bathtub and my book gift certificates go a lot farther. But now and then, I still pull out my first hard cover copies of the Lord of the Rings or Pride and Prejudice and I hold them, and I smell them, and touch the crumpled pages and tea stains, and I reminiscence, old-lady styles, about how good it feels to hold the weight of a book in my hand.