Friday, December 22, 2006

Scarce

It's been a while since my last post. I've been working on my MySpace page. There's a link to it over in that side bar ---------->

Happy holidays to all!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Crossover Books

This post is sort of a continuation from last week's.

If there had been a section called Young Adult back when "To Kill A Mockingbird" was first published, according to today's rules it would belong there. I've read more than one literary agent's guidelines that state something like, "If the protagonist is a child or teen, the book is for children."

Well, what if the protagonist is a hobbit...or even a rabbit? When I ran a children's bookstore, we kept a copy or two of "Watership Down" on the shelf. I can't recall selling a single copy of it. The general bookstore across the street from my store carried it too -- in their fiction section. They didn't carry books for children.

But what about this year's "The Book Thief?" It was marketed originally in Australia as a book for adults, even though the protag is eleven. Here, it's called a young adult book, but I've seen it in both children's and adult's sections of bookstores. This book is a successful crossover book - it appeals to an audience of many ages.

Harry Potter -- another obvious success in the crossover department. And Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" was a surprise crossover. Adults love Edward just as much as teenage girls.

Because I write for teens, I read a LOT of middle grade and young adult books, both new releases and some of the old favorites I read as a teenager. Just finished Judy Blume's "Deenie" the other day...ah, the memories. There are many, many young adult books that I think adults would love. Pick up just about any Newbery Medal or Honor book and you'll find yourself engrossed (I said 'just about'! There are a few that make me shake my head and go 'what were they thinking').

I don't really like compartments, but I can work with them. I'm not sure why the industry has turned in this direction, but for a need for organization - everything in its own defined space. Or maybe the intent was to show kids, "Here -- this is for you. A section, a space, something to which you can claim ownership, in hopes that it will make you want to read more." Did this all begin when R.I.F. began? I have no idea. I never really spent much time thinking about it before.

I wish, though, that calling something YA or MG doesn't somehow 'alienate' adult readers, or cause adults to decide that YA books are for kids, not for grown-ups. Because the adults are really missing out on some terrific stuff!

I'm hoping to see a larger, growing trend of 'crossover' books. Books with child or teen protags that adults will read, even if they have to go to the YA section to find them. I'd guess most bookstores will double-shelf the crossover books, with a few in YA and a few in whatever special adult section it belongs.


Your comments are encouraged.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Commercial break

Brought to you by future writers of America.

Post your favorite, or write one of your own in the comments.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Confusion about kids' books

I've noticed some speculation and muttering lately on these here Internets about categories for kids' books. I thought I'd throw my two pennies into the ring.

When I was a kid, I don't think the categories YA (young adult) or MG (middle grade) existed. There were generally two sizes of books in what was called the Intermediate section of the library. The trade size, which is the larger of the two, indicated (to me, anyway) books for ages 8-12 or so: Beverly Cleary, Eleanor Estes, and the Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing books by Blume. The smaller sized books, called mass market, were in spinner racks. These were for the 12-and-ups. Books like the Sweet Valley High series. SE Hinton. Robert Cormier. More mature works by Judy Blume. There were sub-categories for Fantasy, Science Fiction, Mystery, and Non-fiction.

That was it.

Many kids in high school were assigned books to read such as Huck Finn and To Kill A Mockingbird. These books were found in the Classics section, and included both adult and children's classics. Also, many high schoolers were reading books from the adult section.

Ten years ago, I managed a children's bookstore. We had Picture Books, Early Readers (short, easy chapter books), Intermediate (ages 7-12), and YA (ages 11-14 or so), as well as the usual sub-categories. We determined the correct placement in the store not only by size (mass market vs. trade) but also by content. Some books overlapped.

Today, there are many more categories. That can be a good thing, but it can also make it harder to find the specific book you're looking for in a bookstore or library. Intermediate became Middle Grade, and now there's Tweens as well (ages 10-12).

Also, the Young Adult category has grown fantastically over the past decade or so. It's also gotten edgier. Typical young adult books are considered suitable for ages 10 or 12 to 15 or so, depending on content and the child's reading/comprehension level. You'll find elements including romance (crushes and dating), dysfunction, social/racial/ethnic issues, some abuse (physical and emotional), and sometimes tragedy including death in contemporary YA (for whatever reason, death in historical middle grade appears acceptable, but I don't see a lot of death in the 7-10 year old range of books when the characters are living in current times -- Though Bridge to Terabithia comes to mind).

YA has expanded in age as well, to include more mature themes. Drugs, sex (with some detail, but generally not terribly explicit), moderate amounts of profanity, emotional illness and and teen problems such as anorexia, sexual abuse, teen pregnancy, suicide, murder (as opposed to accidental death)...everything you might find in an adult book. This category is sometimes referred to as Mature YA, Upper YA, or Teen Lit.

So if this upper YA category is similar to adult books, why does it exist? I'm not positive, but unlike 20 years ago, it seems that if the main character of a book is under the age of 20, the book is considered Teen Lit by default.

I invite you to share your opinion -- my post here is my own personal opinion which relies somewhat on memories from 10-30 years ago. I could be waaaaay wrong on this. But I think I'm closer to reality than some.

More on Teen Lit in the next post.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Another Great YA

Newbery Honor winner Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy is an historical novel that takes place in Maine in the early 1900s. Filled with racial tensions and religious disharmony, author Gary Schmidt transports the reader to the shores of the real town of Phippsburg, gives us a variety of tremendously developed characters, and shows us the coast through his gorgeous description. I feel like I've seen a whale in real life.

(well I have, actually, but this is different - it's the description, man!)

And I can't tell you about this book without feeling rather proud that Gary Schmidt was one of my favorite college professors back in Michigan in the late 80s. Prof. Schmidt taught (and still teaches) kiddie lit, among other English/lit classes. Good job, sir! I give you an A.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Aw, myahn! I haven't lost my midwest accent...

Though carbonated drinks are not 'pop' anymore. Definitely 'soda'.
My ten year old daughter's accent has changed the most in the past two years. Which is funny, because Phoenix is it's own little melting pot, and there's really not a 'southwest' accent, as far as I can tell.



What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Inland North

You may think you speak "Standard English straight out of the dictionary" but when you step away from the Great Lakes you get asked annoying questions like "Are you from Wisconsin?" or "Are you from Chicago?" Chances are you call carbonated drinks "pop."

The Northeast
Philadelphia
The Midland
The South
North Central
Boston
The West
What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A new addition


After searching high and low for just the right dog for our family, I think we have a winner.

Jessie is a 3.5 year-old saluki mix. Emphasis on the 'mix'. Though no one seems to know what the mix part is. She's black and tan, shorter and stockier than the saluki in the photo at the link, and has a thick coat. When she stands to look at something, she reminds me of a small golden retriever with a collie-face.

We were very picky in our selection. We didn't want a puppy. We wanted a medium-sized dog who is housebroken, doesn't bark, doesn't chew on the furniture, doesn't need a huge amount of exercise, and doesn't shed. We got everything we wanted except the 'doesn't shed' part. Yay.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Third thing...

One more great thing to share today -- design your own radio station.

Two of my favorite things today

Sometimes the taste for good ol' Chicago style pizza is overwhelming. And it's impossible to find the authentic stuff around here. Introducing Lou Malnati's pizza with nationwide delivery. A friend of mine who lives in Chicago (though he's somewhere in Africa at the moment) was so kind as to send me some Lou's pizzas last year, when I was mourning about being so far away from Chicago now.

Now, if y'all are going to argue with me and try and convince me that NY style or St. Louis style is better, well, just include a link to a place that will ship it to Arizona, and maybe I'll have a little taste test show-down.

The way to buy pizza online, by the way, is not to look at the price for one pizza. ($37, includes delivery, ouch!) What you need to do is have a party, see. And get 4 pizzas for $69.99, which also includes delivery. So I buy a couple cases of beer for $30 and we're good.

Think about it. Say you live in Chicago. You and seven friends all go out to Lou's (parking $10 per vehicle, 2 vehicles). You get drinks while you wait (six beers, $30 -- and the DD's drink coke, right? So $6 for those, plus a $5 tip to the bartender). And then you get a few pitchers once you're seated (I dunno, $25?). You order 4 pizzas, $10 a piece plus tax ($45) and tip ($15 minimum, and that's even skanky), and then you accidentally leave the leftover box of pizza on the sink in the bathroom (why on EARTH would you take your takeout box into the bathroom? Gross!).

And there you've spent $150, to my $100. It's a bargain, I'm telling you!


My second favorite thing today is Quelf.
This is a most hilarious board game, and would make a great gift, but like most great board games, they sell out before Christmas. So get yours early. If'n you do that Christmas thang, that is. See, players draw cards and they have to do what's on the card. Like, for the entirety of the game, instead of saying 'yes' or 'no', you might have to say 'word' or 'bogus'. If you screw up, you take a penalty. Or anytime another player rolls a 4, you might have to stand up, spread your arms and hum a mournful song until that turn is done. Or you'll have to put a pan on your head, bang it with a wooden spoon, and shout "I'm coming, Billy!" There are a variety of cards, some that make you list things like brands of shampoo or female authors' names.

It's a blast.

Pizza, family game, it's all good.

Now I have to go get my hair cut. Which reminds me; I've got to find that South Park website where you can design a character to look like yourself. Because I have Butters' hair.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Forced time off

I'm forcing myself to take time off from writing or editing for a few days -- I started this break on Friday. Do you ever do this? It's sort of killing me to do it, but I've written like a mad woman for six months with few breaks, and I'm at a point where I think that if I don't take a break, I'll get sick of it, or my stories will suffer.

So what do normal people do when they take a break? I have no idea. But here's what I'll be doing today:

1. VOTE and mail in my ballot

2. Wrap birthday presents

3. Read a book

4. Take out the recycling


Is there something else I should be doing? I mean, besides housework. I'm sitting here, out of sorts, and salivating when I think of opening up my latest rough draft and start editing.

But I guess that's the purpose. I need to get to the point where I can't go another minute without getting back to work. Maybe tomorrow.

Now you -- tell me what you do.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Ruh Roh - I've been tagged.

The most adorably creepy author of The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod, (Eighth Grade Bites is book 1, due in summer 2007) Heather Brewer , has tagged me. And now I must tell you five interesting or unique things about me.

1. Homegirl don't play tag.

2. I'm left-handed and have an extra vertabra and extra set of ribs. I also majorly tore the cartilege in my knee as a kid, but my mother didn't believe me because I faked broken legs and illnesses a lot. I was one of those kids who wanted crutches and braces and glasses. Anyway, three weeks after limping and whining, mom finally took me to the doc. Ha! Serious injury. He wondered how I'd walked on it for all that time. (Sorry, mom)

3. When I'm stressed out, unlike most people, I DON'T eat. I cook. And then I can't eat it. So today, I'm spending 12 hours smoking a pork butt on the grill (indirect heat! Never put a pork butt over flame! Even if you're thirteen, like my son, and you wonder if a pork butt can shoot a blue flame). Of course, we are always polite and call it 'pulled pork' or a 'pork shoulder' in fine company. Even though the tag says Boston butt. Because really, it does come from the shoulder. (Wait, how did this turn into interesting things about pigs? Doh! Don't answer that.)

4. When I was doing research for my book about the Holocaust and the Kindertransport system, my mother casually mentioned that I had two second-cousins that were Nazi soldiers. They both died in POW camps in Russia.
GAH! That put me in a tailspin for several days.

5. Confession time. When I was in first grade, I stole stuff from my classroom. Like one of those smiley face ink things that the teacher used to stamp our papers. And? A cross-stitch needle. Because it was 1976, and the entire grade school was making this giant cross-stitched American flag/eagle thing as a project. And that needle was way cool and shiny. In fact, I'm wondering if it's still where I hid it, down in the basement in my parents house (they still live there). Also, my teacher gave out a handful of cereal as a treat if we kids did a good job with reading (I was a very good reader). And at home, we couldn't afford cool cereal. I'm talking really cool cereal, like Cap'n Crunch's Peanut Butter cereal and Lucky Charms. So I would get my mom to write me a 'stay in at recess' note (because I faked sick a LOT), and then I'd steal cereal and keep it in my desk.

I feel sorta bad about that, now.


I should tag some people. So...I tag Ellen Meister, Supes, Katrina, and Katie.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Monday, October 23, 2006

Why do my characters do what they do?

Sometimes they make me so angry.

I mean, who do they think they are, that they can just go quitting a job that took me forever to set up? Now what am I going to do? That job was crucial to the plot.

Ungrateful wretches, that's what they are.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

I met Stephenie Meyer

And dang, she's adorable. She looks like Anne Hathaway.

Stephenie spoke at the Southwest Regional Library in Gilbert, AZ yesterday, about 10 miles from my house. When I got to the library fifteen minutes early, there was a line, and the cute teenage girl in front of me was wearing "I love Edward Cullen" jeans that she designed herself. Several of the teenage girls I spoke to (or overheard) while waiting to get in had gotten out of school early to attend this, though I believe the Gilbert schools were on fall break.

She read to us and answered questions, showed us some of the other countries' book covers, and then signed books. When I got to the table, I admit it. I gushed like I was 13 or something. We chatted briefly, I mentioned my book, and she was so enthusiastic about it! She asked me all about it. We also talked about all the authors who call AZ their home and decided we should all get together sometime (hello, Barbara Kingsolver!). Heh. I'm hoping that once Stephenie's life settles down (she's just done with her tour) she'll have a chance to drop me an email -- I gave her my name and info and stuff. She was just delightful, and I'm so glad I got the chance to meet her.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Janie is ready!

After adding roughly 4000 words and making a handful of changes to the manuscript, Janie Hannagan: Dream Catcher is ready! My agent will begin submitting the manuscript to editors sometime this week.

A few weeks ago, at my agent's suggestion, I picked up Stephenie Meyer's first book, Twilight. Though my book has nothing to do with vampires, my agent said my writing style was similar to Stephenie's and he thought Janie would appeal to the same audience as Twilight.

I've never enjoyed, cared about, or read a vampire book in my life, but I'm always looking for interesting YA books. And once I started reading, I couldn't put this book down. I had no idea vampires could be designed to be so intriguing as what Stephenie has done with the Cullens. Wow! I had to read more, so I picked up her second book, New Moon, which is the sequel to Twilight.

Meanwhile, I made my husband Matt read Twilight. I didn't mention to him what agent Michael had said about my writing style being similar to Stephenie's. After the first few chapters of Twilight, Matt said "This sounds like your writing." Interrrresting.

I found Stephenie's website and discovered that not only is she a wildly successful and popular author, she is also practically my neighbor. (Okay, okay, she lives an hour away, but here in the southwest, that's not much). She's doing a booksigning at my local library tomorrow so I think I'll go say hello and get my books signed.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Research

I might be unusual, but one of the things I just love about writing a novel is the research.

I feel like I'm taking a class. And it's always a class I'm terribly interested in. So far, I've researched WW2, several parts of England, Judaism, the Holocaust, Bucharest and other parts of Romania, street children, food, dreams, dresses, causes of blindness, welfare, psycho- and telekenisis, and more.

I love when I'm writing about something I think I know a lot about, and then something happens in the story that is out of my area of expertise. Actually no, I take it back. I hate that. But then, after starting research, I love it again, because I learn so much.

My novel, Janie Hannagan: Dream Catcher, has been edited and needs just a few more changes before my agent is ready to submit it. How exciting!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Yippee!

So what can I say about Michael Bourret? Well, before today I could have said he's a great literary agent, and the first agent I ever queried.

Today, however, I can say that he is not only a great literary agent, but he is also MY agent. I am thrilled to be working with such a terrific guy. And I'm ready to get to work on Janie Hannagan: Dream Catcher, to make it perfect for submission.

Michael Bourret is with Dystel & Goderich Literary Management.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

What with all the Memoir hype...

...about folks whose memories have been altered by aliens in such a way that their families are ganging up on them to prove them worthless vile citizens of the literary world, I would like to exploit this situation by writing a new book:

My Terrible Life Down By the Crick: An Exaggerated Memoir

---- In which Lisa McMann finds herself in extreme peril (near death, several times in a variety of provoking ways) while catching crawdads in the crick down by the ol' church parking lot. But when she goes through the tunnel of doom under the road, she comes out the other side a changed woman--with many, many cobwebs in her Dutch-blonde hair, and a new, much more serious problem...she turns 12 and grows boobs, and Timmy VandenBrink has to kiss her in Paulette Toilet's dog pen before Paulette's big brother Fudd will let them out of the cage.

But I'm worried that it won't sell so well without the controversy. Hmmm.

The Quill Awards

Vote here until September 30th.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Inspiration for writing

A few months ago, I took a break from sending queries for my first book, Kinder Farm, to finish a second novel called Sister Andri.

And then, I read The Time-Traveler's Wife...

Wow. Loved that book. Loved that I couldn't figure out what was going on at first. Loved the style in which it was written. And it was just the inspiration I needed to pen a third novel that had been rattling around in the back of my brain for a month or two.

It's funny -- I think I 'm unusual in my obsession with writing. I don't use outlines, but sometimes before I write, I'll write up a 2-paragraph summary of the book, much like a query letter. Usually I'll have the idea for a few weeks or months, and I don't know exactly how it happens but often I'll dream about what happens in the story. Once the idea for a novel grows larger than just a glimmer, I'll write a few notes, and then do a bit (or a LOT -- as was the case for Kinder Farm and Sister Andri) of research. When I finally start writing, I'll write 12-15 hours a day until I get stuck, or until it's done.

So, when I finished writing the rough draft of Janie Hannagan: Dream Catcher in a week, it didn't surprise me. But other people look at me like I'm either lying or the book must be terrible. But 100 hours went into the book that week. Not to mention the dreams at night, working out the plot for me (how nice of my dreams to do that!). After writing the rough, I put it away for a few days, then spent a day editing. And then my toughest critic read it and almost fell over in excitement about it. That's a good sign. :)

So I put it away and wrote a sequel to it over the next ten days. Then went back to the first book about Janie and edited for a week, sent it out to my handful of readers and got it ready for querying.

And then, oh the horrors, I took a whole weekend off from writing.

Today, I'm ready to edit the sequel. And work on a query letter and synopsis of Sister Andri.

And look for another amazing book out there to read.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Books, books

Here in Arizona, we try to escape the heat by visiting Michigan relatives. Just returned from two weeks there of amazingly hot and humid weather. Phoenix is almost more tolerable...

Of course, with a vacation comes summer reading. I struck it rich this year, with the following:

Australian author Markus Zusak's new novel, "The Book Thief," is a fantastic read, and one of the few books I couldn't bear to pass on to my sister-in-law. It's my new favorite book, and I plan to read it again. "Water For Elephants" by Sara Gruen was unique and beautiful, about circus performers during prohibition. I'm not much of a fan of detective stories, but I'm halfway through James Lee Burke's "Crusader's Cross." Love his description. I finally pulled "The Flame Tree" by Richard Lewis from my dusty pile of books and loved that as well, and learned a bit about Indonesia in the process. And Ellen Meister's new "Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA" is up next.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The results are in

The 2006 Bulwer-Lytton best-of-the-worst opening lines fiction contest.

So many good ones to choose from--you'll want to read them all.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

'Pomes'

I just got a package in the mail the other day: three copies of a book called Regrets Only. It's a collection of poems.

Why do I have three? I believe that was my payment for the two 'pomes' I have in this anthology. But I forgot all about it. So I checked my submission tracker.

Back in 2003, I sent three poems to Little Pear Press. Around a year later (late 2004 or early 2005), I found out Little Pear Press wanted two of them to put in a book. Since I'm not much of a poet, I didn't shop the poems around to anyone else, and I was happy to have my work accepted.

And here we are, three years after I initially sent in the poems, with a lovely little book to put on my shelf. Thanks, Little Pear Press!

Friday, July 07, 2006

five point five

Five point five.

5.5 words per minute, I mean. As a typing speed, that's not at all impressive. But I'm proud of my five point five wpm. Because if you can type 5.5 quality words per minute, for 5.5 hours a day, and for 5.5 days per week, chances are you'll have a 75,000 word novel in about 5.5 weeks.

It's a good goal. 5.5 words per minute doesn't seem like too much to ask. Take it one minute at a time.