About Me

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Cher-y-lynne {sher-uhl-lin} –noun 1. One who formerly sold and recommended children’s books at a bookstore; a specialist in young adult, middle grade, and picture books. 2. A para-educator at a middle school. 3. A struggling young adult writer. 4. A lover of chocolate and popcorn. Archaic: An Audiology and Speech Language Pathology major at Brigham Young University. Questions? Suggestions? Books you'd like me to review? E-mail me at cherylynne1 (at) gmail (dot) com.
This is a blog for my ranting, raving, and occasionally brilliant opinions. You have been warned. Enter at your own risk.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sequels: The Sequel

So last week I talked about how every fantasy book seems to have a sequel…and if you need to write a sequel, here’s a collection of the some of the worst problems that I see.

First of all, I think any first novel should be a standalone. But if you have a larger storyline in mind, make it a standalone like Hunger Games. Answer your main story question.

Let me say that again: Answer your main story question.

This is a problem I’ve seen with a lot of new series. They bring up a problem and don’t answer it in the course of the book, because they “need” a sequel. THIS IS WRONG. It completely ruins the arc. Just don’t do it! For example, if it’s a paranormal romance, we need to know what kind of creature the romantic lead is, and why they’re where they are instead of in another realm, or planet, or dark forest somewhere. You cannot leave that for the second book. And yes, there is a bestselling book out there right now that does this.

Also, make sure the stakes are high enough in the second and third novel. Granted, if they already saved the world in the first novel, this will be hard to do. But what would be more important than saving the world to your character? Is there someone who, if you’ll excuse the cliché, means “more than the world” to them? That would be raising the stakes. And what a great chance for character development, to see how they deal with pressure closer to the heart.

Another thing you need to be careful about is the world-building. If you built the world correctly in the first novel, there will be clues planted there that can be expanded on in the second novel. Shannon Hale does this really well in her Books of Bayern series. The plot for the sequel should not come out of nowhere. The foundation should have already been laid in the first novel. On the flip side, don’t write your first novel assuming you will get a sequel…it’s not a guarantee. But a well-written novel will always have ideas and concepts the can be spun into full fledged books. A sentence here, a comment there…these are the kind of things that you can use to support an entire second novel.

The hardest part of a novel, I think is the character arc. If your first novel was written well, then your character developed throughout the story, transformed into a (hopefully) better person. This is the starting point for your second novel…which can be difficult. You have to keep the same tone as the first novel, but you can’t take your character back to square one. It’s necessary to find something that the character can continue to develop into.

And the most important part of writing a sequel: Don’t recycle your plot. If it took the entire first novel for the two love interests to get together in the first novel, don’t break them up in the first chapter of the second novel and make us watch them get together again. If we wanted to see them get together again, we’d reread the first one. Love changes, develops, grows…there must be something more creative that you can do than break them up and make them fall in love again. Apply this to whatever the plot of your first novel was.

Does this sound hard? It should! A sequel should be hard to write. You already have characters that you can’t mold to your every whim, you have certain rules you have to stick to, and you have a tone you have to match. It has to be more exciting, more daring, more creative than your first novel, which was previously the best thing you were capable of writing. A good sequel is not just a way to get more money out of your fan base. It’s a necessity that grows from a character whose story isn’t quite finished.

Oh, and have fun. (That was implied, right?) You get to live through new adventures with your character!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Room on the Shelf (maybe): Sequels

Today I had someone who was building up a teen library, and she wanted popular books. So I walked her around, showing her this series and that series…then she asked, “Are there any popular books that aren’t part of a series? In case I don’t get remember to come back for the rest of them.”


Now, normally, I get the other side of the question…everyone is desperate for teen series, books they can get hooked on.

But a popular, bestselling book that isn’t part of a series? At first, I couldn’t think of a single one. Then a few started coming to me, like Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, or Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. For the most part, it seems, all bestselling fantasy books have a sequel (whether or not The Book Thief should be considered fantasy is debatable, I know...)

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that nearly all of the bestsellers right now are paranormal or fantasy. But is it essential for fantasy books to have sequels?

The case for sequels: Like I said, it’s great getting teens addicted to a series. And with fantasy, you spend so much time building up the world in the first book, you need the rest of them just to enjoy what you already know. It’s all about branding, about a character everyone knows and loves. And of course, for the writer, if the first book is successful, it’s almost a guarantee that you’ll do at least moderately well with the rest of them.

Let’s take the example of Hunger Games. It’s a trilogy, of which the final book comes out this Tuesday (YAY!!! And yes, the Orem Barnes & Noble is having a midnight release party.) Now, could the first book have stood on its own? Absolutely. The main story question was answered. Would we have wanted it to stand on its own? NO. We needed more from those characters. It wasn’t just a story we were interested in now, it was a life, a history, a world. That is a series we couldn’t live without.

The case against sequels: When it comes down to it, are all of them necessary? Or is the writer just milking a good idea for all it’s worth? I’m sure we can all think of examples of a great book or movie which was followed by sequels that were just sort of…blah. And let’s face it, these sequels give a bad name to series everywhere.

So what separates a good sequel from a bad one?

Yep, you’ve guessed it, I have some ideas. Unfortunately, as I started to write them down, I realized that it was getting too long for one post. So stay tuned for next week’s post- Sequels: The Sequel.

I promise I did not do this on purpose.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Book Review: The Frog Princess by E.D. Baker

I shook my head. "Sorry, I'm not interested in kissing a frog."

"I've been told taht kissing a frog is good for the complexion," he said, sidling toward me.

"I doubt it. anyway, my complexion is fine."

"What about the old saying, kissing a frog would bring you luck?"

"I've never heard that saying. It can't be too old. I think you just made it up. All kissing a frog would bring me is slimy lips." I shuddered and backed away. "The answer is no, so quit asking!"

Baker, E.D. The Frog Princess. New York: Bloomsbury, 2002.

Princess Esmeralda isn't pretty and dainty like a princess should be...she has a laugh that shakes the birds from the trees and a walk that's more like an elephant than a kitten. But she's smart. Smart enough to know that kissing a frog, even a talking frog, won't turn him into a handsome prince.


They say that this was the book that inspired "The Princess and the Frog" by Disney. Good movie. Great book. Quite frankly, I don't see much similarity between the two. Yes, both were based on a fairy tale, but they took radically different paths.

This book was adorable. I loved it. The dialogue, the characters, the plot...such a fun story. I had trouble putting it down, even though I already knew the ending. Great chemistry between the two characters, which doesn't always happen. The voice is lively, energetic, and just plain fun.

It's perfect for tweens, because it's squeaky clean, but still exciting and lots of fun. If they loved Gail Carson Levine, this is a great, slightly older series to move on to. Also great for the kids that loved The Sisters Grimm, but aren't quite old enough to tackle Shannon Hale (though as soon as they are old enough, Shannon Hale is a MUST!)

If you want a new twisted fairy tale, this is a series you've got to try!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Good Books Becoming Bad Movies: Can It Increase Sales?

We’ve all seen it happen: A beloved book gets turned into a terrible, low-budget, poorly acted and poorly directed movie. It’s so bad that we have to tell our friends (or, in my case, customers) that even if you hated the movie, you’ll still the book, because it’s amazing!

And so it begs the question—is it better to have your book turned into a bad movie, or just stay on the shelf as a good book?

I bring this up because I recently changed my mind about the answer. And the reason I changed my mind was because of the brilliant Gail Carson Levine.

I went to meet Ms. Levine (pronounced Le-VEEN, I learned that from her…I was pronouncing it Le-VINE before, like a grapevine) when she came to the King’s English for a signing.

Now, we all know about the amazing Gail Carson Levine. Newbery Honor winner for one of my all-time favorite books, Ella Enchanted. We also all know about the movie that was made from this incredible book.


I should say that it isn't the worst adaptation that I've ever seen. I really enjoyed Anne Hathaway, like I always do, and I loved seeing the way someone else imagined the world. But not everyone was quite as happy with it.

Well, someone in the audience asked Ms. Levine how she felt about the movie. Reading between the lines, you could tell there were some things that she wasn’t crazy about. She said, “I asked them, did we really need an evil uncle and a talking snake? Apparently we did, because they ignored me and put them in anyway.”

But then she said something that amazed me. “I’m very grateful to them for making the movie. Sales of my book increased in leaps and bounds.” And then she passed around a picture of herself with Anne Hathaway and added, “Yes, Anne Hathaway hugged me, so if you touch me, you’ll have touched someone who touched Anne Hathaway.”

(Um…If I touch you, I’ll have touched GAIL CARSON LEVINE!!!! She’s so modest.)

Anyway…I always thought I would be one of those authors that would be really extra protective of my books, never letting a director touch them until I was certain he’d love them as much as I did. But then I started watching sales. And Ms. Levine is right. Books do better when they’re made into movies, even bad movies. I can’t believe that Ella Enchanted ever had trouble selling, but she would know better than me.

I tried it out as an experiment on some of my customers (yes, sorry, if you come in, I’ll probably be experimenting on you one way or the other, that’s just how it goes.) I’d try to pitch a book (like Ramona or Beastly), something that I really loved, and see how they were taking to it. I’d get a lot of side to side head movements, hems and haws, etc.

Then I’d say the magic words, “Oh, and it’s being made into a movie.”

Suddenly, the customer will desperately try to snatch it out of my hands, and I have to jump back for fear of being bitten by the venomous fangs they’ve just sprouted.

I don’t know what it is. Really, I don’t. But it even affects me. When I heard Pretty Little Liars was being made into a TV show, I finally decided I had to read it (and I’ll say that it’s because customers will be asking about it, and I have to know what I’m talking about…though everyone knows I’m a liar. I just want to read the books.) I’m not the kind of girl that reads the last chapter of a book before the first, and I actually get really upset if someone spoils the ending, but I always want to have read the book before I go see the movie. Always. It would drive me crazy to have it the other way around. Or I want to read the book to decide if I want to see the movie.

So my new opinion? A bad movie will increase sales of your book. There is absolutely no way that it will decrease sales of your book. Movies become household words, and it’s all about the branding. So when someone recommends your book, people will be more likely to remember it, because they knew of the movie, for better or for worse. And they’ll be curious to see just how badly the director messed up something that was so beautiful to begin with.

For the love of jelly bellys, will someone think up a sign-off for me? It goes right HERE!

Oh, and P.S. Ms. Levine said that a teacher once read a story of hers and wrote that she was "pedestrian." It made her stop writing for years.

Listen to the squeak in my voice, right here, it's funny: "Gail Carson Levine? PEDESTRIAN?!?!?"

So to all of you "pedestrians" out there...Keep writing.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Other View: Mystery and Horror in YA

Here's what other people are saying about mystery and horror in YA:

Monster Librarian:

I think this might be my new favorite website. Fantastic reviews of all that's new and scary in young adult literature, as well as mentioning content.

Familial Dysfunction in Young Adult Horror Fiction:
Here's my true geek coming through...I actually think this is fascinating! A study in how young adult horror novels almost always have a dysfunctional family, and resolving the family issues is the real resolution of the novel.

So You Want to be a Horror Writer?:

This is someone who completely disagrees with me, and thinks that selling a horror novel (especially if it's your first) has astronomical odds. Still, of all the horror novels sold in the year she refers to 21% were young adult...and I just think that number will keep rising.

Horror for Readers:

Gives great definitions and examples of horror and its subgenres.

A New Era of Gothic Horror:

Great article from 2008 that agrees with me...horror's coming back.

Mystery Genre Study:

A series of questions to ask yourself about your mystery novel.

Writing Young Adult Mysteries:

Quote: Young adult mysteries are often better-written, more exciting and more unique than adult mysteries.
Darn right they are!

The Edgars:

And of course, the award every mystery writer wants to win, the Edgar Allan Poe award.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Book Review: The Christopher Killer by Alane Ferguson

"One, two, three!" Patrick said. "Careful, now."

The body was stiff, in full rigor, and as it rolled the hair fell forward to cover the face in a chestnut-colored web; gently, her father removed it, and then his eyes grew wide. "Oh, no," he said. "Oh, God, please no."

And then Cameryn saw the perfect oval face and the eyes staring blankly, and she felt her hand fly to her mouth and tears blurred her vision until she couldn't see anymore.

Ferguson, Alane. The Christopher Killer. New York: Penguin, 2006.

Cameryn Mahoney has always been fascinated by forensics. If it involves death and decay, she's there. And since her father is the coronor in their town, she manages to convince him to let her join him as his assistant.

But then a serial killer comes to town.

Great storyline. For any teen that loves CSI, this is the perfect novel. It's incredibly well researched and thought out. Be warned that some of the descriptions do get fairly graphic, but if I can handle it, I'm pretty sure most people can (I have very low tolerance for blood and guts.) The characters are fantastic, and everyone is thrilled when they find out that there are four (with a fifth one promised!) in the series. Alane Ferguson is a great author to get kids "hooked" on, and one of the few YA mystery authors actively publishing.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Room on the Shelf: Upcoming Trends

We all know that, as writers, we have to write the story that we’re passionate about writing, rather than the “trends” or “cycles” that are happening in the world.

But it can’t hurt to talk about them, right?

Here are the two genres that I, in my infinite booksellerly wisdom, think should be making a comeback in the next five years: mystery and horror.

Horror is already well on its way, with the resurgence of the Darren Shan books and Rick Yancey’s new Monstrumologist series. Keep in mind, I do not count Twilight (or similar books) as horror. Those are paranormal romance. When I say horror, I mean scary vampires. Blood and guts. Serial killers. The kind of book that made you leave the lights on and lock the doors and windows when you were a kid.

Horror was huge back in the 90’s with R.L. Stine, Christopher Pike, Stephen King, etc. Now, Stephen King has stuck it out, but we all know that horror just hasn’t been selling well since then. But I get kids coming in all the time, asking for books that will scare them. Really scare them. And from what I’ve heard, this isn’t just a request from teens. Apparently editors and agents the world over are searching for the next Mary Downing Hahn (Wait Till Helen Comes.) It’s just a matter of time before a new horror writer takes the kids world by storm.

Mystery is probably one of the most commonly requested genres. For younger kids, it’s not hard, there are plenty of older series, like Boxcar Children, Encyclopedia Brown, and Nancy Drew. But these are a bit antiquated, and it’s hard for kids to relate. There are a few new series sneaking in, like The Mysterious Benedict Society, The Name of This Book is Secret, and 39 Clues. And so far, kids are eating them up, especially boys. And we all know that anything that appeals to boys is going to do well.

So the next focus will be in young adult. Quite frankly, what we need are more books like Alane Ferguson’s Forensic Mystery series. I can’t tell you how often I have teens coming in looking for mysteries that love CSI, and want murder mysteries with science and forensics tied in. Authors that are getting reprints right now are Lois Duncan and Caroline B. Cooney. So if your book is similar to theirs, you’ve got the right idea.

Again, make sure you write the book you’re passionate about. But if you’re passionate about two books, and one is “Twilight but with ______” and the other is a terrifying serial killer murder mystery with a fantastic twist, I’d recommend going with the second one.

I really need a sign-off. “And that’s my two cents!” “You heard it from the bookseller!” Wow, I’m terrible at this. Can anyone think of a good one?

Until then—