If you didn't already know, my husband are both martial arts enthusiasts. I'm not very high ranked, like my Hubby, but that doesn't mean I appreciate the sport any less. I found the above image of the martial arts move, "Monkey Steals Peaches", after leafing through a bunch of Hubby's books.
Since that day, when I lose my temper I'll often shout, "Monkey Steals Peaches!" It's become my own personal cuss word. And with a toddler in the house that repeats EVERYTHING, the need for incognito cuss words is very important.
Which got me thinking, how do you address cursing in books for young adults? Personally, I'm not a fan of cursing, but it's real. A group of teens walked into Panera Bread the other day while I was sitting there editing, and every other word out of their mouth was the "F" bomb.
So, while I may not be a fan of cursing, I'll use it in instances of extreme drama/tension/pain. In KATANA, my character is chased out of a biker bar by some women who are pretty peeved that Rileigh knocked one of their friends out cold. Needless to say, if they were shouting things like, "You're not very nice!" the scene would have fallen flat.
So how do you deal with curse words when writing for the YA audience? I would love to hear your thoughts.
Oh, and if you're wondering what's so bad about Monkey Steals Peaches that makes it curse word worthy - here's the application *hee*:
Today I thought I'd delight you with a tale of peril, mystery, and triumph.
This tale is completely fictional, and even if it wasn't **wink wink nudge nudge**, the names have been changed to protect the innocent.
Once upon a time there was a beautiful charming girl by the name of Girl Genius and she was married to the delightful, yet stubborn, Manly Man.
Girl Genius was sad because she desperately wanted a new sofa sectional, for she was soon to be moving into a new castle, but didn't want to pay an arm and a leg. So she scoured the listings on Craigs List until she found the perfect couch.
The only problem was the seller demanded the couch be moved in a fortnight or there would be no deal.
So Girl Genius and Manly Man gassed up the steed (a red Chevy pickup), hooked up the trailer, and set out on their journey. The roads were icy and the journey fraught with peril, but through it all Girl Genius and Manly Man persevered. They arrived in the distant land of Jerseyville and the sofa sectional was glorious, and indeed worth the trip.
Manly Man was assisted by another man heralding from the same Manly Man tribe. Together they loaded the various pieces of the sectional into the truck bed and on the trailer.
Once the sofa was secured, Manly Man mounted his steed and tried to leave - but there was a problem. The truck was stuck in the ice.
Manly Man pressed on the gas but the tires only spun helplessly in place.
Girl Genius cleared her voice but was dismissed with a quick, "Not now, honey," from Manly Man. He then got out of the truck and shoveled gravel under the tires. This worked for a little bit, but once the truck moved over the rock it would only slide back down, sometimes further than where it started.
"I think I have an idea," Girl Genius began.
"In a minute," Manly Man answered. Then he, along with his fellow Manly Man, hooked the truck up to another truck and tried to pull it from the ice. This only resulted in two trucks spinning their tires.
By now, the engine was overheating, the heater was on full blast, and Manly Man was beginning to lose much of his good nature.
Girl Genius, while thoroughly enjoying herself, decided to help them out without taking no for an answer. She looked at Manly Man, and before he could stop her, asked, "Why don't you unhitch the trailer, it's obviously holding us back, and drive up the hill. We can physically push the trailer to the top."
The two Manly Men looked at each other and rolled their eyes, for this idea was sure to be the most foolish they'd ever heard.
Only it wasn't.
And that was how Genius Girl saved the day.
(Man, you should have seen the faces of the two Manly Men when the truck drove right up the hill with no problems. *snicker*)
How did you discover your particular voice as a writer?
As many of you know, I write young adult fiction. When people ask me why, my answer is simple. My growing up was pretty rough. When I was unable to get away physically I could always count on a book to do the job for me mentally. I don't think I'd be who I am today if it weren't for the likes of Dean Koontz. The trouble was, while I enjoyed adult thrillers, I found that the YA section of the library/book stores held little more than R.L. Stine, Christopher Pike, and The Babysitters Club.
Now don't get me wrong, I enjoyed those books. But I often wished for the type of selection that is available today. So I set out to write the kind of book I would have loved. (If that makes sense.)
My first hurdle, when I began my first novel at age 26 (I'll be *cough* 30 *cough* next month), was how to tap into my inner teenager. How would I find the voice that knew nothing about house payments, taxes, and toddlers?
The solution was easier than I'd imagined. My first job, at age 16, was working the drive-thru at the local Arby's restaurant. Now, whenever I need to tap into my inner teenager, all I need to do is head down to the local Arby's and munch on a roast beef. Whenever Blister In The Sun by the Violent Femmes comes on the radio, the teenager is there. Whenever I stroll down the wine aisle in the local supermarket and spot a bottle of Boone's Strawberry Fields, she smiles. And whenever I need to draw upon that feeling of hopeless teenage love/obsession, all I need to do is pop in Untamed Hearts. (I don't care how old Edward Cullen is, Christian Slater was sneaking into girls' bedrooms and watching them sleep waaaaaaaay before Robert P.) *Swoon*.
So there's the secret to finding and maintaining my YA voice. How do you find yours? Check out the hilarious Shaun's answer from yesterday (I can't wait to buy his book!!!) and Rebecca's (who never fails to make me laugh, either) answer tomorrow!
I was reading Elana's blog post today, and like the repressed trauma that it was, a memory surfaced. One very awful night. So let me take you back about ten years...
That's me. At least it was ten years ago. You see, I've always had a passion for writing in all its forms. It started in my middle school creative writing class, turned to poetry in high school, I earned extra $$ in college by writing songs for my various bands, and finally, I turned to fiction writing about five years ago.
But there's one type of writing I always wanted to do but didn't dare try. Until one night...
1999 - I'm sitting up in the sound loft of the firehouse (a way cool bar in St. Louis that was literally a firehouse from the 1800's complete with horse stalls, candle chandeliers, and ghosts. Unfortunately it is no more.) The lead guitarist in my band also worked as a sound board tech so he invited me to the show that night because he knew I was crazy about the band - Save Ferris. Ska was cool then, people, so I don't want to hear it!
Anyway, so I'm sitting on top of this plattform literally looking down on the stage. I'm in heaven. I've never been so close to one of my idols before. Monique just finished up the first song, Come on Eileen, when she launched into this standup routine. I was in awe. Not only was she a great singer but she was friggin' hilarious. She had the the whole bar trembling in laughter (and it wasn't just from the Red-Headed-Slut-Shots on special). The laughter, the energy, it was intoxicating. I wanted it for myself.
That's when my stand up comedy obsession began. I watched all the greats, went to all the shows, and finally, wrote down my own bits. But where would I find a captive audience?
Fast forward to 2000. My band was playing at a small bar on the Delmar Loop called The Red Sea. It was traditionally a Reggae bar but they had a few nights a month where they hired out local rock bands. Usually these night were on the slow side so the majority of the people there were already loyal fans. So I thought I was safe.
I'd just finished the first song and the applause had died down. I cleared my throat and launched into my "act". Afterall, it had worked for Monique, so why not me?
Um...because I wasn't any good.
The room stood in stunned silence (and not the good kind). Even my best friend Kelly sat in wide-eyed horror from her barstool. Jesse, the bass player, hissed in my ear, "What the &%$^ are you doing?"
My face, flaming hot. My throat dry. I took a swig of water. "Um, I was just talking."
"They don't pay you to talk," this time from the lead guitarist. "%^%$ sing!"
So that was it. My one (and thank goodness only) attempt at standup. I still have the itch, though, to make people laugh. Only now, I've discovered I can fulfill it with my writing. And I'm actually good at it. It's such a high, to hear that someone chuckled over something in my book. Last week, I was describing a change I'd planned to make to my agent he laughed outloud on the phone. The week before I had my SCBWI chapter giggling during a reading. Such a rush. I live for it. I crave it.
So while the stage may not be for me, the pages are. Finally, I've found my niche!
So now I ask you, reader/writer friends, how did you find your niche?
Obviously, I want to do my Hammer Dance all over St. Louis. I can not deprive the world of my gift of dance any longer. To do so would be a crime. (Okay, I'm so lying - my dancing style looks like I need a phenobarbital Rx. But a promise is a promise!) So in order to do that dance I have to sell my novel. The first part of that equation is done. I finished revisions of KATANA and have them with an awesome beta reader. I should have them back at the end of this week and after a couple more tweaks my agent should have them by the beginning of next week.
Then the real fun begins.
So in order to keep my sanity (and to keep my email checking fingers from carpal tunnel) I've resolved to have my first round of edits to BREATHLESS done by March. Steep goal? Yes. Impossible? No.
I'm a bit too superstitious to write Book 2 to KATANA. I'm certain that if I write the second book book one will never sell. Silly? Yes. Am I too set in my ways/stubborn to be persuaded otherwise. I'm sure I have no idea what you're talking about. :)
So if I happen to still be waiting on submission responses by March (which is more than likely) I plan to finish an old WIP of mine. It's a MG titled Dragon Heart Dice. A boy centered comedy/adventure - a far cry from my usual YA paranormal romance. Which is fine because I like to push myself.
And that in itself is a resolution. To keep pushing myself. To write outside of my comfort zones and explore new styles and genres.