Guest Post: Dorothy Winsor

Hi Everyone!

Welcome to another guest post. This time we have Dorothy A. Winsor, another fellow Inspired Quill author who is sharing the ideas around her previous novel, Finders Keepers as we eagerly await her next novel, The Wind Reader (due for release autumn 2018).

The Calendar Is Ending! We Are All Doomed!

dorothyMy middle-grade fantasy, Finders Keepers, turns partly on the struggle to avert a disaster that will occur when the calendar changes to the year 4000. As the story approaches New Year’s Eve, 3999, a plague kills more and more people, earthquakes swallow buildings, and floods threaten to drown the city. All will be lost unless the book’s 12-year-old hero, Cade, is willing to risk his own well-being to save everyone else.

I got the idea for that plot point while I was drafting this book in 2012. The internet was abuzz with speculation over what might happen on 12/21/12, the last date on an ancient Mayan calendar. Speculation that the world would end was so common that NASA put up an information page that explained why it wouldn’t. (http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/podcasting/jpl-asteroid20120307.html)

The furor reminded me of similar fears when the calendar rolled over to the year 2000, and we endured the so-called Y2K panic. Even some rational people feared civilization would collapse because of computer problems caused by the date change. Given how dependent we are on computers, it was hard to say people had no reason to worry, but a portion of the population entered into the panic with gusto, buying guns and stocking up on food and fuel. They generalized from a computer glitch to a gigantic social meltdown, and in a few cases, the end of the world.

Why do people put so much weight on the change from one page of the calendar to the next? After all, dates are a humanly created and somewhat arbitrary system. Why do we lend them such significance?

I think it’s because we human beings want to understand the unknown. We want cause and effect.  We want meaning. Psychologists say our brains are wired to find patterns, to connect one thing with another even though there’s no necessary connection. So in a primal way, the link between the end of a calendar and the end of the world makes sense.

Given this need, fiction is satisfying partly because a plot shapes events into a pattern. If something happens, experienced readers expect it to matter. If an event has no consequences, we’re likely to be annoyed. Or at least wonder why the editor didn’t insist the scene should be cut.

Events that matter and form a pattern create the difference between plot (one thing causes another) and chronology (one thing simply comes after another). My life has chronology, but not much of a plot. What I’m doing now probably has little connection to what I’ll do this afternoon. On the other hand, my character Cade’s life has a plot. Everything matters. That’s one reason fiction often feels richer and more satisfying than daily life.

On the other hand, Cade’s plot causes him a lot of problems and pain. I was happy to still be around to give an open house on January 1, 2000. Maybe I’m contented to enjoy plots mostly in fiction.

 

Winsor spent years as a technical communications professor, studying the writing of engineers, before discovering that writing YA and MG fantasy was much more fun. Finders Keepers is Winsor’s first novel, though if you look closely, you can probably find a literal million words of Winsor’s Tolkien fan fiction posted somewhere. Winsor lives in Iowa.

Links:

https://www.facebook.com/dorothy.winsor

http://dawinsor.com/

Finders Keepers: https://smile.amazon.com/Finders-Keepers-Dorothy-Winsor-ebook/dp/B01LBEU6RK/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1519914733&sr=8-2&keywords=dorothy+winsor

Deep as a Tomb: https://smile.amazon.com/Deep-as-Tomb-Dorothy-Winsor/dp/1624320244/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

 

Thanks for reading!

 

 

Book Review: Take Back the Skies by Lucy Saxon

It’s always nice to get a random email with someone offering you free stuff. Especially when it’s free books.

So, when I was contacted by Lucy Saxon’s marketing personages and asked if I’d do a review, I was totally up for it. And, lo and behold, I had a steaming pile of hot literature on my doorstep shortly afterward. Here’s the skinny:

Lucy Saxon wrote Take Back the Skies when she was a wee sixteen year old and Bloomsbury took it up when she was seventeen. She’s now nineteen and the book is finally out there. Good going, Lucy!

So, what’s it about? Set in the world of Tellus, TBtS, is definitely a Steampunk book which tickles all the tropes you’d expect from my beloved genre. There’s a plucky heroine, some airships and experiments and adventures and goggles and dirty-faced engineers and an oppressive government to overthrow. But there are a lot of new ideas here, too. Saxon’s Tellus is made up of a series of islands with violent storm fronts separating them. So, to get where you’re going you have to fly, and through some pretty hefty storms, too. Great idea. Plus, each island is its own nation with its own culture and look, so you get a lot of diversity (set up for later books to explore, no-doubt). So, we have a great setting with some nice fresh ideas to keep hardened Steampunk readers interested.

Then there’s the plot itself. It starts off with a teen-runs-away-from-home arrangement, when Cat, the main character, escapes her oppressive father and stows away on an airship. Cat is soon drafted onto the crew, although they think she’s a boy. Shenanigans ensue.

I won’t tell you too much else in case you want to read it for yourself, but suffice to say a lot of children have been going missing on Cat’s home island of Anglya and they haven’t gone to the seaside. It’s now up to Cat and the crew to find out how, why, and shut those mothers down!

Again, the ideas are great, the setting is certainly one I wish I’d come up with. The description of Tellus is well done and intriguing.

Downside? The story never really had me rocking along, unable to put down, but it’s a very pleasant read. Not every book has to grab you by the collar and headbutt you. Personally, I thought there was an awful lot of blushing. I mean…Cat has no control over her facial capillaries, and the awkward teenage romance has kind of been done to death elsewhere. However, for the YA crowd, this book will be just swell.

Upsides? It has a surprising ending. Which is brilliant. I had a genuine little smile of pleasure on the last page. I found myself nodding and thinking: “Nicely done, Saxon”. It’s a nice easy read to carry around in case of literary emergencies.

So there you go. This book feels a little like the backstory for something yet to come; a book-length prologue that will whet your appetite so that Saxon can slap you in the face with an even better book next time. But that’s no bad thing. Because when the next book comes along, I’m pretty sure all hell will break loose. If you want a nice steady Steampunk read, or if you have coglings who are of YA age, TBtS is for you. I think it’s definitely a series to keep your eye on.

 

Thanks for reading.

What is YA?

Since hitting the internet hard with the unwanted presence like a stinking corpse on the windshield, I’ve come across hundreds and hundreds of ‘YA authors’. Twitter is especially packed with them:

‘Jenny Bloggs – I love my cats, my crochet class and I’m a YA author’

‘Jeremy Snaggleforth the Third – YA author and nuclear physicist.’

They’re everywhere. What baffled me at first, is what YA is all about. It’s all about demographic: Young Adult. These writers aim their work at readers between the ages of 14 to 18 (with differing reports swinging a couple of years in either direction). There’s always been this niche in the market. Philip Pullman and Terry Pratchett are a couple who spring to mind as potential jet-setters. And then, of course, came J.K. Rowling with the Harry Potter novels (mentioning that should generate a few hits mwahahaha). And the YA ‘genre’ exploded. It seems to me that anyone who’s anyone trying to be an author is tuning into the YA bandwidth and cranking the volume.

Now, in case I’m about to sound like a grouch, I want to state that I love it when a new sub-genre comes along, if only because of the nifty names people come up with. I have a weakness for Steampunk, as previous readers may already know. Then there’s Splatterpunk, Bizarro, Supernatural Romance (Bloody Twilight!) and even Cybergoth which I only found out about while researchign this post. The word Cybergoth conjures quite the nightmare image doesn’t it? Terminator meets Gormenghast? What a combo! Anyways, there are hundreds of little subgenres floating around in the briny sea of fiction like plankton.

What bothers me is that YA isn’t a genre, or a subgenre. Despite stating its demographic (useful if you’re submitting to Literary Agents), it’s astoundingly vague. So far, I’ve come across ‘YA authors’ that write sci-fi, romance, fantasy, and a host of other major genres. It’d be impossible to have a YA section in a bookshop. Maybe an entire YA Waterstones would be better. So what’s the point? Well, it’s this: Is YA a bandwagon? Does its vagueness make the term itself defunct? Like saying ‘milk’ out loud a hundred times, does it simply become a sound with no meaning? Apart from generating hits on Twitter, does the term ‘YA’ serve any function at all?

And, since we’re pondering the purpose of things. What’s the point of this post?

I’ll tell you, because I can see you’re fused to your seat in anticipation….

It’s a friendly warning. Coming from a fellow ‘writer’ such as myself, I certainly hope no one is assuming that writing for this age group is easier than any other. It’s harder! Young adults are sharp, insiteful and have the attention span of a goldfish with a traumatic brain injury. For aspiring authors, restricting yourself to a demographic could be a dangerous approach. Think of it this way: No author calls themselves a ‘fantasy’ author or a ‘horror’ author. Those tags are applied by other people. People who own shelves and catalogues. Just write your story. Enjoy writing it. And, if you please, pitch it to the YA audience. But don’t label yourself. Others will be quick enough to do that for you.

Thanks for reading.