Thursday, September 10, 2015

Princess Fears

So, while I was going through some old boxes to unearth more teen novels, I came across some writing of mine.  I kept early drafts of "Hunters of the Dark" and a lot of older books that I wrote in my early teens that are probably god-awful.  I came across a notebook of poems and I thought my readers would get a kick out of it if I posted one.  It's dated 8/7/99 -  I was nineteen, a little old to be writing about princesses, but there it is.  And I wrote the time as 1PM, which I found cute.  Anyways, here's a little taste of nineteen-year-old me.

"Princess Fears"

Am I worthy?  Is it true?
Will my foot slip in the glass shoe?
Do I deserve to wear the crown?
I wonder as I gaze at a peasant's frown.
Will I feel a pea through a hundred beds?
Am I worth it when townsmen bow their heads?
I think of how I might disappoint and fail.
And the look of the king as the queen grows pale.
Can I spin straw into solid gold?
If I don't, will I fall into a monster's hold?
What will happen if I have a hundred years' rest?
Will a prince's kiss awaken me?  Will that be the test?
When I kiss a frog, will he become man?
I wonder sometimes what's in God's plans.
Why did he bear me with such a great deal?
Does he mind if I cry?  Des he care how I feel?
Can I toss cascades of hair from a castle tower?
Will I someday blossom into a beautiful flower?
Will a handsome prince carry me off into the night?
Oh, how I wish with all of my might.
I ask, "Mirror, mirror on the wall,
Will I ever live up to my call?"

Monday, September 07, 2015

Manga Monday: One-Punch Man

One-Punch Man (Volume 1)
ONE and Yusuke Murata

One-Punch Man is an action-packed manga from Viz, that turns the superhero genre on its head.  The story follows Saitama, a scrawny bald kid, who lives in a world where supervillains attack constantly.  He decided to fight back one day (just for fun) and practiced enough that with one punch, he can take out any villain he faces.

This is quite a parody of superheroes.  It's a book with tons of violence and destruction, yet it's always resolved very quickly, with one punch from our hero.  It's always a sort of anti-climax, the story really being about the build-up.  The villains are over-the-top - stupid muscle guys who make absurd mistakes, or over-sexualized women in ridiculous outfits with magical powers - but the variety of villains keeps things interesting for the most part.  One of the problems with this title could have been its repetitiveness, but once we saw a few of these built-up scenes that ended abruptly, some secondary characters were introduced to keep things from becoming monotonous.  And it was smart to give us those first few chapters with only our protagonist battling villains, as it perfectly established the premise and illustrated Saitama's abilities and the issues with them, with perhaps some ways to circumvent them later for interesting stories.

The best thing about this book is the humor, hands down.  This title is so aggressively for boys that it kind of turned me off a bit, but then there were these solid, perfectly-placed scenes of humor that would completely take me aback and make me smirk.  Of course, the humor is kind of built into a title like this.  Saitama ends his fights with one punch.  It's frustrating for him.  He can't find a worthy opponent.  He's desperately looking for someone he can really duke it out with, at the same time as he goes numb to it all from boredom.  It's kind of the perfect comment on the absurdity of superheroes, and at the same time has this wit about it that's really clever and written into the story masterfully, inserted into key moments.

This book almost seems too simple, but it is deceptively clever.  The art is balanced nicely between fast-paced panels flowing quickly into one another, with detailed backgrounds and mayhem, to panels that pull back and slow down to give us a closer look at the characters and inject that humor that is so necessary to a title such as this.  One-Punch Man is genuinely funny, offers all of the gratuitous violence and destruction anyone could ask for, and is paced masterfully.  Everyone will find something to appreciate in a book like this.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

YA Pioneers: Janice Harrell

YA may have blown up over the past decade, but it used to be a small section of bookstores.  In the early nineties, it consisted mostly of "teen thrillers," which mostly featured dark mysteries and serial killers, although there was some supernatural fare as well.  The authors of those days were ahead of their time and built an audience in teenagers, and paved the way for the YA that is beloved by so many today.

In the late-eighties to mid-nineties when teen thrillers were thriving, the internet was just getting its feet wet, so there wasn't a lot of information to be found on-line about the books coming out around this time.  I didn't have a really reliable source to find out when new books were coming out from authors I enjoyed, which is a weird concept given how everything is at people's fingertips today.  I asked bookshop clerks about books often, and would really just sort of rely on them to stock the books I loved on their shelves.

YA Pioneers
Janice Harrell had quite a career before she delved into teen horror, although she always seemed to have an affinity with teen characters.  Her first book seems to be part of Pocket Books' romance series line First Love From Silhouette, featuring teenagers' first love.  The novel, Puppy Love, was #67 in the line, and was published on November 1st, 1983.  She would continue to write nine more novels for First Love From Silhouette over the next four years.  Harrell also wrote books for the Two by Two series during this time, including One Special Summer and Secret Hearts, for Warner Books. 

Continuing her foray into romance, Harrell began to work with Harlequin in 1987, writing for their Crosswinds Keepsake line, beginning with the second book in the series, Starring Susy.  She wrote a total of nine books for Crosswinds Keepsake, as well as the novel Stu's Song for their Harlequin Crosswinds line.

In December 1989, Janice Harrell wrote her first novel just for young adults, Wild Times at West Mount High for Simon Pulse, in the romance genre.  She followed it up the next year with Andie and the Boys, which would spawn two sequels, Dooley Mackenzie is Totally Weird and Brace Yourself, P.J.

Harrell would continue to write romance over the next year, for adult readers, but she would also publish her first thriller for young adults, Flashpoint, a murder mystery from Simon Pulse.  Then, after a brief foray into middle grade fiction with books like Tiffany, the Disaster, she would devote her attention on young adult novels for the remainder of her career.

Her next several books would be teen thrillers/mysteries, published by a variety of publishers, including Simon Pulse (The Murder Game), Harper Collins (Dead Girls Can't Scream), and Avon Flare (Fatal Magic).  She would also release The Darkroom as part of Harper Collins' UK imprint Lions, through their Nightmare line, which was meant to compete with other successful teen thriller lines such as Point Horror.  She would be in the company of such YA greats as L.J. Smith, Nicole Davidson, T.S. Rue, Nicholas Adams and Bebe Faas Rice.

Scholastic would publish a series by Janice Harrell in 1994, beginning with Temptation.  One book would be published every month.  The series, Secret Diaries, would end up being a trilogy incorporating strong elements of romance, suspense and mystery between a group of teenagers.

Harrell would turn to the supernatural for her next releases, beginning with Vampire Twins, following immortal brother and sister Paul and Anne Marie Montclair in an epic horror story that was originally advertised as a trilogy, but would end up traversing four novels, probably due to its success.  The series would be published through Harper Collins, and through the publisher's Nightmare line in the UK.  Yes, there were other supernatural books out there at this time, but the teen market was still dominated by teen thrillers, so these books definitely stood out on the shelves.

Her next books would be a two-volume series, also about vampires, with a heavier focus on romance.  Vampire's Love would be published by Scholastic through their popular Point Horror line, a direct competitor of the Nightmare line she had previously published through with Harper Collins.  Point Horror was noteworthy for not only its popularity, but for launching YA giant R.L. Stine's career.  Caroline B. Cooney, Richie Tankersley Cusick, Carol Ellis, Diane Hoh and Barbara Steiner are just a few of the big names attached to Point Horror.  Janice Harrell is the only author to publish books through both Nightmare and Point Horror.

Janice Harrell would be best known for her two vampire series, but she would go on to publish a pair of thrillers to round out her career, Twin Sisters in 1996, and its sequel Twin Terror in 1998.

Janice Harrell YA titles

Wild Times at West Mount High (1989)
Andie and the Boys (1990)
Dooley Mackenzie is Totally Weird (1991)
Brace Yourself, P.J. (1991)
Flashpoint (1992)
The Murder Game (1993)
Dead Girls Can't Scream (1993)
The Darkroom (1994)
Fatal Magic (1994)
Temptation (Secret Diaries #1) (1994)
Betrayal (Secret Diaries #2) (1994)
Escape (Secret Diaries #3) (1994)
Bloodlines (Vampire Twins #1) (1994)
Bloodlust (Vampire Twins #2) (1994)
Bloodchoice (Vampire Twins #3) (1994)
Blood Reunion (Vampire Twins #4) (1995)
Blood Curse (Vampire's Love #1) (1995)
Blood Spell (Vampire's Love #2) (1995)
Twin Sisters (1996)
Twin Terror (1998)