Friday, December 29, 2006
Most of the teachers at Washington Middle School are ready to give up, including math teacher Mr. Collins. In desperation, he proposes that his students build the world's largest tetrahedron. Told in alternating points of view of four students, Mr. Collins, and one or two other adults, All of the Above offers a fun and heartwarming look at a group and community coming together for a cause. Plus, how can you not love a book that has barbecue recipes?
Cyn has an interview with the authorhere.
Thursday, December 28, 2006
Saturday, December 23, 2006
Okay, everyone knows the story...Scrooge, Marley's ghost, Christmas past, present, and yet to come, Tiny Tim, etc.
I haven't actually read it since freshman year of high school, so when we received the gorgeous Candlewick edition this fall, Cyn and I decided to read it aloud the week before Christmas. The art, by P.J. Lynch, is amazing, and Candlewick made the laudable production choice to make the text actually be readable. (You know what I mean -- half the problem with reading the "classics" is that they're often in this horrible edition with tiny, dense type that's almost intended to defend the thing from being read). The art and design here make you want to sink in and read it aloud (the way I imagine it was supposed to be experienced). I highly recommend this edition.
And, this'll probably be my last post before Christmas, so I just wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Season's Greetings, and, to VS, a Merry Festivus.
"...and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!"
Friday, December 22, 2006
Cynthia has a roundup of more Santa news and Santa reviews here.
Merry Christmas, everyone!
Thursday, December 07, 2006
In this time travel fantasy, Chu-mong, the Great Archer of Ancient Korea, appears suddenly in Kevin's room, after having fallen off a tiger. Kevin has no idea how it happened, but knows that he must return Chu-mong to the past or history will be irrevocably altered.
This intelligent fantasy has Kevin seamlessly drawing on a wide array of knowledge as he attempts to acclimate Chu-mong to the present day and send him home. Archer's Quest is dramatic, fun, smart, and satisfying.
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Three Silly Chicks say "[t]he authors expertly create a fun tale that explores Santa's world and provides some very surprising answers to those nagging questions about Santa and his mysterious magic.. . .Santa Knows is a holly jolly read for the holidays."
Monday, December 04, 2006
In this much-anticipated sequel to Hidden Talents, Eddie "Trash" Thalmeyer wakes up from a drugged sleep in the custody of a shadowy quasi-governmental organization bent on harnessing his telekinetic talents for their own nefarious purposes. True Talents reunites the gang from the Edgeview Alternative School, as Torchie, Cheater, Lucky, Flinch, and Martin attempt to protect themselves and their families, while rescuing Trash from his captors.
True Talents is a funny, action-packed, rollicking adventure, filled with all the humor and drama readers have come to expect from David Lubar.
Sunday, December 03, 2006
C'mon, try it: Nibblecheese! Nibblecheese! Nibblecheese!
General Algernon [heh] and his ruthless horde of space mice are after the earth's moon! Leapin' leptons! Can Zack, the Omega Chimp, and Zeffie save the people of earth from a cheddar-less sky?
Cynthia interviews author Brian Anderson here.
Saturday, December 02, 2006
Sixteen year old "good girl" Aubrey is humiliated when a photograph (by an anonymous photographer) of her and Luke DeSalvio, in flagrante delicto, is e-mailed around their school. Still, she manages to find the inner strength to carry on as she is shunned by family, friends, and classmates and starts hanging around with the school slut.
Good Girls is at once funny, poignant, and thought-provoking as it explores young love, relationships, and what it means to be a "good girl" or "slut." Highly recommended.
Cynthia interviews Laura here.
Friday, December 01, 2006
Yesterday, we finally got the inside of the house in Christmas condition, putting up the tree and doing general Christmas decorating. (I've put off the exterior lights until this weekend, which may have been a mistake, since it's only supposed to get up to about 50 - last weekend it was 80).
Tomorrow, we have a signing at the B&N Round Rock (2 PM) and Sunday, a signing at the B&N Westlake (1 PM).
This morning, Cyn and I had an interview on WEOL radio (Ohio). Also, today, Debbi Michiko Florence publishes an interview with Cyn and me on her blog.
Enjoy the beginning of the holiday season!
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Thursday, November 23, 2006
After our exhausting trip to Nashville, we didn't really feel up for fixing an entire turkey dinner, so I'm trying poached cornish game hen and lobster tail. We will be having at least one friend over, though, so I'm not exactly sure if it'll really be easier, but at least there won't be any basting. :-).
Cyn did a big post on our NCTE/ALAN trip (including links from a lot of other attendees) here.
Check out photos at the Reading, Writing, etc. blog
Also, thanks for the kind words from Thunderchikin and Emily (E.) Lockhart.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
We just got back from five days in Nashville, Tennessee, most of which were spent in the Gaylord Opryland Hotel speaking at the annual conference of the National Council of Teachers of English and the ALAN workshop (that's the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of NCTE).
Thanks to Little, Brown Children's Books; Candlewick Press; and HarperCollins Children's Books for sponsoring Cyn and me. Thanks also to CLCD for sponsoring the panel Cyn and I were on at NCTE with Uma Krishnaswami; and to April Brannon, for moderating my ALAN panel. I also want to compliment all the organizers of both conferences -- I think I have an idea of how much work was involved (and am somewhat frightened of knowing for sure).
We flew into Nashville Friday afternoon (it's only about a two hour flight to Nashville) and then cabbed it to the Opryland. We then just had time to check in and change before a reception held by Boyd's Mills Press in honor Helen Hemphill and their other authors. The reception and dinner were held in a log cabin at The Hermitage, the historic plantation owned by Andrew Jackson.
Saturday morning, we spoke on our NCTE panel on authors' journeys (it was a blast), signed books, and did a couple circuits of the conference floor. Notable sightings included Jane Yolen, Cecil Castellucci, John Green, Emily Lockhart, Robert Lipsyte (whom I babbled to), Michael Cart, David Levithan, Helen Hemphill, Lauren Myracle, M.T. Anderson, and Kimberly Willis Holt. We also got to chat with Judy O'Malley of Charlesbridge, and Texas librarians Teri Lesesne and Lois Buckman (I can't remember if some of these were on Saturday or Sunday, so we'll just call it Saturday).
I also had the pleasure of seeing my high school AP English teacher, Mr. Vernon Mims, who is now teaching at DePaul University (He was one of my favorite teachers). We didn't have much time to chat, but I look forward to seeing him at future conferences!
Saturday evening, Cyn went to dinner with Candlewick, and I ate with the Little, Brown people at Volare, an Italian restaurant at the Opryland. Afterwards, we hit the Delta Lounge, also at the Opryland, for drinks, where I met Jordan Sonnenblick and where Cecil and Bill Sleator did some swing dancing.
Sunday we relaxed a bit and had lunch with Elisa Carbone at The Cascades (a restaurant at the Opryland). (In case you're wondering, the Opryland is this gigantic, sprawling hotel with these ten-story tall covered concourses done n various themes. There's a Delta Concourse done up like New Orleans (complete with a canal and a boat ride), a Cascades Concouse, with a huge waterfall, and a gigantic greenhouse). It's almost as if someone from the Peshtigo School decided to design a hotel/conference center. :-)
Sunday evening was the ALAN Reception (as far as I can figure, all of the attendees were invited to meet all of the speaking authors). It was a bit of a whirlwind, but author sightings there included Gail Giles, Julie Ann Peters, Nancy Garden, and Ellen Wittlinger. Thanks to all the sponsoring publishers.
After that, Cyn and I headed out with HarperCollins to F.Scott, this great restaurant/jazz bar in downtown Nashville. We sat at a table with Peter Abrahams; (Chris Crutcher and Robert Lipsyte were at other tables, but we never got a chance to talk).
Monday was the beginning of the ALAN Workshop. We didn't make it to everything, but did catch Will Hobbs talking about his new book, Crossing the Wire; and Nancy Garden, Julie Ann Peters, and Patrick Jones on a panel hosted by CJ Bott on bullying; and David Levithan, Sarah Dessen, and Brenda Woods on a panel about romance. We also caught a breakout chaired by some friendly folks at Arizona State University, on "New Ideas for Telling Tales in YA Literature." One of the featured books was Cynthia's Tantalize.
After lunch, we saw (and heard) a panel on audiobooks with Teri Lesesne, Tamora Pierce, and Cheryl Herman. Then it was time for MY panel, called "I laughed so hard, I cried: Opening Minds and Hearts through Humor in YA Books." Co-panelists were Jordan Sonnenblick, Lauren Myracle, and Emily Lockhart. It was a blast - we read passages from each others' books and then answered questions on how we write humor, our most embarrassing moments, and what other humor writers we like. It was over far too quickly. :-)
Afterwards, we caught a Mystery and Suspense panel with Peter Abrahams, Gail Giles, and William Sleator. Then there was a brief break and it was time for dinner, this time at Mambu, in downtown Nashville, with Candlewick. The guest list included Cecil Castellucci, Deborah Noyes, Don Gallo, CJ Bott, and Sharon (sp?) of Candlewick marketing. Later that night, we went on the boat ride with Cecil and John Green (both of whom bought the photo and are threatening to put it up on their blogs).
Tuesday, we caught a keynote by John Green and a panel on Anthologies with Deborah Noyes, Don Gallo, and Michael Cart. Later that morning was Cyn's panel with Paul Janeczko and Sneed Collard on "Using Picture Books to Connect Teens with YA Literature." (Very interesting, and raised points I'd never really thought about :-)). In the afternoon, we had time for a breakout with Helen Hemphill and Bryan Gillis on "Integrating Writing Instruction with YA Literature."
Then we passed out from exhaustion.
Again, thanks to the NCTE/ALAN folks for all their hard work; and thanks to all the people at our publishers, especially including Patti and Jill at HarperCollins, Victoria and Nora at Little, Brown, and Sharron, at Candlewick Press.
(There were a lot more publisher personnel, and teachers and librarians (and, as I said, fascinating side-conversations), but my brain refuses to disgorge any more specifics at this time -- if I've left anyone out, it was not intentional :-)).
Saturday, November 11, 2006
In other news, Cyn and I had the pleasure of dining with Libba Bray last night at Green Pastures. Cyn blogs about it here. Libba's hard at word revising the manuscript for The Sweet Far Thing, the final book in the trilogy begun with A Great and Terrible Beauty. I'm also excited about Going Bovine, the manuscript she brought to WriteFest last year, and which will be coming out sometime after The Sweet Far Thing.
Other WriteFest manuscripts that have been or soon will be published include Laura Ruby's Good Girls (HarperCollins 2006), Brian Yansky's Wonders of the World (Flux, June 1, 2007), and Katie Davis's first book for older readers!
Monday, November 06, 2006
Santa Knows is one of Horn Book Magazine's "Holiday High Notes," (one of the "best new books of seasonal interest"): "The dialogue-driven story is neatly structured, and Björkman’s line-and-wash pictures have plenty of sprightly holiday accents." Thanks also for the shout out on the Horn Book Web Watch!
Here are some other review highlights:
Kids will be drawn to Bjorkman's loose watercolor-and-ink illustrations...Alfie F. Snorklepuss is a newly minted winner. Kirkus Reviews.
The Smiths' boisterous text and Bjorkman's (Seeds) energetic, cartoonish paintings make readers privy to explanations of [that which] gives Christmas its magic. Publisher's Weekly.
This delightful book written by Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith and illustrated by Steve Bjorkman is a must-have for your Christmas collection! SANTA KNOWS is an imaginative tale that explains once and for all how Santa gets so much accomplished in just one night. YA Books Central.
Bright illustrations show the comical and expressive faces of the characters. This sweet story would make a nice addition to Christmas stories for young readers. Wee Ones Magazine.
Your children will love this story. MyShelf.com
Sunday, November 05, 2006
We spoke first thing on Saturday morning, then went to lunch at Mr. T's Deli, a former neighborhood "corner store" grocery. The cheeseburger and fries were excellent; and I'm informed that the pies are worth the trip itself :-).
The audience at the event was engaged, charming, and bought plenty of books :-). Our hostess was terrific and gave us an overview of, and insights into, her experiences as a teacher in the area, as well as being a great tour guide and San Angelo booster.
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
What Happened to Cass McBride? by Gail Giles (Little, Brown Children's Books, November 2006): Kyle Kirby has plotted a cruel and unusual revenge on the most popular girl in school for the death of his brother, David. He digs a hole. Kidnaps her. Puts her in a box-underground. But Kyle makes a fatal error. He doesn't understand who he just BURIED. . .ALIVE. . .
Gail lives in The Woodlands (note use of the definite article) just outside Houston, and is one freaky lady.
Tantalize, by Cynthia Leitich Smith. (Candlewick, February 13, 2007): A brilliant gothic fantasy: Werewolves, vampires, romance, Italian food, chase scenes, murder, suspense, humor, and Austin, Texas. Bon Appetit!
Cyn lives in Austin and is married to me (but you knew that already).
Dream Factory, by Brad Barkley and Heather Hepler. (Dutton, Spring 2007): A group of kids are hired as replacement cast members during a workers' strike at Disney World...overnight, an ice-cream scooper becomes Prince Charming, Robin Hood shows his true (obnoxious) colors, and an unlikely friendship develops between Cinderella and Dale (as in Chip and...)
Brad lives in someplace out east like Maryland, but Heather is a naturalized Texan. They're the authors of Scrambled Eggs at Midnight (Dutton 2006).
Brothers, Boyfriends, and other Criminal Minds, by April Lurie. (Random House, Summer 2007): Fourteen-year-old April Lundquist is having problems with her own love life, and her sixteen-year-old brother Matt is dating the daughter of the infamous mobster - Bobby "The Bull" Bocceli.
April lives in Round Rock, just outside Austin, and is the author of Dancing in the Streets of Brooklyn (Random House 2002).
Wonders of the World, by Brian Yansky (Flux, June 1, 2007): At 17, Eric runs away to discover the wonders of the world-the wonders his storyteller father told him about all through his childhood. He finds no wonders. He ends up living on the streets of Riverton, struggling with his friends, Catgirl and Payback, to survive the junkies, gangs, and the dark lord ruler of the street, Bluebeard. . .
Brian lives in Austin with his wife, author-illustrator Frances Hill. He's the author of My Road Trip to the Pretty Girl Capital of the World (Cricket Books 2003).
Saturday, October 28, 2006
We didn't make it to any panels in the morning, but spotted Varsha Bajaj and her family out and about (I was able to assure her son that she really did know me!), said brief hellos to Brian Anderson and April Lurie, and talked a bit with Jerry Wermund, who was manning the SCBWI Austin booth.
Saturday afternoon was the awards ceremony and panel for the Writers' League of Texas Violet Crown and Teddy Awards: TOFU AND T.REX was one of the finalists for the Teddy. Congrats to Heather Hepler and Brad Barkley for winning the Teddy for their SCRAMBLED EGGS AT MIDNIGHT. Cynthia blogs about the honorees here. Folks in the audience included Gene Brenek, Anne Bustard, Tim Crow, and Tanya Lee Stone.
The ceremony and panel was followed by a reception at the Brown Bar. Attendees included Julie Lake, Varian Johnson, Helen Hemphill (and her husband whose name I'm blanking on), Chris Barton (and his wife Casey (sp?)), and Annette Simon (who was also a Teddy finalist).
Afterwards, several of us headed next door to Gumbo's for dinner. (The duck was fantastic.). Then, because it was too late to get to the YA reading at the Hideout Theatre, Cyn and I went home to get some writing done (We were feeling inspired). I'm up to about 20,000 words on my WIP, about 10,000 of which are chronological and coherent. :-)
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Friday night, Cyn and I hosted a cocktail party featuring Texas wine and Central Market catering for out-of-town speakers and those folks who lent a hand at the conference and for the chapter during the year. I didn't get a chance to speak with everyone, but managed to talk with Bruce Coville (once I dragged him away from signing stock) about fantasy, humor, old houses, school visits, our mutual friend David Lubar, and our respective levels of geek-dom. Cynthia has more here,
and Jo Whittemore has some pictures and gracious words here.
On Saturday, Bruce spoke about the need for fantasy and humor (during one of the best conference speeches I've ever heard), and also managed to work in some craft pointers. Tony, who's illustrated some of Bruce's novels, showed some of his new work, including the artwork for Jerry Wermund's new picture book, and also provided fascinating insights into how illustrators should "market" their portfolios. Esther gave a great speech about resources for writers and all that you need to learn if you want to be part of the business. Sara demonstrated what a good query letter should look like, and Lynne told everyone how to get out of the slush pile. (I missed Don's talk, but am positive it was intriguing and useful :-)).
On the whole, the conference was fun and exhausting. Congratulations to outgoing RA Julie Lake, and welcome to incoming RA Tim Crow.
Friday, October 13, 2006
Thursday night, after a dinner at Chaparral, we attended a caucus and social get-together of the American Indian Library Association. Thanks to Victor Schill and Loriene Roy!
Friday, Cynthia and Lisa Yee spoke as keynoters at the Children's Author Luncheon. Cynthia spoke on American Indian children's literature and Lisa spoke on being/not being a writer of color.
Exhausting, lots of fun, and for once, the drive to Dallas on I-35 went smoothly.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Monday night Cyn and I spoke at the SCBWI-Houston monthly meeting, then spent the rest of the evening with Gail Giles and her husband (and their two new kittens and their Great Pyrenees). Other notables included Varsha Bajaj, Dotti Enderle, and Mary Wade.
Today, we had the pleasure of seeing Jennifer Holm speak at BookPeople about Penny from Heaven and the Babymouse series. Then we met book person par excellence Camille of BookMoot(!) and had a great lunch at Green Pastures.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
I'm very please to announce that Santa Knows is now available! Santa Knows is the first book that Cynthia and I collaborated on as co-authors. Merry Christmas!
Who knows if you've been naughty or nice?
Santa knows, that's who!
But not everyone believes in Santa Claus.
Consider Alfie F. Snorklepuss. He thinks he's proven that Santa Claus doesn't exist. Alfie thinks there is no way that Santa could do all the things he's supposed to, like deliver billions of presents all over the world in one night or know what every little kid wants.
When Alfie starts spreading the word that there is no Santa Claus, he makes someone very unhappy: his little sister Noelle.
And so Noelle turns to the only person who can help her. The one person Alfie thinks doesn't exist: Santa Claus.
Ho, ho, ho!
In this sweet and funny picture book from husband-wife team Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith, with illustrations by Steve Björkman, Alfie gets an attitude adjustment, North Pole-style, from Santa and his elves, and Noelle gets exactly what she wanted for Christmas: a nicer big brother.
Friday, September 08, 2006
Friday, August 25, 2006
Here's the new IAU definition:
The IAU therefore resolves that "planets" and other bodies in our Solar System be defined into three distinct categories in the following way:
(1) A "planet" is a celestial body that (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and (c) has cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit.
(2) A "dwarf planet" is a celestial body that (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, (c) has not cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit, and (d) is not a satellite.
(3) All other objects except satellites orbiting the Sun shall be referred to collectively as "Small Solar-System Bodies".
My thoughts: It's all very arbitrary, especially considering that just a week ago the IAU was considering a definition of "planet" that would have kept Pluto and added three more pluto-like objects.
(The (c) criterion was a last minute addition). What's wrong with just saying that the nine planets are planets and anything else is not a planet? Or, that anything above an arbitrary size that orbits the earth is a planet?
Also, do we really even need an "authorized scientific" definition? I mean, honestly. We don't have a "scientific" definition of "continent," yet geologists, geographers, and the laity all generally refer to Europe as a separate continent even though it really makes no sense to do so. (And why isn't Australia just a big island?). What would happen if we all just ignored the IAU definition?
I suppose that a definition becomes useful when referring to objects orbiting other stars, but with those, you also get into the brown dwarf problem...
Also, thanks, everyone, for the birthday wishes.
Friday, August 18, 2006
Speaking of plots, I've been seeing on some list servs a reluctance to put characters in danger (children shouldn't be put in harm's way, you see) or make them, well, mean (also bad) or have any kind of CONFLICT whatsoever.
While I can respect the sentiment, here's a good illustration of why conflict is necessary in literature (From the second season of Frasier in which Niles is haunted by seeing his old middle school bully arrive at Chez Crane as the plumber; in the scene, Frasier is trying to talk Niles out of giving said plumber a swirlee):
Frasier: You know the expression, "Living well is the best revenge"?
Niles: It's a wonderful expression. Just don't know how true it is. Don't see it turning up in a lot of opera plots. “Ludwig, maddened by the poisoning of his entire family, wreaks vengeance on Gunther in the third act by living well.”
Frasier: All right, Niles. [walking away]
Niles: [following] “Whereupon Wotan, upon discovering his deception, wreaks vengeance on Gunther in the third act again by living even better than the Duke.”
Frasier: Oh, all right!
Anyone ever actually sat down and read the plots to major operas? They usually make no sense whatsoever...(e.g., It's amazing how many sopranos can really belt out an aria when dying of consumption). But anyone who has masochistic tendencies should read A Night at the Opera: An Irreverent Guide to The Plots, The Singers, The Composers, The Recordings, by Denis Forman.
Friday, August 04, 2006
Didn't blog at all for the second half of July due to a severe stomach virus that struck the day Cyn left for Vermont and lingered as a severe headache for about ten days. Then I flew up to Vermont and parts north so Cyn and I could have a quiet mini-vacation. Anyway, Cynthia blogs about our trip here.
There's going to be a Japanese language version of NINJAS, PIRANHAS, AND GALILEO, probably by the end of next year! Poplar Sha just bought the rights...
Austinite Anne Bustard, author of Buddy: The Story of Buddy holly, has begun a new blog, called Anneographies, which features picture book biographies on the subjects' birthdays.
There's been some great blog-o-sphere buzzing about Cynthia's gothic fantasy TANTALIZE:
Author Gail Giles posts about it here; author Cecil Castellucci here; Gwenda Bond of the Shaken & Stirred blog here; and Liz B at A Chair, a Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy blogs about it here.
Finally, there's something very peculiar about the fact that the Blogger spell-check does not recognize the word "blog."
Monday, July 10, 2006
The Logical Smart One, The Lovable Loser, The Neurotic, The Dumb One, The Bitch/Bastard, The Materialistic One, The Womanizer/Manizer,and the One in His Own Universe.
I found his points were interesting but more geared to the actor than the writer. Nevertheless, he also has some good stuff on developing character from archetypes.
Just for grins, I applied his archetypes to my novels, and here's what I've come up with:
In NINJAS, PIRANHAS, AND GALILEO:
Shohei is a combination of The Dumb One and In his Own Universe;
Elias is The Neurotic;
Honoria is The Logical Smart One, but with some Lovable Loser and some of The Neurotic;
Mr. Eden is The Bastard;
Goliath Reed is The Materialistic One.
In TOFU AND T.REX:
Hans-Peter is the Lovable Loser with some leanings to the Neurotic;
Freddie is In Her Own Universe;
Opa is The Logical Smart One.
Cyn and I have also been watching the first season of Frasier on DVD, and came to the conclusion that they just don't write them like that any more. Smart, occasionally esoteric (but funny nonetheless), charming, and absolutely hilarious. Then today, I came across this article in Entertainment Weekly while waiting for Cyn at the opthamologist, which stated that the networks are planning to air only about a third as many sitcoms this fall as they did in fall 1996 (probably thanks to the plague of so-called reality TV). So, I guess they're not writing them at all...
So, in defiance of this ghastly trend, herewith is my list of favorite sitcoms:
The Dick Van Dyke Show: Perhaps the best of all time.
Cheers: They had some spotty seasons after Diane left, but picked up when Rebecca got her stride and Lilith had a more prominent role.
Frasier: A masterful pairing of two Neurotics. Need to get the rest on DVD -- they kept changing time slots and them put it opposite Buffy...
MASH: But really, only after they brought in Col. Potter (which provided heart), and Major Winchester (which provided a foil for Hawkeye), developed Margaret into more than the "Hot Lips" caricature, and got rid of Frank Burns.
Yes Minister/Yes, Prime Minister: An English series about a loopy and craven politician and his struggles with the entrenched bureaucracy at the Ministry of Administrative Affairs.
Friends: The first series about folks of my generation, but I never cared about Ross and Rachel.
The Bob Newhart Show: The one set in Chicago :-).
Newhart: Not bad, but Mary Frann is no Suzanne Pleshette
The Mary Tyler Moore Show: Funny, original, too bad she divorced Rob Petrie...:-)
I'm sure there are a couple I've forgotten...
Shows I don't get:
Seinfeld: I know this show was enormously popular and I thought some of the episodes were funny, but overall, I found the characters to be shallow and mean. Also, I just never saw the appeal of Kramer.
Roseanne: I watched the first episode, didn't like it, gave it more chances later, but never really cared for Roseanne Barr. The supporting cast was excellent, though.
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
I was somewhat disappointed in the Blanton. The building seems to lack a grand entrance and the entry atrium seemed stark and unfinished, rather like bare plasterboard.
The collection does has some interesting pieces (the America/Americas exhibit is quite good and the Prints and Drawings Collection is extensive).
I did fnd it a little odd that the cards next to the "modern" art went to great lengths explaining why the pieces were important and worth hanging in the museum ("The black and white video of the man screaming evokes the essential hopelessness of..." [paraphrase]), whereas the older stuff didn't. (There were a lot of Madonnas with Child and it might have been helpful if there had been more on what distinguished one from another - technique, style, era, etc.). Also, I'm a little puzzled about why they displayed so many plaster reproductions of famous sculpture that are in the collections of other museums.
We saw Superman Returns at the Alamo Drafthouse (the best place in Austin to see a movie). I was favorably impressed -- I thought it was very good. I'd been expecting it to be horrible, especially since I'd heard it was supposed to be a "sequel" of sorts to the Christopher Reeve movies (even the "good" ones weren't very). It was definitely better than those, but I'm ready to see, for example, Brainiac or any villain other than Lex Luthor.
Tonight, we're doing a traditional good old-fashioned Fourth of July: Chicago-style hot dogs with corn on the cob, followed by fireworks at Zilker Park.
Friday, June 30, 2006
I don't tend to do this, but I do think that writers should be prepared to perform major surgery on manuscripts, i.e., not fall so in love with what they've written that they fail to recognize when major portions aren't working and likely will never work. I did something similar with TOFU AND T.REX, but not intentionally. I'd sent my editor a manuscript I wasn't happy with, but was not in a place where I could see (or was willing to see)what needed to be done. My editor at the time sent me a letter which basically identified in a coherent manner the things I didn't like and thought weren't working. After editing, the only thing that remained from the first version I sent my editor to the eventual published version was the interview scene at the Brandenburgs. About ten pages. Note that the version I'd sent my editor was far more polished than your usual "first draft."
At the early stages of drafting, I do have a "viability threshold." Basically, I find it very easy to write the first thirty pages of a novel. I have several manuscripts based on great ideas that are about 30-35 pages long. Great introductions, but the stories never went anywhere, or just went badly. Usually, the problem is the plot, but sometimes it's the characters. In the earliest version of the manuscript that yielded something that went into NINJAS, PIRANHAS, AND GALILEO, there was a character who was so annoying that I had him throw himself in front of a train. A moving train. It didn't miss.
Anyway, I'm very happy that my first (approximate) draft of my new WIP, RM, came in at about 110 pages. It's not the complete story, but enough that I know what's likely to work and what's not. Also, unlike in TOFU, I'm keeping several of the scenes; I am utterly deleting two major sub-plots, though. They just didn't pass the "cringe-test" (Things fail the test if, after letting the manuscript sit for a couple weeks, they cause me to literally cringe or recoil upon re-reading.).
Looking forward to this weekend and drafting new scenes...
Thursday, June 29, 2006
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Tom Henderson, more commonly known as "Chi-Mo" to others and to himself as "King Dork," is, well, a guitar-playing dork trying to form a band with his best friend. When his English teacher assigns (of course), CATCHER IN THE RYE, Tom discovers a copy his deceased father had when he was a teen. The copy is marked up with mysterious messages, and Tom finds himself more or less obsessed with decoding the thing (in part because he's never felt any connection to the man, and in part because he is, after all, a complete dork). This leads him to read more books his father left behind and also to the mystery of how his father really died, as well as some insights into "attracting semihot girls."
KING DORK is hilarious. Portman skillfully skewers the Baby Boomers' obsession with THE CATCHER IN THE RYE while portraying a modern teen dealing with what a generation raised on that book has wrought. Professor Nana likes the names Tom and his friend come up with for the band; for my part, I love the pithy characterizations of the books referenced (e.g., LORD OF THE FLIES is "... like Hillmont High School meets Gilligan's Island, except that the goons in charge are prissy English schoolboys intead of normal redblooded American alpha psychopaths.").
Monday, June 26, 2006
Saturday, Cynthia and I spoke at the The Writer's League of Texas Agents and Editors Conference; our breakout session was basically an introduction to, and overview of, children's and YA literature. (Most of the attendees were from the "adult" realm, and so were unfamiliar with children's and YA). We went early to hear the panel with Kathi Appelt, Anne Bustard, Chris Barton, and Mark Mitchell.
We usually don't hang out that much with those involved in the adult end of the industry. The attendees seemed somewhat more anxious than those at, say, SCBWI conferences, but that might be because they were tense about having to "make the pitch." (They do this thing where I guess you have ten minutes with some agent to pitch your book).
Also, oddly, not only was the food the same at the airport Hilton and the Marriott downtown, but the presentation was identical, too: chicken breast with green beans, with the chicken breast artfully angled on top of potatoes or wild rice pilaf.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
So I came back energized, full of all sorts of research info I can plug into the new novel. First,though, Cyn and I have a couple of speaking gigs. Tomorrow night, I am giving a keynote for the Texas State Reading Association Summer Leadership Conference. Then, Saturday, Cyn and I are doing a breakout at the Writers' League of Texas Agents and Editors Conference.
Incidentally, don't you love the way the "ou" in "four hour tour" can be pronounced three ways?
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
But, of course, one of the things people have been doing in Austin since time immemorial in the summer when it's purgatorially hot is to head down to the Barton Springs Pool. Now, thanks to something called the Outdoor Wireless Mesh Project, in addition to such normal poolside staples as sunblock, towel, sunglasses, and cash, you will also need to remember your laptop computer.
But only if it's waterproof.
And if you can read the screen on the 300+ days per year of sunshine we get down here.
I hate to say this, because I kind of like technology, but I think if you absolutely need Internet access while you're taking a dip at the Barton Springs Pool or taking the Zilker Zephyr, you're kind of missing the point.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Here's my list of movies that didn't make the list and that I can't believe they didn't put in the top ten:
The Princess Bride: A fairy tale with swordfights, a giant, pirates, a beautiful princess, an evil prince, and (some) kissing. Based on the novel by Willaim Goldman. What's not to love? One of the few instances in which the film version is better than the written, largely because the author wrote the screenplay.
GalaxyQuest: The aging cast of a cult sci-fi TV show is mistaken for the real thing by aliens with a really big problem. Tim Allen stars as the Captain in this brilliant parody of William Shatner and Star Trek.
My Cousin Vinny: New Yorker Ralph Macchio and his best friend are arrested for murder in a small Alabama town. His cousin Vinny, a lawyer, played by Joe Pesci, drives down to save him from the electric chair. Smart, well-told, "fish out of water" tale that pokes fun at regional stereotypes. And yes, Marisa Tomei deserved the Oscar.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding: Nia Vardalos plays a Greek woman who falls in love with a non-Greek played by John Corbett and must get her Greek father, Greek mother, Greek cousins, Greek uncles and Greek aunts to accept it. A very funny take on the "child of immigrants" motif.
The Sure Thing: John Cusack is a freshman in college and is taking a road trip across the continent with Daphne Zuniga. A teen comedy with heart, and characters who change and grow. It's funny, too.
Back to the Future: Michael J. Fox plays a 1985 teen who goes back in time in a Delorean built by mad-scientist Christopher Lloyd to make sure his parents meet and marry. Problem is, his parents are (and were) uber-geeks. Don't bother with the sequels. Just watch this one.
Sunday, June 04, 2006
It's the Ninth Century and fifteen year old Halfdan is a slave -- the illegitimate son of slave Derdrui (who was captured long-ago in a raid on Ireland) and Danish Chieftain Hrorik Strong-Axe. Though he dreams of battle and winning spoils from foreign lands, Halfdan knows that a slave can never be a warrior. But Halfdan's fate is changed in one stroke when his mother sacrifices herself so that he may be freed. Now, Halfdan must learn to be a free man and a warrior. Can he earn the respect of his half-brother and the clan and become a true Viking warrior?
In VIKING WARRIOR, Roberts provides a richly-drawn glimpse into the Viking era. The story is fascinating and the action non-stop and appropriately bloody. Roberts offers likeable and well-developed characters without sugar-coating the mores of the day.
Saturday, June 03, 2006
It's the late 70's and Eva Lott's senior year of high school. She'd rather be back home in Chicago than spending it in police-state Communist Poland. But her father is on a mission. Supposedly, he's there to teach, but he's really there to provide assistance with the anti-communist underground movement. The hardships and shortages that are a fact of life behind the Iron Curtain are bad enough, but it's worse knowing Big Brother is watching. Still, Eva begins to build a relationship with Tomek, one of her father's students, and with Poland as well. But even this is shattered when her father is deported and Eva must figure out how to survive behind on her own.
EVA UNDERGROUND provides a engrossing and sometimes chilling look into life in a totalitarian state, as Eva and her father struggle to make friends and learn a strange and foreign culture. With well-developed characters and plot, EVA UNERGROUND is much more than a social studies lesson, however. Mackall makes the struggles of daily life and against the police state apparatus in Communist Poland come alive.
Cynthia has an interview with Mackall on EVA UNDERGROUND here.
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Monday, May 15, 2006
Thursday, April 20, 2006
Calliope is tired of being dragged by her mother cross-country from Renaissance Faire (don't forget the "e") after Renaissance Faire. Eliot longs for the day when his father used to sell swimming pools -- before he "found God," and subsequently founded the fat camp for Christian kids ("What would Jesus eat?"), thereby also discovering financial success. When Cal and Eliot meet, there's instantly chemsitry -- literally and figuratively. Do they have a future? Or will Eliot's father and Cal's mother (and her jouster boyfriend) tear them apart?
SCRAMBLED EGGS is a romantic comedy with an almost classic feel. Cal and Eliot feel like people you know even as they face unusual, even surreal, circumstances with humor and aplomb.
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
In this rich period piece set in the summer of 1953, eleven year old Penny is beset by family (in the form of a her mother, a former nurse; live-in grandparents; her cousin and best friend Frankie and his slightly illicit schemes; and a whole bunch of Italian uncles); one or two secrets; Dem Bums, her beloved Brooklyn Dodgers; and an aged dachshund.
PENNY FROM HEAVEN is a lovely and heartwarming story based on the author's family history that captures both the sense of America of 1953 and what it means to be the child of recent immigrants.
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Twelve year old Percy Jackson is kicked out of his sixth school in as many years. This time, at least, it's not his fault. It's only proper and just that he should stick up for his best friend and he didn't really mean to vaporize his algebra teacher.
Fortuitously, Percy makes it to Camp Halfblood, where he finds out that he, like the heroes of Ancient Greece, is a demigod (a child of a mortal and a god). Most of them don't make it past sixth grade, though.
Together with a daughter of Athena and a neurotic satyr, Percy must recover the Lightning Bolt of Zeus, to prevent a war among the gods that will make Troy look like a minor tiff...
TLT offers an exciting, action-packed, often funny and fresh take on Greek mythology. Most enjoyable.
Cynthia has an interview with author Rick Riordan here. THE LIGHTNING THIEF is first in a series of five. Book two, THE SEA OF MONSTERS, is now available.
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
Eugenides, the Thief of Eddis, is now married to the Queen of Attolia. Goofy and apparently ineffectual, he is despised by the Queen's guardsmen and courtiers. When Costis, a guard, punches him in the face, Eugenides punishes him by assigning him to be his personal lieutenant. In that office, Costis comes to realize that not all is as it seems. Political intrigue and subterfuge abound as the King and Queen attempt to unite their fractious, short-sighted barons to face the threat from the neighboring Mede Empire.
KING OF ATTOLIA is a sequel to THE THIEF (HarperCollins 1996) and QUEEN OF ATTOLIA (Greenwillow/HarperCollins 2000) and is probably best read after those. As in the two preceding novels, in KING OF ATTOLIA, Turner offers well-rounded, genuine characters who are much more than fantasy archetypes; a realistic pseudo-Byzantine world; and provides a fascinating plot evocative of the Great Game and the Balance of Powers.
Monday, April 03, 2006
Last Saturday, we had the pleasure of attending Dianna Aston's book signing at BookPeople for her new release AN EGG IS QUIET.
On April 5, at 7:30 PM, Jo Whittemore signs her new novel, ESCAPE FROM ARYLON, at the Brodie Lane Barnes and Noble.
On April 8, Kimberly Willis Holt presents her new picture book, WAITING FOR GREGORY, at the Arboretum Barnes and Noble (11 AM) and at BookPeople (3 PM).
On April 17, at 7 PM, Rick Riordan has a signing at BookPeople for THE SEA OF MONSTERS, the second book of the PERCY JACKSON AND THE OLYMPIANS series.
Saturday, April 01, 2006
In the first book in the Silverskin Legacy trilogy, debut novelist Jo Whittemore introduces high school freshmen and ex-friends Megan Haney and Ainsley Minks. A freak accident transports them from their sleepy suburb to the land of Arylon, where someone has stolen the powerful Staff of Lexiam. Before they can return home, they must help the wizard-kkng Bornias recover the Staff, or else both worlds will be in jeopardy.
In ESCAPE FROM ARYLON, Jo Whittemore creates likeable and intriguing characters and a fun and fantastic fantasy world. The cliffhanger ending will have readers eagerly anticipating the second book in the trilogy, which scheduled for publication in July 2006.
Friday, March 31, 2006
In an alternate New York City, Gurl is the only one who can't fly. What she can do, though, is become invisible, a talent which allows her to escape nightly from the Hope House for the Homeless...until she's caught by the House matron, who blackmails Gurl into stealing for her so she can maintain her extravagant lifestyle (that includes expensive plastic surgery, caviar, and other luxuries). There are a lot of twists and turns, and a lot of quirky characters, including fellow orphan Bug, gangster Sweetcheeks Grabowski, creepy mechanical monkeys, a cat who makes effective use of indoor plumbing, and a mysterious Professor. It's enormously fun getting to the bottom of who's doing what to whom and why.
Monday, March 13, 2006
I'm a Talent!
You're a risk-taker, and you follow your passions. You're determined to take on the world and succeed on your own terms. Whether in the arts, science, engineering, business, or politics, you fearlessly express your own vision of the world. You're not afraid of a fight, and you're not afraid to bet your future on your own abilities. If you find a job boring or stifling, you're already preparing your resume. You believe in doing what you love, and you're not willing to settle for an ordinary life.
Talent: 59%Take the Talent, Lifer, or Mandarin quiz.
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Fifteen year old surfer Juan steals his mother's SUV and he and his best friend Jamie flee to Mexico (with Jamie's sister and their surfboards) after Jamie beats up his (Jamie's) abusive step-father. It's not the most well thought out idea in the world, but they figure that while hiding out, there's also the waves...
According to the jacket copy, the author, Jack Lopez, surfed in the U.S. Open Championships in Huntington Beach, as well as in Baja California and mainland Mexico. This insider expertise comes through in Juan's voice, which is redolent with passion for the sea, the waves, and the bonds of friendship. IN THE BREAK eschews "surfer dude" cliches while letting the reader understand the lure of the surf, as it explores the trio's bittersweet past and present, while offering hope for the future.
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Monday, February 13, 2006
Veronica Lopez is smart, an avid fantasy reader, and not altogether unattractive. Heather Simms is beautiful, shallow, selfish, vain, and not as dumb as you'd think. The evening before they have to deliver a book report on the classic The Queen of Twilight (Veronica's favorite novel), they are zapped into its pages through the good offices of a malfunctioning bookstore Universal Product Code reader.
All they have to do, Veronica figures, is work their way through the plot (which she knows intimately), and then the wizard Strathorn can send them back home. Things begin to go badly from the start, when they accidentally, er, expunge the Princess Arabelle, the prophesied "One," who is supposed to save the land of Galma from the evil Queen of Twilight. Throw in a talking and lascivious squirrel, a bakery elf in exile, a magic-less wizard, a whole bunch of other stuff that's not in The Queen of Twilight, and they may not survive, let alone save Galma and get back home.
This novel is hilarious -- a wonderful romp that pokes fun at the conventions of high fantasy and high school. Highly recommended.
Monday, January 30, 2006
Monday, January 23, 2006
Cyn and I went down to San Antonio for the conference Saturday and came back Sunday.
Saturday we had a fun lunch at Boudros with Cyn's Candlewick editor, Deborah Wayshak. Then, after a brief walkabout of the conference floor, we went to dinner at Sage (new restaurant, where Polo's used to be) where we met Debbi Michiki Florence in person for the first time(!)(and her friend writer-librarian Jennifer [last name I do not remember - sorry!]) and editor Dimiter (another last name I can't remember :-)), from Simply Read Books. Debbi has photos up at her blog here.
Sunday morning we had a great breakfast at La Canarias with Franny Billingsley, her daughter Miranda, Heather Voegel Frederick, Nancy Werlin, Jane Kurtz, and Susan Raab. Then we hit the conference floor again and scored a few ARCs and had a chat about M&Ms (among other things) with Victoria Stapleton at the Little Brown booth :-). At lunch, we ran into San Antonio's own Peni Griffin.
Floor sightings included Sean Petrie, Don Tate, Varian Johnson, Barry Goldblatt (agent), and Jill Bailey (formerly of BookPeople).
Cyn has more blogging here.
Friday, January 06, 2006
Also, did you know that in Texas you have to show a photo ID and sign in if you want to buy Benadryl D or Claritin D (I guess, everything with pseudoephedrine)? I know meth's a problem in certain places, but one still doesn't like being made to feel like one might be a criminal for buying a nasal decongestant and antihistamine.
Finally, good luck to Vince Young, who announced today he is entering the NFL Draft this spring. It was great while it lasted. Hook 'em!
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
Congratulations to the University of Texas Longhorns football team on their Rose Bowl victory (and national championship!) tonight. A fantastic game, well-played, and a nail-biter to the end. In the words of Keith Jackson, "I'm getting too old for this."
Monday, January 02, 2006