Hey peeps, we have Devon McCormack visiting with us today with his upcoming YA release The Night Screams, we have a fantastic guest post where Devon talks about writing YA and we have an excellent excerpt for you to have a peek at, so check out the post and enjoy! <3 ~Pixie~
The Night Screams
After Cal escapes a deranged kidnapper who tortured him, he doesn’t even have the clothes on his back. Desperate and afraid, he breaks into a convenience store. But Jake, a clerk at the store, confronts what to him is little more than a petty thief. After a violent tussle, he knocks Cal out.
Jake encourages his Uncle Gary, the owner of the store, to report Cal to the police, but Gary can’t bring himself to report a kid who was just looking to steal food. When Cal wakes, Gary asks him if he’s okay. But Cal’s trauma has left him mute. Instead, he has to write his experiences down, relaying the horrifying events that led him to the store. The police track down the sick man who held Cal captive, and when he confronts them with a gun, he’s shot dead. However, Cal discovers that even with his captor gone, he is far from free of the nightmare he endured.
Gary and his wife welcome Cal into their home, determined to help him heal. Jake doesn’t trust Cal, and he isn’t afraid to say so. But buried beneath Jake’s disapproval might be the person who can help Cal recover from the terrifying experience that continues to haunt him.
How to Write About Sex for a YA Audience
Oh, the stress of writing about sex in a young adult book. Is the scene too graphic? Do I mention STDs? Do they need a condom? Do I need to punish them like some sort of angry deity if they don’t use a condom? What am I going to do about that violent rape that happened before the book takes place? These are the sorts of questions so many authors of YA agonize over. That’s why I decided to create a post that will help authors get out of these tricky situations. To help make this process easier, I’ve come up with 5 simple rules that are guaranteed to make your book totally appropriate for young adults! You’re welcome. 🙂
1) Absolutely Under No Circumstances Do You Ever Write Teens as They are in the Real World.
Are you kidding? If I were to write an authentic depiction of my young adult life, it would exclusively be a love story between me and my pillow-boyfriend, Tim. Everything else in my life would be a subplot. I would write about my violent tussles on my bed with Tim and then there would be a few sentences about going to school and making filthy sex jokes in the wings of the school theater. Maybe I would mention shitty grades and trying to improve them…maybe…
2) Don’t Be a Fucking Hero
The world doesn’t need some asshole with Word deciding that sex isn’t a totally filthy, vile thing that should never be talked about in a book for teens. After all, teens aren’t having to deal with sex yet. (They’re still underage, remember?) Even if they are dealing with it, by writing about it, we’re only encouraging them to go out and do things with their bodies that they should be ashamed of doing. No, no, no! If you get the impulse to write about inappropriate situations in young adult books, then you need to begin writing a young adult book set in the Amish country. You can have a main character—your lonely, sexually frustrated protagonist—who wakes up every morning and takes a cold shower to rid himself of his wicked desires. And this will keep him from doing anything sexual throughout the course of your novel, I promise.
3) Sex Has Horrible Consequences…Because It’s Innately Evil
This is the premise that you need to keep reminding yourself of if you’re writing a book for young adults:
Sex is wrong, evil, and vile.
If you insist on writing about sex, as some of you will, just make sure you remember that this message must be conveyed loud and clear. Don’t worry! There are plenty of ways to get this across. If your protagonist has sex and didn’t think about HIV, s/he needs to get it or at least come really close. If not HIV, at least consider the other various STDs you have to choose from—one that will hopefully scare the shit out of him/her and any teen that reads your book. Straight or questioning girls who have sex with men are one of the best ways to convey this message since babies and abortions are excellent plot devices that show real-life horrors that come from having sex. The bottom line here is that sex can’t just be a fun and enjoyable thing that teens participate in sometimes. That’s pornography and disgusting and goes against the aforementioned premise that sex is wrong and evil and vile. And if you make it too hot, then you’re just going to have a bunch of teens thinking that they can go around fucking each other all the time without any serious consequences, right?
4) Write the Book a Teen’s Parent Wants Them to Read.
The tried and true rule for writing young adult novels is to craft the book, not that a teenager would enjoy, but that the parent of a teenager would want them to enjoy. So every time you think about writing a steamy scene with the character’s new boyfriend, you can ask, “What would a reader’s mother/father want to happen?” The answer? For them to get married! I don’t even have kids and this is what I want my child to do. That said, a good read about abstinence and chastity is just what the market needs right now. And what about those untold stories of those kids who are able to save themselves for marriage? Or those kids who are so busy adventuring in space or pursuing some sort of spiritual growth that they don’t have time for sex? Everyone loves a sexless book about struggles and triumphs. If you really have to have sex in your book, why not just allude to it or show everything leading up to the sex and then fade to black? Problem solved.
5) Adults Never Have Sex with Underage Teens
Right? Surely, I’m preaching to the choir at this point. Bottom line with this one is: don’t write about something that never happens in the real world…unless you’re writing fantasy. Then you can have teachers hooking up with students and nonsense like that all over the place.
Okay. I’ll tone down the tongue-and-cheek nature of this post now and just say very clearly that my whole point is to mock some of the ways we writers talk ourselves out of writing sex into young adult books. Are there issues of appropriateness? Well, what one person considers appropriate for a seventeen-year-old is different than what another person considers appropriate for a seventeen-year-old. At the end of the day, the only one who can decide is you, the author. If it’s not you, then it’s some publisher who is just at good at knowing what the ethereal secret of appropriateness of sexual situations in YA literature is. Even the MPAA can’t agree about what is or is not inappropriate in movies, so how the hell would a publishing house be able to come up with some mystical list of rights and wrongs about it?
Real teens have real sex. Sorry to break the hearts of parents all around the world, but it’s just the way it is. I didn’t even have sex until college, but it doesn’t mean that my teenage years were devoid of sexual experiences. Also, this isn’t to say that there aren’t people who are at different stages of their sexual evolution or who even aren’t interested in sex to begin with. Just that it is a major part of our world. Does that mean it HAS to be written about? Not at all. I don’t think anyone can struggle to name a plethora of books that manage to totally avoid this subject altogether…or at least tread very carefully around it. Good books don’t have to have any sex in them at all. But that doesn’t mean that there can’t also be good young adult books that do include sex in them. So this isn’t me saying that we need to go forth and create sexual young adult books just to have graphic depictions of sex in front of teens. No. You do have to use your good judgement. But if you have a good story that includes sex, but are scared of writing it because you think it might be inappropriate, then maybe…just maybe that really is the story you need to write. Don’t let your worries about appropriateness scare you out of writing a perfectly good book or scare you into censoring every part of your story that could add a whole other level of depth to it. This isn’t a condemnation of books that don’t talk about sex as much as a celebration of shedding off some of our more conservative ideas about young adult novels so that we can free ourselves as artists and express our ideas as they truly come to us—not just in terms of what we see as marketable, which is just as much of an enigma as appropriateness.
This is where I pitch my new young adult novel, The Night Screams, which releases July 28th, and is now available for pre-order from the following vendors:
PANTING. SWEATING. Running.
He threw his fists about, fighting off branch assailants that grabbed at his flesh as if they were trying to pull him deeper into the night. He didn’t know where he was going, but he had to keep running because, fast as he was, there was no telling how close his past was to catching up to him.
Don’t make a sound.
He had to keep quiet so the man wouldn’t hear him.
A glimpse of red beyond the trees, along the horizon, assured him what had felt like a few moments had been hours. Unless he’d been totally unaware of the time. Though his body—quivering, twitching, convulsing—seemed to agree that far more time had passed than his mind could account for.
He fell through the edge of the woods and collapsed into waist-high weeds. The orange glow of the rising sun illuminated his arms and crawled across his body. Though he wanted to take a moment to lie still and regain his strength, he didn’t have that luxury. Mental flashes, like a strobe light in a dark room, coupled with the nagging suspense, the sensation of metal creeping across his flesh, and the guttural sound of whispers against the back of his ear. He had to get up, if only to ensure he was as far from these horrors as he could get.
He pushed off the ground, forced himself to his feet, and scrambled through the field before him. Even though there were only woods and grass in view, he felt the impulse to shout for help. It was as if his body believed somewhere in the foliage was some unseen hero. But he knew better. He’d spent far too long in the darkness praying for a rescue that never came.
Don’t make a sound.
A SECURITY mirror hung in the corner of the store, allowing him to see a clerk who knelt behind the cash wrap. As the young blond pulled cartons of Marlboro cigarettes from a box, the sleeves of a red-and-black-striped flannel shirt expanded with his flexing muscles.
The night runner’s eyes flashed to the nuts and beef jerky displayed on the shelf before him. Saliva rushed down the sides of his mouth. His belly pinched, demanding he act soon. It had been several hours since he’d emerged from the nightmare. Since he’d discovered daylight.
He’d skirted around the edge of the woods, ducking in shrubbery and foliage to hide from the occasional passing car. Who knew what car he had to be suspicious of? Who knew what car could have been his captor’s?
His first task had been to acquire clothes. When he approached a series of shops—a convenience store, a thrift store, and a cafe—he busted through a window in the back of the thrift store, slipped inside, and lifted a tee, a black hoodie, a pair of jeans, and flip-flops. Though none of the articles fit, the jeans were the most annoying because they fell midbuttocks, and he had to continually pull them up as he moved around. He figured he’d lost weight since his capture because they were the size he’d worn before the incident. However, he was too concerned about being discovered to dwell on the size of the pants. While he was still inside the shop, he noticed a truck pull into the lot of the convenience store across the street. He watched it cautiously, fearing whoever was inside would spot him. He lay low as a blond entered the store. Surely they had food, and he was desperately hungry. Since he’d worried that making his way directly from the thrift store would alert the store clerk of his motive, he had slipped out the window he’d shattered and crept back into the woods, then made his way alongside the street some before walking back onto it and heading to the store.
Something in him suggested he reach out to this clerk for help, but a greater part feared he was somehow connected to the man who’d imprisoned him for what felt like months—though it could have been years.
Before that day he had never been a thief, but considering his circumstances, he didn’t regret his actions. He wasn’t taking advantage. He was surviving.
Just grab it and get out of here.
He glanced at the security mirror again.
The clerk now stood, shoving the cigarette boxes into a shelf against the wall. Surely he wouldn’t notice.
He snatched a pack of nuts and beef jerky, slipped them into the hoodie, and made for the door. When he opened it, it creaked.
“Hey!” came from behind him.
He raced across the gravel parking lot.
He wasn’t just afraid of being caught stealing. He was terrified this guy would tie him down and drag him off through the daylight, back into the night. How this clerk knew his abductor, he couldn’t be sure, but he’d learned the world was not what it seemed—that mankind had a sadistic streak he hadn’t fathomed until the night he woke in utter darkness, wrists pinching, feet freezing, the sound of wind beating against his imprisoning chamber.
He glanced over his shoulder. Through the glass door, above a laminated Open sign, he saw the clerk leap over the counter and dash for the door.
The virgin thief raced around the store, heading for the woods, where he believed he could find cover again.
The clerk continued calling out, but the thief didn’t turn back. Just kept running.
A force hit his back and knocked him to the ground. The gravel pricked at him through the hoodie barrier as he rolled onto his back. The clerk’s fierce gaze looked like that of a predator about to snatch its prey. He knelt and reached for the thief.
What would he do to him? Hurt him? Beat him?
Not this time.
The thief lunged at his assailant, thrashing about, his fingers curled to form claws. He hissed like an animal and tackled the guy to the ground.
“Jesus Christ!” the clerk exclaimed. “What the fuck is wrong with you?”
As they wrestled, the clerk managed to wind up on top. He positioned his knees on either side of the thief’s hips, seized his wrists, and pinned him to the ground. The clerk’s hands, cupped around his wrists, reminded the thief of his bondage. He jerked his head about as he searched desperately for a way out. He wasn’t just battling the clerk. He was battling the unbearable suspense as cool metal slid up and down his body, the patter of footsteps that paced around him, the claws that dug into his flesh in moments of throbbing pain. When he saw his opportunity, he bit into the clerk’s wrist.
The clerk released him, made a fist, and bashed it into his attacker’s temple.
Pain swelled in the thief’s head. He couldn’t see straight. The clerk’s fist hit his face again just before everything went black.
Devon McCormack spends most of his time hiding in his lair, adventuring in paranormal worlds with his island of misfit characters. A good ole Southern boy, McCormack grew up in the Georgian suburbs with his two younger brothers and an older sister. At a very young age, he spun tales the old fashioned way, lying to anyone and everyone he encountered. He claimed he was an orphan. He claimed to be a king from another planet. He claimed to have supernatural powers. He has since harnessed this penchant for tall tales by crafting whole worlds where he can live out whatever fantasy he chooses.
A gay man himself, McCormack focuses on gay male characters, adding to the immense body of literature that chooses to represent and advocate gay men’s presence in media. His body of work ranges from erotica to young adult, so readers should check the synopses of his books before purchasing so that they know what they’re getting into.