Best YA Series Endings Ever

Picture1Maybe it’s because we, as readers, become increasingly passionate about our favorite series that we have higher and higher expectations for each book. When you think about it logically, authors like Suzanne Collins and J.K. Rowling must feel like Atlas, with the weight of all of their successful books on their shoulders, trying to keep their series from tumbling off their backs.

All too often, the end of a great series leaves readers feeling underwhelmed at best, and annoyed at worst (ahem, Twilight series). Many readers were infuriated when Veronica Roth killed of the heroine of the Divergent series, for example. But when a series is ended well, there are few things in the world more satisfying for a devoted reader. Below are my top three favorite YA fantasy series endings, and the lessons I took away from them. Beware of spoilers!

Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling – Solve a puzzle an entire series in the making.
It may be so obvious as to be a cliché, but Harry Potter has to take top billing for best YA fantasy series endings ever. There were clues planted from book 1 that were finally revealed, and they didn’t disappoint. My favorite moment in the entire series was when Harry finally saw Snape’s memories and understood his true motivation. And the final book was littered with details like this – the invisibility cloak, Dumbledore’s past, even the much-awaited kiss between Hermione and Ron. The final battle was brutal but satisfying, and the epilogue gave readers a sense of closure. Readers may have their issues with the series conclusion, but for the most part they were minor. The brilliance of the series ending was a testament to the brilliance of the entire series.

The Uglies Series by Scott Westerfield – Evolve your character in a meaningful way within each book and throughout the series.
Tally Youngblood, the protagonist in The Uglies Series, is a compelling example of how a character must continue to evolve in every single book of a series. Westerfield does a masterful job of evolving Tally’s thinking, maturity, and understanding of the world around her. She increasingly sees that things aren’t black and white, and as she understands nuance, she grows up. The Tally at the beginning and end of each book is different, and so are the Tally at the beginning and end of the series. The only way that Westerfield could have achieved this is if he planned the stages that Tally would go through from the beginning. It’s this level of planning that’s required to create a masterpiece.

The Giver Quartet by Lois Lowry – Pivot perspectives to keep the series fresh.
Lowry takes a different approach than Rowling or Westerfield to keep readers hooked. Each one of the books of The Giver Quartet are unique, but interconnected. It’s fascinating to watch old characters interact with new, creating a webbed world that feels real because of its complexity. By the end of The Giver Quartet I felt so immersed in the world that I could have added my own chapter to it. When others want to continue living in a world you’ve created, you know you have a great story.

What’s your YA fantasy series ending ever?

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Free YA Fantasy Ebook: The Society of Imaginary Friends (The Conjurors Series)

The-Society-of-Imaginary-Friends-2500x1563-Amazon-Smashwords-Kobo-AppleIf you’re a lover of teen/young adult fantasy, check out the first book in The Conjurors Series for free on Amazon March 14-16. The Society of Imaginary Friends is available on Amazon if you’re interested in checking it out.

I welcome all feedback and reviews, so if you decide to read it let me know what you think!

Click here to check out an excerpt from the novel. Below is the blurb:

Belief is a powerful magic.

Valerie Diaz has a power that she can’t contain, and it’s killing her.

Bounced between foster homes and the streets, she only has time to concentrate on staying alive. But a visit from the imaginary friend of her childhood opens a world of possibilities, including a new life half a universe away on a planet that is bursting with magic.

The Society of Imaginary Friends follows Valerie on a journey that straddles two worlds. In order to survive, she must travel many light years away to a realm where anything is possible.

On the Globe, imaginary friends come to life, the last of the unicorns rules the realm, and magic seeps from the pores of all the Conjurors who live there. But choosing to embrace her potential will set Valerie on a treacherous course – one filled with true love, adventure and perilous danger.

Knights-of-Light-2500x1563-Amazon-Smashwords-Kobo-AppleYou can also check out the second book in The Conjurors Series, Knights of Light, for $3.99 on Amazon.

Announcing My New YA Fantasy Novel: Knights of Light (The Conjurors Series)

Knights-of-Light-2500x1563-Amazon-Smashwords-Kobo-AppleI’m not going to try to play it cool – I’m excited to announce that the second book in my young adult fantasy series, The Conjurors, is published. Knights of Light is now available on Amazon.

If you want to take Knights of Light for a test drive, check out the free excerpt here. Below is the blurb:

Leading means taking mortal risks. Hiding is not an option.

With a tumultuous year behind her, Valerie is ready to start a life that doesn’t include running from enemies and risking her life. Too bad someone wants her dead.

No matter how much she resists, Valerie is thrust into a position where it is up to her to lead the Conjurors against the power-hungry Fractus or suffer the consequences of two worlds ruled by those who wield magic as a weapon. But the clashes don’t stop on the battlefield. As Valerie finds herself torn between her new love and her best friend, it will be up to her to figure out who she can’t live without.

In the fast-paced second novel of The Conjurors Series, Valerie searches for the father she thought was long dead and begins to come to grips with the immensity of her new power.

The battle has begun.

How to Write a Great Battle Scene

shutterstock_101136988One of the scenes in my novels that I find most intimidating to write is battles. How much action is too much? Or am I making it too simple? The Conjurors is a young adult fantasy series, and I enjoyed a succint, informative article on StormTheCastle.com about writing fantasy battles that got my brain working. These techniques gave me a starting point, and when I sat down and wrote the big battle in my story, I found a few other helpful techniques that I wanted to share.

Keep track of your heroine.
With all of the blood and manoevers and treachery, it’s easy to get lost when writing a battle. I found that using my heroine as an anchor helped to focus me. This is still her story, so I reminded myself to include her emotional responses to what she was witnessing, as well as the action itself.

Write a battle your audience will care about.
The battle scene in a book for adult men should look different than a battle in a YA fantasy aimed at a female readership. Talk to your fans and friends to see how much detail they want you to go into on the battlefield. Personally, I tend to skim the battle scenes in books that describe tactics and detailed combat. On the other hand, when I read Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy, the battles kept me riveted, because it was as much about what was happening inside Katniss’ head as it was about the fighting itself.

Check out historical battle tactics.
This can get overwhelming and confusing, so I’d like to add the caveat that it’s only worth real effort if you’re writing a massive battle scene. If you’ll be battling for a few chapters, you might want to check out some information on battle strategy to make your story richer. It also helps provide a framework for your battle so that you don’t get lost in all the blood.

Choose a fighting style and read up on it.
You can even take a class. If your fighters are all using hand-to-hand combat, it helps to know a few moves that you didn’t see in an action movie. You can talk to a friend in martial arts or even read up on the basics. No matter what style you have in mind, from 21st century warfare to clashing swords, a little knowledge goes a long way toward making your story believable.

Do you have any other tips on how to write a battle scene well? I’m editing mine now and would love some tips!

On Writing 100,000 Words in 100 Days – Sorta

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A little over a week ago I became the proud author of the complete first draft of the second book in my young adult fantasy series, The Conjurors. I’d made a pact with myself to write 100,000 words in 100 days, and I can’t say that I wrote 1,000 words every single day – but I came close. Life got in the way sometimes, like when my husband, toddler and myself all came down with a violent stomach virus. Or, to be fair, also when I became obsessed with Cassandra Clare’s The Infernal Devices Trilogy and decided that my need to marathon the series overrode my need to finish my own story.

But at least having this goal encouraged me to complete the first draft of my novel in close to 100 days. It’s an exercise that I plan to repeat in the future. I know some writers ebb and flow in the amount of content they create as their muse inspires them. Sometimes I wish that I were that kind of writer, but in reality I think I’m the kind of person who does best when I force myself to be creative.

So given that this plan was a success, I think it’s time for a new goal as I begin the editing process – which I happen to love and am excited to begin. I owe my beta readers a draft of the story in September, so until then I plan to edit a chapter a day, minimum. This may be ambitious, but it’s a place to start.

Do any of you have advice on setting editing goals? If so I’d love to hear your thoughts and advice!

Read It and Weep (Literally)

shutterstock_102844172This week I killed off my first character, ever. It was difficult – even though I wasn’t super attached to him, I couldn’t help feeling a little guilty. After all, he was a good guy and under different circumstances maybe he could have lasted for another chapter or two. But after reminding myself that he was, in fact, a figment of my imagination, I was able to focus on the most important part. How to make his death compelling.

What is it that makes death truly gripping in great young adult fantasy writing? I remember crying when Sirius Black and Dumbledore died while reading J.K. Rowling‘s Harry Potter series. And little Prim got a sniffle or two when I read Suzanne CollinsHunger Games trilogy. But I wasn’t sad so much because the characters were gone, but rather because of the emotional toll it took on Harry and Katniss. It was their response that sparked the reaction in me.

Gandalf‘s death in J. R. R. Tolkien‘s The Lord of the Rings, however, didn’t move me in the same way. He was my favorite character in the series, but when he died I felt more like shrugging than crying. Maybe it was his age. Maybe it was because he died a victor and had led a full life. Of course, then he returns as Gandalf the White, and as happy as I was to see him, I was glad I hadn’t wasted any time grieving for him. So it’s safe to say that you won’t find any of my characters coming back from the grave.

As a reader, I like when an author isn’t afraid to kill off main characters. It makes me feel like no one is safe, which heightens the tension during the action scenes. Now I just have to work on writing the emotion of these moments well.

Do you have any suggestions about things to consider for writing about death in young adult fantasy?

100,000 Words in 100 Days

shutterstock_77716045Lately I’ve been fighting with myself. There are so many excuses not to write every day – I have a toddler with a virus every other week, a demanding day job, and family and friends that I want to spend time with. At the end of the day I’m so tired that I feel like eking out an ounce of creativity would be like squeezing water from a rock.

But on the other hand, I’m a happier person when I write. Suddenly on my commute to work instead of being annoyed with the traffic, I’m imagining scenes that I’m working on. I feel more attuned to what’s going on around me, because I never know where inspiration might strike. And when I wake up in the middle of the night, instead of stressing about a deadline the next day, it’s because I just solved an important plot puzzle that had been nagging me.

I’ve always been a person who likes to have a solid goal, so I’ve made the decision that I will write every day, no excuses, for 100 days. With some luck, I hope to have a very rough first draft of the second book in my series completed at the end of that time. Hopefully at the end I’ll have something solid that I can edit, and my sanity will still be intact. Wish me luck.