Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Worshipping the Female Deity

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Nyx in the House of Night

Worshipping the Female Deity

by Christine Zika

Before I was P.C. Cast’s editor on her Goddess Summoning romances, I once worked with three female mystics on a self-help book for women. During one of our conversations, the authors pointed out that a lot of church rituals–burning incense, the use of flowers, and candle-lighting–had origins in Pagan and polytheistic traditions.

Now, I’m Greek Orthodox, a branch of Christianity similar to Catholicism that is heavy on tradition, ritual, and symbolism. So while I take pride in my faith, I also take pride in my ethnic roots, which stretch back to the ancient Greeks and their beliefs in the gods and goddesses of Olympus. When I worked with P.C., I was always amused when she would call or write to me and address me as “Goddess Editor.” Each of the books in the Goddess Summoning series (Goddess of the Sea, Goddess of the Rose, Goddess of Love, etc.) revolved around an everyday woman who is transformed when …

Available Until Thursday, December 21st, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Just Another Crazed Narnia Fan

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Through the Wardrobe

Just Another Crazed Narnia Fan

by Deb Caletti

When I was in the sixth grade, I loaned my copy of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to Lisa Miller and never got it back. Not that I hold a grudge. Lisa had a surgery that required breaking both her legs and resetting them, putting her in a wheelchair for the good part of a year. Flimsy excuse, yes? I mean, this was my beloved and cherished copy, part of the ENTIRE SET of the Chronicles of Narnia that my parents had given me for Christmas when I was ten. An entire set of Narnia books without The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe–it’s like an entire set of dishes without the, well, dishes.

I still remember getting those books. For some reason, my mother had hidden them, unwrapped, inside a set of decorative drums that were underneath the Christmas tree. One day I was messing around, as …

Available Until Wednesday, December 20th, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Inevitable Decline of Decadence

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The Girl Who Was on Fire

The Inevitable Decline of Decadence

by Adrienne Kress

The goal of every culture is to decay through over-civilization; the
factors of decadence–luxury, skepticism, weariness and superstition–are constant. The civilization of one epoch becomes the manure of the
next.

–Cyril Connolly

The Hunger Games trilogy deals with many themes: war, rebellion, the manipulation of media. But it was its concern with societal decadence and its inevitable downfall that made the first book’s release timely. The bestselling YA dystopian series came onto shelves just as the world’s economy took a tumble. For years we’d been living in comfort and excess. Consumerism was rife, and shows like Sex and the City glorified consumption by extolling the virtues of shoes worth hundreds of dollars. Then, suddenly, the party was over, and the world became concerned with trying to save money rather than spend it. Today the idea of wasteful consumption turns our stomachs.

It isn’t as if …

Available Until Wednesday, December 13th, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Why Kristina Can't Just Quit

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Flirtin' with the Monster

Why Kristina Can't Just Quit

by Mary Bryan

Addiction is a puzzle, difficult to understand because it is different in each person. It is a disease of the brain, but it is not just physical. It’s also psychological, social, neurological, and environmental. Addiction is not secondary to another condition like a mental health disorder. It is a primary condition; the addictive disease is what causes the drinking and/or drug use, not the other way around.

Some of the predictors of addiction include physical or sexual abuse, family history of substance abuse or alcoholism, depression, anxiety, conduct disturbances, personality disorders, poor coping skills, chaotic living environment, and heavy tobacco use, and one study even mentions previous multiple automobile accidents. But while there are high-risk predictors, many people who have all of them do not become addicts, and people who have none of the predictors do become addicts. No one can predict accurately who will become addicted and who will not.

The Addictive Process

The general pattern of addiction is one of progression. There is no …

Available Until Wednesday, December 6th, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Introduction: Nyx in the House of Night

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Nyx in the House of Night

Introduction: Nyx in the House of Night

by P. C. Cast

Even before I hit national bestseller lists, the two questions readers asked me more than any other were: 1) Where do you get your ideas? And 2) How much research do you do?

Okay, the two answers go hand in hand. Research has always been the foundation of my ideas. I actually enjoy researching, and I like doing it old style– paging through giant history and humanities textbooks in a musty research section of a library. As I go through tomes on history and sociology and mythology, my mind starts creating stories and pictures: changing, shifting, modernizing, rewriting. This process has always seemed totally normal to me. Ancient mythological tragedy? Bah! Everyone dies tragically with no happily ever after in history? No way! For as long as I can remember I’ve revised mythology, created worlds based on history, and then made the stories read the way I wanted them to read–quite …

Available Until Friday, December 1st, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: As Bad as They Wanna Be

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Demigods and Monsters - Expanded Edition

As Bad as They Wanna Be

by Hilary Wagner

I Heart Hades

I’ll admit, all the gods get decent marks on the “coolness scale,” but in my book, Hades is top dog, or top hellhound in his case. Sure, he’s a little bit on the brooding side and in need of a quality self-tanner, but still, the dude sports some serious swagger. Percy may have no love for the guy, but even he admits in The Lightning Thief that Hades was the only god he’d met so far that appeared godlike.Think about it–he’s the essence of cool, clad in black, long-haired and lanky, hanging out in his alternative night-clubby underworld palace. Sure, there’s that raging smell of sulfur and those bothersome bloodcurdling screams, but I’d imagine that’s easy for Hades to stomach with his glitzy goddess wife Persephone at his side. To boot, he’s richer than all get-out, making Zeus and Poseidon look like minor players on the who’s-who-of-godly-wealth list. …

Available Until Wednesday, November 29th, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Introduction: The Girl Who Was on Fire

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The Girl Who Was on Fire

Introduction: The Girl Who Was on Fire

by Leah Wilson

You could call the Hunger Games a series that is–like its heroine–on fire. But its popularity, in itself, is nothing new. We live in an era of blockbuster young adult book series: Harry Potter, Twilight, now the Hunger Games. It’s more unusual these days for there not to be a YA series sweeping the nation.

All of these series have certain things in common: compelling characters; complex worlds you want to spend time exploring; a focus on family and community. But the Hunger Games is, by far, the darkest of the three. In Twilight, love conquers all; Bella ends the series bound eternally to Edward and mother to Renesmee, without having to give up her human family or Jacob in the process. In Harry Potter, though there is loss, the world is returned to familiar stability after Voldemort’s defeat, and before we leave them, we see all of the main characters happily married, raising the next generation of witches and …

Available Until Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Introduction: Ender's World

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Ender's World

Introduction: Ender's World

by Orson Scott Card

I thought I had a pretty good story when I gave my first draft of the original novelet “Ender’s Game” to my mother to type up for submission.

My mother had been another set of eyes on all my plays and my handful of previous stories. So even though I had long been a very fast and accurate typist myself, I passed her my longhand manuscript because I wanted to see how the story would work for her. This was my first serious attempt to write a sci-fi story to sell. My theatre company was getting good attendance, but losing money even with no rent and no salaries to pay (you can lose money on hit plays). I needed “Ender’s Game” to help me launch a non-theatrical writing career. As a non-fan of sci-fi, my mother would definitely let me know if I had something that would work outside the science …

Available Until Thursday, November 16th, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Forgotten Castles and Magical Creatures in Hiding

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Through the Wardrobe

Forgotten Castles and Magical Creatures in Hiding

by Brent Hartinger

A wild forest grew across the street from the house in the suburbs where I grew up. Technically, it was merely a “holding basin”–a patch of land that city engineers had set aside from development to hold back the floodwaters that occasionally swelled up from the little creek that ran through the neighborhood. But it was dense and untamed; much of it was swampland, which made it inaccessible to all but those with a strong sense of adventure, not to mention hip-boots.

As a boy, my friends and I spent almost every waking hour in that forest, and slowly but surely it surrendered its secrets: a broken well, a decaying shack left by homesteaders, part of an abandoned railroad track said to have been laid over an old Indian trail. Once, while walking through dense thicket in the fall, my friends and I noticed that many of the trees were suddenly …

Available Until Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Introduction: Secrets of the Dragon Riders

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Secrets of the Dragon Riders

Introduction: Secrets of the Dragon Riders

by James A. Owen

When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.

–ERASMUS

That quote by Desiderus Erasmus is usually mentioned, wryly, by someone who doesn’t share Erasmus’ point of view about someone who does. I’m so far in the latter category I can’t even see the other side. I am utterly addicted to print, and am physically incapable of passing a newsstand, bookstore, or secondhand shop without giving the books on display at least a cursory glance. More often than not (which means practically every single time) I make some kind of a purchase, and for a moment that new book might as well have been under a Christmas tree for all the love I foster on it.

To a lot of people, it might seem as if my priorities are a bit skewed–but I’m really just engaging in something as old …

Available Until Wednesday, November 8th, 2017

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