Friday, June 29, 2007

The Betting Window Is Closed

I made one thousand words by noon and eighteen hundred for the day.

I've been hitting the thousand word mark a lot lately, in spite of continuing to surf and play spider solitaire. I'm not at all sure what's working for me, though I have a theory. Too soon to expound on it.


Will Gail Meet Her Goal Today?

Okay, today I have my two guys upstairs working on my ceilings, another guy doing something to my driveway, and a family member out mowing the lawn. Perhaps all this activity won't distract me. Perhaps all this hard work going on around me will inspire me to greater than normal efforts.

It could happen.

Place your bets now.


Cannot Be Folded, Stapled, However It Goes

I tried to find out my blog's film rating, the way all my blogger friends are doing, and got this message: "We were unable to fetch and rate the URL you entered."

I take this as meaning that I am beyond rating. I cannot be categorized. I am a totally loose cannon. The rating system has never seen anything like me.

Last night I also had a dream that I was going to some kind of school reunion. I arrived late, knew no one, and couldn't find my room.

I take this as ... Wait!...It means I go my own way! Yeah! That's it! I was the totally cool loner!

What a relief. I was afraid I was at the wrong place.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Staying On Task

I fell only four words short of my goal today, which is really quite remarkable when you consider that there are two strange men upstairs doing all kinds of noisy things to my ceilings. That's not the kind of environment that I usually find at all productive.

Unfortunately, some of those thousand words were revisions of earlier work, so I can't say I've moved forward a great deal.

I realized today that I had done something that editors have picked up on in my work before. I sometimes wander. I sometimes will do these lovely scenes and bits that really are not at all related to the subject at hand.

For instance, if you want the family's summer camp to be this beautiful, meaningful spot, you really shouldn't veer off to talking about swimming lessons at the state park.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

On The Other Hand

Just yesterday I said, "I find that if you can get deeply emerged in a writing project, material comes to you. It's all very mystical and mysterious."

Well, if you're not deeply immersed in a writing project the material won't come. You might as well go iron clothes or paint your living room. At least you'll see something for your time and effort.

On Monday I finished Chapter Five of The Durand Cousins. It was probably the fifth work day in which I broke a thousand words, which I've probably mentioned here before is about as good as it gets for me. (One day I did 1800 words.) Then yesterday I didn't work at all because I needed to take care of some life maintenance. Then this morning I had to go hiking for three hours, which left me quite drained, if not actually staggering, because it was 90 degrees out here. And not a dry, pleasant 90 degrees, either.

So I finally get back to the computer this afternoon and spend vast quantities of time avoiding work by checking my e-mail a dozen times, checking out the news services, etc. When I finally force myself to attend to the task at hand, not only am I not deeply emerged and receiving material in some mystical and mysterious way, I realize that the end of Chapter Five won't work. It doesn't fit technically and it's probably sappy, too.

The chances of my becoming emerged before next week are not great.

Waily! Waily! Waily!*

*The Wee Free Men

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Last November, I planned to take part in National Novel Writing Month and go to town on the new book that has since become The Durand Cousins. I got a little sidetracked by The Cybils, but the two things--my work as a sci-fi committee panelist and my work on the new book--came together.

I was reading all this fantasy/scifi and thinking about it and thinking about an initial and very fundamental problem I was having with the new book, which has some scifi elements. Then one day I was driving along, doing nothin', and I had one of those breakout experiences I'm always talking about.

I realized I could use the set-up from a book I'd started back after I got out of college and never finished.

So I'm still working on the same manuscript, though things are going much better now. (Except for this week. This week is going to be a bust.) I was out for a walk a couple of days ago, in the morning, I think, when I realized right out of the blue that with the direction I was going in now (with the manuscript, not the walk), I could use some material from a short story for adults that I'd written a number of years ago and never published. Or, at least, I could use the setting. The sensibility, if you follow that.

My point being, people, nothing is ever wasted.

More seriously, though, I find that if you can get deeply immersed in a writing project, material comes to you. It's all very mystical and mysterious.


Monday, June 25, 2007

That Was A Close Call

Today I received an e-mail from an editor apologizing for not getting back to me for so long and saying that they'd just discussed my query recently. They thought they might be interested in the article in the future and were keeping me in mind but if I had a chance to publish it elsewhere, go for it.

I sat there in front of my computer monitor and thought, Hmmm. What do you suppose that's about?

Well, as it turned out, I'd queried these folks back in February regarding an article I was interested in doing on humor for kids. I had given a talk on that very subject but I had not yet written the article I was offering them. Editors don't exactly fall all over themselves to publish my nonfiction, and I thought it would be very foolhardy of me to use good time I could spend writing other things that wouldn't sell if I couldn't find someone who was at least interested before I got the ball rolling.

When I never heard from these people, I just took it as rejection. Rejection rolls off from me like water off a duck. I can barely tell anything's happened. In fact, when I never heard from these people the only thing I can recall thinking was, Well, Gaily, you called that one correctly. Good for you.

So when I saw who this e-mail was from, I had sort of an odd reaction. 1. You don't suppose they actually want this article, do you? 2. Crivens!* Now, I might have to write the thing!

As it turns out, this was rather a nice response. They may want it in the future, but I don't actually have to do anything about it any time soon.

*I'm reading The Wee Free Men.


Sunday, June 24, 2007

How About A Reading Retreat?

Jacqueline Davies, who is all over the place this summer, has an article in the May/June issue of the SCBWI Bulletin called When in Doubt: Retreat!

I've toyed with the idea of attending a writers' retreat, just as I've toyed with so many other things--attending a writers' conference or graduate school, for instance. But the problem with doing any of these things is that they might be too much work. And I might have to do things I don't want to do. Plus the business about too much work.

After reading Davies' article, I got to thinking about things I'd like to do on a retreat, and I realized that reading was high on my list. (I still haven't given up on finding a job reading that pays and provides benefits.) And then I thought, why not just set up my own retreat for reading?

This is actually more practical than it sounds. I am overwhelmed with stuff to read. I've got piles of it around here. A lot of it is what I consider professional reading--a book of essays because I'm interested in writing same, a couple of books on writing that a young relative brought home for me from college (They're virtually untouched--hmmm.), writing magazines I've started and never finished, things I've downloaded from the Internet.

This past winter I set up a system in which I set aside Thursdays for reading. I had a class in the morning and another late in the afternoon, so I just spent the intervening time working on this serious reading. That was okay for a few weeks, but what often happens to me is that I end up losing workdays for life maintenance (scavenging for food, shopping for family events, cleaning for guests) or for dealing with sick relatives, medical appointments, etc. And, uh, going hiking. Long weekends. Whatever. Then I really need those Thursday hours to write.

I also tried to do a little professional reading every morning before getting started work. That was lovely for about three days. Then I realized it was cutting into my Internet surfing and gave it up.

So now I'm thinking about going on a reading retreat every two or three months. I have a sunroom, after all, and even though its windows haven't been washed for two years, it would be a decent retreat space in good weather. I have a woodstove, which is a necessity for reading in the winter.

I'm serious about trying this, but I can already foresee a problem. If I schedule a reading retreat day and end up losing time from work that week because of any of the reasons given above, I'm not going to feel I can sacrifice more time for reading. But I will be positive and believe that everyone will remain healthy, no vehicles will break down, and my hard drive (which often sounds very odd) will continue to limp along.

And this new schedule will be just the thing I need to make me absolutely brilliant and productive.


Or You Could Wait For The Movie

Mark Peter Hughes has his Lemonade Mouth Across America blog up. Look what those maniacs did to their minivan. On Tuesday afternoon, NPR is going to be running another one of his commentaries on All Things Considered. I'm sure I'll miss it, so I'll try to catch it later at the NPR website.

Here is my book promotion plan for this summer. I'm going to Portsmouth, New Hampshire for one weekend next month to celebrate a family event. If I stumble upon any bookstores, I'll go in to see if they have any of my books. Then I'll offer to sign their copies.

Yeah, I'll let you know how that goes.


Saturday, June 23, 2007

I Hate To Add Fuel To This Fire, But, Oh, Heck, I'm Going To

I had never even heard of Andrew Keen until the delightful Buns and Chou Chou introduced him to me a few short hours ago. So imagine my surprise when I took what I thought was going to be a quick trip to artsJournal and found a link to an article called Internet Smackdown: The Amateur Vs. The Professional from Wired that refers to him.

Tony Long, the author of this article, supports Keen's bemoaning "the rise of amateurism in all spheres of professional life, specifically as facilitated by the internet's long reach." He says that bloggers "the most conspicuous of amateurs -- are a focus of Keen's views on this subject."

This getting everybody all fired up?

The question that comes to my mind this evening after reading all this and thinking about the lambasting of litbloggers that's been going on over the last few months is "Just what is a professional in literature?" Sure, engineers, doctors, lawyers, etc. have to be licensed by the state so we're pretty clear on how they get their professional status. But who's giving tests for media reviewers, critics, or, for that matter, writers?

When I read reviews of children's books that have been published in professional journals, I often find they have been written by librarians. Many of the kidlitblogs I read are also written by librarians. Why is the librarian who writes for a blog an amateur and thus mediocre (see Long's first paragraph) and the librarian who writes for a print publication a professional and thus worthy of my consideration? In newspapers, many reviews are written by authors. In print, they are reviewing their peers. Very professional. Why is it so different if they do the same thing on a blog?

Long and Keen say that the "all-inclusive nature and easy access" of the Internet "trivializes scholarship and professional ability." I hate to sound like a Geico caveperson, but a lot of scholarship is written in such a way as to be inaccessible to the people who are foraging for information on the Internet. Anyone remember Stephen Jay Gould? He used to take heat from his professional colleagues because he'd write a science essay every now and then that I could understand. Making knowledge accessible, as many try to do on the Internet, has never been popular with the holders of such knowledge.

Let's bring this around to literature again. Insisting that only professional reviewers and critics (I've been wondering if they're the same thing. I suspect not.) can write about literature and do such writing in print publications means that they have all the control over passing judgment on literature. Why are the print people so frightened of the Internet? They're worried about losing their power.

I think that ship may have already sailed.

The Culture Is Falling! The Culture Is Falling!

I've been finding myself oddly attracted to Buns and Chou Chou. Here they interview Andrew Keen, who has written a book called The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet is Killing Our Culture.

Does anyone else have trouble taking that premise seriously after seeing the author interviewed on-line by a couple of rabbits?

Watch the whole video because they also interview a blogger from whom I learned the term social media.

Friday, June 22, 2007

More Books For The Younger Ones

Or Subtlety Can Be Funny. The Word Poo Repeated Over And Over Again? Not So Much.

Back when the Gauthier children were wee ones, story tellers were popular in these parts. The kiddies and I would see them at the library, at the school, at YMCA Indian Guide family picnics. A lot of these people seemed to think telling stories to children was all about funny faces and funny voices. Funny words and sounds. Funny costumes and gestures. I remember one guy turning around and waving his ass at his audience.

I particularly hated him.

I think there is a literary equivalent of story tellers who rely on superficial gimmicks or what they believe to be kid-friendly tricks, such as funny names. Otto Undercover: Toxic Taffy Takeover by Rhea Perlman comes close to falling into that category.

Toxic Taffy Takeover is one in a series about a child undercover agent. In this volume, he has to overcome a Coney Island bad guy who is using tainted candy to control the minds of her customers. There are lots of silly James Bond-type gadgets. There are lots of silly words because just as Stink and the Incredible Super-galactic Jawbreaker was intent on teaching children idioms, Toxic Taffy Takeover pulls in plenty of palindromes and anagrams.

I got the feeling with both books that the people behind them think children like wordplay, so they're going to give them wordplay.

Otto also gives them lots of snot because the bad guy is missing her nose and without a nose where does snot have to go except all over your face? She's also missing most of her teeth, which makes her lisp. I'm not going to get all high and mighty about how little humor there is in a permanent lisp. I will say, though, that extended dialogue written in lithp is difficult to read. For new readers who don't have a lot of experience sounding out words, it must be torture.

And then there is the baby who is always using the word poo.

Toilet humor can be funny. But the toilet part, all by itself, isn't what's funny. It's the humorous situation built around it that creates the humor.

Compare Toxic Taffy Takeover with Diary of a Monster's Son (an out-of-print book I stumbled upon at the library) by Ellen Conford.

Bradley, the monster's son, shares with us accounts of his trips with his father to buy new school clothes, Dad's visit to school for parent/teacher night, and Dad's attempt to fix a hole in the ceiling. As he's telling us all this stuff, Bradley's pretty much oblivious to the fact that his father is a monster. We understand that the people around them are reacting to the fact that dad's a great big hairy beast, but Bradley doesn't get it. His father does all kinds of normal dad stuff, he just does it while covered with a great deal of body hair and fangs protruding out over his bottom lip.

The humor is subtle and wry and comes about because of incongruity, not strange sounding words or random toilet talk. It's funny because it shouldn't be happening.

What's more, Bradley's dad is a prince of a guy. While Bradley, himself, is described by his teacher as sometimes being "a perfect little monster." We've got a little irony going here, too.

While I've made it clear here that I have a preference for one of these books over the other, in fairness I should say that as far as the types of humor displayed in these works is concerned, they probably are examples of two extremes in humor.


Monster Cat Giveaway

Thanks to all who sent e-mails yesterday for the A Girl, a Boy, and a Monster Cat giveaway. My computer guy will take care of the random drawing this evening, and I'll be getting in touch with the winners this weekend.

I'll be doing another drawing in August during the Perseid Showers. That one will be for My Life Among the Aliens.

Sorry, Computer Guy, but this means it's time to update the homepage, too.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

So That's What They're Talking About

If you read Blog of a Bookslut you may have seen some posts about some publishers folding and auctions and sales at McSweeney's. Salon explains it all for you.


Dear Blog

You know how I dislike books written in the forms of diaries or journals? Anyone who reads this blog regularly must know about it because I complain about it all the time.

Well, a couple of days ago, J.L.Bell at Oz and Ends did a history of literary diaries. Then yesterday he continued with a history of the term Dear Diary.

Take Your Best Shot

It's still early in the day here on the east coast. Go ahead and take your shot at winning your own copy of A Girl, a Boy, and a Monster Cat.

What will I be doing on this exciting publication day? Well, in less than an hour and a half I will being tested on anything my sambumnim wants to test me on. Say, the seven different ways I'm supposed to know to disarm an assailant with a gun or the...ah...ah...maybe nine or ten ways I'm supposed to know to protect myself from an attack with a joon bong. And then you have the twenty-seven step-sparring techniques. And...ah...some other stuff.

And when I get home, I need to knock off a thousand words on The Durand Cousins. The last three or four days I've worked on that manuscript, I've managed to write a thousand words or better a day. Now, I know many writers won't get out of bed for a mere thousand words. But it's good for me.

My point is, by the time a book is actually published, a writer ought to have moved on to something else. This one ought to, anyway.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Tomorrow's The Big Day

Yes, people, this is the last time you'll have to endure me reminding you that A Girl, a Boy, and a Monster Cat will be published on June 21st. Remember that tomorrow you have a chance to win a copy for yourself. Yes, you, too, have a chance at experiencing the happiness of a brand new copy of Monster Cat.


That Summer Blog Tour

I wasn't crazy about Magic Lessons, the second book in Justine Larbalestier's Magic or Madness trilogy. I am interested in her, though, because she's written some nonfiction I'd like to take a look at some day. So on Monday I read Liz B's interview with Justine at A Chair, a Fireplace & a Tea Cozy.

Now, I've often talked here about how I believe a book should be a complete and total world and that that's a big part of the reason I have a problem with "serial" books like the Magic or Madness series. Magic Lessons was not a complete world. It didn't have a beginning or an ending. It was the middle of the trilogy.

An argument could be made that with a serial trilogy you do have a complete world--it just takes place over three books instead of one. Justine has some interesting things to say about that in this interview.

Liz B: Did you have any moments in the later books when you thought, "oh, I wish I could revise "Magic or Madness" in order to do x or y in this book"?

Justine: I was able to go back and make changes to Magic or Madness while I wrote the first draft of Magic Lessons. It was fabulous! Unfortunately, I was so late with Magic's Child that it wasn't possible to change Magic Lessons to fit. Instead I had to make Magic's Child fit the first two books. Which, yes, was maddening. If I ever write another trilogy (which I have taken a sacred vow---along with Libba Bray---not to do) I will write all three books first and then sell them.

If you consider the entire trilogy the complete world that you're creating, and you've lost control of a third or two thirds of that world because portions of the trilogy have already been published, what happens to your world? Having control issues, as I do, I would be very unhappy finding myself in this situation.

I also checked out the Mitali Perkins interview at Big A, little a. Mitali is rapidly turning into a Jane Yolen-like figure for me because she's so prolific. She has three books coming out in 2008 and 2009. What does this woman do? Write in her sleep?

You can check out another interview with Mitali today at HipWriterMama. Note that Mitali has been writing about girls, though she is the mother of sons, because her boys would rather not see any characters that resemble them in her books.

At the Gauthier household, not only are characters shamelessly modeled after my sons, I have two books with characters named for them. It hasn't been a problem to date because I don't think they believe anyone reads my books.

I rarely read interviews with authors I'm not familiar with because I just don't have time. But I did get drawn into Chasing Ray's interview with David Brin. Great interview.


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah. Two More Days.

A Girl, a Boy, and a Monster Cat. Comes out this Thursday. Go here to see how you can win a free copy.


When Radio Stations Do This Isn't It Called Payola?

The Hidden Price of a Christmas Bestseller lays out the fees involved in getting books promoted in English bookstores. Similar set-ups exist here in the States. In fact, this practice is supposed to be one of the reasons publishers are taking out fewer ads in U.S. newspaper book review supplements, which is said to be one of the reasons those supplements are folding. Publishers are shifting their advertising money to paying to have books promoted in bookstores instead of taking out traditional advertisements.

I think this isn't considered a questionable practice because the publishing industry has accepted it. Bookstore chains probably have employees whose entire job is to sell window and table space to publishers. Publishers probably have employees whose entire job is to buy window and table space from bookstores. Heck, both groups probably have entire departments to handle this stuff.

My guess is that if both buyer and seller agree that something is an acceptable business practice, it's an acceptable business practice.


Monday, June 18, 2007

Some Books For The Younger Ones

A Girl, a Boy, and a Monster Cat is written for a younger age group than I've written for in the past. Since this is its release week (as you cannot possibly have missed because I talk about it all the time), I thought I'd take a look at some other books written for kids in the primary grades.

And by "written for kids in the primary grades" I mean either books that said as much on their covers or looked as if they might be for younger kids when I scooped them up at the library last Friday. (I hadn't been to the library for weeks. I nearly giddy I was so happy to be there.)

First up is Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot vs. The Mutant Mosquitoes From Mercury by Dav Pilkey. Pilkey won fame and acclaim for The Captain Underpants books. I've only read a couple of the books from that series, but I rather liked them. I thought they were clever and used some pretty sophisticated vocabulary for a books in which an elementary school principal wanders around in his briefs.

If The Mutant Mosquitoes From Mercury is any indicator, the Ricky Ricotta books are geared a little younger crowd. The main character is a mouse rather than a human and if there's any of the "questionable" humor that got other adults' knickers in a twist with the Underpants books, I missed it. The book seems a little formulaic--a child has a super robot sidekick and they save the world. I can see why a child would like that, and Pilkey says at his website that he was interested in recreating a kind of story he enjoyed watching on television when he was a child.

Still, I miss the wit and twisted world of Captain Underpants.

Second up is Stink and the Incredible Super-galactic Jawbreaker by Megan McDonald. McDonald is also the author of the Judy Moody series (which I've never read), and Stink Moody is Judy's younger brother.

The Judy Moody books are very well-reviewed and have received numerous honors. This book about Stink, though--Well, let's say I found it instructive. And kind of gimmicky and fake. I got the impression that the book is supposed to be funny. But that was only an impression.

The book appears to have an instructional agenda, to teach children about idioms. Each chapter has an idiom for a title (Mad as a Hornet, for instance). That idiom, as well as others, is used in that chapter. Then each chapter ends with a comic page that illustrates (none too subtly) another idiom.

I'm sure it would be a great book to have in a first or second grade classroom. (Stink is a second grader, by the way, and the age range given on the cover is "Ages 5-8") It screams "teaching tool" to me.

I know it's been a few years since I've been around a lot of kids this age. But we're not talking a generation or anything. I've never heard young kids use expressions like "Jumping jawbreakers!" or refer to someone as a "super-best-friend." The book doesn't seem very natural to me. These kids sound like kids from 1950s television shows, who were hardly natural even then.

My reading quest will continue later this week. And probably next.


And Now It's Three More Days, Three More Days...

Three more days until A Girl, a Boy, and a Monster Cat is officially published. Those of you planning to try your hand at winning your own copy of the book will be relieved to hear that the books arrived today.

I didn't really have a back-up plan if they didn't come for a while.


Sunday, June 17, 2007

Four More Days, Four More Days, Four More Days...

...until A Girl, a Boy, and a Monster Cat bursts out into the world and you can take a shot at winning your own copy.

What will I be doing to celebrate, you may wonder? Well, Thursday morning is my taekwondo class, and this is testing week. Even though I'm not testing for promotion, I will be expected to know more than I did three months ago. Testing week is always...testing. So, I won't be thinking about Monster Cat until well after ten in the morning.


Starting The Tour

I've been feeling a little overwhelmed by the magnitude of The Summer Blog Blast Tour. So very, very much reading for me to do. Nonetheless, I was able to get to Finding Wonderland's very good kick-off interview with Gene Yang, author of American Born Chinese. He has some interesting things to say about culture. After the interview you'll also find a list of additional links for more reading on Yang and his writing.

Remember how I went on and on about trying to read The New York Sunday Times? Well, I did finally get to the Book Review, which had what seemed to me to be a rather odd review by Ned Vizzini of American Born Chinese. While the overall review ended up being favorable, it started out raising the question "Is it so bad to grow up Asian in America?" The first two paragraphs sounded as if he were wondering, Hey, why do they need a book?

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Let's Reach Into The Past For A Bit

This week I keep harping about a new book (mine), so I thought it would be a good time to mention an old one someone loaned me a couple of months ago. I can't find a great deal on-line about The First Book of Maps and Globes by Sam and Beryl Epstein. It does seem to still seem to be in some library collections, in spite of having been published back in 1959. The illustrations by Laszlo Roth definitely have that '50s feeling.

Here is what struck me about the book--Kids back in the '60s must have had a much greater tolerance for dull nonfiction than I do now. We're talking many full pages of text here, and when they're broken up with illustrations, the illustrations are often of maps. I was slogging through it and thinking, My God, is this a graduate school text or something?

I kept wondering if I ever ran across this book in my youth. I don't think it's something I would have willingly picked up because Gauthiers aren't noted for knowing where they're going. They don't ask for instructions, and I know my father also didn't believe in turning around. To my knowledge I am the only member of my family who can even read a road map and that's only because I dated an engineering student when I was in college. (Yeah, I know. What were we doing reading maps?)

As a result of reading The First Book of Maps and Globes I now know abundantly more about parallels and meridians, but I'm not sure that's going to enhance my life in any way.

I did find something interesting about the authors, though. Sam Epstein, writing as Bruce Campbell, wrote a series called The Ken Holt Mysteries. I've never heard of these books. To me, they're sort of a "lost" series. I'm thinking the kind of vintage characters we might find inThe Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen.

Thoughts About Memoir

No, not mine, though I do think about memoir, a beautiful sounding word. When I was in college a professor with long, long braids came to my creative writing class to read a portion of a memoir she was working on. She said that a memoir was an account of an incident the significance of which was not understood until recalled later.

She made it sound so lovely.

Anyway, Agent Kristin at Pub Rants has a number of posts up on memoir. Really.


Five More Days...

...until you can take your shot at winning a copy of A Girl, a Boy, and a Monster Cat.


Friday, June 15, 2007

So Now We Will Consider Book Videos

Once a Novel Idea, Now a Must in the L.A. Times states, "No one makes definitive claims that videos increase sales, but publishers and booksellers agree they can help," which sounds a little contradictory to me.

I'm loving this idea, though. Think about it--authors singing, dancing, bumping and grinding in skimpy clothes. Walking down mean streets looking p.o.ed. Videos may not move books, but they could be seriously entertaining.

Ah, thank you artsJournal.


Only Six More Days...

...until A Girl, a Boy, and a Monster Cat is let loose upon the world, and you can take a shot at winning a copy.

Today I was preparing a copy of Monster Cat to send to Miss Rumphius who won it for her participation in the 48 Hour Book Challenge. When I sign books, I like to have a little something to say in them besides, "Gail Gauthier," which just doesn't seem like enough. For The Hero of Ticonderoga, for instance, I say, "Speak for those who can't speak for themselves," and for Saving the Planet & Stuff, I say, "Turn out the lights!" Both these little inscriptions are deep--very, very profound--if you've read the book involved.

So today I said to a family member who had just read A Girl, a Boy, and a Monster Cat, "What do you think I should use for an inscription in this book?"

And he said, "Can we watch TV now?"

Given what the book is about and who was making the suggestion, this was hysterically funny. But not really appropriate because we're not supposed to be encouraging the young to watch TV, are we? So I had to come up with something else.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Do Bouncing, Floating, Skinny Little Banner Ads Sell Books?

Maybe not.

Whenever I went to Fuse's new home*, I tried to swat the ad like a fly with my cursor. I wondered if it was one of those games they used to include with educational software for kids--you study your spelling words for a while and then you get something to shoot at.

And yet, a lot of people are talking about it. Though, in my case, I don't actually know what "it" is because I never actually got what the ad was about.

*I had to link to Fuse's old home because her new one appears to be out of order tonight. What could that be about? Gee, Fuse, you haven't even been there a week. I hadn't even had time to mention the new place in my blog. You haven't brought the whole thing down, have you?


Revisiting the Bartimaeus Trilogy With BDT

Well, young BDT put me to shame as a reader recently.

I gave him the first and third portions of The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud and told him I had the second book, The Golem's Eye, but hadn't read it yet. It would be his as soon as I finished it.

Well, he immediately finished the first book, The Amulet of Samarkand, couldn't wait for me to read The Golem's Eye (which I hadn't even started), and ran out and bought another copy. Then, of course, he whipped through the third book, too.

Our young(er) reader thought the first book was "excellent" and the whole series "fantastic."

"Perhaps it is because I read them back to back to back," BDT speculated, "but I cannot recall another series that I thought flowed as well as this one did. The growth of the characters, especially Nathaniel, was amazingly well written."

BDT raised an interesting point. He compared Nathaniel in these books to Harry Potter. "Nathaniel was a Harry Potter with an attitude that I liked as well." In a later e-mail (He sent me three on these books.)he again compared Nathaniel to Harry "if he had Draco Malfoy's...attitude. Cocky, desperate to impress, and not afraid to backstab if need be." He also described Nathaniel as moving back and forth between Harry and Draco.

Now, at first I didn't agree with him at all because, as my faithful readers know, I'm not wild about Harry. But while I in no way want to suggest the Bartimaeus books are derivative (their world is far more inventive and unique than the one Rowling creates in her books), perhaps Nathaniel could be described as a much, much darker Harry Potter. He's a child magician on his own in a cut-throat world, one in which the magical realm isn't separate from the human realm but has taken it over and subjugated it. In the Harry Potter books, Draco is pretty much just a cardboard schoolyard bully. But in Stroud's world only a fully realized Draco could survive.

The demon Bartimaeus is the closest thing Nathaniel has to a moral guide and all that keeps him from tumbling right over into evil. Bartimaeus is a far more subtle and sophisticated character than Harry's Dumbledore.

So what did I think of the second book in the series, The Golem's Eye, when I finally read it? Well, I found the sections told from Kitty's point of view a little dull. She's a much more exciting character in the third book than she is in the second. And I thought the book was a little weak on golem, when you consider it's mentioned in the title. I found the political stuff a little murkier in this book, too.

But my reading of the first two books in the trilogy has always been undermined by the fact that I read the third, and perhaps the best, first. I can only imagine what a great experience it must have been for BDT reading these books in order.


A Week From Today

A Girl, a Boy, and a Monster Cat will be published a week from today. And that day is your big chance to win a copy of the book.

Don't worry about forgetting. I'll be doing a daily countdown from this point.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Well, That Was Interesting

I was planning to do a Life As We Knew It post today because recently I received a couple of announcements through listservs regarding blogs that coincidentally both talk about the book.

And then while perusing those blogs, I found something really interesting.

Susan Beth Pfeffer has a blog up called Meteors, Moons, and Me. So far it's pretty much about her book, Life As We Knew It, which, of course, is what you'd expect from the blog's title. While reading through her posts, I noticed one with a reference to a less than stellar review that involved rice.

Also The Inter-Galactic Playground, which focuses on children's science fiction, went quiet for a bit but is back with new posts. Last Sunday, the site reviewed Life As We Knew It. As it turns out, the review isn't wildly complimentary, and early on the reviewer mentions...rice!

What are the chances I'd stumble upon all that? I ask you.

LAWKI was on my mind today because it's been rather cool here in southern New England recently. In fact, this evening it's very close to being cold. I was out on the deck trying to plant some parsley and wondering if all our plants will be destroyed because of this creepy weather the way the family's plants were destroyed in LAWKI.

As Farah at The Inter-galactic Playground suggests, I could just bring all the pots from the deck indoors before they're ruined. But...nah.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

And What About Book Trailers? Do They Sell Books?

When I first heard about book trailers a couple of years ago, I got quite excited because what reader wouldn't be excited about seeing a book trailer? I've even thought, briefly--very briefly--about finding out how I could have one done for one of my books. Then I read Mitali Perkins' blog post about working on a trailer for her new book, First Daughter.

I started thinking that maybe I should give this a shot. After all, I've got a computer guy, and except for trying to figure out whether I should get a new hard drive or limp along with the one I have, what's he got to do? Surely, he'd love to make a book trailer. He's a computer guy.

But then I started wondering--What do you do with these things once you've got them? Who sees them? Do they make a difference to anyone? I've seen a few really long trailers, and, having the attention span of a gnat, I couldn't sit all the way through them. I certainly don't want to do that to any viewers. That can't be good.

My favorite...moving?...visual for a book is from Kenneth Oppel's Airborn site. It's short and intense. Is it a book trailer? Or, as Computer Guy believes, just a bit of business at a website? What's the difference?

Of course, I saw that piece for the first time after I'd read, and liked, the book. I don't know if it would have encouraged me to read the book if I'd gone to the site first.

So, to make a long story short, I'm now mulling over whether or not creating a book trailer would be a good use of my (and my computer guy's) time. Discuss among yourselves and comment if you have any thoughts on the subject.


Monday, June 11, 2007

Do Book Reviews Sell Books?

Critical Mass, "the blog of the national book critics circle board of directors" has published a lot of mindless stuff recently that claimed to support print book reviews. I don't know that Thursday's post by John Freeman will do much to help preserve newspaper review sections, but it was extremely interesting and didn't attack anyone.

The question raised in this post was Do book reviews sell books?

I was a little put off at first because Freeman began with "At the Bookforum panel on Thursday, Jonathan Galassi said he felt book reviews don't seem to be moving copies as much anymore, in part because the general readership's knowledge-base has shrunk. So, the logic went, people reading book reviews don't have the context in which to place a value on a critic's conclusion about a book. Therefore, it's simply just another opinion."

I wasn't sure, but I thought this Galassi guy had just called me stupid. But once I got past that and moved on, I learned that Freeman's answer to the question Do book reviews sell books? was they aren't supposed to. "The purpose of a review is to discuss the book at hand and aspire to a minor-but-real art form along the way."

As a writer who wants to sell books, I tend to think of reviews as marketing tools for me, me, me. But I think Freeman has a point. The review should be about the book, not about selling the book.

And this, of course, brings us back to whether or not one should publish anything but positive reviews, which we bloggers have hashed out many times. If the review is only about the book and not about the author's feelings or trying to sell books, then the idea of positive and negative becomes a whole lot less touchy.

"'My personal opinion,' Freeman says, 'is that writing is writing, and good writing (and good arguing) will compel someone to buy a book, no matter where it is published, and whether or not it is a "good" or "bad" review. Furious engagement with a book suggests the book is worth engaging with --'"

Anyone who has been reading this blog for a while will know that I absolutely agree with that.


"The World Has Gone Mad"

I've been reading about the Potter Problems related to sales of the new Harry Potter for a while now. Small independent booksellers will take a beating on sales because they can't afford to discount it as deeply as places like Wal-Mart and Amazon. Some aren't even placing particularly large orders because they don't expect to sell many books when customers can get it so cheaply elsewhere.

It kind of casts a pall over the last book excitement


Sunday, June 10, 2007

Final Stats For This Year's Book Challenge

Total number of books completed: 4
Total number of pages read: 1,430
Number of books given up on after starting: 3
Number of hours reading: Say, 30 over a 48-hour period, with breaks for writing two blog posts, taking two showers, making a trip to the Chinese restaurant to pick up takeout--the usual.

My family is quite humiliated for me because I read only 4 books this year over a 30 hour period while last year I read 7 over a 23 hour period. However, I actually read more pages this year--1,430 vs. 1,312. And that's not counting the 60+ pages I read on 3 books I didn't like.

On the surface, last year's Challenge seems more successful for me because I liked all the books I read and felt I was getting the hang of magical realism, since I read only those types of books. However, I definitely got something from this weekend's experience, too. Like many serious readers, I've always had a need to finish reading every book I start. Over the last few years, I've been able to begin to get over that compulsion by skimming books I'm not enjoying. I've only recently started giving up altogether. Giving up on 3 books in 24 hours as I did this weekend was a liberating experience.

The number of books published goes up and up and up, but for some reason or another the number of hours in the day remains constant. How much of my life do I want to sacrifice reading stuff I don't like? Not much, it seems.


Power Corrupts

The Problem Child by Michael Buckley begins awkwardly and barely ends at all because it's the third book in The Sisters Grimm series, which, if this book is any indication, is much more of a serial.

But as serials go, this one isn't too bad. And I say that in spite of the fact that the whole twist on fairy tale thing, which appears to be a fantasy sub-genre, is not a favorite for me.

Buckley's big strength appears to be his witty way with twisting fairy tale characters. Two of the Three Little Pigs have formed a construction company and argue over the benefits of using brick vs straw as construction material. The Little Mermaid used food to deal with rejection by her human love and now has a substantial weight problem. A witch (who I should probably recognize from some fairy tale tradition but don't) is seriously into Days of Our Lives.

And like many fantasy books for young readers, this one involves characters who learn that they aren't who they think they are. After their parents disappear, The Grimm Sisters learn they are descendants of the Brothers Grimm, and their function in life is to serve as fairy tale detectives in a Hudson Valley town where fairy tale characters are forced to live. Just as young women are attracted to Georgette Heyer romances because seemingly powerless female characters win the romantic heroes, young people are probably attracted to books like The Grimm Sisters because powerless child characters find that, really, they are exciting people, perhaps even powerful ones.

Not too powerful, though. That's the message of this book. I'm reading along, seeing how things are going to go, and I'm thinking, No! No! Power is good! Gimme some power!

Clearly, there would be no hope for me in The Grimm Sisters' world.

By the way, The Grimm Sisters books include a marvelous, Peter Pan-type character named Puck, a Trickster King who wants to be a bad boy but who keeps showing up to pull the Grimms' fat out of the fire.

48 Hour Book Challenge:

Charlie Bone and the Hidden King, 441 pages
Sylvester or The Wicked Uncle, 410 pages
London Calling, 289 pages
The Problem Child, 292 pages


That Was A Surprise

Last night I started one of those flip-between-different-world books, read about sixty pages, and gave up. I picked up London Calling by Edward Bloor. I've had London Calling for more than six months but have put off reading it because I disliked Bloor's last book, Story Time so much. So very, very much. It's an anti-standardized testing rant with cardboard characters doing ridiculous things in the name of satire.

It's hard to believe London Calling was written by the same person.

London Calling is a time travel story about a seventh-grade boy with a troubled life in the twenty-first century who is "called" to London in 1940 to assist a young boy living through the Blitz. Why would he be called back there? Both boys listen to the same radio, a radio that belonged to the main character, Martin's, grandfather who worked at the U.S. embassy in London along with a war hero connected with Martin's school. It's not coincidence--it's what links young Martin to the older period.

A lot of what I liked about this book is what it had to say about history, period, not just the period addressed in the story. History is not just the story of great men in London Calling. The place of the poor and powerless in human events is a big issue here. In addition, the whole question of who gets to decide what is history is brought up.

As it turns out, those are both aspects of the study of history that interest me.

There are portions of the story that seem a little too instructive. When Martin is in the past, I did feel that we were getting a bit of a history lesson in the manner of The 1940s House. And the working class characters who voice their frustration with what is going on around them aren't too subtly handled. The Sacrifice of Isaac story that keeps recurring isn't terribly subtle, either, and in the end I don't think it particularly works. Again, as it turns out, this is a story that interests me because it is so incredibly awful and unexplainable, so I didn't mind it.

The connection between depression and alcoholism and the genetic factor involved in both was handled in a more subtle manner. Personally, I thought the religious aspects of the book weren't overdone, either.

There's a lot going on in this book--history as a field of study, a couple of mysteries, a contemporary school problem, family dynamics, alcoholism, and personal spirituality. I think some readers are going to find that some aspects are drawn together better than others. On the other hand, with so much there a lot of readers should find something to interest them.

48 Hour Book Challenge:

Charlie Bone and the Hidden King, 441 pages
Sylvester or The Wicked Uncle, 410 pages
London Calling, 289 pages


Saturday, June 09, 2007

I'm Too Old For This

As an adult, I really have no interest in romance novels. I've never had an explanation for this. After all, the desire for a soulmate, a permanent, life-long relationship, seems worthy of consideration. But I'm more interested in family interactions, say, the really sick relationships between parent and child.

As a teenager, though, I read historical romances, particularly novels by Georgette Heyer. I remember reading them during exam weeks when I was in college.

I lost interest as an adult, and after Heyer died in 1974 I didn't see her mentioned much anymore. Then a few years ago I noticed YAs talking about her books at Readerville and Leila did a post about her recently at bookshelves of doom. So I've had a couple of old Heyer paperbacks that I inherited from a relative and decided the 48 Hour Book Challenge would be a good time to dip into one again.

Today I knocked off Sylvester or The Wicked Uncle. It took me all day to read it, not because it was difficult or boring or tedious but because the quality of the writing is sophisticated. I think Heyer is a good writer in terms of putting sentences and paragraphs together, creating characters and her historical world, and, bless her heart, plotting. She writes with a sly and subtle wit. I was rarely tempted to skim.

If you've read many of her books (and back in the day, I read a lot of her books) she dealt with a lot of the same kinds of characters--rakes with hearts of gold, modest girls who steal the hearts of high society types with their cleverness and spunk, tough-minded and powerful dowagers, powerful lords who got around (if you know what I mean) in their youth but understand their place in society. Many of her heroines are quite young while the heroes are a bit older and men of the world.

I think these books are attractive for young women for the same reason Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice were and are attractive to young women--the great guy doesn't always go to the powerful and beautiful. And the great guy is also something of a bad boy.

But I'm not a young woman. As good as Heyer is, I got to around the 230 page point (out of 410) and I thought, You know how this is going to end. You're just filling time, Gail.

And I think that may be why I don't care for romance novels anymore. I know how they're going to end.


Boy gets girl. Girl gets boy. Boy gets boy. Girl gets girl. No matter what combination you're talking about, the ending is always going to be the same. I guess I just don't care how they get there.

By the way, Sylvester, Duke of Salford, is a wicked uncle because he's arrogant and standoffish. He doesn't hold a candle to Alec Campion, Duke Tremontaine, in The Privilege of the Sword. Now that was a wicked uncle.

48 Hour Book Challenge
Charlie Bone and the Hidden King, 441 pages
Sylvester or The Wicked Uncle, 410 pages

Off To A Bad Start

Last year when I took part in the 48 Hour Book Challenge, I read only books that had been recommended to me as magical realism. It was sort of a research weekend, and I had a great time. If I recall correctly, the worst book I read all weekend wasn't all that bad.

This year I'm just using this weekend to try to make some headway on the 30 or 40 unread books I've got stacked up here. Things are not going anywhere near as well.

I started reading at 7 last night, and by twenty of eight I'd already started two books and given up. If I'm going to spend a weekend on a reading binge, the books are going to have to be something I want to read. I don't want to read fantasies that are just a collection of strange names and weird events rather than a real story with a well-developed world. And I believe I've mentioned this before so I'm sorry if I'm repeating myself, but a plot is not a list of random events. The events in a plot must have a causal relationship--A leads to B leads to C and so forth. If I want to deal with random events, I'll stick to my life.

Anyway, the book I finally spent the evening reading was Charlie Bone and the Hidden King, the fifth in the Children of the Red King series by Jenny Nimmo. I read the first book nearly two years ago, and while I wasn't enthralled with it, it held some interest for me.

I think the series' basic premise is interesting. Nine hundred years ago, a red king became the father of ten children, five good and five bad. Some of these offspring are endowed with a power of some kind. The good and bad descendants of this king continue to fight to this very day.

Unfortunately, the good and bad characters are very one-dimensional. And there are a great many characters. And once again, you get characters with funny names and situations that are there pretty much just because they're odd, not because they need to be in the story. This particular volume includes a quite awful banquet scene where all kinds of information is revealed in an improbable way.

Reading it was a chore.

But here's the thing--I've now been exposed to enough of these fakey fantasies to wonder if they aren't part of some kind of little mini-genre that I just don't get. This book received 38 Reader Reviews at Amazon and people seem to like it. The reviews can't all be from the author's mother.

The sixth book in the series was published in this country at the end of May.

Book 1 of 48 Hour Book Challenge: Charlie Bone and the Hidden King, 441 pages


Friday, June 08, 2007

On A More Upbeat Note

If you've published a book and you're really lucky, things will continue to happen for it without you having to move from your chair.

Two good pieces of news have come in regarding Happy Kid!:

Happy Kid!
received a very nice review at Ms. Yingling Reads, a very attractive looking blog maintained by a school librarian. I've only scanned some of her posts (though I read every word of the one that related to me, of course), but one of the things I find interesting is that she's careful to consider the tastes of the student population she serves.

My editor tells me that not only has Happy Kid! been included on the Bank Street Children's Book Committee Best Books of the Year list, it received a starred entry. I'm particularly appreciative of this because Bank Street College was supportive of my early books. I'm delighted the folks there liked Happy Kid!, too.


If A Tree Falls In The Forest And No One Is There To Hear It, Does It Make A Sound?

If a book is published and no one reviews it, will anyone read it?

Back when I was starting out in the book publishing world (which was only a little over ten years ago and not a hundred and ten), publishers would send out arcs to review journals months before publication. Then reviewers would read said arcs and some would write reviews that would be published in the months leading up to publication. Readers knew the book was coming, librarians could order ahead of time, whatever.

The last few years, however, both the editors I've worked with have been telling me that reviews are coming later and later. In fact, I was speaking to an editor a few days ago who said her (major) company had had books published in May for which they had still seen no reviews.

My speculation? The number of books being published has been going up for years. I'm guessing the review publications are overwhelmed with books. They certainly don't have space to review everything, and perhaps books that would have been reviewed in years past are slipping through the cracks. As the journals struggle to cover everything they want to cover, the spring season is passing, the fall catalogs are coming in, and it's time to move on.

It used to be that getting reviewed was a problem for self-published books and books published by small presses. It sounds as if now it's becoming a problem for everyone.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.


Thursday, June 07, 2007

My Computer Guy Is A God

My hard drive is still fried, of course. But my computer guy found a way to get through to all the juicy things on it, and we've been merrily backing up all kinds of stuff. I'm not at all sure when or how we'll get back to normal here, but in the meantime I can take my little disk from computer to computer (we've got them littering up the house) and get some work done.

By the way, the so-called computer support people were of no computer support whatsoever on this one. Really, everyone needs a computer guy.

And Then Again...

I thought the people quoted in My Book Deal Ruined My Life were tragically naive until I got to this part:

"And you start to think, ‘Oh God, this is a complete piece of shit that couldn’t be published—nobody is going to read it.’ But then you have a sandwich and go, ‘I am a genius and I’m going to win the Booker Prize.’"

And that is so very, very true. Except that I've never thought I'd win the Booker because it's only for citizens of the British Commonwealth and the Republic of Ireland. Plus I often don't like the Booker winners, when I read them at all, so I'd hardly yearn for it, would I? I don't think I'm the kind of writer who wins awards, anyway. What I'm really hoping for is a cult following--not the kind of cult following that starts religions but the kind of cult following that keeps your books in print long after your dead and gone. I don't think that's too much to ask.

But, really, that quote is very much what it's like to be a writer. You have to be good at tolerating mood swings.

Link from artsJournal


Not Long Now

In just two weeks, A Girl, a Boy, and a Monster Cat will be launched out into the world. Learn how you can have a chance to get a free copy.

If you do go to my homepage, check out the photo of me at the top. I just had it taken last summer and was quite pleased at the time. But now I'm thinking I look as if I sell real estate.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

I Am Not Capable Of Learning

I am sure I must have done posts like this more than once in the five years I've been blogging. Once again, we're having computer problems at Chez Gauthier, and I haven't been backing up onto disks. My computer guy has been backing up once a week to an external hard drive, so things aren't as bad as they could be, but on Monday I thought I'd pretty much finished up a little 750 word project for a magazine submission. Of course, I didn't save it anywhere but on the hard drive of the computer I was working on. If I'm lucky, I'll have whatever I was working on last week from Computer Guy's stash. This week's Durand Cousins work is probably gone, too, though admittedly that wasn't much. I was all fired up for working on that today.

Computer Guy doesn't hold out much hope for retrieving much from the impaired machine. I'm only able to do this post because among the family members here this summer we have three computers with Internet access (plus a fourth up and running without it) but it was the good computer that came up with one of those terrifying messages like something that suddenly turns up in horror movies.

Actually, we're all taking this pretty well. I've got a couple of family members I would have expected to be gnashing their teeth and rending their clothes over this. They're so calm that I'm frightened. I'm worried I'll wake up in the night and find them out in the yard sobbing or howling at the moon.

Edited on 6/7 to remove incoherent rambling.


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Kidlit News For Southern Connecticut

The Rabbit Hill Festival of Literature (note that the website isn't totally updated yet) will be held October 25 to 27 this year with the following authors in attendance: Jeanne DuPrau, Gail Carson Levine, Andrea Davis Pinkney, Rick Riordan, and Neil Shusterman.

Yes, BDT, if you're reading this. I said Rick Riordan.

Registration begins in August.

There will be a dinner with the authors on Friday night and a symposium on Saturday. I am not one to venture far afield, but even I can get to Westport. And I did so, back in 2002 when I attended that year's symposium.

I'm going to make sure the Festival people still have me on their mailing list.


Monday, June 04, 2007

I See Connections That Perhaps No One Else Sees

That doesn't mean they're not there.

Today artsJournal directed me to a great article, Ray Bradbury: Fahrenheit 451 Misinterpreted. I've never read Fahrenheit 451. I saw the movie, of which I remember very little except that Oskar Werner was in it.

So I didn't get too shook up when I read that Bradbury says his book is often considered to be about government censorship when it is really about "how television destroys interest in reading literature." I mean, it's not as if it's some beloved book for me and now I'm finding out I never understood it at all.

I was very interested, though, because in my, admittedly limited, reading of '50s and '60s scifi (of which Fahrenheit 451 is a part), it seems as if I recall a great deal of anti-television sentiment. Doesn't Philip K. Dick, for instance, have some creepy things to say about TV in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the only one of his books I've read?

I've been thinking of those dire TV predictions lately in relation to the virtual world Second Life. My understanding of Second Life is weak, but I wonder if some of those mid-twentieth century scifi writers would see such worlds as the logical extension of their predictions about television. First it numbs your mind. Then you become tighter with the unreal TV world than your own. Then you enter an unreal world altogether.

While I've been thinking about Second Life, I've also been thinking of a book called Circuit of Heaven by Dennis Danvers, in which "all but a tiny minority of the earth’s population have chosen to forsake their bodies and electronically upload their personalities into ‘’the Bin,'’ a virtual paradise where life is indistinguishable from real life except that there is no hunger or crime and no one ever dies." I enjoyed Circuit of Heaven when I read it a few years ago, and it might be a title those older teen/college student readers would like, since the main character is 21 years old and could be described as rebelling against the status quo and determing what kind of person he's going to be.

So, seriously, I thought all this stuff was connected.

And now it's time for me to watch TV.

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Like San Francisco In The Sixties But...Ah...Different?

Yesterday I went to a wedding. Who cares, you might ask? Well, at the reception I sat next to a fascinating woman who entertained us with stories about her past, which was spent racing sports cars, dating Hell's Angels, reading Faulkner, and attending a rock concert at which someone was killed. She totally missed the killing because she was off doing something with a hot air balloon. Somewhere along the line, she squeezed in some time in San Francisco.

I thought of her this morning while reading Potterpalooza at Salon. One young woman attending a Harry Potter Convention in New Orleans is quoted as saying, "Being alive as the story is being delivered to us is magic," Anelli concluded. "I like that I will always look back on this and be able to say, 'I was there. And you know what? It rocked.'"

Forty years from now, will people be sitting at wedding receptions talking about how they were in New Orleans for Phoenix Rising in '07? Or Lumos 2006?


Saturday, June 02, 2007

Virtual Tour

Sheila at Wands and Worlds has what is the first report I've seen about Book Expo.

Where was I yesterday? I did a three-mile walk. So I hope Sheila keeps blogging about BEA.

No Consequences

I definitely enjoyed Framed by Frank Cottrell Boyce. I love the wry, slightly off-kilter humor in the book and the way the main character, Dylan, doesn't quite get things. I loved the miscommunications related to art and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I loved the theme relating to the transforming nature of art. (Art is sort of like religion in Boyce's first book,Millions.

However, I did have a few problems with Framed. First off, while I enjoyed the transforming-nature-of-art material, I enjoy looking at a picture every now and then. I thought it was a subtle and witty message, but because it's a message I am open to, anyway, I'm not sure if it really was or if I just thought it was because I agree with it. I don't know if others would find it didactic.


That's minor. A bigger problem, for me, was the happy ending. In order to give the book a happy ending, the characters who had committed criminal acts had to all get away with them in improbable ways. They faced no consequences for their actions. I'm not getting all moral here and saying, "There must be consequences for actions." I'm saying that usually there are consequences for actions.

Now, you could argue that the family in Millions got away with an illegal act, too. But the act wasn't as blatantly illegal as the acts in Framed and there was only one. (Plus, they may have had saints helping them.) In Framed, there are three different illegal acts. It just isn't logical that everyone got away with them, even given that none of the crimes were successfully pulled off.

Plus, didn't Dad, who was a real stand-up guy, essentially abandon his family? Mom was all depressed about that, but it seemed to just run off the backs of everyone else. (Marie took to her room because she was upset that she was going to grow old and lose her looks, not because Dad had walked out on them when the going got rough.)

That sounds as if I had a lot of complaints, but, really, the book has a lot to offer. With a reworked ending, it would make a charming movie of the The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down A Mountain variety. If only Colm Meaney were younger, he could play the father. (The fact that he is Irish instead of Welsh shouldn't be a stumbling block. He played a Welshman in The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down A Mountain. Evidently movie people can't tell the difference.) And if Hugh Grant were younger and wouldn't act so Bertie Woosterish, he'd be perfect for Lester.

Morning After Thoughts: After having slept on this, I think I was wrong when I said Dad's abandonment of his family just ran off the backs of everyone but Mom. The kids were constantly coming up with money-making schemes hoping that would bring him back. So they did notice and his absence did influence the action of the book. His cutting out on the family, though, was another action, like the criminal acts, for which there was no real consequence. You could argue that these kids were young, they just wanted their dad, but I still think bringing him back and everyone just going on as before is a bit unbelievable.