Tag Archives: read

YA Female Protagonists in STEM

7 Aug

We need more female protagonists in STEM fields, especially in YA. For those of you who don’t know, STEM covers science, technology, engineering, and math. The reason STEM needs to be explored more in YA fiction is to encourage young women to explore those fields in real life more.

Hold the eye rolls.

I get it. I know that there are real-life role models to look up to in those fields already. But a lot of younger people—myself included—enjoy looking up to fictional role models, too. When I was a kid, fictional characters strangely felt more attainable, more inspirational, more…like me.

Sometimes, it’s easier for a fourteen-year-old to look up to a fourteen-year-old scientist rather than Marie Curie. (And more fun.) This is why I’m advocating for a bigger emphasis on STEM in YA fiction, but there’s another, more personal reason as well.

Oh, hey there, science.

Here’s the deal. I hated science in school. Loathed it. Biology was the hardest course for me in high school and college. I hated biology…but I loved chemistry. I also love math. I also love technology and engineering. But as a young girl, I hit a couple roadblocks while studying it.

In school, for instance, I signed up for Tech 101 instead of Home Ec. I was immediately approached by an office clerk who thought I made a mistake. On top of that, one of my teachers actually had to the gall to “make sure” I wanted to take Tech 101 instead of Home Ec since I didn’t have a mother at home. If that wasn’t discouraging enough, I came second place in a bridge building competition later that semester…only for the teacher to pull me aside and tell me I should’ve won. (The winner, it turned out, had cheated. But did the school correct it? No. I just got a secret pat on my back.) If I could tell you what it felt like to then see that boy congratulated, to hear my fellow classmates say “You almost lost to a girl, dude” like that was the worst thing ever, I would. But I still don’t have words for it.

STEM didn’t exactly welcome me.

I recall these moments in my life where I loved science, technology, engineering, and math—and I was good at it, too—but numerous adults in my life discouraged it anyway. Granted, I’m not saying I would’ve chased an engineering degree if these things hadn’t happened. In fact, I’m pretty sure I would’ve chased English no matter what. Why? Because my university asked me to become a math major after I scored 100% on one of their harder exams…and I still turned it down.

Now I’m an author…and authors are engineers of stories. So, I set out to write a book where my protagonist is involved with science.

Kalina came to me that night. She’s sixteen, a botanist, and she invents machines that help water her plants when she’s too busy studying them. Botany takes on a huge role in my book. So much so that one of my critique partners asked an interesting question: How are you going to get readers to sympathize with plants instead of people?

Well…I’m not.

I’m not asking readers to sympathize with plants over people. I’m asking readers to see how interesting plants can be. To see an awesome, smart, and talented young woman studying her scientific passion. To open their minds to science.

Kalina opened my mind, and I love everything she taught me. Granted, I still can’t grow a flower to save my life (especially with cats in the house), but I have a deeper appreciation for botany. Above all, I have a deeper appreciation for science.

YA readers deserve more of that, too.

~SAT

I DNF a Book

22 May

I DNF a book. For those of you who don’t know what “DNF” means, it means I did not finish reading a novel. Not a big deal, right? Wrong.

For me, I rarely put a book down after I pick it up. Why? Because I feel like if I decided to read it, I need to finish it. Aside from needing to know how something ends, there is a societal pressure to finish everything you start, no matter what.

When I find myself dreading my current read, I always end up telling myself that the book will get better, that the plot will take off, that I’ll finally connect with everything and toughing it out will be worth it—and while that does happen, it happens far less than the book never working for me at all. Yet I still try to finish every book I start.

Why?

I think it has a lot to do with my personality. In fact, this “never give up!” mentality has affected me in other ways. When I was younger, for instance, I played tennis for three years without ever really liking it. I finally quit when my first book was published and I needed to dedicate more time to writing (not to mention a part-time job I took at a local sports bar). But I still feel HORRIBLE for quitting, even though, if I were being completely honest, I was awful at it. Eventually though, I had to come to the conclusion that my time was better suited elsewhere, that tennis was fun, sure, but it just wasn’t for me, and denying that was keeping that space on the team away from someone who truly wanted to be there.

Now I’m trying to be better about applying that life lesson to reading.

Just because you don’t finish reading doesn’t mean the novel is bad. It just means it’s not for you right now. It might resonate with you in three years, but it might not, and that’s okay. So why hold onto that library book that’s making you miserable when someone else could be checking it out and enjoying it? Why force yourself through a read when it’s depleting your joy for reading? Why not find a book you actually enjoy?

Of course, there’s a time and a place to force yourself through a read. (School, for example.) And I will always give a book a fair shot. According to Goodreads, I read 47% of the book I DNF. And, honestly, it wasn’t bad. In fact, it was a fresh idea in a unique world, and it had interesting characters…but I just couldn’t. Why? I’m not entirely sure. In fact, I might never know why, just like I don’t know why tennis wasn’t my passion instead of writing, but at least I realized it wasn’t for me. (And I can always give it another shot in the future.) Until then though, I’m glad I returned it to the library so that someone else could check it out and enjoy it.

So here I am, not finishing a book this week, and setting a goal to be better about being honest with myself about books in the future.

DNF bad reader, DNF = honest reader.

And I’m ready to be more honest with myself, so that I can spend more time on books I thoroughly enjoy.

~SAT

Book Release! Bad Bloods: July Thunder

10 Apr

Bad Bloods: July Thunder released today!  

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I hope you enjoy the latest addition to the Bad Bloods universe! As the author, I can tell you that you will meet TONS of new bad bloods. (My personal favorite is Skeleton. He was born a healthy baby boy, but he is slowly turning into a skeleton over time, defying all science along the way. He even emits a poisonous gas.) You will also see some of your favorite characters from the first duology in a new light. Because Violet and Caleb tell this duology, you might see…other sides to people you didn’t see before. Old questions will be answered as well. Ever wonder what happened to Robert? Or did you want to see how the people of Vendona transitioned under a new president? Those questions will be explored (and new ones will come up). Explore sections of Vendona never seen before, including Eastern Vendona, which has the sunken bay. And the characters will finally step into the Pits again.

Keep reading for prizes, an exclusive excerpt, and extras!

Bad Bloods: July Thunder

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Fourteen-year-old Violet has been called many things: a bad blood, a survivor, an immortal…now she has a new name—citizen. But adjusting to a lawful life is not easy, especially when she must live under the rule of the same officers who justified the killings of her flock only eight months earlier.
Segregation of bad bloods and humans is still in effect, and rebellious Violet steps into a school where she is not allowed. When the police get involved, things deteriorate quickly, sparking a new revolution at the wall separating the Highlands from the outskirts.
That’s when Caleb steps in. He might appear to be an average sixteen-year-old bad blood, but he has secrets, and Violet is determined to figure them out. Caleb knows who’s attacking the wall and why, but his true identity remains a mystery—and how he relates to Violet could shake the threatened city to its very core.
Together or not, a storm will form, a rally will start, and shocking truths will be revealed.

Exclusive Excerpt

While the Northern Flock had to be quiet to survive, the herd played music in order to live.

Caleb’s hand found mine. “Dance with me?” he asked, but I hated my answer.

“I can’t.” My confession came with my wrecked knee. With one gesture, Caleb seemed to understand, but as he turned his eyes to his herd—to Britney prancing around with Plato, to Kat covering her ears, to Yasir holding Hanna with his protective gloves between them—Caleb pulled me up to my feet.

“Let me do it for you,” he said, and then, he lifted me up and placed me on the tops of his boots.

As he swayed, I saw the sunburn on the tops of his cheeks, the sand in his hair, the sea salt on his skin. Then, his chapped lips as he managed a shaky smile. For once, Caleb looked disheveled, and I had never liked him more.

“That’s some crew you have,” he said, but I hadn’t noticed anyone else in the world around us until he spun.

Life-sized shadows—dozens of them—danced all around us, and I recognized their shapes as people I would always know. Blake and his teddy bear. Floyd’s stretched limbs, and Ami’s swinging braids. Even Adam’s speed.

Alive or dead, the shadows of every member of my own flock joined in on the dance of a herd, and my heart fluttered at the sight.

Losing control had never felt so great.

Neither had a storm descending down upon us.

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 EXTRAS & PRIZES

Enter to win a Clean Teen Mystery Box, including paperbacks, here

Love bad bloods? Check out the inspiration board on Pinterest to meet lookalike characters and scenic areas.   

FUN FACT: Violet might be the main character in this duology, but she was just a side character in the first duology. She also has a prequel story on Wattpad. Be sure to read her origin story if you haven’t already. She’s also related to The Timely Death Trilogy, and I hope you enjoy that connection!

On top of that, Bad Bloods: July Lightning releases May 1! So there’s practically no waiting to finish this series. If you read, please leave a review. (And if you want me to share your review, send it to shannonathompson@aol.com). I love sharing your reviews! (And I love hearing what you’d like to see in the next duology.) Little authors like me depend on your support, so I greatly appreciate every minute you take to share, read, and review.

Keep on being you.

~SAT

P.S. Check out my latest YouTube video, Bad Bloods Book Release Bloppers in which I make a fool of myself trying to thank everyone for reading Bad Bloods: July Thunder.

Writers, It’s Okay To Log Out

27 Mar

Social media is a must for writers today. Connecting with readers through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other platforms is easy and welcomed, but it can get overwhelming. With the myriad of ways we have of posting information—sometimes live—it’s easy to succumb to publishing pressures. Personally, I still struggle to figure out where my balance is in all the different types of social media platforms. Why? Because they are constantly changing and so is my schedule, but one thing remains the same. Making sure I’m interacting with readers and writers through social media is always near the top of my To-Do list.

There is also staying up-to-date in the publishing world. Whether you’re reading Writer’s Digest or Publishers Marketplace or one of the millions of amazing publishing blogs out there, there’s always something to read, to share, to consider.

But that doesn’t mean you should get lost in social media.

Extra tip: Pick only the social media platforms that you love. You don’t have to do everything.

One of my main pieces of advice to writers is to stop reading about writing and actually start writing. Not that reading about writing is bad. (I mean, I write about writing on this blog.) But if you’re reading more about writing than actually writing, then it might be time to log out. There’s only so much you will learn from studying writing. The best way to grow as a writer is to actually write for yourself. And I’m not an exception. Recently, I had to remove my social media from my phone. Mainly Facebook and Twitter. Why? Because I found myself spending more time reading my feeds than reading books. And quite frankly, it was starting to affect my writing. For example, I sometimes get so wrapped up in trends I forget about what I WANT to write—and honestly, what you want to write is generally the most important thing, because that passion will show in your voice.

Don’t get me wrong. I love these platforms. Twitter, in particular, is an important platform where writers get involved in publishing issues that need to be addressed. I also love joining Twitter events, because they are fun and fast and a great way to meet others who love reading and writing as much as you. But sometimes, I just need to read or watch TV or go for a jog or explore a bookstore without all the scrolling and pinging of notifications.

Setting boundaries and taking care of yourself is important, especially when you feel overwhelmed. In fact, I feel much better now that I’ve taken those apps off my phone. Admittedly, it probably won’t stay that way forever, but it is helping me stay focused on the recent conference I attended as well as my upcoming book releases in April and May. I’m sure I’ll put them back on my phone soon. But until then, I’m grabbing a coffee and sitting on my roof this morning. And I’m definitely logging out.

Don’t feel guilty for logging out. It’s okay to take a day off of marketing or tweeting or Facebooking or sharing photos of your cat on Instagram. (Though if you like that sort of thing, I often post photos of my three cats—Bogart, Boo Boo, and Kiki—via Instagram’s @AuthorSAT. If you post cats, feel free to tag me so I can see. I seriously love cats.)

You can log out, too.

~SAT

Give An Author A Second Chance

6 Mar

Recently I came across a poll on Twitter.

How many times do you give an author a chance before you swear off their work indefinitely?

Before I get into what everyone said, please take a minute to consider this question for yourself. Do you pick up every book someone writes and try it out? Do you skim the first chapter or so? Why did you pick it up in the first place? Was it because the author is extremely popular or because you liked the cover/genre/concept? Is it a debut or an author with numerous books under their writing belt? How many times have you given them a shot? And how do these questions affect swearing someone off indefinitely?

This week, check out a book from someone you've tried to read before.

This week, check out a book from someone you’ve tried to read before.

Personally, I’ll pick up any author’s work, numerous times, before I decide they are not for me. Why? Because authors grow and change. So do their ideas. Even their voice will morph overtime. If I only read authors’ debuts—or only one of their books—I would’ve never found some of my favorite authors. For instance, I literally just tried Maggie Stiefvater for the first time, EVER, this past year. I loved the Raven Cycle so much, I am now buying all of her books from the past decade. In contrast, I read Claudia Gray’s Evernight series when I was younger…and wasn’t the biggest fan, but her Firebird trilogy was one of my favorite reads last year. I didn’t even consider her past when I picked up her new work. It’d been eight years. It was also a different genre. All I care about is the storyline, the voice, and how it resonates. If I had considered how much I didn’t like her previous book, I would’ve missed out on one of my favorite reads of the year.

Granted, I have authors I stalk admire. Cassandra Clare is one author that I always buy. Maggie Stiefvater and Claudia Gray are now on that list, too. But if I read their next book and didn’t like it, I doubt I would remove them from that list.

That being said, I understand not liking an author. I do. I would name a few I dislike, but personally, I like to focus on the positive ones I’d recommend more than the ones I don’t enjoy—because everyone is different. That being said, I am sitting here, at my dining room table, trying to recall an author I’ve sworn off indefinitely, and cannot find one. Not a single person. Because I don’t know what the future holds.

So how many chances did the average reader of this poll give before swearing off an author indefinitely? Most people said one. ONE TIME. One book. One poem. One whatever. I was shocked by how many people said one.

I sort of understand—there are a million other authors on the market. Why keep disappointing yourself with the same person? But what if that same person was like Claudia Gray was to me? You could miss out on a lifetime of brilliant works, because one didn’t suit you.

I’m not asking you to read an entire book or even check out every book someone releases, but I am saying to keep an open mind. If something catches your eye—history or not—check out the synopsis. Check out the first chapter again. Before you swear off an author’s entire career because you didn’t like their vampire book back in 2007, or their dystopian book in 2010, or whatever craze comes next, give them another shot.

I’m not saying you have to pick up every book by every author that ever was. I’m just saying not to give up at the first go.

Writing styles change. Trends change. Stories change. So do authors.

Give an author a second chance. Or maybe even a third.

~SAT

P.S. Calling all book bloggers, the Bad Bloods book blitz is April 10-16 by Xpresso Reads. The sign up form is here. You will get exclusive excerpts, ARCs, and more. ❤

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Is Romance Necessary in YA?

6 Feb

Romance sells. (Or, as they usually say, sex sells.) And now more than ever, sex is being introduced into young adult literature every day. But that’s another debate for another day. Instead, I wanted to focus on the overall umbrella term of romance in YA.

Is romance necessary in every YA book?

The short answer is no, of course not. But the long answer is a lot more complicated.

If you’re a first-time author, then you probably already know the struggles of completing a manuscript, editing one, joining the query trenches, and understanding the marketplace.

More often than not, romance sells better than anything else.

Why? Well, we have to consider our buyer.

Ten years ago, YA literature was widely bought by the YA crowd (ages 14-18), but more recently, the average age of the YA buyer has increased to 20-25. (Hey, look! There’s me!) Granted, there is a lot of debate about this—and it’s hard to prove, considering adults can buy books as gift or teens can borrow books—but I love speaking to teens at my signings, and have listened to them say the same thing. A lot of young adults are reading fanfiction online instead, and hey, no shame! That’s awesome. I’m just happy when people are reading. But this fact has changed the marketplace, and I honestly believe that’s why we’re seeing more sex in YA literature, including less “fade to black” scenes. As an example, a YA book I just read had a one-night-stand between two inexperienced strangers, where both acted as if they were cool with it. Nothing wrong with that. Don’t get me wrong. But I cannot imagine reading that at 14 and feeling like I could relate, even though the characters were that age. However, I know some 14-year-olds can relate, and that’s fine! No worries. Just be safe. 🙂

That being said, at 14, I wanted to hang out with friends. I wanted to read books (and write them), and other than that, I ran around with my husky or my brother or studied a lot.

I particularly loved Ally Carter’s The Gallagher Girls books, because the romance was few and far in between. Same with Meg Cabot (specifically when she was known as Jenny Carroll and wrote the 1-800-Where-R-You series and the Mediator series). Oh! And Lynne Ewing’s Daughters of the Moon series. All of their YA books featured kickass, often hilarious, and always intelligent girls living life, figuring out a mess, and defeating any enemy they came across. Friendship mattered. Family, too. And, sure, sometimes a kiss was shared here or there, but romance never seemed to be the focus. Being a heroine was.

Granted, I must clarify that you can be focused on romance and still be a heroine. Please do not get me wrong. But I wish there were more YA books (in all genres) that allowed the characters to explore space, chase enemies, and save the world without falling in love, too.

Out of the last ten YA books I’ve read, the only one who featured no one falling in love was This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab. Definitely recommended. (By the way, if you have suggestions, feel free to leave them below. I LOVE suggestions.)

Love that will never change? My love for YA

Love that will never change? My love for YA

Granted, I can admit I’m a hypocrite. I write YA, and every single one of my YA books has a romance subplot in it. That being said, my romantic plots are hardly romantic in comparison to popular YA books today. In Bad Bloods, Daniel and Serena kiss….twice?…in 600 pages. And that’s it. But hey, they’re trying to protect their families and survive a government out to kill them, so I think they have a lot on their hands.

They can always kiss later. If they even want to.

That being said, almost every editorial letter I’ve received included the suggestion of getting my characters “closer” or focusing more on their romantic endeavors rather than their friendships or families or fighting for the world they live in. And I find it increasingly frustrating.

While I can see the market value in focusing on these tropes, I feel an increasing value in the opposite of those aspects as well.

It’s okay to focus on studying and family and friendships instead of love. It’s a personal choice. But more than ever before, I feel pressured to include romance where romance isn’t necessary. Because of that pressure, I actually set out to include more romance in my latest, but sure enough, I found myself following the same pattern I always do: There is a romantic interest, but he’s on the sidelines while my protagonist is striving to…I don’t know…save the world or her sister or her friends. She’s too busy studying to think about some boy’s smile or (insert jewel description) eyes. But she does have her moments, albeit they are few and far in between, and at this point, I doubt they’ll survive my editing process. And I’m so torn about it.

I wanted to write romance. I tried. But I can’t. And I’m trying to be okay with that. I am trying to be okay with me.

I love romance. I enjoy reading it, and I sometimes seek it out. But I wish there were more books where girls (and boys) were simply living life or saving the world without romance. It’s okay not to date when you’re a teen. It’s okay not to have romantic feelings. It’s okay to be focused elsewhere.

I wanted to read about girls like that when I was 14, 15, 16, and even now, so I guess that’s why I write my books the way I do. It’s that fact that made me accept myself again. (Oh, and talking to a bunch of my fellow writer friends. They helped, too.)

Romance will definitely help you sell your book—be it to an agent, a publisher, or a reader—but don’t force it. The most important aspect of any book is to be true to your work, and if that means avoiding crushes and angst-ridden kisses, then so be it.

I will continue to have romantic subplots, because that is my style, but as of today, my protagonist will focus on her studies more. She might not even kiss anyone at all. And that’s perfectly A-okay with me. (And more importantly, okay with her.)

If one day she changes her mind, I will listen to her, and if she doesn’t, I will continue to listen to her. Why? My answer is simple.

A protagonist is enough without a love interest to back them up. So is a story.

~SAT

 

When Writing Makes Reading Hard

23 Jan

When Writing Makes Reading Hard

by Susannah Ailene Martin

I’ve been writing seriously since I was 15. In other words, I’ve had 5 years of training in the craft of writing. That’s how writing works; the more you do it, the better you get at it. I’ve learned a lot about how story structure works and how to create interesting characters.

Now the good news about this is that my writing has become exponentially better. I mean, seriously, reading stuff I wrote when I was 15 makes my eyes bleed. The bad news is that’s it’s making reading less fun.

It’s a strange phenomenon that the more you understand how something works, the more the mystery behind that thing vanishes. Reading used to be something that I could sit down and do for hours without once thinking about how the book came to be. It used to be something that impacted me, but I didn’t know why.

Now I understand, and yeah, it kinda sucks.

Because I know so much more about writing, I see every trick and trope (well, maybe not every trick; I’m only human) that an author uses. No longer can I really enjoy reading a scene in a book without thinking, “Ah, that’s a neat little thing you did there.” I constantly, and subconsciously, analyze and look for ways to improve my own writing as I read along.

It’s also become much more easy for me to be able to tell when a book is objectively just bad. Have you ever watched a TV show with a younger kid and thought, “You know what, if I was ten years younger, I would have loved this”? That’s kind of what it’s like for me reading books that years ago might have entertained me, but now that I know a bit about writing, I can’t help but see every mistake the author made.

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I know that being able to analyze a book like this is a good thing for my writing. It shows that I’m getting it, that I’m learning. But I do miss just being able to mindlessly consume words on a page.

The worst part is that I don’t just write for my novels and short stories, but I have also been studying screenwriting for the past two years. That means that not only have books been (kinda-sorta) ruined for me, but also movies and television shows. *sobs*

If you think books are hideously formulaic, then you don’t want to study screenwriting. The formula for most movies is so similar that I can sit down and, without seeing the movie, tell you exactly what general thing is going to happen when and be absolutely correct.

For instance, did you know that there’s a scene in every movie about 20 minutes before the end and right before the climax where all seems lost and it looks like the heroes have failed? It’s in EVERY SINGLE BLOODY MOVIE. Seriously, just go watch any movie, and tell me I’m wrong.

And by the way, I’m sorry, because now you’ll be looking for it.

But that’s what I do now. I look for things that I know are going to be in everything. And it’s really annoying. I want to be able to just sit back and enjoy something without thinking, “Oh hey, there’s the inciting incident.”

So I’m sure you’re starting to think, “Sheesh, you make it sound like writing ruins all forms of entertainment. Why would I ever want to write?”

The last thing I want to do is to discourage someone from writing. But you should know that this is how it’s going to be. When you write, you are going to find it harder to be entertained by every mediocre book you read. BUT, that just means you have to find better books.

It’s rarer now, but there are still books that suck me in so completely that I forget to analyze. I still occasionally finish books and feel that old familiar sense of wonder. And my mind is richer for it.

Plus, you’ll never learn it all. If you feel like your reading is getting stale lately, go out and try a new genre. I read and write mostly in the sci-fi and fantasy genres, but my mom recently got me into reading this historical romance series. Because I don’t know the tropes for romance, it’s hard for me to predict where the story is going, which makes it more fun.

But whatever you do, don’t stop reading. The moment you do, your writing will suffer.


About Susannah

Website | Amazon | Facebook | Twitter | Wattpad

SusannahSusannah Ailene Martin is an author from Norfolk, Va. She is currently a junior at Liberty University studying transmedia writing (which is just a fancy way of saying ‘various forms of screenwriting’). She blogs at Susannah Contra Mundum about her life, thoughts, and experiences. You can purchase her novelette, The Lifeguard: A Short Story, at Amazon for $0.99.


Thank you, Susannah, for writing such a great article! I know many writers who struggle with finding time to read and write, as well as feel that pure joy for both over and over again, so I’m sure many can relate. By sharing these struggles, we can help one another find those great reads and wonderful writing programs to keep us inspired and our work fresh.

Keep reading. Keep writing. Keep on being you.

Have a great week everyone!

~SAT

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