Guest Blog Post: Anjenique Hughes

Reaching YA readers

By

Anjenique Hughes

I particularly love writing for YA, because they are the future. Young Adults can be some of the most hilarious and fun people to hang around. They are insightful. They are intriguing. They keep things real. Therefore, books written for this population need to be relevant and somewhat applicable to their lives. YA are the best; I particularly like writing YA, because they don’t tolerate BS. Anything cheesy, corny, or downright dumb will receive immediate ridicule and relentless backlash. This is why it is so challenging and exciting to write a novel that stretches above the status quo for this age range.

When writing for the young adult population, it’s best to keep the conversations and dialogue interesting and realistic for this age group. With technology and video games constantly competing for their attention, a book really needs to be an exciting ride. If the book doesn’t take off with action from the get-go, they’ll be tossing it out the window in no time. I like to include nuances, witty cliché’s, and balance the humor with the serious. Developing strong characters and character relationships are important, as well as having a smooth, flowing plot. I have found that teens hate it when loose ends are not tied up in the end.

We underestimate the intelligence of YA a lot of times; they are plenty smart and can spot a phony a mile away. If the story is too predictable- that can be the kiss of death. Romance included, done tastefully, is always a plus. Coming up with a unique twist, something that hasn’t been written about or explored before can be a draw for YA as well. I also like to include a character that is somewhat rough around the edges, but who learns a valuable lesson in the end and concluding with their maturing and changing for the better. Of course, hidden positive messages and subliminal moral values never hurt!

With master’s degrees in education, special education, and counseling, Anjenique “Jen” Hughes is a high school English and math teacher who loves teaching and mentoring young people. She loves traveling and has worked with youth on five continents. Saying she is “young at heart” is an understatement; she is fluent in sarcasm, breaks eardrums with her teacher voice (students have complained when they were within earshot), and cracks sarcastic jokes with the best of her students. Her work with ethnically and socioeconomically diverse youth has inspired her to write books that appeal to a broad variety of students seeking stories of bravery, perseverance, loyalty, and success.

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Esper Files

32493342It was the end of the 19th century, a time of floating air ships and great advances in science. In Victorian London a man known as The Professor is conducting an experiment with electro-magnetic energy at the Oxford Academy of Science. An explosion occurs causing twenty percent of the Earth’s population to acquire strange paranormal abilities.  These people are called Espers, they all have different powers and don’t always use them for good. In order to help Espers control their powers and stop others from abusing theirs, an institute has been set up by The Professor.

Nathan and James, two Espers from the institute have to team up with a young girl named Freya who is just discovering what she is. Their mission is to save Freya’s brother from The evil Barron. His evil plan is to kidnap Espers and create an army of super powered soldiers with the goal of taking over the world.

When I first heard of Esper Files by Egan Brass I thought it sounded like Marvel’s X Men with a different setting. Being a comic fan I couldn’t wait to start reading it. At first I thought it was an ok book but things got interesting when we are introduced to Freya, an orphan girl with ice powers and her younger brother Cyrus who is an autistic boy referred to as The Siren.

The Siren has the ability to manipulate emotions through singing and the only person he talks to is his sister. Freya and Cyrus have gone through a series of foster homes and neither one understands the power they have. Freya and Cyrus have a heartbreaking story and I felt for Freya as you see how protective she is of her brother and how horrible and alone she feels when she uses her powers. My favorite scene was when three harpies and a henchman named Shadow storm the home where Freya and Cyrus live. This was an emotionally charged scene that is horrifying and exciting.  Another great scene  is when Nathan tells her that she is an Esper and she gets upset saying ‘I’m nothing like you freaks.” This scene showed that even the Espers themselves have a hard time accepting that they are different.

There aren’t many books out there with an autistic hero and I loved the way Cyrus is portrayed. At first he doesn’t show much emotion but as the story moves along we see that he is more aware of the world around him then anyone thinks and is also more powerful. This book is a fun ride, my only complaints were that we were introduced to quite a few characters in the Barron’s compound but not many in the Professor’s Institute. At one point I wondered why there weren’t more students training there.

To put it simply if you are a fan of comic books you will love Esper Files. Egan Brass is creating his own superhero mythology in a steampunk setting with unique characters and lots of action. The idea behind it is not an original one but the setting and detail put into the characters makes this a fresh spin on an old idea. There are some  good potential stories in the Esper’s universe and I’m happy to see that a second book coming in January.

 

Kings Or Pawns

Kings or PawnsCorruption reigns on the elven world of Sevrigel. The government is run by a council of Elves and King Silandrus being fed up with the political situation left the city of Elvorium with his supporters called the true bloods years ago. After the death of his father Prince Hairem is now in charge of the Elven kingdom and he plans on bringing peace to Sevrigel.

This is no easy task, the council of Elves has their own interests they are working against him and a warlord named Saebellus is threatening to take over Sevrigel’s Eastern capital. To make matters worse an assassin is loose in the city and killing members of the Elven council. Hairem has the impossible task of fixing the corrupt Elven council, bringing peace to his world and trying to figure out who is his friend and who is trying to manipulate him.

Kings Or Pawns by J J Sherwood is a work of Epic fantasy. In all honesty I’m a horror fan and not a huge fan of fantasy but I was sold on this book by the cover art. When I started it I saw the glossary of terms and map of the world where it takes place and I thought I’m not going to like this. I enjoy a book that creates its own mythology but I get bored with too much world building. I decided to read on and became hooked on the characters.

In chapter one there is a discussion between two of the characters Jikun and Navon on religion. Navon talks about going to a religious temple to give thanks and Jikun says he will not thank the gods until he sees them at work. I love the debate they have and at this point you think this is going to be a serious novel but then later you get a little humor as Navon starts to read Jikun’s poetry even though Jikun doesn’t want him to. We then meet Hairem  and learn that he is not what you expect a king to be and he hints that he will do things different then his father did but he doesn’t have as much power as he thinks.

I felt like this book was a political thriller first and foremost. I loved the character of Hairem, he is idealistic and believes he can change things but he learns while dealing with the Elven council that he is not really in charge and at one point he asks himself am I a king or just a pawn of the council. To add another layer to it we see the people who are giving him advice and are left to wonder what is everyone’s agenda here and everyone in this book does have an agenda. Even when it comes to his love interest you wonder is she loyal to the king or her father who is on the council and working against Hairem. We also get to know Harem’s servant girl Alvena who despite being low on the social ladder shows that she is quite intelligent and I loved that the king thinks of her as important despite her standing in society.

I love how the groundwork is set in the beginning of this book. Little by little you learn more about the world they live in and you are completely invested in the story as a political thriller before it becomes an action adventure story. Calling it epic fantasy almost seems like an understatement. It works on a lot of different levels and what really surprised me is that it’s from a first time author. J.J. Sherwood has spent 20 years writing this book and planning out the world where it takes place. You can see that this book was a labor of love, it’s well written and a fun ride. This is the first in a series and it introduces a world that mirrors are own in some ways but is very different in terms of mythology. If you love fantasy you have to read Kings Or Pawns.

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Book excerpt: Sapient by Jerry Kaczzmarowski

Recently I was contacted about running an excerpt from the book Sapient by Jerry Kaczzmarowski here on the blog. Here is the info:

Jerry Kaczmarowski released his latest thriller Sapient in April 2015. It is available for sale on Amazon in eBook and paperback.

 Synopsis:

Sapient Book Cover Abandoned by her husband after the birth of their child, Jane Dixon’s world is defined by her autistic son and the research she does to find a cure for his condition. She knows her work on animal intelligence may hold the key. She also knows that the research will take decades to complete. None of it will ultimately benefit her son.

All that changes when a lab rat named Einstein demonstrates that he can read and write. Just as her research yields results, the U.S. government discovers her program. The army wants to harness her research for its military potential.  The CDC wants to shut her down completely.  The implications of animal intelligence are too dangerous, particularly when the previously inert virus proves to be highly contagious.

She steals the virus to cure her son, but the government discovers the theft. She must now escape to Canada before the authorities can replace her son’s mental prison with a physical one.

Praise for Sapient:

“A timely, winning adventure that brings up serious questions about technology and medical research.” – Reviewed by Kirkus

“The plot is fast-paced, thought provoking, funny at times, and kept me reading to find out what would happen next. I think that the YA audience will love it.” – Reviewed by Dana Bjornstad

“”Sapient by Jerry Kaczmarowski is an intense, action-packed, suspenseful and thrilling read! The storyline is definitely unique and pulls readers in right away… The book was fast-paced, flowed nicely and provided a thought provoking message. I believe Sapient will really make readers wonder just how far and to what lengths they would go to save someone they love.” – Reviewed by Charity Tober for Readers’ Favorite

“I loved this story and I especially liked its animal characters – Einstein the lab rat with the keen sense of humor and Bear, the one-eyed German Shepherd dog who seems to always be the butt of Einstein’s jokes. And the human characters aren’t half bad either.” – Reviewed by Cheryl Stout

“A timeless, engrossing and perfectly-paced techno thriller about the promise – and fear – of modern medical science.” – Reviewed by Best Thrillers

If that doesn’t make you want to buy Sapient, here is an excerpt:

Chapter 1

A young research assistant poked his head through the laboratory door and said, “We’re heading out to grab some beers. Want to join us?”

Dr. Jane Dixon brushed aside a strand of dark hair that had fallen from her ponytail. She waved the offer off without turning to face him and gave a curt, “Too much work.” I need to get out of here at a decent time to see Robbie, or I’m going to need to find a new nanny.

“Come on, Dr. Dixon. One quick drink. It’s Friday.”

She sighed and faced him, removing her dark-rimmed glasses. “How about a rain check?” She gave the younger man her best smile, but Jane knew she sounded insincere.

“Sure, a rain check.” The research assistant gave a perfunctory nod and let the door swing shut. Jane wouldn’t receive another invitation anytime soon, which was fine with her.

She put her hands in the small of her back and stretched, yielding a satisfying pop. Not for the first time, she congratulated herself on the regularity of her yoga workouts. They were one of the few distractions she permitted herself. With forty in the not-too- distant future, it was one distraction she couldn’t afford to forgo. She pulled her stool closer to her computer and checked her maze for the final time. She chuckled to herself. After all her years of education, she was reduced to playing video games with rodents. Using a virtual maze allowed her to create a level of complexity unrealistic with traditional animal intelligence testing.

Jane walked into an adjoining room with rows of cages where her subjects spent most of their day. She approached a cage adorned with a garish blue first-place ribbon. Her assistant had put it on the door as a joke. At first, it migrated back and forth as different rats outperformed others. For the past two months, it hadn’t moved.

She opened the cage and made a coaxing motion. “Come here, Einstein.” A fat, white rat dashed out the door onto her hand and scrambled up her right shoulder. His neon-blue eyes gave off an icy intelligence. The change in eye color was one of many side effects of her tests Jane still couldn’t explain. The rat whipped its tail into her hair for balance, hopping from paw to paw.

“Settle down, boy,” she said. She carried Einstein back into the lab with its virtual maze and extended her hand. He raced down her arm to the large trackball and made little jumps in anticipation of the race. As Jane clamped him gently into the metal rig that held him in place, he stopped jumping. Einstein differed from the other rats—he never struggled when Jane locked him in place. The other rats fought against the harness, making it difficult to complete the test preparations.

A two-dimensional overview of a simple maze flashed on the screen. Without hesitating, Einstein rolled through the maze on his trackball, completing the challenge in seconds.

“Too easy,” Jane said. “You don’t even deserve a prize.” Despite this, she stroked the rat’s head and gave him a small piece of cheese. Einstein snapped it up in his front paws. As soon as he devoured it, he pulled against his harness and chattered at Jane.

“Relax, big fella.” She tapped on her keyboard to reconfigure the course before bending down to eye level with Einstein. “Now the real challenge begins.” He stared into her sea- green eyes. The small rodent had the intense focus of a fighter about to get in the ring.

A second maze flashed on the screen. There was a straightforward solution that was long and twisting. A second solution existed, but so far, none of the rats had figured it out. The second path had two tiny virtual teleportation pads. If the rats stepped onto one of the pads, they were transported to a corresponding location in a different part of the maze. For this test, the pads would save precious seconds.

“Go,” Jane shouted, starting the timer. Einstein didn’t budge. Instead, he looked back and forth between the obvious path and the first teleportation pad.

“Clock’s ticking,” Jane said to herself in frustration.

Einstein shrieked as he noticed the decreasing progress bar. A tentative paw step forward cleared the maze overview and put him in a six-inch-high virtual hallway. He waddled straight to the teleportation pad but stopped short. He turned his gaze to Jane as his whiskers moved back and forth, up and down. Jane stared back, willing him to make the right move.

The rat rolled forward on his trackball across the pad. The screen flashed, and he teleported to within a few steps of the exit. With a final glance at Jane, he spun through the gate with twenty seconds left on the clock.

Jane clapped her hands. “You did it.” She reached toward him. He clambered up her arm, slower now that he was out of the virtual world. She gave him a piece of cheese and returned him to the steel table.

“Impressive,” she said to the empty room. At times like this she wished someone could appreciate her triumphs. Her coworkers were at the bar. And Robbie? Robbie is Robbie. The warm smile of a mother flitted across her face as she thought about her son.

Einstein broke her reverie as he scratched and clawed at an iPad on the table. “It’s like having a second child,” Jane sighed to herself. She obliged Einstein’s pestering by starting an old episode of Sesame Street. The classic show was his favorite. Most other children’s programming bored him. His second-favorite genre was as far from the Children’s Television Workshop gang as you could get. One of Jane’s more unsavory assistants had decided to play Rated R comedies on the screen in the evening when the animals were alone in their cages. The crass movies entertained Einstein for hours despite the fact he couldn’t understand any of them.

Jane’s mobile phone vibrated. A message from her nanny read, “WHERE R U!!!” She glanced at the time in the lower right of her screen and gave a sharp intake of breath. I did it again, she chided herself.

“Leaving now. Sorry.” She almost typed a sad face emoticon but caught herself. It wouldn’t be well received. She pushed Send and dropped the phone on the lab table. She pounded the results of today’s tests into her computer, not bothering to correct spelling errors as she raced to enter her observations while they were still fresh.

The phone buzzed again. Jane gritted her teeth at the unnecessary back-and-forth. These nastygrams would only delay her departure. She reached for the phone in frustration, but Einstein was perched over it, staring at the screen. She nudged the little rodent back and set her jaw as she read the text.

The screen read, “Who is Einstein?” As she struggled to make sense of the nanny’s text, her eyes scanned back to the previous outbound message. She juggled her phone, almost dropping it on the floor.

The screen read, “I am Einstein.”

About Jerry Kaczmarowski:

Jerry Kaczmarowski 10 Jerry Kaczmarowski lives in Seattle with his family. He writes techno-thrillers that explore the benefits and dangers of mankind’s scientific advancement. His first book, Moon Rising, was released in June 2014.  His second book, Sapient, was published in April 2015.

Jerry spent the first twenty years of his professional life in the consulting industry on the West Coast. His fascination with technology is matched only by his love of stories. His books intertwine action with a keen insight into how technology will shape our lives in the coming years.

To learn more, go to http://www.jerrykaczmarowski.com/

Connect with Jerry on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

 

Jackfish Reborn

18164549On the shore of Lake Superior lies the town of Jackfish. It’s a ghost town that has been abandoned for several years but it holds many secrets. In 1883 Chinese laborers were building a railroad and Tiger Chang was using the workers to support his opium business. Tiger sent a letter home to China about a discovery he made that would secure the future of his family’s business but he made it in the form of a riddle. Flash forward to the present when Dragon Chang arrives in Jackfish to search for his great grandfather’s discovery and further expand his family’s drug empire.

There is more than that going on in Jackfish though, a wild man as the locals call him has moved into the ghost town and he doesn’t like Dragon and his crew on his land. His name is Phil and he is looking to escape his past and live in the wilderness away from civilization. Also adding to the story is a local cop named April who has come to investigate the visitors to Jackfish. She has a rough past of her own and may be in over her head.

Jackfish Reborn by Rejean Giguere is a thriller but not your ordinary thriller. Its set mostly in the wild around Lake Superior and includes a lot of wildlife references that I enjoyed. Phil sees a lot of animals around his home and the book has good descriptions of a bear attack, a battle between a wolf and moose and an encounter with a cougar.  I liked all of the characters in this book but Phil was my favorite because it was like he was in a battle with himself. He is looking for a change and trying to forget all of the things that happened in his past, but he doesn’t seem to be able to leave his past behind no matter how hard he tries.

Another thing that really kept me wanting to read this book was trying to find out what Tiger’s discovery was. All you know is that it will change Dragon’s life and he doesn’t want anyone else to find it. I enjoyed how the suspense in the story increases as you hear how this discovery is effecting all of the characters, even though they don’t know what it is. Also in the story April has an abusive ex-husband that added another dimension to the tale and made things interesting.

There are four major storylines that are masterfully woven together here and each character has a lot of depth. I liked the fact that the story is set mostly in the wild because I don’t think it would have worked as well if it was set in a city. I felt it made Jackfish Reborn more interesting and I liked how the wildlife added to the action that was in the last half of the story. In my opinion Jackfish Reborn is a story about accepting your past and not letting it dictate your future. This book was one great thrill ride and I highly recommend it.