Monday, January 23, 2017

**Book Blitz & Giveaway** Sulan, Episode 3: The Dome by Camille Picott

Sulan, Episode 3: The Dome
Camille Picott
Publication date: January 15th 2017
Genres: Cyberpunk, Dystopian, Young Adult
After escaping the League, Sulan and her friends are granted entrance into the Dome, a utopian biodome in the wilderness of Alaska. Sulan soon finds herself a pawn in Global Arms’s political maneuvers to secure the national mercenary contract. Forced to put on a public persona that makes her skin crawl, she must charm Vex media moguls to further the cause of Global. Should she fail to embrace her new role as company spokesperson, the consequences will be deadly to everyone she loves.
Meanwhile, the League unleashes a new deadly threat on the United States. When Sulan and her friends stumble on the trail of a League mole within the Dome, they set out to track him down. Will they be safe in their new home, or will they find themselves trapped among enemies?

With nothing but two hundred yards of grass between us and the nearest row of houses, there’s no way we can escape without being seen. At least they won’t catch us with the brining salt. Now we just need to come up with a good excuse for being out here together. In the middle of the night. I wonder if they’d believe we were just stealing chocolate from the kitchen?
Taro turns to me, dark eyes intense. “Do you trust me?” he asks.
“Of course,” I answer without thought.
Before I know what’s happening, one of his arms wraps firmly around my waist. Taro draws me toward him in a rush, his other arm wrapping around my shoulders.
My boot catches on a rock and I stumble into his chest. My cheek hits his sternum, right against his heart. It pounds against my jaw in a rapid rhythm.
Even as my mind fumbles in shocked understanding, Taro places one hand under my chin. He tilts it upward and I find myself looking into his dark eyes. He leans over, his face stopping only an inch from mine.
His eyes draw me in, pinning me in place. My brain goes all fuzzy. His closeness sends strange sensations through my body. My legs feel mushy and my heart beats too fast.
He leans down, coming close, closer. Our noses touch, and my view of his eyes goes blurry.
His lips brush mine. The touch is light, like a delicate bird landing on a branch. A shockwave goes through me. My legs lose what remains of their strength and go rubbery. I throw my arms around his neck to keep myself upright.

He cinches his arms around me. The pressure of his lips on mine increases.
My eyes slide close of their own volition. My mouth develops a mind of its own, moving against Taro’s with equal pressure.
I lose all sense of place. Some distant, vague part of my mind tries to tell me something, but I can’t hear anything over the roaring of blood in my ears. The world narrows to consist of only Taro. His arms wind around me, holding me as if he never intends to let go. The strong muscles of his legs press against mine. My hands marvel at the strong tendons in his neck and the thick, spiky strands of his hair.
And his lips. I drink in the sensation of him. Our kiss deepens, becoming rough. His tongue slides into my mouth. I inhale sharply in surprise, then strengthen my grip around his neck. I kiss him back, my tongue meeting his. A meteor is streaking through my bloodstream. I am on fire. Taro lifts me off the ground, squashing me against him. We kiss each other hard.
He abruptly pulls away, breathing heavily. I blink in confusion, my breath rasping. With deliberate slowness, he sets me on my feet and takes several steps back from me. Even in the darkness, I see his flushed cheeks.
The separation clears some of the fog from my brain. I stare, dumbfounded, at Taro. I look around, trying to recall where we are and what we were doing before the kiss.
“Nice, Hudanus,” calls the rude, cackling voice of Jason Van Deer. “Always knew you had a thing for Brains. Too bad she doesn’t have better taste.”

Author Bio:
Camille Picott is a fifth-generation Chinese American. She writes science fiction and fantasy books with Asian characters and/or Asian settings. Camille grew up reading speculative fiction stories
largely devoid of Asian characters and culture. This, coupled with a passion for her heritage, is the reason she strives to bring some aspect of Eastern myth, legend, culture, and ethnicity to all of her writings.


Multiculturalism in YA

YA multiculturalism is a topic that’s near and dear to me. My personal specialty is speculative fiction with Asian influence, but I love all multicultural YA.

I’ve seen multiculturalism explored several ways in YA fiction. Here are some examples I’ve found:

Direct: The author reveals the ethnicity of the character and weaves the experiences of that ethnic identity into the story. The Direct method is generally found in stories with a contemporary aspect and portrays “real” ethnicities. (As opposed to fictional ethnicities, like elves and orcs.)

A great example is Rick Riordan’s Kane Chronicles. The two main characters, Sadie and her big brother Carter, are half black, half white. Sadie shares the experience of being raised by her white grandparents and never feeling like she fit in.

It’s been a while since I’ve read the first book in the series, The Red Pyramid, but I remember feeling a connection with Sadie’s experience of being mixed. I appreciate the fact that the author tackled a multicultural subject in mainstream fiction.

Indirect: Multiculturalism and ethnic minorities are portrayed in fictional worlds with fictional races.

The example that comes to mind here is Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. Again, it’s been a while since I read this book, but I do recall that the main character, Tally Youngblood, is not white. Ethnicities and races as we know them today do not exist in this world; instead, the world is divided between those who are Ugly and those who are Pretty.

In this fictional world, the fact that Tally isn’t white doesn’t matter to the story at all; the fact that she is Ugly is what matters. I enjoy the indirect approach when it’s done well. With this story, I think many readers can identify with being Ugly. But if one is looking to connect with a character because she’s non-white, this isn’t the book for you. 

Passing: When a character has a multicultural or minority background but essentially passes for being white.

I first learned about “passing” from my college roommate. You can read an in-depth article on it here. In a nutshell, “passing” is when a person from a minority or mixed heritage attempts to pass as part of the main “white” majority.

In Marie Lu’s Legend, the main character Day is primarily of Mongol descent. But he has blond hair. This rings true to me—in my own family, I have cousins who are 25% Chinese, yet they have blond hair and blue eyes.

I have to admit, I was personally disappointed that Day doesn’t “look” Mongolian. For me, it strips away the coolness of having a minority main character. Even though the way he looks is realistic, I would have loved for his ethnicity to have been more apparent in either his looks, tastes, or actions. But that’s just my personal preference. This isn’t meant to be an insult to Lu’s book, which I enjoyed.

What are some multicultural YA books that you have read? Have you encountered any of above-mentioned multicultural examples in other YA books?

Dystopia & Cyberpunk

I’ve been asked to discuss the genres of dystopia and cyberpunk, and what readers can expect of books in these genres.

Dystopia novels convey “the idea of a society, generally of a speculative future, characterized by negative, anti-utopian elements, varying from environmental to political and social issues.” (From Wikipedia—read the entire article here.) Examples of dystopia novels are The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. In these types of books, readers can expect to encounter societies that are supposedly ideal and perfect, especially in the eyes of the ruling class; in truth, these societies are flawed and oppressive and often totalitarian in nature.

Cyberpunk books “feature advanced science, such as information technology and cybernetics, coupled with a degree of breakdown or radical change in the social order.” (Also from Wikipedia—read the full article here.) Examples of cyberpunk are Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson and the Matrix movies. In these types of stories, readers encounter dystopian societies coupled with high technology, most especially virtual reality. Cyberpunk novels often have what I call a “hard science” edge, with lots of technical explanations.

There is a lot of crossover between the two genres, though dystopias will in general lack the hard science of cyberpunk. Sometimes dystopias feature a lack of science and technology, with people living by more primitive means. Cyberpunk often features anti-utiopias, but always has some form of high technology.

My YA series, Sulan, is a blend of dystopia and cyberpunk, which I fondly call “dystopunk.” It features a dystopian society and high technology, but without the hard science a reader might expect to find in a cyberpunk novel. I purposely tried to omit hard science from my novel, mostly because I don’t like to read hard science fiction. I like books that can convey the science in simple terms and move on.

Dystopia and cyberpunk works offer a landscape for writers to explore worlds and societies dramatically altered through an extreme circumstance such as natural disaster, man-made disaster, social collapse, and political upheaval. Through these genres, writers extrapolate on what might happen if those extreme circumstances ever came to be.

In The Hunger Games, Collins explores a post-disaster world controlled through political oppression. In Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury tackles a future where the masses are controlled through ignorance. Stephenson creates a world largely controlled by corporations in Snow Crash. Matrix watchers get to experience what might happen if our world was dominated by artificial intelligence.

In Sulan, I explore some of my personal fears: fear of what might happen if our country faced a drastic climate change, and fear of what might happen if our country went bankrupt. I name these two events the Shift and the Default. They are the foundation on which sixteen-year-old’s Sulan’s worldview is built.

Advice for New Writers

This is one of my favorite topics. It’s something I discuss with children when I do school visits. You can see a YouTube video of a presentation I did at a public library here.

The best advice I can give to new writers is to write every day. I know this can seem daunting—I myself struggle with it. What I’ve learned is that writers need to set realistic, achievable goals. We can’t all write 10,000 words a day like Stephen King. After all, most of us have day jobs, right?

My daily writing goals tend to shift, depending on the demands of my work and family life, but they always boil down to one of two methods.

Method #1: Word Count. Give yourself a daily goal of writing to a specific word count. Maybe it’s 500 words a day. Maybe’s it’s 100 words. Or 1,000. Whatever is reasonable for you. I suggest starting with a small word count—250 words or less—and gradually increasing your daily goal as you become comfortable with your daily writing routine.

Method #2: Defined Time Period. Set aside a certain amount of time every day to write. Maybe it’s 10 minutes a day. Maybe it’s 1 hour. Figure out how much time you can comfortably set aside, and commit to taking it. Again, I suggest starting with a small amount of time—30 minutes or less. As with the word count, you can increase your dedicated writing time as you become comfortable with the routine.

The reason I suggest starting small is that it’s easy to get overwhelmed with lofty goals. If you feel overwhelmed, it’s easy to quit. The idea is to give yourself an achievable goal that will enable you to make writing a daily routine. You can set yourself up for failure if you give yourself outrageous goals in the beginning. (Trust me—I’ve done this.) Once writing becomes part of your day-to-day life, you will know when you can increase your daily goal.

My personal goal is to write 1 hour every day. This generally fluctuates with my family commitments, but I do make it a point to do some writing-related activity every day. My family knows how important writing is to me, and everyone chips in to make sure I get that writing time. For those of you with families, be sure to discuss your writing goals with them. Ask them to help you get the time you need to write.

I once attended a writing conference where the guest author said her goal was simply to write every day. Sometimes she only had time to write one sentence. Sometimes she had enough time to write a whole chapter. Whatever the case, she made it her goal to write every day, and she stuck with it.

I wish all writers out there the best of luck!

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