Archive for YA

The Imperfect Perfection of the Love Triangle

Twilight. Harry Potter. Shades of Grey featured one between a girl, a boy and a furry spatula, probably. Love triangles in fiction, especially YA fiction, might be isosceles or equilateral or, or, you know, the other kind of triangle that I can never remember, but they’re THERE. Actually, my bad: they’re never equilateral. All three protagonists would end up with an equal dollop of power and desire, and what would be the point (yes, I went there) of that?

A number of agents profess to be sick to the back teeth of the YA love triangle and actively pay attention to synopses that don’t have one. If you check on Goodreads or any other reader networks, many regular YA readers are also happy to lay into the whole triangley thing to the point where our vulnerable three-pointed friends are beginning to feel like a marginalised group. Readers may not specify what shapes they’d like (dodecahedrons are probably a little too edgy) but triangles are OUT, my loves.

But what’s wrong with a nice, sturdy little triangle? It’s a humble beast, yet it reaches to the heavens if you point it the right way up. You just have to get the angles and degrees right. When crafting a love triangle it’s all about what angle you take, and to what degree it’s integral to the story.

One thing you often see on Goodreads is this:

“Oh noez I read this thing and YOIKS it had yet another love triangle, BUT…”

The reader goes on to specify what they genuinely liked about the characters or the situation or the thing, the other thing, the thingy-thing they actually genuinely liked. This other thing is, weirdly enough, often coloured by the presence of emotional stuff. Readers actually quite LIKE protagonists having problems with their heart-bits. They’re just tired of seeing the same emotional mechanics as that really big popular book which everyone read before it got turned into a film. Yes, that one.

Here are my love triangles so far. You are welcome to say if you think they work or not.

GATEWAY BOY: David (the hero) and Molly used to be best friends but after several years apart they’ve discovered their affection has grown stronger over time. However, David’s got the whole of England to save and Molly is locked into an arranged marriage because that’s how queening and politics work in the Kingdom of Below. It’s not really about the triangle, it’s more about discovering that mutual affection is really nice and can help you in the dark times when you’ve got some Big Stuff To Do. Also, very importantly, whatever your loveliness situation is, you never know what’s going to happen next.

JABBERWACK: Ellie Darkbrow and Vin grip their shovels tight as they unearth collapsing social systems and rising entities, but they’d rather work these problems out with each other than anyone else. No love triangle. They don’t need to sniff round anyone else. People have asked me if there’s a secret love triangle between Ellie and boy b, or between Ellie and girl b, but there isn’t. Ellie and boy b and girl b don’t fancy each other. And while boy b may not be gay, girl b definitely is. It’s sometimes hard to believe but you don’t have to fancy literally every person you meet. And, even if you’re (trope alert!) really beautiful and don’t know it, they’re under no obligation to fancy YOU. I know, amaze! But it’s true!

HOUSE OF SIGHS: HOORAY AT LAST IT’S A GENUINE LOVE TRIANGLE BY JIMINY. However, it’s an integral part of a locked room mystery set in an Orphanage where nothing is as it seems. At the risk of spoilers I will say that while Jane’s decision to pick Mort or Nicholas Hobb will make a big difference to everything that ever was, she’ll be in a pickle either way.

Not every book needs a love triangle. They may well help things sell to readers who have not yet had a relationship and would like to experience ALL the twists and turns of love in about 300 pages. That’s fair enough. But only you can decide, as a writer who is writing a book you’d want to read, whether your book should have one or not.


Firstly, we are going to do a flip and make the YA hate triangle a trope. As soon as you know what a hate triangle might be and how it might enrich human experience and literature, get back to me.

Following a mate’s suggestion, we can try thinking about choice triangles instead of love triangles. Three sides, but many facets of human nature.

We are going to be brave and explore other love shapes like points, lines, teetering trapezoids and shapes that only exist if you can operate in six dimensions.

We are going to remember that colour by numbers results in a delightfully hamfisted picture of a sailing boat, but not a book that we or anyone else can be proud to have on their shelves or their portable magical box.

Mythology High Series to get an outreach campaign to English teachers…

Ah, some nice news on a fragile morning after excessively celebrating the return of an Esteemed Niece from Australia.
The glorious Buzz Books have announced signing me to their MYTHOLOGY HIGH series. The first story in the trilogy, SEAL GIRL, will be available as a one-off stinger, and then POOKA and the third story will be available as a collection and then included as a volume with Jammie Kern‘s first three stories in the series.

Excitingly, the Mythology High series is undergoing an outreach campaign to English teachers. Proactive work like this is why Buzz Books are so darned exciting, almost as exciting as actual bees. Incidentally, Buzz Books, you’re looking quite marvellous today. Did I tell you you look good in that hat? I did?

That’s because IT’S TRUE.

It’s really worth joining WINGS, their social readers’ club. You get special discounts and access to competitions, although with stories that are so nicely priced you hardly need the discounts.

They call her Flipper…


So I sent the YA story SEAL GIRL (think Celtic Myths crossed with Mean Girls) to the honey-tasty Buzz Books for their Mythology High series, and they accepted it. And I am truly grateful, because it was written bespoke for them and I’m not sure which other publisher would say “yes, we would like to take a story about a high school swim champion with Type IV syndactyly”.

But they did take it. And they said “will you do some tweaks please to make it a stronger ending?”

And I was all like “Ma’am, yes Ma’am.”

And they liked the tweaks. And then they said “would you maybe like to do a trilogy of reworked Celtic myths?”

And I was all like “Ma’am, yes MA’AM”.

For prospective YA authors, here is the link to the Buzz Books submissions page:

Buzz Books Submissions

TIMELESS blog tour. Win a copy of this ace YA historical romance with steampunks in it!

Buy the TIMELESS YA historical romance anthology on US or UK Amazon for cheap as elegantly cut chips!
TIMELESS author Kip Wilson interviews fellow TIMELESS author D.E. Atwood.  (click for your chance to win a free TIMELESS eBook!)


The first story I started to write was about a girl growing up on an army base in the 1960s who meets a water nymph in the lake behind the base. But the story, even though I could see it all in my head, wouldn’t flow. Then I woke up with the original first line for Roland’s story ringing in my head: The first time he escapes, he doesn’t know how it happens. And just like that, I had a story with fully formed characters in my head ready to burst onto the page and be written.

Just so you know, Kip Wilson did a fascinating reworking of an old German poem, and D.E. Atwood did a blindingly good story about a mute boy undergoing experimental treatment in a sanitorium who discovers that he can speak with the doctor’s son via thoughts and dreams.

You can also read TIMELESS author Kristine Carlson Asselin’s interview with Kip Wilson. Kristine is one of the tag-team duo (including Ansha Kotyk) who wrote STELLA’S HERO, about a Victorian seamstress who gets into trouble for falling from a boy from racially-segregated Chinatown.

And because Pugalicious Press is nothing if not egalitarian, Ansha Kotyk ALSO chatted to Kip Wilson. It’s a great interview because you get to see that old German poem in its full glory. Huzzah!

Under the linden tree

On the heather,

Lay our lovers’ bed,

There you can find

Lovingly broken

Flowers and grass.

Beside the wood in a valley


Sang beautifully the nightingale.

(go to the interview to read more)

Buy TIMELESS YA or only £2.66

The new YA historical romance anthology TIMELESS (Pugalicious Press, ed. Joyce Shor Johnson) is out to buy on eBook for only £2.66 (or $4.22 if you’re from the US)!

Buy from UK Amazon: eBook (£2.66)
Buy from US Amazon: eBook ($4.22)

As a contributor I’m biased, but these beautiful stories have an eerie fairytale quality about them when you put them together as a whole, and although they feature young people falling in love the storytelling itself is very adult, very sophisticated. Timeless, yes.

A reworking of the Scheherazade tale that portrays the young storyteller as a gutter-thief down on her luck.

A reworking of an old German tale about a young woman who has to weigh up her love for a poet, her standing in the village and her need for freedom.

A LIGHT OF VICTORY by Jennifer Carson
If your love for a highwayman is eternal, then eternal is what it is. Put a candle in the window, and all will be well…

A prisoner fears to leave the walls of the notorious French prison because of his love for a ghost who is bound to the Bastille’s stone walls.

STELLA’S HERO by Kristine Carlson Asselin and Ansha Kotyk
A Victorian seamstress gets into trouble for falling from a boy from Chinatown when racial segregation is very much prevalent in society.

A mute boy undergoing experimental treatment in a sanitorium discovers that he can speak with the doctor’s son via thoughts and dreams. Very subtle steampunk.

IT LIES BENEATH by Magda Knight
The superficially beautiful city of Victorion is run on lode, steam, pride and the labour of diggers down in the Pits. Challenged to locate a mysterious underground threat, Ellie Darkbrow must find a way to survive.

Why I Love Dystopian YA


Dystopian fiction’s been around for a long time, but cultural anxiety means it’s rearing its head. And it’s especially suited to YA, because events like the zombie apocalypse or the hunger games ask the question that we’re particularly prone to asking when we’re young: “It’s all utter bollocks. Why is nothing being done about it?”

It’s somehow easier to ask this about fascists when they’re carrying laser guns, and self-involved masses when they’re groaning for your brainsssssssss. Or, if they’re vegan zombies, for your grainsssssss*.

With dystopian YA, you can make the whole system come crashing down (usually in a situation where the adults are all dead or ineffectual. Poor adults) and leave the characters and the reader asking themselves: “Just what am I going to do now? Because no-one else is going to do it. Big Ben has been destroyed and the adults are dead/useless/mad-scary. It has to be me.”

Honestly, a crumbled civilisation is terribly empowering. It is.

YA focuses on making decisions that begin to shape who you are, your role in society and what you want out of life. Plant these choices firmly in a dystopia and the consequences of your choices become even more starkly in-your-face than they are on a Sunday night when you realise the next day you have to go back to a school where everyone probably hates you and, because they’re unfortunately real living people not zombies, you can’t despatch them with an incinerator, and not just because you’ve built it all wrong and you haven’t got enough flame fuel.

Because it’s about choices, about strength in the face of adversity, dystopian YA isn’t necessarily pessimistic. Which is good, because I like things like jokes and hope and buttered crumpets, and I think other people do too. Relentless pessimism is relentlessly boring. Why read a book so grimly inevitable that the end sentence is “and they all died but you knew that anyway”?

To follow a story means you want to know what happens next, and that means that situations can be CHANGED. In a seemingly hopeless world, but your choices actually make things BETTER.

Again, empowering. And not entirely unlike the wonderful and complicated world we live in today.

*This joke belongs to Deborah Taylor. I have merely borrowed it for safekeeping.


1984 – George Orwell (best read for the first time when you’re a teen)

A CLOCKWORK ORANGE – Anthony Burgess (some would say this isn’t YA, but Alex and his droogs are older teen protagonists whose entire life is based around playing truant from school to do… other things.)

THE HUNGER GAMES – Suzanne Collins (Yep. Now we all want arrows and moss.)

DIVERGENT – Veronica Roth (lovely lovely feudy feuding tribal gangs)

A PLACE IN THE SUN – absolutely blinding short story by Joanne Harris

JABBERWACK – In the words of Bad Robot Productions, I made this! More choices, pickaxes and shovels than you’ve ever seen in your life, and an amputation in chapter 3. That’s a promise, folks.

Lisa Burstein: Pretty Amy Competition

If you’ve read Lisa’s YA novel Pretty Amy you’ll know that it’s a warm and deeply funny book. It’s aimed squarely at young adults rather than a crossover market, but it’s pleasantly free of bullshit. It’s as lacking in bullshit as it is in minotaurs, and I guarantee this novel features NOT A SINGLE ONE. THAT’S A PROMISE.

If you’re a YA writer you’ve read Pretty Amy not only because you’re quite into this sort of thing but because secretly you want to watch how the clever ones do it.

If you’re an unpublished YA writer you will be just a tiny little bit excited about this fantastic competition she’s set up!


  • 3 Chapter Critique of your book by Lisa’s editor! (includes QUERY Critique with PRETTY AMY purchase)
  • 3 Chapter Critique of your book by Lisa’s agent! (includes QUERY Critique with PRETTY AMY purchase)
  • 3 Chapter Critique of your book by Lisa! (includes QUERY Critique with PRETTY AMY purchase)
  • $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble Gift Card

The gift card is very sweet but I think we know that’s not why we want to enter the competition! Asides from the can’t-put-a-price on it value of the main winning prizes, we all buy books as often as possible from bookshops, surely?

Well done to all involved. A very cool competition indeed.

YA Steampunk story published in TIMELESS

Why do they call it jumping the gun? I’ve no intention of jumping a gun. Evading sounds a better bet to me. Oh, wait. The whole ‘gun to start a race’ thing. Yeah. I remember now.

Anyways… I am absolutely THRILLED to get ‘It Lies Beneath’ published in this awesome antho by Pugalicious Press. They’re a small indie press, and SO classy. They ooze class. And magic. And joy. And really, really good things that have no business oozing.

The reason I’m jumping the gun is that the anthology will be published as an eBook next month: As soon as it is I’ll pop the link up.

Odd fact of the day: After writing this story I took a writing holiday in a seaside cottage with no internet and wrote it into a book. It took a week. Somewhat surprisingly, the book has ended up… rather wonderful. So long as you like dark, strong dystopian YA with social punch and a strong female heroine. And shovels. So… many… shovels.

After several chats in an utterly non-business capacity with several agents they’ve almost managed to convince me that LISTEN TO ME IT’S GOT LOADS OF SHOVELS IN IT is not, apparently, a valid example of a Unique Selling Point. Nor is enthusiastically pointing out that it’s got an amputation in chapter three.

The short story (and the novel) both had the working title of ‘love shovel’. Which isn’t as filthy as it sounds.

The novel is called JABBERWACK, and that is the best title of all.

YA story YENNY’S RUN wins competition

Click here to read YENNY’S RUN for free online

We’re often warned against hurling our over-ripe, squishy trunk stories against the clean white walls of the publishing industry. So dirty. Don’t do it.

However, when it comes to short stories, there’s nothing wrong with delving into your trunk and seeing if there’s anything in there that’s still firm and edible.

You just have to remember that writers change and grow, and a story written seven years ago shouldn’t be sent out with the desperation of a mad cat scrabbling on the porch roof to be let in. It should be read through with your new eyes, tempered and polished. If it spurs you to cast the story back in the trunk and write a new one, so be it.

Today, an old trunk story – YENNY’S RUN – won a fantasy writing competition at The Tavern’s Vault. Huzzah! While I’m not terribly proud of writing genre fantasy fiction with cat assassins, I’m glad to see that dear old Yenny got to run, after all.

I won $25 , for which I am grateful. I have decided to keep my day job, and hope the money won’t change me. As a publisher myself, I’m thrilled they dug into their pockets to offer anything at all.

Shannon A Thompson

You need the world, and the world needs good people.

one bow...

Malena Lott Putnam | storyteller. strategist.

D.E. Atwood

...writes books she wants to read...

Kip Wilson Rechea

Write, travel, eat, repeat.

Encyclopaedia Vanitatum

a dictionary of spectral curiosities

Sarah Hans

Author, Editor, Educator

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