Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Beast in the Mirror is Out Now!

Hey! Good news! My novella Beast in the Mirror is available even sooner than I had hoped. It's now up on Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords! This 30k novella reimagines Beauty and the Beast as LGBT YA. Writing it was a real emotional challenge for me because I had to draw on my own experiences as an eating disorder survivor to get inside the head of Bella, a teen model who fell from grace with the media when her anorexia caused her to fall on the runway. It was also an extremely satisfying story to write because I finally got the chance to queer my favorite fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast! Beast in the Mirror is my effort to "write what scares me" and to contribute something to the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement and to the new movement to #KeepYAWeird. You should read it if you love interesting twists on fairy tales (shows like Once Upon a Time, Into the Woods, or Maleficent, for example), if you're wishing for more lesbian characters in YA, if you struggle with body images issues yourself or know someone who does, or if you just love a good unconventional fairy tale romance! I appreciate all the support I've gotten from my writing community on this one. You all rock and
I hope you enjoy the book!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

BEAST IN THE MIRROR is coming soon!

Not much longer before my novella Beast in the Mirror is ready to share with you! It's a 30,000 word YA contemporary fantasy based on Beauty and the Beast and I hope to have it out the week of March 9, 2015. The blurb goes like this:

Once upon a time, Bella Ashton was the teenage model to watch—until her anorexia got the better of her and she passed out on the runway. Now, fresh off a year of eating disorder rehab, Bella is eager to get back in the game. But when she and her photographer cousin break into an abandoned Irish manor to stage a photo shoot, Bella finds herself face to face with the house's owner: a hideous beast who used to be a girl like her. Taken captive, the terrified Bella will do anything to escape. But as she learns more about the beast, she discovers they aren't that different—and that the beast, in her own way, is a prisoner, too. How far will she go to save the monster she's slowly learning to love? And can finding the beauty in someone else help you find it in yourself?


Laura Bradley Rede gives the "tale as old as time" a fresh new twist in this queer, feminist reimagining.

This novella has been both a pleasure and a challenge to write. As an eating disorder survivor myself, I've struggled with writing about a topic so close to home, but in the end I feel good about the fact that this story has so much of me in it. Beauty and the Beast is my favorite fairy tale by far and I'm happy to have finally gotten the chance to do it my way! I'll post a teaser soon!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

NEW FREE SHORT STORY!

Happy holidays! Just wanted to let you I put out a new short story yesterday. Better Off Red is a light-hearted YA that started with the question "What if Red Riding Hood took place in my 'hood?"
Here's the blurb:

"Scarlet Church is your typical teenage girl, just kickin' it in the city and helping out with the family business. Of course, when your mama is the best witch in Minneapolis, that's not exactly business as usual! So when Mama asks her to take a potion to her grandma, Scarlet has to be ready for anything. Can she avoid a run-in with a werewolf—or worse, with handsome werewolf hunter Cisco Jones? A modern Red Riding Hood keeps a dangerous family secret in this delicious YA twist on a classic."

Better Off Red is free on Smashwords for Nook, Kobo, Sony Reader and related devices. Hopefully, it will be free for kindle on Amazon soon. (It's currently .99 on Amazon, but I hope they will price-match Smashwords and make it free soon. I'll let you know when they do!) Hope you enjoy it!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Creature Feature: The Hitchog!

(I will be posting occasional Creature Features on this blog, highlighting the unusual creatures found at the Ozwald Heidegger School for the Cursed, the setting of my next YA novel, Touched.)


There are so many animals on the grounds of The Ozwald Heidegger School for the Cursed: mischievous jump-monkeys and adorable knuks, sweet-smelling stinky toads and dangerous mimicats, but the cutest of them all is the hitchog. In its natural form, this tiny creature resembles a hedgehog, with a spiky, spherical body, bright black eyes, and stubby little legs.
The hitchog, however, doesn't spend much time in its natural form. Its tiny legs aren't well suited to getting around, so when the hitchog wants to get somewhere, to find fresh foraging grounds, escape a predator, or even warm up on a cold winter's day, it relies on its ability to shape-shift so it can hitch a ride with a human being. The hitchog can take the form of any small, useful object it has seen: a pen knife, a coin, a bottle opener, even a bright earring or an interesting-looking rock. When a human comes along, the hitchog uses a mild charm spell (similar to the Look At Me charm) to attract the person's attention and make itself look desirable. Unless the human is on guard against charm spells, he will have the urge to scoop the object up, thinking he might have a use for it or planning to find its owner.

            
Once the hitchog is in the person's pocket, it uses a mild forget charm (similar to Out of Sight, Out of Mind) to make the person forget its there at all. When it arrives at a new location, the hitchog transforms back into its hedgehog form and leaps out, eager to explore. Often, the human is none the wiser for having given the hitchog a lift, but sometimes the hitchog's transformation can come as a shock. The person reaches into her pocket for that key, only to find a spiny little animal instead! Classes at Ozwald Heidegger are sometimes interrupted by a student yelping when something starts to move around in his backpack. Other times, students may drop the object before it has a chance to transform back into its hedgehog shape, never knowing what they carried. Student Miguel Arroyos reports "I once went to get my Creature Creation textbook out of the lost and found box and there were three baby hitchogs stuck in there! People had thought they were lost mittens or something. I just dumped them out in the garden. Startled the heck out of me."
           
 But other than surprising the occasional student, hitchogs are really quite harmless. They forage for bugs, nuts and berries and generally keep to themselves, building little nests in the gaps of stone walls and the holes at the base of trees. They can even make themselves useful: If a student raises a hitchog as a pet, or if she has a particular talent for animal charming, she may be able to train the hitchog to shift forms on command. Student Suzanne Schwartzenberg says, "My hitchog Penny is the Swiss army knife of pets. I used to lock myself out of my dorm room every time I forgot my Knock Lock spell. Now Penny just takes her skeleton key form and I let myself right in. She's even working on a comb form, for those days when my hair won't behave. But don't use a hitchie as a toothbrush. I hear they taste like dirt."
           
Need to know if the object you've found is really a hitchog? Look for these tell-tale signs!

1) Temperature. Hitchogs run hot. Is the coin you picked up warm, even on a cold day? It may be a hitchog who transformed as you approached.

2) Details. Not all hitchogs are expert mimics. Unless they have seen an object often and up close, they may not get the details right. Does the face on that dollar look "off"? Is the logo on that wallet not quite right? It might be a knock-off - or it might be a hitchog.

3) Function. Hitchogs can imitate form, but they can't do complex functions. If that cell phone won't call, it might be out of power, or it might be a spiny little animal.


4) Sudden Disappearance. You often don't know an object is a hitchog until it disappears. If you swear you picked up that pretty rock but now it's not in your pocket, it may be a hitchog who bailed. One sure sign? A hole in your pocket. You may assume the rock just fell out, but in reality it was a hitchog who chewed her way out of your pants. Take a look around and you just may spot this clever little hitchhiker of the wild!

Think you may have picked up a hitchog? Wish you had one as a pet? Leave me a comment! I'd love to hear about it!



Photo credits: Baby hedgehog credit to: photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/khl/71470910/">Last Human Gateway</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">cc</a>


 Skeleton key: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/muuficom/6088233793/">muufi</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">cc</a>

Small objects: photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/29964571@N07/4073342611/">pamplemoussen</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">cc</a>

           

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Rental Ferret

I love reading the pet ads on Craig's List - especially the strange ones! This morning I ran across and ad with the headline "Can I Rent Your Ferret for a Day?" I thought it was funny, so I tweeted it and Hamline MFAC (the "unofficial twitter of Hamline U's low residency MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults") retweeted it as a "writing prompt of the day," so I decided to free-write on it and the following scene was the result. This is totally committing unpremeditated fiction, you guys - completely off the cuff.  I'd love to hear what you come up with, too! If you write about ferret rental, comment or tweet me the link @LauraBRede!          


            "Can I rent your ferret for a day?" the young man in the top hat asked.
            "Not likely," I said. "The ferret is mine - my own personal animal, see? You want a rental, you're gonna have to go with a rat. Maybe a rabbit. You can get them by the week."
            "By the week? No, no. I won't be here that long." The man wrinkled his nose, as if the thought of staying in Crotsdam made him ill. "And the rats and rabbits aren't as effective, are they? I really need a ferret, and only for the day. Or, more importantly, the night. I'll give you...How much for a rabbit?"
            "Ten duppins a week."
            "I'll give you ten for the ferret, from now til dawn."
            I paused, the soapy rag poised over the rat cage. I didn't want to let him see it, but I was tempted. An extra ten duppins for just one night? I thought of my own little stash, hidden under the woodstove. Ten duppins was a big step closer to getting out.
            But I only had one ferret. Renting her out meant a night unprotected. I could bring the rabbits and the rats into my room, but the man was right, it wasn't the same thing. What good was ten duppins if a Stalker got me? I swabbed at the rat cage. Think.
            "Well, now," I said slowly, "How do I know you can handle a ferret? You ever fought with one before?"
            He sighed, exasperated. "Where would I have learned that? There are no Stalkers in the city!"
            "Exactly! I rent you my ferret and you handle her improper and what's going to happen? You get her killed by a Stalker and I'm out one beast. Clairvoyant animals aren't cheap, you know, never mind ones trained to fight."
            "Fifteen duppins, then. And I'll put down a deposit. The whole cost of the beast."
            "You're desperate, aren't you?" I narrowed my eyes. "Where did you say you were staying?"
            He looked away, scowling. "That's none of your concern."
            "Where," I said, "Or no deal."
            He took a deep breath. "Graymore Place."
            My eyebrows went up a notch. "But I heard Earl Graymore -"
            "Passed away. Yes."
            I almost laughed. That seemed a very gentle term for what happened to the old man. "So you're the nephew? The new owner?"
            "I'm the nephew all right, but I have no interest in owning it. Not now that I've seen it. I'm only here until the train leaves tomorrow." He was wringing his gloves in his hands. The look in his eyes was so haunted, I almost felt sorry for him. Crotsdam can be tough on a city boy.
            But I'd be a fool to get involved with this one. The thought of Graymore Place made my spine go cold.  He'd never make it through the night. And good riddance, part of me thought. What's another arrogant city boy, more or less?
            But part of me felt sorry for him. What happened to the Earl shouldn't happen to anyone. And it wasn't far off from what happened to my own folks - what could happen to me, if I didn't get out of Crotsdam soon.
            And that was the point, wasn't it? Me earning money to get out? "The ferret doesn't go anywhere without a handler. It's twenty for her for the night, and an extra ten for me."
            I expected him to balk. Thirty duppins was a lot of cash. Instead, a look of relief washed over his face. "You'll...you'll stay with me?"
            "I'll stay with the ferret."
            "Yes." He blushed. "Yes, of course. I didn't mean...a gentleman staying alone with a lady..."

            "Oh, I doubt we'll be alone." I scooped up my ferret in one hand and my crossbow in the other. "Not with all the Stalkers around. And if you ever call me a lady again, this ferret's gonna take you down."

Monday, April 14, 2014

Villains and Antagonists in YA

On Saturday I had the pleasure of co-teaching a workshop with YA author Carrie Mesrobian. It was a ton of fun, mainly because we had a good turn out people, all seriously into geeking out about YA. It was also fun because I like hanging out with Carrie. She is a gifted writer and a very cool and funny person, and she is also, as of last week, winner of the Minnesota Book Award for her novel Sex and Violence. (Yay Carrie!) She and I met a few years ago when I took a class about Twilight which she taught at the Loft Literary Center, here in Minneapolis. She kindly invited me to help her lead a one-day workshop on popular YA called Harry, Bella, Percy and Katniss, which uses popular series to illustrate techniques for writing YA, and to talk about what YA is (and isn't) and what makes popular books tick. We've taught the workshop together four times now and always enjoy it, but there's SO much to say, we always wind up having to leave a few things out. This time, we were forced to skip over villains, antagonists, and foils, so I told the folks in the class I would post my notes on the subject here, for anyone who's interested in villainy.

But first, I promised I would  post the link to the Pinterest board I keep of self-publishing resources, for those students who were considering going indie. This board has everything from freelance editors and cover designers to links to interviews with indie authors. For those just beginning their indie journey, I recommend you start with these FAQ's about self publishing from authors Tracey Garvis Graves and this blog post by Elizabeth Hunter, as well as this one by Allison Winn Scotch. They will help you sort out the work involved in self publishing, along with the rewards, so you can get a better sense of whether it's for you.

And now, on to the villainy! Remember, these are just my notes for the workshop, but I hope you can follow them. If you have questions, feel free to leave a comment and I'll be happy to answer!

Villains and Antagonists!

 Definitions:

Antagonist: can be anything that blocks or works against a protagonist's goals. Doesn't have to be doing it consciously - may not even be aware of the protagonist. Could be an animal, a force of nature, or just someone with an incompatible agenda.

Villain: This time it's personal! Consciously and directly opposes the protag.'s goals.

Important to know how your villain views herself. In very good vs. evil stories, like a high fantasy or super hero story, the villain may be aware that she is the villain and think of herself as evil, but in most cases villains view themselves as the heroes of their own stories.

Your story shouldn't be like a stage set that only looks real from one angle. You should be able to look at your story from the villain's point of view and still have it work. Your villain shouldn't exist only to block the hero's efforts. They should have their own set of conflicting goals that they are trying to achieve.
--What is your villain's heart's desire?
-- How is your hero standing in the way of her achieving that?
-- Was there a pivotal moment that made him what he is?
--Is there a love or weakness that makes her more human?

You should know your villain's backstory, but make careful choices about how much you share with the reader. More back story often makes a villain more sympathetic, which can be an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on how you intend to deal with your villain in the end. Villains who grow and change (or who are revealed to not be the villains we thought they were) are often redeemed, those who don't are defeated somehow. Is your villain a Draco Malfoy, for whom we will ultimately have some empathy, or a Voldemort who is irredeemable?

There are essentially three levels of villains in YA: I think of them as villainous nesting dolls.

Personal villains: (peers, on the same level as the protagonist. Mean girls and bullies, etc. Draco Malfoy, Clarice from the Ares cabin, other tributes in Hunger Games.)

Authority figures: Teachers, parents, Snape, Umbridge, the games makers.

Big Bad: Sometimes a powerful being, (The Titan Kronos, Voldemort) but often an abstract concept, a system of oppression, an evil organization. Often the protag has to confront something in himself in order to defeat the Big Bad. The transition to fighting the Big Bad rather than fighting lower level villains is often a "This is bigger than all of us" moment - for example, that moment in Catching Fire when Haymitch tells Katniss to remember who her enemy is. That's the shift between fighting the personal villains (the other tributes) and understanding that the real villain is the bigger system.)

Many series work through the three levels of villains, having the hero graduate to a new weight class of villains with each book: First book's main conflict may be with peers, book two takes on a higher authority, book three confronts a larger system, a super powerful villain, or something abstract within the hero herself. Obviously, you don't have to follow that pattern, but it helps in terms of upping the stakes. The Big Bad is almost always defeated, or there is a strong implication that it will be. Lower level villains are often redeemed and even become allies (Clarice in the Percy Jackson books). Some of the most interesting heroes are former villains! (And note that we're seeing a trend of villains as main characters - everything from Wicked to Maleficent.)

Something else to keep in mind:

Does your villain serve as a foil for your hero?

A foil is a character who has traits that are opposite those of another character. The contrast between the two points up qualities of each of them.

Foils don't have to be antagonistic to each other. Best friend can often be foils (Jessica's social nature is meant to be contrasted to Bella's shyness.)  In an opposite-attract type romance, a couple may serve as foils for each other. In a classic love triangle, the girl is choosing between two very different guys - Jacob as a foil for Edward - who represent different options or futures - stay human, or become a vampire. Parents make natural foils (Bella's responsible nature contrasted with her mom's flakiness.) Siblings are natural foils - think Katniss and Prim. Ron's family acts as a foil to the Dursley's - we wouldn't fully appreciate the cold, unloving nature of  Privet Drive if we couldn't contrast it with The Burrow.

When creating foils, don't just think in terms of how they are opposite, but also look at how they are the same because it's that commonality that invites readers to compare them. Katniss and Prim are foils, but the fact that they are sisters, and even the subtle fact that they are both named after plants, puts them in the same box in the reader's mind and invites them to compare. Four and Erik in Divergent are both trainers for Dauntless, but with radically different approaches. Harry and Voldemort are foils, but J.K. Rowling gives them a ton in common: both orphans, Harry speaks parcel tongue, the sorting hat almost put Harry in Slytherin, etc. She uses their similarities to point up the important theme of free will. There is the feeling that Harry could have been Voldemort, if he had made different choices.

One last thing re: villains and antagonists: parents are often antagonists in YA. (That's often a difference between YA and middle grade). They might actively be villains, but more likely they are antagonists by virtue of being authority figures who set limits on your hero. This can be a huge advantage in some stories, if it gives your protag something to work against, but it can sometimes hobble your protag too much.

Or, conversely, helpful grown-ups can make things too easy. There's no plot if Dumbledore solves all the problems and Harry goes home to Sirius every summer. Powerful grown-ups take too much out of the characters' hands.

Four Ways to Kill the Grown-Ups!

1) Actually kill them. YA is full of orphans.
2) Set your story away from home. (Camp Half-Blood, Hogwarts, the Hunger Games)
3) Give the grown-ups issues.  Make them workaholics, self involved, immature or estranged. Give them mental health issues. (Katniss and Bella flip the roles and take care of their moms. Percy's powerful parent is a god who doesn't intervene.)
4) Abduct the grown-ups. (This is usually a middle grade move, but Cassandra Clare abducts Clary's mom. Percy's mom in the first book is sort of abducted and killed at the same time.)

There's a moment in the Deathly Hallows movie when the kids first arrive at Sirius' house. Hermione casts a spell to make anyone who is there reveal themselves. When no one does, she says "We're alone" and it's a weighted moment because there's a deeper meaning. The powerful moments in YA are often the moments when we realize "We're all in this together" and when we realize "We're in this alone."




WRITING EXERCISE  Write a letter from the point of view of the villain in your story. Choose someone specific to address it to - the hero, an authority figure, etc. Explain why you do the things you do in the story. If you don't have a wip, choose a book you know or a fairy tale, etc.

 Have fun with it!