Archive for the ‘teenagers’ Tag

Monday’s Friend: Barbara Ehrentreu

Today I’m pleased to welcome Barbara Ehrentreu back to the blog, as my first guest of 2015.  Barbara writes novels for teens, about the problems real teens face, and when I was in high school I used to love reading books like this.  She’s back to tell us about how a real-life traumatic event inspired her newest novel After.  Take it away, Barbara!

My Thoughts on Writing After
By Barbarah Ehretreu

Barbara and the Pacific Ocean (2)Sometime in October of 2006 my husband had a very bad heart attack and it required him to have bypass surgery. After the surgery he had a great many complications due to the fact that he had asthma and his heart was very damaged. Plus he had a reaction to the anesthetic called ICU delirium. So I was visiting him every day and spending most of my time in the hospital. That November I decided to do NaNoWriMo, which is National Novel Writing Month to see if I could write a novel in thirty days. So when I started to write the whole experience of the night when my husband had his heart attack it was very fresh in my mind. Lauren, the main character, came to me and suddenly I knew that I had to write about the whole experience.

When I write I usually don’t put anything down until I have the first sentence. Then I can continue from there and write usually two thousand words without stopping. As you can see I am a “pantser”. This is what happened. Suddenly I couldn’t stop writing and even though I was visiting my husband every day and going through a horrible experience due to his delirium and his very slow recuperation, I came back to write and try to get to my goal. After awhile I couldn’t write anymore due to the events that were unfolding. He had pneumonia and it was the kind where you needed to visit wearing a gown and gloves. Plus he barely knew us and being with him was very difficult. So I put away the story, then called When My Life Changed, and left it alone until after my husband had returned to a fairly normal life. The next year I reread it and finished it. I never know the ending to a book until I can no longer write anything more. If it changes anything in the book then I go back and fix everything to work with the ending. Then I sent it to my critique group and several beta readers. When I read their comments I decided to put it away and didn’t think about it for years.

AFTER333X555 (2)There is so much in After, which had its name changed during the editing process, that came right from my own life. The whole first scene was taken almost word for word from the night my husband had his heart attack. The descriptions of the hospital and his condition came from my own experience and so did the emotions. In fact, one of the things my critique group said was that some scenes were flat without emotion, even though these were the ones where I had the most emotions in real life. This was the hardest part, because I had to go back and rewrite these scenes remembering the emotion but doing it in a more objective way. Sometimes when you write strong emotions you have to go outside of yourself and see the scene as a camera might. Getting emotional scenes right is the hardest part of writing something you have experienced in real life

If not for The Muse Online Writing Conference I would never have even thought about publishing this book. Three years ago I was taking a workshop during this conference from Margot Finke for first lines in your novel. I used the first line of this novel and Margot loved it. So I went back to the manuscript and revised it some more. I decided I would try to get it ready for publication. Then after stalling for another year I did send it out after my daughter Rachel helped me rewrite a few things, and it was accepted. That is why I dedicated it to her.

I didn’t write After for any reason other than to revisit my own experience, but now that it is published I feel that it could be a big help to anyone who had to go through this. I also love the way Lauren and Joey who are BFF’s have their relationship change due to Lauren’s father’s illness. Of course that is the part that is really fiction. To find out more you might want to read the book, which is available from MuseItUp Publishing, Amazon and Barnes and Noble as well as IBooks, and Smashwords.

Blurb for After

After is a story about the struggles Lauren Walstein, a fifteen-year old girl, goes through when her father suddenly has a heart attack and undergoes bypass surgery. In one phone call her life changes completely. Her best friend since kindergarten, Joey, is going out with her enemy and they have grown apart. Before the phone call all she thought about was getting a scholarship for softball and the Mets. Suddenly she must deal with both her father’s illness and being in school. The demands on her from both ends complicate the story. In the middle of all this, she finds she is developing feelings for her best friend that are more than friendly. Is he feeling the same or is he just comforting her? Does her father recover? In addition there is Joey’s mean girl friend Amber, who doesn’t appreciate Lauren in the picture.

ICBLJT Cover (2)Blurb for If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor

Carolyn Samuels is obsessed with the idea of being popular. She is convinced that the only thing keeping her from happiness is her too heavy for fashion body and not being a cheerleader. Hyperventilating when she gets nervous doesn’t help. When she is paired for a math project with the girl who tormented her in middle school, Jennifer Taylor, she is sure it is going to be another year of pain. With Carolyn’s crush on Jennifer’s hunky junior quarterback, Brad her freshman year in high school looks like a rerun of middle school. When Jennifer is the only student who knows why she fell in gym class, Carolyn is blackmailed into doing her math homework in return for Jennifer’s silence. Jennifer takes on Carolyn as a pity project since she can’t be seen with someone who dresses in jeans and sweatshirts. When Jennifer invites Carolyn to spend the night to make her over and teach her to tumble, Carolyn learns Jennifer’s secret and lies to her own friends to cover it up. Will Carolyn become a cheerleader and popular? Does she continue to keep Jennifer’s secret? Or will she be a target of this mean girl again?

Author bio:

Barbara Ehrentreu grew up in Brooklyn and moved to Queens. She has lived and taught in Long Island, Buffalo, NY and Westchester, NY as well as a year in Los Angeles, CA. She has a Masters Degree in Reading and Writing. Currently she is retired from teaching and living in Stamford, CT with her family. If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor won second prize in Preditors & Editors as Best Young Adult Book for 2011. It was inspired by Paula Danziger for her children’s writing workshop at Manhattanville College. Her second book, After, considers what can happen to a teen when her father becomes ill with a heart attack. It is based on her own experiences when her husband had a heart attack and the aftermath of what she and her family experienced. She is preparing the sequel to If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor. Barbara also writes poetry and several of her poems are published in the anthologies, Prompted: An International Collection of Poetry, Beyond the Dark Room, Storm Cycle and Backlit Barbell. She has a blog, Barbara’s Meanderings, and she hosts a radio show on Blog Talk Radio, Red River Radio Tales from the Pages once a month.

Find Barbara online at the following links:


Where to buy Barbara’s books:

MuseItUp Publishing:
For Nook on Barnes and Noble:

If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor (print and ebook)
MuseItUp Publishing:
For Nook on Barnes and Noble:

Monday’s Friend: Barbara Ehrentreu

Today I am pleased to welcome MuseItUp author Barbara Ehrentreu to the blog to talk about her latest release and why she writes about teens with problems. When I was in high school I used to devour books like Barbara’s – books about teens who think the most important things in the world are to be pretty and popular, especially with the boys, but who learn that there are other more serious problems to deal with. It’s been over 25 years since I finished high school but the years melted away when I read Barbara’s extract. Perhaps things haven’t changed all that much after all.

Take it away, Barbara!

Thank you Sara-Jayne for inviting me to your blog. I thought it would be interesting for your readers to see why I write in this genre and what you go through to write a problem YA story.

 Writing a Problem YA Story
By Barbara Ehrentreu

Barbara photo at Muse booksigning editedYou might wonder why anyone would want to write a problem story, especially for teens, who live with problems every day. I think the reason I did use the eating disorder as a problem here was my daughter’s experience. I had read many stories where the eating disorder was the main character’s problem, but I didn’t know enough about it to write that way. So I had to do a lot of research to find out the mind set of people with this problem. I asked people over the internet to send me their stories and people did that. I have included a lot of what they said to me in here. Plus I haunted the eating disorder sites and read some of the posts.

But having a problem isn’t enough. My main character, Carolyn Samuels, in If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor also has a problem that causes her embarrassment. It is the reason why she is being bullied by Jennifer Taylor. My main character hyperventilates when she is nervous to the point where in the beginning of the book she faints. Did I ever have this problem? No. But I read about this too and made sure it could happen. People who have this problem cannot control their breathing and have episodes similar to what my main character, Carolyn Samuels, has to go through.

In this story, though, the problems aren’t the main focus. They are the reasons why characters act the way they do. Jennifer’s problem causes a lot of complications and Carolyn’s needing to keep her problem a secret causes even more difficulties for her. She has to hide it all from both her parents and her friends and she has to juggle the lies so no one learns about anything. Her situation is not easy and as the book continues you can see the kind of person Carolyn really is. If you want to know what happens in the story you will need to read the book.

My second book, After, is also about a problem, but the main character has to deal with one more serious than Carolyn’s. Her father has had a heart attack and suddenly her whole life changes with one phone call. The reality is her father will need bypass surgery and Lauren Walstein, an athletic fifteen-year-old girl, has her world turned around so much it affects all of her relationships. She has to juggle school and her father in the hospital with her changing feelings for her best friend Joey. Her other problem is Joey is going out with her enemy Amber and this is added to her situation. My own husband had a heart attack and went through bypass surgery so this was very close to my own life. There are whole passages in this book that came straight from my own experiences. However, Lauren’s story follows a different path as she tries to make sense of what is happening to her father and what is happening to her. Why is she suddenly having feelings for the boy who has been her best friend since kindergarten? Though Jennifer Taylor was a mean girl, Amber is so much meaner than she was.

Many people who read my first book told me they identified with Jennifer Taylor. I wonder how these same people will feel about Amber? This book, After, is not available now, but it will be this fall. Keep checking my blog and my Author page for updates on its release date. It is so new it doesn’t even have a cover yet.

You can find my book here:

The Muse Bookstore


Barnes and Noble

Find me here:

My blog: Barbara’s Meanderings:

Facebook Author Page



Carolyn Samuels is obsessed with the idea of being popular. She is convinced that the only thing keeping her from happiness is her too heavy for fashion body and not being a cheerleader. Hyperventilating when she gets nervous doesn’t help. When she is paired for a math project with the girl who tormented her in middle school, Jennifer Taylor, she is sure it is going to be another year of pain. With Carolyn’s crush on Jennifer’s hunky junior quarterback, Brad her freshman year in high school looks like a rerun of middle school. When Jennifer is the only student who knows why she fell in gym class, Carolyn is blackmailed into doing her math homework in return for Jennifer’s silence. Jennifer takes on Carolyn as a pity project since she can’t be seen with someone who dresses in jeans and sweatshirts. When Jennifer invites Carolyn to spend the night to make her over and teach her to tumble, Carolyn learns Jennifer’s secret and lies to her own friends to cover it up. Will Carolyn become a cheerleader and popular? Does she continue to keep Jennifer’s secret? Or will she be a target of this mean girl again?


Feeling my old hatred of gym, I glance across the locker room and see Jennifer in red designer shorts and a tight sleeveless shirt to match. She’s standing in front of the only mirror in the room turning back and forth.

Becky and I slide into our loose camp shorts and a T-shirt, and once they’re on, we race onto the gym floor. Always better to be early for gym the first day.  You never knew what kind of teacher you’d have. My athletic ability is zero, so I don’t take chances. Once I was a few minutes late, and the gym teacher in middle school made me run around the gym ten times. It took me the whole gym period.

Becky and I sit on the low seats in the bleachers, but Jennifer and her group saunter into the gym and choose the highest seats avoiding the rest of us. Miss Gaylon, the gym teacher introduces herself and gives us a few minutes until the last stragglers come from the locker room.  For those few minutes, I almost feel comfortable. My breathing returns to normal. I hear giggles from Jennifer and her group, but I ignore it.

“Maybe it won’t be so bad this year, Carolyn.” Becky always tries to cheer me up now. This wasn’t true a few years ago. I had to cheer her up a lot. Becky’s brothers are just turning five, and they’re both in kindergarten. Her mom remarried after being divorced for ten years. Becky was just getting used to her new stepfather when her mom got pregnant. I remember how miserable Becky was the first year of middle school when her mom spent so much time with her twin brothers and didn’t have enough time to help Becky with her homework. Luckily, Becky’s stepfather is a history teacher, so she got very interested in history and current events

“Right, Becky, and maybe I’ll learn to be a gymnast in ten minutes. Reality check, remember last year?”

“Okay, I’m hoping it won’t be so bad.”

“You mean like the dentist finding you only have one cavity and filling it the same day?”

“You’re so lame, Carolyn. Since we’re all older, maybe she’ll treat us differently. People change over the summer you know.”

“Look at her, Becky.”

Becky turns to look over at the group at the top of the bleachers and then turns back to look me in the eye. “You know you have to put that stupid day behind you.”

I pretend not to know what she’s talking about. “What stupid day?”

Like I don’t remember every detail.

“The zip line day.”

“Oh, that day,” I say with a combination grimace and smile. “The day I wound up having to climb off the platform. I wanted to bore a hole into the ground so I wouldn’t have to walk past them but couldn’t, and everyone screamed at me: ‘Breathe, Carolyn, breathe.’”

“You have to admit it was funny the way the gym teacher ran up the ladder like a squirrel to rescue you. Everyone laughed at how stupid she looked. Jennifer got the whole class going with that ridiculous ‘breathe, Carolyn, breathe.’” Becky looks behind her to Jennifer. “You know I wanted to run over and punch her, but I couldn’t because I was still on the platform, and it was my turn to go.”

“Yeah, if I had a few more minutes, I would have been able to get up the courage to grip the zip line and hook myself to it. Stupid teacher didn’t give me a chance. This not breathing thing when I get nervous really sucks.”

Becky nods because she knows me so well.

“So then Jennifer started with that horrible chant, and of course, the whole class followed her, like always.” My eyes fill with tears as I remember, and my breathing is getting worse by the minute.

“I thought it was a dumb idea to do ropes course stuff in school. We did it at my camp the summer before, and no one was forced to do it. Anyone could get nervous with Jennifer in front of them,” Becky comforts me.

I continue talking as if I’m in a trance. “Remember how last year whenever I ran into Jennifer she would whisper ‘breathe, Carolyn, breathe,’ so no one could hear it except me. Once she did it just before I had to go up in front of the class in math.   Sometimes she would do it in front of everyone and, of course, get a big laugh while I wanted to turn into a piece of furniture.”

Becky grabs my arm.  “Do we have to go back over this again? You need to forget about it.” She takes her hand away from my arm as I continue to speak.

“Becky, I can’t. The thing is it’s this bad movie in my brain looping the same horrible scenes. The funny thing is, most of the time, she would ignore me. I would never know what she was going to do. You have to admire someone so single-minded she managed to get to me at just the right time.

You remember don’t you? And today did you see how she wore the same outfit as me? It’s spooky.”

My funny breathing returns as Miss Gaylon tells us to line up on the yellow line alphabetically. I hope there will be someone to go between Jennifer and me. No luck. Jennifer is going to be behind me all year. I hold my breath. I couldn’t stand more of the same this year. I pray for the day to end soon. A glance at my new watch shows me fifteen more minutes left of the period. Is Miss Gaylon’s voice getting lower?  What is that pounding in my ears?

Jennifer turns to face me, and I hear, “Breathe, Carolyn, breathe.” Then my world turns black.

Monday’s Friend: Christopher Mannino

Today I am pleased to welcome fellow MuseItUp author Christopher Mannino to the blog.

SJT:  When did you first know you were destined to be a writer?

CM:  I was a lonely child in elementary school. I probably had more friends in the fiction I read than in real life. During my summer I would stay up for hours reading book after book, sometimes devouring multiple books in a single day. One of my earliest dreams was to become a writer, and transform my love of reading into a means to share dreams and ideas.

SJT:  Who would you cite as your influences?

CM:  My biggest influences would be J.R.R. Tolkien, JK Rowling, Philip Pullman, and Terry Pratchett.

SJT:  What advice would you pass on to beginner writers that you wish someone had told you when you were first starting out?

CM:  Another writer I knew once told me “What do you call a writer who never gives up? Answer: published.” To put it simply, writing takes an enormous amount of perseverance and patience. Never stop writing, never lose faith in yourself, and never be afraid to dream big.

SJT:  When it comes to your writing projects, would you describe yourself as a meticulous planner, or a ‘seat-of-the-pantser’?

CM:  I am in between these two extremes. I start with an idea. I have an entire notebook filled with ideas and scenarios for about 20 novels in multiple genres. Just last week I came up with a new idea for a novel, yet at the moment have other works in progress so I added the idea to my notebook and set it aside for now. Once it’s time to develop an idea, I start by sketching out on pencil and paper, exactly where I want my book to go. I then use a word document to create a rough outline of about three pages or so. Once that amount of planning is done, I free write, and let the novels take its own course, adjusting my plan as I go, and letting the characters develop in their own ways.

CoverSchoolofDeathsThe idea for SCHOOL OF DEATHS emerged when I was finishing my graduate degree at Oxford University. I spent four months abroad, far from everyone I knew. Every week, I traveled somewhere I had never been before. I would climb castle ruins in Wales and visit cathedrals in England. One of my favorite trips was to Tintagel Castle in Cornwall. I crept to the cliff face of Barras Nose, a stony peninsula jutting into the North Sea and overlooking the ruins of Tintagel, which some believe to be the birthplace of King Arthur. It was dawn, there were no other people in sight, and I had to struggle against the wind, fighting to keep my balance so I didn’t crash into the ocean. I imagined being buffeted by winds, alone, and what that would do to a character, and came up with the character of Suzie, alone in a world of men, buffeted by sexism.

SJT:  Tell us about your new release.

CM: Here’s the blurb for SCHOOL OF DEATHS:

Can a timid girl find bravery as the first female Death?

Thirteen-year-old Suzie Sarnio always believed the Grim Reaper was a fairy tale image of a skeleton with a scythe. Now, forced to enter the College of Deaths, she finds herself training to bring souls from the Living World to the Hereafter. The task is demanding enough, but as the only female in the all-male College, she quickly becomes a target. Attacked by both classmates and strangers, Suzie is alone in a world where even her teachers want her to fail.

Caught in the middle of a plot to overthrow the World of Deaths, Suzie must uncover the reason she’s been brought there: the first female Death in a million years.

SCHOOL OF DEATHS, a YA Fantasy novel, will be released by MuseitUp Publishing as an ebook on May 2nd.

SJT:  You write books for adults as well as for teenagers. Is there a difference between the teenage fiction market and the adult fiction market?

CM:  I do plan to write adult books in the future, and yes there is a difference between teenage markets and adult. For me, writing for adults is actually more challenging. I spend almost every day with teenagers, as I am a high school theatre teacher. At times, I forget how to interact with other adults, since I am so used to interacting with teens. Aside from obvious content differences, the biggest challenge is writing a book that will appeal to teenagers or to any audience. Once your audience is in mind, you know who the book should be marketed towards.

SJT:  What are you working on right now?

CM:  At the moment, I am working on a sequel to SCHOOL OF DEATHS titled SSWORD OF DEATHS.

SJT:  Thanks for talking to me, Christopher, and good luck with the new book!


Christopher Mannino’s life is best described as an unending creative outlet. He teaches high school theatre in Greenbelt, Maryland. In addition to his daily drama classes, he runs several after-school performance/production drama groups. He spends his summers writing and singing. Mannino holds a Master of Arts in Theatre Education from Catholic University, and has studied mythology and literature both in America and at Oxford University. His work with young people helped inspire him to write young adult fantasy, although it was his love of reading that truly brought his writing to life.

Find Christopher online at the following links:


Buy Links:

MuseitUp Publishing
Barnes and Noble



Monday’s Friend: Margaret Fieland

Today I am pleased to have fellow MuseItUp author Margaret Fieland as my guest. Welcome, Margaret!

SJT:  When did you first know you were destined to be a writer?

MargaretFielandMF:  LOL, I never realized I was destined to be a writer – I fell into it. I’d written poetry for years, collecting it in notebooks stacked in my attic when I wrote one I wanted to keep. This led me to several online sites and ultimately to discovering the Muse Online Writers Conference where I hooked up with Linda Barnett Johnson and joined her writers forums. She required everyone to write both fiction and poetry, so, with much trepidation, I started writing fiction. Then I got hooked on it, wrote a chapter book, took the ICL course and actually learned how to write it. Then in 2010, I was seized by a desire to write a sci fi novel, so I spent six weeks or so on world building, mostly, with a bit of plotting thrown in for good measure.

SJT:  Who would you cite as your influences?

MF:  I’m a way-back sci-fi fan, and Robert A. Heinlein influenced me heavily. I took a lot away from his writing, notably the value of surprising one’s reader. I also love Lewis Carroll, both his Alice books and his poetry. I can still recite several stanzas of Jabberwocky from memory. Isaac Asimov and James M. Barrie are also early influences.

SJT:  What advice would you pass on to beginner writers that you wish someone had told you when you were first starting out?

MF:  Don’t let your vision of yourself as a writer be limited. I never, other than for English class, wrote a word of fiction before I joined Linda’s writing forums. It simply never occurred to me that I could – or that I wanted to. A clear failure of imagination.

SJT:  You bio says you read a lot of science fiction aimed at boys when you were growing up. There is a myth out there that science fiction is written by, and for, men. Do you think any progress has been made in the last few years about raising public awareness that women write, and read, science fiction?

MF:  Well, there is certainly lots more sci fi written by women now-a-days, and I do believe more women are reading the genre. But there were actually women sci fi writers when I was growing up – Andre Norton and C.L. Moore, to name a couple. Do notice, however, the androgynous names. Things have indeed improved a bit since then. But I do believe that sci fi is viewed as a largely male preserve, just like, sadly, computer software engineering.

SJT:  Where do think the human race will be a hundred years from now – utopia, dystopia, or the same place we are now?

MF:  About the same place we are now, truthfully. However, from a writers’ point of view, this is probably the least interesting alternative {grin}, so my writing certainly won’t reflect this rather mundane view of our future. As a writer, predicting disaster of one kind or another is a much more fruitful source. In my Aleyne novels, the backstory includes a collapse of technology here on Earth in about 100 years, due to riots that brought down the government and destroyed infrastructure.

SJT:  Tell us about your latest release.

Geek GamesMF:  The latest release was Geek Games, which is actually the second Aleyne novel, in terms of chronology. It features a fourteen-year-old main character, Martin Samuels, who foolishly brings down the spaceport computer network, thus enabling the terrorists to set off a bomb which kills his friend’s father. The third novel in the series, Broken Bonds, was released in July. It features Brad Reynolds, who is the Major in charge of the Federation Guard base on Aleyne. It takes place roughly four years after Geek Games.

SJT:  What are you working on at present?
I’m finishing up the fourth book in the series. It’s another adult novel, a sci fi action-adventure romance, and the main character is Colonel Robert Walker, the man who (spoiler) arrests Brad for treason in Broken Bonds. I’ve been calling it Rob’s Book as a working title, but I’m going to have to get busy soon and pick out a real one.

I also just started plotting out a fantasy. It takes place some unknown hundreds of years in the future where we’re experiencing another ice age. My main character and his clan are living in caves.

Author Bio:

Born and raised in New York City, Margaret Fieland has been around art and music all her life. Her poems and stories have appeared in journals such as Turbulence Magazine, Front Range Review, and All Rights Reserved. She is one of the Poetic Muselings. Their poetry anthology, Lifelines, was published by Inkspotter Publishing in November, 2011. She is the author of Relocated, Geek Games, and Broken Bonds, published by MuseItUp Publishing, and of Sand in the Desert, a collection of science fiction persona poems. A chapter book is due out later this year.

Find Margaret online at the following links:


brokenbonds_200X300Blurb for BROKEN BONDS

Sex with aliens? How about romance with aliens? A treason accusation? Brad Reynolds has his hands full. When Major Brad Reynolds is assigned to head the Terran Federation base on planet Aleyne, the last thing he expects to find is love, and certainly not with one of the alien Aleyni. How can he keep his lover, in the face of political maneuvering and of Ardaval’s feelings for his former partners — and theirs for him?

Buy Links:

Publisher’s website
Barnes and Noble


When fourteen-year-old Martin lets Tom, a charismatic bully, persuade him to bring down the spaceport computer network, he never considers someone will place a bomb resulting in the death of his friend’s father. Nothing will bring Captain Frey back, but if Martin can help locate the terrorists’ drug lab, perhaps he’ll be able to forgive himself.

Buy links:

Publisher’s website


My Life in Books: David Starr, Space Ranger

Still in my science fiction phase as a teenager, I found this book in the school library.  It was the first in a series of six books by Isaac Asimov, written to introduce kids to the solar system.  The main character, David Starr, is a dashing young adventurer, and each book of the series featured a different planet in the solar system, on which David “Lucky” Starr would get involved in an exciting adventure (I think he was supposed to be something like the Lone Ranger in space), using facts about the planet as a backdrop.  This first book was set on Mars. 

The problem was, these books were written in the fifties, and our knowledge of the solar system was erroneous back then.  I remember, for instance, that in the book set on Venus it was a planet where it rained all the time – we have since learned that the clouds shrouding Venus contain no water.  I read all six books in this series, and in the front of each was an apology from Isaac Asimov, pointing out what errors had since come to light since he wrote them, but since changing the books to correct the facts would change the plots too much, he’d decided not to rewrite them.

They may no longer be the educational tools that Asimov intended, but they are still rollicking good space adventure stories, and a great science fiction books for teens.

Monday’s Friend: Renita Pizzitola

Today I am pleased to welcome new Lyrical Press writer Renita Pizzitola to the blog.

Writing YA for an Adult Audience
By Renita Pizzitola

With the ever growing population of adult YA readers, how do writers appeal to both the young adult and adult readers? For the most part, I’d say don’t change a thing. Isn’t that the appeal behind YA? 

Teens view their world from a unique perspective and, often, I think it’s this sense of nostalgia that hooks adult readers. After all, we (adults) will always have one thing in common with YA books…surviving the teen years. And though at the time, life may have seemed doomed by the smallest inconvenience, as adults, we can now look back on those memories fondly.  Not to mention, reliving youth vicariously through a fictional hero or heroine (that’s probably a whole lot cooler than you were at that age…or any teen is for that matter) is the kind of escape from reality readers look for.

But, while these aspects can be fun, sweet, even comical at times, I think some readers want more from YA. Specifically, more romance…and not just hand holding. And it’s not only the adult readers looking for this change. Older teens and twenty-somethings crave their own niche of books. They may feel too old for some YA but not ready to move into the adult romance genre and stories about issues that aren’t really relevant to them yet such as marriage, kids or jobs. They need transitional books about life after high school but before the responsibilities of true adulthood. A good middle ground is upper YA (sometimes referred to as Mature YA or New Adult). This genre combines the elements readers love—carefree lives, first love, self-discovery—with more adult content.  Eighteen-and-up characters are, typically, considered old enough to make their own decisions. Thus allowing writers more freedom to push the limits on relationships, life events, actions and consequences. And for me, I feel writing upper YA combines the perfect amount of adult appeal with the sweet side of youth and first love. It’s a story I love to tell and hopefully something both teens and adults alike will love to read.

Blurb for GOSSAMER:

Shouldn’t all faerytales end with happily-ever-after?

 Kyla Ashbury is nearing her eighteenth birthday when a mysterious boy appears at school. Her instant attraction to him inexplicably awakens something inside her and she discovers her true identity.

 Now, armed with the knowledge of her past, she is forced to leave behind the life she has always known for a new one filled with temptation, faery charm and magic, and a future she wasn’t prepared for.

 Kyla is left with a difficult decision…but no matter which path she chooses, someone will get hurt.

 Purchase Links:

Amazon/Barnes and NobleiBooks/Lyrical Press

 Renita Pizzitola writes Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy. An avid reader herself, she has always enjoyed stories with witty humor, romance, and fascinating characters. Renita lives in Texas with her husband and two children. When not writing, she enjoys reading everything she can get her hands on, drinking copious amounts of coffee, and playing referee to her two typically adorable children.

 Visit for more information.

Contact Links:


My Life in Books: Summer of Fear

By the time I picked up this book – which I think I found in a library sale, because my copy was tattered and shabby and had an old library card pocket in the front – I was a fully-fledged horror convert. I think I was 15. Less than two years earlier I’d been arguing with Rob Vukovich, my geography class neighbour, that I didn’t like horror (he thought I should write more of it).

I picked up this book because I thought the title and the cover (the one shown) both promised a creepy thrill.

Rachel is 15, and lives a comfortable life with her brother and parents, and has a boyfriend who adores her but she can’t decide if she wants to commit to him or not. When news comes to the family that her mother’s sister and brother in law have been killed, along with their housekeeper, they decide to take in the orphaned teenage daughter, Julia.

Allegedly 17, Rachel thinks from the beginning that Julia looks older than her years. Initially she feels sorry for Julia, but after a while things start happening. Rachel’s would-be boyfriend starts going out with Julia (and true to human nature, as soon as he decides to look elsewhere, Rachel decides he’s the one for her after all). The family dog gets sick and dies. The brakes fail on her mother’s car, but fortunately she emerges from the accident unscathed. Rachel starts to suspect Julia is somehow behind it all. Everyone casts off her suspicions as those of a jealous teenager, usurped by an older, more glamorous girl taking all the attention.

Eventually Rachel becomes convinced that Julia is a witch. The truth eventually comes out. The third burned body in the car was not the housekeeper – it was the real Julia. It was the housekeeper who survived, and took Julia’s place. The question of whether or not she really was a witch is left open. There is an epilogue at the end of the book taking place years later, where an older Rachel, now married to the boyfriend, reflects on the fact that the things that had happened could have been a series of bizarre coincidences. It could be that the imposter (whose name was Sarah) just thought she was a witch. When her plan of seducing Rachel’s father, having first got his wife out of the way, is exposed, she disappears. Rachel is left reading newspaper headlines about an attractive couple who disappeared mysteriously while out walking, and wondering if Sarah is at work again.

There might be an argument, then, that this isn’t actually a horror book but a thriller.  If Sarah was actually capable of using magic, then that puts a supernatural slant on it, and I would argue that makes it horror.  If, however, Sarah was deluding herself and magic doesn’t really exist, and the things that occurred (cars going wrong, the dog getting sick, etc) were a series of coincidences, then there’s no supernatural element at all.

For the 15-year-old me, whether or not the magic was real was irrelevant.   I considered it a very creepy book regardless, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

My Life In Books: It

When I was 14, my sister and I spent the summer holiday in England with our dad (we were living in Canada with my mother). I’d already discovered Stephen King and my step-mother, herself a big reader, had this one on the shelf. So I read it that summer, and once I started, I found I could not put it down.

The book runs along two separate time lines.  A group of five children, all considered freaks and weirdos by their classmates, become firm friends and form what they call “The Losers’ Club”.  But in their little town of Derry, Maine, a brooding evil lurks – a supernatural creature that can take on the form of whatever scares you the most.  It lives in the drains and it’s preying on the townspeople.  The five children are the only ones who discover how to stop it, and they undertake a terrifying ordeal to banish the monster.

Thirty years later, the children are grown up and have all dispersed.  Four of them have left Derry and become financially successful.  They all get married, but notably none of them have children.  The one who remains in Derry, Mike, remains single, and brings in a modest income as a librarian.  He has appointed himself Derry’s guardian, looking out for the return of the monster, which as children they defeated but did not kill.  Having made a pact to return and go after it again should the creature return, Mike has kept track of his friends’ movements since they left Derry, and when the monster does return, he calls them all, and reminds them of their pact.

The book then follows the two timelines – the original journey the characters made as children, to defeat the creature, and the one they make in the present day, as adults.  But the monster still knows their childhood fears, and they are forced to face up to some unpleasant long-hidden truths about themselves, as well as dealing with the creature.

Anyone who’s read SUFFER THE CHILDREN will probably have noticed that IT was an influence.  To me, IT is the perfect horror novel. It has characters who are dealing with inner demons as well as an actual one, and a monster that has the ability to appear in the form of whatever scares you the most.  My only criticism is that at the very end of the novel, when the monster finally reveals its true form, it was something of a disappointment, as it turns out not to be scary at all.  But apparently this plays on Stephen King’s own phobia, so I guess to him the true form was pretty damn scary.

I would also have liked there to have been more than one girl amongst the five main characters. It’s not as if Stephen King can’t write female characters.  Beverley is the lone female in the “losers’ club”, a girl suffering physical abuse at the hands of her father.  She grows up and becomes a successful fashion designer, in partnership with her handsome and wealthy husband, but she’s been unable to break the pattern of her damaged childhood because her husband beats her up, too.

I also empathised with Eddie, the hypochrondriac weakling who lived with his obese and overbearing mother.  He grows up to run a chauffeur service to the stars, along with his wife, who physically bears a striking resemblance to his mother.

There was a mini-series made of IT about 20 years ago, but it really wasn’t very good.  I don’t think any visual representation of IT will ever do the book justice.  Some books should just remain as books and this one, for me, will always be up there on the list of books that had the most influence on my writing.  If people describe my writing as being like Stephen King’s, then I take that as an incredible compliment.  Much as aspire to that, I don’t think I will ever write anything that can hold a candle to IT.

My Life In Books: Carrie

This was the second Stephen King book that I picked up, and again it was from the school library.  This memorable tale of a bullied teenage girl with powers of telekinesis, who gets revenge on her classmates at the high school prom, really resonated with me.  I, too, was a bullied teenager.  After I read this book I started fantasising about what I might do to the bullies if I had telekinesis.  Not surprising that I turned into a horror writer.

What also struck me about this book was how convincingly King, as a male writer, can write about teenage girls – something not all male writers are able to do.

Interspersed with Carrie’s story are extracts of fictitious newspaper reports and witness autobiographies.  The first time I read this book, it struck me as unnecessary padding.  I found out later that this was exactly what it was.  CARRIE was Stephen King’s first published novel.  The story goes that when he finished it, he was so unhappy with it he threw it in the trash.  His wife extracted it, read it, and encouraged him to submit it.  He did, and it was picked up, but the publisher decided it was too short for a novel – more novella length.  King added all the newspaper reports and autobiography extracts to add to the word count.  If only the publishers had known then just how huge King would become, maybe they wouldn’t have cared quite so much.  I wonder if anyone nowadays would dare to tell Stephen King his book was too short (or too long).

The other thing that strikes me now is that if Stephen King was starting his career today, would he be labelled as a YA writer? A lot of his stories are about teenagers.

The main character of CARRIE was 16, but there was no such thing as YA fiction in the 1970s.  CARRIE was always shelved in the horror section.  Nowadays, it seems that if you write a book about a character who is under 18, it’s going to be labelled as Young Adult.  Though I suppose the fact that my school library had a copy of the book suggests it was always considered an appropriate read for teenagers.

When I first wrote SUFFER THE CHILDREN, the main character, Leanne, was 14. It was rejected by several agents on the basis that they considered it a YA novel and they didn’t deal with YA. I always maintained it wasn’t. It was inspired by Stephen King. It seems some agents believe that Stephen King is only read by teenage boys. After getting this message several times, in the end I gave up and made Leanne 18, but since the tone of the story didn’t actually change I still maintain it was never YA to begin with.

I still hold the view that Stephen King fans fans are teens and adults, male and female, and not necessarily horror fans.  King’s stories are accessible to all. Ultimately I think that’s the way it should be, rather than writers having to fit into tidy little boxes.

My Life In Books: The Outsiders

This book was on the curriculum for Grade 7 English.  Quite a strange book to study at school, I thought at the time. Up until then, I’d thought that all books studied in English class had to be classic literary masterpieces, and here we were being presented with a contemporary mass market paperback.

It’s effectively the story of a gang of teenage boys in the 1960s, all of whom are from the ‘wrong side of the tracks’.  The narrator is Ponyboy Curtis, a sensitive young man who writes poems, but his sort aren’t encouraged to follow artistic pursuits.

The year we studied this book, the film was released, so a class trip to the cinema to see it was entirely justified.  I quite liked the film, but I admit it was hard to hear much of it.  This is a film packed full of hunky young actors (most of the so-called ‘brat packers’ were in it).  Take a class full of hormonal 14-year-old girls to see it, and they aren’t going to be following the story.  In fact, in retrospect I feel quite sorry for all the other cinema patrons. What must have been going through their heads when we all trooped in for the matinee showing?

All of my classmates were swooning over either Patrick Swayze or Rob Lowe (or sometimes both).  Me, I decided I liked C Thomas Howell, who played the artistic Ponyboy.  It was more the character than the actor, I suppose – I’ve always gone for the sensitive artistic types.

In googling the image for this book, I came across a load of Grade 7 book reports on the Internet, so it would appear that it’s still on the curriculum for Grade 7 English, 30 years later, which I find very interesting. Then again, a book about a group of teenage outsiders will always hold universal appeal for teenagers, no matter what decade it is.

I am including here, as well as the book cover, the movie poster featuring all the stars, adopting mean and moody poses. No wonder, as adolescent hormone factories, we all got a bit flustered…