On Writing, Star Wars, and Politics

 

This is a long post, so here we go. The recent election has stirred up a lot of emotions and thoughts about where our country is headed, and it brought up questions on social media about whether it was wise for authors to voice their opinions versus keep their heads down and focus on “entertaining people.” One author wisely noted that “all art is inherently political,” and I agree with that. Over Christmas break, my family went to see Star Wars: Rogue One. We all loved it (though my son had an issue with the ending that I won’t spoil here), but the entire Star Wars franchise is heavily political with rebel forces fighting against a fascist government. We even have an incoming member of the president’s administration who used Star Wars as an analogy when he proudly compared himself to Darth Vader. Let that one sink in a minute. Anyway, the Star Wars franchise is entertaining, but also tackles serious issues regarding government and the cost of a “free” society.

What do politics have to do with YA books? A lot. Pick any YA book and there’s an issue in there somewhere. My Burn Out series explores an oppressive government set in an apocalyptic world, while a new book I’m writing examines the dark side of our youth correctional system. I have a YA urban fantasy coming out this year about a serial killer stalking faeries who bind their wings out of fear in an attempt to look human. It’s creepy, and hopefully entertaining, but also addresses the prejudice that faeries experience by humans, and oh yeah, they have to register with the government. A writer’s words are a form of expression the same way a sculpture or painting is for an artist. It’s entertainment—with a purpose.

So why am I and other authors talking more about political views on social media, rather than just sticking to book and candy tweets? Well, here’s one of many reasons. Our anthology through Wicked Ink Books (Tick Tock: 7 Tales of Time) almost did not come out in Turkey, because last summer, 29 publishers were closed down by the Turkish government in an attempt to repress free speech. Now, journalists and free speech are under attack in our own nation and you know it’s not good when the Turkish leader praises how our incoming president handles the press. Therefore, it’s more important to me to speak out to help ensure we still have publishers and a free press, so there can be more books in the world. When threats to basic rights like freedom of speech are on the table, my tweets about Cadbury Eggs will just have to wait for happier times.

I think authors have a responsibility to use their words when necessary, and I’m also a psychologist who feels a responsibility to be a voice for the marginalized and others who feel they are not heard. Though I’m one of the 20-30 million who will be impacted by the repeal of Obamacare, which due to a pre-existing condition was the first time in my life I could get health insurance on my own, I’m not as concerned about myself as I am for others. I’m very concerned for the millions of children out there with diseases, and the millions of adults with life-threatening conditions, many of whom will die without ACA. And here’s a really political statement for you: I believe someone is the worst kind of hypocrite to call themselves a “pro-life Christian” but only when it refers to the unborn, and then vote for millions of children and adults to die by taking away their health insurance. That’s the exact opposite of Christ-like behavior and I’m not overly religious, but I hope there’s a special place in hell for those people. I refuse to be quiet about children and other vulnerable people dying, no matter what someone else thinks.

But won’t you lose readers? As to the argument that voicing your beliefs could cost you readers, well, here’s the thing about that. The people out there who are white supremacists, homophobic, or sexist would hate my books anyway. Like really hate them, as they include strong kick-ass females, diversity, and LGBT characters. I believe that all people are created equal, which is, in fact, one of the main tenets of our nation’s Declaration of Independence. I’m not against any political party. In fact, I live in a conservative county inside a mostly blue state, and have a mix of Republican, Democrat, and other party friends, but here’s what I am against: fascism, racism, sexism, and all the other -isms that oppress any groups of people. If you support hate, I don’t want you buying my books anyway.

What am I doing in addition to writing? I’m still writing because it is a much needed outlet right now, but my main goals right now are speaking out, standing up, and fighting back. Ironically, I’m now part of a group called The Resistance who oppose a fascist society, and if you have read Burn Out, you know it involves a group named… wait for it… The Resistance, who fights a government that uses terror and weapons to keep order. I wrote that book years ago, and truly thought I was making up a “worst case scenario” at the time. Thank you, life, for imitating art and once again reminding us that truth will always be stranger than fiction.

Final thoughts: Before this election took place, I was speaking on a panel at Comic Con, and someone asked about the issue of authors openly addressing political views. Though I had no idea what was to come in November, I quoted Spider Man to this person (because if you know me, of course I did), and said “With great power, comes great responsibility.” Writers with a platform or audience of any kind have some power, and therefore have a responsibility (IMHO) to use that power for good. A bonus to speaking out more has been a “yuge” increase in social media followers of people who share my passion for this country. When I recently expressed feeling exhausted about speaking out so much, a fellow author wrote to me and said, “We need you right now. Please keep going.” So I will. And I will be there for my fellow authors who are also tired, for my fellow citizens who are scared or angry, and for my fellow Resistance members who are determined and brave—because I am all of these things too. Sometimes all at once. Above all, be kind to each other, stand up for your neighbor’s rights as well as your own, and remember that we will always be strongest when we stand together. May the Force be with you all!

Happy 2017 and Thoughts for the New Year

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Happy 2017 all! I don’t know about you, but the end of 2016 was a rough one for me. I attended two funerals within three weeks at the end of the year for people who died way before their time, one at age 39 and one age 18. The 39-yo, Cicily Janus, had been a mentor to me years back and I credit her writing retreat with why I received several offers of representation from agents soon thereafter. Cicily also assigned fellow author, Sue Duff, as my roommate for the week, and though I had never met her before, we became instant friends who stayed up giggling like we were in high school every night until 4a. The 18-yo was a boy at my 9-yo daughter’s dance school and she had danced in a Nutcracker production with him a year ago. It was her first funeral and there were so many tears, but the service was beautiful and multiple videos were shown of him doing what he loved to do, which was dance. It prompted a lot of discussion afterward in our household about death and dying, souls, and what life on this planet is all about. Combined with the political climate following the election (entire post on that coming soon because if you follow me on social media, you know I have thoughts), and the death of many beloved icons from my childhood, from Prince to Princess Leia *shakes fist at 2016*, I can’t remember a time when I felt so heartbroken all at once.

Yet, if you know me, I always look for the silver lining in all things because I was made that way. What is the point of so much loss and pain? One positive was that the deep discussions in our household brought our already close family even closer. It was also a huge reminder of what’s important to me. To take every opportunity to express your love and gratitude for family, friends, and other loved ones because, in the end, you never know when it could be the last holiday you have with someone. To fight for freedom and equality for all people because you never know when democracy could disappear. In my other job, as a psychologist and career coach, I often give an exercise for homework called “One Year to Live,” and this year really brought home for me that I want to live every year in the way that is most meaningful to me. I’ve seen multiple people on social media saying similar things. Saying they want to simplify and reevaluate their lives, some stepping away from social media, and others (like me) stepping on it. I’ve been doing more consistent meditation and yoga, and I know others who are training for ultra marathons. Do whatever feels right for you without worrying about what others think, or as my 12-yo son says, “You do you.”

I also have exciting book news, writing goals and other aspirations for the year which I will share in future posts, but first felt the need to reflect on the past year as it has directed where I’m headed. I’m choosing to let the pain of the past year motivate me to keep moving forward. I wish all of you peace and happiness in the year ahead, and hope that you all continue reaching for your dreams and goals no matter what obstacles may land in your path. Here’s hoping that 2017 brings great things to you!

The Fall 2016 YA Scavenger Hunt is HERE!!!

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Hi there, all you book-loving Scavengers! Ready to win some books?  I’m Kristi Helvig, your hostess on this stop: Welcome to TEAM GOLD!!!

 

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The Fall YA Scavenger Hunt goes live on Tuesday, Oct 4th at 12 pm Pacific Time and comes down on Sunday, Oct 9th at noon Pacific time.

Make sure to read this whole post, and then enter to win an extra bonus prize of my own by commenting below! Also, check out my top-secret bonus material where I share a true tale from the other side over on fellow gold team author’s site, Sharon Biggs Waller.

This bi-annual event was first organized by author Colleen Houck as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors…and a chance to win some awesome prizes! At this hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each author, you also get a clue for the hunt. Add up the clues, and you can enter for our prize–one lucky winner will receive one book from each author on the hunt in my team! But play fast: Enter by Sunday, October 9th, at noon Pacific time.

If you’d like to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page.

SCAVENGER HUNT PUZZLE 

Directions: Below, you’ll notice that I’ve hidden my favorite number. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the gold team, and then add them up (don’t worry, you can use a calculator!).

Entry Form: Once you’ve added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.

Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian’s permission to enter.

 

I am so excited to be hosting fabulous author, E. KATHERINE KOTTARAS. How excited? So excited that I did 6 cartwheels across my lawn.

Here is lovely E. Katherine Kottaras:

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E. Katherine Kottaras is originally from Chicago, and now she writes and teaches in the Los Angeles area. She is interested in the stories we tell, the stories we are given, and the ways we can redefine our worlds by discovering which stories are true. She is the author of the YA contemporary novel, HOW TO BE BRAVE (2015) and the forthcoming THE BEST POSSIBLE ANSWER (2016), both from St. Martin’s Press/Griffin Teen.

Find out more about Katherine here and you can buy her book here!

Katherine’s latest book is THE BEST POSSIBLE ANSWER:

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Ultra-high-achiever Viviana Rabinovich-Lowe has always had a plan—and no room to be anything less than perfect. But her quest for perfection comes to a screeching halt when her boyfriend leaks racy pictures of her to the entire school. Making matters worse, her perfect family is falling apart. For the first time, Viviana feels like a complete and utter failure.


Then she meets a new group of friends who know nothing about her past, including Evan, who makes her want to do something she never thought she’d do again: trust. For the first time in her life, Viviana realizes she can finally be whoever she wants. But who is that? While she tries to figure it out, she learns something they never covered in her AP courses: that it’s okay to be less than perfect, because it’s our imperfections that make us who we are.

She tells her story through a series of exam questions that point to her awareness of the complicated ironies of her life. In that spirit, here are some multiple-choice practice questions for you to answer as you listen to the playlist and read the book.

Katherine’s Bonus Material: FULL PLAYLIST for THE BEST POSSIBLE ANSWER. Click here for the link:

https://open.spotify.com/user/12132835764/playlist/7epMdfXwT6FGDZsp7Dx05h

From the opening page of THE BEST POSSIBLE ANSWER:

AP Physics Exam: Sample Question

 A girl is traveling home from the AP Physics exam on her bicycle. She is travelling at x m/s and can stop at a distance d m with a maximum negative acceleration. If the bicycle travels at 2x m/s, which of the following statements are true?

  • The girl is so stressed, exhausted, and overworked that she falls asleep while riding her bike.
  • That’s right; she loses momentum after taking a three-hour exam on the laws of gravity.
  • The girl won’t know for a few months how she did on the actual test.
  • But it couldn’t have been good considering she couldn’t get from point A to point B without falling on her face.
  • All of the above. 

You know the answer. 

(Hint: Test prep research shows you should actually always pick E.)

DATE OF EXAM: November 1, 2016

Be sure to study hard!

 

PRACTICE QUESTION #1:

Which of the following songs BEST speak to Viviana’s feeling of utter betrayal, the sheer loss of trust that is irreparable?

 

(A) Sia’s “Elastic Heart.” Viviana a fighter. She’s been hurt, but still, she’s got thick skin and a heart that is willing to be open, despite everything she’s weathered.

And let’s be clear, I trust no one…

And I want it, I want my life so bad

And I’m doing everything I can

Then another one bites the dust

It’s hard to lose a chosen one

You did not break me (You did not break me, no, no)

I’m still fighting for peace

Well I’ve got thick skin and an elastic heart

 

 

(B) Lorde’s “Biting Down.” For the first time, Viviana feels like a complete and utter failure. As a result, Viviana is experiencing severe panic attacks that are so bad, when the book opens, she has landed in the hospital. The heavy rhythm of the song is like the pounding of a heartbeat inside a head, which echoes Viviana’s deep panic about her present situation, as well as her future.

Breathed so deep I thought I’d drown

 

(C) Feist’s “The Bad in Each Other.” Viviana’s father has suddenly disappeared and now her perfect family is falling apart. Viviana starts to discover truths about her father – terrible truths, worse than anything she could have ever imagined, ones that threaten to tear her family apart forever.

Where to love to find it now

When we’ll become two

Floating into the blue and the neon river

The sadness can move either without or with him

 

(D) Alicia Keys’s “Falling.” Viviana thinks she failed her AP Physics exam, not only on paper (after falling flat on her face while riding her bike home from the test), but also in life. And now, once again, she’s falling: this time for a cute and nice and incredibly sensitive guy named Evan. Is she doomed to fail a test of the heart once more?

 

(E) All of the above.

 

PRACTICE QUESTION #2:

Evan knows nothing about her past and who make her want to do something she never thought she’d do again: trust. But she’s been hurt by so much.

Which of the following songs BEST speak to Viviana’s confused, hurting heart?

 (A) Arctic Monkey’s “Do I Wanna Know?”

(Do I wanna know?)

If this feeling flows both ways

 

(B) First Aid Kit’s “Stay Gold”

What if to love and be loved’s not enough?

What if I fall and can’t bear to get up?

 

(C) Jon and Roy’s “Every Night”

I want your love/ Every night

 

(D) Sia’s “Dressed in Black”

 

You found me dressed in black

Hiding way up at the back

Life had broken my heart into pieces

 

(E) All of the above.

 

PRACTICE QUESTION #3:

For the first time in her life, Viviana realizes she can finally be whoever she wants. But who is that?

Which of the following songs BEST speak to Viviana’s future that, if she opens her heart, will be filled with love?

 

(A) Santigold’s “Disparate Youth.” Thankfully, Viviana has her best friend, Sammie, remind each other of their strengths and compel each other to move forward.

Don’t look ahead, there’s stormy weather

Another roadblock in our way

But if we go, we go together

Our hands are tied here if we stay

 

(B) Lana Del Rey’s “Young and Beautiful.”

I know you will, I know you will

I know that you will

 

(C) First Aid Kid’s “My Silver Lining”

There’s no starting over, no new beginnings, time races on

And you’ve just gotta keep on keeping on

Gotta keep on going, looking straight out on the road

Can’t worry ’bout what’s behind you or what’s coming for you further up the road

I try not to hold on to what is gone, I try to do right what is wrong

I try to keep on keeping on

 

(D) Pink’s “Fucking Perfect”

Pretty, pretty please, don’t you ever, ever feel

Like you’re less than fucking perfect

Pretty, pretty please, if you ever, ever feel

Like you’re nothing, you’re fucking perfect to me

 

(E) All of the above.

 

NOT-SO-SECRET ANSWER KEY:

Viviana learns something they never covered in her AP courses:

that it’s okay to be less than perfect,

because it’s our imperfections that make us who we are.

GIVEAWAY: In addition to a copy of HOW TO BE BRAVE, Katherine is giving away a copy of her second book, THE BEST POSSIBLE ANSWER, hot off the presses! (Note: Publication is November 1, 2016, so the books will be sent after that date.) Check out her blog for details!

 

BONUS GIVEAWAY at this host stop:

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I’m giving away a copy of our award-winning speculative fiction anthology, TICK TOCK: 7 Tales of Time from Wicked Ink Books. Seven science-fiction and fantasy authors present their takes on time in these stories involving romance, horror, and the supernatural.

TO ENTER: Simply leave a comment below to enter. For 5 additional bonus entries, just sign up for my author newsletter (sidebar on the right, or through the pop-up), then leave the name you used to sign up in the comment box. Good luck!

NEXT STOP ON THE HUNT: Go check out ERIN E. MOULTON and best of luck scavenging! 🙂