I'm it.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Heather's Song by Andy McKee.

Okay Shannon, okay! You got your way you evil evil thing. I haven't been putting this off (not... really), but I make good on my promises, so now you get to know every dirty little secret about me. Seriously, I don't think an official author interview can get any worse than this. And like I promised, you get to see not one, but TWO pieces of my writing. But I figured I had to put this in here today, because now it will be buried under not one but two tabs, so you'll have an extra hard time finding it again. So no resolutions for me! It's dirty little secret time.

1. What's the last thing you wrote? What's the first thing you wrote that you still have?

The last thing I wrote? Other than "the last thing I wrote"? I'm kidding. Actually, it is very exciting. I wrote the crucial scene in my head, the "turn" of my story. This is one of the first scenes I saw when I first imagined this story and I have finally connected it up to everything else. It was truly a beautiful moment, one I have been waiting a long time for. This book (and that scene) has been three years in coming. Three years of staying in my head, mulling over and pushing for more attention. It's been in my head so long and now it is finally on paper! Sure it's not over yet (but oh so close). There's a lot of kinks to work out, plot holes to plaster, characters to massacre, but that is all part of the editing fun.

The first thing I wrote that I still have is a collection of poems from elementary school. We were only required to do like ten, but I did a bunch extra because I liked it so much. That was my first hint I wanted to be a writer. I even decorated the cover with baby animals, because what is more adorable than baby animals? I still have them, and no, I'm not showing them to you. Not without a lot of coercion.

2. Write poetry?

Actually... yes. I'm surprised how few have answered this question this way. I am in love with words; how they taste and move on my tongue, the thousand subtleties they can mean. It's extraordinary. I never dabbled in it until much later in life (I wasn't one of those child prodigies, heaven's no), but poetry is something that I love. There is a magic in controlling words like that and it is something I try and emulate in my writing.

3. Angsty poetry?

Goodness no. I don't think I have an angsty bone in my body. I could never do that genre justice.

4. Favorite genre of writing?

Not a genre perhaps, but a story. A story that strikes me to the core and won't leave me in peace. Those are the stories I have to write down. I have dozens in my head, and they all have to stand in line and take a proper turn (see question 1 for a perfect example). But since the vast majority of my reading flirts in YA, I guess you'd classify me as that. I guess I never quite grew up, but I never thought of that as a bad thing.

5. Most annoying character you've ever created?

Oh my goodness this question has been driving me insane. This is one that has stopped me in my tracks for a week. I have literally wracked my brain trying to think of an annoying character I've created. I couldn't think of one. Not one. I suppose that is because I try and make each of my characters complex and with that comes understanding, so once "annoying" characters become real people to me.

However, I do have one character I have that another character found completely and utterly unbearable. I wrote a retelling of Alice in Wonderland once for a present and in this version Alyce stumbles upon a girl whose imagination is completely unbound. You will know her as the Caterpillar. Here is a small excerpt:

"But you still haven't answered my question. Who are you, or... what are you?"

The girl stopped spinning and looked at her.

"I am whatever I want to be."

She said this so matter-of-factly that it could not be contradicted and it seemed to Alyce that it somehow should be that way with her as well. Alyce shook her head. She didn't know what to call her, so she decided to call her by what she had first seen her as.

"Caterpillar, um--"

"Oh don't call me that! It sounds so stuffy," she said.

"I'm sorry," Alyce apologized immediately, "what should I call you?"

"Oh anything," she said, her good humor back, "but just not 'caterpillar.' How about Cat? Or Lar? Or--"

"Pill?" Alyce muttered sardonically.

"Yes, I like that!" she said while Alyce rolled her eyes.

"Thank you..." Pill said, searching for a name, "oh yeah, you don't know who you are. Can I think of a name for you?"

"My name is Alyce, thank you very much," she said. This girl was insane.

"Okay fine, Alyce-thank-you-very-much. Is it alright if I just call you Alyce? The rest is just too long."

Thus enters my most "annoying" character. :)

6. Best plot you've ever created?

I would like to think all of them. They're like different flavors of ice cream. All different, but all completely delectable (if you do not know of my love affair with ice cream, please see my "secret identity revealed! post). Better yet, it is like comparing all of the flavors of ice cream with all the different types you can have these frozen delights: ice cream, smoothies, sundaes, malts, gelatos, frozen yogurt, frozen custard... Yum. So, all of the above.

7. Coolest plot twist you've ever created?

Like so many have said before me "If I told you, then I'd have to kill you." And besides, you don't really want to know, do you?

8. How often do you get writer's block?

Never. My "Writer's Block" doesn't come from a lack of ideas, but instead how to execute what I want. A lot of slogging is involved. Think mire with piggies and lots of mud. Not a pretty picture, but a necessary one. And it usually gets hewn down with my MIGHTY SCYTHE OF EDITING. Oh how I love the editing phase. *rubs hands together* Yes, I think a deep maniacal laughter is appropriate here - bwa ha ha ha!

9. Write fan fiction?

Actually... yes. And no. But not in the way you would think of it. I was writing my own stories LONG before touching fanfiction. Believe it or not I sometimes use it as a tool to hone my craft of writing. On occasion (privately) I try to mimic styles or catch the tone or setting of an already brilliantly established piece. Is anyone familiar with the Cirque du Soliel's KA? It is their only piece with a definitive story-line. It was incredible to watch, and so transportive. One time (and still occasionally) to better hone my skills as a writer I tried to write the story of KA in verse, like an epic poem ala The Odyssey. It helped there was no talking whatsoever, and the sheer scope of the story lent itself well to an epic poem format. I credit their work completely for the masterpiece they created and brought to life. I know it is utterly unpublishable, but not all of my writing is for that purpose. It is like practicing the piano. It helps make my own stories sharper, focused, and more fully realized.

Though I do have a piece I wrote for my twin as a birthday present on fanfiction.net. But you would have to be familiar with the anime Naruto before I would even dare think of spilling the beans on that one.

10. Do you type or write by hand?

Ideas go on anything I can get my hands on - napkins, backs of receipts, all over envelopes (my specialty). My writing goes in typed. Though I do want to try typing a first draft on a typewriter one day, for many reasons. Nostalgia, insta-hard copy and typing it into the computer automatically makes it a second draft. It's genius.

11. Do you save everything you write?

My preciouses, my precious! Of course. Like all us split-personalities out there, I have a hard time letting anything I create go. My first novel I wrote (when I was a wee 14-year-old) was on an ancient piece of junk that might once have been called a laptop (this thing had a floppy drive and nothing else, seriously. And it weighed as much as an ocean liner). Anyway, the power cord was lost and the batteries died. I had no way of accessing my once beloved story (it's utter rubbish, trust me. It hit every branch on the cliche tree coming down). That plus we had ditched most of our floppies to the faraway land of Land Fill. But I couldn't get over the fact that I couldn't access my first story. Grief, I tell you people, grief. Then one thing happened, lots of fairy dust and I had a thirty second window to get it off that heap of plastic and silicon. Like a super whizz spy, my mad fingers got a hold of it. And you know what? I still have a copy of that 40-page monstrosity to this day.

12. Do you ever go back to an idea after you've abandoned it?

I do. Sometimes only fragments, snatches of an idea. Often it is so transformed you wouldn't recognize the original idea it came from, but that's evolution for ya baby. Oftentimes, some characters will stick around. It is fun to watch and see how they change with time and circumstance. So, not often, but sometimes.

13. What's your favorite thing you've ever written?

Haha, you're too cruel. It's like judging between your kids coloring competitions. Not gonna happen. It's even worse because I love them for different reasons. It's not equatable. Think ice cream. Ice cream is the example for everything.

14. What's everyone else's favorite story that you've written?

That's a toughie, because no one has read everything I've written, but I can certainly say the most popular thing I've ever written is a short story called "Cry of the Immortals." It's about books telling their own story. How do I know it is the most popular? Because it has thousands of downloads. The amazing BJ Harrison of The Classic Tales podcast chose it and turned it into an audio story. It's available to download, for free. Below is the link if you wish to take a listen. He is an amazing reader, almost beyond words. If you aren't subscribed to his free stories, I highly recommend it.

Cry of the Immortals by Heather Zundel

15. Ever written Romance or angsty teen drama?

I have romance in my stories, and there is turmoil. You'll have to decide if that qualifies. Maybe if I wrote a story where an emo teenage chicken falls in love with the road she has to cross...

16. What's your favorite setting for your characters?

Whatever is real for them. I know, seems like a cop-out, right? It's true though. I strive to make everything real so that you become lost in the world, those characters, everything. So one setting is the desert, another inside Asia, another based on the Scottish highlands. It is all about whatever is real for them.

17. How many writing projects are you working on right now?

Hew boy, can we skip to the next question? No? Darn. Um... one editing/submitting, one currently being written (and almost done!), and at least half a dozen pushing to be the next in line. It's a bottleneck and it's not pretty. And we won't even count the fragments wanting to become stories.

18. Have you ever won an award for your writing?

Yes and no. It was a scholarship though a significant one to me, and it was for that same short story above you, Cry of the Immortals. See? I told you it was the most popular.

19. What are your five favorite words?

This changes since I am a complete verbivore and lover of words, but some that I find particularly fun at this moment (this changed half a dozen times by the way):

But my all-time favorite word? Lullaby.

(and here is the coolest word website I found just today: Visuwords. You'll get lost in rapture).

20. What character have you created that is most like yourself?

All of them. There are pieces of me in each of them. It helps me to see through their eyes and have that personal connection to them until they break off and become their own person, and then I have a hard time as seeing them as anything else. There are a couple of characters that are not me in any way, but they are much harder to create. A lot of thinking is required to break that barrier to get inside their heads. There is no one character that is "me." They are all their own person, and I love it that way. But I can identify pieces me that are in them and that is incredible too.

21. Where do you get ideas for your characters?

From every place imaginable. It's how I live and I love it. All these pieces form to create characters and worlds, where characters become real. I'm trying to think of some joke to add onto this, but it is such a surreal, intoxicating experience that I can't. Refer to the emo chicken above for all your giggling pleasures.

22: Do you ever write based on your dreams?

No. This is because I don't remember my dreams. I don't know why, but I can go months between recalling dreams. I know I dream, they just tend to elude me. Or they are just plain boring. Like once, I watched myself (from different camera angles mind you) literally walk around a building over and over again, carrying a stack of papers. I kid you not. That was the entire dream, and the camera switches were the most exciting part. While dreaming, I remember being bored. Yep, that's the stuff the Pulitzer is made of, I'll tell you right there. You'd buy a million copies, right?

23. Do you favor happy endings?

As in "happily ever after"? No. Not at all. Someone else in this tag series said "I prefer happy beginnings because there are no endings. An ending is just another beginning." I feel much the same way. The story goes on, even if I leave off at a certain point. I don't believe in "bow-tie" endings where everything is resolved perfectly and everyone is happy. That is not how it is in real life and I want what I write to be as real as anything you know. But I do believe in hopeful endings. I put my characters through hell, and they come out better for it, even if everything is not as they wanted when they first started out.

24. Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write?

Ha. I wish I was. I really do. My poor critique buddy is subjected to far worse than she deserves. She is patient and amazing. I am learning, I promise!

25. Does music help you write?

Music is my lifeblood. I don't think I could survive without it (do you see my Current Theme Songs up there? Today's I picked out special). This is no different in anything I write. Often music shapes my stories. I listen to songs like crazy before I start writing to capture the emotion and atmosphere of a story before I ever put a word to paper. And then I still listen to music. Sometimes I need utter silence, sometimes I listen to a single song over and over again to keep the mood consistent (usually during an intense scene, either a battle or "revelation" scene). I listen to everything. Often music without words or words I cannot understand (music from other languages is fantastic), music that makes me feel as my characters do, music they might listen to, everything. Music is a conduit, and I try to tap it as much as possible.

However, I will show you one of my absolute favorite songs. It is called "Lullaby" by Assemblage 23 (though no connection to my favorite word).

26. Quote something you've written. Whatever pops into your head.

Okay. From a short story titled "Sentio" (meaning "Sight" in Latin). A piece I love and very few have seen.

“What kind of book is this?” she asked immediately. Again it sounded like she was speaking right next to me.

“What do you mean?” I asked, settling myself down on the ground next to a vibrant palm.

“Is this a biography?”

I nearly choked trying not to laugh. I leaned forward.

“Tom Sawyer? You’re kidding me. You think Tom Sawyer is biography?”

“What else could it be? But it only covers one summer of his entire life so I couldn’t help but wonder. . .”

“Haven’t you ever read a novel before?”

She leaned forward, her face so close to the glass that she was almost touching it.

“What is a ‘novel?’”

This time I did laugh, long and loud and hard. It felt good and at least she hadn’t told me to can it for laughing at her.

“You know, make believe. Pretend. Stories that aren’t real.”

This seemed to puzzle her greatly because she was silent for a lot longer than I ever expected her to be. She hadn’t left. Her fuzzy form was still at the window but she didn’t move. At last, she titled her head up slightly so she was again looking at me.

“Can I keep it?”

So now I tag:

Beth Revis!
Carol Ward!
Laurel Garver!

Have at it ladies. Bwa ha ha ha ha!

A Small (very tiny) Interjection

I just noticed that I am one person shy of 100 subscribers. If one more person will clicky on "subscribe," tomorrow I will post up something fun. And you will get to see some of my writing). WriterGirl over and out. Now go read the really fun interview below. :)

Interview - Robert Paul Weston, author of Zorgamazoo

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Cemeteries of London by Coldplay.

Such a fun interview! I am so glad Mr. Weston agreed to do this with me (keep reading to the end, I made him write a poem about himself). ;) Now without further ado, I happily present Robert Paul Weston, author of Zorgamazoo!

[ME] 1. This is such a fun and fascinating idea. What turned this story into one of rhyme?

[RPW]Two words: folly and ignorance. I had the idea for the story but for some reason I felt I needed something to make it more challenging for me as a writer. What if I told it all in verse, I thought. (I thought this because I didn't know the first thing about rhyme or form verse). If I'd known then everything I know now, I likely never would have begun. Then, by the time I figured out it was a lot harder than I thought, I was past the point of no return. So yeah, in my case Orwell was bang on: Ignorance really is strength.

2. You started this while completing your MFA, right? What was that like? Did you show it to any of your professors? What did they think of it?

Would you believe it ended up becoming my graduate thesis? I'd gone in with a mind to study short fiction and screenwriting, but then I read bits of Zorgamazoo at a grad reading series and it garnered a rather warmer reception than whatever else I was writing at the time, so I switched.

3. How many drafts did you have to go through? Did you ever get stuck on a rhyme? How did you get unstuck?

Did I ever get stuck on a rhyme? Of course! On pretty much every one. There's maybe five lines in the whole book that came to me in a snap and with little effort. For the rest, it felt more like working through an endless string of math equations than telling a story. Whenever I really couldn't solve one of those equations, the best thing to do was take a break and restart again with a fresh mind. It's easy to get "versitized" when you're writing under strict constraints like that. More so than prose for me, taking a break with Zorgamazoo really worked. As for drafts, I believe there were 6 or 7.

4. This seems to pay a lot of homage to both Roald Dahl and Dr.Seuss (I do believe you even mention parents getting eaten by rhinos at one point). :) Were they a source of inspiration to you? Do you have a favorite of either of their works?

Don't know if I'd explicitly call them sources of inspiration, but they certainly had a strong influence on me and I read them both voraciously at different stages of childhood. I have clear favourites: Danny Champion of the World and Dr. Suess' If I Ran the Circus.

5. What is your favorite scene in the book, personally?

Ah, well. That I can't tell you because of...well, spoilers. But I will say this: Without a doubt, my favourite part to read aloud is the arrival of Dr. LeFang in chapter three.

6. What about a favorite poem?

I have two at the moment. My Belov├Ęd Compares Herself to a Pint of Stout by Paul Durcan, and Spiritual Chickens by Stephen Dobyns.

7. Of your characters, who do you relate more to - inquisitive and neglected Katrina, or the reluctant hero Morty who loves his father (and sports)? :)

Katrina is someone I was when I was quite young; an impish kid in search of adventure. Somewhere along the way, however, I grew up to be more like Morty. I think of him as a bit of a neurotic worrier. That's me in a nutshell.

8. Did you have to cut anything you didn't want to cut out, editors or otherwise?

Nope. My editors asked me only to add a few things, that's all. It was hard work, but I got it done. And I'm glad I did.

9. What is one of your favorite "unknown" books you really think more people should know about?

The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break by Steven Sherrill.

10. Okay, time to talk typography and illustrations. Did you have a say in either of them? Are the characters like what you imagined?

Penguin asked me what I was thinking and I gave them a few ideas. They came back with Victor and I took one look at his work and said he's our guy. Initially, I thought of Katrina as a tomboy-looking girl (pigtails, dungarees, etc), but then Victor's submitted his drawing and somehow it was perfect. Her look jives with the wealthy, absentee parents in her background, which was a passage I wrote very late in the game -- at the same time Victor was doing the illustration, in fact!

As for typography, the words moved about the page in my original manuscript, but not as dramatically as they do in the book. I wanted to imply to my publisher that, because this is verse, I was open to doing something interesting with the words. Christian Fuenfhausen, a designer at Penguin took the idea and ran with it. I had input, of course, but he did the lion's share.

11. So, what's next? Will you continue on with the tradition of writing in rhyme, or go ahead and try something new?

I am (very slowly) working on a sequel to Zorgamazoo, but it'll likely be years before I finish it. My next book (Oct, 2010) is utterly different. It's a dark fantasy for teens called Dust City and no, it will definitley not be in rhyme.

12. And last question Mr. Wordsmith. What is a four stanza, rhyming poem that bests describes you? :D

There was a young poet from Dover,
who was known as a bit of a rover.
His dimwitted rhymes didn't jive with the times,
yet he crafted them over and over.

Thank you much again! It was a delight talking with you.

Review - Zorgamazoo by Robert Paul Weston

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): My Blue Heaven by Frank Sinatra.

It's somewhat rare when a book genuinely startles you in its execution. It's like taking a bite into an apple and realizing it's an onion (tried it once. Really fun experiment). It's not bad in any way (repeat with me- onions are not bad), it just surprises you, and pleasantly so. That is what Zorgamazoo is like.

Zorgamazoo by Robert Paul Weston
Published: October 16, 2008
Pages: 288
Current Amazon Rank: # 170,379

First Line:

Here is a story that is stranger than strange.
Before we begin you may want to arrange:

a blanket,
a cushion,
a comfortable seat,
and maybe some cocoa and something to eat.

I'll warn you of course, before we commence,
my story is eerie and full of suspense,
brimming with danger and narrow escapes,
and creatures of many remarkable shapes.
Dragons and orgres and gorgons and more,
and creatures you've not even heard of before.
And faraway places? There's plenty of those!
(And menacing villains to tingle your toes).

So ready your mettle and steady your heart.
It's time for my story's mysterious start...

My Take: Zorgamazoo is... weird. But a good weird. I mean, just look at the title. That alone gives you some indication of what's inside. And it might even give the smallest hint of what you might already know. This book is written entirely in verse. You heard me right. This entire book rhymes. And it makes sense. If that isn't reason enough to check it out, this book is downright fun.

The rhymes are clever and only sometimes seemed forced. The only time it was truly jarring was when the characters spoke in rhyme (and some of the characters had a hard time making themselves distinct for this very reason, I believe). I have read from other reviews that you may need to take breaks between readings. It wasn't a problem for me, but it does take a fair amount of concentration. No drifting off or skimming here. There are some big words that would challenge even the most verbose reader. And the typography! Typography (the art and technique of composing type) is HUGE in writing, but is very seldom glanced on. Not here. Here you really get to see what typography can do and just how it can impact a story. Two examples:

I smiled through reading this. The story itself is straightforward: Morty, a distinctly non-adventuring (and sports loving) Zorgle, must find out what has happened to all the Zorgles in Zorgamazoo while Katrina Katrell runs away from her caretaker to keep from being lobotomized because she is too inquisitive. And of course their paths soon intertwine... The circumstances are outlandish, but serve the medium well. The story coupled with the rhyme is what makes it enjoyable to read. The characters are unique and complex enough to be engaging so that they didn't seem flat (though I didn't care much for one side-kick character). You can tell Robert Weston worked to make it shine. It's like combining Roald Dahl and Dr. Seuss in the best way possible. The themes aren't overly complex or deep, but that isn't what the book is supposed to be. It's just light, good fun.

The Final Word: Dr. Suess and Roald Dahl in novel form. A light fun romp that sparks the imagination and a love of words again.

Author Website
Author Blog
Want it? Find it here.

Bookie Woogie rocks my world.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): River Shule by 12 Girls Band.

How do I write this so I don't sound like I'm flaunting a pretty shiny in front of you? (I mean, it was hard enough to write my post about my Christmas presents, goodness). Okay, there's no way around it so please join me in my squeal-fest.

I won the coolest prize from Bookie Woogie today! For those who don't know, Bookie Woogie is one of my absolute favorite blogs out there. Why? Because it is run by kids. Three incredibly awesome and talented kids by the way. Their dad (also wonderful and amazing) reads to them (they have over 3000 books in their library. Can I tell you how jealous I am?) and then tapes their discussion. It is thoughtful, hysterical, and fantastic. Then he transcribes it and posts it online. And did I mention they each draw pictures of the book they read afterward? Like I said, incredible (and here is a contest they held for other artists to reinterpret their art. So many participated, it was so cool).

And I won one of their drawings! Their original drawings. Mine is picture from 9-year-old Gracie for the picture book This is the Stable in honor of Christmas. Here is a glimpse of it:

Stunning, right? I cannot tell you how excited I am to get it. It is the first time they have ever offered their original artwork in a contest before. If you don't subscribe to them, you should. You won't be disappointed. It's a joy to read every week.

Back from Hookey

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Hanging By A Moment by Lifehouse.

Sorry for not saying goodbye while I played hookey on this blog for a week. It was fun, and I don't think you missed me too much because I only have 437 blog posts to catch up on instead of my usually 800+. :) Sadly I'm sick again (I think it was the books from Christmas. Stupid kryptonite.). Tried gargling salt water. Don't do it. Not if you're unprepared. Horrible horrible, kuh kah. *shudder*

What a wonderful week, filled with snow, turkey, family and Buzz Lightyear action figures. Yes, I got Buzz Lightyear for Christmas. He is actual movie size with thirty made-of-cool sayings. And his head moves. But alas, no karate-chop action. But he has an impressive wingspan and a real laser and is "highly posable." I'm trying to figure out which I like more, him or my giant tub of play-doh. Isn't that made of pure awesome? Yes, I am a full grown adult, I promise. I graduated college with tassels even.

THEN came the secret santa from the blogosphere. Not only did I get a very cool-looking obscure book, I got foreign chocolates (I'm in love!), lavender lip balm, AND the coolest looking handbag all the way from Venezuela! Isn't is beautiful? Now I'm trying to think of all these places I can take it.

But really, nothing can top what my little sister gave me for Christmas. She didn't think I liked it because I didn't squeal (I tend to squeal a lot. I'm famous for my noises, it's terrible). But mostly because I needed to read what it was. And it is the coolest thing ever - Princess Tiana's Cookbook from The Princess and the Frog baby! I have the secret recipe for Tiana's amazing Famous Beignets (the ones featured in the movie). Much hilarity and photographing will ensue as I try to make them I promise. All you from the south can tell me if I did them right (there is an art to southern cooking I believe and I'm trying to whack the sense of it into me. Maybe if I use a silver spoon...).

So Happy Holidays, whatever you may have celebrated and I hope you were able to share it with the people you love. Now, to fight this nasty cold...

Monday's Muse, 5th edition

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Jingle Bells by Shedaisy.

This was originally an idea from Au Courant started in March, an idea she has graciously let me run with.

The idea is to introduce you to unknown, forgotten, or overlooked fiction that has been lost from regular radar. I am WriterGirl. I am in the business of saving lives, one book at a time.

What I do is go to amazon, narrow it down to a YA field and type in a random word, any word that comes to mind. I then take a sampling of some I have never heard of before, or only vaguely heard of (and hopefully you as well). No infringement is intended for any description I take for the books. It's purely for promotional reasons. I will try and cover as many genres as possible that are fitting for the random word. Simple but it really uncovers some incredible gems. I will be doing this every other Monday. If there are any words you want to prompt me with, go ahead and fire away.

Today's random word:

Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens

Our Mutual Friend was the last novel Charles Dickens completed and is, arguably, his darkest and most complex. The basic plot is vintage Dickens: an inheritance up for grabs, a murder, a rocky romance or two, plenty of skullduggery, and a host of unforgettable secondary characters. But in this final outing the author's heroes are more flawed, his villains more sympathetic, and the story as a whole more harrowing and less sentimental. The mood is set in the opening scene in which a riverman, Gaffer Hexam, and his daughter Lizzie troll the Thames searching for drowned men whose pockets Gaffer will rifle before turning the body over to the authorities. On this particular night Gaffer finds a corpse that is later identified as that of John Harmon, who was returning from abroad to claim a large fortune when he was apparently murdered and thrown into the river.

Harmon's death is the catalyst for everything else that happens in the novel. It seems the fortune was left to the young man on the condition that he marry a girl he'd never met, Bella Wilfer. His death, however, brings a new heir onto the scene, Nicodemus Boffin, the kind-hearted but low-born assistant to Harmon's father. Boffin and his wife adopt young Bella, who is determined to marry money, and also hire a mysterious young secretary, John Rokesmith, who takes an uncommon interest in their ward. Not content with just one plot, Dickens throws in a secondary love story featuring the riverman's daughter, Lizzie Hexam; a dissolute young upper-class lawyer, Eugene Wrayburn; and his rival, the headmaster Bradley Headstone. Dark as the novel is, Dickens is careful to leaven it with secondary characters who are as funny as they are menacing--blackmailing Silas Wegg and his accomplice Mr. Venus, the avaricious Lammles, and self-centered Charlie Hexam. Our Mutual Friend is one of Dickens's most satisfying novels, and a fitting denouement to his prolific career. --Alix Wilber

Here There Be Dragons by James A. Owen

The Imaginarium Geographica...
"What is it?" John asked. The little man blinked and arched an eyebrow.

"It is the world, my boy," he said. "All the World, in ink and blood, vellum and parchment, leather and hide. It is the World, and it is yours to save or lose."

An unusual murder brings together three strangers, John, Jack and Charles, on a rainy night in London during the first World War. An eccentric little man called Bert tells them that they are now the caretakers of the Imaginarium Geographica -- an atlas of all the lands that have ever existed in myth and legend, fable and fairy tale. These lands, Bert claims, can be traveled to in his ship the Indigo Dragon, one of only seven vessels that is able to cross the Frontier between worlds into the Archipelago of Dreams.

Pursued by strange and terrifying creatures, the companions flee London aboard the Dragonship. Traveling to the very realm of the imagination itself, they must learn to overcome their fears and trust in one another if they are to defeat the dark forces that threaten the destiny of two worlds. And in the process, they will share a great adventure filled with clues that lead listeners to the surprise revelation of the legendary storytellers these men will one day become.

The Wild Girls by Pat Murphy

It’s 1972. Twelve-year-old Joan is sure that she is going to be miserable when her family moves. Then she meets a most unusual girl. Sarah prefers to be called “Fox,” and lives with her author dad in a rundown house in the middle of the woods. The two girls start writing their own stories together, and when one wins first place in a student contest, they find themselves recruited for a summer writing class taught by the equally unusual Verla Volante. The Wild Girls brilliantly explores friendship, the power of story, and how coming of age means finding your own answers.

Nathan Fox: Dangerous Times by Lynn Brittney

Nathan Fox, orphaned gypsy and actor extraordinaire is recruited by England's spymaster general, Sir Francis Walsingham, to enter the service of Queen Elizabeth I. The 13-year-old is to accompany seasoned agent and ladies' man John Pearce on a mission to Venice in order to form an alliance with Italy against Spain. Nathan soon learns that his older sister, Marie, is a spy, as is his friend Will Shakespeare. Set in 1587, this novel covers a largely undocumented period in Shakespeare's life, allowing Brittney plenty of leeway to develop a story that places the boy in the position of intelligence gatherer for the playwright as well. Nathan is first sent for training in the art of defense. This portion of the plot, though necessary, drags a bit and may have readers jumping ahead to the "real action." Then John, Marie, and Nathan, under assumed identities, set off to Venice to meet, among others, general Othello and Desdemona. Through the interplay of the characters, readers are treated to a rich telling of the story of Othello. The author masterfully creates and sustains a mood of suspense and intrigue through the use of action and dialogue and builds strong characters. Nathan grows from a boy actor into a man as he witnesses firsthand the horrors of war and becomes embroiled in betrayal and murder plots. Brittney also brings to the surface relevant issues of gang violence, religious persecution, and discrimination. As the subtitle foretells, this is Nathan Fox's first mission, so readers can look forward to further adventures.—Wendy Scalfaro

The Box of Delights by John Masefield

Strange things begin to happen the minute young Kay Harker boards the train to go home for Christmas and finds himself under observation by two very shifty-looking characters. Arriving at his destination, the boy is immediately accosted by a bright-eyed old man with a mysterious message: “The wolves are running.” Soon danger is everywhere, as a gang of criminals headed by the notorious wizard Abner Brown and his witch wife Sylvia Daisy Pouncer gets to work. What does Abner Brown want? The magic box that the old man has entrusted to Kay, which allows him to travel freely not only in space but in time, too. The gang will stop at nothing to carry out their plan, even kidnapping Kay’s friend, the tough little Maria Jones, and threatening to cancel Christmas celebrations altogether. But with the help of his allies, including an intrepid mouse, a squadron of Roman soldiers, the legendary Herne the Hunter, and the inventor of the Box of Delights himself, Kay just may be able rescue his friend, foil Abner Brown’s plot, and save Christmas, too.

Feature Fun Friday - Princess and the Frog

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Friends On The Other Side by Randy Newman [Princess and the Frog soundtrack].

You may be tired of my shameless squealing for this movie, but guess what? It fits my requirements for Feature Fun Friday perfectly.

1. It's awesome.

2. It's based on a fairy tale. Literature baby!

3. It's Disney (yes, that is a valid reason).

4. It's made of pure awesome.

I'm won't say anything other than go see it for yourself. I'm seeing if I can beat my record of number of times seen in a theater. Each of the Lord of the Rings tops out at 4. I'm seeing if I can make this one 5. (And you're much more likely to get into this than Avatar today). Have a fantastic weekend everyone!

Adventures in Disney World - the best part!

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Awakening by Mae.

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!' I say! I can't tell how long I've waited to spill the beans on my most exciting adventure (okay, it was less than a week. So sue me. But in my defense, it seemed like a lot longer).

Get this.

Everyone want pictures with the Disney Princesses, right? Aurora, Snow White, Cinderella, Belle (we won't talk about Belle. That's still a sore spot. I saw her three times! And not one picture with her *sigh*) - all of them have their appeal. But what if I tell you I got a photo op with Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen before the movie even came out?

And by the way, I totally wore green just for the occasion. No, I really did. Tiana was absolutely gorgeous and so sweet. And I have to tell you, whoever they picked for Naveen, they nailed him spot on (his facial expression? Priceless!). (I of course, didn't know this until the next day when I saw the movie). Yes, I saw the first Disney princess movie in who knows how long, on opening day, and in Disney World? Do you know how much my inner child was screaming!?

Seriously, you have to see this movie. It is so good.

And because I love you all so much, I have brought back exclusive art and conceptual drawings that could only be found in Disney World. :) (By the way, Dr. Facilier rocks as a villain. And all I can say is - THANK YOU DISNEY for bringing back 2D animated musicals! Really, I think I could cry).

And here is a behind the scenes look at the film. Think of it as a pre-Feature Fun Friday. Go see it!

Adventures in Disney World - and my secret mission

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Inama Nushif by Brian Tyler [Children of Dune television soundtrack]. (awesome song).

My undercover adventures in Disney World were wide and varied. They were so numerous that I could not put them all into a single post. So you get many a day of the undercover adventures of WriterGirl! Let's not delay. There is adventure afoot!

First, I fraternized with monkeys (dangit! The picture is corrupted. You'll just have to believe me on this one).

Conversed with strange and amazing insects

And I think one of them fell in love with me. I was already in love with him quite a bit too. ^_^ (Flik is one of my absolute favorite heroes). And no, he didn't do that to anyone else there - just me. All on his own. I think it had something to with the fact that I kissed him on the cheek. Do bugs count as boys? Can that be my first kiss? :)

Glimpsed rare and exotic beauties

Strutted my stuff with my first Mickey ice cream ever. (yay!)

Yes, I am indeed a superhero (eat your heart out Superman. Have you ever changed costume in a British phone booth?) :)

Of course, I had to get into it first (it didn't have a handle!)

And here is me getting my next secret mission (of course I'm not going to tell you what it is. That would spoil things, wouldn't it?).

Speaking of secret missions, I bet you are dying to find out exactly why I went undercover all the way to Disney World. Well, here it is (no, I won't torture you this time, not even a little bit).


It is the only remaining flush toilet in all of Disney World, and I found it! Guess where it was. Well... divulging the location might be a breach of protocol, but for you guys, I'll chance it. ;) It was in Pizza Planet. Second floor in the eating area if any of you want to go all the way to Florida to experience the antique awesomeness of a hand flush toilet. And getting this photographic evidence was no easy task, let me tell you. Look who I had to sneak by to get a shot of it.

Positively terrifying, right? All of my mad superhero skills were involved.

The best and most exciting adventure to come tomorrow! See? I'm not done torturing you after all. Bwa ha ha ha ha! :D

So much good news!

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Messiah by George Frederick Handel.

I have been thoroughly abusing my use of exclamation marks lately. My 10th grade English teacher would be having a coronary if she knew. But really, how can I help it? First, Tu Publishing makes its funding goal and will officially be starting in Janurary, and now my amazingly good friend Beth Revis has just landed herself an agent!

And not just any agent, I tell you. Writers House agent Merrilee Heifetz. Yes, Writers House.

For my readers unfamiliar with the secret covens of the publishing world, Writers House is one of the biggest names in the business. Stephanie Meyer, John Grisham, John Green, Nora Roberts, Stephen King, Laurie Halse Anderson, Christopher Paolini are all represented by Writers House. Oh yeah, and the Captain Underpants guy. It's huge. It's bigger than huge.

And the coolest thing? Beth is being represented by the same agent who represents Neil Gaiman and Robin McKinley! Can you imagine? Big time congratulations Beth! That gives you a hint of the caliber of work she does (which I've read) and it is fantastic.

So if you are not following her over at Writing it Out, I strongly suggest you do. This girl is going places. And I personally can't wait to be along for the ride. Go congratulate her, it's the biggest news an aspiring writer can get. Next up, publishing deal! You go girl! Giant cupcake of joy for you!

We moved a mountain!

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): In Dulci Jubilo by The Cambridge Singers.

If you haven't heard the already ENORMOUS news - Tu Publishing made its goal! It is going to be funded and open for submissions come Jan 1. Honestly I can say I have never been happier to see a credit card charge on my account in my entire life.

A commenter on another blog raised some good questions on why it was necessary for us to donate money and if it were not some sort of scam or vanity type press for doing so. But by going through a system like they did through kickstarter, it was a way to not only gain important awareness but also give back to those who helped fund it. So those of you who donated - you've just become investors! How cool is that?

I really cannot believe it. We moved another mountain guys! I am just more and more amazed by this community and what they can do. Your generosity and fearlessness continues to amaze and astound. We did it! You are all officially cooler than sliced bread. And possibly cookies too.

And the winner is...

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): If Only by Fiction Plane [Holes soundtrack].

You guys are incredible, you know that? Do you realize how many things you've done in such a short time? Ripples people - just like in Pocahontas ^_^ (yes, I am still on a Disney kick. In fact, I'm not sure if I'm ever not on a Disney kick. Disney world just made it worse).

So, I'm betting you are wanting to know who won their choice of one of my lovely signed books, right? Patience. We'll get there, but I want to show you how incredible you really are.

Here are some of the things you have done (and much more, I'm expecting. Unsaid, unspoken, and many more by those who did not enter).

- Leaving behind cash in the pages of a library book for someone to find.

- Donating clothes

- Donating books

- Visiting with an estranged uncle for the first time in six years.

- Donating a critique to a charity auction

- Making banana bread for family

- Picking up a little sister from school

- Donating to a local hospital fundraiser

- Blogging or donating to Tu Publishing

- Turning off sprinklers to conserve water.

Like I said, you are incredible. And these are only some of the entries. There are even more not up there.

Now, it was a close call between two people. And it seemed they were both after the same book (alas. I fear I will be losing my precious Lightning Thief very soon. Sigh. I'll let go of it, I promise *glances at book* Really). Their vigor and verve was exhausting. It was fun to sit back and watch. :) However, one of their entries included feeding a possum (which her husband is deathly afraid of), so I'm not sure if that negates the good deed. ;)

Now, onto the winners!



a little longer



not yet




now I'm just being mean, aren't I?






Shannon Messenger!

She came in at a whopping 24 entries. Even my jaw dropped. That really deserves a round of applause. She donated to Tu Publishing twice, for which I gave her an extra 5 points. A good deed is a good deed. Twice done is still a good deed done. So dear Shannon, take your pick! You have two days to contact me, or the choice will go to the next runner up, Tere Kirkland (she did an amazing number of things as well). Really, well done everyone. I can only imagine the impact you have had.

P.S Shannon - I don't think that possum one should have counted. I think your husband would agree with me. :)

Back in Action!

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Campus by Vampire Weekend.

I'm back everyone and happier than ever! (going to Disney world can have that effect on you). It feels so good to be back, though I can no long wear short sleeves out of doors (or indoors for that matter). I have some awesome pictures to share, stories to tell, and a secret mission to disclose (I went undercover. Of course I had a secret agent-type mission). :)

But now onto all the lovely blog posts I've missed.

Let's see... *cracks knuckles*






I, uh think I'm going to go drink some strong hot cocoa before getting started. Very strong. Uh, make that a double.

*glances at it again*


*passes out*

[The winner to the hot-awesome kind deed contest will be announced later today. That is, after I can poke myself awake *nudges corporal self with toe of shoe* She's kinda out. This may take a while. :) Hello? Heather?... wake up, you know you want to...]

Feature Fun Friday - Poison Study Book Trailer

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing in my ipod right now): Indian in the Cupboard Main Title by Randy Edelman [Indian in the Cupboard soundtrack].

The Archived Adventures!

Today we have another book trailer, an oldie but goodie. It is for one of the most riveting books you can happen upon. Poison Study, by Maria V. Snyder - it's got everything - action, adventure, intrigue, romance. The characters are fantastic and the story a thrill of wild ride. And the trailer isn't to shabby either. ;) Have a great weekend everyone! I'll be back from my infiltration of Disney world on Monday with secrets and pictures to spill. Don't forget to put in your last-minute good deeds for a signed book of your choice! There is only two days left.

August 2nd 2008. Need I say more?

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Dare You To Move by Switchfoot.

The Archived Adventures!

Wow. All I can say is 'wow.' I have never seen the anticipation or build-up for a single book like I have seen for the release of Breaking Dawn. Maybe for Harry Potter (and we must give thanks where thanks is due. If not for that impish wizard, we might never have had midnight book releases at all). :)

Now, for those of you hiding under a rock, Breaking Dawn is the concluding book in the famed Stephanie Meyer's "Twilight Saga." Let's put it this way; Little, Brown Publishers have prepared for it by publishing the biggest printing run of the year - 3.2 million copies. And you know what? I don't think they've overestimated it at all.

Friday when I was driving home (to get ready to go to a wedding quickly followed by the release party), I heard something on one of my favorite radio stations. It made me stop and yank up the volume. They were talking about the Breaking Dawn release (just as a note: you know you're book has reached monumental proportions when you are being talked about on non-specialty radio). They were actually giving away all three books currently out if people could call in and name the four "Uber Cheesy" song list they had created in celebration of the release. I didn't call in but here were their songs for their "honorary playlist"

1 - Separate Ways - Journey

2 - Werewolves of London - Warren Zevon

3 - Once Bitten, Twice Shy - Great White

4 - New Moon on Monday - Duran Duran

(I think they should have added "Hungry Like the Wolf" by Duran Duran, but I may be biased as that is one of my favorite random songs. They also said they should have done "Total Eclipse of the Heart" by Bonnie Tyler which cracked me up).

But I have never heard of books being given away as a part of a call-in. They're usually concert tickets and the like, which just shows how crazy all of this has gotten. Speaking of crazy, I was totally unprepared for the response of the fans of this book and I knew pretty well the kind of fan-following these books had. But my mouth literally dropped open when I saw over 700 people in and outside the little Barnes and Noble I had chosen for my release party haunt (it had the coolest promotion for it - an "official" wedding announcement for Edward and Bella with a list of games and activities that would be going on. It was printed on really nice paper and in a super-swirly font).

I live in the desert and the night temperatures do not cool off until midnight or later in the summer. My car's temperature reader said 83 degrees as I pulled up but it must have been at least ten degrees hotter inside the store. You couldn't move for all the people that were there. I was completely blown away, but it was totally amazing to see this many dedicated fans all over unite in one happy moment of geekdom.

There was a line for pictures with Bella and Edward stand-ins that there was no way I was getting in line for, a trivia game with drawings for a free copy of the fourth book. There was a bouquet toss I couldn't find somewhere, but I did see and interesting Starburst game that I hadn't seen on the invite (there was also an "Alice psychic readings" at another bookstore that I was tempted to go to).

But my favorite, by far, was the game of "Pin the tail on the werewolf" - they has little Nerf guns to shoot at (which I thought was a very smart idea considering the mass chaos that that store was in. Can you imagine giving someone something sharp in that crowd, turning them around and letting them loose? Kudos to whoever thought of that one in advance, I wouldn't have. They deserve a cookie).

I am amazed at the creativity of some of these bookstores for their ideas in hosting a Midnight release party. Besides the psychic readings and the trivia games and photo shoots, pin the tail on the werewolf, and "Thriller" dance competitions, a little independent bookstore that is one of my absolute favorites to visit hosted a blood drive, which I thought was the most brilliant helpful thing anyone could have thought up. And how appropriate! It really is brilliant, and those who gave blood were entered in to win a free book. So cool.

I also heard of "Library Lock-ins" where they closed the doors at 7:00 PM and started a twelve-hour party of reading and treats and other ghoulish delights; they were encouraged to bring their sleeping bags and dress up as favorite characters and curl up with good books until the stroke of midnight and the librarians could whip out the real thing for them.

I love the energy this book has created and how much fun it is to be a part of something so big. Who ever thought that the release of a book could generate so much attention? But maybe that is exactly what readers need - that camaraderie, that sense of community. It was amazing and so much fun to see. I would love to see something this big happen everywhere, more often. It was the coolest thing to see that kind of response and that kind of kinship built over something that is normally such a solitary experience.

I HEART New York!

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Katana by Justin R. Durbin.

The Archived Adventures!

Publishing capital of the US, the Statue of Liberty, and the most famous hot dog carts (that I know of), who can't help but love the city that never sleeps? This was my first time there ever, and you can tell I'm a little stoked about it. I was there for a day and a half and had four people's itineraries to fill. It was intense. It was crazy. It was amazing. We could only see our top two sites (luckily with everyone's, we got to see pretty much everything). Mine? The Statue of Liberty and the New York Public Library.

Waiting for the bus (and totally not ready for a candid shot)

Steam really does rise from the manhole covers!

Isn't that one of the most beautiful sites in the world?

My friend wouldn't get the camera off me, so here's me strutting my stuff, and getting really embarrassed about it.

The Carousel in Central Park!

Hot dog in Central Park. Dirty water hot dogs all the way. It was fantastic. It's the only way to buy a hot dog in New York.

Trinity Church.

Federal Hall. The history buff in me came out. This is where President Washington took his oath as the first President of the United States.

What is New York without its amazing street performers?

Just love this.

Make sure you see a Broadway show. I was skeptical. Not anymore. This one just barely opened. It was fabulous.

Oh, I love Japanese tourists, I really do. They all wanted a picture next to the New York street mountie, but they were all so afraid of the horse.

Here is my love and homage right back at the Japanese culture. ^_^

And my place I couldn't leave New York without seeing - the New York Public Library. I had to see those lions. I don't know which one is Patience, and which is Fortitude, but I think I was next to Fortitude.

Thank you for my small indulgence in sharing my adventure with you. And we totally watched Enchanted while getting ready for bed at who knows what hour. Times Square was amazing too. The bus ride there and back? Definitely an adventure in itself. :)