Online Issue 14

TSP OI14 coverAuthor Lee Murray talks about her novelInto the Sounds, and how traveling has shaped her life and writing, the actor she’d pick to play her protagonist for the series and her faithful author assistant, Bella.

Stuart R. West drops by to talk about his faithful companion, Zak, and his novels Secret Society (which may be one of the most original takes on a serial killer story) and how a real-life ghost town inspired Ghosts of Gannaway.

Jon O’Bergh is back to share the music his characters in The Shatter Point would listen to.

S.D. Hintz is also giving us the goods on the nosey neighbors who inspired The Witching Well and the reason he may just live in the creepiest house, ever.

ICYMI, Brian talked to Steph Post and Nik Norpon about their tattoos. And there’s a new story up at Zombie Cat: Waiting on the Stress Boxes by David Hagerty.

Goldilocks and the Dark Barometer

Every now and again, someone writes about the darkness that permeates Young Adult fiction. This leads to speculation about whether it is too dark, and summaries on the topic. I could do likewise, but I felt  already did that so well, I don’t need to.

What I did decide was that I would focus on reading some popular YA authors and titles and see what I thought. So, reads over the past few months classified as YA have included Nightwolf, Salt, The Fragile Ordinary, The Forest of Hands and Teeth

Out of all of these offerings, Nightwolf is probably the darkest. Salt has monsters and The Forest of Hands and Teeth has zombies, but Nightwolf focuses on real horrors some kids today live with, and although it isn’t pure noir, there is a sense of hopelessness and futility that permeate the story. It isn’t what I’d call cheery. The other titles have varying degrees of hope – for resolution of problems, for overcoming difficult situations, for the future. I didn’t find any of this unrelentingly dark.

Now, your mileage may vary. But here’s the thing. Young people are dealing with a lot of crap. We did, too, in our day. They’re trying to figure out who they are, what they want out of life and what others expect of them. They have to make decisions that will shape their entire future. And they’re looking at a war of words between politicians that might lead to war with North Korea and all kinds of other crap going on that could change their future. They want to assume control of their lives but they aren’t adults, so they’re caught between taking responsibility for their actions and having limited authority for their choices.

And everything they do is presented on social media for all the world to see.

Frankly, the stuff I’ve heard about via the kids over recent years has been numbing. They are far more aware of a lot of crap than I ever was. And I specifically started watching The Walking Dead because their biomom was watching it with them when they were eleven. Brian and I always felt we should have some sense of what they were watching and being exposed to so that we could have informed conversations about it, so a show I’d resisted watching became part of our regular viewing. (And they had some good seasons, so for a while it wasn’t a chore at all.) Frankly, if they can watch that when they aren’t even teens, it’s got to be pretty damn hard to top that level of darkness in fiction.

People read for all kinds of reasons, and one of those reasons is to escape. Another is to learn about things they otherwise wouldn’t get answers about. And another is to help them process things they’re dealing with.

Hells bells, I’m just glad to see young people reading. You want to read dark? Read on, I say.

Reviews:

Review: Salt by Hannah Moskowitz

 

Review: The Fragile Ordinary by Samantha Young

 

Review: Creatures of Want and Ruin by Molly Tanzer

 

Review: The Middleman by Olen Steinhauer

 

Review: Walking Shadows by Faye Kellerman

 

Review: Robert B. Parker’s Colorblind by Reed Farrel Coleman

 

Bye Bye Kindle Boards

From their new terms of service:

“You agree to grant to KBOARDS.COM a non exclusive, royalty free, worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual license to reproduce, distribute, transmit, sublicense, create derivative works of, publicly display, publish and perform any materials and other information you submit to any public areas, chat rooms, bulletin boards, newsgroups or forums of KBOARDS.COM or which you provide by email or any other means to KBOARDS.COM and in any media now known or hereafter developed. Further, you grant to KBOARDS.COM the right to use your name and or user name in connection with the submitted materials and other information as well as in connection with all advertising, marketing and promotional material related thereto, together with use on any other VerticalScope Inc. web sites. You agree that you shall have no recourse against VerticalScope Inc. for any alleged or actual infringement or misappropriation of any proprietary right in your communications to KBOARDS.COM.”

You have to email and ask for all your information to be removed. Always nice for some assholes to come along and change the terms of service after the fact so that people’s information is already being sold. Jerks. Time to sign off.

Hulu Programming Campaign for Letterkenny

Now, Brian’s new favorite show is a Canadian show called Letterkenny. The first two seasons are on Hulu, and he wants them to get all the seasons added. So here’s hoping some of you will have a full appreciation for the quirky humor and jump on the bandwagon. Season 1 has a running joke starting episode 2 that has payoff in the final episode of the season…. just brilliant. These clips have nothing to do with the ostrich fucker, or my favorite joke about a certain book, or even the super-soft birthday party, but they do help set the tone of the show.

 

Now, this one… maybe not young kid friendly. But a great illustration of ‘show not tell’ writing. I know exactly what Wayne and Daryl think about Squirrely Dan’s revelation about his sexual experience without so much as a word from either of them.

 

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Review: The Fragile Ordinary by Samantha Young

614af1ibwhl-_sy346_“I am Comet Caldwell.

“And I sort of, kind of, absolutely hate my name.”

Thus begins Comet’s journey in The Fragile Ordinary. Comet is a 16-year-old girl from Scotland with two disinterested parents who prefers escaping into the world of books or writing poetry to socializing. This can get her in a bit of trouble with her friends, Vicki and Steph, who are trying to pull her out of her shell. When a new boy at school makes Comet’s heart beat faster and her skin turn redder than its ever been, Comet struggles to understand and control her response to Tobias King. When King is assigned the seat next to her in one of her classes and they have to work on a project together she discovers there’s much more to the American “bad boy” than meets the eye.

Comet’s story is relatable for many teens who are trying to figure out who they are and struggling to adjust to the changes that growing up brings. Young walks a very fine line, presenting these teens as real without overusing curse words or overemphasizing some of the teen perils that are touched on. From Comet to Tobias to Vicki to Steph, all of the main characters in this book will have to grapple with who they are and what they want from life to some extent, and teens will relate to the challenges they’re facing themselves as they figure out their plans for the future. Bullying is a reality at school, and nobody pretends to have the perfect answer for how to deal with the problem. Just going through the thought processes for the decisions that Comet and others make may help some readers feel as though they aren’t so alone, and may give those struggling with similar issues ideas for how to resolve their own problems.

Family issues are front and center. Comet’s disinterested artsy parents are more wrapped up in each other than anything else and are anything but typical. Her neighbor is more of a parental figure than Kyle or Carrie, as Comet has been instructed to call Dad and Mom. As Comet gains confidence she confronts her parents about how they treat her, and comes to terms with what that means for her relationship with them moving forward.

Tobias comes off like a bad boy and definitely has an attitude. Once Comet starts to get to know him, all of the reasons for his anger make sense. I don’t want to say too much there because of potential spoilers, but this was a really believable and compelling part of the story. Both Comet and Tobias are dealing with imperfect parents and coming to terms with how their parents have – for better or worse – shaped their lives. Tobias also has family in town, and his cousin has a bad reputation. When his cousin’s mom is diagnosed with cancer things spiral, and both Tobias and Comet struggle with how to help him.

The dynamics between the three girls are also pretty interesting. Comet is better friends with Vicki than Steph, who is self-absorbed and likes to be the center of attention. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine a future where Comet and Steph have completely drifted apart. One of the things Comet really has to think about throughout the story is how her decisions (to withdraw, stay home and read, not go to parties or socialize) are affecting her friendships.

Overall, Comet matures and blossoms in this coming-of-age story, while grappling with some big decisions and big problems. Whether you’re a teen whose drifting apart from your more sociable friends or someone who’s being bullied or worried about a peer who’s having serious family problems or a parent trying to understand your teenager, you’ll find some keen insights woven into the fabric of this engaging story.