Search This Blog

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Underdog Story, A Guest Post by Katie Clark

Who doesn’t love an underdog story? Think of guys like quarterback Tom Brady, and let’s not forget Cinderella. Underdogs are easy to root for because humans are equipped with compassion, and it’s easy to have compassion on the person everyone is stepping all over.

For readers, connecting with a character on a visceral level is vital to their enjoyment of a book. That’s why the underdog is so popular in books, and really in all of life.

The dystopian genre is ripe with underdogs. The definition of dystopia states, “a society characterized by human misery, as squalor, oppression, disease, and overcrowding.” A character who lives in this environment, but who ultimately strives to overcome it, is certainly facing an uphill battle. They are, with all certainty, an underdog.

The dystopian genre was something I’d never read until the Hunger Games hit the shelves. Even then, I only read these books because I’d heard so much about them. Little did I know it would quickly become my favorite type of book. Conflict? Check. Mystery? Got it! Romance? Yep, that too (often times though not always).

When it came time to write Vanquished, book one in my Enslaved series, I had studied the genre well. However, the seeds for this story started long before I’d read my first dystopian story. I’d had an idea for years—an idea for a character. She was strong yet vulnerable. She wanted to follow the rules, but for some reason couldn’t. I didn’t understand her, who she was, or where she was coming from; but I knew she was there. I’d also been given the challenge to write a story set in a world where there was no Bible. No “last word” or “final authority”, so to speak. Again, this idea sat in the back of my brain, but I didn’t know what to do with it.

It wasn’t until after I’d read the Hunger Games that I finally understood that this female character I’d been thinking about belonged in the Bible-devoid story I’d been challenged to write. The pieces came together at last, and Vanquished, Deliverance, and Redeemer were born.

My main character, Hana, lives in a future society where poverty and sickness are rampant, but medication and other resources are limited. When she learns that the society leaders are withholding the medicines needed to save her dying mother, she wants to know what other secrets they’re keeping. It sets her on a path of discovery, including the fact that the God she’d been told was myth might not be myth at all. Hana faces normal life challenges along the way, making new friends and tough choices, but in the end she must choose—keep the leaders’ secrets, or take a stand.

Still not sure about the dystopian genre? I encourage you to give it a try. You’ll most likely find all of your favorite story elements, and honestly, who doesn’t love an underdog?

KATIE CLARK writes young adult speculative fiction, including her dystopian Enslaved Series, made up of Vanquished, Deliverance, and Redeemer. Paperbacks are available now, and ebooks release on November 22, 2014. You can connect with Katie at her website, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Freaks & Geeks

It wasn’t that long ago that I knew very little about the world of sci-fi/fantasy, comic book and pop culture conventions.  I grew up mildly aware that there were such people in the world called Trekkies that dressed up as members of some Star Fleet ship or another and gathered in large cities far away from my home in rural Alabama, and much later I had a younger brother that was an avid gamer that delved into the world of RPGs and anime conventions, but I didn’t understand or connect with any of those folks.

To a certain extent I can say that I admired the Trekkies’ dedication to their fandom and my brother’s commitment to embody a character for a Con so completely that he cut his coveted long hair to get a certain look just right, but as far as I was concerned Star Trek nerds were…well, nerds…and the only thing I knew about anime were the names of a few Pokemon and that Sailor Moon’s outfit was a little sexier than I thought any clothing on a kids’ cartoon series should be.

My much younger brother was angsty and impatient with my lame agedness, and I never took the time to delve too deep into his geekdom, so we never bonded over the culture the way I now wish we’d been able to.   Fast forward a few years and I meet my first ENTIRE FAMILY of cosplay enthusiasts.  The Smiths:   A surgeon, her City Board of Education member husband (who happened to also be my kids’ favorite soccer coach), and their young sons, spend their free time dressing up like a small hoard of Jedi’s and waiting all year for Star Wars weekend at Disney World to make an annual pilgrimage.  They’re an All-American family living in my home town in a respectable neighborhood in an awesome log-cabin style home, the basement of which is filled wall-to-wall with some of the coolest Star Wars memorabilia that I’ve ever seen, peppered with many photos of the Smith Family in full Star Wars regalia. The Smiths weren’t awkward and angsty the way my teenage brother had seemed to me years earlier.  I didn’t get the impression that they dressed up like sci-fi characters to fit in or find acceptance the way I (wrongfully) suspected my brother did.  The Smiths were cool and respectable and fun, and they helped me reevaluate and try to better understand my brother and his love of cosplay and Con culture.

Newly enlightened as I was, I still hadn’t explored a Con for myself, however. I’d come to think of Trekkies and other followers of fandoms like my brother and The Smiths in new ways, though, and came to understand that cosplayers and Con goers shared a few traits:  on top of being completely devoted to their various fandoms, they were also incredibly intelligent, enthusiastic, accepting, and wildly creative.

When I finally delved into the world of Cons it was in a big way.  After attending Nashville’s Southern Festival of Books last October as an author vendor, I was invited to sit as a panelist the following week at WizardWorld, Nashville’s largest Comicon event.  I was super excited as I arrived at the Country Music Hall of Fame dressed in my customary garb for author functions:  heels, slacks and a sensible blouse.  I have a picture of Darth Vadar strangling me with The Force in that get-up that is absolutely PRICELESS!

Anyway, I had tons of fun at WizardWorld, met lots of awesome folks—including Henry Winkler who was an absolute riot and so gracious to his fans—and got to sit on a really great panel about researching while novel writing.  (I ask you, can you get any nerdier than that?)

[Photo Credit:]

Since WizardWorld I’ve attended a few more conventions as a guest:

Alabama Phoenix Festival in Birmingham, Alabama;
[Photo Credit:  APF/Facebook]

The Geek Gathering in Muscle Shoals;

and YomuCon in Tuscaloosa.

[Photo Credit:  Ben Flanagan/]

I've had the BEST of times, made many friends, and met countless incredibly talented cosplayers.  I'm hooked!

I’ve stopped wearing my author clothes to Cons for the most part—the Geek Gathering had some fabulous event shirts that I loved—but I haven’t worked up the courage for cosplay…yet.  More and more these days I think on what kind of costume I might be brave enough to don one day.  My heart belongs to the world of Harry Potter, but I’m a little too old…and rotund…for Hermione.  There’s always Professor Sprout I guess.  She’s a fatty, too.  Or Madam Hooch, maybe? I love her hair!  It would be quite the way to come back from that embarrassing Harry Potter Trivia loss I suffered onboard a Carnival cruise this past summer due to missing one lousy Madam Hooch question.  I’ll have to think on it some more.

Professor Sprout

In the end, it doesn't matter if I go to my next Con as Professor Sprout, Madame Hooch, or just plain, awkward Author Woman; I know I’ll still have a great time and fit right in.