Saturday, August 28, 2010

Remembering Why I Wrote Chronicles of the Broken

I recently read this agent blog that reminded me why I wrote Chronicles of the Broken, and why I think it’s so important to get it published. The blog is about the novel “Mockingjay” and violence in young adult books. It brings up a great point about teen readers, stating that, “They want to read about sex, drugs, and violence because that’s the world they live in right now.  Those are the topics that will move them and open up dialogue and allow them to think.  And I for one would rather give them Crank or Beautiful and allow them to realize they’re not alone or experience the contents behind the safety of the written word than send them into the world unprepared.”

I couldn’t agree more. Our children are exposed to so much these days. It’s almost impossible (and often dangerous) for them to keep their innocence for too long. It is popular to teach our children about protected sex, alternative lifestyles and, in some schools, erotic art. But if Christians try to share our point of view, we are immediately instructed to sit down and shut up.

Well, I’m tired of keeping my mouth shut (and my pen silent), so I’m writing a teen book series that will take average teens who are going through rough circumstances and show them God’s amazing grace. The goal is to do this in a way that keeps them interested, entertained and is not preachy or condemning. The novel is finally finished and I’ve recently started sending out queries.

The characters –

Amy Yong: Eccentric computer hacker, gamer and orphan, she’s done with real life and the niceties that accompany it. After inflicting a dose of well-earned revenge upon her creepy history teacher, she ends up with a failing grade and concerned grandparents.

Marcus Wilson: A one-time aspiring football jock turned angry hater-of-the-world when his eldest sister turns into a hypocrite, ends up pregnant and drops out of high school. Disappointed and furious, Marcus takes his anger to the field, and now his coach has ejected him until his attitude gets adjusted.

Andrew McAllen: A conceited rich kid with a diminishing respect for people and an uncanny ability to lie. Educated and self-confident, his very identity will be shattered when he witnesses what science and physics can’t explain.

Jessica Thomas: With a terminally ill mother, and a father who’s turned to alcohol in order to cope, this shy girl is wrapped in loneliness. So when senior heart-throb, RJ Winters busts through her cocoon with kind words and kisses she knows it’s too good to be true, but is too weak to resist RJ’s charm.

Trevor Buchanan: Dealing with a divorced mother on the prowl for fresh meat and an abusive older brother, Trevor finds his comfort in music. And when his well-meaning uncle ships him off to a church camp with a bunch of whack-jobs, Trevor is well outside his comfort zone, trying to find the truth in a world clouded by lies.

James Reynolds: The twenty-six-year-old pastor of an elderly congregation. Desperate for a change, he agrees to take on the challenge of his predecessor and hold the church’s first ever youth camp. Trusting in God (and his deacons) to bring him teenagers, James looks forward to fulfilling a prophesy.

Rachel Parkinson: After her husband announces that he needs a break, and with nowhere else to go, Rachel finds herself on the doorstep of her meddling mother and emotionally absent father. Seeking God’s help with her failing marriage, she ventures to the church of her childhood, where she finds her childhood tormentor behind the pulpit. Roped into helping James, Rachel is unsure how she can hold the pieces of her life together long enough to aid anyone.

If you would like to read more, the first several chapters can be found here.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Rock, the Waves & the Fisherman

Try as I might to cling to the rock, sometimes I relax my grip and the waves of life jostle me loose and toss me around the sea. I don't even realize I’ve fallen until I’m gasping for air and purging salt water from my lungs. As the turbulent waters push me away from the rock, I struggle to remember why I've held on to it so tightly. I lean back, relaxing into a floating position. The waves rock me back and forth, becoming a watery cradle.

Just let go.

I close my eyes and allow myself to drift through a sea of oblivion, reassuring myself that it’s okay. I can feel bodies pressed in around me, and am relieved by the fact that I’m not alone. Everyone else is allowing the waves to carry them from the rock.

Why shouldn’t I? 

Why am I fighting what others so readily accept?
I open my eyes and confirm that they all appear serene and accepting. They do not worry about right and wrong, but are content to go with what feels good and makes them happy.

I could do that.

A strong undercurrent pulls at my feet, and more than anything I want to give in.

Give up. Become like everyone else.
I’ve always been an outsider, and cannot deny that the idea of belonging appeals to me.

A slight tug on my heart reminds me of the promise a Fisherman once told me - "Believe in me and I will set you free." The tug, acting as evidence that He has not given up on me, is enough to ignite a fire in my spirit. The lyrics to the song “Everything,” by Lifehouse replay in my mind.

“Find me here, and speak to me.
I want to feel you, I need to hear you.
You are the light, that’s leading me.
To the place, where I’ll find peace again.”

I repeat the words over and over; begging Him to find me, reminding myself that no matter how much easier it would be to give in to the waves, there is no peace in the water. The serenity the world offers to those who surrender to it is an illusion.

The Fisherman tugs again and my burden suddenly seems lighter.

Adrenaline floods my veins as I clench my teeth, angry that I was almost deceived.

I am an outcast, but never alone.

I began searching for the thin line that connects us, but the ocean is too murky. Treading water, I search for the rock but cannot find it. I belittle myself for my stupidity, disgusted that I would allow the waves to carry me out so far. I am clueless as to which direction to swim.

This is hopeless.

I weep. My soul cries out for aid. I am answered by the lyrics to “Crawl” by Superchick, as they begin softly, and then crescendo until they block out the sounds of everything around me.

“When everything I was is lost
I have forgot but you have not.
When I am lost you have not lost me.”

The last line echos through my entire body, comforting me like hot chocolate on a winter night. I feel another pull, stronger this time. Acting on faith, I plunge forward, determined to press on until I reach the rock. Fighting wave after wave, I persevere. My muscles are sore and despite the chill of the water, my entire body radiates heat from exertion, but I continue, knowing that I cannot afford to rest.

Each wave feels like an ice pick, chipping away at my resolve.

I cannot do this. 

Just as I begin to doubt, wondering if hope has cruelly made me imagine the steadfast Fisherman, the rock comes into view. I stretch out my arms, praying that I will be able to cross the distance before the waves finish me off. Fatigued, I kick one last time.

I feel the pull on my soul and close my eyes, relaxing as He reels me in like a fish on a hook.

I reach for Him with the faith of a child, knowing that He is different. Believing that He is life. He pulls me to him, shakes off the weight of the water, and sets me free.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Hunger Games - Book Review

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins (REVIEW)
September, 2008. 384 pages, Scholastic Press, hardcover, $9.75
(978-0439023481) Young Adult

Seventeen-year-old Katniss Everdeen lives on the border of starvation in District 12 of what used to be North America. Ever since her father’s death, Katniss has been barely keeping herself, her twelve-year-old sister Prim, and their mother fed by her forbidden hunting practices. But on one terrible reaping day that all changes.

There used to be 13 Districts, but when they rebelled against the extremely controlling Capitol, District 13 was completely wiped out. To prevent the Districts from stepping out of line again, the Capitol runs Hunger Games. Once a year, two children, between the ages of twelve and eighteen, are selected from each District and thrown into a televised arena in a battle to the death.   

When Prim's name is selected for the battle, Katniss, being the protective older sister, volunteers to go in her place. To win over the hearts of the crowd, the clever trainers for District 12 devise a plan where Katniss will pretend to fall in love with Peeta, the boy selected from her District. There can be only one survivor in this game, though, and Katniss spends the pages avoiding danger after danger while trying to keep her head and her heart focused on a plan she can vaguely remember.

In essence, The Hunger Games is a nail-biting, hard-to-put-down story about teenagers killing each other, while the Districts are forced to watch, to ensure District loyalty. I hated the residents of the Capitol almost immediately—watching them primp in their futuristic world where food, medicine and glamour are all at the touch of a button while the Districts are starving with limited electricity and harsh laws.

Definitely not for younger children, The Hunger Games balances precariously between love and violence.

Once you get past the annoyingly-weird names, the story holds its own. Well written, fast paced and full of action, I held my breath, stayed up late reading, and the instant I closed the book I was online looking for the sequel. Good stuff!

Monday, August 2, 2010

If I Stay - Book Review

If I Stay, by Gayle Forman (REVIEW)
April, 2010. 272 pages, Speak, paperback reprint, $8.99
(978-0142415436) Young Adult

Seventeen-year-old Mia has a perfect family, a supportive boyfriend, and a promising future. Then a devastating car crash flings Mia into an out-of-body experience where she must decide whether to give up and die with her family, or fight for her life and an unknown future without them.

I greatly disliked the first chapter of the book, as I suspect most Oregonians will. Writer Gayle Forman is a New Yorker who begins If I Stay by describing an Oregon snow storm in the condescending tone of someone who believes Oregonians make a bit too much ruckus over our insignificant snowfall.

I don't really feel like Forman "gets" teens. Her teen characters guffaw and chortle, their conversations "volley" and they have very unusual relationships. Mia's mother is a feminist and her father is an ex-band member who recently decided to grow up. No one ever seems to argue or disagree, and it's perfectly okay that Mia takes eighteen-year-old rocker boyfriend Adam up to her room, because her parents would never stand in the way of love. Yeah. Sure. Forman also speaks of Adam wearing "pegged" pants, which I can only guess are supposed to be skinny jeans. Pegged pants were an 80's and early 90's thing, and I now have a vision of a punk/grunge rocker running around with his pants pegged. Hey, they say all styles come back sooner or later ...

All that being said, this is a touching story. Forman does a great job at making the reader feel for the characters. The family relationship, though odd, is enduring. Mia's view of the world and her responsibilities is incredibly mature for a girl her age, but it seems to work. You'd think the book would be terribly depressing, but it's not. It's more of a celebration of the lives of Mia's parents and little brother. A celebration of the life she doesn't know if she can continue without them. As she's deciding, her boyfriend, best friend, grandparents, aunts, uncles, family friends, etc. surround Mia with love, hoping that she'll realize what a great family she still has.

My favorite line in the book: "This is Portland. You're lucky if a drug overdose gets you into the ER." 

Since this is a young adult book, I feel compelled to warn of language and sexual content.