Guest Post: Writing the Female Hero Story by J.D. Lakey

Why do I write? I ask myself that a lot. Sci-fi seems to be the red-headed-stepchild of literature and women sci-fi writers are that child locked in the basement. I would never write if I did it for the praise or the sales or the recognition.

I write because I like to read good science fiction written from a woman’s point of view. But more importantly I write for my inner Divine Child. The Divine Child is a Jungian archetype that represents newness, growth and hope. Jung considered it the egg from which all heros are hatched. Which, if you think about it, is what science fiction is all about. Hope for the future, and heros who are willing to take us into that future. I wanted to write about female heros.

Which brings us to my series of books, The Black Bead Chronicles. This series of sci-fi/fantasy adventure novels takes place on a distant planet, a few thousand years in the future. A group of people have left earth to purposefully disappear and start their own matriarchal society where all of the traits considered by us to be “feminine” are valued. Because the planet they choose to live on is inhabited by immense predators, they are forced to build their cities under protective domes. The stories center around a group of five young children who are led by the most unlikely and gifted member, six-year-old Cheobawn.

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Cecily Wolfe responds to ‘Why young-adult fiction is a dangerous fantasy’

I was a bit stunned after reading Joe Nutt’s scathing indictment of the entirety of current young adult fiction (TES, 19 August 2016), which is quite belligerent and emotional.  He speaks to his concern that young adult reading material favors “gossip over real culture” (what is “real culture”? is this not subjective?) and does not introduce young readers to the “real, adult world.”  He worries that there is not enough young adult fiction that appeals to boys, and that young adult fiction as a whole is “patronizing.”

As a young adult librarian with a teenage daughter and an affection for young adult fiction for my own reading pleasure, I was taken aback at his sweeping condemnation and wonder what YA shelf he has been perusing. Last I checked (and I went to the shelves I tend in my library, where I am in charge of the teen materials, earlier this morning) there are a variety of books that are incredibly popular with teens and adults alike that I would certainly not deem “patronizing.”  Teens in situations in which they feel alone find comfort and hope (and often a reinforcement of the choice to avoid dangerous behaviors) in titles like Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why, or E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars. YA authors often focus on racism, sexual assault, family issues, and identity struggles that not only speak to readers who are in the midst of situations but those who might not be exposed to them otherwise, fostering awareness, understanding, and patience. Walter Dean Myers, Jason Reynolds, and Kekla Magoon detail stories of racism in a brutally honest manner, and the current rise in human trafficking is addressed in terrifying fiction by E.R. Frank, Peggy Kern, and Patricia McCormick.

My daughter and her classmates often ask why they can’t read a classic assigned at school alongside a more popular, relevant title to which they can relate. When she read Charlotte Bronte, I shared a contemporary retelling in which the main character dealt with the same emotional issues as the original but in a modern, more relatable situation, which helped her understand what the heck Bronte was trying to get across. She became more interested in the original and is now able to understand the value in reading it. Reading classics isn’t just about being able to say it has been read; it’s about finding how and why they are timeless, which usually has to with emotions and relationships. Young adult fiction ‘does’ emotions and relationships in ways that teens understand, obviously, since the characters are within their developmental range. Retellings of Frankenstein are incredibly popular, with Kenneth Oppel’s This Dark Endeavor as a standout title that teases out the character flaws and emotional drama of the original, making Mary Shelley’s original, which can seem distant because of the writing style, more understandable to the teen reader.

A lack of teen fiction for boys has been a topic of concern for teachers and librarians (and authors) for some time, but there are quite a few authors who produce fantastic stories that I find boys (and men, and women, and girls) checking out of the library all the time. Rick Riordan (my teenage daughter is a huge fan of his mythology tales), Orson Scott Card, Gary Paulsen, James Dashner, Neil Gaiman, Kenneth Oppel, Patrick Ness, Michael Grant, Markus Zusak, Jonathan Stroud – need I go on? For that matter, there are plenty of boys checking out The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, and The Heir Chronicles (Cinda Williams Chima). Labeling books as “boys” or “girls” or leading either gender to specific titles because of such labels is limiting. Why tell a child or teen (or adult) which books are “for them”? Does a freedom of choice in reading material not exist because someone feels that the entire genre has no value?

I’m not sure what YA fiction authors would say about the accusation that they are “patronizing” teen readers, or that their “own good intentions” are “foul-tasting medicine.” I have met several extremely popular best-selling young adult authors who have been adamant that their goal is to connect readers to emotions and relationships, to help teens who feel alone or misunderstood, and empower them to stand up for themselves and others in situations of discrimination or danger. The “real, adult world” can be overwhelming and distant, but young adult authors today offer stories with characters who can lead readers to an even greater understanding of themselves and the world in which they live, better preparing them for the challenges ahead.


Cecily Wolfe is a writer specializing in short stories with a doctorate in literature as well as a professional librarian in the United States. Her novella, A Harvest of Stars, was published earlier this year, and Throne of Grace will be released on October 25. She can be found on Goodreads and Twitter.

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The Art of the Romance Novel

A myth about romance is that a lot of people think it’s an easy genre to write and make money from. And while it’s true that it’s a very popular genre and a lot of romance novelists like Nora Roberts seem to churn out the books, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Writing a romance novel is an art, and a difficult one at that, like any other genre. And in my years of blogging about romance novels, it’s become really apparent that there are too many writers who don’t get it.

The secret to a good romance novel isn’t the love story. Yes, I’m serious. And no, I’m not crazy. Think about it: even the most successful romance novels have the same love stories being written over and over. It isn’t the love story that’s changing. It’s everything else. Because the key to a good romance novel is the worldbuilding.

Romance novels are escapism. When people pick up a romance, they want to escape life for a little bit so the book needs to completely absorb them and suck them in. And that is really difficult. Anything can shatter the illusion, from a lack of research to a random typo. One of the most common problems with romance novels is there simply isn’t enough written in them. The authors give just enough to sketch out the characters and the love story formula before publishing it. It’s like doing a rough sketch of a tree and trying to sell it as a landscape painting.

Nora Roberts is one of the most famous and successful romance writers out there, with over a hundred books published, many of them New York Times Bestsellers. Her new book, Bay of Sighs, is taking the world by storm and she was recently featured in a documentary about romance novels. She uses the same formulas as every other romance writer out there. But her novels transport her readers to wherever she wants to take them. When writing about an upscale vineyard in The Villa, Roberts gives vivid details of the skies, the grape fields, and even the winemaking process to draw you in. She does the same thing in the book Into Thin Air with a magical New England island. She paints very vivid detail in her books, crafting each one into impressive works of art.

Every good romance writer pays attention to world building and detail. On Lover’s Quarrel, one of my pages is a list of my favorite romance novels. All of them are on there because they drew me in to the story really well. And while the love story on each of them was well crafted, the worlds around each of the love stories was what brought out all of the magic.


Kara Skinner is the owner of Lover’s Quarrel, a romance novel blog with the goal to help readers find their next favorite romance novel while making a difference by donating affiliate commissions to non profits supporting education and the environment. She’s been writing about books for over five years and has even been interviewed on NPR for her love of books. She’d love to get to know you, so please drop by her blog, Facebook, or Twitter and get in touch. 

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The 10 Harry Potter Deaths That We Still Aren’t Over

[Guest Post by Maggie.]

It’s hard to believe that a series that is still so loved and loyally followed ended back in 2007. Maybe you’re a faithful Hufflepuff, a clever Ravenclaw, a brave Gryffindor or an ambitious Slytherin. Or perhaps, like Harry and me, you bounce between the latter. Whatever the case may be, we Potterheads stick together through thick and thin, and many of us still need comforting after the heartbreak that series caused us. Seriously, Rowling, not impressed…we still love you, though.

If you’re like me, you’ve loved immersing yourself in fictional worlds for longer than you can remember. You get lost in them and fall in love with the characters. It feels like you’re reading about your friends and living the adventures with them. So when one of them dies it can deeply affect you! And some always stay with you. There are definitely more than 10 Harry Potter deaths that I’m still getting over, but here are the worst ones, in no particular order. I’m sorry.

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Why I Enjoy Using Instagram for My Book Love!

Aaahhh… Instagram! Somewhere where internet fans can have fun conversations with other fans about the latest buzz around the world, except in this case, you get to showcase your life through pictures of yourself and share it with other internet users!  So in this post, I will talk about the reasons why I enjoy using Instagram for my love of books!

I have recently started using Instagram to take pictures of myself and showing users what has been going on in my life through my photos. But since I’ve been an avid reader my whole life, I’ve always wanted to show other book lovers the books I’ve bought from a bookstore or the books I’ve owned for years, and Instagram is definitely the best place for that!

I enjoy using Instagram to showcase my love of books because I get to show everyone what kind of books I read and it helps me become more creative with how I showcase those books. For instance, for Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (which I just recently bought), I’ve placed the book on a white cover and I’ve placed roses around the book. The props I use help other bookworms see what the book is about.

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