I'm happy to announce that I just signed a contract with Harmony Ink for "A Scout is Brave," the sequel to Pukawiss the Outcast!!! Hopefully they will be interested in Book III as well, which I have yet to submit.
Thanks to Unicorn Bell for the quick interview today about my novel Pukawiss the Outcast. Check it out!
Jay Jordan Hawke
"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." That, of course, is just one of many quotable lines from history's greatest author. But this blog post is not about William Shakespeare. I've actually been thinking a lot about a very different writer of late. Specifically, I've been ruminating on the unprecedented success of young adult author, John Green.
Ever heard of him? He is the Shakespeare of our times—at least according to every teenage girl I know. They worship him and his novels and ruthlessly confront anyone who dares challenge his iconic status. Why? Evidently, his novels capture the essence of that which every teenage girl dreams about pretty much all the time—things like falling in love with someone who is about to die a horrible death, for example. It's an essential ingredient that absolutely escaped me when writing my own novels.
Yes, that was sarcasm, and yes, that sarcasm comes from a place of complete and total jealousy. As a young adult writer myself, whose success comes in slightly under that of John Green on the best seller list, I do hate him because I want to be him. So naturally, I've been wondering what it takes to get my books noticed.
Then I thought, it's not his content. Good god, it can't be his content! So maybe, just maybe, it's all in the title. John Green took the title for his most famous book, "The Fault in Our Stars" right from the great Bard himself, William Shakespeare. (after daring to alter the original line a bit) Certainly it can't hurt to have the greatest writer of all times on your side when trying to get attention. That's it! That's the secret to John Green's success. I simply have to rename my own book, "Pukawiss the Outcast," to something a bit more, well, Shakespearean.
This shouldn't be hard to do. After all, Shakespeare has so many famous quotes. I could just take a few and add "Pukawiss" to them, and voilà-- instant best seller! Ok, I'm psyched. Let's do this! I'm going to officially rename my novel "Pukawiss the Outcast" and then introduce a second edition under that title. But I need your help with this, as my Shakespeare, like my John Green, is somewhat limited. So please, give me your advice! What do you think of the following suggestions for my young adult novel, Pukawiss the Outcast:
"The Fault in Pukawiss' Stars." Yeah, this one is probably a bit too obvious.
"To Be or Not to Be Pukawiss." To indecisive for my tastes.
"O Pukawiss, Pukawiss! Wherefore art thou Pukawiss?" Hmmm.
"To Thine own Pukawiss be True." Yeah, this one is just silly.
"Friends, Romans, Countrymen, Lend Me Your Ears; I Come to Bury Pukawiss, Not to Praise Him." Probably a bit too long for a title. Maybe just "I Come to Bury Pukawiss."
"Pukawiss is Such Stuff as Dreams are Made On." Ooh, yeah, I like that one.
But maybe instead of Shakespearean quotes I should be thinking in terms of Shakespearean titles. I mean, stealing famous quotes and claiming them as your own, well, that's just so John Green. So how about these instead.
"Romeo and Pukawiss." It is a novel for gay teens after all.
"MacPukawiss." Tee hee.
"Julius Pukawiss." Hmm, no don't like how that play ends. "Et tu Pukawiss?" Better.
"Much Ado About Pukawiss." Promising.
"The Taming of the Pukawiss." Oh, bingo!
Hmmm, can't think of one for Hamlet though.
Your turn. Thoughts?
Post script: Before the death threats start, no I haven't read any of his books, and yes, I fully intend to give them a try. In fact, I'll have you know I just purchased Julius Caesar.
I just finished reading Children of the Knight by award winning author, Michael J. Bower (published by Harmony Ink Press). It is a "gritty urban fantasy" for young and old readers alike. The novel's main fantasy element is that King Arthur is brought by Merlin to modern day Los Angeles for a new mission—save the thousands of neglected and outcast children of that fallen city. Los Angeles, of course, could just as well be any city in America, the context serving simply as a symbol for modern Western civilization and how it treats the "least of thee." And it's an intriguing comparison to Medieval England, where warring tribes once brought chaos to the old world, just as ruthless gangs infest and destroy our cities today. The metaphor begets and offers a simple question: How do you solve this problem? The solution can only be found in how the legendary King Arthur solved it back then. A light is needed to show people the way, and King Arthur serves that function as he is tasked with convincing gangs and other outcasts to unite and fight a much larger enemy.
And it is through these children that the true heart of the novel is revealed. Filled with wonderfully likeable and realistic characters, all of whom have some kind of "flaw" that makes them unwanted, these societal rejects manage to do what adults never could—put their differences aside, accept each other, and in the process, unite for a greater cause.
In a novel that realistically and sometimes uncomfortably displays societal failures like run-away drug abuse, child molestation, indifferent adults, bigoted contempt for gays and lesbians, economic injustice, dispirited teachers and cops, and corrupt politicians, the novel threatens to overwhelm the reader with a sense of pessimism and fatalism at times. But Bowler manages to do just the opposite. Optimism and hope are its ultimate tone, as a bunch of rejects come to accept the challenge laid down by King Arthur and join his quest.
Bowler himself has dedicated his life to helping these throw-always, and his novel is a constant reminder that no child deserves to be written off. This book deserves to get a lot more attention than it has, and I hope it catches on. Kids need to know the central message of this book—that they aren't failures unless they internalize and perpetuate the flawed society that they reflect and inherited. It is society, after all, that has failed to provide these kids with a vision of love, acceptance, and hope.
It's probably unfair to put the responsibility for changing society onto a bunch of children, something that adults, with all their knowledge, education, and power, have failed to do. But alas, the dream lives on only in those still capable of dreaming. Or as Bowler puts it so wonderfully: "Once upon a time in the City of Angels, the children did lead, and the people hope." And the veiled message of this book, in my opinion, isn't really to get kids to rise up and change the world. Rather it's to shame adults for not doing just that.
The final hope is that the sequel is already out— Running Through a Dark Place—as well as several more sequels in the works coming soon thereafter.
Note: After reading this book, and getting ready to post this review, I noticed yet another well-meaning "We Need Diverse Books" post on my Tumblr feed. And so I can't help but point out the irony that books like Children of the Knight, a book populated with the most diverse characters I have ever seen in film or literature, is collecting dust on the metaphorical book shelf while the "We Need Diverse Books Project" is complaining about the lack of diversity in literature. Start buying the amazing works out there being offered to you by authors like Michael Bowler and good hearted publishers like Harmony Ink Press. Whining doesn't change things. If you don't support what IS out there, certainly the larger publishers are not going to pay any attention to you.
Jay Jordan Hawke is author of the Two-spirit Chronicles, which includes: Pukawiss the Outcast, A Scout is Brave, and Onwaachige the Dreamer.