Wednesday, September 30, 2020

An Inspiring Mystery

Tomorrow my May Days Facebook writing...I guess we could say binge group...begins its annual October effort. October May Days, if you will. After spending the summer on flash writing and the last four weeks or so on submissions, I plan to spend OctoMay Days on my YA mystery. Then keep going on to a NaNoWriMo-ish four weeks on the same project.

So it makes a world of sense that I would write today about One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus, because when I read the first chapter this summer, I said to myself, "Self, you've got to change the first chapter of your mystery. Get right to the point, Gail, like Karen does."

My many, many blog readers know that I am not a fan of alternating points of view and romance in genre. The first slows down the narrative drive, and the second is usually a distraction. It rarely supports the main story. This book had both these things. And, yet, I liked it.

In addition to liking the basic story, I thought McManus did some interesting things with some stock YA characters. One of Us is Lying is a book that received a lot of attention and deservedly so.

Monday, September 28, 2020

My 2020 National Book Festival Experience

This year's National Book Festival was this past weekend, and it was digital, because it's 2020. It was the 20th book festival, and this was the first time I "attended" any part of it. Because it was digital.

I had some problems maneuvering through the Book Festival website and accessing the author presentation/videos and live question and answer sessions. I couldn't figure out how to access the question and answer sessions at all for the two authors I was interested in on Friday. On Sunday I got that worked out for the last two authors I was watching, but I kept losing the connection with one of them. I don't know whether that was because I wasn't set up close enough to our modem (I've had that problem before), I need a new computer (this laptop is seven years old), or there were problem with the Book Festival's website. I also had trouble getting to one of the author presentations on Sunday. I had to go directly to YouTube for one of them.

I went hiking on Saturday, so, yeah, nothing that day.

Nonetheless, I saw some great stuff on Friday and Sunday, and now you can, too, because these authors' presentations are on YouTube.

Links To Author Presentations On YouTube

Gene Luen Yang I watched Gene Luen Yang's presentation, because I just plain like him. I've liked some of his books, his articles, and reading about him. Watch through the point where he's discussing his new book Superman Smashes the Klan.

Mike Curato I chose Mike Curato, because his new book, Flamer, released this month and was part of one of my September book release posts. His cover and book title were striking, and I recalled them. I guess this is an example of marketing working.

Alaya Dawn Johnson I just discovered Johnson on the list of authors appearing at the Festival. She interested me, because she writes across age groups. She's an award winning YA author of speculative fiction whose new book, Trouble the Saints, is adult historical fiction with a fantasy element. 

Mary Robinette Kowal I have one of Kowal's Lady Astronaut books on my Kindle. She has a new book out in this series, The Relentless Moon.

Emily St. John Mandel Well, of course, I course I listened to Mandel, because of Station Eleven. She has a new book out, The Glass Hotel.

You can probably go through the list of Festival authors and find their presentations either at the Festival site or at YouTube.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

More September Books

Here is Part II of my list of children's lit books publishing in September, month seven...or six...who knows?...of the 2020 Pandemic. Part I includes another nineteen titles.

Sept. 1 Jayla Jumps In, Joy Jones, Albert Whitman





Sept. 1 The Big Sibling Getaway, Korrie Leer, Albert Whitman






 Sept. 1 Cemetery Boys, Aiden Thomas, Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan





Sept. 1 Fright Night, Maren Stoffels, Underlined/Penguin Random House






Sept. 1 Nubby's Story, Aubre Andrus, Scholastic





Sept. 15 Three Keys, Kelly Yang, Scholastic
Sept. 15 Feel the Fog, April Pulley Sayre, Simon & Schuster

Sept. 15 The Last Kids on Earth and the Skeleton Road, Max Brailler, Douglas Holgate illustrator, Viking/Penguin Random House 





Sept. 29 Ghosts Unveiled!, Kerrie Logan Hollihan, Abrams 






Sept. 29 1,001 Creatures, Laura Merz and Aino Jarvinen, Restless Books

Friday, September 25, 2020

A Middle Grade Book About Eating...Sort Of

For some time now, I've been interested in writing essays about eating. I'm not talking food writing. For food writing, you actually have to know something. I'm talking about eating, because eating is universally interesting. What do you have to know?

So when I stumbled upon Pete Hautman's Slider,  a book about a boy about to start high school who is a fan of competitive eating, I thought, Well, that's eating.

Our narrator, David's, younger brother, Mal, is autistic. That could easily be the set-up for a problem story. But, no, Mal, who does require a lot of care from the family, is more of a background/side character, just as David's older, college-aged sister is. David's problem here is that he used his mother's credit card to bid on what is said to be the a half hot dog that was a sort of souvenir of a competitive eating contest and through some kind of technical glitch ended up paying $2,000 for it instead of the 20 he'd planned. Now he's desperate to get the money to pay his mother back before she realizes what he's done.

So, of course he decides to do so by entering and winning a competitive pizza eating contest. That requires he first win a qualifying contest and there's an entry fee and some skullduggery on the part of other adult competitors.

This is a light read with an interesting and somewhat unusual story line, at least for this reader who doesn't know much about competitive eating.

Fifteen years ago, I read Hautman's book Sweetblood.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Some Enola Holmes Love

Netflix's Enola Holmes movie dropped last night. It's a film version of the first of Nancy Springer's six book Enola Holmes series, The Case of the Missing Marquess. The movie is terrific and watching it inspired me to republish my 2012 response to reading the last book in the series, The Case of the Gypsy Good-bye

May Have Revived My Interest In Sherlock Holmes

I've written about Sherlock Holmes quite a bit  here over the years. As I've often said, I read the Holmes books when I was a youngish teenager, but as an adult, I don't know why kids are fascinated with him. The publishing world certainly is, but child readers? I don't get it.

I put off reading the Enola Holmes books by Nancy Springer because, without recognizing a child/Holmes connection, I didn't feel any compelling need to read a Holmes story about his younger sister. I wasn't very hopeful.

Well, I stumbled upon the last book in the series, The Case of the Gypsy Good-bye, and, since the author and I are Facebook friends for some reason, gave it a try. Wow. A marvelous book.

This series appears to have had an arc involving Enola's (and Sherlock's and Mycroft's) mother disappearing. Enola has been on the hunt for her and while doing so has taken on her own cases. She's also been on the run from Sherlock and Mycroft because, since she's only a female in her early teens and they are the men of the family and this is the Victorian Era...Well, you get where I'm going with this.

It was incredibly easy to come up to speed with that back story. Additionally, this volume includes a mystery that really is well done with a marvelous solution, especially for those of us interested in women's history.

The writing is just incredible. Enola's first-person narration makes her sound like a young woman from another time, which is exactly what she's supposed to be. The historical world-building is fascinating without becoming a tedious lesson in what it must have been like to live in nineteenth century England. The detail...Well, I've already said incredible, haven't I?

And Springer uses the world Suffragist. SuffragIST and not SuffragETTE, which would have been considered derogatory. I would have forgiven a lot, just for that one point. But I didn't have to forgive anything.

The publisher lists this book as being for ages 8 and up. I found it in the YA section of my local library, where I believe it belongs, if only for the sophistication of the historical world and voice.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Time Management Tuesday: Living With Chaos

I recently finished watching a multi-season TV show from another country. Both the show and the country will remain nameless in order to preserve your viewing experience. It was a very decent show, and I wouldn't want to ruin it for anyone.

However, the series finale was very interesting. In America, at least, a series finale usually involves breaking up the gang, boo-hoo, everyone is going forth in some different way. It's as if since the viewers aren't going to be there, anymore, the writers feel the characters can't be there, in their TV world, either.

In this foreign show, though, everyone does remain together. What makes it a finale, is that the main character experienced an epiphany. Her epiphany was "I am chaos." She accepted that about herself. And that is how we know she will go forth, with that self-knowledge.

My Chaos Epiphany

I experienced an epiphany when I watched that show. I am chaos, too. I am surrounded with disorder, some of it external (I am looking at you pandemic, elderly parents, illness, child-rearing, tropical storms, power outages, family-member's-cat-that-landed-here-for-two-months). Some of it internal (too many interests, too easily overwhelmed).

I am chaos. That would certainly explain why all my work sites become...chaotic. My spot on the couch with my multiple reading starts and drawing and card writing and other tasks...chaotic. My kitchen counters, in spite of my best efforts,...chaotic.

My own epiphany continued. What I'm trying to do with time management, I thought, is control the chaos. Then came a second thought. No, I am not trying to control chaos. Chaos--disorder, confusion, unpredictability--can't be controlled or it wouldn't be chaos. I am trying to live with it. I'm trying to manage it, here and there, so I can get things done.

Are Some Of Us More Sensitive To Chaos Than Others?

Supposedly, there are people out there who are capable of just sitting down and writing, though I'm not sure anyone knows how they're able to do it. Do these people not notice chaos? Are they able to live with it? Does it just roll off their backs?

The rest of us, who are sensitive to external and internal chaos, still have valuable work to produce. We just have to manage our chaos--both external and internal--for periods of time so we can do it.

Over the next few weeks, I'm going to be reworking some Time Management Tuesday material, thinking about it in terms of managing chaos.

Monday, September 21, 2020

What Does It All Mean? An Essay Possibility.

Many years ago, I bought a new sewing machine. The very first thing I made with it was a dinosaur Halloween costume.

I got another new sewing machine the week before last. The first thing I made with it was a dozen face masks. 

I feel there must be an essay topic in this situation. I'm just not sure what it is.

Yes, I do spend a lot of time on face masks, given that I'm only making them for the extended family. I didn't get an essay out of the time I've been devoting to that, but I did get a humor piece.

Friday, September 18, 2020

In Chicago With Jamie Sumner

On Wednesday evening I was in the audience for a virtual interview with author Jamie Sumner, supporting her new middle grade release, Tune It Out. The event was sponsored by Anderson's Bookshop in Chicago, and one of its employees served as the interviewer. I, of course, am in Connecticut. Another great opportunity for me to
get out and about without changing out of my yoga pants or even putting on a clean shirt. I did put on some earrings. Did I comb my hair?

Tune It Out is about a girl with a strong musical talent. It's a talent that could very possibly take her places. But she also has sensory processing disorder, which could make it very difficult for her to deal with the kind of life that goes along with being a successful musician. 

Couple of interesting points Sumner made:

  • In writing it's important to go for the universal as well as something specific, such as sensory processing disorder.
  • Humor, strength, and silliness are ways to keep stories from being overwhelmed by problems.

Jamie Sumner has a child with cerebral palsy and sensory processing disorder. She's written extensively about special needs parenting. She also has three more middle grade books coming out over the next three years. One Kid's Trash will be published in September, 2021.

She's very well spoken and was an excellent interviewee. I believe she has other virtual events lined up for Tune It Out, though I can't find information on them now. If you stumble upon news of one of her virtual appearances, it would be worth your while to attend--from anywhere in the country! All you have to do is figure out the time difference. She was speaking at 5 in Chicago. I was watching from my cellar in Connecticut at 6. 

Anderson's Bookshop, which hosted this interview, is interesting. It has been in Chicago since the 1870s, and it might be family owned. One of the staff members said they usually host 400 author events a year, and they're working on developing a virtual calendar

New England picture book author Josh Funk will be making an Anderson virtual appearance on the 26th of this month.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Monday, September 14, 2020

Geeking Up Cinderella

Though I can't claim to be a fan of your basic Cinderella story, I do seem to be drawn to Cinderella variations.

My most recent Cinderella read is Geekerella by Ashley Poston, in which our heroine is a second-generation uber-fan of a cult TV show. She's not looking to attend a ball, but a cosplay contest at a con. Her prince is a young actor playing the hero in a movie version of the TV show. They have a Pride and Prejudice thing going on, in that when they originally meet, it's dislike at first sight. Readers might also think of You've Got Mail, since their relationship develops in a similar way. 

At one point, I found the evil stepmother and stepsister a little over the top. And then I thought, This is Cinderella. Of course, they're over the top. 

Ashley Poston has two other fairy tale updates set in this universe. The most recent, Bookish and the Beast, was published last month.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Childlit Books Publishing In September

More adventures in pandemic publishing. It's an adventure for all these authors, at least.

I find my titles through social media or other blogs. A number of this month's books came from Ms. Yingling Reads, who does a really impressive job of reading new books.


Sept. 1  Flamer, Mike Curato, Henry Holt/Macmillan





Sept. 1. Scritch Scratch, Lindsay Curry, Sourcebooks  

Sept. 1 Eye by Eye: Comparing How Animals See, Sara Levine, T. S. Spookytooth illustrator, Lerner



Sept. 1, Alpaca My Bags, Jenny Goebel, Scholastic 





Sept. 1. Beatrix Potter, Scientist, Lindsay H. Metcalf, Junyi Wu illustrator, Albert Whitman 





Sept. 1 Pumpkin Spice Up Your Life, Suzanne Nelson, Scholastic





 Sept. 1 This Old Dog, Martha Brockenbrough, Gabriel Alborozo illustrator, Levine Querido





Sept. 1 Dalya and the Magic Ink Bottle, J.M. Evenson, Capstone 




Sept. 1 Wild Style: Amazing Animal Adornments, Jenna Grodzicki, Millbrook/Lerner



Sept. 1 Witches of Brooklyn, Sophie Escabasse, Random House Graphic/Penguin Random House

Sept. 1 Binny's Diwali, Thrity Umrigar, Nidhi Chanani illustrator, Scholastic



Sept. 1 Forget Me Nat, Maria Scrivan, Graphix/Scholastic





Sept. 1 Short & Sweet, Josh Funk, Brendan Kearney illustrator, Sterling 






 Sept. 1 No Vacancy, Tziporah Cohen, Groundwood Books






Sept. 1 Milo Moss is Officially Unamazing, Lauren Allbright, Little, Brown Books





Sept. 1 Tune It Out, Jamie Sumner, Atheneum/Simon & Schuster





Sept. 1  Millionaires for the Month, Stacy McAnulty, Random House/Penguin Random House





Sept. 1 The Collected, K. R. Alexander, Scholastic





 Sept. 1 Virtual Unicorn Experience, Dana Simpson, Andrews McMeel Publishing