Think it’s difficult to get into Harvard University? Try Vita Post Mortem Academy, a prestigious high school where John F. Kennedy teaches a class called American Ghosts stories, Albert Einstein grades science tests, and history’s most brilliant and deceased minds make up the rest of the teaching staff. Not a problem for Jules Winklevoss, one of the few who can see spirits.
Getting into school was a cakewalk, but Jules learns not all spirits are engaging and inspiring teachers. Fourteen years ago, Jules’s family thwarted an evil spirit’s rise to power. Now, the evil spirit wants revenge on all Winklevoss’s, beginning with Jules. As if evil spirit problems aren’t enough, add best friend drama, unattainable boy crushes, and homework to the mix, and needless to say, high school is going to be dreadful. Jules is determined to protect her family and keep herself alive, even if that means delving into the world of the dead.
I think coming up with a cast for your book is a great exercise. Just like pinning ideas on a pinterest page, it helps you determine qualities of your characters and brainstorm traits you didn’t think about.
I put together a cast for my book currently posted on Kindle Scout, The Light of Supremazia! It’s about kids who can see spirits and attend a high school run by famous dead people.
Jules Winklevoss would be played by Kiernan Shipka, also known as Sally Draper from the Mad Men series. Just like Jules Winklevoss, she can be tough, brave, snotty, and vulnerable at the same time.
Jules has two best friends at Vita Post Mortem Academy. Dahlia Langdon is the shy and awkward friend who grew up in a prestigious, broken family. She would be played by Ariel Winter from Modern Family.
Jules’s other best friend, Logan Klomp, is a know-it-all, lovesick half-Asian dude who doesn’t care about fitting in. He would be played by Nickelodeon’s Ryan Potter.
Jules’s equally brazen, but less approachable, sister, Sharpee Winklevoss would be played by Emma Watson. Honestly, I picked Emma because she looks a bit like Kiernan, and of course I loved her as Hermione.
Sharpee’s best (and only) friend is Chase Hastings, a rich kid, living in his older brother Ryder Hastings the Third‘s perfect shadow. Chase and Ryder would be played by Nash Overstreet (from the band Hot Chelle Rae) and Chord Overstreet (Glee).
How great are the inventive words used to describe a new thing, event, or action in fiction? There are tons of examples. Here are a few of my favorites:
An animagus is a person who can morph into an animal – from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.
Similarly, a warg is a person who can enter the minds of animals – from George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones series.
The reaping is an event when a boy and a girl are chosen from each district to participate in the Hunger Games – from Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games series.
Buggers are insect-like aliens – from Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game series
A mudblood is a magical person born to non-magical parents – from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.
A half-blood is a person born from one parent who is a mythological god and one who is not – from Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series.
Quidditch is a professional sport in the wizarding world – from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.
How do you invent a new term?
For my new series, (after)life lessons, I tried to be thoughtful about new terms. You can’t rename everything or your reader will get lost. However, it is fun to imagine your new term catching on and being used in casual conversation!
My series is based on the premise that spirits exist in our world and certain people have the ability to see them. Simply put, some people are spirit-seers and called visumaries, while others who can not see spirits are ableptic.
Why do you choose the terms?
Sometimes authors choose the word because of the phonetic appeal – it sounds similar to another word that conveys a certain meaning. Other authors perform deep research on Latin roots or Greek mythology.
I felt the word visumary sounded similar to visionary, like they have the ability to see things others can’t.
Ableptic has a harsher sound – “bleh.” It is less musical, similar to J.K. Rowling’s choice of squib for a person born into a magical family, but has no magical abilities. Also, in English, “ablepsia” means lack of sight or blindness.
Kindle Scout Campaign Update
The Light of Supremazia Kindle Scout campaign has been trending *HOT* for 41 hours and has 692 page views!
Magical realism takes place in a world like the one we know, but there is one thing that makes it unreal. Perhaps there are lurking vampires, or the main character is cursed, or you can buy magic spells from the store on the corner. The trick with magical realism is the reader has to believe the world really does exist. The master of magical realism herself, JK Rowling, made us all have hope that our letter for Hogwarts would one day come in the mail. We believed wizards existed in our world. (believed in the past tense? Some of us still believe).
A World for Your Book Within the Existing World
Writing magical realism might sound easy since most of the decisions about the world are already decided, but I think its the opposite. Similar to using real people in a fictional story (as I wrote about in my last post), there is a ton of fact-checking that needs to be completed in order to convince your readers the world within our world is real.
Question #1: Where do you build your world?
The proper setting is tough. How many times did you read about Harry taking the Hogwarts Express and wonder where the final location really was? Or read about Percy Jackson heading out to Montauk toward Camp Halfblood and try to picture it in your head?
Vita Post Mortem Academy
When writing my magical realism novel, The Light of Supremazia, my editor and I went back and forth on the school’s location. The world around Vita Post Mortem Academy was exactly like the one we know today, except there needed to be a remote section of the woods, North of San Francisco, where a creepy institution run by spirits was located. We had a discussion about whether redwood trees grew in the area and if it was anywhere near Bodie, a real life ghost town. In the end, we realized that if you couldn’t see spirits, you wouldn’t notice much more than a massive institution surrounded by an endless necropolis.
As I prepare to launch my next book series, I keep thinking about additional ways to enjoy the story. How many times have you read the details by J.K. Rowling about characters she didn’t mention at the end of the series? Or get excited because they brought the characters of Vampire Diaries to life in a tv series? Or sing along to a song from the Hunger Games movie on the radio?
Like a bag of Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans or your very own Mocking Jay pin, I hope you enjoy Jules’s Vita Post Mortem Academy Class schedule!
The Light of Supremazia, book #1 in the (after)life lessons young adult, fantasy book series!
I recently attended a webinar by @JordanRosenfeld about writing a plot summary for a manuscript through Writer’s Digest. What I liked about her presentation was the notion that a plot is formulaic. She suggested using a three act setup. Being more math-minded, it was something I understood. I liken it to being a baker versus a cook. I am much better at following an exact recipe for lemon poppy muffins rather than a pan with some fancy sauce and adding a pinch of salt and a handful of basil.
Writing a marketing blurb was a piece of cake after that. (Pun intended!) I simply used the section designated as “Act 1.” Feel free to let me know what you think.
Think it’s difficult to be accepted into Harvard? Imagine attending Vita Post Mortem Academy, where the spirit of John F. Kennedy teaches social studies and the spirit of Albert Einstein gives physics lectures. There’s no hope getting in if you can’t see spirits.
Jules believes in spirits. She doesn’t analyze their existence on a regular basis. She just accepts it as fact. Living in New York City, where anything is possible, how could she not believe in spirits? However, the summer before ninth grade, when her best friend, Johnny, dies, she finds herself yearning to see his spirit.
Johnny was prone to brushes with death due to mysterious accidents, but the ominous light and the girl who gave him a final shove on to the subway tracks puts doubt in Jules mind that his end was a freak incident.
The strange events are jarring, but the foundation of everything Jules knows is shaken when she finds out she’s adopted, and she’s forced to attend a special school in California run by the spirit of the biological grandmother she never met. Needless to say, high school is going to be overwhelming.
There is something exhilarating about happening upon a blip of a fantasy world in everyday life. For a fraction of a second you believe you have actually been transported to an alternative universe, or the secret world was there all along, and miraculously, you managed to get a glimpse of it. Are talented authors taking everyday experiences and making you believe it’s special? Or is life imitating art? I don’t know the answer to that, but I love stepping into my favorite fantasy realm, and I try to do it as often as possible.
I looked for Percy Jackson in front of the St. Louis Arch!
I attempted to get into the Ministry of Magic from a phone booth!
I fought the mist at the Lotus Room so I could get back to Camp Half-Blood!
Finding fantasy in everyday life is a thrill. That’s what I hope to create in my next series (after)life lessons! Check the first beta review I received from an 8th grader! Comment if you would like to be a beta reader!
Either my brain is hardwired to relate everything in life to Harry Potter, or the world of magic is real. I vote for the latter.
Maybe wizards will reveal themselves to the global population like vampires in the True Blood series. A girl can dream.
…or maybe that’s a terrific idea for a new book series.
Anyway, did you pick out these similarities? Looks like Spain’s Olympians thought the first event was quidditch.
Or how about the Hogwarts Express? I bet it was headed for Platform nine and three quarters.
Did you catch the thestrals? Maybe you didn’t see them because you didn’t witness death.
One of these days, you’ll be picking out creatures and costumes from (after)life lessons. My new book series, coming soon!
Think it’s difficult to get into Harvard? Try Vita Post Mortem Academy, where John F. Kennedy teaches social studies and Albert Einstein gives physics lectures. Of course, there’s no hope getting in if you can’t see ghosts. …not a problem for Juliandra Winklevoss.
Don’t be mad. I just googled the band, Mötley Crüe. I know its a heavy metal band formed some time in the 80s, but why were they a “motley crew?” One picture solved the mystery for me:
Don’t be surprised, but this is where I relate Mötley Crüe to young adult fantasy books.
I’ve been doing lots of research on character introductions and came to the realization that most of my favorite books have some sort of motley crew – a group of underdogs who beat all odds and save the day.
The obvious one is Harry Potter. Wasn’t Luna a little looney? Neville Longbottom accident-prone? And Ginny Weasley just a little girl? But you loved the ragtag bunch.
Percy Jackson wasn’t any better – his best friend was a satyr and his brother was a cyclops.
Don’t even get me started on Lord of the Rings.
How about the New Directions in Glee? Definitely your standard geeky bunch.
Well, my next book series starts the same way – a mismatched gaggle of kids, looking for a brave leader, getting into trouble, and of course, attending a school taught by famous ghosts. Look for it soon, called (after)life lessons.
I feel like real life isn’t so different. Didn’t everyone in San Francisco cheer for the 49ers?
I take jazz classes with a talented teacher named Ann twice a week. There are a group of us who joined about a year ago. We started in the back of the class, our own version of a motley crew, tripping through combinations and embarrassing ourselves. Through dedication and hard work, we improved. Most recently, the teacher suggested we stand in the front of the room. I felt like my own personal underdog, able to keep up with her challenging routines and perform next to beautiful dancers without missing a beat. [Perhaps I’ll attache a video soon!]