Jul 28, 2011

Oops...She Did it Again (Anita Laydon Miller's Sophomore E-Book)

Anita Laydon miller is preparing her second novel for release within the next few weeks.

Do you remember the first time Anita e-pubbed?? Boy, alien twin, NORAD, adventure, garden of the gods, E.T. royalty?! Remember?!?!

This time, Anita is going girl and mystery. Check out the first chapter at her middle grade blog and I dare you to tell me that you don't want to read the rest of the book now.

Also, go back a few posts and join the conversation about reaching middle graders in today's world. We'd love to hear your thoughts! 

Jul 27, 2011

Look at What I Did...

I think this picture sucks, but it captures it enough. So, yup...I did it, I got another tattoo.

Thanks to my friend Britt (the one from the Katy Perry pics) for the absolute best birthday gift ever (which is in two weeks).


Jul 25, 2011

X Marks the Spot: How to Unplug

Every one of us has proclaimed an unplug at some point in our blogging career. Whether it's for an hour, twenty-four hours, or a week, an unplug can be a great way to get back on task and accomplish something.

When I have done week long unplugs in the past, I end up posting. This is because my platform is too fun and I get too much enjoyment out of our virtual interactions. Ya know?

Why is it so hard to click the X in the corner and move onto another task? Why is it so easy to sit here for hours reading blogs, facebook posts, and tweets? Hm??

Think about the treasure behind that X. So many hours off the internet that can be spent writing, reading, and living.

Oh, but blogging is just so much fun! Ugh.

Somehow that close button is just as elusive as the X that marks a bountiful treasure. If you have the inkling to unplug, just do it and revel in the time you create for yourself. Make sure to meander around the skull-shaped cave opening.

Note: this is not me unplugging. I am only exploring the feelings behind the contemplation.

Jul 22, 2011

They Say Things Move Slowly in the Publishing World

Are you signed up for the  Publishers Weekly newsletters? I receive the Children's Bookshelf edition each week to stay abreast on book deals, e-book news, and whatever else is going on in the kidlit world.

This week's edition included an article titled YA Series Making Fast Tracks, which discusses the frequency with which sequels are published. Publishers are allowing less and less time between installments in hopes of keeping readers interested. Too long of a wait and you lose the readership, they say.

I hope you read the article because if you think about it, this demand affects us more than it affects the reader's experience. If your publisher required you to pump out books as fast as James Patterson (without the writer horde to write for you), how would you deal?

I think the notion that readers do not keep interest over the course of two years is a bit absurd. When I discovered the Percy Jackson series, the first three books had been published. I finished the third book just in time for the fourth's debut, and then I waited a year for book five. Of course the wait was difficult, I NEEDED to know what happened to Percy, Annabelle, and Grover, but life needed living and took up the time between my visits to Camp Half Blood.

Similar story with The Hunger Games. I read the first book shortly after it was published, just as the first wave of hype hit book lovers. When Catching Fire came out, I took the day off from work. As book three approached, I was beyond excited. I had pre-ordered my copy seven months ahead of time. Over the three years that it took for  The Hunger Games trilogy to be published, my excitement never waned.

I think some publishers need a lesson in quality vs quantity.

Jul 20, 2011

Torn

I'm torn between writing several posts that are at the front of my mind and working on a substantial paper for class. Of course I have to chose the latter, but the aforementioned posts will come about soon.

I appreciate you folks coming here and commenting. I am going back to the days when I responded to every comment in the comment section. And so I am giving the first commentor the opportunity to chose a topic. Ask or say anything you'd like and start the conversation! No pressure.

Also, I'll share the song that is playing right now...



Raise your hand if you were expecting the song to be from Tori Amos.

Jul 18, 2011

Hijacked! Kirkus's Review of The Dust of 100 Dogs

In an effort to explore just how subjective book reviewing is, I am going to use a Kirkus review to contrast my views on an excellent book.

In 2009, Kirkus reviewed A.S. King's debut novel, The Dust of 100 Dogs. Below their review is in blue and my followup in (green).

Cursed by a strange man (strange does not do justice to the bizarre and pivotal character to whom the review refers) just after losing her one true love, Irish pirate Emer Morrissey must live 300 years in the bodies of various dogs before being reincarnated in 1972 as human Saffron Adams (I found the name Saffron to be completely arbitrary, especially since her mother is illiterate). Saffron retains all of Emer’s memories and is thought to be a genius for her great knowledge of history (and life/social skills!). As Saffron drags the reader through her uninspired life in a dysfunctional Pennsylvania family (where she is constantly suffocated by the hopes her underprivileged parents have placed on her future), she makes plans to travel to Jamaica and dig up the treasure that she buried there as Emer, 300 years ago. Later in the book (between the beginning and the 'later' Emer survives a Cromwellian battle in Ireland, is shipped off to Paris, and conquers the high seas of the Caribbean one European ship at a time), King introduces the creepy Fred (├╝ber creepy!), who has deviant sexual tendencies and carries on conversations with his mother in his head (among others)—and whose connection to Emer/Saffron isn’t revealed until the end (although the magnetism is apparent from the beginning). With its sloppy, uneven pacing, kitchen-sink plot (this implies that King threw in everything she could get her hands on, while I vehemently feel she was true to each separate time of Emer/Saffron's life with the abrupt changes) and boring characters, even the most loyal of pirate mateys will wish that Saffron and Fred would simply walk the plank (definitely true about the latter, and slightly true about the former until Saffron makes a change). The language is anachronistic during Emer’s story (I felt genuinely placed in 17th century Ireland and the Caribbean, although a few "slip-ups" seemed evident) and lacks spark when Saffron narrates (Saffron's narration feels realistic coming from a bored, pseudo-genius in Pennsylvania during the early Nineties). Despite Emer’s pirate adventures (the very best part of the book!), there is little excitement and the ending is anticlimactic (King is becoming known for her "anti-climactic" endings, she proves the real treasure was there all along). This is not buried treasure, just fool’s (<---that's me) gold. (Fantasy. YA (with elements of magical realism and lackluster lower middle class reality))


Perhaps this is nontraditional and a little brazen, but I found the exercise to be fun and helpful to my writing skills. The kirkus review is well-written after all, I just happen to disagree with most of its points. I reviewed King's followup, Please Ignore Vera Dietz (a Printz Honor book), a month ago. Both books contain mature writing and anarchic messages. King's next novel, Everybody Sees the Ants, comes out this fall - I very much look forward to writing that review.

Jul 15, 2011

Dissecting James Patterson's Latest Commercial

Have you seen James Patterson's tandem commercial for Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life and Now You See Her? If not, watch below.

If you're like me, you appreciate the genius of the idea, but are slightly creeped out. I am not sure what creeps me out...I know that I am not impressed by the generic elementary-photo-day background behind James. I am impressed by the animated character, whose name I didn't catch during the few times I have seen the commercial.

The idea of the commercial is rather brilliant and I suspect many parents will buy Middle School for their children, especially for boys, as they head out to purchase Now You See Her. I am rather judgmental when it comes to the quality of Patterson's novels (Witch and Wizard anybody?) And I think what bothers me the most is that each kidlit story Patterson has published has had so much potential, but the stories were not allowed to grow and flourish. Witch and Wizard felt contained and clinical, not developed and deep. I lament what the novel could have been and I have yet to pick up the sequel.

I will give Middle School a shot, not because of the commercial, but because I know it will be a best seller and I want to have an informed opinion on the novel. I think it's obvious what my expectations are, but as always, I am remaining open-minded.

Jul 14, 2011

A Wonderful Story Found in Nightshade City by Hilary Wagner

It took me a long time to get my hands on Hilary Wagner's Nightshade City, which bust onto the middle grade scene last fall. It's a shame, really, because so much of my own writing has improved since finishing the book last month. And my imagination has started spitting out so many ideas!

The novel, which starts out with a cryptic prologue, is full of nontraditional plot twists and schemes. Wagner is proficient in many areas of writing that make Nightshade City a joy to read. She has a flowery, yet purposeful way with words - never did I feel she spent too much or too little time on the details. Each character was well-developed and vivid. Likewise, the settings are magnificently described. 

The eponymously named setting is one of the three places the novel takes place and is home to the rebel rats with whom the reader is sure to empathize. Nightshade City is created in response to the oppressive government of The Catacombs. The third setting is called Trillium or Topside, and this is where the humans live. Wagner gives the rats a believable point of view regarding our world. From the way she describes the lower layers of the human world, The Catacombs and Nightshade City could easily take place beneath the streets of London, Washington D.C., or Chicago.

Despite the dynamic settings, the best of the Nightshade City can be found in the characters. From the sinister military leader named Billycan, to the artfully adroit Mother Gallo, the non-child characters of this middle grade novel are exquisitely drawn in both word and pen. Between those two plot pillars, many characters stand for and against the old ways of the rats including several "teens" who play a vital role in the outcome of the plot.

We meet many rats who are caught in the middle and several more who are proponents for one way of life or the other. Wagner creatively taps the shoulder of each character as she moves along the story. This allows us to meet a large number of characters without ever getting confused. Also, the descriptions of the rats' coat colors, fur patterns, and body stench provide another way to keep track of each rat as well as getting a feel for how the they interact. Even earthworms make an appearance in the novel! The annelid species play an imperative role in the plot and the success of Wagner's endearing story.

The ending surprised me, not because of the outcome, but because of the sequence of events it took to get there. And I don't mean to say Nightshade City is anti-climactic, it's quite the opposite. I cannot describe it without giving anything away and if I have done my job correctly, you're already sold on Nightshade City. And the reassuring news is that a sequel, titled The White Assassin, comes out this fall. I am excited to see new stories begin and old ones wrap up.

Next week, I will be sharing an excerpt from Nightshade City to highlight Wagner's skills and to show the type of writing that connects with me most.

As always, I get nervous about posting reviews. Please give me feedback on what does and does not work.

Jul 13, 2011

Craptastic

So...I joined Google+ just to do it and see what it's all about. I like it and the simplicity of the site is magnificent.

One bad thing though: I deleted the photos that were automatically posted there via my blog and Picasa. Doing so has removed the photos from my blog. I am very unhappy about this, but Google+ did tell me that would happen. I think I thought it was kidding...

I suppose I'll be restoring the photos over the next few weeks, but only the really good ones. This will be fun! 

Yay.

Not.

Jul 12, 2011

Posts on Deck

I've had several posts waiting in the wings because I have not had time to complete them. The list includes full reviews of Nightshade City and The Dust of 100 Dogs, both of which skyrocketed toward the top of my favorite books ever. 

Other posts include pictures from my recent beach excursions and a video recording capturing the "barking" sound the sand makes when you walk on it (I cannot get the sound to work on the video, which defeats the purpose of the whole thing. Raise your hand if you want to see a ten second video of my swishing my hand through the sand. BORING.)

I have been sick, sick, sick, and I HATE it. I am never sick and I am not sure what is going on with my nose, throat, and sinuses, but I hope they sort themselves out soon. I even left work early which I haven't done in six years and I need to get back to the beach! Enough with the self-pity though because I have so much work to do.
Homework, writing, and volunteering are on the list. I need to find some discipline.

Speaking of discipline, Heather Kelly kicked off the Second Annual Tour de Writing! Check it out and challenge yourself to shoot for one of the jerseys. There are prizes to be had at the end of the month (I helped pick them out and trust me, you want in!)

So, stay tuned, I'll give some real updates and reviews in the next week.

Jul 8, 2011

Friday Five <---I thought I railed against these...

1. I had a fun post planned in which I shared the barking sound the sand at the beach makes when you walk on it, but the video has no sound...

2. Work has been kicking my butt, but it has been a lot of fun! I am feeling less guilty about skipping my workouts and sleeping in.

3. I am on day two of three days off! Woohoo.

4. Beer.

5. I need a new phone and would love a white iPhone, but I am going to wait until the end of the summer and buy a phone with the money I have leftover after paying tuition for the fall. It's boring, but smart.

5.5 One of my favorite writing songs: