Young Adult Paranormal
Date Published: October 2012
Orphans Astrid Chalke and Max Fisher meet when they’re sent to live at Wakefield, a residential and educational facility for teens with psychiatric and behavioral problems. Astrid’s roommate cuts herself with anything sharp she can get her hands on and Max’s roommate threatens him upon introduction.
Just as Astrid and Max develop a strong bond and begin to adjust to the constant chaos surrounding them, a charming and mysterious resident of Wakefield named Teddy claims he has unexplainable abilities. Sometimes he can move things without touching them. Sometimes he can see people’s voices emanating from their mouths. Teddy also thinks that some of the Wakefield staff are on to him.
At first, Astrid and Max think Teddy is paranoid, but Max’s strange, recurring dreams and a series of unsettling events force them to reconsider Teddy’s claims. Are they a product of his supposedly disturbed mind or is the truth stranger than insanity?
Top Five Tips for Becoming a Better WriterTeam Mad World has been at this for more than five years, and though we know we’ll never be Faulkner, we can see our writing grow stronger with each book in the series. No tip list will work as a magic wand for every aspiring writer, but here are a few pointers that have helped us improve our craft.
1. Write...a lot. Erin used to wait for huge chunks of downtime before even thinking about writing. But if you have a full time job and a family, that’s probably not going to work for you. Stop waiting for the perfect moment. Sitting in Starbucks with your laptop for a long afternoon to work on your novel will not make it more interesting. Think about writing and actually engage in writing whenever you have time. Troy writes every day (even when he has the flu!), and Erin takes advantage of any free minute she can snag and bangs out a few paragraphs on her phone.
2. Follow the rules in moderation. Anyone who frequents writer’s blogs and forums knows “the rules.” Show, don’t tell. Don’t use adverbs. Limit your adjectives. Avoid purple prose, deus ex machina, Mary Sues, and MacGuffins. All of the infamous writer’s rules serve a valid purpose, but if you try to adhere to all of them, by the book, all the time, you’ll drive yourself crazy and slow down your writing momentum. To the extent that you can, let go of them during your first draft and let your story flow. You’ll have plenty of time to incorporate the rules when you revise. And remember that you don’t have to follow all the rules to the letter all the time. For example, if you engage in showing throughout an entire novel, you’ll exhaust yourself and your reader. Telling can be a useful tool when it’s done well.
3. Revise, revise, revise. When you sit down to take a second look at your first draft, gently remind yourself that you can do better. Dissect your plot and characters first, looking for holes and weaknesses. Then go after your prose, keeping in mind that almost every sentence can be improved with stronger verbs, imagery, and word choices.
4. Let honest readers read your writing. Moms can make great beta readers, but they’re also moms. If you don’t have a friend or family member who can be brutally honest with you, find an avid reader who doesn’t know you that well and ask for his or her honest opinion about your characters, plot, and writing style. Other writers can make great beta readers, too.
5. Learn how to handle critique. You can’t possibly make every reader happy. Though it’s important to be open to good critique, don’t set aside what you value about your writing because of a review or a comment on Goodreads. With the Mad World series, some reviewers have commented on the pacing of Wakefield and referred to the non-paranormal content as “filler.” Though we’ve tried to pick up the pace with the sequels by adding some much needed action, the exploration of teenage minds and relationship dynamics isn’t filler to us. Regardless of whether every reader “gets it,” we view those YA Contemporary moments as an integral part of the story and one of the elements that sets Mad World apart from the bulk of the YA Paranormal pack.
I ran a hand lightly against the cold wall, imagining the force it would take to smash through it. The yellow lights above shone with a dull intensity that turned my stomach. The doors all matched, and I felt claustrophobic. The only thing that broke up the monotony was the random graffiti scribbled on the walls. Most of it had been scrubbed off, but I could make out faint lines here and there. They were like ghosts, just out of reach. Realizing I wouldn’t be able to leave these walls, I slunk down to the shiny, white floor and nearly cried.
“Hey,” a timid voice called out. It was the goth kid I’d noticed earlier. He was bone thin and had a long mop of straight hair that matched his black shirt and pants. He pushed the hair out of his face; the movement showed off his seven or eight bracelets.
I ignored him completely, so he approached very slowly and said, “You’ll get your regular clothes back tomorrow.”
“They give them back the next day.” He bobbed his head. He was younger than I was, but I couldn’t tell by how much. Dark hair covered half his face, which made him look younger, or he might have been little for his age.
“I look stupid,” I confided.
“Yeah, those suck,” he went on. “They made me feel like a tool when I got here. But you won’t have to wear them again. I haven’t.”
“So, welcome to Newton,” he said with a half grin.
“Yeah, this part of the building. We have to pretty much stay in our own area. There are three other units—Whitehall, Lancre, and McCarthy. We’re the best.”
“Clearly. I’m Max,” I introduced myself as he sat down against the opposite wall. He acted like I was a dangerous animal, moving slowly, like I might pounce at any minute. The woman at the staff desk looked up over her laptop for about twenty seconds before going back to whatever she was doing. I wondered if he thought he was fast enough to outrun me. I doubted he was. “So what do I call you?”
“Uh, I’m Azrael,” he told me shyly. He looked away, down the hall, in case I’d laugh at him.
“Your name is Azrael?” I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t want to scare him off, but it was a weird name.
“No,” he admitted and looked up at the ceiling. “It’s really Jon Applegarth, but I like Azrael better. It’s stupid, I guess.” He shrugged and let out a deep breath. I could tell he was not a fan of Wakefield.
“Did you get your name from the cat in The Smurfs?” I asked.
“No, I just like it. It sounds vampiric,” he said, brown eyes glistening with excitement.
“All right. Azrael it is then,” I reassured this kid.
He turned his face back to me and grinned. He had a tiny row of neat, little teeth.
“So, Simon’s your roommate, huh?” he asked, though he was fully aware of the answer.
“Yeah, I guess so.”
“I’m sorry,” he squinted at me, lowering his voice.
“He’s that bad?”
“Some guys like him. Couple of the girls do, too,” Azrael told me. “I stay away if I can.”
“Maybe he’ll be cool to me.” I shrugged.
“Yeah, maybe,” Azrael lied. “I gotta go.”
I doubted Azrael had any pressing business to take care of, but I didn’t say anything as he stood up and skittered away. This wasn’t the sort of place you tell people how you really feel. I’d have to start practicing biting my tongue and letting people do what they want. At least it was nice of Azrael to sit with me for a few minutes, even though he only worried me about Simon. If people liked me before I came here, then why wouldn’t they like me here at Wakefield?
A fat guy, older than me, left a room up ahead. He looked at me for a few seconds and then continued on to the bathroom. I hung my head low as I stood and walked down the hall to stare at my darkened reflection in the small window. It was gray outside, and I couldn't see much, but I would have given anything to be on the other side of that glass. It showed me a face that looked at least two years older than the last time I’d seen myself. Maybe I could get into R rated movies now. If only they’d let me out to see movies. I went back to my room, where Simon sat at his desk.
“Hey, do they ever let us out to the movies?” I asked Simon.
He grunted, so I sat on the empty bed to wait for my stuff to come. I didn’t know how long it would take the state social worker to bring my things to Wakefield or the staff to pour through all my belongings. I’d later hear how they’d go through all the pockets and seams for anything cutters use. They’d also check my music and movies to make sure none of it was inappropriate.
My “new” dresser was a simple, beat up, wooden monstrosity shoved against the wall. At least it looked more inviting than the bed I sat on. It was a wooden box with eight holes on the sides for straps to pass through in case the staff needed to restrain anyone in their rooms. Small rails cradled the thin, uncomfortable mattress.
Then I noticed a small rectangular camera hanging from the ceiling.
“Uhm, do all the rooms have cameras? Is that thing on?” I asked Simon.
“Yeah, dumbass, it's on. And no, not every room has one. But because of your newbie ass, I have to live with a camera until they decide to trust you. Thanks a lot.”
At least I knew why Simon was angry with me.
Erin Callahan & Troy H. Gardner
Erin Callahan lives with her husband in the bustling metropolis of Hooksett, New Hampshire, and works for the federal government. She enjoys reading and writing young adult fiction, playing recreational volleyball, and mining the depths of pop culture for new and interesting ideas. A year after graduating from law school, she found herself unemployed and took a job as a case manager at a residential facility similar to the one featured in Wakefield. Though she worked there for just over a year, the strange and amazing kids she met will forever serve as a well of inspiration.
Troy H. Gardner grew up in New Hampshire and graduated with a B.A. in English/Communications with a dual concentration in film and writing from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. He spent ten years working in the banking industry dreaming up numerous stories to write. When not writing, which is seldom, Troy busies himself jet-setting from Sunapee, NH to Moultonborough, NH.
Author Website: troyhgardner.com
Barnes and Noble