Welcome to #14Debuts! Today I’m featuring:
Survival Colony 9 by Joshua David BellinPublication Date: September 23rd, 2014 Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books In a futuristic landscape ravaged by war, a colony’s hopes for survival hinge on one teenage boy in this fast-paced, action-packed story.
Querry Genn is in trouble. He can’t remember anything before the last six months. And Querry needs to remember. Otherwise he is dead weight to the other members of Survival Colony 9, one of the groups formed after a brutal war ravaged the earth. And now the Skaldi have come to scavenge what is left of humanity. No one knows what the Skaldi are, or why they are here, just that they impersonate humans, taking their form before shedding the corpse like a skin.
Desperate to prove himself after the accident that stole his memory, Querry is both protected and tormented by the colony’s authoritarian commander, his father. The only person he can talk to is the beautiful Korah, but even with her, he can’t shake the feeling that something is desperately wrong. Whatever is going on, Querry is at the center of it, for a secret in his past not only makes him a target of the Skaldi’s wrath, but the key to the colony’s future.
I loved to read this book, and the concept was extremely engaging the entire time I was reading it. I can’t wait to see it out in it’s final form, but until then looking at the ARC is awesome. You can win a signed ARC of your own below!
Guest Post — Joshua David Bellin: Keeping it Real
If you write any kind of speculative fiction–sci-fi, fantasy, paranormal, horror–one of the most important things to work on is world-building. It’s also one of the most fun things to do. Who wouldn’t enjoy dreaming up a brand new world?
But at the same time, as a writer of YA science fiction, I can say without embarrassment that world-building is really hard. For mere mortals, creating a consistent alternate reality, one with rules that make sense and don’t change to suit the moment, is a huge challenge. It’s tempting, I’ve found, to get caught up in the plot and to tweak the world to fit the events, rather than making sure the events operate within the constraints of the world.
But I’ve also learned that one of the best ways to strengthen world-building is to focus on the parts of the invented world that aren’t imaginary–the parts of the world that arise from the real.
I first learned this lesson when I was sixteen. I’d written my very first fantasy novel, a Tolkienesque epic titled To Alter the Past. It had monsters, warriors, wizards, plus a main character from our own world who’s magically transported to the fantasy realm. I showed it to a family friend who worked for a New York publisher, and (being sixteen) I was sure my writing career was about to take off.
Turns out I wasn’t quite ready. My reader was very encouraging, but he also pointed out a great number of areas in which I still needed to develop my craft.
One of those areas was world-building. The flaws in my invented world were many and obvious, but one small comment really stood out to me. In the novel’s opening chapter, my narrator entered a room “too dark for the eyes to penetrate.” Yet a few sentences later, I had the narrator describe what the room looked like.
As my reader noted, in the real world–or even in this particular fantasy world–humans can’t see in the dark. I’d been too wrapped up in the idea of a pitch-dark room, which I thought was really cool and mysterious, to think about the reality of it. More generally, I’d been too impressed by the amazing things I’d invented, the warriors and monsters and wizards, to think about the things I hadn’t invented, like the human visual apparatus. I either needed to explain how my narrator’s eyes had adjusted, or I needed to make some light source appear. Otherwise, I needed to have him stumble around blindly until he found a way out.
That was a great lesson for me. It’s something that’s guided me ever since, and that I tried to put into practice in my first published novel, the YA science-fiction adventure Survival Colony Nine. A lot of incredible things happen in this book–a whole civilization swept away by war, a monstrous race that descends on the few survivors, a narrator whose memory has been wiped clean–but I tried to make sure the incredible was grounded in the everyday. In the details of what people eat. And how they sleep. And what they fear.
Good world-building isn’t only about imagining fantastic places and peoples. It’s about getting the little things right, making sure characters behave in recognizable ways, providing plausible explanations for anything that deviates from the reader’s experience. It’s about something as simple as the way our irises react to darkness and light.
Keeping it real means knowing our own world as well as the one you’ve invented. Because if you get the facts right about the world we all share, your reader’s going to be a lot more willing to follow you into the unknown.