Monday, December 29, 2008

Follow This Blog

Be the first to follow this blog! or the second or the third...

One of the challenges I've personally faced as a blogger is tracking down all the cool writerly people that I've found on-line. So Blogger promises it's easier to keep track of your favorite blogs with this dandy little widget. We'll see.

In the meantime, if any of you are using it (or something like it), drop me a line. How's it working for you? Are you keeping in better touch w/ the blogging world?

Or are you just picking up stalkers?
Note: The Follow Blogger Widget is on the left hand side bar. Just click Follow!

Book Roast: Taking Reservations

When some of the biggest names in the publishing world blog, writers not only listen, drool, and work fiendishly on their query letters, but they also peek at the Net World that the Agent/Editor/Scotch Drinker in question links to. At least this one does.

Among others, Bransford and Moonrat have given a shout out to Book Roast. Not only does the site review books and then invite authors on board to answer questions, but they give away free copies of the books. So it's like a free promotional for authors AND a sneak peek preview for readers.

This would have been posted much earlier, but I got lost reading some of the excerpts posted on the site. My only complaints are that I'm not seeing a deadline for entering each contest (By nosing around, I think you have to actually comment on the day of the author visit) and the fact that November & December seem a bit skimpy. But then, holidays are demanding.

And authors? They're taking reservations. Jump in and get roasted.

New Authors? Gnooks Got 'Em

The feedback concerning new authors via comments and emails has been illuminating. So many of you want to support new authors -- buy their books, blog their success, and give them kudos (the non-icky, non-stalker kind) -- but there doesn't seem to be a slick, cohesive, convenient way to find them. At least not that we've found. So far. (Do contact me if you discover one.)

Although this isn't the answer we're looking for exactly, fellow blogger and word crafter extraordinaire, the other lisa of The Paper Tiger, blogs about a cool on-line tool called Gnooks:

According to the site: Gnooks - Welcome to the World of Literature! Gnooks is a self-adapting community system based on the gnod engine. Discover new writers you will like, travel the map. of literature and discuss your favorite books and authors.

So I tried it and it's pretty cool. It's not what we're looking for, I don't think, but it's good for an hour or so of entertaining exploration. There's even a feature for finding new authors you might like. When asked to type in three authors I like, I gave them Katherine Neville, Lois McMasters Bujold, and Edgar Rice Burroughs. I was given Ann Benson. (Not to be confused with Anna Benson, the American model, former stripper, and wife of Major League Baseball pitcher Kris Benson.) A quick google search reveals the literary Benson to be more closer aligned with Neville than the other two, but who am I to grumble? Woo hoo: new author Ann Benson, here I come!

An interesting addition: When I typed in Courtney Summers, it didn't recognize the name. So it asked me to verify spelling. Then it asked me if I wanted to submit the name for review. I clicked yes. The awesome thing is that the site doesn't just accept whatever name you submit. It then puts it up for review to the next site-comers, and everyone gets a chance to vote. Is this a real author?

So, try it out. See if we can get Courtney Summers on the play list. Explore and see if it really works, or if it's just yanking our chains. And keep an eye out for new authors. I want a list!

Friday, December 26, 2008

New Book Timeline: Poo Poo No More

There are those who poo-poo the idea that a new author's row to hoe is difficult. Nope, no names. That would get me into poo-poo trouble.

But it occurred to me that a simple post would do the trick, provided it was well-written, down-in-the-dirt honest, and gritty with that kind of real world earnestness you can't fake.

You see what kind of trouble I'm in? Yeah, me too. But then it occurred to me: I didn't have to write it myself. So, no worries, then!

Without further ado, here is THE TIMELINE, written by Aprilynne Pike, author of Wings.

(The cover was so pretty, I couldn't resist tacking it up -- even though it has nothing to do with this post.)

New Author First Book Challenge

If you're a new author, email me. Seriously.

I want to buy your book.

If it's not out yet, no worries. I'll still put your name in a hat.

See, it's all part of a diabolical plan to rid my shelves of pantywaist books and to fill them with uber goodness. Failing that, I just want to support new writers. (OOOhhh, that sounded super cynical for Boxing Day or post-Christmas hours or the Day After Christmas or St. Stephens's Day or whatever you celebrate. It's truly not intentional...Well, maybe a little of it is. But it's not directed at new writers. It's mostly directed at Publishing Companies who expect the new ones to publicize themselves these days. Tough row to hoe, I say.)

I'm also open to devoted followers of new authors dropping a name in the bucket. (Um, no sir, I have no idea why you'd think I was talking about you. Cyber-stalking? Why, I never mentioned it!)

Anyway, I'm buying three "firsts" and I'm challenging you-all to do the same. We can twitter away about our reading experiences, write ravishing book reviews, and post pics of book covers galore. It'll be fun.

Come On! What are you waiting for?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

First Annual Hated Book Give-Away Details

Because this is the first annual and much lauded Hated Book Give-Away, I thought I'd better go over some of the finer points. Expectations, being what they are, exist only in my head. Do as you wish, since Free Will Matters, and join in only if you please.
The Three Non-Rules to the Hated Book Give-Away:

1. Tell me you want a much hated book via email or commenting. Please include the title of the preferred book (first draw gets first pick, of course). If you win, I will mail you the book before the end of January. Yeah, I'm cool like that.

2. Even if you don't want one of my books, pick out three of your own (recently purchased) hated books and put them up for giveaway on your site/blog/twitter/road sign. Then let me know so that I can participate and possibly win.

3. (This is my favorite part) Commit to buying three new books from three new authors. If you're a new author with a new book coming out (first book only, please), email me or leave a comment and I will buy your book. (If more than three contact me, your name will be put in a hat along w/ everyone else's and -- in a most fair and equitable manner -- I will draw out the winning three.)

So, if you haven't figured out what the three books are yet, despite the many clues located on this blog, here they are in no particular order:
1. Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead (paperback)
2. Succubus Blues by Richelle Mead (paperback)
3. Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox by Eoin Colfer (hardback)

Let the games begin!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Why I'm Blue on Christmas Eve

The love of my life, the darling of my heart, the sunshine in my day, the sparkle in my eye -- who was supposed to visit for Christmas -- had to move far far away. Instead of playing with my nephew and showering him with Christmas gifts and chocolate and love, I have to settle for pics. I am blue and sad and pouting and barely holding back the indignant tears.

This one just came in this morning. Isn't that a face you'd gladly hock your house for?

The First Annual Hated Book Give Away Teaser

The Christmas Spirit must be infecting me, because while I was procrastinating this morning I stumbled upon the most perfect idea I've had in a long time: a book give-away to celebrate the coming New Year.

Three Thoughts Inspire My Altruism:

1. Not only are my bookshelves full, book boxes line my basement, and stacks of books threaten to topple and squash the cat, but I possess three books in new condition that I despise.
2. I whole-heartedly believe in supporting the profession I someday hope to belong to.
3. New authors face a tough row to hoe.

So, here are the Rules:

1. I have three books (to be revealed tomorrow, if you haven't already guessed their titles).
2. All you have to do is email me or leave a comment that says, "I want a stupid book."
3. I will draw three names and mail a coveted book to each name, using a super-secret and uber-fair drawing mechanism.

Here's the Challenge: Whether you win or lose, participate or turn up your nose, you can replicate this good holiday cheer on your own blog. (After all, I might win one of your books!)

1. Pick three of your own hated books.
2. Hold a drawing.
3. Pass on your yucky titles and participate in a new holiday tradition!

Tomorrow:Titles will be revealed & the flip side of the giveaway coin will be discussed.

Delusions of Immortality

I don't delude myself often. I actually call myself a Realist, Sunny-Side-Up. What does that mean, precisely? I don't quite know, but it sounds better than a happy pessimist, so I'm going with it.

Anyway, back to delusions: I have this YA novel that I've set aside for about two years. I decided last week that I'd make all those final revisions over Christmas break and get it "ready" for sending out. It's time. My current WIP can wait, and indeed it has been, most patiently.

The problem? It's taking much longer than I thought possible. Twenty-four pages in three days. That's not going to break any records or even allow me to finish before the end of break. Here's the scary part: this time-heavy revision isn't because the writing sucks or the plot's shaky. (Well, I suppose that's for future readers to determine, but I do tend to be rather hard on myself, so I think I'd recognize that if it were the case.) I'm enjoying the process immensely, in fact, and but it seems that I'm spending far too much time staring into space and thinking. Drat that thinking, anyway!

The epiphany: As I contemplate word choice and scene tweaks, it suddenly occurred to me that 'real authors' -- you know, the ones who have published a bajillion books...or even just one -- are really no different than you or I. (Where's the connection between those two activities? I don't rightly know, but that's the randomness of my thoughts these days.)

From childhood, I've looked up to those who write as the demi-gods and goddesses who walk the Earth. They are other-worldly, deigning to spend time here because it amuses them to do so. My aspirations to write were always with the understanding that I was an outsider, didn't possess the right blood, and certainly didn't have the correct scholarly brow. I was ok with that. I knew I was an impostor, but the act of writing fulfilled me in a way nothing else had. I only wanted to craft stories; I didn't want to belong to any elite crew of immortals.

Spending time on the blogs of literary agents, editors, editor assistants, and yes, even authors, has given an insider's look that until now has always been pretty nigh unto impossible. It was a little earth-shaking to realize that, wow, we're all human. No immortals walk among us.

So, right now, I'm staring out the bay window into a winter wonderland. (No wonder it's hard to concentrate on revisions.) And I'm thinking: I'm thankful for all my blogging buddies who have committed to the long open road of writing, the one with pot holes and rain and dead ends, the one with brilliant bursts of sunlight and shimmering rainbows and entertaining detours. Here's to the determination, the loneliness, the camaraderie, the tenacity. Here's to you.

All A-Twitter

So, it's official. I'm twittered. APHW wrote a convincing argument; I took the bait. Follow me if you so choose.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Lost Thoughts: to Sleep Perchance to Dream

I know I'm not the only one: because so many ideas are unleashed at night, I keep a journal beside my bed. Sometimes the nighttime scrawl is illegible, but the idea is to make sure I don't lose anything. After all, those piercing images lose their sharpness after a night of conked out sleeping.

Last night, I'm fairly certain I solved every plot challenge known to man. In fact, that one missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle spun Matrix-like in the air a few breathless moments before plunking perfectly into place, completing my latest WIP conundrum. Like a flash flood, everything else that I didn't even know was missing crashed into place. It was glorious. It was spectacular. It was a dream.

Nothing is scribbled in my journal. No scrap of detail is left floating in my authorial stew this morning. There is nothing but a wispy, fleeting sense of euphoria. I had it all. I held it all. My hands are now empty.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Writer's Digest Fun Prompt: Writing Contest

Every other month Writer's Digest sponsors a "short, open-ended prompt." Your job is to contemplate it for thirty seconds or so and scribble out a short story (750 words or less) based on the prompt. Submit.

Rules as I've scanned them:
  • Winner will be published in the June 2009 issues of Writer's Digest.
  • If you have lots of friends who will jump on & vote for you, you can win. That is, if your story is one of the top five the editors have selected to post on the website.
  • Deadline is January 10, 2009

Prompt for Your Story #16: Three boys decide to go have some fun at the local swimming hole. Shortly after they arrive, something terrible happens.

—From The Writer's Book of Matches (Writer's Digest Books) by the staff of fresh boiled peanuts, a literary journal.

The Time Paradox Post Script -- Spoiler

The Time Paradox: Not only did every couple of pages in the latest Artemis Fowl novel insert comments on pollution, carbon footprints, and evil humans, but the entire plot was shaky at best.

Plot: Artemis Fowl, age 14, had to go back in time to rescue a lemur from being sold by Artemis Fowl, age 10, to a group of animal haters called the Extintionists. (Yes, the plot revolves around a group who were going to kill the last lemur and make it officially extinct.) Artemis, age 10, decides that his father's life is more important than an animal's. He needs the money (100,000) to fund a trip into the Arctic to find his father.

Ultimately, however, we learn that a human's life (or that of a male human) is not worth that of a lemur's -- especially when the brain liquid of said lemur can help save Artemis' mother's life. Oh, no worries. It can be extracted in a non-lethal manner, so the lemur doesn't suffer at all. What a convoluted story.

What about good ol' dad? Doesn't he deserve a rescue? Is there no discussion or thought or contemplation that stealing the lemur means Dad never gets rescued? Nope. Case Closed.

House of Cards: Instead of going back in time and stealing the lemur from a formidable opponent -- a truly intelligent and less compassionate Artemis -- why didn't Artemis aged 14 simply buy the lemur?

Ummm...Let's See:
1. Artemis, age 10, needs money
2. Artemis, age 14, needs lemur
3. Artemis, age 10, has lemur
4. Artemis, age 14 has money

Ummm...Let's Face It:
1. There is no story

Sunday, December 21, 2008

"You are my enemy, human. You are the planet's enemy." The Time Paradox, 166

I am pissy. And restless. But mostly just pissy. Normally, I wouldn't ask you to care or comment on my psychological state, but today is a bit different. It seems that I must continue the Young Adult Novel Rant.
Nestled deep within the Amazon treasure box, another book awaited my perusal. Instead of rushing into the Alex Rider series, I decided to finish off the Artemis Fowl one by reading the sixth book, The Time Paradox.
I love Artemis Fowl. Every drop of his diabolical, devious, and dark-hearted intellect swirls delightedly through layers of comic relief and slap-stick (and, at times, bodily functioned) humor. Colfer masterminds playful romps that instigate shivers of giggles...that can't help but erupt into guffaws. In the sixth book, he brings back Holly Short and Mulch Diggums and (in smaller doses) Julian Root and Foaly. The crew unites for a final escapade that ends with a perfect setup for the first Artemis Fowl book. Oh what finesse and oh what fun, and oh what a joyous play on the title.

So, why am I pissy? Well, it goes back to one of Max's complaints: preachiness. I am sick to death of being preached at, moralized to, and brainwashed into believing how evil humans are.

Whether or not you truly believe that humans are poisoning the planet, hunters are the henchman of Satan, and all planetary ills are caused by men is beside the point. Believe whatever you want. I bloody well care less. But the idea that these beliefs need to be propagated through teen lit is sickening and demoralizing. Why can't we just have a well-written book for fun?

Another giant, oily blemish on the face of teenage literature (that was entirely intentional) is whatever urge compels writers to clumsily smash morals about fairness or honor or other cornball crap onto otherwise fine stories. Do you not think we get enough of that in our parents' and teachers' constant attempts to shove the importance of justice and integrity down our throats? We get it. I assure you, it makes no difference in our behavior at all. And we will not become ax murderers because volume 120 of Otherworld: The Generica Chronicles didn't smother us in morals that would make a Care Bear cringe. --Max Leone
I am saddened that Colfer decided to climb the bully pulpit. It's true that this "cornball crap" has been building since the first A.F. book, but it rose to truly immense heights in this latest novel -- to the point that I will never buy another Colfer book again. Ever. Nor will I borrow one or steal one or rent one or download one.

And no, I do not delude myself that Colfer -- in all of his fame & fortune & Irish holier-than-thou-ness -- will care one iota or change one smidgen. But I will feel better for having voted with not only my pocketbook but also with my personally-funded and -stocked classroom library.

And I will re-focus on meeting Anthony's Max Leone Winter Pledge. After all, what better way to combat preachy lectures and misanthropic angst than to write an edgy young adult novel about strong girls who totally kick butt?

Friday, December 19, 2008

O Happy Day: Amazon Delivered Another Alex

We're an academic and writerly family, both of us English majors and both of us enamored with the written word. What does this mean in the real world? Well, ahem, some days that means that the both of us live in an alternate universe: things like picking up the mail or turning off the back burner on the stove are less important than, say, finishing J. A. Hunter's book or adding the finishing touches to a chapter.

That being said, I cannot say how long Anthony Horowitz's books languished in my post office box. As of last night, however, I have the first three books of the Alex Rider series sitting in my hot little hands. I am so excited that I'm considering canceling classes and making all students read just so I can get started.

Errr, that was a joke. If any parents are reading this, that was a joke. Seriously.

I am obviously out of the loop (by quite a bit, I imagine), since I hadn't realized they'd made Stormbreaker into a movie two years ago! (Like Anthony, no TV for us and few movies.) Another Alex, Alex Pettyfer, starred in it, though I've no idea if it was a decent watch or not.
Anyway, Stormbreaker, here I come!!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Wisdom Squared

Gavin of Mechanical Hamster linked to an Oliver Postgate (1925-2008) May 2003 article that made me ponder, growl, snort, and shake my head all in about three minutes' time. By the end of the piece, I felt like an old fogey, just about 'up to here' with all these young whippersnappers who are ruining the bidness.

What's the problem? The sacrifice of the story for the sell. Or method over content. Or empty snazziness for a jolly good story. However you want to put it.

Even Anthony was grousing about this very subject (though on a usual...)

So how do I reconcile Deaver's "study the market" with Postgate's "be true to the story"?

In my own head, I can marry the two. It feels natural, much like the process of elimination. But am I fooling myself? is it merely justification? how do you meet commerical needs and still tell a good story? or do you?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Jeffery Deaver's Words of Wisdom

The Jeffery Deaver interview in Author Magazine had a few more tidbits I'd like to share. Admittedly, Deaver has a predictable writing style (e.g. figure out the least likely individual in the entire novel to have committed the crime, and you've solved the case), but his Lincoln Rhyme books are always a fast read and a ton of fun.

Besides -- as far as advice goes -- if you hear enough people say exactly the same thing, you start to take notice. And when someone throws in an oddball, you sit up and think, Hey, that's different. I wonder how that might work. Anyway, here's what Deaver had to say:

1. Study the market place. Write what comes out of your heart w/ the caveat of knowing where it fits into the market place.

2. Study the books of your favorite authors. Take them apart. Analyze them. Outline them. Copy down passages of writing that resonate with you.

3. Get an agent. They are a must in this day and age.

4. Figure out that rejection is simply a part of the game. It's a speed bump; it's not a brick wall.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Lady Luck Plays Favorites

They say Fortune favors the prepared, though Llonio in Taran Wanderer phrased it thusly: "You need only sharpen your eyes to see your luck when it comes, and sharpen your wits to use what falls into your hands." Later, he told Taran, "Trust your luck...but don't forget to put out your nets." It seems bizarre, then, to see people singled out for being "lucky" when the term actually does a disservice to all of the hard work, effort, and energy they've poured into an endeavor. The last step may appear effortless, but it's simply the final movement of a long journey --> and that's true whether it's spoken of life or writing.

Although luck hasn't much to do with my thoughts today, the idea of preparation or contemplation does. It seems that "like seeks like," even if this simply means that when one stares into the universe, something always stares back.

My latest musings on writing the next great american novel versus "candy"were revisted via a favorite candy author, Jeffery Deaver. This week, Author Magazine showcases an interview with him that possesses several gems embedded within. Deaver talks about how so many young aspiring writers are "misdirected. They think 'I ought to write this, even though I enjoy reading that.'" And then he talks about how he made the decision to write commercial fiction because that's what he preferred reading. Listening to his thoughts on that matter and several others, such as his ability to compress time within his books, prompted me to think about my own writing decisions...and to finally realize: I'm at peace with my decisions. I am happy, content, and complete. I am a writer.

And, when that stroke of luck shimmers across the sky, I'll be there to catch some of it in my sail. I only ask that my eyes are sharp enough to see it and my wits are sharp enough to make good use of it.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Candy is Hard Work

I mean, sure, writing the next great american novel is hard work.

but so is writing candy.

Just wanted to make it clear where I stood on that.

Disclaimer: no literary authors were defamed in the making of this post.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Novel Writing Decisions

When I first decided to actually sit down and write a novel, I made some key decisions based on gut instinct and pseudo research.

1. Write what's fun: I'd always intended to write the next great american novel -- but then, who among us hasn't? Upon reflection, however, I decided that such a task was monumental, chock full of research requirements (for me, anyway), and reeking of hard work. I decided to write candy instead. For me, candy is fantasy.

2. Write what sells: Honestly? This was just a hope -- and we all want our babies to sell like hotcakes in the literary market, I imagine, so that's hardly an original thought. Actually, though, there is definitely a segment of the artistic/authorial population who compose or write or create motivated entirely by 'staying true to the muse' ... which, by definition, means "creating that which won't sell." So, yes, writing "mass market" is an intentional decision.

3. Write to the largest possible audience: I had read somewhere that -- within the YA lit readership -- female protagonists tend to appeal to girls only, while male protagonists are accepted by both males and females. Generalizations aside, I wrote The Chillwane Chronicles with a male protagonist mostly because male protagonists appeal to me. Reflection, of course, revealed that this is because most female protagonists are sissies, angsty, or snarky, all of which are qualities I despise in women. (Well, okay, I despise those qualities in men, as well.) My new YA novel, Conning Lauren, contains a snarky, angsty sissy who metamorphosizes into a kick-butt heroine with rock-hard abs and a new-found respect for herself and small dogs.

Um. I lied about the dog part.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Lloyd Alexander Still Lives On

A Series of Partially Unrelated Events

In my Writing Rebellion post I mentioned reading the Harvard classics.

Diane commented that she felt it personally important to focus on the genre classics.

My husband found a set of Lloyd Alexander books -- The Chronicles of Prydain -- in my classroom and brought them home to read.

I admitted that I had never read the series. He looked at me in wonder.

On Monday, hubby handed me book one, The Book of Three.

I remembered Diane's words of wisdom.
Tonight I just finished book three, The Castle of Llyr.
I am now waiting for hubby to finish book four, so that I might read the continuing saga of Taran and friends.
I find I'm enjoying the lesson in brevity and action-packed adventure. It reminds me of the James Patterson interview I saw once. When asked what he attributed his great success to, he gave his half sardonic grin and stated, "Why, I leave out all the boring parts!"

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Bransford's First Paragraph Challenge

Wanna have some frivolous fun? Wanna win a partial critique? (or query critique or 15 minute phone call with an agent?) Well, then, this is the post for you!

1. Go to Agent Bransford's blog.

2. Read the rules of his contest.

3. Post first paragraph of your WIP in the comment section.

3b. Do not post any snarky comment or nit-picky question about rules.

4. Do all of this before 4pm Pacific Time, Thursday, December 11th.

5. No angst. See rule 3b.

Since many of us have already posted our first paragraphs sometime in the past year for good old fashioned peer review, this is a natural second step! Woo Hoo.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Young Adult Book Rant

I just finished Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead. It took, most improbably, four months to read 332 pages of the most asinine insipid drivel known to the teenage audience today. (Those in the know realize this book should have taken three hours, tops, to jet through.) It was only slightly more tedious than her non-YA novel, Succubus Blues, the reading of which took several weeks and much groaning. Note, of course, that I bought these two books after seeing her speak at a conference this summer. I like Richelle Mead. She's smart, sassy, fun. Her books suck.

Here are my off-the-cuff, way-too-early-in-the-Monday-morning reasons:

1. Neither plot nor character driven, I haven't figured out what precisely launches the books forward. Oh, that's right. Nothing does.

2. Bland dialogue, pointless time filler-uppers, with random "bad" language to make them edgy. Note to self: inserting random cursing and allusions to sex does not make one's books edgy. Christopher Pike did all that decades ago, making it all "feel" naturally high school-esque. (When I can't find a book for one of my male students to read, I hand him a Pike book.)

3. FTW attitudes interlaced with moralistic over-the-top "dilemmas." (oooh...i feel so bad about disabling the evil psi-dogs who were going to kill me. *sigh* i guess this is my fate since i am an uber-bad guardian of this sweet little innocent vampire who may turn evil herself at any the future. See? I can foreshadow!)

The disturbing part is this: these books have earned "great reviews." By whom, I wonder. It seems the publishing world is a bit incestuous, pumping up books with little redeeming value for a little quid pro quo. And for what? Oops, am I that naive? After all, I spent $8.99 on Vampire Academy. I'm a little ill.

So, then, why don't more of today's youth read? It's simple, really. What is there for them to read? Honestly? I gobbled up Eoin Colfer like he was going out of style (is he?!), but what else is out there? I enjoyed Airborn by Kenneth Oppel and Philip Reeve's Mortal Engines. My female students are inhaling Ellen Hopkins' books (to the point I can't check one out), and are, of course, also reading Stephanie Meyer. I've noticed several of my male students carrying around Anthony Horowitz, whom I haven't yet read but fully intend to explore. Anyone with a character named Alex Rider can't be all bad! Cornelia Funke is storming the YA adult market with her Inkheart books (which are much better than her children's book Dragon Rider, I've heard). But what else is out there?

This all reminded me of Pacheco's post on YA literature and 13-year old Max Leone's article on the great dearth of good teen lit. (They are both worth re-visiting or reading for the first time, if you haven't read them already.) This is precisely why -- all those years ago, as a child, myself -- I decided to try my hand at writing. I was tired of the awesome plot ideas with less-than-stellar writing and ridiculous endings. I was bored of the great writing and empty plot lines. I was bemoaning the fact that there are fewer "good" books than there are of the rest. So Anthony? I may just take the pledge with you. We need more YA authors committed to "great characters, humor, and action." Who's with us? And, more importantly, what are you reading these days?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Open Mouth, Insert Foot

Faux Pas: My greatest social faux pas of the year took place shortly before Thanksgiving. I didn't write anything about it, of course, because, frankly, it was humiliating. In the intervening weeks, however, I've thought, Isn't it my duty to tell? It can be like one of those little moral tales -- where everyone learns what not to do... So, here goes: my embarrassing moment.

Background: The annual NCTE event always has a huge space filled with various publishers, vendors, and exhibitors. It's every teacher's dream to wander this expanse, snatch up the books they're giving away for free, and buy the ones they're selling for two or three dollars. Authors sit behind small tables, where you can talk to them or have them sign your book (though, depending upon the popularity of the author in question, you may find yourself standing in line for an hour or more). Publishing company reps try to sell their wares or answer any questions.

Publishing Company Catches my Eye: I'm wandering, my bag stuffed to overflowing, when I catch the large Tor banner. My heart skips a beat. I smile. I let my feet lead me to the booth area where books line the back and two reps sit behind a small table chatting. They look up and smile.

My Normally Reticent Self Makes Silly: "So," I say, "you two would know all about helping me get published by Tor, yes?" Disclaimer: I know I need an agent in order to get published. I know that Tor accepts unagented work, but I also know that I need an agent. I have yet to parse out why exactly I said these silly things.

Awkward Pause turns Pregnant with Possibility: The man on the left, we'll call him Jeff, smiles -- a smile reminiscent of a cat contemplating a tasty bird -- and nods to the woman on my right. "She's an editor," he says, "ask her."

My Jaw Drops: I stumble around. Rather, my mouth keeps talking but my brain is stalled. She takes pity on me and asks what my book's about. I panic, but give what is most possibly the worst pitch on planet earth. She gives me her card. "Send it to me," she says. "I'll take a look."

The Story Gets Worse: I look down at the card. Susan Chang, it glistens. I almost faint. I grip the counter in front of me to keep my balance. We're only talking about THE Susan Chang.

The Rescue: Random teacher walks up to get some questions answered and Ms. Chang gets up to help her. 'Jeff' and I talk briefly; he gives me the name of a website that is helpful for unpublished writers. He reveals that he, too, is an editor, though for a publishing company that does not accept unagented manuscripts. Before he walks away, he says, "Follow up on her." I brave a half-smile and whisper back, "She's going to kill you!" And he shrugs, smiling back. "She didn't have to give you her card. Follow up."

The Resolution: There is none. I walked away, trembling, kicking myself for being so delightfully stupid. In fact, that's a state I still find myself in. I am also still in awe of the fact that I met Ms. Chang. I haven't sent my manuscript in.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Gather Around the Inland Empire Table

Inland Empire Girl of Gathering Around the Table has posted her 800th blog. That's incredibly awesome, especially since I just spent the weekend basking in her delightful awesomeness and, despite the fact that we were working our tail ends off, she still managed to post daily!!! I am in awe.

Go visit her blog. Offer her your well wishes. Drool over her scintillating sentences, references to poetry, recipes of yummilicious holiday cheer, and breath-taking photographs of good country living. You can't go wrong.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Armchair Survivalist

Although I have visions of poetry and prose dancing the marimba in my head, I just couldn't resist posting about The Armchair Survivalist. There've been a lot of articles & snippets about the guy in the last month or so -- and after I caught yet another article about him, I had to post.

It's also interesting that NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS added the following little tidbit in the afore-mentioned article. It's this quote, actually, that put a crease on my brow. "Barton Biggs, former chief global strategist for Morgan Stanley, recently wrote a book in which he warned that people should anticipate the breakdown of civilized society. He suggested creating a "safe haven" and stocking it with canned food, liquids, medicine, seed, fertilizer and other tools for survival." Biggs has bigg credentials in the economic world, so this is more than a simply interesting prognostication on his part.

(Of course, Geranios doesn't add that Bigg's doom & gloom prophecy has more to do with the breakdown of civilization after catastrophic global warming, which differs slightly from Kurt Wilson's, Armchair Survivalist, core beliefs.)

Anyway, fun & light reading for any of you focused on writing dis-Utopian or dark futuristic pieces... Hope your Thanksgiving was full of blessings and warmth & that Nanowrimo treated you 'write' this year!