Friday, May 28, 2010

Summer = Library Fun

When I was a kid, summer was synonymous for library reading programs. You know the kind, when the librarian writes your name down in a spiral bound notebook and hands you a piece of card stock with the picture of a map on it that tells you the books you have to read in order to win your free ice cream cone from McDonalds come August.

I loved it! I think I went through the library's entire collection of Nancy Drew one summer getting to the end of my reading goal. Each week my mom would take me to the library where I would report to the librarian everything I'd read and she'd sign me off--one step closer to the ultimate prize.

To be honest, I don't actually remember any of the prizes. However, a few months ago while I was shopping, a woman walked by me and I couldn't believe it. The librarian from my childhood stood in front of me! I hadn't seen her in twenty-five years, yet I recognized her immediately. The weirdest part was all the happy, warm fuzzies I felt for this person who had no idea who I was. I went home feeling at least a year younger.

So, here's my thank you to all librarians who start their library's reading program this next week. You have no idea the influence you may have on some nerdy kid who loves to read. Keep up the good work.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I'm all mixed up

So, I sat down to write all of the remarkable kid books I read as a kid when I realized something very odd about myself: when I was a teenager I read adult books, and now that I'm an adult, I read books for teenagers. What is up with that? I guess we always want what we can't have.

So, here were some of the favorites when I was about twelve (the early 80s).

*Any and all Agatha Christie books

* Edgar Allan Poe short stories

*LITTLE WOMEN

*Sherlock Holmes adventures

* WRINKLE IN TIME (this is a kid's book)

* C.S. Lewis NARNIA Series

* Laura Ingalls Wilder books

* Biographies on Helen Keller (her life still fascinates me)

* Judy Blume books including her "contraband" book ARE YOU THERE GOD, IT'S ME MARGARET (at least it was contraband at my school)

How about y'all? What did you read when you were about twelve?
Friday, May 21, 2010

Blogging: The new Las Vegas

Has anyone else noticed that blogging has become more about gaming than actually blogging. Well . . . why not? This is a quick post about another contest out there, but stay tuned for a real blog next time when I give book recommendations from the 70s.

Oh yeah, here's the latest contest I saw.

http://circleoffriendsbooks.blogspot.com/
Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Book Shredder's Review of Fablehaven



Since it's impossible for even the most veracious reader to read all of the books out there, I've asked for the help of Book Shredder, an 8-year-old boy who would read all day if his mom would let him. Recently, he finished FABLEHAVEN. I've heard so much about this book and its author. I asked him to give us a plot summary and review, but since he's a slow typer (hey you can't be brilliant at everything) it's an audio review. Enjoy this review of Brandon Mull's FABLEHAVEN.

video
Tuesday, May 18, 2010

My entry in the fictiongroupie blog

I'm participating in a blogfest at http://fictiongroupie.blogspot.com/ where I have to post a portion of my manuscript that shows dialogue moving the story forward. I've chosen an excerpt from my YA urban fantasy CYCLES. This is when 13-year-old Renee is going to find a woman she thinks may be related to her:

Within minutes of Renee's phone call the car arrived. The cabby raised an inquisitive dark eye as he swiped Renee's credit card and looked at the address she handed him.

“Do you got some old crazy grandma or somethin' there? That place ain't where kids want to hang out, if you know what I mean.” Pink bubble gum hung out of his mouth as he spoke. There was a handwritten sign swinging from the rear view mirror that read, “No smoking please . . . I'm kicking the habit.”

“No,” said Renee, trying to sound intelligent.

“Gotcha. You know, that's where they send all of the looneys who just don't belong no where else. I hear most of them women just sit and look out the window all day. Don't that sound creepy to you? So watcha ya going for?”

“I've got a school project to do. Something for my honors health class. I'm just visiting the place for the afternoon,” she said.

The cab driver shrugged. “I'd better hurry then. Afternoon's almost over.” He blew another bubble and popped it. Smack!

Fifteen minutes later the streets turned narrow and windy. The cab driver didn't slow his speed, and Renee found herself gripping the back seat. Finally the road turned into a dead end near a forest of tall trees that stood as guards to a dilapidated orange-brick building. The flower beds near the front had long since dried up. The letters HEMU were partially hidden behind a wild-looking vine that had snaked its way up the front of the edifice. The letter E hung askew.

“What does H. E. M. U. stand for?” Renee enunciated each letter as she pointed to the metal letters.

“A long time back people stopped calling it that. Now we just say Hemu.”

“An acronym?” Renee said.

“Guess that's what you call it. Anyways, I guess its real name wasn't good enough for them government fellows. Some kind of bull . . .” he stopped himself. “Sorry. I forgot who I was talkin' to.”

“So what did the place used to be called?” With her index finger Renee fiddled with a large snag on the polyester seat cover.

“Hospice for the Elderly and Mentally Unfit. I 'member it cause when I was a kid my great grandma started talking to lamps. They put her up here 'til she died.” With hardly a break in his words the driver continued, “You gonna stay here a while? I can always come back.”

“If you don't mind sticking close by, I'd like that.” Renee's curiosity about Helen Eves dwindled the longer she looked at the building before her. Everything about it felt wrong. At that moment she wanted nothing more than to get back into the cab and go home. But where was home? The Beaumonts? Whatever hid behind the door that loomed in front of her may be the only way to find out who she really was.

“You bet, kid. Just call me on this number when you're finished.” The cab driver handed her a business card smeared with nacho cheese . . . or worse.

“Thanks,” Renee said as she carefully slid it into her pocket, trying not to touch the greasy orange smudge. “I'll call.”

“Sure thing.” The cabbie waved as he drove away.
Friday, May 14, 2010

Every kid's dream

Today I lived the dream of every child who has ever read Anna Dewdney's LLAMA LLAMA RED PAJAMA picture book. I got up close and personal with about twenty of the most stubborn, stinky and ratty looking llamas you can imagine. They are cared for at the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple in Spanish Fork, Utah.

My 4-year-old even got on the back of one llama and rode it while I held the leash (or whatever it is called) and dragged the animal around. I was sure I was going to get spit on and kicked, but all went well. There was only one very large sneeze from the beast that coated my arm from the wrist to the elbow.

My experience this morning gave me more respect for Anna Dewdney, especially if she had to do any field work while writing the book. Yuck. I couldn't even imagine combing the hair of a llama let alone trying to dress it in pajamas. :-)

By the way, I've been finding lost of fun contests for authors, and I'll post them on my blog occasionally for anyone else who is interested. The lastest one I've found is at: http://thealliterativeallomorph.blogspot.com/2010/05/contest-whoo-hoo.html

Til next time!
Thursday, May 13, 2010

To "series" or not to "series"

I read the most pathetic book the other day. Seriously. I was dumbfounded that it was ever published. But here's the thing, I knew the author is a talented writer because I've read a number of books he has written and they are very good. So what happened to this one you ask? Well, it was the third book in a trilogy that I believe never should have been a series. Sometimes it's best to stop at one.

I'm talking about the middle grade THINGS NOT SEEN series by Andrew Clements. The first book in the series is about a blind girl who meets a boy that she doesn't know has become invisible. Since she's blind it's all the same to her. Anyhow, when she finally learns his secret, the two teenagers figure out what happened to turn him invisible (spoiler: it has something to do with an electric blanket) and they are able to turn him back. It's an interesting read for a middle grader. In fact, several of my children read this in 5th grade and they really liked it.

The problem with the other two books, THINGS HOPED FOR and THINGS THAT ARE, is that the real story was done in book one. Finished. Complete. No need for more. Honestly, the third book, THINGS THAT ARE, was practically a monologue from the blind girl about her life. And the book's slight attempt at romance is so weak I had to laugh out loud.

So why did Andrew Clements write them? Was it because he loved the first story and didn't want to let it go? Could be. Maybe it was because the first book sold well and there was money to be made. I have no idea. What I do know is that as a reader, if an author disappoints me with a poorly done series, it gives me a sour taste in my mouth for his/her later books.

Despite what my rantings may sound like, I really do like a good series. More importantly, so do most kids. We hate to say goodbye to characters we love. So how do you know when to keep going and when to stop? It's a fine line, but an important one.

How about all of you? Are there any series that you hated/loved? Let me know.
Monday, May 10, 2010

Reading about the Renaissance is easier than living it

I spent most of last weekend at Utah's Renaissance Faire held 20 miles north of Salt Lake City in a city I'd never heard of before called Marriott-Slatersville. For hours I walked in and out of vendor booths that sold everything from chain mail armor made from hundreds of soda can tabs to authentic tarot cards. (By the way, I did learn I'm going to have three husbands—one of whom is going to rich. Yes!)

I felt like I was a character from a group of middle grade and young adult books written by Karen Cushman that were all set in medieval times: CATHERINE CALLED BIRDY, MATILDA BONE, and THE MIDWIFE'S APPRENTICE. As an adult, I found the books interesting, though I never thought they should have been categorized as middle grade. None-the-less, as I watched the hoards of adults and teenagers waltzing into the fairgrounds dressed in their nun costumes and low-cut, tight-fitting bodice dresses, I was struck with the images that Cushman had created so well in her books.

After the weekend, however, one question continues to loom in my mind. Why would anyone who has lived with indoor plumbing ever want to return to Renaissance times? I seriously have no idea.

Another point I want to make, and then I'll be done because I know this is getting long, is that the whole chivalry thing is overrated. Take for instance jousting. Saturday afternoon I eagerly watched two grown men on horses try and jab long wooden poles into metal plates attached to their armor over their heart. Even in this controlled environment, after just a few jousts one of of the pseudo knights slouched over in his saddle moaning. Needless to say, the tournament quickly came to an end.

My children and I were no more than three feet away from the injured man as his assistant tried to remove the man's armor to see what the problem was. Incredibly, a shard of wood (about 1 inch in diameter and I don't know how long) had somehow sneaked its way in between the upper and lower arm pieces of his armor. It had lodged itself into the bicep of the want-to-be medieval hero. Once again I asked myself, who would have wanted to live during the Renaissance?

Good thing Karen Cushman wrote about the Renaissance so I can learn about it from the comfort of my bubble bath. Living during the Renaissance would stink! (Literally.)
Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Answer to the question

So, I would rather meet . . . neither. However, I would like to meet Stephanie Meyers' book agent (Jodi Reamer). See, here's the thing. Mr. Lautner probably looks better on the movie screen than in real life and I'd be horribly disappointed (besides I assume he'd have his shirt on during our meeting). And as for Ms. Meyers, I can't help thinking that while she must have had something to do with her success, she's done her bit and is no longer going to be of much help to me. But, if I met her agent, maybe, just maybe, she would see my brilliance and sign me up to be her client then and there. (Just a wild fantasy, of course.)

This brings me to what I've been doing with my life as of late. I wrote a book (for kids in junior high) and I've been trying to convince someone in the publishing world that it is amazing and needs to be in print. On the same day I go from thinking that it really might happen to laughing at myself for even trying. Last week, however, I had a thought that has stuck with me. Here it is:

I'm going to quit pinning about wanting my book published because it will be (eventually) and then at that point my fun hobby of writing will become a job and we all know that ruins everything. So, for the time being, I'm an unpublished fiction author who really enjoys writing. Still, if you happen to know an agent, I wouldn't mind an introduction.

Cheers!

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I'm a mom and author, among other things. I enjoy writing middle grade and young adult books.

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