What I Love About Monster Academy
By Matt Forbeck
Monster Academy is a new trilogy of young adult fantasy novels that I launched on Kickstarter earlier this month. It's the fourth set of books in this insane 12 for '12 plan I have in which I'm trying to write a dozen short novels this year. I've been having a blast writing the books so far, and it's a little bittersweet — and panic-inducing — to see the end barreling at me so fast.
Jenn Brozek was kind enough to ask me what it was that I love about these books. It's a good question. If you're going to spend months with a story, you better damn well have some amount of affection for it, and with luck that blossoms into full-blown love that shines through the pages.
So let me tell you about this tale of mine.
Monster Academy is set in a fantasy world in which the good guys win. They defeat the Great Evil and drive it from the land. Then they have to set to the less exciting work of governing the land and mopping up all the little evils left behind. This inevitably involves some young monsters that haven't technically done anything wrong — yet.
The king, of course, thinks the monsters will turn bad given enough time. It's their fate, decreed by their blood, right? So why give them the chance? Better to just kill them all.
Or so he thinks, until a vampire turns his granddaughter into a bloodsucking force of evil too. That's when he decides that maybe there could be some good in such creatures after all — if they can prove themselves, that is — and he founds the Royal Academy for Creature Habilitation. Here, at what most people call Monster Academy, the students have the chance to become useful and productive members of society or face banishment or execution.
So, why do I love the concept? Honestly, I identify with those little monsters.
I wasn't always the best student. I got great grades, but many times I didn't behave the way my teachers would have preferred. I spent a lot of time writing lines and cooling my heels in the principal's office.
Once you get that kind of reputation early on, it's hard to shake it. I often found that some of my new teachers every year treated me as rotten kid long before I actually did anything wrong. That's the kind of prophecy that leads to it fulfilling itself.
Despite all that, I had a couple teachers who saw me for who I was, ignored the whispers from the other teachers, and gave me the chances I needed to shine and excel. One of them — Sister Cabrini Cahill — even encouraged me to try my hand at fiction and inspired me to make a career out of it. I can't thank her enough for that.
So the idea of a school in which everyone expects you to fail, to do the wrong thing, and to be punished for it spoke to me. More important than that, though, I wanted to have students who seemed doomed to fail show how they could pull themselves together and — with the help of even a single teacher who believed in them — become the kinds of heroes that no one ever thought they could be.
That's what Monster Academy's all about. It's not a story of a chosen child who fulfills his destiny. It's the tale of a bunch of kids who were supposed to grow up to be the bad guys teaming up to do the right thing in the end, despite all the odds arrayed against them.
That why I love it, and why I hope you will too.
The books should be out in early 2013, but you can jump on board the Kickstarter right now.
Here’s where I’m going to be for Chicon 7 / Worldcon 2012. If not here, I’ll be around, in the bar, and hanging out. If you want to hang out, email or text me. Sometimes, Twitter does get to me as well.
Fri Aug 31 10:30:am
Fri Aug 31 12:00:pm
The Ghosts Talisman: A Fumetti in Four Parts
Author Jennifer Brozek and photographer Amber talk about the creation of the photographic novel from script and casting to shooting and layout.
Amber Clark Jennifer Brozek
Sat Sep 1 10:30:am
Sat Sep 1 12:00:pm
Creating Exciting Anthologies
We're in a golden age of science fiction and fantasy anthologies with clever new ideas coming out monthly from major and minor publishers. But where do they come from? How do editors interest publishers and writers in their ideas? How do you make the hard decisions between great stories and great writing (when you can't have both)?
Ellen Datlow Jennifer Brozek Joan Spicci Saberhagen John Helfers John Joseph Adams Richard Gilliam
Sun Sep 2 1:30:pm
Sun Sep 2 3:00:pm
It Doesn't Have to Be War
Writers and Editors want the same thing - a well written story or document that sells. So, why does it seem like they're always at loggerheads? How to get along with your editor/writer.
Janice Gelb Jennifer Brozek Jim Frenkel Sheila Williams Ty Franck
Sunday 5:00pm – 6:00pm – SFWA dealers room table – Manning the SFWA table in the Dealers room.
“Toby thought the last year was bad. She has no idea.”
ASHES OF HONOR is the sixth book in the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire. For those who have not read this series, think changeling noir set in the San Francisco Bay Area. I have been a long time fan of McGuire and this series. There are few books that make me want to dance around, shouting “You’ve got to read this book!” ASHES OF HONOR is one of those books. It is an emotionally satisfying and wonderful addition to the October Daye series.
However, for the first time, I have to say that this is not a book in the series that you should pick up and read first. The previous five books are well set up to jump right in and then go back to the previous books. McGuire does an excellent job of giving readers enough of the relevant background to keep up with what is going on while giving good story. This is not to say that ASHES OF HONOR does not do the same thing. It’s just that readers who pick up this book first will not get the emotional impact of it and what it means in the scope of the rest of the series.
While the ASHES OF HONOR story is unusually straight-forward, intriguing, and sometimes heart racing, this book is about relationships. Toby’s relationships with Tybalt, Etienne, May, Quentin, Raj, the Court of Cats, and traditions. There are some huge pay-off moments throughout the book—some that we’ve been looking forward to since book one, ROSEMARY AND RUE. These pay-off moments will not have the same impact for readers who have not read what comes before.
As usual, one of the things McGuire excels at is expanding the world of Faerie. In ASHES OF HONOR, we learn about some of the lands that have been sealed away by Oberon, we learn more about the Court of Dreamer’s Glass, and we learn a whole lot more about the Court of Cats. I love these nuggets of Faerie history and culture. They are a part of why the October Daye series is so engaging. There is a weight to the history. A sense of long years and traditions.
Finally, I most appreciate how October herself continues to change, to grow, to mature. She is not a static character. She has her flaws. When she deals with her flaws, new ones pop up. Just like life. Make no mistake, McGuire is mean to her characters and Toby gets the worst of it. However, Toby always makes it back—with healing and a whole lot of help from her friends.
ASHES OF HONOR is the book that October Daye fans have been waiting for. It is a great story to read, an interesting mystery to solve, and a shifting of relationships to cringe through as well as enjoy. This book is not for the first time reader of the series but it is exactly the kind of book the series craved and the fans have been clamoring for.
Barnes and Noble
*Note: This reviewer was sent an ARC of the book for review.
Yesterday I sent off Act Three of the Nellus Academy Incident to my Battletech Think Tank. I plan to hand it in by the end of the week and to start Act Four on Monday the 20th. Act Three ended up being about 12,000 words and I’m pleased with it. I’ve killed off another main character. Kidnapped the McGuffin. Set up the interpersonal conflict between the two leading cadets. It’s all good. Act One of the Nellus Academy Incident is live on Battlecorps.com right now. Three episodes in. It is publishing once a week on Fridays.
This week is going to be all about editing the Coins of Chaos anthology. I’ve got the 17 stories I want. Some really excellent stories in this horror anthology by some of my favorite authors. I can’t wait to tell you the TOC.
The Beast Within 4: Gears and Growls anthology is ramping up at the end of the month. I do so love doing these anthologies with Graveside tales. The Beast Within 3 is off to the publishers and I will see when the release is. Hopefully soon. And I hope to release the cover art by Shane Tyree or some of the interior art by John Ward soon.
Tomorrow, I have a business meeting that might end up with some side fiction. We will see.
I think I might just do the business part of writing today—email, phone calls, schedules, blog posts, interviews. All that stuff that is required for writers. Though, with the new AC in my office (so happy I have it), I might get some editing done today.
Working with an editor isn't like working with a critique group. A critique group helps you learn how to drive a car. By the time you're working with an editor you're already a race car driver. An editor is like the crew chief for your race team; they make sure everything goes smooth on race day. They fine tune the mechanics, provide guidance on your strategy, and work with the pit crew to contribute to your success. They're on your team and you're working toward the same goals, but you're the one driving.
For The Place Between, I had two editors. Cobalt City is a shared world full of superheroes and deities with general editorial oversight provided by Nathan Crowder. He made sure everything fit within the world continuity, including stories not yet published. He also answered questions I had about the world or established characters and provided research materials I needed about it. I like Norse Mythology and I knew there was already an established avatar of Thor along with the method of how one becomes his avatar. But I also knew that this character, Cole Washington was ill-fitted for the type of story I wanted to tell.
“Does Cole Washington have a daughter?” I asked Nate.
He had a daughter named Tera, and Nate saw no reason I couldn't make her the new avatar of Thor. I wanted to tell the story of Tera learning what becoming a superhero means for her and about what she thought she knew. When Tera's father has a near-fatal heart attack during an attempted mugging, Thor's powers pass to her. There was already an established avatar for Loki; the anticape TV pundit Lyle Prather, but I needed additional interference. So I did what any completely irrational writer of tricksters would do, I asked to add a second Loki to the equation. Which believe me, had me talking fast to justify, but Nate eventually let me do most of what I wanted with the addition of some world-restrictions.
Caroline Dombrowski worked with me to improve my first submitted draft. She noted some holes in the story structure and expressed confusion about inclusion of a few incidents whose purpose seemed completely self-evident to me. Apparently not everyone walks around with as much information about Norse Myths in their head as I do, and that was something that needed to be addressed for the reader to fully appreciate.
The solution she suggested and I immediately loved, was adding additional information in the form of excerpts of fictional written material taken from the world but not directly from the narrative--newspaper articles, website entries, even store advertisements. Alone each of these bits of information is just a single block, but in the context of the story they stitch together to form a quilt of additional information that deepens the story and the world. It's a technique I've always admired and long tried to emulate without success. The first time I read the full manuscript with them in place I was amazed at how well they worked together. When I got Caroline's comments complete with the places she'd laughed out loud, I knew I'd nailed it.
Buy Cobalt City Double Feature on Kindle, or in a mobi/pdf/ePub bundle from Timid Pirate Publishing.
Read an excerpt (PDF).
Visit the author's site.
Table of Contents for The Beast Within 3: Oceans Unleashed
Edited by Jennifer Brozek
Foreword by Jennifer Brozek
The Roe Girls by Mae Empson
Dry Run by Pete Kempshall
Wreckage by Rosemary Jones
Rites of Justice in Civilized Societies by Amanda C. Davis
Beyond the Reach of Moonlight by Jamie Lackey
The Murmur of Lorelei by Jason Andrew
Salt on the Dance Floor by Nisi Shawl
Mother Water by T. S. Bazelli
Beneath Feather and Fur by Minerva Zimmerman
Woman of War by Ivan Ewert
Trolling by Michael West
Safe by Mari Ness
Spawning Season by Montgomery Mullen
The Wedding Seal by Josh Reynolds
Hunger by Jennifer Pelland
The Summoned by Wendy Wagner
Cover art by Shane Tyree
Interior art by John Ward
Publisher: Graveside Tales
Cover art by Shane Tyree
Publisher: Alliteration Ink Publishing
Release date: October 2012