Sunday, August 28, 2011

Teeth: Vampire Tales Book Review

Title: Teeth: Vampire Tales
Editors: Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: April 5, 2011
ISBN-13: 978-0061935145

480 pp.

Reading copy via local library

This anthology of 17 vampire short stories (and 2 poems) isn't part of the Debut Author Challenge since many of the contributors are well-established authors such as Holly Black, Cassandra Clare, Neil Gaiman, Garth Nix, Melissa Marr, and Tanith Lee. But it was sitting so seductively on the shelf that I had to read it.

I'm glad I did.

I totally missed the Twilight bandwagon, and I wanted to see what other authors had to say about vampires. And this collection has all kinds of vampires. Funny vampires, gay vampires, creepy vampires, psychotic vampires, and regular teenage angsty vampires.

I'm just going to list my top five favorites stories, but almost all stories are extremely strong (only one did I find a little clunky and I wasn't that interested in the two poems that are included).

"Things to Know About Being Dead" by Genevieve Valentine
Suyin dies and finds out she's undead, or jiang-shi, and her Grandmother helps her cope with her new reality. At least for awhile.

"All Smiles" by Steve Berman
A gay kid runs away from a boot camp and hitches a ride with a couple of strangers. Yeah, it's gonna get worse before it gets better.

"Sit the Dead" by Jeffrey Ford
Luke meets a girl from an unusual family. Maybe a little too unusual. Manages to be funny and creepy at the same time.

"Sunbleached" by Nathan Ballingrud
For the me, the saddest and creepiest tale in the anthology. Joshua hides a vampire under his house, waiting for the right moment to invite him in.

"The Perfect Dinner Party" by Cassandra Clare & Holly Black
Told from the POV of a perpetual 14 year old vampire, she describes how she and her brother ended up hosting a dinner party.

I would recommend this anthology to anyone who is a fan of paranormal fiction.

Bonus Video: Contributing authors talk about whether they'd want to be a vampire for a month

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Book Review: How I Stole Johnny Depp's Alien Girlfriend

Title: How I Stole Johnny Depp's Alien Girlfriend
Author: Gary Ghislain
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Publication Date: June 8, 2011
ISBN-13: 978-0811874601

208 pp.

Reading copy from local library

Yeah, it's funny. Yeah, there's a sci-fi twist. No, there's no actual Johnny Depp. But don't let that stop you from reading Gary Ghislain's hilarious, hi-jinks filled book.

David is a 14 year old living in France with his dad, a shrink for troubled kids. And when Zelda, a superhot girl who is supertrouble, becomes his dad's latest patient, David can't stay away from her. Even though she says she's from outer space. And on a mission to find her Chosen One. Who happens to be Johnny Depp.

There's a ton of action, lots of laughs, and a French sensibility. By that I mean there is implied sex, although it works as both a plot point and character development. But this may be icky to some readers (especially given that David is 14; if he were 16, I think the ick-factor would be less), so know your reader well before you recommend.

That said, I would recommend this book to readers who enjoyed Burger Wuss by M.T. Anderson or Spacer and Rat by Margaret Bechard.

Friday, August 19, 2011

2011 SCBWI Summer Conference, or What I Did Over Summer Vacation

There are lots and lots of great blogs about the conference, but definitely check the Official Conference Blog. I can't chew gum and blog at the same time, so I left it to these speedy bloggers to give the play-by-play action.

What I do better is ruminate and then sum up. So here's an overview at my time at the 2011 SCBWI Summer Conference.

Day One: Friday

I live in the area, so I skipped all the early morning sessions and showed up in time for the first keynote. Bruce Coville is all kinds of awesome, and I loved his speech about why what we do matters and how what we do affect others in ways we can never know.

Jerry Pinkney's keynote was accompanied by personal photos and drawings and how to bring a sense of place to your work. Awe. Some.

My first breakout session was Donna Jo Napoli's "Sources of Tension and How to Use Them." She did a very interactive session, taking suggestions from the audience how what were the elements of tension. But lessons I learned from the session on how to hook a reader and keep them were these quotes: "Make the reader trust you" and "People go to the fictional side for an emotional ride." (Can I have t-shirts with those made?)

Lunch was with some of my crit partners, which was a good time to compare notes and fuel up for the afternoon.

Then Libba Bray blew me away with her keynote, "Writing It All Wrong: A Survival Manual." She talked about how writing the third volume of her Gemma Doyle Trilogy was one of the most difficult things she's ever done. Draft after draft sucked and she couldn't figure out what was wrong. But she kept (painfully) at it until the story clicked. Boy, was that something I needed to hear as I make my way through Draft 7 of my WIP.

The second breakout session I went to was with Laurie Halse Anderson. She talked about "The Nuts and Bolts of Crafting a Creative Life: Finding Lost Time and Reclaiming Creativity." She had the audience go through some mini-exercises on where our time disappears to and how to get rid of our time-wasters. I discovered that my biggest time suck is not Twitter, but the couch. Once I sit down, I'm pretty much down for the count. Now before I put butt cheek to couch, I think "What would Laurie do?" Haven't been 100% successful with this, but I'm getting better.

I skipped the last keynote of the day to do some writing. With all the inspiration in the air, especially after Laurie's session, I had to get some words on paper.

Then I went to the first autograph session where 1. Fonzie said "Hi!" to me as I waited in line (Okay, me and the other 50 people in line). 2. My nephew better appreciate how awesome it is to have a signed autograph copy of The Phantom Tollbooth. 3. I was concerned Libba Bray would get writer's cramp by the end of the session after she signed my books.

I stayed late for the networking and I couldn't help myself and bought Ruta Sepety's Between Shades of Gray. Ruta was so excited to be a newly published author and completely sweet. I told her that I had heard good things about the book and was really looking forward to reading it. "Email me and tell me if you liked it!" she said. "Email me if you didn't like it!" Gotta love that kind of enthusiasm.

I also chatted for over an hour with a woman I had just met, which is why I love this conference. To meet people from all over the country who share your passion and want to share their knowledge with you.

Day Two: Saturday

I skipped the early morning stuff again and got there in time for Lin Oliver's interview with Judy Blume. Judy freakin' Blume! She looks fabulous for a 73-year-old legend. She was funny and charming and everything Judy Blume should be.

Next, I did the first breakout session with Alessandra Balzer on "You Can Handle the Truth: Honest Advice on What Editors Are Looking For." Lots of great info, but the big takeaway for me was what she coined "trend bridges." These are books that are outside a current trend, but just. I immediately thought of Beth Revis' Across the Universe. It can be considered dystopia (big trend), but it also has enough light sci-fi elements that readers may want to read more sci-fi (thus, a "trend bridge").

I skipped the afternoon keynote to confer with one of my crit partners. Taking a moment to digest and reflect on what we had learned.

The afternoon panels were a little dry to me, so I found a corner and wrote for a couple of hours. Progress was made on my WIP. Yay me!

Day Three: Sunday

How awesome is Gary Paulsen? His morning keynote was brilliant. Another t-shirt worthy quote was "Read like a wolf eats."

The first breakout session was with Beverly Horowitz on "Even Though It's Not Quite Perfect! Acquisitions and Revisions." She's the V.P. Publisher of Delacorte Press, and basically they're looking for books with honesty and a sense of hope.

The luncheon was lovely. Not just the food, and the company, but the speeches and the evident dedication of SCWBI staff and volunteers. And thanks to Shaleen at my table for emailing me the photo of dessert (yum!)

And let's not forget Laurie Halse Anderson's keynote speech, "Daring the Universe." It touched on some of the topics from her breakout session, and it really emphasized the writer's role as a creator and the need the world has for creators.

For the last breakout session of the conference, I went to Krista Marino's "Perfecting Your YA Voice." Krista is an Executive Editor at Delacorte Press and she talked about the importance of narrative voice. She read excerpts from published novels, both with and without the narrative voice, to demonstrate how important interior monologue is. It gives those extra character details that helps engage the reader.

So there you go! I hope all of you get a chance to go to the conference at least once. It will change your writing life forever.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Debut Author Challenge - July Update

It's been a busy, busy summer. Summer reading is going on full swing and I've probably read over 100 picture books. But that's not quite the Debut Author Challenge, is it?

I did read Through Her Eyes, which hasn't gotten the buzz of some other new releases and really should be a must read. I also read Wildefire, which was muy caliente and another must read.

So I'm caught up for the year, which gives me the warm fuzzies. I've started How I Stole Johnny Depp's Alien Girlfriend, a hilarious read so far (and review forthcoming).

I picked up a boatload of books at the SCBWI conference last week (thoughts on that forthcoming), and the first to be read from that pile will be Ruta Sepetys' Between Shades of Gray. Ruta signed my copy of the novel at the conference, and she was so gracious and sweet!

That's all for now. Enjoy the rest of of your summer reading!


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