Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Flash Fiction Challenge: At The Zoo

My author friend (and one of the best crime authors I know) Patti Abbott has this great blog, and today, she posted a flash fiction challenge! These are such fun, so I hope all you writer friends join in.

The skinny:
  • Setting: at the zoo
  • Under 1200 words
  • Post on April 2nd
If you're participating, let me know, so I can link to your blog. I can also post your story here, if you don't have a blog yourself. It's a great way to discover some new writers, and write something at the same time. Win, win.

This picture is of the Santa Barbara Zoo in California, my favorite zoo I've visited so far. How about you all? Share your zoo, for my next road trip?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Like The Cheese Man In Nepal

When I was at the SCBWI Springmingle conference this past weekend, I told my new writer friends that I had a blog. Many of them said, "You know, I thought about starting a blog. But I have no idea what to say every day." So I told them how I talk about YA and MG mysteries, and just general interesting stuff I come across.

But the real secret to blogging is to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you, so you can say, "What (s)he said." Some of that cleverness rubs off on you, I swear.

So today, I thought I would refer you to Place for the Stolen. My super-smart friend Jenny talks about the whole show-don't-tell thing in relation to making cheese in Nepal. It all makes sense when she says it.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Georgia on my Mind

In honor of my weekend roadtrip to Georgia for SCBWI's Southern Breeze Springmingle. Happy Monday, y'all.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Springminglin'

I'm going to Springmingle!

For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about: Springmingle is my SCBWI chapter's spring conference, and it's going on this weekend. We'll be mingling, as you may have guessed.

If you're going and see me, come over and say hi! I'm pretty nice, once you get past the freckles.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Edgar Nominee Review: Shelter by Harlan Coben

This time of year is always a delight for me as the YA Sleuth, because I get to read the Edgar nominees for best YA. I don't normally post reviews here, mostly because there are many blogs and websites that do a much better job than I could here.

But! For the Edgar nominees, I make an exception. See, I started this blog a few years ago because I had a hard time finding solid mysteries in the YA department of my library and bookstore. So now I like to report on the Edgar nominees to check on the quality of mysteries in YA, and kid lit too.

Here are my thoughts on Edgar nominee Shelter, by Harlan Coben: 

I started reading this book with an extra sceptical eye when I saw who the author was--I know, not fair. But often when a writer crossed from fiction for adults to fiction for kids, it doesn't produce the best books. Writing for teens is just a different beast, and it's not for every author.

But Shelter had me pleasantly surprised. Sure, it opened with a few YA cliches: the protagonist is the new kid in town, we're in the cafeteria, sizing up the cliques, etc. But the voice was spot-on: fun, snappy dialogue, with a hint of dry wit. So I could look past the familiar trappings of YA, and stick around to see what our lead character Mickey was going to do about the disappearance of his hot sort-of girlfriend Ashley.

We meet Ema, the outcast, overweight goth girl, and Spoon, the geek--fun characters who become Mickey's best friends as he tries to uncover why Ashley disappeared, and how his father's death links to the mystery he's trying to solve. Rapid pace, snappy dialogue, and heroic acts that push the boundaries of the old suspension of disbelief but don't break them make Shelter loads of fun to read.

Mystery quotient: a four out of five, mostly because it felt more like a thriller at times.

Verdict: Perfect for the reluctant reader.

Side note:
Aside from simply enjoying the book, I was very excited to read it because I hear so often that YA for boys doesn't sell, and how men don't read as much as women. We need more books like Shelter, ones that read like commercial thrillers but are written for teens. I hope we'll see more Mickey Bolitar books from Coben, whether the book wins this Edgar (or Anthony--Shelter got a nomination for that as well) or not.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The End Of The World: A Writer's Tutorial

Dystopian fiction: it's the cool new thing! Well, not really, of course. We've been reading about the end of the world for centuries now--there's just something about imagining that everything could be different and scary.

I wrote one of these dystopian stories once--alas, it's in the drawer, so I'm probably not very helpful when it comes to writing them. These days, I'm more into adventures.

But Lauren DeStefano (The Chemical Garden) and Moira Young (Dustlands trilogy) talk all about dystopian fiction for my fellow writers. Check out the interview at GalleyCat.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Agatha Nominees

Malice Domestic (a convention for the cozy mystery) announced their Agatha Award nominees; here are the noms for kid lit:

Best Children's/Young Adult:

Shelter by Harlan Coben (Putnam)
The Black Heart Crypt by Chris Grabenstein (Random House)
Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby (Scholastic Press)
The Wizard of Dark Street by Shawn Thomas Odyssey (EgmontUSA)
The Code Busters Club, Case #1: The Secret of the Skeleton Key by Penny Warner (EgmontUSA)


Congrats to the nominees! Find the full list of category noms here.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

How Do You Tweet Goosebumps?

I wouldn't know--but R.L. Stine does. He tweeted a story to his followers today; GalleyCat was nice enough to collect his tweets here.

How fun!

The Story Is The Lettuce

Which makes the apps the tomato, or croutons in the salad, I'm thinking. Those words came from a very interesting article about a panel on e-books for kids at CES (Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas).

The point was that the story has to be good first, and then you collaborate (as publisher or author) to make it work on the e-platform.

 Much more to be learned from the article, so go over to The Digital Shift to read the whole thing.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Monday Music: I Can't Make You Love Me

Last night, I watched the Grammy Awards--the whole three-plus hours of it. It was interesting, particularly as a creative person, to watch this year's batch of musicians. It seemed to me like 2011 was the year of extremes: you were either a dude/dudette with a guitar and a microphone, or Mr. Techno with a lightshow.

Personally, I always love the simpler approach, with all respect to the laser crew.

One stand-out (aside from Adele's lovely honest moment, snot and all) was Bon Iver's acceptance speech. It ran too long, he used it as a soapbox for the indie musician, and he didn't even thank God like you're supposed to. I enjoyed watching this faux pas winner.

Here's a Bon Iver cover of a pretty song, and the same song by Grammy goddess Adele. Each pretty awesome in their own right.


Thursday, February 9, 2012

That F.T., She's Going Places

I'm following An Idiot Abroad on the Science Channel, and was a little horrified to recognize myself in Karl. A lot.

Just in case you haven't seen it: Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant send Karl Pilkington around the world to live out other people's bucket list wishes--with a twist. Instead of swimming with dolphins, Karl gets to be with sharks. You get the idea.

But you can tell that Karl doesn't really want to do any of those things. He'd rather stay home, watch some telly or whatever.

I'm that way. I'd rather hang at home, wearing stretchy pants (let's not call them sweatpants, okay?), watching something entertaining. Preferably while consuming food someone else cooked, and involves cheese and/or bacon.

But you have to leave your comfort zone, even if you're something of a Karl, like me. And especially if you have a book coming out that everyone must know about. So I signed up for various conferences. Like Springmingle this month, Thrillerfest in July, and Bouchercon in October--and that's just the beginning. I'll be the idiot abroad now. And I promise I'll wear pants that don't qualify as stretchy.

Are you pushing your comfort zone this 2012? I want to know I'm not alone...

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Getting Lost, Or The Book Hangover

Along with the rest of America, it seems, I got the latest Stephen King novel for Christmas. I asked for it, honestly--my bleary-eyed librarian recommended it, claiming she was going to bed at seven just so she could get back to the story. Since I take librarian recommendations most seriously, I put 11/22/63 on the Santa list.

Confession time: I'm not such a fan of Stephen King's novel-length work. Love the short stories he pens, but found that when it came to those novels, I was skimming the blah blah. No offense, Mr. King.

So when I saw that this book had 849 pages, I groaned internally. That's, like, three-to-four novels in kid lit. This had better be good.

And it was. I was proven wrong, and found myself bleary-eyed, disappearing with my fat book for hours, avoiding chores (not that I needed help there), pushing my bedtime.

I finished the book. It was good, not that it needs my endorsement. But now I have the dreaded book hangover--that feeling where you don't quite know what to do with yourself now that the story is over.

How 'bout you, YA Sleutheri? Ever have a book hangover? What was the book, and what did you do to get over it?

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Best of Both Worlds

No worries--I won't be subjecting you to that Hannah Montana song of the same title.

There's this article over at Publishers Weekly about bundling print and e-editions of a book for customers, which I thought was very interesting. I don't care so much as a writer, but as a reader, I like the idea. I have a new e-reader, but still catch myself hesitating over ordering the e-edition over print.

Take book XYZ: the print edition is $14, roughly; Kindle sets you back $10. And I still find myself preferring print. Not sure why. Maybe because I'm old-school, maybe because I've lost my share of MP3 files and wish I'd bought the CD.

I for one would love this type of book bundle. The article talks lots about the business angle of it all, but I don't really care about that--from my reader perspective.

What do you think? Would you buy the bundle for a few bucks more?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Book Shopping In Style

Check out this feature of the 20 most beautiful bookstores in the world (Flavorwire). 

The photos to the left are of Selexyz bookstore in Maastricht, in my native Holland. Now there's some book shopping in style...

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The More Things Change (Un-Scientific E-Book Thoughts)

With my debut coming out (hurrah!) later this year, I find myself getting a bit more serious about studying The Marketplace. I want kids, parents, teachers, librarians and random passers-by with an inclination to read to know how great DOUBLE VISION is, and where to buy it.

So I follow the talk on e-books, Kindles (with and without Fire), Nooks and apps--I mean, there are lots of serious people doing brilliant research on this stuff. All I have to do is listen, one would think. Who's reading what, and in what format?

This article tells me teens are reading more e-books! (Publishers Weekly, reporting on Digital Book World panels)

But then this one says: actually, not so much. (paidContent.org; ironically, reporting on the same convention, I believe).

So I'm still not that much wiser. I remember reading the same books as my friends, and then talking about them at recess. I know, four score and seven years ago...

Are kids really going to be doing all their reading on a phone, or a tablet device? Those things make my eyes hurt--that can't be very different for a kid, right? Will they read on a reading device instead?

I still have no idea, and I have a sneaking suspicion that nobody else really does either. But here's a cool un-scientific study of my eleven year-old. She was texting excessively the other day, so I asked her what the deal was, in my grumpy-mom-monitoring-technology-use voice.

"Emma and I are reading the same books, Mom. We're talking about them."

Maybe print vs. e-book doesn't matter. Maybe it's all about how we communicate our love for books--now isn't that a great kumbaya thought for a Wednesday?