October 30, 2009

Local Authors

Local Authors with Jennifer Ziegler, Varian Johnson, Shana Burg, and April Lurie

Perhaps the most interesting conversation in the Local Authors panel was that of appropriate content for young adult fiction, particularly that which will be read by middle graders and young adults. Varian Johnson believes it's important to avoid gratuity and only include what is true to the characters and the story. He found MY LIFE OF A RHOMBUS difficult to write, particularly because it involved pregnancy and abortion, dilemmas he will never face. He wanted to do it right, which I can respect.

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With SAVING MADDIE, he's writing about a Christian boy both wanting to save a girl and lusting after her. Sex and religion can also be controversial, but he maintains that the way to do it well is to be true to the character.

The other authors agreed. But even remaining true to the characters, there might be some changes made. Shana Burg's historical A THOUSAND NEVER EVERS originally included a single use of the n-word.

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However, her editor knew middle graders would read the book as well and asked her to remove it. Now the book is on the Lone Star list, which might not have happened due to a single perjorative. Likewise, April Lurie removed a single cuss word from BROTHERS, BOYFRIENDS, AND OTHER CRIMINAL MINDS in order for it to be sold through Scholastic. The authors don't do this lightly.

Jennifer Ziegler's HOW NOT TO BE POPULAR is also on the Lone Star list.

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Her other published novel, ALPHA DOG, is also clean. So when she turned in an outline to her editor with a questionable scene, the editor asked her if she could change the scene while being true to the story, since there is a need in the YA market for clean books. Jennifer says she likes the new way the scene occurs better, but she would have kept, and fought for, the original if she thought it necessary to the story. Being honest to the characters always wins out.

April Lurie also had to be careful when writing the soon to be published THE LESS DEAD. It's about someone killing homosexual adopted boys, and the protagonist blaming his father for preaching hate. That's definitely something that could upset people, and April knew it wouldn't even be for her own parents. Still, she tried to do her best to tell the story she wanted to tell. Sometimes you can't avoid people being offended. She did have an odd situation with someone saying online that she should be killed for writing THE LATENT POWERS OF DYLAN FONTAINE.

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Apparently this blogger thought she had plagiarized two of his favorite novels. April did respond classily: she told him she had never read the novels, but one his recommendation she would. She then followed up after she had finished the two books.

The authors also answered my question is this panel, which was what it was like to be a part of the Austin area YA writing community. They all answered that it was wonderful. Apparently none of them knew Austin was a children's writing mecca until they came here. (Shana was from Boston; April was from Brooklyn.) I know I like it, since it means events like this happen! I hope ya'll enjoyed the write-ups, and that they gave you a little taste of the Austin Teen Book Festival. Unfortunately, I was using a telephoto lens so Jennifer is cut out of this photo of the panel laughing.

October 29, 2009

Review: After

By Amy Efaw
Released by Penguin (Viking Juvenile)
Review copy provided by publisher

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Varian Johnson's comments about his own book, THE LIFE OF A RHOMBUS, reminded me that I'd never reviewed AFTER, another tale of teen pregnancy. AFTER begins at a unique point in the story: as the title implies, it begins after the pregnancy is finished. Athletic, intelligent Devon just left her baby in a dumpster. Now she's quietly bleeding to death on her couch and the police are knocking. What follows is her trial - not whether she's guilty or not, but whether she's tried as an adult.

AFTER will definitely make you think. Amy Efaw doesn't address the more common topic of abortion, but rather other problems that might face teen (or otherwise disadvantaged) pregnant women. Specifically denial of pregnancy. Google it. At least if someone acknowledges their pregnancy, they can go somewhere like Planned Parenthood and learn their options. (Yes, Planned Parenthood does quite a bit for women. It is not a place that simply counsels abortion and that's it.) But women in denial can't prepare in any way. Even if they don't kill the kid, they won't have taken pre-natal vitamins, prepared shelter and food, or anything. And there's almost no support for these women.

But while AFTER gets me thinking, it left me a little cold. In the end, I enjoyed the book more since I didn't believe Devon. But while reading I felt rather mad at her, since I believed she knew she was pregnant. Whether I believed her or not, AFTER did read quickly. It just tended to make me angry for the wrong reasons. (Of course, any book dealing with such a serious issue is going to have trouble toeing that line.)

I also think AFTER presents an interesting view of the juvenile detention system. It isn't pleasant, but it's certainly not the hellish place you'll see in most fiction. But at the same time it makes me sad, given what I know of the prison system. (Which would mostly be how literacy affect recidivism, which isn't super relevant, and capital punishment, which is even less relevant.) Devon ends up with a great public defender and people in the system who care about getting her out of it. I'm happy to see a view of the system that isn't overly harsh, but at the same time it feels too optimistic to be realistic.

If you're into books that grapple with difficult topics, you'll enjoy AFTER. Personally, I'm not sure these kind of books are for me, especially since I didn't like the beloved THIRTEEN REASONS WHY. (I just keep disliking the person I'm suppose to sympathize with.)

October 28, 2009


Fantasy with Libba Bray, Justine Larbalestier, Lisa McMann, and Rick Yancey

This was the shortest of the panels, since lunch ran long. It began with Lisa McMann turning a broken rose into a jacket decoration and each of the authors telling something about themselves and their books, Lisa's being WAKE and FADE.

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Justine Larbalestier pointed out her Australian heritage, marking her as the one in the panel with an accent. (Carrie Jones had a cute Maine accent and Shana Burg had a nice Boston one.) Of course, it soon became a competition to see who had the most hot guys and dead bodies in their book. (Winner seemed to be Justine, who's LIAR contained both, whereas the others seemed to tend toward one or the other.)

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But this mini-contest led to the authors discovering an important fact: the responsiveness of the audience. Libba Bray discovered she could conduct the audience's roars of appreciation.

Being brave (she did wear a cow suit in the GOING BOVINE trailer, which I point out in my interview), Libba offered the following advice to teens: don't let a guy or girl talk you into doing LSD and then going to see Aliens.

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And no, it didn't come as surprise to anyone when the authors admitted that they hadn't been popular in high school. (I believe Justine put it, "We're writers.") However, high school was good for one thing: writing stuff that would get rejected. Generally, they all had darlings they hoped would eventually get published. (WAKE was one for Lisa.) On the other hand, some of those earlier books will never see the light of day. For Rick Yancey, it was his second book.

Fortunately, Libba misheard him and thought he said sex book. Rick joked that it might sell if he rewrote it with sex, but nope, it was just his second book. (His newest, THE MONSTRUMOLOGIST, isn't a sex book either.)

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They also discussed their reading audiences, mostly boys versus girls. Lisa likes that her covers and content are fairly gender neutral. But none of them seemed to want to limit their audience; they wanted their books to entertain and reach as many people as possible. Once again, it was a very amusing panel. It made me very sad I missed Libba's keynote address, since she was cracking a joke a minute.

October 27, 2009

Review: Brothers, Boyfriends, and Other Criminal Minds

By April Lurie
Released by Random House (Laurel-Leaf)

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BROTHERS, BOYFRIENDS, AND OTHER CRIMINAL MINDS is April Lurie's semi-autobiographical tale of growing up in a Brooklyn neighborhood populated by made men and falling in love with a Dominick. However, she made quite a bit up in order to deliver an interesting and exciting story.

If you're into books about relationships, you should definitely consider finding yourself a copy of BROTHERS, BOYFRIENDS, AND OTHER CRIMINAL MINDS. April Lundquist has a plethora of suitors: Dominick, her brother's friend Little Joe, and her best friend's boyfriend's best friend with whom she was conned into going on a date with, Bert. Then her brother, a good Scandinavian boy, falls in love with Bettina, the daughter of a high-ranked Mafioso.

But romantic relationships aren't the only ones on display. April watches out for her both of her brothers, as well as Soft Sal's odd son Larry. She's close friends with Brandi, even if their friendship takes some hits in the book due to their divergent tastes in men. She also has an odd relationship with her English teacher, who recognizes her potential but dislikes her penchant to snog boys rather than show up to class on time.

The novel works well because these relationships ring true. Even though it is set in the 70s, the family, friend, and significant other dynamics are very familiar. (Although I never had to worry about a sibling getting whacked due to putting moves on the wrong person.) It's quick and funny, much like a Simon Pulse Romantic Comedy. The subject matter could be dramatic and angsty, but April Lurie keeps it light. And the world needs more light comedies involving La Costa Nostra.

I might not have noticed this if it hadn't been pointed out in the Local Authors panel, but I do appreciate the fact that BROTHERS, BOYFRIENDS, AND OTHER CRIMINAL MINDS is clean (no sex scenes or cussing). Lurie does a good job of creating a heroine who is comfortable with her sexuality and not condemning her for having three love interests. April's just a healthy teen girl learning how to maneuver in non-platonic relationships with boys. I love, love, love that Lurie manages this without sex scenes so that I can recommend it to certain girls I know in real life without their mothers showing up at my house with poisoned baked goods, saying "Mangia, mangia."

I don't regret my decision to pick up the cheapest book at the Austin Teen Book Festival. I'm not sure I'll read this one again, but I found it entertaining and think it's a good one to recommend to girls in junior high and high school. (Another great thing? April is brainy and athletic, with fab taste in music.) Despite the hot pink cover, some guys might like it too, given the criminal element.

October 26, 2009

Zombies vs. Vampires (vs. Pixies!)

Zombies vs. Vampires with Cynthia Leitich Smith, Daniel Waters, Carrie Jones, and Heather Brewer
First, a technical note: I wanted to use what I'm learning in school, so none of this is flash photography. I'm also in manual settings. I did use autofocus to take faster shots. (Focusing is one of my weak spots due to my eyesight.)

This panel began with a discussion of how to make fantasy characters work in an urban setting and what they wear. To the right, you can see Heather Brewer demonstrating her powers of imagination by choosing to make Vlad dress exactly like her. (Vlad is Vladimir Tod, the most recent release in the series being TENTH GRADE BLEEDS.)

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She did dress for the panel, in a "Zombies Need Love Too" tee, since she was undecided about zombies vs. vampires and feeling generous in the morning. As for integrating her characters, she enjoys mentioning standard things from vampire lore that would be tricky and then subverting them. Besides, not being able to cross running water is just silly.

My favorite question of the panel was, "If the zombie apocalypse comes and you and three other authors are the only ones holding out, who would you choose to be holed up with?" Heather went with her panel members, since they were already with her and would thus survive due to her being prepared for this exact possibility. That sounded good to Carrie Jones, who was pretty sure she'd be dead meat when faced with zombies. (I think she could throw her totally cute shoes at them. It worked for Clara against the Rat King.) However, Carrie did when for most terrifying zombified supernatural, as pixie zombies would be unstoppable. (She wrote the pixie-laden NEED, which I reviewed here.)

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Vampires couldn't be zombified, of course, since one must die first and vampires remain undead. Heather proposed that vamp blood could cure zombism, although the audience was divided on the issue. Cynthia Leitich Smith did see on satellite radio that salt can be used to restore zombies to their former humanity. Resident zombie expert Daniel Waters wasn't sure about that, but he said it couldn't hurt to add salt to your zombie kit. (Doubt his zombie credentials? Check out KISS OF LIFE, which I reviewed here.)

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Speaking of Daniel, he didn't have a true preference for the three authors he'd take with him. He only knew that they needed to be slower and tastier, rather than more skilled. Cynthia, on the other hand, did have a team picked out. Her ringer? Local author April Lurie, who used to be a nurse. Her medical knowledge would be handy, though she would later disavow her use when told of being picked at a later panel.

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Then, when questioned about what they could write about if they couldn't use zombies or vampires, the authors got creative. Cynthia noted that her series, containing TANTALIZE and ETERNAL, had a werearmadillo among many other creatures. Carrie noted that she'd started in contemporary YA . . . and then threatened to write about curtains (among other things). Sitting beside her, skeptical Heather was skeptical. Daniel was less so, but this is the man who admitted he would kiss Tinkerbell (but not a male vampire, whether he be Vlad or Edward).

It was a very fun panel, and Ms. Anderson of BookPeople did a great job moderating. (She also did her own write-up of the panel, which contains many things mine doesn't.) There's a reason everyone was laughing!

October 25, 2009


The two Cirque du Freak winners are taay and celi.a. If you see this before I e-mail you, please contact me with your address.

I realize that I gave people less than a week to enter the contest for LOVE, MEG, so I am extending the deadline to Halloween, the same day the Nancy Holder contest ends.

October 24, 2009

Austin Teen Book Festival Write-Up

Monday: Zombies vs. Vampires with Cynthia Leitich Smith, Daniel Waters, Carrie Jones, and Heather Brewer
Wednesday: Fantasy with Libba Bray, Justine Larbalestier, Lisa McMann, and Rick Yancey
Friday: Local Authors with Jennifer Ziegler, Varian Johnson, Shana Burg, and April Lurie

What I Missed:

The Keynote Address by Libba Bray

I've been up late all week, so I was desperately tired last night and forgot to actually turn my alarm on when I changed when it would wake me up. So I woke up at 10:23, knowing it would take at least 15 minutes to get to the venue and I still needed to eat, dress, and otherwise make myself resemble a member of humanity.

Originally, I planned on videotaping the panels I attended, but I thought the panels were beginning at 11, as per the schedule on the site. That would be one panel I couldn't tape, due to showing up late. Then I knew I wanted to go to the whole of Zombies vs. Vampires, but I had contacted Cynthia Leitich Smith beforehand and she didn't want to be broadcast since she was recovering from a cold. That would be only one panel I could tape, which seemed pretty silly. Of course, they'd adjusted the schedule to the panels beginning at 11:15. ^_^;; I still took pictures!

Real YA Voices panel with Matt de la Pena*, Margo Rabb and Deb Caletti

There were four panels, but only time to attend three. I definitely wanted to attend Zombies vs. Vampires and Fantasy due to my own bent towards unrealistic fiction, but it was a toss-up between Local Authors and Real YA Voices. In the end, I chose Local Authors due to the good stuff I've heard about Varian Johnson's MY LIFE AS A RHOMBUS and because I bought April Lurie's BROTHERS, BOYFRIENDS, AND OTHER CRIMINAL MINDS. (I wanted to buy something so that I wouldn't be rude, and Lurie's was both the cheapest and had a fabulous title.)

*imagine a tilde over the n

A Prize

They had a raffle, in which they called out a ton of numbers since many people had already left, and I had two tickets, but still didn't win. I only saw the prize table when about seven books were left, but most of them were copies of CAPTIVATED by Carrie Jones. That tells you how much goodness was on the table.

October 23, 2009

Halloween Reviews

I would call this set one, but the way things will be going, who knows whether I'll get to the others?

Secret Society by Tom Dolby
Review copy provided by HarperCollins

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You may wonder why I choose to include this book in a series of "Halloween" reviews. But I think what makes it stand out from the other rich kids behaving badly books is the horror element: bad things happen to people who cross the Society. For those who like this genre, SECRET SOCIETY is probably fast-paced and interesting. For me, I really only liked Patch, who becomes an outsider when his best friend is tapped and he isn't. Then he makes a series of dumb mistakes and at the end I completely did not understand his motivation. (That is, aside from not wanting to die.) SECRET SOCIETY wasn't terrible, but I found it blah.

The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan
Released by Simon & Schuster

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Two brothers, a parent killed, fighting against demons. No, this isn't Supernatural. (But if anyone wants to lend me the third and/or fourth seasons, that'd be awesome.) I really enjoyed Nick's POV. It makes some of the twists obvious if you're paying attention, but it's an interesting headspace to get into and Sarah Rees Brennan does a very good job with it. Plus, she nearly broke my heart at the end. There's humor, action, sexiness, and humanity. While sometimes predictable, THE DEMON'S LEXICON never forgets to be diverting.

The Hollow by Jessica Verday
Review copy provided by Simon & Schuster

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I've really been looking forward to THE HOLLOW, since Jessica Verday began promoting a year before it came out. It was not what I expected, which was a paranormal romance. There are no supernatural elements until the very end; instead, THE HOLLOW is like a standard teen story. As Abbey deals with her grief over the death of her best friend Kristen, she meets Caspian, who is the perfect guy except for his mysteriousness. That could have been a good story, but it feels like the only point of THE HOLLOW is to reach the end so that the fun stuff can be set up for the next book in the series. It moved slowly. I still want to read the next book, to see how Verday handles it when the supernatural elements are actually in play, but THE HOLLOW was disappointing.

Generation Dead: Kiss of Life by Daniel Waters
Released by Disney-Hyperion
Daniel Waters will be at the Austin Teen Book Festival this Saturday.

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GENERATION DEAD was a polarizing book - some liked it, some didn't. KISS OF LIFE is more of the same, which means I liked it. I enjoy how Daniel Water's develops the zombies search for rights, while not making it exactly parallel to any real group. I did feel the villain, Pete, was less understandable in this book. (It's what makes the first book really get to me. His rationale made sense, as crazy as it was.) In this one, my emotional connection was to Adam, who is now having trouble expressing his since he can't control his body. I liked the almost poetic quality of his thoughts when he'd first returned from the dead. The books really strike true to me, despite being about zombies.

October 20, 2009

Waiting on Wednesday: The Dragon Book

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Coming Nov 3 from Ace
Edited by Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois

Last October, I read the anthology DREAMING AGAIN, edited by Jack Dann. This anthology rightly won the Ditmar Award, as well as the new Chronos Award. Every story in that collection was a winner. It makes me eager to read his new anthology, which (clearly) features dragons. And who doesn't love giant, fire-breathing monsters?

Book Summary from Amazon:
Whether portrayed as fire-breathing reptilian beasts at war with humanity or as noble creatures capable of speech and mystically bonded to the warriors who ride them, dragons have been found in nearly every culture's mythology. In modern times, they can be found far from their medieval settings in locales as mundane as suburbia or as barren as post-apocalyptic landscapes-and in The Dragon Book, today's greatest fantasists reignite the fire with legendary tales that will consume readers' imaginations.

With original stories by New York Times bestselling authors Jonathan Stroud, Gregory Maguire, Garth Nix, Diana Gabaldon, Tamora Pierce, Harry Turtledove, Sean Williams, and Tad Williams as well as tales by Naomi Novik, Peter Beagle, Jane Yolen, Adam Stemple, Cecelia Holland, Kage Baker, Samuel Sykes, Diana Wynne Jones, Mary Rosenblum, Tanith Lee, Andy Duncan, and Bruce Coville.

Let's go through those names in order:
I've heard of Jonathan Stroud, but haven't actually read his books.
Gregory Maguire doesn't do it for me. I've read LOST - which people soon told me was not his best - but I followed it up with WICKED which didn't do much for me either.
Garth Nix brought a lot of traffic to this site, since for almost a year most of my Google hits were for vampire sex. But that's not why I enjoy his writing: he's got strong world building skills and sympathetic characters.
Diana Gabaldon can research, but neither OUTLANDER nor DRAGONFLY IN AMBER did it for me. I think it was the pacing. Perhaps I'm too young to get it? My great-aunt loves these books.
Tamora Pierce rocks my socks. In the past year she's put two books out, MELTING STONES and BLOODHOUND. While I was disappointed in MELTING STONES, BLOODHOUND was everything I wanted and more.
I own a Harry Turtledove book, but have never picked it up. Not sure he's my thing.

And I'm going to stop there because listing them all is taking forever and I'm supposed to be writing an essay on Tsugaru syamisen. But I do want to give props to Peter Beagle, who is an absolute gentleman. He's been to a couple of A-kons, and his behavior stuck in my mind due to being that classy.

(Posted early because why not?)

October 19, 2009

Contest and Guest Blog: Read Beyond Reality

Among other things, I have two essays due this week, so I wouldn't expect my current posting track record to improve. To make up for it, I have a treat: C. Leigh Purtill discussing her short story writing, Teen Read Week, and offering a signed hardcover of LOVE, MEG.

Also, I'll be at the Austin Teen Book Festival this Saturday. Hopefully I'll be able to check out a camera from the Fine Arts Library and share videos of the panels with ya'll.


Not long ago, I wrote a short story called “I Brake For Whales.” A tale of conservation gone horribly, terribly wrong, it’s about a guy who takes increasingly drastic steps to save the planet with his Prius. It’s not anything like my published works, LOVE, MEG and ALL ABOUT VEE, both bildungsroman for teen girls.

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And it scared the heck out of my husband.

Now, don’t get me wrong: my husband is a tough guy, a real manly man who likes to read horror stories, watch zombie movies, and play gory videogames on line with his friends. It’s just that he never expected his wife, the woman who wrote two very girly books, to have such dark thoughts in her head. Had the story come from the pen of Stephen King or Dean Koontz, he would have expected the creepiness and little bit of blood but certainly not from me!

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Scratch the surface of any writer and you’ll find a reader underneath and what that reader may truly enjoy could be at odds with what he or she writes. I, for example, have always loved reading science fiction and fantasy books by authors like Ray Bradbury and Robert Heinlein and Shirley Jackson and Douglas Adams. When I began writing screenplays, I naturally gravitated toward telling stories that had a particular Twilight Zone-ish bent to them. I loved writing scripts that had O. Henry-like twists at the end, things that made you go, “Oh wow, that’s cool!”

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So when I had the idea for what I called “my Prius story,” it didn’t bother me that it had a disturbing element or two. In fact, I liked how disturbing it got. And I wanted to write more stuff like it. So I did. A few months later, I wrote a short called “Murder Weather” about what happens when the temperature outside heats the brain inside. It’s not as disturbing the first one but it certainly doesn’t flinch from an ending. And once again, my husband got a little creeped out by my willingness to go that extra mile to entertain.

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Real readers enjoy reading. They enjoy the story, the dialogue, the transportation to another world, another life, another worldview. I don’t entirely trust someone who claims to never read horror or crime fiction or romance or fantasy – or YA. Why wouldn’t you want to explore new paths with new people regardless of the genre they’re in? I am the literary equivalent of Anthony Bourdain: I am willing to read just about anything you put in front of me. I may not like it but I’ll try it.

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And I think that’s the most important thing to take from an annual event like Teen Read Week: be open to all kinds of books, all kinds of stories. Try a short story or two. Sample an e-book. Creation is creation, whether a character is a sweet fifteen year old discovering her family roots or a middle-aged guy who’s willing to do anything to reduce his carbon footprint. This TRW, be willing to go beyond your own reality.

Want to read that disturbing short? Check it out on my website, http://www.leighpurtill.com/ or Scribd: I Brake for Whales.

I’ll get “Murder Weather” up there soon. In the meantime, read some of my favorite books for some more inspiration to get Beyond Reality:

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The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson
Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury
The Shining, Stephen King
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert Heinlein


I haven't read LOVE, MEG, but you can read my review of ALL ABOUT VEE. But here's your chance to read it:
Comment on this blog with the title of a favorite horror story.
Get a bonus entry by linking to this contest.

The contest ends with Teen Read Week 2009, on October 24.

Other open contests: Cirque du Freak pack, Nancy Holder pack

October 15, 2009

Contest: Nancy Holder Gift Pack

First, the winner of a signed hardcover of FIRE is Katie.

Here is the contest I promised at the beginning of Nancy Holder's Halloween guest blog.

The prizes:

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All three books in the Wicked series: WITCH & CURSE, LEGACY & SPELLBOUND, RESURRECTION

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I believe all these books are signed . . . and Nancy is throwing in a creepy cute tin of mints!

To enter, comment on this post.
+1 comment on guest blog
+1 comment on my reviews of POSSESSIONS and PRETTY LITTLE DEVILS (coming soon)

Guest Blog: Halloween in Holderland

Sorry I haven't been posting much; university just keeps getting more demanding. However, I've scheduled a great line-up of creepy author visits and contests for ya'll this month. The Cirque du Freak contest is already open. C. Leigh Purtill will guest blog about her scary stories (and offer a signed book!) next week. At the end of the month, there may be a Douglas Clegg contest if I enjoy his new book, ISIS. But now there is the Nancy Holder contest and guest blog. The contest prize and rules will be posted later today.

But first, Nancy is sharing how she gets in the Halloween spirit and the writing mood at the same time.


There really is no rest for the Wicked….

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I’m thrilled to see the first book in my supernatural ghost series Possessions, on the shelves in October, my favorite month. It’s also my daughter’s birth month, and we always have a spooky sleepover to celebrate. We Holder grrls own far more Halloween/goth/creepy decorations than for any other holiday, and we have been spending hours after school getting them all out. We’re creating a graveyard in our front yard and we’ve already carved three pumpkins. We have filled glass jars with fake eyeballs and “witch’s blood.” And that’s just the beginning.

While my daughter is at school, I’m writing…which doesn’t mean “just” writing. While I’m working on the Possessions series, I watch a horror movie every morning (because they’re too scary to watch at night!) and listen to horror movie soundtracks all day. I keep myself in a fairly constant of fear to stay in the zone. On gloomy days, I can’t go upstairs (our lighting up there is not the greatest!) and when I’m done with my movie, I hate turning off our big screen TV because the remote doesn’t work and I have to do it by hand. I just know that one of these times, that little girl in The Ring is going to reach through the screen and grab my hand….

I’ve gotten as far as watching the trailer for Paranormal Activity on my laptop, looking slightly away. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to watch it because I’m creeped out enough as it is. Possessions is like PA, in the sense that the main character, Lindsay, sees things no one else does. Faces in mirrors, statues that move…and she knows things that others refuse to believe…the mean girls who rule Marlwood Academy, her super-posh, isolated boarding school, are not just mean—they are evil.

Ghosts walk the halls of Lindsay’s dorm. Vengeful spirits live again, putting on the faces of her fellow students like Halloween masks. Possessing them. Making them single out a victim….first a girl who comes to Lindsay for help…
….and then, Lindsay herself.

At Marlwood, if you look into a mirror and say these words five times:

Come to me
Come to me
Come to me
Come to me
Come to

They will come.

So…my days are filled with scaring myself silly, so hopefully I will scare the readers of Possessions. I’m a quaking wreck until early afternoon, day after day.
Then light fills my car when I pick up my daughter from school. Our Corgi, Panda, bounces on the back seat when she and all her friends greet him. Today we’re going to make him another Halloween costume. So far he has four. He’s going trick-or-treating as Sir Cuddleroy, a Corgi knight in shining armor. He goes to all the houses with us, and he has his own treat bag. When we ring the doorbell, he sits, with the handle of his bag in his mouth. He gets only dog biscuits and dog food (chocolate is toxic to dogs, beware!) and if the house doesn’t have anything for him, we put a treat in his bag ourselves.

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I wanted to mention my other series, Wicked, which I wrote with Debbie Viguie. Here we are talking about it at Comic-con: Go to Simon & Schuster Teen and scroll down to Meet the Wicked Authors. Debbie and I are working on a spinoff series called Crusade, about vampire hunters.

As I was writing that last sentence, there was a loud bang upstairs. I jumped about a foot. Panda is barking wildly. And I’m far too afraid to go see what it was. We have two cats…maybe they knocked something over. Maybe it was something on the soundtrack for The Grudge that I’ve never noticed before.

Panda has stopped barking. Now he’s coming down the hall, looking straight at me. Now he’s stopped, and sat down, right beside our stairway…which leads upstairs…where the noise was.

I could go upstairs to see what made that noise, or I could sit here and write another chapter of the sequel to Possessions. Suddenly, I’m very anxious.

What do you think I’ll do?


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