Wednesday, October 27, 2010

In Which Jane Austen Would Say, "Badly Done"

I'm sure you have heard of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

Then came Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Jane Austen and Ben H. Winters

And now there is a tidal wave of classic literature meets the paranormal:

Mansfield Park and Mummies by Jane Austen and Vera Nazarian
Emma and the Vampires by Jane Austen and Wayne Josephson
Emma and the Werewolves by Jane Austen and Adam Rann
Jane Slayre by Charlotte Bronte and Sherri Browning Erwin
Little Vampire Women by Louisa May Alcott and Lynn Messina
Little Women and Werewolves by Louisa May Alcott and Porter Grand
Romeo and Juliet and Vampires by William Shakespeare and Claudia Gabel

I read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies a couple years ago. I bought it because my husband loves zombies and I love Jane Austen, and I believed it was the perfect union of our obsessions. It made me laugh.

But then I read it. The title and cover were more clever than the execution. It was 75% Jane Austen's book and 25% zombies woven throughout. Really, the zombie mayhem became redundant because the only plot driving it forward was the plot that we all know and love.

But the worst of it - I felt like a friend had returned after a long vacation tatooed all over so that I could hardly recognize her under all that ink. Yes, Mr. Grahame-Smith, what did you do to my friend?! Those that do not read Jane Austen will pick this up and become acquainted with what isn't really her.

It makes me sad. If Pride and Prejudice was a religion, I'd call it irreverant. There is a difference between fanfiction and taking the actual text and warping it into something it was never meant to be.

Now, these books are very popular, so I probably don't share my opinion with too many. I am sure that in the end, the real classic will outlive these "fake" classics. However, if someone goes and gives Marilla a taste for blood or sticks a merman fin on Gilbert (DON'T get any ideas), they will pay. Yes, they will pay.

(Next day: Please be sure to read Vera Nazarian's kind response in the comment section.)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Time, will you PLEASE stand still??

You would think that writing a book about Time, especially the End-of-Time, would give me a little leverage. But no, my day is STILL only 24 hours long.

Actually, it's less than 24 hours long.

You see, I believe Time is reading my book, peering over my shoulder as I write. And he's ANGRY (Time is masculine in case you didn't know) because things do not look good for him so far. As far as he can tell, Time ends.

So in revenge, Time is stealing my day. I blink and my day is over. I turn around and my baby is almost one.

If Time would please be patient, Time will see that all ends well in my novel. I am not planning on giving Time an unTimely death. In fact, I think we need to work on a compromise: Give me more day and I will let you live.

Monday, October 18, 2010


I started reading Middle Grade again. I love Middle Grade because it was at this age I fell in love with reading. I haven't been disappointed.

This weekend I finished Countdown by Deborah Wiles. It is a semi-autobiographical book about an eleven year-old girl, Franny Chapman, living outside of Washington D.C. during the Cuban Missile Crisis. (Deborah Wiles also lived outside of Washington D.C. when she was eleven and during the Cuban Missile Crisis.) It is the first of three in the "Sixties Trilogy."

This book has a very unusual format. It's been called a "documentary novel" because interwoven throughout the story are little reports on the Presidents, popular culture, and issues of the time. And every so often the story will be interrupted by a series of media excerpts. It kind of felt like little commercial breaks with newscasts: quotes from political figures, pieces of songs, LOTS of pictures, reminders to "duck and cover."

I LOVED the concept, and I hope to see more historical fiction written this way. It was a very good way of giving the reader another view into the story's world. I felt like I was living the Cuban Missile Crisis right along with Franny.

The story could have stood alone without all of this, however. Deborah Wiles really painted life for an eleven year-old, and helped me remember what it felt like to be eleven...even if I didn't live in fear of a bomb being dropped on my world:

I remembered being SO ANGRY when I fought with friends. I remembered feeling shame and disgrace before a parent when I'd done wrong. I remembered vying for acceptance among my grade-school peers. I remembered wanting to please a teacher. I remembered wanting to be just like my older sister.

The story is full of all the ups and downs of the beginning of Franny's fifth-grade life. And you actually see the Cuban Missile Crisis through her eyes-not an adult's eyes. I think it is very real-to-life how a child would have perceived the threat.

I only blog book reviews if I REALLY liked the book, so this comes highly recommended. Go read it!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The First 250-Words Blogfest

Elle Strauss is hosting a First 250-Words Blogfest, and I'm going to play. Now for my 678th attempt at a beginning:

Pieces of Moon

When my aunt Meg warned me about the drop-off, she didn’t know she was tempting me. Now, with the waves brushing against my chest and my feet bouncing over the ocean bottom I anticipated the moment it would all vanish from under me. Twenty feet ahead, the water went from clear to cerulean blue. Be it sharks, mermaids, or Davy Jones, I wanted to be in that place where the unknown lurked below. Anything to chase away the guilt I’d carried since arriving in Belize—that I’d run away from my mom, that I’d somehow abandoned her.

Of course, that was ridiculous. She had Michael now. She didn’t need me anymore.

A nearby kayaker glided through the water, the rhythmic swing of his oar matching the beat of the breakers behind me. I was happy to note the kayaker traveled away from me and toward the fringe reef that occasionally peeked above the water, lining the coast with offshore islands.

Meg’s voice suddenly pierced the quiet, but her words were lost by the distance from the beachhouse. She and David sat on its front terrace. Meg held a life-vest over her head. She probably thought I’d forgotten it, but I’d knowingly left it in the tangle of fishnets and snorkeling gear by the front door. A palette of green palms; blue waters and skies; and white sands surrounded me. The orange life-vest did not belong on this canvas.

Plus, it would complicate diving into the unknown.

In the comments section you may say one of the following:

a) Definitely hooked!
b) Maybe you should try for 679.
c) Is the kayaker in the distance a cute boy she meets on the next page? (Why yes, yes he is.)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I Am So Brandless

Ideas are wonderful and beautiful things, and many of us have this Incredible Idea Collection: so fragile and so perfect, made imperfect only by our actually writing them out. (In fact, it's probably best to leave the idea alone and just walk away.)(That was Evil Me speaking.)

For me, my ideas are all so different. I mean, REALLY different. If life were pretend and I somehow turned every idea into a book then I'd be totally and completely Brandless. I mean Middle Grade Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Contemporary/Retelling and all that and more for Young Adult. Oh and a few Adults and Picture Books...My brain is such a mess.

What about you? Do your ideas at least stay in the same genre, or are they all over the board?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Giveaway, Blogfest, and Other Things

First of all, there is a picture book edit giveaway over at Dear Editor. Since I now want to be a YA author and a PB author and a fireman (or maybe the fireman is what my son wants to be) I'm in love with the prize. So if you do picture books, you should take a look.

Last week I participated in Patti's blogfest, in which hours spent writing(/editing) were tallied. I clocked somewhere between five and six hours. (Okay sometimes I lost track of time, hence the "somewhere between.") It's not a lot, but I guess if I'm being honest with myself, lately I've probably averaged about an hour each night on the weeknights.

The purpose of Patti's blogfest was for us as writers to determine how our time was alotted to writing. Truth is, I don't watch TV. I watched a couple of movies with my husband. I cleaned. I blogged, but last week not a lot. I read. I ate chocolate/peanut-butter smoothies. It seems there were still so many lost minutes, and I want to know WHERE DID THEY GO? Because I still went to bed late most nights. And I still didn't do a lot of other things I wanted to do.

I write after the kids are in bed. I thought I'd write while my son was in preschool, but not much writing gets done because I still have a cute baby to watch.

Which brings me to...

An illustration of WHY it's difficult to be a mom and a novelist:

Sometimes we have that moment when we are doing NOTHING. Life just stands still. A perfect opportunity to WRITE. Or...the perfect opportunity to stare at your ten month-old daughter as she picks up your cell phone then sets it down. Then picks up a rag and shakes it then sets it down. Then picks up your cell phone and places it on the rag. Then takes it off. Then picks up the rag and shakes it. Then picks up your cell phone and smiles.


The best thing I saw all day.

And finally, thank you Melissa Gill for awarding me the Cherry on Top award. I hope that means my blog is like an ice cream sundae (with no nuts). You should go meet Melissa is you haven't already because she has good questions for your characters and she's from Kansas City and she tallied 14 hours last week writing.

And absolutely, for sure finally-my friend, Heidi Willis and author of Some Kind of Normal, was accepted into an MFA program for writing! You should go tell her how cool she is in case she doesn't already know.

Now I'm off to work on my pitch for another stab at one of Shelli's agent pitch contests!

The end of my longest-post-ever.