Friday, July 31, 2009

On Freckles and Nose-Pickers

I was hoping to have some interesting links for you to waste your Friday on. But all I found was stuff that made me roll my eyes, blabbery, and stuff that’s been talked about enough already, and makes my freckles explode (this would be the story about Justine Labarlestier’s novel Liar, Liar, and the ill-chosen cover).

So on to happier things. It is Friday, after all. And exploding freckles scare the locals.

I’m reading my way through the Edgar nominees, starting with Paper Towns by John Green, which won the Edgar for Best Young Adult Novel. More on that next week.

I’m also doing some fun research for a middle-grade novel I’m working on, SHADOW BOY AND THE BOOK OF PRESIDENTS. My main character Linc and his best friend George gather interesting facts for their Book of Presidents, so that’s what I’m gathering now: cool and random facts. The kind where you say, “Really? I did not now that.”

So here’s a random fact. Feel free to use at cocktail parties, on blind dates, or when trying to get rid of a telemarketer.

A compulsive nose picker is called a rhinotillexomaniac.

Don’t you feel smarter already?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

My Crime Fiction Soapbox

I carry around a crime fiction soapbox. It fits quite nicely under my arm, and I can toss it down whenever I feel the urge to argue my case: that crime fiction has literary merit too.

I try not to get on this soapbox too much. People only have so much tolerance for my arguments, and I’ve figured out that the most convincing proof is in the pudding. Just look at Walter Mosley’s work, Elmore Leonard, Joyce Carol Oates—I could go on a while, but someone just kicked me off my soapbox.

And Sarah Weinman said such smart things on her blog (June 28th post), so go see what she said.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Fly on the Wall in Hollywood

“Listen up, people. We still got nothing for next summer’s blockbuster. We need a family movie. Something with animals.”

“A lost fish!”

“That’s Finding Nemo, man.”

“Oh. How about dogs?”

“Been done too many times.”

“In space?

“Come on, come on. We can do better than this.”

Silence.

“How ‘bout rats?”

“Ratatouille, man.”

More silence.

“Guinnea Pigs.”

“I’m feelin’ it, I’m feelin’ it.”

“In space!”

“Dude, will you drop the space stuff already? How about… Spies.”

“Guinnea pig spies… I love it! Now who can we rope into doing the voices?”

“That one comedian, you know, from that one show?”

“Uhuh.”

“I heard he has a balloon due on his mortgage.”

“Perfect!”

“And that other actor, you know from that movie—what’s it called. He would be good. But he’d never do it.”

“Tell him we’re looking at having the Coen brothers direct. He likes those guys. By the time he figures out we lied, he already signed.”

“Perfect! I’m feelin’ it, people. We’re on a roll. Hey, let’s put it out at the back end of summer, just when parents are so sick of their kids, they’ll do anything to get out of the house.”

“Suckers.”

“Now what do we have for Christmas, people. Come on, come on. Keep those ideas coming.”

“How about… Cockroaches.”

“In space!”

Monday, July 27, 2009

Monday, Monday

I’m probably alone in this, but I like Mondays. New to-do list, good plans, well-rested after Sunday—Mondays have always been pretty good to me. They make me feel full of purpose, just in time for Tuesday to throw me a curveball.

Right now, I’m finishing up material for an online class I’m teaching in August for the online chapter of RWA, FTHRW. It’s all about how to add suspense to your writing, and I promise it’ll be fun. And you might even wind up with a better manuscript at the end of the workshop.

Also, check out Poisoned Pen’s online conference, scheduled for October 24th. It’s cheap ($25), easy (online, so you can stay in your jammies if you like), and packed with interesting events.
I’m signed up. Looks like it’ll be a fun chance to catch up with some of my friends in mystery, and get the latest on all things crime.

Oh, and the lentil soup (see Friday’s post) is great. I mixed it up a little—no leeks, no sausage, and no home-made broth. Still turned out great. Quick tip: unless you’re running a soup kitchen, or feeding a farming community, cut the quantities of the recipe in half. I’ll be eating lentil soup until Halloween right now…

Friday, July 24, 2009

Links and Lentil Soup

Because it’s just a lot more fun to surf the web than work on a Friday, here are some cool distractions:

On YPulse, I found this article: What Youth Marketers Can Learn from YA Publishers. It’s from June, but new to me, so I thought maybe to you too.

At The YA Authors CafĂ©, an interview with Brent Hartinger about his book Project Sweet Life. The concept sounded so fun, I was grinning as I read it. No mystery, but who can resist a laugh—it goes on the to-buy list.

On Alice’s CWIM blog, an interview with Chuck Sambuchino, who said some really smart things about what to include in a bio; check it out if you’re a writer.

Borders is expanding its teen section, according to an online article in The Wall Street Journal. Does this mean we’ll see more YA mysteries (maybe), or more fangs (probably)? Most likely, it’ll be filled with Twilight posters and pencils. Or maybe some nifty beanbags for us all to trip over while we’re trying to find a book.

Jon Stewart (you know, from the Daily Show on Comedy Central) is now considered the most trusted news anchor according to a Time Magazine poll.

The new Harry Potter movie grossed 77.8 million bucks—although it’s probably 100 million by the time I write this.

And I’m making this lentil soup this weekend (sans sausage); I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Happy weekend!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Typewriters, WalkMans, and Floppy Disks

Wired has an interesting article up by Nathan Barry, 100 Things Your Kids May Never Know About. It lists all kinds of stuff, like typewriters, that today’s kids won’t even encounter anymore.

Some of these made me smile in nostalgia (like # 86), others laugh out loud (# 31). I’m something of a dinosaur, which made this list all the more fun to read. I wrote my term papers on MS-Dos—wait, forget that, it ages me …

I’m almost done reading The Postcard, and it’s been a pretty good read. But I found a detail, one that made me wonder.

Jason, our main character, finds a postcard. The card has a clue on it: two lines that Jason describes as looking like they were made with a typewriter without a ribbon. Reading this, I wondered: would a 13 year-old describe it this way, and be able to identify it as being made by a typewriter?

I doubt it. And that’s nothing against today’s teens. Most of them are a lot smarter than I am. But certain things, like the ones listed in that article, are just history. Floppy disks, anyone?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Hooked by The Postcard

I picked up a copy of The Postcard by Tony Abbott the other day. It won the Edgar for Best Juvenile Novel (it’s a middle-grade), and since the Mystery Writers of America people really know their stuff, I started reading right away.

The story opening is pretty simple: Jason’s dad calls from Florida, because his grandma died. Not all that interesting or original in itself. But then we find out that grandma had Alzheimer’s (still not that original, but okay), that she was in a wheelchair but insisted she could fly (curiosity piqued), and that she claimed she was in danger and had to escape (I’m intrigued now). Add to this that Jason’s parents seem to be splitting up (which he’s figured out before they tell him), the humorous St. Petersburg depiction, and I am so IN.

Hooked by page three. Cool character, interesting story, and intriguing, fun mystery, all established without the dreaded info-dump. Now that’s some writerly skill. Chapeau, Mr. Abbott.

Of course, I’m already on page 122 now. Who wants to stop at page three when it’s that good, right?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Plaid Skirt-part deux

Alright, I made it to page 48 on The Plaid Skirt. I tried, but came to the conclusion that this book was just not written for me.

Still. I hope someday The Plaid Skirt will realize that jeans are just way more comfortable, and a better choice when solving mysteries. I’m just saying.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Pondering Plaid Skirts

I'm reading this book--let's call it The Plaid Skirt, since it has a girl in a plaid skirt on it. It's not a famous title, in case you're wondering. And this is not a book I would ordinarily pick up, to be fair. It's kind of... girly.

But the bookmobile (my unfortunate library location) had a long line, the air was devoid of oxygen, I was awaiting my latest YA book purchase, so what the hell. Plus the title hinted at a mystery. Worth a shot.

I'm on page 38. At first, it seemed okay. Snappy pace, snappy dialogue, snappy character, a bit of a mystery--all parts of a good YA. I was sort of diggin' it.

But now The Plaid Skirt has a scene where the lead character and her plaid-skirted friends are talking. They're trying to solve the now ho-hum mystery, and are discussing their options. Or rather: ditzing their way through it. The conversation is so dumb, the characters so foolish, I feel like I'm actually losing parts of my brain as I'm reading The Plaid Skirt. Is this how the author thinks teen girls talk? Maybe some, but not the ones who actually read, right?

I'm trying to make it past page 38. I don't like to give up on a book, and maybe I'm wrong--it's been known to happen. But the teen girls I know are smart, interesting, and don't say (or cry, as The Plaid Skirt likes to use) "Oh my gosh!" every other word.

So I wonder: does a plaid skirt makes you dumber? Am I too hard on The Plaid Skirt (probably)? Are seven exclamation marks on a page too many (definitely)?

The mystery continues...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Ode to the New

"Mom, Mom, look what I bought!"
"Hmmm. It's a teddy bear." Lifts with thumb and index finger. Studies at a distance.
"This nice lady with the yard sale just gave it to us. And it was only a quarter. Isn't it nice?"
Studies at a distance. "What's that stain?"
"I don't know."
"Mommy will wash it first."

Deb is right.
Sometimes, you just want new. Sometimes, the story that goes with the yard sale find is one you don't want in your house...

Monday, July 13, 2009

Feeling Vindicated

So I cuss every once in a while. But I live in Colorado, where they bleep out pretty much half of every Black Eyed Peas song (should be illegal, I say) on the radio, so I try to watch my potty mouth. "Gosh darned," and "What the heck," and "Foeeey" (my f-bomb in disguise) just don't feel very satisfying though.

But I have kids. And live in Colorado.

Now I've been vindicated! A scientific study proves what I already knew: cussing makes you feel better. Just when you hurt yourself, according to the study, but it's a start, right?

Right?? Hell yeah.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Ode to the Old

I cleaned out my house for the past few weeks. Hence the silence on the blog. It's hard to feel chatty when you're wading your way through piles of old jeans, red lampshades (what was I thinking? That I live in a Paris Boudoir?), and 500 mismatched Barbie shoes. It felt good to clean out the clutter. Cleared my head.

So then I had a yard sale. Watched how people fingered through my castoffs, sometimes with a little smile, that hint of delight. One person's trash really is the other's treasure. And after I spent a few hours making a few dollars, I hauled the rest to Goodwill.

And after making my donation, I went inside the store. It makes no sense, I know. Clean the place out, buy more stuff. But I just love thrift stores. I love that slightly musty smell, the unbelievably ugly things I see. And then there are those nifty finds. Green glass vases from 1970-something. Antique furniture.

I live in the burbs. I spend my fair share of time around people who spend a lot of money buying new things: bedroom sets to impress, fancy living room furniture, art--all in an effort to make their house look like the model homes, or pictures in Pottery Barn's catalogue. It's beautiful, but most of it says so little about the people who live in the house. Everything is beautiful, tasteful and shiny, but there's no good story to go with any of it. It's so... boring.

What I love most about thrift stores is that every piece of art, bric-a-brac, and scuffed furniture once sat in someone's house. Where people lived, fought, prayed--whatever. Thriftstore finds have a story. I have no idea what it is--and somehow, it makes for such a cool mystery.

Oh, and the other cool thing about thriftstores? Everything is so awesomely cheap! Hey, I am Dutch, after all.