Posted in Author Recommendations, Yallfest

Worlds from Words, the Art (and Science?) of Worldbuilding

This was a great panel and one of the more useful ones for me. The panel was moderated by Veronica Roth who is most famous for her Divergent series, Jennifer L Armentrout, who is famous for her Lux Series along with many other paranormal romances. Traci Chee, who is famous for her The Reader series. Somaiya Daud who is famous for her Mirage series. Jordan Ifueko who is famous for her breakout hit Raybearer and Samantha Shannon who is famous for her The Bone Season series.

When asked how much research they do Traci Chee noted she did the least work possible for her fantasy books such as the Reader. But that she was more detailed and exact with her books like We are Not Free, because she was dealing with real people’s lives and experiences.

Jordan Ifueko said she started with myths and lore because that informs who a culture is. She notes that she starts with mythology she finds it easier to find out how characters would react once you know what they believe.

Somaiya Daud, says she likes to get into the weeds of history on Scrivener, she says she likes to save her worldbuilding knowing she isn’t going to use it in the story. She pointed out she had a two thousand year time line where only two events appear in the story and that she’s big on historiography. She said she had an inner Toliken in her head.

Jordan Ifueko talked about how Raybearer was coded as real world cultures, but where the power struggles didn’t come from issues of European colonization like they did in the ‘real’ world.

Somaiya Doud also talked about how she based a lot of her stuff is how folktales are told in Morocco. vs how North African women actually are. She talked about having familiar cultural markers then making up stuff around it so people from that culture see the familiar marker in story. Doud also talked about adding information the same way Dragon Age does via like a codex system.

The whole panel agreed that the one religion fantasy trope was unbelievable. Because the one thing people fight about in the real world more than anything is religion. So it would totally happen in a fantasy world.

Image by ejaugsburg from Pixabay

Posted in Author Recommendations, Yallfest

Dark Stories Shine Bright

This panel was great moderated by Marie Lu most famous for her LEGEND series with Kalynn Bayron, who is famous for her book Cinderella is Dead. Z Brewer who is famous for their newest book Into the Real, Jay Kristoff who is know for many projects such as the The Illuminae Files he worked on with Amie Kaufman, finally Adam Sass we had famous for Surrender Your Sons.

Marie Lu asked about what they were currently working on,

Z Brewer is apparently doing some video game type stuff at the moment which sounded super interesting.

Adam Sass is working on a rom-com and a story on teen fugitives.

Kalynn Bayron is working on an MG paranormal project.

They all agreed that dark stories were a good place to work through your own issues or larger issues like the patriarchy.

They had some thoughts on how to build a villain. The panel noted that you should be able to see the story from the villain point of view. Think about villainy itself, why are women always the villains. Also think about morally grey characters. Are there villains’ who are being evil for evil’s sake?

Heros in dark stories deserve agency and demand to be respected, survival in a dark story is not enough.

Z Brewer or Adam Sass said queer people often process trauma through humor which I thought was just an interesting note from the panel.

When writing dark stories you need to remind yourself your characters will have some kick ass scenes beating the villains’ at the end even if they are in a dark place at the moment.

Z Brewer also noted that self care during/after writing the book was important.

Kalynn Bayron pointed out the importance of thearpy.

Finally when asked about the MG/YA line for dark stories, the authors agreed that for MG it can’t feel as personal, there needs to be some sort of shield mechanism either through point of view or the way the story is framed. They all agreed that MG can have the same themes just make them more I hate to say softer but assessable.

Image by LUM3N from Pixabay

Posted in Author Recommendations, Yallfest

Queering Everything

This panel was made up of some big names in the LGBTQIA+ YA fiction world. We had Patrice Caldwell who is releasing her book in 2020 it’s called A Phoenix First Must Burn: Sixteen Stories of Black Girl Magic, Resistance, and Hope, and is very queer. Corinne Duyvis whose The Art of Saving the World includes an asexual lesbian her other works have include dynamic genders as well. Mark Oshiro, their newest work is Each of Us a Desert, about two women falling in love against a harsh fantasy desert background, Adam Silvera whose most recent work is Infinity Son about two brothers who get powers and this time the gay one does. Finally we have Aiden Thomas they are responsible for the mega hit Cemetery Boys.

The panel spent a lot of time talking about how to approach gay origin tales from a structural level. Like making the myths queer. They also examined why the use of modern terms feels weird in a fantasy setting is it just something we’re trained that feel contemporary?

A couple of the books they suggested for reading were (and I agree)

Cinderella is Dead by Kaylynn Bayron

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson

They also talked about the great variety of queer fiction available for young adults today and how they can’t wait to see what growth in the genre brings (since it’s already brought such good things).

Image by wal_172619 from Pixabay

Posted in Author Recommendations, Yallfest

How to Plan a Series

Moderated again by the wonderful Brendan Reichs. This panel was filled with some big names such as Stephanie Garber who is most famous for her Caraval series. Marie Lu who is famous for her LEGEND series, though I’m currently enjoying her Skyhunter series as well. There was Tochi Onyebuchi is famous for his War Girls duology. Finally we had Garth Nix, a fantasy name whose been working for years and basically has too much work to pick from, but is probably most famous for things like Sabriel.

The panelists were talking about how subconsciously they will know its series even if they don’t know consciously yet.

Onyebuchi talked about how if he still had really cool content that didn’t fit into book one that meant that there needed to be a book two.

Reichs asked them how they kept track of details.

Garber said she kept notes.

Onyebuchi praised the features of Scrivener when when writing characters and linking all character details

And Marie Lu pointed out she never reread her old stuff, which became an issue sometimes when she was writing books related to her universe she created. She also asked the others if they ever had a character who just wouldn’t go away, she pointed out Thomas from Legend as one who was supposed to be a throwaway character.

Garber talked about a character she wrote for book to for the Caraval series who ended up taking over the book, and how she ended up having to pull back and make him a minor character.

Garber asked the other panelists if they ever cheated with their work, ie. brought someone back who should by their universes rules be dead, mess with details a bit?

Lu said she tried to keep it solid eariler in the series but felt like it was okay to mess with it later in the series.

Onyebuchi compared it to Marvel ret-con and didn’t see a problem with it.

Someone I don’t remember who, said to avoid the sagging middle you beat the characters up in the middle.

Lu also said readers expect different things from different books in the series, with the first book, they want a fun fast read, with the 2nd they want more of the characters and more emotional arcs, and with the 3rd they wand a resolution.

Reichs asked about how do you deal with the fanbase hating your ending, the consensus was that you can only make yourself happy. You can’t make all your fans happy no matter what you write and that you can only hate something that you love.

Finally some last advice on writing a series was to put breadcrumbs you can follow if you want to revisit the book, nothing huge the fans would see but enough you can pick up on and link another book off of. Marie Lu also suggested something called an ID pass where you put as many of your favorite tropes that make you happy in the book and do a pass looking to see where you can fit those. The main idea of the panel seemed to be put everything you love into the book or books that you are writing.

Posted in Yallfest

Breakfast with Yallfest

It was fun to get up early Saturday morning for this panel hosted by Brendan Reichs famous most recently for his The Darkdeep novels with Ally Condie. On the panel itself were Soman Chainani, most famous for his The School of Good and Evil Series. Melissa de la Cruz, who is famous for the Disney Descendants series. Kami Garcia, most famous for her work on the Beautiful Creatures series. Alex London, he’s most famous for his The Skybound Saga Danielle Paige, who is most famous for her Dorothy Must Die series and Margaret Stohl who is also famous for her work on the Beautiful Creatures series as well as many other works for Marvel.

In this panel the panelist gave some of their favorite bits of advice and also what they are currently working on.

Melissa de la Cruz is currently working on Neverafter: The Thirteenth Fairy. Her tip is to introduce the romantic interest by at least page 30 of your novel. At least in passing but the more in your face the better, also dig into what your character is feeling.

Margaret Stohl is currently working on Spiderman Noir. Her advice was accept that your books will be bad at first and just move on from there. The true value lies in having tough conversations about your book and making the hard choices.

Alex London-is currently working on a Upper MG which is a cross between How to Train Your Dragon and Fast and Furious which sounds amazing. His advice was to give yourself small attainable goals, such as, if you know you can write 1000 words just make your goal for the day 500. Have a to do list count towards your goal, also concept, and worldbuilding.

Danielle Paige is currently working on The Ravens with Kass Morgan. Her writing advice came from her work when she was writing soap operas, every scene should end with a metaphorical or actual slap. She also encouraged writers to write that big crazy thing you can’t imagine just make it believable. She talked about how coming from a television background the dialouge pass was easier for her, and that the prose, wardrobe and action passes were more difficult.

Soman Chainani couldn’t mention what he was working on, his advice was only start a book after you’ve really REALLY thought about what a character wants, once you have their real motivation it’s easier to write from. He also said to follow your dream and find something that only you can provide to the world.

Kami Garcia, her most recent book was the Teen Titans: Beast Boy graphic novel. She supported the idea of making a map to where you are going novel wise but kind of leaving room for stops or what you’re going to do or how you’ll get there. She also really supported Save the Cat Writes a Novel.

Brendan Reichs offered some useful advice in closing which was try to find the first conflict (it doesn’t have to be violent) and start the book there. You can fill in background information about how they got to that conflict as you move along with the story. He also said if the story needs to move from one place to another, don’t show them moving, just cut to the next scene.

Posted in Author Recommendations, Weekly Wrap-ups, Yallfest

Weekly Update

This week has again been slowed down by everyone’s friend pain. But I’m still doing pretty well despite that. I’m working on about three books at the moment which I hope to finish before the end of the week.


1) Unlocked Book 8.5

2)The Dragon Warrior

3) This is Not a Ghost Story


I’m continuing to write up the summaries of the panels I went to, more for me if nothing else. I mean, you guys have the videos but I hope you’re enjoying them at little.

Unlocked Tour

Due to Unlocked coming out, Shannon Messenger is doing virtual tour times for everyone who bought special editions from different places. I bought the special Barnes and Noble Edition so I get to hang out with her and other fans this afternoon.

Overall this past week or so has been pretty exciting, now I just have to get all my posts together. Tell me what kind of content you are looking to see, reviews, challenges, anything else?

Image by Couleur from Pixabay

Posted in Yallfest

The Story Corpse

The Story Corpse was BY FAR, my favorite panel of the whole weekend and I’m going to use this technique when I soon get back working on my writing. The Story Corpse was a panel led by V.E. Schwab she described one of her writing techniques in detail. For this writing technique you have to think of the story like a body and the body has several portions.

The Bones

The bones are your plot. Schwab pointed out that it was less about knowing story at this point. You do need a beginning and an end though. At this you want to find at least 5-10 scenes to go in between the beginning and the end. It could be more like 10-20 if your novel is longer. You want to put them on a story timeline, which isn’t the same as a chronological timeline, and write out a few sentences to a paragraph about each bone. Again this may be longer, but this is the point where you are finding if you have enough story for a novel.

The Tissue

Now the body is going to grow in interesting and predictable ways, Bones are prompts. Thinking of each chapter as an episode is a good idea. The tissue is the twists and turns your characters take in life. This is where you might deviate from your original bones and you might what to go back and look is this the story I want to tell, or do I like the changes I’m making better, it’s all up to you. Make sure while you are here you establish voice and tense.

Also: If you are focused on making your writing pretty know that there will be a pass for that but not here, you might lose words from this portion of the story so it’s a good idea to create a cut file just in case there is anything you think you might want to come back and save.

The Flesh

The Flesh is the revision process. A good idea is to think of the story like a streamed piece of media where you meet your character at the end. How did they come to be where they are what pushed them to make those choices, it’s a good way to have your writing make sense forwards by looking at it backwards. Also when editing the middle of the book always tends to sag.

The Clothes

The clothes are word choices and aesthetics. Think of the mood boards everyone makes. The clothes convey your books style to the world.

Here is the video below see what you get from it.

Posted in Author Recommendations, Yallfest

UPDATED: Fantastic Fantasy and Astonishing Adventure

The second panel I went to on Friday included panelists John August famous for the Arlo Finch series. Sayantani DasGupta famous for the Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond series. Kwame Mbalia famous for the Tristan Strong Novel series, and Claribel A. Ortega famous for her book Ghost Squad. The panel was moderated by Soman Chainani famous for his The School for Good and Evil series.

They discussed the differences between portal fiction vs. pure fantasy and how they as a group seem to prefer portal fiction such as Narnia and the Wizard of Oz books in their youth because it gave them a sense of being part of the story. They thought that was probably part of the reason they wrote portal fiction. Chainani asked the authors about how their own cultures or upbringings affected their writing.

John August talked about pulling from his days in scouting to create an adventure, and he wrote the book set where he grew up because he’d never seen any books like what he was looking to do set in Colorado. He also liked the idea of the adventurer being able to leave the scary thing for awhile and go home to bed. That in that sense the portal wasn’t something you had to spend all your time through.

Sayantani DasGupta talked about the immigrant experience being its own form of a portal, someone who was an immigrant could access two or more space at once, she used the metaphor of the strings on a guitar. Someone who was an immigrant could operate on more than one string, while people who didn’t have that upbringing couldn’t even see that there were different spaces.

I also liked how Claribel A. Ortega talked about the importance of traditions in her stories and how myths and old sayings were things that needed to be held on.

The panel also went over parallel universes vs. wish fulfillment. Chainani asked the authors what they considered their work. I particularly appreciated Kwame Mbalia answer who said wish fulfillment, but basically just the world as it should be if it weren’t so dumb. He made a great point.

The two best pieces of advice that came out of the panel were one from Kwame Mbalia was to use all five senses of the character when writing and that helps ground the writing for the reader.

The other I’m not sure who said it, but it was the the more specific your writing is the more universal. I believe it came up when Sayantani DasGupta was talking about writing Bengali folklore, she said she’d never seen it written, but she said allowing herself to feel authenthic enough to write the story made the story universal by her putting in all the little details that only she would know.

Finally one more piece of advice they all said to tell yourself the story and it becomes true, I think that in concert with the universality comment make for some powerful advice.

Image by Gerald Friedrich from Pixabay

Posted in Yallfest

UPDATED:Middle Grade Gets Real

Middle Grade gets real was an interesting panel. The panel included Kacen Callender who is famous for Felix Ever After and Hurricane Child. Brandy Colbert, who is famous for Little and Lion and The Only Black Girls in Town. Ally Condie who is famous for the Matched series as well as many other projects, and Erin Entrada Kelly whose two most recent books are We Dream of Space and Lalani and the Distant Sea.

The panelists ended up talking a lot about how trauma shaped the middle grade writing experience. Because usually, not to exclude people who have it rougher, middle grade was the time people were experiencing their first major pains of their lives. Coming out and not being accepted, mental health stuff, dealing with death, relationships, not to say those things don’t happen earlier but there is a large intersection at the middle grade age group.

One of the panelist talked about going on a school visit and wanting to wrap the kid up in a bubble so they wouldn’t have to get hurt. In my work with youth I totally identify with that. The panel then of course talked about how that wasn’t possible and even if it were wouldn’t be good for the kids.

But the conclusion the panel came to is middle grade kind of helps you through your first pains, or that it should.

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay