Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Reader Thanks Day: What Are You Thankful For?

Apparently today is Reader Thanks Day. I've never heard of this before--in fact, I think it may have just been created--but I kind of love it already.

Reading means so many different things to so many people. Why not share what makes it special for you, what you love about it, who inspires you, and more?

So in the spirit of this new holiday, I'll go first and tell you a little about some of my own reader thanks:

I'm thankful for characters who I never expected to relate to, who teach me something about myself I never knew before.  
I'm thankful for libraries that let me take out ten books at a time each and every week of the summer when I was a kid, and to my mom for driving me there. 
I'm thankful for the pencil and paper that helped me escape into my own version of reality for a while as I was growing up.   
I'm thankful for books that make me laugh out loud and smile really, really wide, even when life is kicking my butt. 
I'm thankful for authors like Laurie Halse Anderson and Davida Wills Hurwin for being the first authors to show me that you can a difficult topic and make it accessible to a young audience. 
I'm thankful for first editions that take me back to the time and place they were written with the smell of their pages, design of their bindings, and beauty of their content. 
I'm thankful that books that challenge me, that make me feel, and make me--and everyone who lets them--dream big.

Now it's your turn. 

What are you thankful for? 

Share with us in a comment, and don't forget to use the hashtag #readerthanks when you share with the Twitterverse!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Sitting Down On Literature: UK Literacy Campaign to Launch Summer 2014

The UK's National Literary Trust has recently started working on their summer 2014 campaign to take place in London, "Books About Town." It's a program that not only celebrates the city itself but its literary and artistic heroes. But more than that, it's pretty darn cool. 

Passersby in the city will get to experience the magic of reading in the form of public benches. Yes, you read that right. Benches. The NLT website tells us more:

‘Books about Town’ will feature a series of BookBenches, individually designed by top international and local artists to celebrate stories linked to London, and to promote reading for enjoyment. The benches, shaped as open books, will be unveiled in various locations across the capital from next July 2014 and visitors will have the chance to discover them by following literary trails around London.    
Supported by Visit England, Books about Town will build on the legacy of the Olympic mascots in London in 2012 and become a major tourist attraction for the city in 2014.  The project will help raise valuable funds for the National Literacy Trust to tackle low literacy levels in deprived communities across the UK.   
The charity is inviting local and national businesses to be a part of this exciting new venture and sponsor a BookBench. Businesses can either choose a title from a Books about Town list of books linked to London from J.M Barrie’s Peter Pan to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or select their own title to be brought to life on a BookBench. A range of businesses have already signed up to sponsor a bench, including Global Business firm KPMG and publisher Walker Books, who will have their very own We’re Going on a Bear Hunt themed BookBench. 
Author Michael Rosen says: 
“I love the idea of sitting on giant books. With the Bear Hunt big BookBench, I suppose you can say that you can't go through it, but you can go over it, you can go under it or better still you can sit on it!” 
KPMG is sponsoring a Peter Pan themed BookBench. Partner Mona Bitar says:
“KPMG is delighted to be supporting the National Literacy Trust’s Books about Town project. The BookBenches programme is a great way to bring literacy to life across London and to raise awareness around the fantastic work of the National Literacy Trust, who are one of KPMG’s national charity partners. We are looking forward to seeing the initial designs for our bench very soon.” 
Wild in Art are collaborating on the project as the UK’s leading producer of public art sculpture trails. Sally-Ann Wilkinson, Wild in Art’s Director says:   
“Our events are designed to bring the enjoyment of public art to thousands of people whilst offering new ways to explore a host city or town.  We are delighted to be working with the National Literacy Trust on this dynamic project bringing many of our favourite books to life through the visual arts.” 
Jonathan Douglas, Director of the National Literacy Trust says:  
“We are delighted to be launching Books about Town to spread the love of reading across the capital. This is such an exciting opportunity for businesses to be a part of this unique literary attraction set to hit the streets of London next summer.” 
See the original post HERE

A very fun, unique project if you ask me! And from the looks of it, anyone can help sponsor a bench. The NLT encourages interested parties to contact Lorna Taylor at or visit for more info.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Is DIVERGENT Diverging Its Audience?

As I imagine most of you know, last Friday was opening day of the much-awaited film adaptation of Catching Fire, the second installment of the Hunger Games trilogy. I, of course, was at the front of the line with my friend Kelly that evening to see it. Not only was I stoked for the movie itself, but I also couldn't wait for the previews.

Why? Because I knew they'd show the recently released trailer for Divergent, the first film based on the trilogy of the same name by Veronica Roth.

I adored this series and have been excited for the film from the moment the first actor was cast, making it a sure thing for its production. For me, the preview incited extreme chair bouncing as well as gleeful squees.

But for Kelly, who hasn't read the series (yet!), she wasn't so thrilled. From the slightly confused look on her face I could tell that she didn't quite follow what was going on. And after watching it again when I got home, I could see exactly why: the trailer was relying on the book to snag its audience. It didn't give enough about the story for those peeps who haven't read the books, thus potentially alienating a good portion of its potential audience.

This is actually something I haven't come across in a while, but it does make me wonder how the film will tackle the book as a whole. I have no doubt that I will love the movie, but how will it build the complex and powerful faction-filled world for non-readers? My fingers are crossed that it doesn't follow in the trailers footsteps, as amazing as it is for those of us who have read the books.

Have you read Divergent? What do you think about the trailer? 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Guest Blogger, Patricia Eimer: The Power of Desperation and Dental Surgery

Today, we have a very special guest with us--paranormal romance, urban fantasy, and middle grade/young adult author Patricia Eimer! *applauds*

I've been lucky enough to work with Patty on numerous projects now and not only does she write funny and engaging novels but she is an idea machine. She always has a new project in her head (more like ten new projects!), and I am in awe. If I came up with ideas like she did, I'd be thrilled.

But for some of us, it's a little harder to get the creative juices flowing. Which is why Patty is here today, dear readers—to tell us her secrets. ;)

Take it away, Patty!

When I got together with Danielle about writing this blog she gave me a couple of ideas for things to write about. One of them is how I come up with ideas. My guess is you probably don’t know me and even if you did very few people know that I have hit what’s known in Labor Economics as Critical Labor Mass. What that means is—if I write 8 books a year (a pretty ambitious goal) I have enough ideas to write for the next 25 years as long as I never come up with another idea. If you don’t feel like doing the math, let’s go with that’s a lot of book ideas. And those are just the ones that make it through the monthly culling to keep the list at just that length.  
So how do I get my ideas? I could give you the obvious answers. I read. A lot. I watch a lot of television. I read news blogs and history novels. I carry a notebook with me everywhere. Which is a lot easier now that I have an iPhone with a notepad feature so that I can jot down the random thoughts that come into my head. I practice the Artist's Way and do morning pages every day and a lot of ideas start there. I have adult ADHD and since I don’t like medication I prefer to try holistic methods like meditation to settle my mind-- and for me meditation is miles and miles of walking, running or swimming. All these things are great ways to generate an idea. Or the basics of an idea.  
But how do you take things from “hmm I could maybe write a novel about monkeys in space” to “I have outlined a 45-chapter novel that explores the theme of hopelessness and the solitude of man in a romance novel that involves space zookeepers who are fighting to prevent their space monkeys from starting a revolution and subjugating the human race while falling in love”? I have two methods that have worked for me. I recommend the first wholeheartedly and tell you to consider the second as a last case option. For when you’re really, really truly in desperate need of a plot pronto.  
The first method I’ve used for my Speak of the Devil series—Luck of the Devil (Aug. 2011), Devil May Care (Feb, 2013), Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (Feb. 2014)—my short steampunk novella ("Clockwork Bride" in the A Riveting Affair anthology), and several other novels. It’s simple. I call it the "Walmart Laps of Desperation." My favorite time to do it? 2 a.m. Grab a cart, walk the perimeter of Walmart, mutter to yourself. Talk into a tape recorder. Just keep walking. Go in your pajamas if you want. No one at Walmart cares if you look insane at 2 a.m. That’s normal for them. As long as you don’t hurt anyone the Walmart people will think you’re harmless and go back to their own demons while you hash yours out on your own. 
If that doesn’t work there’s always the second—more extreme—inspiration tactic. This one is the one I used for my new YA series The Chronicles of NerissetteEverlast (Aug. 2013), Evanescent (Sept. 2013), and Infinity (Nov. 2013). Dental surgery. No, seriously.
About a month before I pitched the idea of the Chronicles of Nerissette to my editors at Entangled Teen I was in a car accident and ended up eating a steering wheel. The result? Major dental surgery. Four hours under anesthesia. I had to be carried to the car afterwards. They gave me enough pain pills to fell a herd of elephants. And I’m the type of person that doesn’t take a Tylenol until I’m in the middle of a migraine because I’m such a lightweight. 
I’m not advocating drug use, but if you’re forced to have your mouth completely reworked—keep a notebook and pen by the bed and a voice recorder charged. Once your head clears you may find yourself with five chapters written and an entire trilogy plotted out involving dragons, fairies, and people falling through books. Sure, you’re going to have to edit—heavily—because things that sounded great during the surgery (pink dragons with sparkly wings) are going to sound insane later but some of the stuff might end up being workable. After all I’ve gotten three books out of it. 
So long blog post short: keep a notebook with you all the time (even when you’re asleep). Read. Watch television. Do long repetitive tasks (walking, swimming, cleaning toilets all work). Journal.  Pace the Walmart at 2 a.m. Jot down every single random idea that comes into your head. And if all else fails I’m sure you’ve been avoiding your routine dental appointments. Go on in and book yourself a cleaning. Then zone out and try to ignore the sound of the drill while you plot yourself a new series.  
About the blogger: Patricia Eimer is a small-town girl fated to be a storyteller. After a stint of "thinking practically," she earned degrees in Business and Economics, but her passion has always been a good book. She lives in Pittsburgh with her two kids and a husband who learned the art of frozen pizza to give her more time to write. When she’s not writing she can be found fencing or arguing with her dogs about plot points. Most days the beagle wins, but the dalmatian is a close second. She’s a distant third. 
Follow her on Twitter: @PatriciaEimer

The first novel in Patty's MG/YA fantasy series, Everlast, which she writes under the name Andria Buchanan, released just last week. 

Don't miss it!

Allie Munroe has only ever wanted to belong, maybe even be well liked. But even though she’s nice and smart and has a couple of friends, she’s still pretty much the invisible girl at school. So when the chance to work with her friends and some of the popular kids on an English project comes up, Allie jumps at the chance to be noticed.

And her plan would have worked out just fine…if they hadn’t been sucked into a magical realm through a dusty old book of fairy tales in the middle of the library.

Now, Allie and her classmates are stuck in Nerissette, a world where karma rules and your social status is determined by what you deserve. Which makes a misfit like Allie the Crown Princess, and her archrival the scullery maid. And the only way out is for Allie to rally and lead the people of Nerissette against the evil forces that threaten their very existence.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A TWO OF A KIND Q&A With Yona Zeldis McDonough

When I first read the work of Yona Zeldis McDonough, I had a feeling I'd found something special. It was smart, touching, and something to remember. And when I met the writer herself, I knew it all to be true. Now, three publications later, I have the honor of chatting with Yona about her process, her inspiration, and her upcoming women's fiction release, Two of a Kind, which publishes September 3 form NAL Trade.

Ten years after losing her husband, Christina Connelly has worked through the pain, focusing on raising her teenage daughter and managing her small decorating business. But her romantic life has never recovered. Still, it’s irksome to be set up with arrogant, if handsome, doctor Andy Stern at her friend’s wedding. If he wasn’t also a potential client, needing his Upper East Side apartment redesigned, she would write him off.
This is never going to work, Andy thinks. Still grieving his wife and struggling with a troubled son, he’s not looking for a woman, and certainly not someone as frosty and reserved as Christina. Their relationship will be strictly business. Yet to everyone’s surprise—including their own—these two find themselves falling in love. 
But if reconciling with their pasts is difficult, blending their lives and children to create a new family is nearly impossible. They’ve been given a second chance…but can they overcome all the obstacles in the way of happily ever after?
Danielle: Thanks so much for joining us today, Yona! As Two of a Kind proves, love often surprises us at the most unlikely of times. And so do story ideas. How did you come up with this one? 

Yona: I work not from an idea but from a voice that is whispering, quite urgently at times, in my ear. It says, “Pay attention to what I’m going to tell you. It’s important and you need to get it down right.” The first voice I heard in Two of a Kind was that of Andy Stern—kind of brash, kind of obnoxious, but basically a good and decent.

Danielle: You have some really intriguing and incredible accessible/relatable characters in this book. How did you piece them together? Are any of them based on real-life people or circumstances?

Yona: I’m like a blue jay when I am creating my characters: I steal a little from this person, and a little from that one, so they are composites rather than true portraits. I try to find the good in them because it’s no fun living with a character you don’t like for as long as it takes to write them. And also, I never want to disdain or feel superior to my characters so I need to tap into what’s good in them and find their humanity.

Danielle: TWO OF A KIND is such a different story and style from your 2009 novel BREAKING THE BANK—a true, unlikely romance versus a story about a woman doing all she can to take care of her daughter. How was your creative process for the two projects different?

Yona: Although the two stories are quite different, the process of working on the books was pretty much the same.  I wait to hear “the voice” and I listen as hard as I can to that. What was different about Two of a Kind was that there was more than one voice; sometimes a character’s life leads me in other directions and I start wondering about what the other people in his or her life are like and I start hearing their voices too. When the writing is going well, I feel less like a creator and more like a conduit.

Danielle: It’s been said that your novels are perfect for book clubs. Why do you think that is? What do you think is your best “book-club book” and what topic of discussion would you suggest to readers of that book?

Yona: If my books are congenial to book club groups, I am delighted. I am so heartened by the fact that people care enough to form book clubs, that reading books and talking about them are still priorities.  I think book clubs probably like my books because I write about the issues women care deeply about: family, children, and relationships. I don’t consider these topics “less than” and actually kind of resent the fact that when women focus on domestic subjects they are considered less serious or of lesser importance while when men tackle such subjects, they are heroes.

Danielle: You have worked with a number of different publishers on your novellas, from Random House to Simon and Schuster to Penguin Books. How has your experience been different at the different houses? Were they all very different in terms of standards, procedures, etc.?  

Yona: I have been very fortunate in my experiences with different publishers; I loved working with Abby Zidle at Simon & Schuster (and with you too!), with Deb Futter at Doubleday, and with Tracy Bernstein at New American Library. While there are always personality differences in editors and other members of the various teams, I have found a high level of intelligence and dedication across the board.  And let me say I have been especially fortunate with covers—Breaking the Bank had a great one, as do A Wedding in Great Neck and Two of a Kind.

Danielle: You also write non-fiction biographies of a sort, first one of the famed Barbie doll, then one of Marilyn Monroe. What draws you to writing about such figures? How does your process of writing fiction and non-fiction vary?

Yona: Barbie and Marilyn Monroe were not bios per se, but collections of essays that I collected and edited. Both were such fun projects! I had written a piece about Barbie (a favorite of mine since childhood—loved her then and love her now!) that appeared in the New York Times Magazine some years back and the idea grew into a book. Marilyn followed Barbie: the publisher was happy with how The Barbie Chronicles had worked out and asked if I could come up with another pop culture figure. I’d long been interested in Monroe, so she seemed like a good choice.

Danielle: To top it all off, you even have an award-winning children’s book in The Doll Shop Downstairs. Tell us a little about that experience.  

Yona: I love writing children’s books, especially fiction, because I feel like I am writing for the nine-year-old girl who still is alive and well inside of me. The two Doll Shop books grew out of my love for dolls (which has not abated in adulthood; I collect dolls and own more than any grown woman should admit to) and my desire to write a book (or more; I have several doll-themed titles) that featured dolls very prominently. In the first book, The Doll Shop Downstairs, I loosely based the story on the early life of Madame Alexander, the world-famous doll maker whose dolls I coveted as a child—and never owned.

Danielle: With all these genres under your belt, which one do you find the most fun? Why?  

Yona: There is no genre that I favor above the others; it’s more a matter of finding the right form or vehicle for a particular story. Some cry out to be fictionalized while others beg for a non-fictional treatment. I can’t say how I know which is which but I just do.

Danielle: Are there any authors would you say are writing inspirations for you as you endeavor through so many different styles of writing? Who and why?  

Yona: I’d have to say that inspiration for me is specific and not general. By that I mean that particular books have been important and influential in the writing of particular novels.  In the case of A Wedding in Great Neck, I was very intrigued with the idea of writing a novel that unfolded in a single day and both Ian McEwan’s Saturday and Helen Schulman’s A Day at the Beach were very much on my mind as I wrote because both use this format, albeit with very different intentions and results. With Two of a Kind, I was inspired by Carol Shields’s The Republic of Love because of the way it charts the developing relationship between the two central characters.

Danielle: What’s up next for you project-wise?  

Yona: I just sold a new manuscript to New American Library (they published A Wedding in Great Neck and Two of a Kind). It’s called You Were Meant for Me, and it begins when a thirty-ish single woman finds a baby on a subway platform. It will be out next year, and I’m very excited about it. I’ve also got a children’s bio on Laura Ingalls Wilder coming out soon from Henry Holt, and I’m looking forward to that one, too.

Danielle: Very exciting! Congratulations on all of your upcoming releases, Yona, and thank you again for stopping by!

Don't forget to pre-order your copy of Two of a Kind now! Currently available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Teeny-Tiny Library of Awesomeness

Last month while I was in the UK, my boyfriend David and I took a little visit to Windsor Castle. While I thoroughly enjoyed the day--watching some jousting and falconry, visiting the State apartments, seeing the beautiful blue silk wall papering in the dressing room, and Marie Antoinette's personal clock, there was one thing I wish I had gotten to take a closer look at: Queen Mary's amazing dollhouse.

I just hadn't known of that desire at the time... But this morning, I woke up to a link from David, telling me all about the doll house and its extraordinary construction:

Among the highlights of a visit to Windsor is Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, the largest, most beautiful and most famous dolls’ house in the world. Built for Queen Mary by the leading British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens between 1921 and 1924, this most magical of residences is a perfect replica in miniature of an aristocratic home.  
The house is filled with thousands of objects made by leading artists, designers and craftsmen, nearly all on the tiny scale of 1:12.  From life below stairs to the high-society setting of the saloon and dining room, no detail was forgotten. Among the most striking features of Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House are the library, bursting with original works by the top literary names of the day, a fully stocked wine cellar and a garden created by Gertrude Jekyll. The Dolls’ House even includes electricity, running hot and cold water, working lifts and flushing lavatories. 
In the adjoining display two remarkable French dolls, France and Marianne, are shown with part of their extensive wardrobe of clothes and accessories. They were presented to King George VI and Queen Elizabeth for their daughters, the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose, by the French Government during the 1938 State Visit to France. The dolls’ clothes and accessories were designed and made by the leading Parisian fashion houses, including Worth, Lanvin, Cartier, Hermès and Vuitton. 
See the original post HERE

What I'd like to draw your attention to today is THE LIBRARY. Yes, it gets both caps and italics--it's that awesome.

Located on the second floor of the four-story masterpiece, the library has more teeny tiny books that I've ever seen. Over two hundred, in fact! Upon its shelves are real, original, handwritten books custom-authored by authors such as Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling, W. Somerset Maugham, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

There are even hand-illustrated books among the collection, one of which was even reproduced to a full-size, readable version for sale in April 2012, according to The Daily Mail:
A tiny children's book created for a royal doll's house is to be published in human scale. 
With pages scarcely bigger than a postage stamp and intricate drawings by a celebrated cartoonist, the miniature volume is a prized object in the Royal Collection.
But from next month youngsters everywhere will have the chance to read the story about a fairy called Joe Smith and his adventures when he falls out of fairyland and lands in London. 
The hand-written book measures just 1.6in by 1.4in and is one of 200 volumes in the miniature library of the dolls' house created for Queen Mary, consort of King George V, in 1922.  
See the original post  HERE

Bloggess Madame Guillotine gives a little more detail of the room:

This was Princess Marie Louise’s personal project when the house was being put together and she took great pleasure in commissioning books and art work from well known contemporary artists and writers for the room. There are three hundred tiny books in the library, all specially made and bound for the room and including a Koran, the complete works of Shakespeare, a dictionary and three Bibles as well as works by Sir James Barrie, Thomas Hardy, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (who contributed a Sherlock Holmes short story), Rudyard Kipling, Hilaire Belloc, Siegfried Sassoon, M.R. James and H. Rider Haggard. In fact the only writer to refuse and ‘in a very rude manner’ to contribute his work was George Bernard Shaw. What a misery guts. 
The library also contains seven hundred tiny paintings by well known artists of the period, many of whom were members of the Royal Academy such as Dame Laura Knight, Sir William Nicholson, Munnings and Sir William Russell Flint, their works being stored in small folios in special cabinets. There are also musical scores by well known contemporary composers such as Gustav Holst with Elgar being the most notable exception – like Bernard Shaw he sent the committee a very rudely worded refusal to participate, claiming that the royal couple were ‘incapable of appreciating anything artistic’. 
Read the entire post HERE (It's great, btw!)

One word: WOW.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

More YA Coming to the Silver Screen

Hollywood is really hitting the nail on the head right now with adapting some of my favorite recent YA novels. The next "Hunger Games" flick, Catching Fire, comes out in a few months, Divergent is releasing in 2014, then there's The Fault in Our Stars after that.

But sneaking into the mix now is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. While not as recent as the others I just mentioned, it's still one of my faves. How I didn't know this was in the works is mystifying. Especially since it's releasing in November 15 of this year!

Twentieth Century Fox, the film's production company, has just released the trailer, too. And I've got to say, it looks brilliant. With director Brian Percival at the helm and a cast including Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson, I'm going to definitely be hitting this one up in the theater. The young Sophie Nélisse seems like she's got the role of Liesel down pat, as well. The trailer, in fact, gave me chills.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Kickstarting a New Adventure

When I was a kid, I used to love reading the Choose Your Own Adventure series. It was such a great way for a budding writer and editor to learn about storytelling, story structure, and more, all while having a blast. The interactive element of the series made reading a fun and different experience for someone like me who devoured "normal books" left and right. It was all the rage...

But now, in 2013, my little sisters have never even heard of Choose Your Own Adventure. And it makes me kind of want to cry.

I'm not the only one, it seems, who wants this concept back in front of the childlike eyes of this new generation. According to GalleyCat, CYOA's publisher, Chooseco, is launching a Kickstarter campaign to try their hand at a new endeavor--Choose Toons:

Chooseco, the official publisher of Choose Your Own Adventure books, hopes to raise $130,000 on Kickstarter to finance a new cartoon app. 
CEO R.A. Montgomery and publisher Shannon Gilligan launched the campaign for “Choose Toons,” a project that would adapt Choose Your Own Adventure books for 5 to 7 year old readers in a new format. Here’s more about the project: 
Our first episode is based on the title Your Very Own Robot, where YOU put together a robot named Gus out of discarded parts from your parents’ robot lab. Gus gets you into a lot of trouble. This first episode has 20 story branches with11 possible endings, with more than 30 minutes total of animation … $130,000 will fully fund one 32-minute app in what we plan to eventually develop into a series of cartoons. This amount funds the animation, voice acting, and programming of the choice points within the app. The script is already complete. We developed the demo seen in our video ourselves and our Vermont-based team has experience writing scripts, working on film projects, and developing software. 
See the original post HERE

Chooseco also released a video about the project:

If you like what they're doing, head on over to their Kickstarter page and pledge a little something to get Choose Toons up and running. The campaign ends September 12, 2013.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Friday Fun with Ice Cream Flavors

Apparently July is National Ice Cream month. This was news to me, though I wish it hadn't been (I would've spent my month celebrating with some chocolate chip cookie dough.) But now that I know, we're going to travel a little ways back in time to a post by Quirk Books, featuring Ben-&-Jerry's-inspired literary ice cream flavors. Whee!

It's National Ice Cream Month! It's also July, and it's also very, very hot. And while we love all the regular kinds of ice cream just fine (you can pry Chubby Hubby from our still-warm, heatstroke-dead hands), we wondered what would happen if worlds collided and books became ice cream (not literally, though, because that would be gross). Get your hybrid freezer/bookshelves ready, because here are six tasty samples! 

Berry Potter and the Container of Secrets: Muggles rejoice!  Inside this container you'll find a magical blend of butter beer, Bertie Bott's Strawberry Flavour Beans and chocolate frogs.  No need to employ the Dark Arts.

A Clockwork Orange Creamsicle: A concoction made with milk-plus direct from Korova so disturbingly delicious you won't have to force it down!

Oliver Twist: Indulge in this mix of rich dark chocolate and simple vanilla flavors with a smattering of English Toffee.  Eat sparingly, for a combination like this begs you to ask "Please, sir, I want some more."

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish 
Make a wish, look inside your dish
Inside your dish, there's candy fish
Candy fish in chocolatey goo
inside the goo are marshmallows too
All this combines for the perfect snacks
The perfect snacks to share with a Zax

War and Peach: An ambitious, sweeping, and impeccably detailed frozen treat of truly epic proportions, with so many ingredients that you'll forget most of them existed by the time you're halfway through your cone. Not easy to get through without a headache, but if you make it, you can brag about finishing it for the rest of your life.

Whirled War Z: Nothing is off-limits during the impending zombie apocalypse. Gummy worms crawl through a swirl of vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice cream.  Beware of the random splattering of cherries.  You'll want to stockpile these rations when the uprising occurs.

See the original post (and fun comments!) HERE

This is so much fun. Way to go Quirk Books--I wish I could try all of these flavors! I would also do a little add-on myself: Love in the Time of Chocolate. Just imagine all the chocolatey goodness that could hold!

What would YOUR favorite literary flavor be?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

HUNGER GAMES Summer Camp? Yep. It's Real.

When I first read The Hunger Games, I have to admit I was as disturbed by the concept as I was intrigued. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of the series and Suzanne Collins's writing, and I do believe that her themes, while disturbing, are important commentary (and a cautionary tale) on today's society and its values.

As such, I was able to overlook the shivers the idea shot up my spine, though I did still carry some concern regarding how the books' young adult audience would take the lessons. And it seems there was some reason behind those shivers. According to the Huffington Post, there is now a Hunger Games themed camp open for children:

Ever dream of becoming Katniss Everdeen? Well, now you have a chance to be just like her in real life. Sort of. 
According to the Tampa Bay Times, kids at a "Hunger Games" camp in Logo, Fla., can now channel their inner tributes by participating in athletic and intellectual activities inspired by the hugely popular series.
[Watch the video news report HERE]
The camp, however, has raised concerns, as children were reportedly describing how they would "kill" and "stab" each other. Susan Toler, a clinical psychologist, called the camp "unthinkable," while Julie Miller of Vanity Fair described it as "disturbing."
After noting that the "violence the kids had expressed was off-putting," the camp announced a change to the rules: Instead of "killing" each other, campers would "collect" lives. Still, during a recent tournament, one crying 11-year-old claimed that he was kicked and "stepped on." 
"I’m not entirely sure that isn’t normal kid behavior," writes Rebecca Pahle at The Mary Sue. "All I really know about kids is that they’re little humans and that I used to be one. I never pushed anyone to the ground and stepped on them... " 
See the original post HERE
Over at The Mary Sue, Pahle also shared some exchanges between children at the camp:
“I don’t want to kill you,” [Rylee Miller, 12] told Julianna Pettey. Julianna, also 12, looked her in the eye. “I will probably kill you first,” she said. She put her hands on Rylee’s shoulders. “I might stab you.”
This story was also retold in Pahle's post:
Alyssa Stewart, 12; Alexis Quesada, 13; and Julianna formed an alliance. After nabbing a few flags, they paused in a safe zone, a green picnic bench under a tree, to get a drink in the shade. 
There, the girls added Andrés Kates, 11, to the alliance. But the second he left the safe zone, they grabbed his flag. “Hey!” he yelled, stumbling backward. 
The girls ran off, first across the basketball court, then through the grass, between buildings, by the water fountain, past the body lying on the ground . . . 
The body lying on the ground. CJ Hatzilias, 11, face-down, in the grass. He was crying. “They stepped on me,” he said. 
Someone went for help. “CJ, what happened?” Gillette asked. 
“They stepped on me,” he said. 
D’Alessio knelt down. “I’m sure it was an accident.” 
CJ shook his head. He said some boys had knocked him down and kicked him.D’Alessio got him up, wrapped an arm around him, walked him over to the camp offices.
I don't know about you all, but I shudder at the thought. I'd love to know what the owners of such a camp were thinking when they came up with this idea (if anything other than dollar signs). I'd also love to know Collins's opinion of the scenario. 
While the camp has been revamped to focus more on "gaining lives" than "killing" after all the backlash from parents and the media, the fact that it even began as modeled off the violent side of the book initially is beyond mind boggling. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Literary Quotes on Notes

As I watched the news here in jolly ole England this morning, I learned that the Bank of England has decided to honor a new famous figure on the 10-pound note. I had been expecting them to say "new royal baby, Prince George!" given the news of the week, but to my surprise, a literary legend was named instead: Jane Austen.

According to the Guardian UK, Austen will replace Charles Darwin on notes starting in 2017. The note will also feature a quote from Pride and Prejudice: "I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!"

The Guardian tells us more:

Photograph: Bank of England. VIA
Jane Austen has been confirmed as the next face of the £10 note in a victory for campaigners demanding female representation – aside from the Queen – on the country's cash. 
Sir Mervyn King, the Bank's former governor, had let slip to MPs that the author of Pride and Prejudice was "waiting in the wings" as a potential candidate to feature on a banknote, and his successor, Mark Carney, confirmed on Wednesday that she would feature, probably from 2017. 
"Jane Austen certainly merits a place in the select group of historical figures to appear on our banknotes. Her novels have an enduring and universal appeal and she is recognised as one of the greatest writers in English literature," the new governor said. 
He also announced that the Bank would carry out a review of the process for selecting the historical figures who appear on banknotes, to ensure that a diverse range of figures is represented. 
"We believe that our notes should celebrate the full diversity of great British historical figures and their contributions in a wide range of fields. The Bank is committed to that objective, and we want people to have confidence in our commitment to diversity. That is why I am today announcing a review of the selection process for future banknote characters," Carney said. The review will be overseen by the chief cashier Chris Salmon, whose signature appears on banknotes. 
Carney's announcement was aimed at quelling a three-month storm of protest unleashed when King announced that the only woman to appear on an English banknote other than the Queen – the prison reformer Elizabeth Fry – would be replaced by Winston Churchill, probably in 2016. She and Florence Nightingale are the only two women, other than the Queen, to have appeared on English banknotes since they started portraying historical figures in 1970. 
Campaigners threatened to take the Bank to court for discrimination under the 2010 Equality Act and launched a petition on the campaign site which secured more than 35,000 signatures. 
Caroline Criado-Perez, co-founder of feminist blog the Women's Room, who led the campaign, and was called in to discuss the issue with Salmon, said the Bank's announcement marked a "brilliant day for women". 
"Without this campaign, without the 35,000 people who signed our petition, the Bank of England would have unthinkingly airbrushed women out of history. We warmly welcome this move from the Bank and thank them for listening to us and taking such positive and emphatic steps to address our concerns," she said. 
"To hear Jane Austen confirmed is fantastic, but to hear the process will be comprehensively reviewed is even better." 
Campaigners said that the £13,000 raised to challenge the Bank's banknote decision in court would now go to women's charities, including Rape Crisis. 
Austen will take her place on the £10 note in 2017, the bicentenary of her death, replacing the 19th-century naturalist Charles Darwin, who has been on the notes since late 2000.
Criado-Perez conceded Austen was not top of her wish-list as the next woman on a bank note but that she was a particularly apt choice given the context. "She was an incredibly intelligent woman. She spent her time poking fun at the establishment. All her books are about how women are trapped and misrepresented. It is really sad that she was saying that 200 years ago and I am still having to say that today," the campaigner said. 
Stella Creasy MP, who helped organise a letter from 46 Labour MPs to David Cameron in support of the campaign, said: "Britain has many women in its history of whom we should be proud, and today's decision is part of creating a culture of expectation that there will be many more in our future too." 
Under the current process, members of the public put forward suggestions on who should appear on banknotes, although the Bank only considers figures who have made an "indisputable contribution to their particular field of work". It takes into account the list of public suggestions, but the governor of the Bank has the final decision. 
As well as a portrait of Austen, the new note will include images of her writing desk and quills at Chawton Cottage, in Hampshire, where she lived; her brother's home, Godmersham Park, which she visited often, and is thought to have inspired some of her novels, and a quote from Miss Bingley, in Pride and Prejudice: "I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!" 
See the original post HERE

I've gotta say...this is kinda awesome.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Pseudonyms: J.K. Rowling style

Oh, pseudonyms. Sometimes I don't understand why people use them, and other times, I do. Sometimes it's about a day job versus writing career, other times a difficult to pronounce/remember name. Then there are those times where writers just want one (that's what I'll never understand LOL).

But, I think, the trickiest time to figure out the most beneficial move when it comes to a pseudonym is when an already established author wants to write in a completely different genre. Do you use a pen name so that your audience doesn't get confused, or so people who might not read your other genre will still pick up your new book? Or do you say to hell with it and try to use your clout and name recognition to pull in readers?

For example, J.K. Rowling.

This morning, news broke that the Harry Potter author has published a crime novel under a different name (even a different gender, might I add). When the info came to light, her sales increased by 1000 percent.

BCC News tells us more:

The Harry Potter novelist published the book - The Cuckoo's Calling - as Robert Galbraith. 
The book had sold less than 500 copies before the secret emerged in the Sunday Times, according to Nielsen BookScan's figures. 
Within hours, it rose more than 5,000 places to top Amazon's sales list. 
The digital version is now also at number one in the iTunes book chart. 
The book was published by Sphere, part of Little, Brown Book Group which published Rowling's first foray into writing novels for adults, The Casual Vacancy. 
Little, Brown's David Shelley confirmed to The Bookseller the publisher had ordered an "immediate reprint" with the number not yet confirmed. 
Rowling said she had "hoped to keep this secret a little longer". 
The author described "being Robert Galbraith" as "such a liberating experience". 
A spokesman for bookseller Waterstones said: "This is the best act of literary deception since Stephen King was outed as Richard Bachman back in the 1980s." 
One reviewer described The Cuckoo's Calling as a "scintillating debut", while another praised the male author's ability to describe women's clothes. 
Crime writer Peter James told the Sunday Times: "I thought it was by a very mature writer, and not a first-timer." 
Fellow crime author Mark Billingham, who reviewed the book ahead of its publication in April, said he was "gobsmacked" at the revelation. 
The fictitious Galbraith was supposed to have been a former plain-clothes Royal Military Police investigator who had left the armed forces in 2003 to work in the civilian security industry. 
However a clue that Rowling was behind the novel was that she and Galbraith shared an agent and editor. 
In previous interviews, Rowling has said she would prefer to write novels after Harry Potter under a pseudonym. 
Another Cormoran Strike book by Robert Galbraith is in the pipeline, to be published next year. 
See the original post HERE

While I'll agree it's a surprise that Robert Galbraith is, in fact, J.K. Rowling, I think the reaction people are having is a little overboard. Why would anyone assume a creative of any kind can only thrive in one specific format or style? Just because someone is a painter, doesn't mean they can't sculpt. It doesn't mean they can, of course, but no one would simply assume they can't. Personally, I am thrilled for Rowling and applaud her reaching outside the media's perceived comfort zone to write something she really just wanted to write.

But the news leak does beg the publicity question--was writing under a pen name really the best move for the book itself? Rowling had already breached the gap between children's lit and adult fiction with Casual Vacancy, so why the need to be so secretive all of a sudden? Some might speculate that the intention may have been to create a publicity stunt in the first place with an intentional pseudonym leak. Or maybe she really did just want to see how her book would do on its own merit, without any preconceived notions.

I guess we may never know.

What do YOU think?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A Silly Mid-Week Writing Lesson ALA Disney

Leave it to Buzzfeed to take everything I studied about literature for so many years of my life and compare it to Disney films. LOL Love it.

Ahh if only everything in life could have a Disney-related glossary....

1. Theme
Definition: A common thread or repeated idea that is incorporated throughout a literary work.
Example: “True love conquers all” is the main theme of Sleeping Beauty.

2. Symbolism

Definition: An object, character, figure, or color that is used to represent an abstract idea or concept.
Example: Dumbo’s “magic” feather represents courage and self-confidence. Once he truly believes in himself, he no longer needs it as a psychological crutch.
Source: Disney  /  via:

3. Dramatic Irony

Dramatic Irony
Definition: Irony that occurs when the meaning of the situation is understood by the audience but not by the characters in the literary work.
Example: Throughout most of The Lion King, Simba mopes around feeling guilty for his father’s death, unaware (as the audience is) that Scar actually killed Mufasa.
Source: Disney  /  via:

4. Archetype

Definition: A constantly recurring symbol or motif in literature, painting, or mythology.
Example: Alice must pass a series of tests as she makes her way through Wonderland. This kind of journey is a common archetype in Western literature and is best epitomized by Homer’s The Odyssey.
Source: Disney  /  via:

5. Foil

Definition: A character who illuminates the qualities of another character by means of contrast.
Example: Gaston’s combination of good looks and terrible personality emphasizes Beast’s tragic situation. The former is a monster trapped inside a man; the latter a man trapped inside a monster.
Source: Disney  /  via:

6. Allusion

Definition: A brief reference in a literary work to a person, place, thing, or passage in another literary work, usually for the purpose of associating the tone or theme of the one work with the other.
Example: In The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the gargoyle Laverne tells a flock of pigeons to “Fly my pretties! Fly, Fly!” à la the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz.
Source: Disney  /  via:

7. Foreshadowing

Definition: A warning or indication of a future event.
Example: Before she’s fatally shot by a hunter (and millions of childhoods are scarred), Bambi’s mother gives Bambi a stern lecture on the dangers of man.

8. Mood

Definition: The atmosphere that pervades a literary work with the intention of evoking a certain emotion or feeling from the audience.
Example: Fantasia frequently uses music and setting to drastically shift the mood from light and playful to dark and foreboding.
Source: Disney  /  via:

9. Breaking the Fourth Wall

Breaking the Fourth Wall
Definition: Speaking directly to or acknowledging the audience. The “fourth wall” refers to the imaginary “wall” at the front of the stage in a traditional three-walled box set in a proscenium theater.
Example: Timon acknowledges the audience when he cuts off Pumbaa midsong: “Pumbaa, not in front of the kids!”

10. Exposition

Definition: The portion of a story that introduces important background information to the audience — for example, information about the setting, events occurring before the main plot, characters’ backstories, etc.
Example: At the beginning of Robin Hood, the rooster Alan-a-Dale describes how Robin Hood has been robbing from the rich to give to Nottingham’s poor.
Source: Disney  /  via:

11. Conflict

Definition: An inherent incompatibility between the objectives of two or more characters or forces.
Example: When Shere Khan the man-eating tiger returns to the jungle, Mowgli must flee to the safety of human civilization.
Source: Disney  /  via:

12. Climax

Definition: The turning point in the action (also known as the “crisis”) and/or the highest point of interest or excitement.
Example: Pinocchio is transformed into a donkey and sold into labor before he saves Geppetto and proves himself worthy of being a real boy.
Source: Disney  /  via:

13. Anagnorisis

Definition: The recognition or discovery by the protagonist of the identity of some character or the nature of his own predicament, which leads to the resolution of the plot.
Example: Arthur, thinking he’s just a lowly squire, has no idea he’s the rightful heir to the throne until he pulls the sword from the stone.
Source: Disney  /  via:

14. Poetic Justice

Poetic Justice
Definition: A device in which virtue is ultimately rewarded or vice punished, often by an ironic twist of fate intimately related to the character’s own conduct.
Example: Jafar is so power hungry he fails to realize that becoming a genie will cost him his freedom.
Source: Disney  /  via:

15. Deus Ex Machina

Deus Ex Machina
Definition: An unexpected power or event saving a hopeless situation, especially as a plot device in a play or novel, from the Latin “a god from a machine.”
Example: In Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the Evil Queen is about to kill the dwarfs when a bolt of lightning comes out of nowhere, knocking her off the mountain to her death.
Source: Disney  /  via:

16. Denouement

Definition: The final part of a play, movie, or narrative in which the strands of the plot are drawn together and matters are resolved.
Example: At the end of The Little Mermaid, Ursula is killed, King Triton turns Ariel into a human, and Ariel marries Prince Eric. Then Sebastian sings over the closing credits. WIN.
See the original post HERE