Free literary novel today & 6/8/12 – Sykosa

Readers of A Few Words may recall that some months ago, I posted an excerpt of a YA novel that received a lot of comment because of its “YA for 18+” marker. Sykosa fostered a lot of great conversation on my social networks, including two guest posts from the author Justin Ordoñez on “Defining the Book that Rejects Definition.”

Well, I’m very happy to report that Sykosa, is available on Amazon for free through June 8th.

I’d love to hear what others think, both of the novel and of the concept of defining YA by age. I think as authors further explore this genre, we’re going to see more conversation of this type occurring.

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Guest Post: Defining the Book that Rejects Definition; A Genre Question – part 2

Yesterday, I posted the first of two guest posts by Sykosa author Justin Ordoñez. Today, we return to the discussion of what an author does with a book that rejects definition with a look at the YA genre. You can visit the first part of this post here.


Defining the Book that Rejects Definition; A Genre Question

Part Two
by Justin Ordoñez

Let’s take a look at YA.

People say they like YA because it’s short, it’s easy, it’s different, it’s fun, but it so happens the YA hot streak has coincided with a culture becoming ever more obsessed with youth, and a culture that has—in an unfair manner—began to rob children of the right to be young. To say for certain what is happening is hard while living it, but it seems there’s a tremendous downward pressure (by downward, I mean the older applying the pressure to the younger) for the young to become sexualized in an adult fashion, and with this downward pressure has come, in my opinion, an immense need to segment the youth into categories—newborns, toddlers, kids, tweens, teens, young adults—so this sexualization can be coped with and appear implementary. Market segmentation is not a new phenomena, nor it the implication that adults—who fall for logical fallacies like kids doing chores for candy—view most implementary change as change that must have been rationally thought out. If you pay attention, society doesn’t get mad when an entity crosses a line, but when it crosses too many lines. We get angry when the fallacy isn’t present—when it’s obvious we are objects without humanity. (An example of this would be selling thongs for seven year olds). When this happens, society’s response is to create more lines, which might at first seem okay. If there are more lines, then there are more lines to cross, thus less offenses should happen. Unfortunately, the problem is being viewed from the incorrect frame of reference. If one were to plot the downward pressure linearly (in a line), then review this line from a distance, it would still be as long as it has ever been, except the space between lines is shorter, and so it is much easier to cross one line, wait for society to become conditioned to it, then move toward the next—it is easier to create the appearance of implementary change, and to create a change that feels legitimate and true, and so one will find radical change becomes easier and ultimately meets less resistance.

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Guest Post: Defining the Book that Rejects Definition; A Genre Question – part 1

Some of you may recall that, back in April, A Few Words posted an excerpt from a new YA novel called Sykosa by Justin Ordoñez. I received a lot of feedback on that post, especially on the concept of writing YA for 18+. I went back to Justin and asked him to consider writing more for us on genre. He graciously accepted and so we have two fascinating posts this weekend from an “industry outsider” and his take on why he chose the path that he did. I highly encourage you to come back for the rest of the conversation tomorrow.

Defining the Book that Rejects Definition; A Genre Question.

Part One
by Justin Ordoñez

Before we ask the question of, “Is Sykosa YA (Young Adult)?” I have a disclosure. I’m an industry outsider and I don’t know the lingo, the demographics, or what’s “hot” in the market, and until a few years ago, I had no idea what YA was, or that it sold well, and had no use for the term. I was first introduced to the term by YA author Mindi Scott. (Author of Freefall, and due in the fall, Live Through This—both fantastic novels). By chance, Mindi and I worked at the same company, and during one of our quarterly company-wide meetings, Mindi was honored for something—probably being awesome—and her manager said, “Mindi Scott is a writer and she was recently signed by Pulse, an imprint of Simon and Schuster.” It was maybe 2008 or 2009, so I was still toiling away on Sykosa, and I was already resigned to wasting my entire 20s on an unpublishable novel that would inspire every literary agent alive to say, “Yeah, I read it overnight. I was totally sucked in. What? No, sorry, I can’t represent Sykosa.”

(That’s an entirely different blog post, so I’ll stay on point…)

Anyhow, I decided to write Mindi an email and introduce myself. Over time, I came to learn she was an ambitious and serious writer, and what interested me most is that she had gone the more traditional route—attending school to help her hone her craft and working the social networking angle. It took her 5 years, but she finally got a book deal. (This is nothing I look down on, btw. In fact, I admire it, and often wonder why I can’t ever manage to do the same). Eventually, I told her about Sykosa, and her first reaction was, “Is it YA?” After confessing that I had no idea what she was talking about, I offered to let her read the novel, and although she was busy with Freefall, she said she’d read a few chapters. Upon finishing, she told me without doubt, “This is literary fiction. You’re not YA.” I asked her if she was sure about that, and then what happened is what happens to everyone who reads Sykosa; all of sudden you get this feeling in your stomach like, “Actually, no, I’m not sure… It’s just… Your novel is so…”

Finish the sentence however you like.

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Sykosa! An excerpt from a new YA novel by Justin Ordonez

Please enjoy this excerpt from Sykosa, a YA novel (for 18+ readers), by Justin Ordoñez. Then read on to learn how you can win huge prizes as part of this blog tour, including $550 in Amazon gift cards, a Kindle Fire, and 5 autographed copies of the book.


First period. American history.

Who knows which is worse. At this hour, it’s too early to care. Luckily, it’s never too early to bitch and moan. And she would do so, save her teacher is already on it. He’s up at the board—in shock that not a pupil noticed how his cuff smudged all his bullet points. Like wrist trajectory were her problem. That’s a math problem. And math problems aren’t her problem for another two hours. Yawn. He’s still going on—something about full attention being on…

Her fingernails.

Fingernails, you see, are better than lectures.

Particularly these lectures. Particularly this class.

She wishes nail polish didn’t break the Academy’s Personal Code, then her fingernails could be pretty colors, and she’d feel like a pretty girl. They should let her do her nails in class. It’s no different from doodling. It also increases hygiene, and in high school, that’s nothing to scoff at. She may paint her fingernails this afternoon, just for fun, then remove it and—

Hang on. Her teacher said something will be on a test.

Never mind, she already knows it.

Anyhow, if she does do her nails, she has a problem. She doesn’t know what to do. However, she does know she doesn’t want to do something she’s already done. If she’s gonna do her nails for one night, then it’d be nice if it were a departure of some type. Alas, her brain has no ideas. Being pretty is hard! Yet, she likes it so very much. That does it. She needs to talk to Niko. For one, Niko’s her best friend. Two, Niko’s gifted in the department of being glamorous. And luckily, Niko’s her neighbor, so she drafts a note that she passes across the table.

What should I do with my fingernails?

Niko reads the note in delight, then dies of boredom.

I thought you were gonna share good gossip or something.

No, I want to do my fingernails.

Do something slutty. That’s always good for a thrill.

That’s a good idea.

Niko always has good ideas. Niko’s brilliant!

She wishes she were Niko.

And Niko wishes she were Sykosa’s breasts. That’s me, Sykosa! Well, technically, it’s my breasts. Breasts are an urgent topic for Niko, seeing as her prime puberty years have passed, and to Niko’s horror, she’s all As in the bra and all Ds on her report card. That’s harder on a girl than people think. And it’s why Niko collapses her cheek on her hand, then inconspicuously stares at those far-bigger boobs. Niko thinks she does it for a second or two. In reality, it’s seven or eight. Now, before anyone makes any assumptions, Niko’s not gay. She’s about as boy-crazy as a girl gets. To the point that she collects boyfriends as if they were Girl Scout badges.

And to be fair, this breast-staring is harmless.

Though every girl has her limits.

Hers have been exceeded. Not by Niko, but by Tom. He also has his cheek in hand, his eyes overcome by her chest—for what is maybe ten or eleven seconds.

Unlike Niko, he’s thinking of her as if she were some toy.

He may be right.

In the only snowstorm of the year, as the Academy froze under the sickly sweet smell of a dysfunctional oil furnace, she retreated behind the two bell towers of the Academy chapel. And on that very day, this very boy—in his ski jacket laden with those sticky tags they put on bags at airports—stumbled onto her smoking self and put his tongue in her mouth. It was a bold move. And it impressed her. They didn’t need to “talk.” Besides, it woulda fucked up the moment. I get shy fast. Accordingly, she kissed him until her heart beat so hard she became faint. It meant something. This feeling. She caught her breath. They sat beside each other. Seconds later, she wished they hadn’t stopped, so they restarted, then kept at it.

This time without the tongue.

Niko steals the note, then writes a new one.

Why is he looking at you like that? Only I’m supposed to look at you like that!

Niko’s the type who admits her faults shamelessly. While it’s slightly backward, Niko does so not as a deterrent from such behaviors, but to enable them. She rarely complains. Because that’s Niko. And somehow that excuses everything Niko does. That said, she supposes she’s predisposed to Niko’s jealously over her body, perhaps to the point of flattery. You see, this Tom-thing is nothing. Or if it is something, it’s certainly not enough of something. Not enough for her to buy a prom dress.

Why do you think he is looking at me like that?

Because you * him.

Not to delve too far into the well of note-passing dynamics, but she—and the Queens—use secret codes in case of confiscation. “*” means fuck, in all forms and conjugations. She has not * Tom. She has not * anybody. Her lips quiver at the *. It feels like something she’ll put off until she is thirty. Simultaneously, she also feels like it could happen in the immediate future.

Sometimes she just “knows.”

Gross.

Afraid?

No!

But, she is afraid. Everything is too complicated. It should not have to be. She goes behind the chapel. He goes behind the chapel. They make out. Simple, right? It’s not. Regardless, if even that must be complicated, then certainly the concept that she wants to go to Prom, thus he should ask her to Prom and then they should go to Prom is simple, right? It’s not. You see, he has this best friend, this confidante, this main focus, this everything—and her name is not Sykosa, but Mackenzie.

Or as you will soon find out: “M.” That’s what he calls her.


One random tour commenter will win a $100 Amazon gift card. Just leave a comment on this post, and you’ll be entered to win. For a full list of participating blogs, check out the official tour page. You can enter on just my blog or on all of them. Get out there and network!

About the book: YA fiction for the 18+ crowd. Sykosa is a sixteen-year-old girl trying to reclaim her identity after an act of violence shatters her life and the lives of her friends. Set at her best friend’s cottage, for what will be a weekend of unsupervised badness, Sykosa will have to finally confront the major players and issues from this event, as well as decide if she wants to lose her virginity to Tom, her first boyfriend, and the boy who saved her from danger. Get it on Amazon.

About the author: Sykosa is Justin Ordoñez’s life’s work. He hopes to one day settle down with a nerdy, somewhat introverted woman and own 1 to 4 dogs. Visit Justin on his website, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.