How to Make Your Readers Angry

Authors are crazy. They get some weird sort of sick enjoyment out of torturing their readers. That's not nice, is it? Try telling them that.

Authors make their readers angry and we all know how quickly that can go sour...well, if you're anything like me. I'm going to side with the readers today (you know me, I usually have a green foot in both camps) and talk about the ways writers make their readers angry.

1. Your favourite character dies.

No matter who I vouch for in a story...they die. It's getting frustrating. For fear of spoilers, I won't give you details, but least to say the authors of The Hunger Games, Divergent, Gone, (oh, the feels of Gone. *sheds green tears*) have tortured me to the point of -- well. You know.

2. Said favourite character dies without making up from that last heart-wrenching fight (usually with the other favourite main character). 

This is particularly gutting. No redemption. If you're going to die, you can at least go out without leaving hordes of guilty people who you fought with before your imminent doom.

3. Your favourite character goes insane. 

Peeta. About every single person in the Gone series goes insane. Understandably. Ender's Game? The author drove Ender bonkers. Since when is that okay?!?!!

4. The girl picks the wrong guy in the love-triangle. 

Sometimes I wish characters could hear what the readers are screaming at them. Then I must remind myself it's the psychotic author who is the REAL problem. In Matched, who were you voting for? I actually vote for Xander. And in Why We Broke Up...let me just say, I'm glad they broke up because she went for the wrong guy.

5. The end of the book DOESN'T RESOLVE ANYTHING. 

Three words: The Hunger Games. This is so cruel, particularly when there's no sequel. I can imagine the author's, laughing evilly to themselves at our pain. Loki. Don't get any ideas.

6. You're unsure who's actually alive or dead at the end of the book. 

Vagueness can be cool and trendy and all...but HECK. The least you can give a reader to hold onto at the end of the book, is a clear understanding of who survived.

7. The villain bites the protagonists finger off. 

First of all, ew. Second of all, just ew, okay? Who gave Tolkien the impression that this was okay?

8. The "perfect couple" break up. 

They spend the entire book getting together. First book ends: happy, lovehearts in the air, life is bliss. Second book? Let's break up the couple and turn their lives to misery! WHY? We readers were finally happy and comfortable.

9. The protagonist doesn't get there in time to save BBF/mother/father/sibling/love-interest from dying.

Cinder. Okay. Breathe in, breathe out. It's okay. I'm fine. But really, this happens constantly and why? WHY? What joy, oh authors, do you get from tearing out our souls?

10. When Hawkeye needs an eyeball. 

Um, Hawkeye? Don't shoot me? But seriously. That was disgusting. Even I'M not that gross (I just smash people, not extract their eyeballs for evil purposes). Nevertheless, I'm glad you're on the right side now, mate.

PS. Books that make the readers angry are usually the best books. I don't know why. It doesn't seem right.

PPS. I have to go. This post was far too stimulating. I think I'm about to --

Spending another 3 & a half hours at work tonight only 45 minutes after having done an 8 hour shift was not what I had planned for my evening really.Although watching a group of four blokes on the CCTV get covered in smoke & fall into a stack of Kopperberg did make me laugh considering.

On Creating Multi-Dimensional Characters

Hello humans. Hope you're not enjoying the warm weather. Hope your memorial day weekend was slightly less than satisfactory. Hope there was lots of mischief.

I'm here to talk about creating round, multi-dimensional characters. None of this advice is utterly proven, but it is simply observations I've had after spending many hours watching human shows like Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey, Doctor Who, etc.

1. Give the character a desire that motivates all their actions

This girl is Danaerys Targaryen. She wants to become queen. Ever since the beginning of season 2, that desire has motivated every single one of her actions, causing her to kill, to conquer, and to befriend.

For main characters, state this desire almost immediately. Within the first three pages, if not on the very first page. 

For minor characters, bonus points if you make their desire a secret.

2. Make a character make a decision that conflicts with that desire.

Danaerys attacked a city for the sole purpose of freeing all of its slaves. In doing so, she risked her dragons, her soldiers, and the wrath of friends of the city. But her disgust at slavery prompted her to do that.

*It's more interesting if a character willingly chooses to do this, rather than being forced into it. Katniss wouldn't have been as interesting if it was just her name drawn, rather than Prim's. 

3. Give the character a past.

Pasts are what define characters, whether or not you choose to reveal their past. For instance, just the thought of revealing the name of the Doctor from Doctor Who prompted several episodes, if not seasons. Part of what makes this character so fascinating is that we know almost nothing about his past at all, yet we're aware that his past haunts him and motivates him all the time.

It's your choice whether or not to reveal a character's past. Only do if it affects the story or allows the reader to understand the character in an essential way. No reader needs excess information.

4. "Every villain is a hero in his own mind."

I love that quote (not just because people apply it to me). Though literature has provided us with a few exceptions, in general, even in Milton's portrayal of Satan in Paradise Lost, the antagonist is the hero of his version of the story. Every person has redeemable qualities.

This lady here on the right was a maid to a character in Downton Abbey and did something unspeakable. I thought I'd hate her forever, but in later episodes, she proves herself to actually have a heart, to be trying to make amends for her action. The harder you make it to hate a character, the more interesting the character becomes. 

5. Give the character a secret.

This can be connected to his/her past, or it can be simply something the character has learned recently.

6. Make the character lie.

Everybody lies. Fact. Characters should, too.

7. Give your character a quirk.

It can be small. Think of Jay Gatsby's 'old sport' phrase. Or the 11th Doctor's obsession with cool style trends. It's nice to have something recognizable about a character that makes him an individual.

8. Make your character care about at least one other character.

His friend, her mom, the secret love of their life. Make them care about one other person as much as/more than/almost as much as they care for themselves. 

- - - - 

These are my non-human, objective observations on what make the characters of Doctor Who, Downton Abbey, and Game of Thrones so interesting. The more layers they have, the more loves, hates, secrets, pasts, lies, the more interesting the character becomes. And, above all, make every character redeemable. 

Thor's Thoughts: The Art of a Name

Greetings people of Earth. It is my pleasure to join you today in the discussions surrounding writing and other aspects of the publishing world. May you all benefit from my wealth of knowledge.

Today, I would like to bring up an element of World Building. Now, I am a God, so I do know a thing or two about this. But I don't mean creating physical worlds, but literary worlds. You see, as my alter-ego, I write YA Fantasy. This often means that my stories take place in settings entirely outside the existing realm of knowledge. These fictional places need depth, structure. They need details, history, and strength. Sometimes, the most difficult part of creating these places and their landmarks, is naming them.

Similarly, our characters need names as well. I know some authors search for days to find the perfect name for a given character. The right tone, strength, and rhythm can make all the difference in a good character.

There are many ways to go about finding the perfect name for your country, kingdom, mountain, ocean, or character. I took the liberty of questioning my fellow writers on the organization called Twitter, and compiling their strategies for your information.

*Thank you to all those who volunteered their thoughts.*

* * * * *

"Generally the made-up names just pop into my head. Failing that, I use a random generator, then mix & match until it's mine." - @RachelxRussell (See below for links to Name Generators)

"Usually I find a name or word I like and tweak it." - @stephandrea_

"Sometimes, I'll put keywords into Google Translate and see if any languages spark an idea. @vbartles taught me that." - @NHNovelist

"Sometimes finding meanings in other languages, sometimes just randomness. My baby names book is the best resource!" - @NikkiDiehm

"For places, one of my fave ways is to take the word in English and in French and have a smashword party and see what happens. :) " - @LindsFlanagan

"I keep a notebook with all the cool names I come across. As far as setting, I use real places I've been and change the name." - @atrueblood5

* * * * *

All of these are wonderful ways to go about naming both characters and places. As you can see, some writers prefer to have a meaning behind each name, while others lean toward the random mash-up of a pleasant-sounding word. Personally, I tend to base most of my setting names on Latin-based words, and I find character names on a website called, which gives the definition and allows for various search modes.

One of the most important things to remember when naming people and places -- particularly in YA literature -- is to make them pronounceable. They don't have to be easy to say, though that helps. When you think you've found the right name, say it out loud. Multiple times. Try to imagine how people might mispronounce it, and possibly alter spelling to avert that.

A quick search for "Name Generators" brought up the following sites. May they aid you in your writing journey. - specifically for Fantasy
I believe that covers everything. Any questions? If you have a method of finding or creating names for your stories, please share it. I'm sure other readers would love to hear. 

Now, if you'll excuse me, I must check to make sure Loki is writing his novel, and not wasting time on the Twitter.


Loki's Journey Part Five

CAPTAIN AMERICA: We were going to show Loki how to write a novel. After he explained our silly mission to the others, they leaned over the screen and stared at the Loki's hook plastered to the top of the document.

Sixteen-year-old Isaac Clark had been diagramming his plans for world domination since his classmates were chewing Play-Dough.

I backed up slowly. I had better things to do than watch the Avengers help Loki with his plans for world domination. If you ask me, Thor had finally gotten his 'Loki is my brother and a god' thunder theme into their heads.

"You will not leave, Captain," Thor says without turning around. I sigh.

"Why do you need me here? You've got five others," I say, reaching to pick up my shield from the floor. He extends his hand and his hammer flies into his grip with a clang.

Everyone turns around.

Black Widow raises an eyebrow. "Bailing?"

"I-" I sigh. "Does this make sense? Why are we helping Loki?"

Stark rolls his eyes and comes over to me. He wraps an arm around my shoulder and leans closer. I press my lips together, it's all I can do not to toss the shorty across the room. "We're not helping him, Cap. Well, technically, we are, but we're helping him make a fool out of himself."

"What is supposed to be my first line?" Loki asks right then. And I look at him through Stark's eyes. He does seem to be making a fool out of himself. When did villains turn to writing novels to dominate the world?

"Anything really. But ideally, something that hooks," I say before I can stop myself. Thor smiles at me. Stark and Banner exchange a look. I feel a little part of my red, white, and blue turn green and gold.

"Care to be more specific, Grandpa?" Loki asks. I set my jaw. But before I can speak, Thor does.

THOR: "We cannot tell you, brother," I answer. "This is your novel, not ours."

Loki huffs, a look of annoyance in his scrunched up face. "But what do you mean by HOOK?"

Stark rolls his eyes. "Well we don't mean plunging a piece of twisted metal into your reader's stomach,"

"Although," Hawkeye says holding up a finger, "That might help him think of something."

"I think I'm gonna' be sick," Banner says, standing to pace in front of the couch.

I approach my brother. "A hook is a strong sentence, filled with all the personality your book contains. Some readers judge the entire book by its first line alone, so it must be powerful. Something that will grasp your reader's atten -- "

"Lock them in my evil grip?" Loki sits forward, a gleam in his eye.

"Well, yes," I say.

Loki sits back in his seat and stares at the computer scree, his face a mask of concentration. I look around and see the other Avengers staring at my brother, as though tensing up for battle.

Minutes pass, but nothing happens. Then Loki sighs. "I can't think with all of you here. Leave me."

"Not a chance, smarty-pants," the Man of Iron says, coming forward. "I think we forgot to mention a couple of things. One, I am still the most attractive person in this room and no one has said anything about it for half an hour -- a travesty -- and two, you don't have to make your first line perfect right now. That's what revisions are for."

"He's right," Captain America says with a sigh. "Just get something down, Loki. How do you want to begin?"

A grin splits my brother's face, and he hunches forward. Clickety-clackity fills the air for a moment, before he sits back.

The red-haired woman leans forward to read over Loki's shoulder. "Isaac stormed out of the kitchen, leaving his idiotic parents confused behind him. He had better things to think about than their so-called 'concerns.'"

"Okay," Stark said, shifting on his feet. "That's... that's actually not too bad."

"You doubted my brother?" I say, stepping toward the man of iron.

He scoffs. "Please, like I'm the only one."

IRON MAN: 'Doubt' was probably a mild word for how I felt about the whole performance -- Loki might have had it in him to rule the "world (though I doubted it), but writing a novel wasn't for everyone. And yeah, I know what they say: everyone has a book inside them. But you know, for some people, that's where it should stay.

Still, I kept this to myself, just like Pepper taught me. "You have a sentence, then," I said.

Loki glared up at me. "I suppose you're going to say I need more."

"You've got a hook. Now you need a line and a sinker." I grinned. Nobody joined in. "Come on, guys, that was funny. That was funny, right?"

"We're on a deadline, Stark." When Hawkeye is glaring at you, something's up. He's got some freaky eyes.

"Yeah, okay. Keep your hair on, Katniss."

"I understood that reference," said Cap, which was a surprise, because I don't remember them sitting him down in front of The Hunger Games, nor had I seen him reading recently. Still, the Capsicle never fails to surprise me.

"Okay, so you've got a hook," I said, appreciating the fact that at least their attention was on me, even if they were about three seconds from the dreaded eye-rolling again. "Now we need character."

"I've got a character," said Loki.

"Yeah, this Isaac fellow. But all we know about him so far is that he sees his parents as idiots and has important things to deal with. I mean, presumably that's related to the whole world domination spiel, so we should probably see that."

"It's a book, not a moving picture show," interjected Thor.

"What, you never heard of show don't tell? Oh boy. This is going to be a long day." I looked at the screen again. "So I'm guessing he's working on his plans, right? Can we see that? Like, does it take the form of a super massive world map with pins stuck in it, or are we talking technology? Because if you want tech, I'm your guy."

"Stark, forget the technology for a minute." Natasha always ruins my fun. I swear she and Pepper get together and discuss their nefarious doings when I'm not in the room.

"Fine," I said. "If you don't want my help, don't have it. How about you give some helpful suggestions?"

BLACK WIDOW: I rolled my eyes, giving Tony a disinterested look. There was a reason I put "does not play well with others" in his write-up. But I wasn't about to back down from a challenge. Hooking one hand in my gun belt, I took a step forward. "Look, Loki, a beginning is all well and good, but you can't stop there."

"And why not?" Loki looked at me as if I were the most idiotic person he'd ever met. "You can disarm a man with a sidelong look. Why can't Isaac enthrall these pitiful mortal readers with just one sentence?"

"Well, you see, they don't care about him yet." Steve interjects. "He's just some punk kid with a vendetta against his parents. No offense, but with kids these days, who isn't? You've got to make him more interesting than that."

"Exactly. Give him some defining traits -- amazing hair, for example." For all his protestations earlier, Stark seems desperate to jump in. "Give him a reason to be interesting."

"Perhaps he could be trapped in a position where he must fight off armies of Joutunheim!" Thor shouts.

I give him a look. "How about we don't bring up the Frost Giants?" I hiss with a pointed look at Loki. "We've got to keep the mood calm."

"You said he had important things to deal with." Bruce says helpfully. "Why don't you tell us about those?"

"That's a great idea, Bruce." I reply, smiling reassuringly at the scientist from across the room. "Loki, why don't you explain what Isaac's got to do?"

HULK: I feel sorry for Loki. Yep. I'm surprising even myself. But I hate seeing people get hurt and if Loki shoves that book into the hands of readers, I have a feeling they'll shove it right back at his face.

"Hooks are important, Loki," I say, "but so is the next sentence, and the next, and the next. You have to follow up a powerful hook with --"

"More power?" Loki has a mischievous look in his eye that is downright scary. "I can do that."

I clear my throat. "I was going to say 'equally captivating sentences'. But 'more power' works too."

"You must bring excitement to the people of earth as they read your hook!" Thor booms.

I check my heart rate monitor. "Not too much excitement. It's not healthy. Well, for all of us."

Loki leaves his computer and sidles up to stand next to me. He puts an arm on my shoulder and grins with that mischievous -- I think it's upgraded to evil -- look in his eye. The room tenses. Again.

"Shall we have some excitement, Banner?" Loki says. "Dust off those party tricks of yours?"

I give a tight smile. "Don't tempt me."

"Let's stick to the topic at hand, guys," Hawkeye says.

"Right." I extricate myself from Loki's devilish gaze and take off my glasses. I wipe a corner of my purple shirt across the lenses. "Make your hook exciting. But not too exciting. Make sure it's unique. And make the reader care. Got all of that?"

HAWKEYE: This whole thing is getting ridiculous really. Just hours ago I thought we were trying to stop Loki from taking over the world. And now we're helping him write a good novel which he plans to USE to take over the world? Yeah, I still hate the guy. Sure, the gang can talk all they want about making readers care, and yakkity-yak, but you won't find me caring about this operation anytime soon. I'll help him write the novel, but I sure as heck won't let him do anymore damage to innocent people.

Resolved, I get up and pace, keeping my distance from the puny God himself. "It's like archery. You gotta have it set exactly...."

"He's not an archer, Robin Hood." Stark says. "So quit it with the theatrics. That analogy isn't exactly gonna help him."

I snort-glare at him. Probably something that Banner would do as the Other Guy. "Says Mr. Let's Give Hawkeye Modern Nicknames. It totally makes sense."

Natasha rests her hand on my arm. "Cut it out Clint." She adds, in a whisper that only I can hear, "You can give the guy a piece of your mind later. Personally, I'd kinda like to see that."

"Alright, so archery aside, you know what you need. So hit us with the best you got."

"Or, should we say smash?" Loki looks pointedly at Banner.

Thor has been pretty quiet through the last exchange. But his voice is clipped when he speaks. "Brother, do you want our help or not?

"Fine. Here's your so called hook; "Isaac stormed out of the kitchen, leaving his idiotic parents confused behind him. He had better things to think about than their so-called 'concerns'. So what if the world was ending, it wouldn't make a difference, one way or the other. He would still be that troubled kid to them."

I groan within myself. The guy is actually pretty good. Sure it took like a million and one times for this whole thing to sink in, but if this keeps up, we might be hooked ourselves. Then I'd just be his pawn again. And that cannot happen.

LOKI: "Your hook isn't ALL that terrible," Bruce says.

I flash a smile. "Then remind me why you all are here."

"Have you gotten past that first paragraph?" Uncle Sam asks.

"Um, no."

Thor pulls out the seat from beside me. "Then you need to keep writing."

"It will probably be terrible," the manipulative woman says. "First drafts always are."

"Mine aren't," Iron Man says.

I drum my fingers against the bottom of my laptop. "It's hard to focus on writing a world domination masterpiece when you all are staring at me. I need solitude."

"You see," the one with the arrow says, "there is where you're wrong. A good writer is able to write anywhere."

"And we need to keep an eye on you," Uncle Sam says. He coughs when he sees me glaring. "For encouragement, of course."

I will kill him first, I think.

"Encourage me from behind the door. Even better, from the bottom of the sea."

Iron Man clicks his tongue. "Fine. Brood and all that fun stuff. We'll be in the other room. Knock when you have a chapter finished." The other Avengers shrug and follow him out.

I grunt and stare at my not quite blank document. The typing cursor blinks impatiently, and I shift in my seat. What would a human child plotting world domination do next? I open up Google and type in 'human boy destroyer of worlds,' but a page comes up saying that someone--probably Stark or Banner--put a parental block on my Internet. I curse and return to my word document. I can't even go on Twitter.

To be continued... Loki with Writer's Block.

We have another member announcement to make! Unfortunately, the lovely Stephanie Diaz has stepped down from her position as Thor. And while we're all sad to see her leave, we're also excited to announce our newest member (as Thor) is Darci Cole!

Captain America's Favorite Fairytale Retellings

Okay, okay. I know you never would have expected Captain America to like fairytales and yada yada yada.

But guess what?

I really enjoy fairytale retellings (notice how I didn't say love). Especially those retellings that take the fairytale and give it a more realistic twist and take place in a modern-day setting.

Because let's face it, I was pulled from World War II, where computers were a dream and dresses were a lot longer... Way longer. *clears throat*

What was I saying? Right. I was yanked from WWII and dropped here, no one cared if I wanted to or not. I have no idea what happened to Peggy. People think I should be honored to hold the title: Man out of Time.

Which reminds me that I am, in fact, out of time. Stark is taking me and Thor to some gadget festival in a bit. I may or may not be interest.

As I was saying, I really enjoy fairytale retellings. Kudos to those authors who write them, because while it sounds like they've got a break from coming up with an 'original idea', they've got it harder in a different way. They have to take a fairytale, keep the key elements (say Cinderella's glass slipper), and weave an entirely different story.

But there are so many out there. Some of them are incredible, others aren't that great. And I'd like to feature some of the ones I've loved recently, some of them that make my writing look worse than the bottom of Hulk's feet. No offense, Hulk, I know you can't see the bottom of your feet.

Cinder (Lunar Chronicles, #1)
Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Of all the fairytale retellings I've read, CINDER by Marissa Meyer (and it's sequel SCARLET) take the cake. The execution of the classic fairytale, Cinderella, is played into a futuristic world where Cinder is a cyborg - with a robotic foot. It's an incredible read with mind-boggling world-building, dynamic characters, and a plotline that will seize you in a grip tighter than Hulk's.

Splintered (Splintered, #1)
This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.

If CINDER had to share its cake (and success) with another novel, it would have to be SPLINTERED. A retelling of the whimsical classic ALICE IN WONDERLAND, this electrifying debut features a dark world that is filled with vivid imagery (a must in a world full of whimsy), characters that will steal your heart, a little like Thor, and a story that will keep you flipping the pages faster than you can read them. It's deliciously dark.

Scarlet (Scarlet #1)
Many readers know the tale of Robin Hood, but they will be swept away by this new version full of action, secrets, and romance.
Posing as one of Robin Hood’s thieves to avoid the wrath of the evil Thief Taker Lord Gisbourne, Scarlet has kept her identity secret from all of Nottinghamshire. Only the Hood and his band know the truth: the agile thief posing as a whip of a boy is actually a fearless young woman with a secret past. Helping the people of Nottingham outwit the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham could cost Scarlet her life as Gisbourne closes in.

I'm a fan of taking from the rich and giving to the poor. Moreover, I'm a fan of Robin Hood. And to see a different twist on the lives of one of his greatest men - who happens to be a girl - was loads of fun. She's a broken soul set on avenging herself and her group of thieves. I'm all for avenging.

Strands of Bronze and Gold (Strands of Bronze and Gold, #1)
Glowing strands of romance, mystery, and suspense are woven into this breathtaking debut—a thrilling retelling of the “Bluebeard” fairy tale

STRANDS OF BRONZE AND GOLD was good in a simpler way. It didn't have the thrill of CINDER or SPLINTERED, but its a retelling of Bluebeard in a historical setting with a sweeter and dangerous touch. As a retelling of one of the lesser known fairytales, the author did well in capturing the beauty and essence of quiet danger of the world.

Sweetly (Fairytale Retellings, #2)
As a child, Gretchen's twin sister was taken by a witch in the woods. Ever since, Gretchen and her brother, Ansel, have felt the long branches of the witch's forest threatening to make them disappear, too.

Years later, when their stepmother casts Gretchen and Ansel out, they find themselves in sleepy Live Oak, South Carolina. They're invited to stay with Sophia Kelly, a beautiful candy maker who molds sugary magic: coveted treats that create confidence, bravery, and passion.

Hansel and Gretel with a sweeter and more evil catch. The characters are older and the threat more dangerous. It's full of candy, so I'm sure Stark would love it. And I'm pretty sure you will too - the fairytale vibe is definitely captured within the pages. It was undeniably sweet --and evil.


Time for another Fury Award! (If you've forgotten what this award thing is, go here. It's safe.) In a non confrontational environment, I interviewed Stephanie Kuehn about her debut CHARM AND STRANGE.

Stephanie Keuhn grew up in Berkeley, California, which is a quirky sort of place with a ton of wonderful bookstores. Her very first job was working in one of those bookstores, and she's been a freakishly avid reader for as long as she can remember. Back then, some of the books that had the greatest impact on her life were young adult novels, and now, as an adult, she's found her own passion in writing books for teens. Other passions of hers include mental health advocacy, social justice, and sports of all kinds. When she's not writing or reading (or studying for graduate school), she's usually outside running or playing with her family. She currently live in Northern California with her husband, three kids, and their menagerie of pets. Life is loud, joyous, and filled with animal hair.

Hulk: Pitch your debut novel, CHARM AND STRANGE, in a tweet.

Stephanie: While stuck at a remote Vermont boarding school, 16-year-old Andrew Winston Winters struggles to keep a dark past from defining his future.

Hulk: Being no stranger to ugly alter egos myself, I can’t wait to read more about Win/Drew. What inspired you to write him?
Stephanie: To me, the most interesting thing about duality is the perceived absolutism of the two parts. The past and the present. Matter and antimatter. In the book, Winston's experiences teach him that life is a zero-sum game--one is either a predator or prey. He's terrified to be the latter, but can't bear to be the former. That highwire tension between who he was and who he believes he will be is what I wanted to write about--it's an unbearable state of limbo for Win, living every second of every day, holding his truth inside him. 

Hulk: Is CHARM AND STRANGE the “first” book you wrote or do you have projects you’ve had to leave gathering dust in the draw?
CHARM AND STRANGE was the fifth novel that I wrote. I hope that's inspiring and not depressing!

Hulk: I think that's inspiring! Loki told me the journey to publication is a lot like being fried with Gamma radiation. He’s crazy, so I’ll get the real story from you. Can you tell us about your journey to getting published?
Stephanie: Ha, well, it's not quite gamma ray strength, but there is a certain amount of angst that comes with pursuing publication, that's for sure. I think my lowest point in the process came after I'd written my fourth manuscript, which was a boy-narrated YA mystery. I was excited to start querying agents, so I took the manuscript to a weekend-long workshop where there were lots of wonderful YA agents and editors. However, the minute I got there, before any workshop stuff happened, I ran into a group of agents who all unanimously told me that "boy books don't sell."

I know they meant well and were being honest, but I felt sort of demoralized after that and ended up putting the manuscript aside. I still feel guilty and sad about that--giving up on something I believed in. However, a few weeks later, I got the idea for CHARM AND STRANGE in my head and decided I had to write it, if only for myself. So I did.

There were definitely a lot of stressful moments after that--in the revising and querying and submission process, but that moment of self-doubt was the most difficult for me.  

Hulk: Give us three:

- Items on your desk right now
a box of bookmarks, my daughter's rock collection, a glass whale

- Books on your to-read list
THE NAMESAKE by Steven Parlato
THERE IS NO DOG by Meg Rosoff

- Marvel Superheroes you love
Uh oh. I don't know a lot about superheroes. I grew up watching the Wonder Twins. Do they count? Wonder Woman was pretty cool, too. Oh, and the Hulk, obviously. Obviously!

Hulk: Thanks for stopping by the YAvengers, Stephanie! Okay, so here's a bit more about CHARM AND STRANGE! And don't forget, it releases on June 11th from St. Martin's Griffin. 

Andrew Winston Winters is at war with himself.
He's part Win, the lonely teenager exiled to a remote Vermont boarding school in the wake of a family tradgedy. The guy who shuts all his classmates out, no matter the cost.
He's part Drew, the angry young boy with violent impulses that control him. The boy who spent a fateful, long-ago summer with his brother and teenage cousins only to endure a secret so monstrous it led three children to do the unthinkable.
Over the course of one night, while stuck at a party deep in the New England woods, Andrew battles both the pain of his past and the isolation of his present.
Before the sun rises, he'll either surrender his sanity to the wild darkness inside his mind or make peace with the most elemental of truths -- that choosing to live can mean so much more than not dying.

Find Stephanie Kuehn on Goodreads | Twitter | Website
And CHARM AND STRANGE to Goodreads

You can vote on how excited you are to read CHARM AND STRANGE. These votes help decide winners of The Fury Awards, so click away (if you want. I won't force you).

On Beta Readers

This post in a single GIF. Now that's concise for you.
When you finish your novel (you will, don't worry), there's a huge temptation just to put it out there straight away. It's done! It's a story! You send it out because, of course, every publisher is going to adore it. You do, after all.

Right. So that's dangerous thinking. How do you know that anybody else likes it? How do you even know that it makes sense? I mean, you get it, because you know what the story is meant to be, and why the characters do what they do (most of the time). Any gaps you've left your brain can fill in. But can your readers' brains fill in the same gaps?

Well, unless you get a beta reader, you're never going to know.

When I finish writing, I give my work to Pepper to read. She generally glares at me for about an hour first, all the while complaining that she has enough to do without this, but she'll read it. And she's great at it. I'll explain why in a moment. What you need to do is find somebody who is equally great at reading to read your work -- though that might not be possible, because Pepper is ... well, she's one of a kind. Find somebody who is good nonetheless.

"More important things to do," she says.
What could possibly be more important than beta reading?
Oh, right.

First things first: what is a beta reader?

You probably already know this, but not everybody is a genius like me, and it's important to explain things to the Ordinary people around. Plagiarising Wikipedia (because I'm busy and because I can), a beta reader is a person who reads a written work, generally fiction, with what has been described as "a critical eye, with the aim of improving grammarspellingcharacterization, and general style of a story prior to its release to the general public."

From the same article: a beta might highlight plot holes or problems with continuitycharacterisation or believability.

So, to put it simply, since you guys need that: a beta reader is somebody who reads your work and tells you how to make it better.

But you knew that. Let's move on.

Why is Pepper Potts a brilliant beta reader?

Not all beta readers are as good as others. That writing buddy of yours told you that Geoff was a brilliant beta reader? Yeah. He might have been great for Jimmy, but he's not going to be great for you -- necessarily. I mean, the qualities of a good beta reader are fairly transferable, but there a few things you need to watch out for.

(a) Pepper knows me. Now, you have to be careful here, because if you get one of your best friends to read your work and they hate it, you might feel hurt. But at the same time, they know you, so they'll know how best to explain to you that it needs work without making you feel like a completely failure. They'll also be aware of any personal struggles you might have with certain aspects of plot or characterisation (i.e. a traumatic experience in New York that alters their ability to write anything peaceful set there) and can give you advice to help you get past that. It's also a quality that will enable them to give you more in-depth critique: they'll recognise any moments where you 'leak through', i.e. your character sounds exactly like you, that somebody who doesn't know you might not pick up on. 

(b) Pepper is interested in many of the same things as me. Namely, me. But if your beta reader doesn't enjoy reading the same genres as you, and if your book isn't their 'cup of tea', they might not be able to give you great feedback. For a start, they're not going to have 'read around' the genre, and they won't be able to compare it to anything. That said, sometimes you need someone who has never read a sci-fi novel to read your thriller set in deep space, to see if it appeals to a broader audience.

(c) Pepper is organised. There's nothing more frustrating than sending something to a beta reader and hearing absolutely nothing for weeks on end. I mean, it helps that she lives with me, so I can just go upstairs and ask if she got my email if she takes more than, like, a minute to reply, but Pepper's wonderful time-management skills generally mean I get my work read within a few days. This is something you have to discuss with your beta reader when you start. If you're fine with it taking a few weeks, then that's great -- but you need to discuss that. If you're not happy with the workaround time of your reader, you're going to have trouble.

(d) Pepper likes me. I might even say loves. And that's the most important thing. Because while personal feelings can get in the way of giving someone honest feedback, somebody who cares about you is going to want your book to be the best it can be, and they're going to help you get it there.

Pepper cannot be my only beta reader.

The problem lies, however, in only having one reader. If she tells me something doesn't work, how do I know if that's true, or if it's her personal opinion? (Usually, it's true.) I'd advise having at least two readers. I often ask Banner to read my work too, or Rhodey: if they say the same thing as Pepper, something has to change. But if they say it's fine and she's in the minority, then it's usually okay.

"Tony, we were talking about your book. Not you."
"But I feel like my psychological scarring is totally relevant!"

Okay, I figure that's enough mental exertion for today. I've explained what a beta reader is, what makes one brilliant, and dangers of only having one. That seems far too much like work, and I'm fairly sure I delegated everything like that to Pepper a long time ago. I'm going back to work on the suit my novel. Yes. Obviously. That's definitely what I'm doing.

--Iron Man