Monday, March 14, 2011

On busy weekends, #TGNO, genre bending, and pretty pictures. And a toilet.

Forgive me, people, for I have sinned.

It's been five days since my last confession post.

I've always wanted to say that. With the "confession" part left in. My family is Irish Catholic, but that's like saying humans were once chimpanzees. It's been a long time since anyone in my immediate family has found themselves in a confession booth (or made a nest out of branches in a tree far above the ground--though, my baby sister is an artist, so I don't know. Maybe she's made a nest in a tree lately. If she hasn't, maybe I should suggest it as an installation piece. I know, my genius is staggering).

Anyway, let's tiptoe backward out of this room before we piss someone off, and talk about a bunch of other random nothingness that seems to be unrelated to the world as it sits right now. I didn't feel like posting this weekend. Sure, we had a soccer tournament both days, a soccer year-end party Saturday, a piano lesson that stabbed its way into the middle of said party, another kid who had her acting workshop and then babysitting duties and then a birthday was a busy weekend. Adding to the melancholy, the tragedy in Japan on Friday and saying au revior to my son as he left for Afghanistan late Saturday night...yeah, I just didn't feel funny or interesting or even much like talking.

But it's Monday, now, and the molasses in my veins is thinning a bit (coffee does that). A shout-out to my newest batch of friends (who knew Twitter could be so friggin' awesome?!) and cheers to our first-ever #TGNO (Twitter Girls' Night Out). We had Angeline and Brittany and Heather and K.C. and Wenona and Author Tiffany and Jaime, and even Aussie Paul stepped in, even though he's not a girl (we issued him a virtual bra so he'd feel at home, although it was one of my lame A-cups, so, sorry, Paul...not very womanly, I'm afraid).

I was feeling kinda low, kinda quiet by the time Saturday night rolled around, so not much (beyond the family commitments) happened here in the 'sphere. Sunday morning I received a text at 4:03 am from my son, telling me he was heading out to North Carolina. At 8:30, he texted that he was finally leaving American airspace. He's Facebooked a few times for mass updates to family and friends, and they're in a holding pattern somewhere on the other side of the world. I'm going to try really hard not to perseverate on this, not to talk about it and bore everyone to tears, but I need a few more days to wrap my head around what's going on. In the meantime, when you hear about suicide bombings and soldier casualties, do whatever it is you do that amounts to a prayer and devote a thought or two to Blake. He's a good boy. And Afghanistan is a scary place.

Okay, done with that now. Moving on...oh! I know. Yesterday I managed to get the blog updated with pages (thanks for the help, Angeline!) and have added some more content (a Contact Me and Book page). I figured out Google Analytics after all the talk of page hits around Twitter, so now I can see how many (or how few) hits I'm getting. Got the new domain set up and pointing where I want it. I upgraded my Mac's operating system (yay, Snow Leopard and iLife '11!), so now I can actually use the Kindle interface. And I set up my author page at GoodReads, so if you haven't found me yet, do so now. I promise lots of hilarity shall ensue.

That is a lot of stuff. Maybe I should just take a nap...

A writing-related topic now: genre bending. I never thought I would write for a YA audience. But my daughter and her friends, one of whom finished her book just a few weeks before her 15th birthday, encouraged me to give it a try. So I did. And it was so much fun! It's important to note one thing: YA is not technically the genre. Paranormal, urban fantasy -- those are the genre identifiers, just as romance, thriller, or erotica would be. (I will never write erotica. I have one mushy-love scene in my YA and I had to go away from my house to write it so no one would see me blush. I know -- the fact that I have four children is a miracle. Refer to the above lapsed Catholicism for justification of my prudish ways.) YA is actually the demographic, i.e., the intended audience, like middle grade or children's fiction. And when I was shopping my novel about town, I labeled it a "YA/crossover," as it has elements that would appeal to not only YA but to an older audience, as well. The way it stands, the perfect demographic for me is 16+. Gemma, the main character, is 17, going on 18 in a few months. The book has sporadic coarse language, mature themes, a character (or two) who smokes, another one who drinks, and another one who murders people whenever he sorta feels the need. Not necessarily appropriate for a 13-year-old reader.

Some folks put disclaimers in their books, akin to what we'd see for a movie, but I'm not going to jump on that bandwagon just yet. Traditionally published authors aren't disclaiming their stories. I feel it's up to the reader, or the reader's parents, to be savvy book buyers and investigate for themselves. Otherwise I could be cutting off a potential customer before they plunk down their $2.99 for the ebook. And I know it's not that bad. Seriously. I've read stuff before in other YA titles that made me cringe.

I know there is a fair bit of discussion about whether YA writers are "writing down" for their intended audience. The sentiment I've seen across the board from many writers is no, I don't write down, but come on -- teenagers don't understand the nuance and cataclysms of adulthood. Of course we're writing down. We can put our teenage protagonist in a very adult situation (war, rape, starvation, poverty, etc.), but the character, if he/she is true to who they are at that moment in time, will only be able to process that information with the 15, 16, or 17 years they've lived. Remember to apply your filters; the easiest way to build an unbelievable character is to make her wise beyond her years. I know there are kids out there who are definitely old souls, who understand things in a way that is different from their peer group, but that doesn't necessarily mean that said child is going to process in the same manner an adult would. Keep that in mind. While we're at it, remember that teens don't want high-falutin' language that we might see in a literary fiction piece. There are YA titles that are written as literary fiction, but they are labeled as such. We may strive for heartrending works of literary fiction, for our work to be recognized as literary at its core, but few achieve it.

Alas, I don't know how long I will stay in YA. I have two more books to finish this series, and I do have another idea for a YA-centric project, but there are two grown-up projects sitting here staring, whispering, at me, too. Getting back to the topic of genre: have any of you written for more than one genre? Did you do what some authors have done (Stephen King/Richard Bachman, Nora Roberts/JD Robb) and employed a pen name? That seems like an awful lot of work. And I'm such an airhead, I'm afraid someone would address me by my pen name and I'd end up ignoring them. I'm just wondering if I'm shooting myself in the foot by writing across multiple genres after spending so much time building a YA platform. I guess it doesn't much matter at this juncture...sort of like wondering what you will wear to the Oscars before the film has been financed or even written, huh? I'm interested in your opinions on this matter,, really, I am.

Thought of some Twitter lingo with my new foray into the realm of Tweeps: "tweetdropping" is when you crash someone else's conversation. It's fun. Try it. And "twimpotence" is when you can't think of something clever/smart/entertaining to say. Like I said above, the genius is staggering. You may kiss my feet now.

Why is there a half-finished beer on my desk?

And why do the neighbors have a toilet on their deck? Please tell me they're not going to plant flowers in it.

I leave you with the three photos I entered in an amateur photography contest over at Melissa Crytzer Fry's blog ( I don't know when (if) they'll get posted, but they're pretty to look at nonetheless.


  1. Jenn~ I have known and heard of many people that have gone to Iraq or Afghanistan, but I have yet to hear of one of these people being killed over there. The chances of him coming home safe are so much higher than the chances of harm coming to him. I will keep him in prayers though.

    Yes, TGNO was soo fun!! Did you see the tweet where Paul said that Twitter keeps suggesting women for him to follow? He was wondering why, and I so wanted to tweet back that it was because he uses TGNO in his tweets lol! I was busy and could fiddle with the phone to tweet it, but it was funny. ;)

    I have thought about the whole disclaimer thing on my book. I don’t want bad reviews because the book has a cuss word in an intense part or something. However, I feel that as long as people don’t expect it (traditionally pubbed books don’t do it) then I probably don’t have to do it.

    I really think that you should only use pen names with huge differences in genres. Like going from YA books to erotica or something. Just make sure that if you switch genres you are clear in the description that it is YA or adult and what the genre is. Building 1 platform is hard enough!

    Oh, and excellent pics my friend!!!

    Angeline Kace

  2. Jenn- as far as the genre-hopping, I have my novel out right now, which is YA, and my short story, which is adult, and I havent heard any negative feedback for using the same name. Richelle Mead, one of my fav authors, has Vamp Academies, which is YA, and 2 or 3 other series that are adult, and all under her name. And the adult series' came first, if that matters. I dunno if it does.

    I think unless you're going to an extremely diff genre (like eritoca, as Ang said) then no worries. Be like Nike. Just do it. Especially because once someone reads something they like from you, they're immediately going to go searching for other works. And even if its slightly different in target audience, they're probably going to read it, unless they can't find it because its written under another name. Hmm. Also, let's be real here, many, and I mean MANY, of the YA readers out there are older than YA. (Like me, being 28 and reading YA like I'm 15!!) So, your adult projects would def draw me in, because I enjoy both, and it just gives me more books to read and love, by you!

    K, I've sufficiently pep talked you about that. Now the other thing. Blake. I'm sayin a prayer. I've had several friends go over there. Thankfully, not my hubby. But others. And its no fun, even if he's not in immediate danger. So if he sounds 'down', don't freak out. And if he doesnt contact you for awhle, don't freak out. And don't freak out because i said that. All the above mentioned would be normal. And if you do freak out anyway, I'm here. =)

    Love the pics. #TGNO was the best ever! Whatever happened with that neighborly toilet?

  3. Love our #TGNO. We rocked Twitter hehe :o)

  4. OK I'm going to try this comment again.

    I have been thinking about YA and "writing down" and being too literary all week. I took a look at my recently finished first draft and said, "oh crap, are you really YA? Are you?!" And then I also got nervous because all my contacts are in the YA area.

    In terms of writing for different genres/audiences-- go for it. Like someone said above, if readers like your stuff they'll look for more of it. And as writers I think we should be allowed to branch out, and I think we WANT to branch out and not get stuck in one place. Being "type cast" is no fun.

    Your family is in my thoughts. Lean on that sense of humor of yours and hang in there. :)