Monday, April 9, 2018

Cover reveal: Anne E. Johnson's LAUNCHING THE LUNCHROOM Gzzargles Alien Stories No. 1

"I hate Earth Studies!" John knows he'll never get that report on pollination done in time. "Why do we have to live on Earth? There’s all this stuff to learn, and it’s so boring."

In Launching the Lunchroom, some intergalactic visitors overhear John's complaint. Unfortunately, they misunderstand his meaning.

Launching the Lunchroom
Gzzargles Alien Stories No. 1
for kids aged 7-10
Written and illustrated by Anne E. Johnson
Coming July 1, 2018.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Neo-Noir StoryBundle Includes GREEN LIGHT DELIVERY

Webrid is not always the best in social situations, but the earnestly goofy protagonist of my trilogy of humorous space opera novels is currently forced to hang out with some pretty striking characters.

StoryBundle is offering a pay-what-you-want collection of neo-noir fiction, and I'm honored to have Green Light Delivery included. Check out this lineup:

And now a word from celebrated indie publisher and editor Kate Sullivan:

The Neo-Noir Bundle serves up, in one fell swoop and at rock-bottom price, a collection of ten riveting works that blur boundaries, mix up expectations, and blend together all the best that noir has to offer.
Cross boundaries and defy expectations while exploring the noir tenets. Unreliable narrator? Check. Cynical, world-weary protagonist who's as quick with wit as a weapon? Check. Complex plots rife with reminiscences, reversals and betrayals? Check, check, and check.
As the founder and once-mastermind of acclaimed small indie press Candlemark & Gleam (now helmed by fellow renaissance woman Athena Andreadis), I had the honor of helping release some of the best new works in the neo-noir resurgence; these days, I'm digging into the best vintage pulp and noir with The Fiction League podcast.
And now, I get to share that dark, brooding twist on speculative fiction with you in this spectacular bundle.
Firmly noir, the bundle nevertheless ranges widely across speculative fiction subgenres: space opera, high and urban fantasy, paranormal romance, horror, alternative history, dieselpunk. From corrupt elves to Twitter-obsessed superheroes, from werewolf cops to ghostly soul whisperers, it's all here!

You'll get shadowy settings, the electric hum of eroticism, bouts of spectacular violence, and lose-lose scenarios familiar to devotees of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, James Ellroy, and Patricia Highsmith; of Blade RunnerStrange Days, and the dark Batman reboots. Add a dash of snark, a jigger of suspense, and garnish with a twist of epic proportions for a neo-noir cocktail that'll leave you reeling…and thirsty for more.

Order this amazing collection at

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Guest post: Trisha Faye, editor of IN CELEBRATION OF SISTERS

Confession time. There's a reason I usually write speculative fiction: I'm not very good at writing about reality and my own life. But when Trisha Faye put out a call for poems about sisters, I had to try, and I'm thrilled to say that "I Cherish Allegra" is included in the just-released anthology IN CELEBRATION OF SISTERS. Trisha stopped by to tell us more about the project.

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by Trisha Faye

Anne, thank you for the invitation for a guest blog. I’m excited about my newest release, In Celebration of Sisters, which is a collection of many stories and poems from talented writers. In fact, that’s how Anne and I connected. She has a poem in this anthology, honoring her sister Allegra and the sister memories she has, even though Allegra left this earth many years too early.

That’s been my favorite part of working on this anthology – meeting new authors and reading the delightful tales that celebrate the wonderful world of sisterhood. There’s some old friends in this book too. Several of the featured authors also had stories in my first anthology, In Celebration of Mothers, which was released a year ago. A new book about sisters seemed to be a natural follow-up.

Publishing an anthology brought about a whole different set of challenges than simply writing a story or a book. There were coordination issues between almost forty authors, getting permissions, collecting pictures, formatting, and trying to keep it all on schedule. I felt like I needed to put on a totally different hat for these tasks. But, you know, it’s in the working with new challenges and opportunities that we all experience growth – both personally and professionally. And at the end, when we can look back and see that we accomplished something we set out to do, it makes it all worth it.

The best part about the experiences of publishing two anthologies (with a third underway and set for publication in March 2018) is the new friendships that are formed. Through this, I’ve met an array of fascinating people who craft with words to touch others with their tales. And through the virtual world of email, the internet and social media, we can connect and interact in ways that were unthought-of not that many years ago. We’re not limited to having fellow authors – or readers – in our circle that we meet at book signings, in the bookstores, or on the physical path of life.

Anthology editor Trisha Faye and her sister
With Anne in Brooklyn, as I sit in Texas I most likely wouldn’t have crossed paths with her with her YA and Middle Grade books. I wouldn’t learn that she writes poetry also, nor that she had an older sister, Allegra, who had a perfect hiding place in the woods and didn’t like the ladder going to the upper bunk bed. But thanks to this anthology, and the virtual world we live in, my life is richer from meeting these wondrous new friends across the globe.

In Celebration of Sisters rejoices in the dynamics of sisters of all phases of life – those that have had a falling out and been reunited, other sisters, like Allegra, that were gone from life too soon, sisters from another mother, and the most glorious of all – sisters that are golden threads in the meaning of life. You can find their many stories, memories, and recollections here. Meanwhile, I’ll keep on celebrating sisters…and mothers…and the new friends I meet along the journey of this magical writing life.

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You can order In Celebration of Sisters on Amazon.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

#LGBT #YALit #Scifi novella EXIT CODE now available!

It's launch day for my future-city novella! 

Danger lurks just down the tracks.
To escape, you'll need the


It’s Chicago in the year 2057, and Tren Alvarez is on a date with Geo, the hottest boy in his high school class. Things are going great until Geo suggests they take a ride on the Stacks, the recently built all-city transit system that has practically replaced cars in the Chicago metro area. Tren has an unfounded fear of the Stacks. He even buys into urban legends claiming people have boarded the little carriage pods, slid up onto the snaking tracks, and were never heard from again.
As the date progresses, the boys witness something that suggests Tren isn’t just being paranoid. When they make the mistake of investigating the next day while Tren’s little sister Ezzie is with them, everything turns upside down. Trying to impress somebody he likes quickly turns into trying to save Ezzie – and the whole city of Chicago.

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Buy Exit Code wherever ebooks are sold, including

Friday, September 22, 2017

Diversity in YA Lit

Diversity in YA Literature
by Anne E. Johnson

Previously I wrote about the widespread push -- led by the We Need Diverse Books campaign -- to bring a range of voices to children’s and middle-grade books and stories. This followup column deals with diversity for young adult readers.

Where to Find Out What’s Going On

It’s part of your job as a writer to know what’s out there. Keeping track of diverse representations in YA lit, however, can be tougher than visiting your local bookstore or library. The whole point of We Need Diverse Books is that many types of people are underrepresented in books, and therefore the books are hard to find.

Fortunately, there are some folks ready to help. Diversity in YA, for example, is an entire website devoted to new YA releases with diverse content. Review blog Rich in Color also focuses on diverse lit; this one is kind of a team effort, asking for reader participation to keep their files up to date.

Always a trusty source of kid lit information, the Children’s Book Council offers a list of recommended MG and YA multicultural books. And here’s a list called “Ten authors of color to read in 2015” (yes, it’s okay if you don’t get to these books until 2017).

How to Write It

Learn to write by reading. It’s not a bad game plan. If you want to know how to make your own work more diverse, get to know the work of diverse authors. You might start with this interview featuring three authors who specialize in diverse YA: Aisha Saeed, Sabaa Tahir, and Renee Ahdieh.

Another educational approach for the potential author of diverse YA is to study characters representing diverse groups. School Library Journal has put out a list of disabled characters in YA. The American Library Association offers a list of teen characters with autism in YA books. I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s worth repeating the link to I’m Here, I’m Queer, What the Hell Do I Read, an ongoing list of LGBTQ-related fiction for YA and middle-grade.

Where to Send It

If you have written or plan to write any diverse YA, you’ll need some publishers or agents to consider it. As always, look at the background of everyone you consider: the agents’ client lists and the publishers’ back catalogs. See what they publish. Read interviews to see whether they have an active interest in promoting underrepresented authors or characters or settings or perspective. One example of a publisher with precisely this agenda is the Tu imprint of Lee and Low. You can read their mission statement here.

It may be worthwhile to look into grants or awards, particularly if you are a person of color or disabled, or a member of another diverse group. The 2017 deadline is coming right up (Nov. 1) for WNDB’s Walter Dean Myers Award for YA. (Note: you must qualify according their definition of “diverse” to enter.)

As for agents, besides reading interviews with them and blogs by them, you can also learn a lot from a series in Writers Digest called “30 Literary Agents Seeking Diverse Books Now.”

Good luck, keep writing, and keep expanding your perspective on the world. In can only lead to better stories!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Cover reveal: YA science fiction adventure, EXIT CODE

Ta-daaa! I'm just thrilled to be able to share the cover of my upcoming YA science fiction novella, Exit Code, due out Nov. 1, 2017. The designer is James at GoOnWrite, who always does wonderful work.

(To join my mailing list and be notified when Exit Code is released, please click here.)

In EXIT CODE, a clumsy first date becomes a battle against a terrifying crime wave. 

It's 2057, and people are being kidnapped as they ride on the Stacks, Chicago's new all-encompassing transit system that virtually replaces cars. 

The police are getting nowhere. Someone has leaked fake videos of the kidnappings to the media, putting the authorities on the wrong scent. Tren and his new boyfriend, Geo, accidentally find out where the real kidnappings are taking place. But they make the mistake of following the trail of clues while Tren's little sister Ezzie is with them. 

Tren quickly realizes that his sister's safety is worth more to him than the whole city of Chicago.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Writing Dialog for Middle-Grade Fiction

by Anne E. Johnson

Making characters talk in a middle-grade story or novel is not the same thing as writing for very young children. Needless to say, as kids get older they can follow (and appreciate) more complicated dialog. However, increasing vocabulary is not the only factor that distinguishes dialog for this age group.

Keep It Wondrous

One marker shared by the best MG lit is imagination. And, just as the stories are often full of wonder, let the characters reflect that in their voices.

In her novel Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, inspired by ancient Chinese folklore, Grace Lin uses arcane, stylized language with no slang and very few contractions. Stripping the language of artifice and modernity gives a specific atmosphere.

In one scene, the main character’s Ma and Ba (father) are worried about their missing daughter. Their fish (!) gives them enigmatic wisdom:

“There is fear in the wind,” the fish said, “great worry.”
“Is it a storm?” Ma asked.
Ba looked at the fish. It stared at him with big eyes.
“I’m not sure,” said Ba.

Keep It Personal

With increased comprehension comes increased demand for details by the reader. Let each character have his or her own style of speech and favorite topics to talk about.

Frank Cottrell Boyce’s Framed is a humorous contemporary novel about a boy in a small town. In that context, every single character is visible and important.

Here a girl nicknamed Terrible Evans, who is obsessed with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, sits next to the main character and spews forth trivia rather than making conversation. (Know anyone like that? I do, too.):

“Did you know,” she said, “that in the original comic, Splinter wasn’t a mutant rat?”
“No. I didn’t.”
“In the telly series, splinter is a rat who used to be a human. But in the comics he’s a rat who was always a rat. On telly he used to be Hamato Yoshi, who mutated into a rat because of a mutagen…”

And on and on. Although this conversation does not contribute substantively to the plot, it tells the reader volumes about both the character speaking and the character patient enough to hear her out.

Keep It Loose

When kids talk to each other, it’s practically a different language from the one they use around adults. This is particularly true when the kids have a lot of shared experience, such as schoolmates.

A Crooked Kind of Perfect, by Linda Urban, shows some good examples of capturing this in dialog. During one conversation between the main character and a boy she knows, notice how little narration and tagging there is. The words spill out in a believably fluent way:

“You were pretty mad out there,” Wheeler says.
“You were pretty mad yesterday,” I say.
“Was not.”
“You punched a bird.”
“A fake bird,” he says. He shoves his hands in his jacket pockets.

Keep It Silly

And the most important advice of all for the writer of middle-grade lit: Let your imagination be sprinkled with humor.

And you can’t get more humorous or imaginative than the late, great Terry Pratchett. Here is an exquisitely bizarre excerpt from his first Tiffany Aching novel, The Wee Free Men:

“There really is a school for witches?” said Tiffany.
“In a manner of speaking, yes,” said Miss Tick.
“Very close.”
“Is it magical?”
“Very magical.”
“A wonderful place?”
“There’s nowhere quite like it.”
“Can I go there by magic? Does, like, a unicorn turn up to carry me there or something?”
“Why should it? A unicorn is nothing more than a big horse that comes to a point anyway. Nothing to get so excited about,” said Miss Tick.

Which middle grade novels do you think have the best dialog?