The Cracked Chronicles, Book 2
K.D. Van Brunt
romance/paranormal/urban fantasy - 100K
In the sequel to Win the Rings, Gray is now a prisoner at Cracked, forced to undergo combat training under the supervision of his nemesis, Jace. He soon learns first hand why all the other kids at Cracked are scared to death of her, but he also finds a chink in her armor and they both realize they have an eerie connection to one another.
Gradually, Gray is drawn into Jace’s dangerous world of Special Ops missions, where death waits like a shadow in every corner.
For Jace, Gray poses a new kind of threat. Although she’s proficient in all types of combat, Jace’s training hasn’t prepared her for him, and she is forced to confront feelings she has never experienced before.
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Writing Young Adult FictionI write what I like to read, and I read a lot of YA. Why? First, let’s be clear. Young adult is a description of who the main characters are, not a reading level. Its focus is on a particular stage of life and the journey and challenges a teenager faces. It’s a time of discovery, both good and bad, and a time of making some of the most important decisions of your life. Stories about this time of life are deeply relevant to all ages, as demonstrated by the fact that most buyers of young adult are, in fact, adults, if what you read in the press is to be believed and I think it is.
So, why young adult? There are several things about young adult fiction that I enjoy reading and writing about. In no particular order—
One, the depth and breath of the issues covered. YA tackles everything, from love and loss, pain, abuse, friendship, suicide, drugs, sex, you name it, and good YA deals with these issues in an unflinchingly honest, non-preachy way. Yes, other fiction deals with these things too, but YA tends to tackle them from the perspective of characters who typically confront them for the first time. I find that more interesting.
Two, originality and dariness. YA fiction can be so inventive and cutting edge, often eager to try new approaches. What if we took a cowboy western and mashed it up with a contemporary romance story and tossed in elements from a paranormal urban fantasy story? You get that in YA, not so much in other fiction. Sometimes it fails miserably, but sometimes it succeeds spectacularly. YA fiction is not afraid to take chances and bust out of traditional genres. I like that.
Three, point of view. Perhaps the hallmark of most YA fiction today is that it’s frequently told from a first person point of view and often the narrator is unreliable. This tends to give the story extra immediacy and a greater emotional punch. I prefer to write in the first person and there is no more welcoming place to do that than YA fiction.
Finally, the stage of experience. YA often involves a time of discovery and first encounters, more so than other fiction. It’s enjoyable to read and write about first contact and impressions, about handling new experiences and coping with pre-existing stereotypes and prejudices. Again, you find this in other fiction too, but it’s a defining feature of much YA fiction.
So, where does the Cracked Chronicles (book one: Win the Rings; book two: Dance of the Pink Mist) fit in with the above? The Cracked Chronicles, at its core, is about characters striving to break free of their restraints, gain their independence, and take responsibility for their own life. The fact that it takes place inside an urban fantasy story doesn’t change the basic dilemma most teenagers confront at some time or another: I’m tired of being ordered around and told what to think and feel, and now I want to make my own decisions.
ExcerptI give three raps on Jace’s door, precariously balancing an armload of her clothes in one hand and her newly pressed uniform jacket in the other. I’ve been Jace’s personal valet and general all-around slave for over six weeks now, bustling from one task to another, while trying not to incur her prickly wrath. And even though much of what she makes me do is demeaning, curiously I find myself stealing looks at her when she’s not paying attention to me.
“Come in,” Jace says through the closed door.
I try to stick my thumb on the bio-sensor pad next to her door, but the action causes me to lose my balance just enough to send the pile of clothes cascading to the floor. There are no outside doorknobs here, just these small rectangular pads beside every door, which read your thumbprint and release the lock.
“Shit!” I curse.
I drop to my knees to salvage what I can and refold the rest. The door opens behind me causing me to flinch. I look up at Jace wondering if she’s going to give me a swift kick to the ribs for this, but she just stands in the doorway tapping her foot impatiently on the floor. She has her arms folded across her chest looking peeved, and I see she’s dressed in old sweats and a loose-fitting camo tank top. She doesn’t have a bra on. For some reason I blush at this, as if I walked in on her while she was dressing.
“I should make you re-wash all of this, Gray, but I’m feeling generous tonight.”
“Excuse me. Did you say Gray, sir?” This would be the first time she’s used my first name since I got here. Until now it’s been rookie, rook, newbie, new meat—among others terms of endearment.
She shrugs. “I suppose you’ve earned the right to be called by your first name. Don’t let it go to your head.”
“Whatever,” she says with a sigh. “Now listen up. My bathroom needs cleaning. So get this mess picked up and get to work on it.”
Five minutes later, I’m standing in front of her dresser putting away her newly refolded clothes. I’ve memorized by now the layout of her drawers—underwear and socks in the top drawer, shirts and pajamas in the second, pants, etc., in the third. There’s a fourth and fifth drawer, but I’m not supposed to open those, so I don’t know what she’s hiding in there. Finishing, I glance over at Jace, who’s sitting cross-legged on her bed flipping through a magazine—Jane’s Intelligence Review. Gee, that looks like a fun read. Her blonde hair is so fine and soft I feel this irrational urge to run my hands through it, even though she’d probably kick me in the groin if I tried. She’s leaning forward to study the magazine and my eyes lock onto her tank top, which is gapping enough to almost flash her entire, braless chest at me. I gawk for a moment, but then feeling like a perv, I advert my gaze.
“Don’t stare at me, Gray. Get to work. The cleaning supplies are under the sink.”
I nod, but I think I detect a subtle, knowing smirk on her face.
Every room in the dorm is laid out the same—a main living area and a small bathroom off one end of the room. The best that can be said about the bathrooms here is they’re functional: toilet, sink and commode, and a shower. No bathtubs. Sighing, I pull out a bristle brush and get to work on the stainless steel toilet bowl.
“You ever been to Alaska, Gray?” Jace asks after a few minutes, when I’ve moved on to scrub the shower stall.
I hesitate, puzzled by the question. “Once. Anchorage, sir.”
I hear her sigh loudly. “You can call me Jace from now on. What was it like?”
I hesitate, briefly surprised by the realization I don’t have to call her ‘sir’ anymore, but at this point it’s been so deeply drilled into me I’m not sure I’m capable of calling her anything else.
During the eight hours of the day when I’m not writing, reading or sleeping, I’m a lawyer in Washington, DC. I grew up in Southern California, moved to Seattle before coming east to Boston to go to school. Now, I live in the great state of Maryland with my wife, my dog—a standard poodle named Buffy (and who do you think named her?), and my hot Camaro. One of the few things I like better than pizza is driving fast. So, if you happen be in the DC area and a black Camaro with a red stripe and a rear spoiler roars by and blows your doors off…thaaat could be me.
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