Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Are You Paying Attention, Hollywood?

Here are a couple more of my favorite reader-created book trailers for Thirteen Reasons Why.

As you can see, it's all about selecting the right images.

Actually, maybe it's about selecting the right music.

Or editing! Maybe it's about the editing.

Well, whatever it's about...I like 'em!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Face is Blushing

When my niece and nephew were here last week, we searched my bookshelves for something to read together. I told them the premise of Caroline B. Cooney’s The Face on the Milk Carton: One day at lunch, a 15-year-old girl looks at the back of a milk carton and recognizes the little girl who was abducted twelve years ago. It’s her!

My wife and I had read the entire 4-part series to each other, so I knew it would keep their interest. It’s suspenseful, has great storylines, and while it is YA, there wasn’t anything inappropriate for their ages (10 and 13).

Genevieve and Ellory were intrigued, but we didn’t get very far into the story before their California trip was over. But while I sat with them in the airport, waiting for their flight to board, we pulled out the book to read a few more chapters.

So embarrassing.

See, airports are busy. People stand crammed close together. Eavesdropping is inevitable.

Chapter 5 began…

The kiss was long.

“Does it really say that?” Ellory asked.

I started over.

The kiss was long.
And serious.

Genevieve began laughing. I began blushing. Genevieve laughed even more. Ellory egged me on. “You have to keep going!”

Serious like my hair, thought Janie. She stared amazed at Reeve’s cheek, which was pressed against hers, and with amazement brought her lips together to kiss him again--to start the second kiss, and to choose when to end it.

The people standing around were refusing to look at me or what I was reading, but I just knew they were listening and judging whether or not I was a fit guardian.

She could feel his heart racing and then felt her own pick up speed and run with his.

Thankfully, Reeve’s mom calls him indoors two paragraphs later. And then the people around us walked away.

Next time, everyone brings their own books!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Still Runnin'

We didn't take many photos on Wednesday or Thursday of my niece and nephew's visit. While we had a ton o' fun, places like The Great American Melodrama and movie theaters just don't appreciate flash photography.

But Saturday was all about the great outdoors!

We started the day bright and early, participating in a 3-mile "fun run" to benefit the YMCA. My brother organized the event, so he didn't get to run. But JoanMarie, my mom, Genevieve, Ellory, and I did. (JoanMarie's taking this photo...but I think you can see her in my mom's sunglasses!)

While JoanMarie and my mom ran the whole thing really fast, the rest of us concentrated on the first syllable in "fun run".

Then we calmed down and centered ourselves by walking a very cool stone labyrinth.

But Ellory and I couldn't stay centered for too long, so we staged a mock battle in the trees.

Feeding farm animals has never been my idea of fun. But watching Genevieve and Ellory feed the beasts at Avila Valley Barn, I could've stayed there at least another hour.

When you have relatives visiting from Oregon, you hope to show them a stereotypical California beach day. But the weather was a tad cold and windy. Fortunately, paddleball's always fun!

For Sunday, thankfully, we've scheduled a little more time indoors. Too much fresh air makes me woozy!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Darkness Lifted

I recently linked to a Wall Street Journal article which discussed the dark trend in teen literature. There were some definite errors in the article, and on Wednesday they corrected some of those mistakes.

In the novel “Thirteen Reasons Why,” published in October 2007, the main character kills herself when she is a high-school junior. A June 6 Weekend Journal essay on young-adult fiction incorrectly said that the book was published in March 2007 and that the suicide occurs freshman year.

The newspaper also corrected an error in the description of The Hunger Games.

But they decided not to clarify the unsourced (read: made-up for effect) and creepy comment about librarians who “...want to keep the book off the shelves…” So to put that comment behind me, allow me to clarify what the article was trying to say about librarians wanting to keep my book off the shelves.

Librarians want to keep the book off the shelves where it would only gather dust. Since librarians hear firsthand from teens who’ve actually read the book, they thoroughly enjoy seeing it checked-out at all times. That’s why they give it awards and add it to summer reading lists.

Okay, obviously it’s been a while since I was on the high school newspaper staff.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

We're All in This Together

To prove to their parents that JoanMarie and I have been keeping their kids safe, here are some shots taken today. But mostly, I'm just putting them up because we had so much fun with our niece and nephew!

Boomers! was where we spent most of the day. And I won't mention that I kicked everyone's butt at miniature golf because it wasn't about competition. (But I did win!) If you look closely at this shot, you can see that JoanMarie has mastered the art of golfball levitation.

Then she and Genevieve played air hockey. I don't think it's even legal to visit an arcade and not play air hockey!

Then we all got drenched on the bumper boats.

While Genevieve and I were able to edge past Ellory and JoanMarie a few times in our go-kart (no bumping!), they usually held the lead. This was our view the majority of the time.

Then we took them to a cool diner made out of two old train cars. If you go to the Rock & Roll Diner, you have got to order a chocolate malted shake with peanut butter and banana. This is Ellory begging for more of my whipped cream. (No, I didn't give in. He had his own!)

But the big hit of the past several days? The High School Musical soundtrack. I grabbed it at the library before their visit, and it's been a great time-consumer. You see, everyone on my wife's side of the family is musically gifted. (Did you not see my last post?) In this photo, Genevieve and Ellory are doing a duet to "Start of Something New". And tonight, JoanMarie figured out "Breaking Free" on our piano.

I'll admit it. The songs are good. In fact, this morning I woke up singing:

This could be the start
Of somethin' new
It feels so right
To be here with you...oh
And now, lookin' in your eyes
I feel in my heart
(Feel in my heart)
The start of something new

I just hope I don't wake up tomorrow singing:

U gotta
Get'cha, get'cha, get'cha
Get'cha head in the game

Into the Woods

Quick post. Lots of pics. Not much time because we’re watching our niece and nephew, Genevieve and Ellory, this week. Summer’s here!

The weekend began in the mountains at my sis-in-law Louise’s wedding, where she married my new bro-in-law, Corbin. But before the wedding, we had to hit the zip-line. Why a zip-line at a wedding? You’ll see. But first, here’s Ellory and me zippin’ along.

The wedding began with my wife and her mom playing the harp and hammered dulcimer.

And suddenly, flying over their heads, came…the groom!

Zip-lines are the best way to make an entrance for a wedding in the trees.

Then Louise’s sisters and mom performed “Because” by the Beatles. This is Reis, JoanMarie, Gypsy, and DonnaJo.

After the wedding, JoanMarie and I took Genevieve and Ellory camping for a few days. Like any good aunt and uncle, we let them play with knives…

…and fire.

If Gypsy and Eric are reading this, don’t worry. Your kids are perfectly safe. And the skunk? Yes, it raised its tail at Genevieve when she screamed at it, but it didn’t spray. And when the skunk came back the next night with a friend, no one screamed…because they’re actually really cute when they don’t sneak up on you!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Josie & Hannah: Literary Twins

I haven’t read Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult, but it’s the book I’m most often recommended by people who’ve also read Thirteen Reasons Why. After a quick look at what her book’s about, I can appreciate why.

…Peter Houghton, an alienated teen who has been bullied for years …brings weapons to his high school…and opens fire, killing 10 people. Flashbacks reveal how bullying caused Peter to retreat into a world of violent computer games. Alex Cormier, the judge assigned to Peter's case, tries to maintain her objectivity as she struggles to understand her daughter, Josie, one of the surviving witnesses of the shooting… (Publisher’s Weekly)

…Josie Cormier…should be the state's best witness, but she can't remember what happened before her very own eyes--or can she?… Nineteen Minutes asks what it means to be different in our society, who has the right to judge someone else, and whether anyone is ever really who they seem to be. (Product Desription on Amazon.com)

It’s like Nineteen and Thirteen were twins born seven months apart!

Seriously. Twins.

See, while brainstorming book covers, designers have so many factors to weigh. It should grab your attention, set the right tone, and hopefully raise some questions. And while scrolling through stock photos looking for ideas, sometimes they find an image or expression which strikes the perfect note.

Apparently, Ms. Picoult’s German publisher and my U.K. publisher were going after a very similar look:

Whoever that model is, she should probably branch out. She’s quickly becoming typecast all over Europe.

(Thank you, C.L., for this very cool tip!)

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Dark & Viral

Thirteen Reasons Why, and teen literature in general, received some interesting mentions in the media recently.

Daisy Whitney's New Media Minute says "the young adult genre is taking the lead with new creative experiments in Web video to promote books..."

And The Wall Street Journal has an article called "It Was, Like, All Dark and Stormy" which talks about the tone of several current bestselling teen novels. But Liz B., over at A Chair, a Fireplace & a Tea Cozy, has a few gripes with the article.

BTW, no, I haven't heard of any librarians who wanted to take my book off the shelves...and Hannah is a junior in high school.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

The Czech Edition!

I’m a sucker for gimmicks! All of the covers in this new imprint have a similar design, which includes a talking rabbit in the background.

Yes, I said a rabbit...that talks.

(Check out this page to see another cover from the same imprint, for Carolyn Mackler’s The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things.)

Monday, June 01, 2009

Six of One, Half a Dozen of the Other...More or Less

I'm reading an amazing non-fiction book right now about a very mythologized time in American history. It turns out that the truth is much more fascinating than the myth. But I'm not going to name the book because I'm about to nitpick one itty-bitty aspect of its writing. In terms of its greatness, this book is as huge as a blue whale and my gripe should be seen as a tiny barnacle hidden beneath one of its massive fins.

Here's my pet peeve: I get annoyed when people use a big number to define a smaller number to make the smaller number seem big. For example, when someone says a business made a quarter of a million dollars, it sounds like a lot of money. But a quarter of a million dollars is actually closer to zero dollars than a million dollars. So why not just say the business made $250,000? Doesn't $250,000 sound big enough? Maybe, but when you add a million to the description it sounds like even more!

The same thing applies to saying half a dozen instead of six. Just say six! Why do you have to add the word dozen to make is seem like more? Is six really that embarrassing?

In this fascinating book I'm reading, the author applies this trick in an even sneakier way. He adds the words close to or about before saying half a dozen. So now we're not even talking about six, but five. Just say five!

Now, this can be justified when talking about space or time. Saying someone traveled close to half a dozen miles means they were closer to six miles than five. Fine. But can you honestly justify saying they had close to half a dozen guns? Remember, it's not a dozen guns we're talking about. It's not even six (or half a dozen) guns. It's five guns! The same thing applies to abducting about half a dozen hostages. We're talking about five hostages!

There is another possibility. The author could have meant seven guns or seven hostages, which is just as close to half a dozen as five. But it seems the goal was to upgrade the impact of the numbers, not downgrade. If there really were seven guns and hostages, and if he wanted seven to seem bigger, he should've said close to eight guns and hostages. That, of course, would've made his literary trick too obvious...and writers hate being obvious. We like being sneaky!

Anyway, go read this book (if you can figure out which one I'm talking about). It really is great! Within the first 150 pages, I only found this sneaky number-expanding trick nearly a third of a dozen times.