Friday, July 30, 2010

Artemis Fowl And Series In General

The Artemis Fowl series will be ending soon. Does anyone else think the author gives away a big spoiler in this interview? And he says, "There will be the big adventure, but the end will be in a little epilogue. End of story." I really don't care for epilogues.

Then you can catch an interview with two authors of middle grade series at From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors.

These links came from bookshelves of doom and Cynsations.

An Interview With Karen Romano Young

I heard Karen Romano Young speak at...something or other...a couple of years ago. Teaching Authors has an interview with her.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Writing In Other Genres

Helen Dunmore, who wrote The Tide Knot, a children's novel I liked, has a book on the Man Booker Longlist. The Betrayal.

I can't say I've been delighted with the Booker books I've read, but still. Huzzah!

Link from Blog of a Bookslut.

Monday, July 26, 2010

But Why "Nerds"?

I don't get terribly excited about those book tournament things we've been seeing the last few years because the titles considered are usually that season's Big Name Books. We've already heard a lot about them. We know everyone loves them. Do we really care which ones are loved more? I'm guessing the answer to that must be yes, though for me, not so much.

However, Liz at Tea Cozy posted recently about a tournament for books that didn't get the band wagon treatment the year they were released. Nerds Heart YA is a tournament for books that you might not have heard of. A wonderful idea to help get attention for titles that really need it.

You Can't Choose Your Relatives

I was fascinated by Anthony Horowitz: My Family Values in The Guardian earlier this month. It sounds as if Horowitz grew up in a pre-1960s novel.

I couldn't help comparing his stories to one my mother reminded me of just last week. Her father-in-law, known as Grandpa Gauthier by the time I came along, was famous for licking his plate when he was through eating. During one of her first meals with her future in-laws, a sudden silence fell upon the table. Evidently everyone knew what he was about to do and couldn't wait to see how she would respond. She didn't. She ignored him, which I suspect disappointed a great many people sitting around her.

I don't recall seeing my grandfather eat, though I do remember being in his kitchen with the table all set for a meal and a small cooked pig in the place of honor. My sister and I were very taken with the sight, so much so that the rest of the day is a blank.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Back Again, Back Again

Here I am, back from some very decent biking on the East Bay Bike Path in Rhode Island. I highly recommend it, especially the end toward Bristol.

I spent some time in the evenings making notes for a couple of projects. One of the notes is presently being used as a bookmark, so I shouldn't forget about it.

On our way home today we stopped at the Nathan Hale Homestead, notable because 1. Nathan Hale never lived there, and 2. My experience as a school chaperone at that museum provided the inspiration for the Jonathan Tarbutt chapter in A Year with Butch and Spike.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

I'm Off For The Weekend

I'm supposed to be taking off in a few hours for a three-day anniversary trip. In honor of the event, I will direct you to Peni Griffin's post Marriage for Writers. She gets very deep and into her subject.

I will just add that my own experience suggests that writers will do well to find a spouse who can take care of their computers and manage their graphic work--not just for practicality's sake, but because then the spouse has a hand in the writer's career. They are a work team. If you can find someone who is a marketing wonk, I'm sure that would do the trick, too.

If you can find a mate who has a family member who is a writer, that can work for you, too, because then your spouse will know that what you want to do--become a published writer--is possible. In my own family, becoming a writer was as likely as becoming an astronaut or a member of a royal family. In my husband's family, I suspect they all wonder what took me so long.

Link to Marriage for Writers from Cynsations.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Recommending Books

Because many bloggers have a policy of only writing about books they like, I feel they aren't actually reviewing books at their sites, but recommending them. Absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact Laura Miller has a piece up at Salon called The Fine Art of Recommending Books.

Juicy bits:

Miller quotes Lorin Stein of The Paris Review as saying, "I don't think people read 'for' pleasure...mainly we do it out of need."

Super librarian Nancy Pearl describes four "doorways" into fiction and narrative nonfiction: story, characters, setting and language. "The difference between books is often a difference in the size of those doorways," she says.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Picture Book Day

Last week, while I was reading through a power outage, I polished off two lovely picture books notable for being pure entertainment with no improving ax to grind whatsoever.

You know those cuter than ick photos people e-mail you of dogs and cats cuddled up together? Aaah, right? Well, Woof, A Love Story, by Sarah Weeks with illustrations by Holly Berry, does that without the ick. It's a very charming book in verse about star-crossed lovers who can't communicate but manage to find each other anyhow.

Shark vs. Train, by Chris Barton with illustrations by Tom Lichtenheld, might be described as a Deadliest Warrior episode for the toy box. These two toys don't just battle it out nose to nose but compete against each other in a series of events. Be sure to check out the pre- and post-shark and train illustrations so you'll get the full story on what's going on here.

By the way, Shark vs. Train recently got a mention in The New York Times Book Review.

Tea Cozy Moves To SLJ

The kidlitosphere listserv was abuzz today with the news that A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy has become a School Library Journal blog. Be sure to update your links. It may be a week or so before I put the computer guy to work on mine.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Ah, So This Is What You Do With Wordy Picture Books

I was speaking this morning with a young family member who is an elementary school teacher. We were discussing picture books that are long on text--specifically, Lincoln Tells a Joke. With these kinds of nonfiction books, there's too much text for traditional picture book readers, but older kids may not get credit for reading them for their class assignments. Whom does that leave?

Classroom teachers, our young teacher said. Books like Lincoln Tells a Joke would work well for classroom read-alouds. I told her about We Are The Ship, and she immediately said, "Fifth grade read-aloud" and rattled off a few topics it would support. She even suggested what time of year she'd use it.

Older kids, she explained, often enjoy having a picture book read to them even when they are no longer interested in taking them out of the library and reading them, themselves. Thus, those longer nonfiction picture books are still accessible to child readers, if an adult acts as a sort of go-between between book and child.

Mystery solved.

I Write Like Stephen King And P.G. Wodehouse

I analyzed samples from the beginnings of my last two unpublished (and in one case, unfinished) novels at I Write Like. The first sample returned a response of Stephen King. The second sample got me P.G. Wodehouse. Oddly enough, I thought the sample that got me the King response was funnier than the sample that pulled in the Wodehouse comparison.

The next time I contact an editor or an agent I'm going to describe myself as a cross between Stephen King and P.G. Wodehouse. I would find that to be an irresistible hook, myself.

Perhaps I have found myself.

Check out more on I Write Like at Yahoo News

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Now Here's A Writing Tip You Don't See Every Day

Nap Your Novel Into Existence.

I must admit that I've had to give up and collapse on the couch next to the woodstove for ten or fifteen minutes on more than one occasion when I was supposed to be working.

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Side Of Lincoln I Can't Really Say I Knew

We had no power for an hour or so Wednesday afternoon, one of my workdays, so I knocked off a few picture books I'd picked up at the library. Among them was Lincoln Tells a Joke by Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer with illustrations by Stacy Innerst. Though it's one of those picture books that's a little long on text so that I can't tell who it's actually written for, I liked it.

What I particularly liked about Lincoln Tells a Joke is that it deals with just one aspect of a historical figure's life--in this case, the fact that Lincoln enjoyed humor and used it. While I was aware that Lincoln was supposed to be fond of an outhouse joke about Ethan Allen, I just figured, who wouldn't love an outhouse joke about Ethan Allen? I definitely wasn't aware that he was something of a humorist.

A children's book that covers an aspect of a historical figure's life that isn't well known seems like a very fine idea to me. God knows, they're sure to get plenty of the same old-same old regarding the people of the past.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Another Book Some Of Us Have Been Waiting For

Wands and Worlds carries a review of Curse of the Wolf Girl by Martin Millar. Sheila says it will be published next month. Curse of the Wolf Girl is the sequel to Lonely Werewolf Girl.

Twice in twenty-four hours I've said I'm waiting for the publication of a fantasy novel. This from someone who at one time didn't like fantasy. What is happening to me?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I Read One Of The Expurgated Editions

I've been hearing talk of the release of an unexpurgated autobiography by Mark Twain for a while. According to the NYT article I just sent you to, earlier editions were published in 1924, 1940, and 1959. I'm guessing it was the 1959 edition that I read when I was in eighth grade for an English assignment. I remember little about it except that after I finished I told my mother that if Twain were still alive, I would write him a letter.

I was very disappointed when I couldn't find it for my kids to read.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Was Totally Into It, But Then...

I read The Wild Boy of Aveyron by Jean-Marc Gaspard Itard when I was a teenager. (Where did I find the stuff I read back then?) Nowadays students of his case lean toward the theory that young Victor was born with his disabilities and abandoned by his family and not raised by wolves at all, but adolescent Gail was fascinated by the possibility of a feral child and pained by the fact that Victor was never able to live a normal life. I have read many an account of wolf childen since then.

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood had me from the cover.

This is an elegantly written and clever book that I definitely enjoyed. I don't usually care for an omniscient narrator who talks to me, but the one used in this book is just fine. Do you have to have spent your adolescence reading historical novels about governesses and young wives of twitty English aristocrats to enjoy The Incorrigible Children? Do you have to love feral children? I suspect not. But if you do have the right reading background, I think you'll get extra pleasure from The Incorrigible Children.

My only objection to this book came a few pages from the end when I realized this is not the first book in a series but the first book in a serial, meaning this book really doesn't have much in the way of an ending. Nothing is resolved. The favorable review in the May/June edition of The Horn Book Magazine described this first installment in the serial as being "practically all setup," and I agree.

It is a mystery to me why kids don't find this kind of thing frustrating, but publishers, at least, believe they don't. Myself, I can't tell you how despondent I get when I reach that point in a book when I realize that I'm not reading a book at all, but an installment in a serial.

But except for that The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling is a lovely piece of work.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

I'm On The Road Tomorrow

I spent part of my day of so-called rest preparing for an appearance tomorrow afternoon at the Stepping Stone Museum in Norwalk, Connecticut. Of course, I totally forgot to promote the event here or anywhere else.

I Am Both Chagrined And Delighted

This year I keep going back to an escapist, comfort series. I'm on book 13, and while the bloom is definitely off the lily, I am determined to finish all 18 in the series just so I can say that, damn it, I read 18 books by the same author.

This ambition seemed rather embarrassing yesterday, when I learned that a younger relative, new to the family, has been spending her summer vacation reading fiction and nonfiction regarding Afghanistan. The carrying on of the younger characters in my book series was seeming tedious and cliched even before I learned that I am related to someone who reads deep, important stuff.

I want the young ones in my circle to read. Reading is both improving and consoling. But, come on, do they need to show me up?

Friday, July 09, 2010

The Literary Equivalent Of Spending The Day In Sweatpants And Eating Bonbons

I blew off a big chunk of today doing unproductive family stuff. I might as well not have bothered. I might as well have worked. But when I finally decided to go that route, I wasn't left with a lot of time. So I decided to do some short story submission research.

Submission research is when you kick back reading some stories or essays looking for journals and other such periodicals/sites that might be interested in your work. It has become dramatically easier since so many traditional journals now maintain a web presence and since there are now so many journals that exist on-line.

Here's the thing, though--While I am interested in writing short stories, I can't say that I am all that taken with a lot of the short fiction that I read. L. Rust Hills stated that in a short story something happens to somebody. Something happens. But I often miss that, presumably because of the advent of the epiphany in fiction (Hills credits Joyce with that.), meaning that instead of a clearly stated "happening" someone in the piece of fiction experiences an epiphany that I've missed, either because I'm not sophisticated enough to pick up on it or because it was so interior to the character (and the author) that it is easily communicated to a reader. This reader, anyway. I also feel that a lot of short stories seem very similar thematically. The authors seem as if they've been struck by the fact that life sucks and feel a need to create fiction about it. Life's suckage is not what I would call a revelation. I need something more than that to keep my attention.

Often what I enjoy about a short story, when I do enjoy one, is a slice of life thing or the feeling of being transported, briefly, to another world.

This afternoon I was amazed to read three short stories in a row--one after another--all from the same site--Blackbird that kept me reading past the fourth or fifth paragraph all the way to the end.

I thought Mutinty by Joyce Cullity was breathtaking because it was historical fiction. I don't see a lot of that in contemporary short stories. For those of us who look to fiction to occasionally get us to hell out of Dodge, the past is as much of a foreign world as other planets. I don't know that there's any great theme going in Mutiny, but we can see how this woman's life changes from the first paragraph to the end. Though she did do something life changing, herself (her own little mutinty, you might say), it really has nothing to do with what happens to her. A little irony going there?

What's Buried in the Ground by Curt Eriksen also has a historical aspect, though its main characters, whose lives have a connection to those of two women murdered by fascists a few generations back, are contemporary. Those two young men shouldn't suffer the same fate as the women whose bodies they are looking for. But just how much have things changed?

I feel as if I might have missed something in Always the Obvious Places by Matthew Healy, but it's got that bored cop/small time habitual offender vibe going that some might find a little cliched but I find a little heartbreaking. Maybe these kinds of stories (with the right voice and style) work for me because when I was in college there was a very well known small-time habitual offender in our area of the woods, and years later I learned that when my mother was young she went out twice with one of his older relatives. These kinds of scenarios are probably realer to me than they are to more suburban types. Here in the 'burbs, I never hear about those kinds of people.

This weekend I will probably regret not having spent my time differently this afternoon. But right now I have a post-reading glow.

Blurb Inflation

Go read Beware of Blurbs at Salon. With everything that blurbs have going against them, the Salon article states that "One British publisher claims to have seen research showing that as many as 62 percent of book buyers choose titles on the basis of blurbs." I am stunned.

I worry sometimes that I will someday have an agent or an editor who will insist that I go out and seek blurbs and all my blurb hate here at Original Content will come back to haunt me. To be perfectly honest, though, I can't see either of those things happening any time soon, so I don't worry about it much.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

I Laughed And Laughed And Laughed

I don't even know how many times I laughed out loud over The Twilight Saga: Eclipse: with Cats. Not the first part about the invisible vampire so much. I don't remember that part of the book. But the rest of it was hysterical. I sent the link to a bunch of people.

I found this by way of bookshelves of doom, which, over the years, has had the best Twilight links.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Oh, My Gosh! We Were Just Talking!

Leda Schubert and I were just sort of talking today, if you can call a listserv post and an e-mail talking. (I can.) Then I saw that Leda has a guest post today at Cynsations. The guest post relates to Leda's new book, Feeding the Sheep. The illustrations look pretty impressive.

Leda also wrote Here Comes Darrell.

Monday, July 05, 2010

We Could Say The New Duds Are Anti-heroic

When I was in college, Wonder Woman and the Bionic Woman fascinated me a bit because they were the only physically powerful women on TV. Yes, they were most definitely lame. They were embarrassing, in fact. But this was just before Ellen Ripley, and we didn't have much to choose from. (Seriously, this was my motherhood role model when my children were small. I used to fantasize about saying, "Get away from him, you bitch" to one of my older son's preschool teachers.)

So, I've been mildly interested in the Wonder Woman makeover. And while I can't say that I adore it, I do think it has a lot to recommend it. For one thing, it makes WW look hippy, and, let's face it, women have hips. A number of people have commented on how tight her pants look. To me they look as if they contain more than a bit of some kind of Lycra or Spandex or both. Speaking as someone who works out regularly, I have to say that stuff is comfortable for movement. I'm glad to see the hot pants go. I've never been in a fight, myself, but I have made many sad attempts at sparring, and I can tell you that no sane person wants to have to do something like that while wearing shorts. In fact, most people would want to be wearing shin guards over their Lycra/Spandex pants.

And, finally, I am delighted to see no sign of a cape. Even though, as I said, I have never been in a fight, I guarantee that capes would be nothing but trouble in a real fight. In my humble opinion, a realistic superhero wouldn't be caught dead in one. How would they fly, you may ask? Come on, if those folks can fly, they can fly. They don't need a cape. If a cape made it possible to fly, wouldn't everyone be wearing one?

So while the new Wonder Woman outfit may not be perfect, it sure beats what she used to wear.

Specific Changes

In a month-old post at Pimp My Novel Eric predicts, not the death of the printed book altogether, but specific formats. One is the large-print book, the other is traditional audio books. Eric foresees the large-print book being replaced by e-readers because users can control the fonts on those, anyway, so there would be no reason to seek out a book just because it has large print. Audio books on CDs would be replaced by downloads, just as audio books on cassette tapes have been replaced by CDs.

Both predictions make sense to me, though I think there will be pockets of resistance to the loss of large-print books among older people who refuse to embrace technology (a group that is probably becoming smaller even as I type this) or romanticize the concept of paper books.

Friday, July 02, 2010

I Predict This Will Become The Basis For A YA Novel

Learning your parents are not the people you thought they were screams to become a YA novel. We're talking identity issues, after all. Perhaps a YA book is already in the works. Fall of 2011? Spring of 2012?

But first, of course, it will become an episode of Law and Order: SVU.

Dystopian Vs. Apocalyptic Fiction

I am not very fond of dystopian and apocalyptic fiction because I find them so incredibly formulaic. I also find that they tend to be anti-science/technology. I probably only notice the anti-science stand because I married into a techie family. I certainly don't have enough of a science background, myself, to be offended when scientists in books and movies are routinely treated as heavies. I do, however, feel that characterization is part of the stereotypical dystopia/apocalypse formula that I got tired of quite some time ago.

I was very interested to read a description of the difference between dystopian and apocalyptic fiction at YA Highway.

I found the link at cynsations.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Melissa Stewart and I have crossed paths a number of times at New England Society of Children's Book Writer and Illustrator events. In mid-June she did a guest post at Cynsations in which she talked about writing nonfiction. Particularly interesting was her explanation of the difference between style and tone in writing.

I think some of what she has to say could apply to writing fiction, too.