Feature Fun Friday - Gollum Sings "I Will Survive"

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Smooth Criminal by 2CELLOS (Sulic and Hauser). - awesome rendition!

This counts in every way as a valid Feature Fun Friday of high and profound literary merit. It has singing, dancing (okay, not quite dancing, but Minnesota Public Radio host John Moe does rush off stage because he can't keep from laughing). It has Neil Gaiman (cracking up), Gollum (singing), and Mythbusters. What more on earth could you want in a video? My inner nerd is screaming in joy. I am--utterly complete. Have a fantastic weekend, everyone!

Interview with Jessica Day George, author of Princess of the Midnight Ball

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Mockingbird by Rob Thomas.

Today I have the honor and privilege to bring you a delightfully fun and funny author, whose writing just keeps getting better and better. It is a belated interview, but one I am so grateful she was willing to do. Please welcome Jessica Day George, author of many books, including her retelling of the "Twelve Dancing Princesses" - PRINCESS OF THE MIDNIGHT BALL.

[HZ] Hello! First off, let me say I loved Galen's character. He is fascinating as a soldier who does not (quite realistically) like fighting. But your sparse and fluid description in the final confrontation scene shows just how good he is. Any insider info into his head that you can give us during that key scene? :)

[JDG] Galen doesn’t like fighting, but I knew he had to be good at it anyway: he grew up in the army, he survived countless battles, and all before reaching his 19th birthday. Fighting, like it or not, would come naturally to him in a dangerous situation, the movements of loading and firing would be pure reflex, or he wouldn’t be alive! I just thought, this is the moment where instinct takes over and he just does what he has been trained to do for eight years.

In another interview you mentioned that you wrote six novels before selling Dragon Slippers (your first publication). What was that experience like? How did you keep moving from one project to the other and did you ever know when one would sell? What is your relationship/feeling toward those first six novels now?

It’s not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure! I always have at least two projects going, in my head if not on paper, so as soon as I finished one I would just move on to the next, and hope one of them would strike an editor’s fancy. 200+ rejections started to get a little depressing, but I knew that I didn’t want to do anything else, so I just kept going. I would like to see my earlier novels published, but I’m well aware (now that I’m older and wiser, ha!) that they need drastic rewriting!

Your first lines are fantastic throughout almost every one of your stories. How on earth do you come up with them? What is the hardest part of writing for you?

Well, sometimes they just come to you in a flash of inspiration, and sometimes you have to play around with them for maximum impact. It just depends on the story! The hardest part is usually the middle, when you know where you’ve been, you know where you’re headed, but you’re not sure how to get there!

Your characters in general intrigued me. Take for example their mother, who, to stave off any spoilers, is not clean cut or perfect. What made you decide to take that route? How did you come up with her?

Well, someone had to make a deal with the devil, and it had to be someone who was both desperate enough to make the deal, and innocent enough to not fully understand what they were doing.

One thing you did with this novel that I absolutely loved was how you brought in other countries and politics. Your kingdom did not act in isolation. This changed the entire flavor of your story because their choices bore serious and very real consequences. Was this a conscious decision, and how did you go about creating nations and their connection to each other?

I’m always irritated by fantasy books where there is only country in the entire world. In the real world, all our lives are affected in so many ways by the other countries around us: we go there on vacation, crises abroad affect our economy, so many products are imports, (I threaten to move to Canada during just about every presidential election), that I just can’t fathom writing about a world where these issues don’t also affect them. Westfalian is basically an alternate-world Germany, since MIDNIGHT BALL is my retelling of one of Grimm’s fairy tales, which means there would be an alternate France (Analousia), alternate Denmark (the Danelaw), and other countries bordering them. Their continent is called Ionia because Europe is named after Europa, one of Zeus’ lovers from mythology and Io was another. (Yes, this is probably cheating in some way. No, I don’t care!)

Another character question (last one, I promise!) Lily's creation. As a sister, she fascinated and captivated me the moment she so calmly and so accurately held that gun through the window. I was hooked. How do you create characters (and will there be any more featuring Lily, and if not, what happens to her after the end of the story?!)

To use a little Pride & Prejudice analogy: Lily is Jane to Rose’s Lizzie. Rose, as the oldest daughter of a widowed king would be the official hostess at state dinners, balls, etc., in addition to being the leader of the twelve sisters. But this wouldn’t give her a lot of time to be motherly, nor was it really in her nature to be soothing and coddle the younger girls, so I dropped that burden onto the next sister, who I imagined as the calm yet capable one who is quietly holding everything together. And I love the saying, “It’s always the quiet ones . . .” which I know usually applies to murderers, but I started to think, “What if this totally selfless, good-natured young woman had some past pain or secret?” I’d already started writing bits where Galen had had a cousin who’d enlisted in the army and disappeared, and I took it from there. There is mention of Lily in PRINCESS OF GLASS, and she is in the third book, which I’m working on right now.

What fairy tale frustrates you the most? Why?

Well, The Twelve Dancing Princesses! Depending on the version you read, the hero is a gardener or a soldier, and at the end it says, “And they never danced again, and they lived happily ever after.” But in the story, they LOVED dancing! It’s just baffling!

Through the writing process, is there anything you've had to cut out of your manuscripts, editors or otherwise?

Um . . . yes.

Have you ever considered writing short stories to accompany/supplement the worlds you've created? For example I would love a story told from Rollo's or Shardas' point of view (or Lily's. *nudge nudge* You have no idea what I'd give to read her and her love interest's backstory). :)

Nope. But I might. You never know, with me!

What is a favorite unknown book you love that few seem to know about?

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn. Utterly charming, and a literary exercise at the same time!

And the most important question of all...

Ninjas or Pirates? ;)

Um, pirates, please!

Thank you so much, Jessica! This was such a treat to have you.

Book and Literary T-Shirt Love Lives On!

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): The Setting Sun by Switchfoot.

The awesome and amazing Enna Isilee of Squeaky Books has risen to the challenge! We have more literary love t-shirts than I thought possible, and this was only after a ten minute search! There is gold out in thar internet hills, I know it. Send any more, and I'll post them up. But here is the treasure trove Enna has brought us.

Prynne from Novel-T

Not a Book from BustedTees

Palindrome T-shirt by mental_floss

Veni Vidi Wiki T-shirt by mental_floss

Team Edvard T-shirt by mental_floss

Idioms T-shirt by mental_floss

I'm an English Major T-shirt by mental_floss

Vagueness T-shirt by mental_floss

Attack of Literacy by Threadless

Four Classmates by Woot

Monday's Muse 36th edition.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Every Tear is a Waterfall by Coldplay.

The idea of Monday's Muse 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:

Angel Burn by L. A. Weatherly.

Weatherly (Child X) launches a supernatural YA trilogy with a terrific, action-packed romantic thriller. Sixteen-year-old Willow is a gifted mechanic and psychic living in upstate New York. When she does a reading for her classmate Beth, who is planning on joining the cultlike Church of Angels, Willow becomes scared; Beth thinks she's been blessed by an angel, but Willow sees that the "angel" feeds on humans' life force, poisoning bodies and damaging minds while leaving the victim euphoric. At 17, Alex has been an angel assassin for years, but when he receives orders to kill Willow, he's confused--she's not his typical target, and he's suspicious about why she's been marked for death. Looking for answers, Alex rescues Willow and takes her on the run, trying to foil the angels' plans before all of humanity is lost. Weatherly's plot and writing are first-rate, adrenaline- fueled while still taking the time to thoughtfully develop the characters and build the romance. This elevated twist on the angel genre deserves to be spread far and wide. Ages 14-up.--Publisher's Weekly

The Big Burn by Jeanette Ingold.

Ingold (Pictures, 1918) captures the momentum of a wildfire in this historical novel about "the big burn" that scorched millions of acres across Idaho and Montana in 1910. Against the atmospheric backdrop of beauty and devastation, each of three teens bravely battles the fire. As a member of the all-black infantry sent to help, Seth conquers his own insecurities; Jarrett, younger brother of a forest ranger, chooses to combat the blaze with the rough-and-tumble, ill-equipped hired crews; while Lizbeth and her guardian cousin reluctantly abandon their homestead, only to face the danger in town. Ingold intersperses the intersecting stories of the teenagers with "field notes" recorded by a ranger and a university professor; these slow the pace but offer illuminating background, including the contrast between the Indian tradition of setting controlled fires annually versus the government's belief that "the only safe way to control fire was to not let it burn in the first place." The narrative flags a bit a romance between Jarrett and Lizabeth never becomes as compelling as their individual struggles but on balance, the triumphs and casualties recounted here will heighten appreciation for the courage and sacrifice of firefighters and settlers; the book may be especially timely in light of this summer's runaway fires in the West.--Publisher's Weekly.

Burn by Suzanne Phillips.

Cameron, a high school freshman, becomes an easy target for the varsity bullies after a chance comment by a coach who notices his short stature and long hair from behind and directs him to the girls' gym. As the taunts of "gay" or "fag" drive most of his friends away, Cameron's anger escalates. When he is assaulted in the locker room and photos of his nude body are posted on the Internet, he begins to break down and his desire to retaliate is explosive. Only his mother's boyfriend, a police officer, is able to understand the post-traumatic stress disorder that Cam is experiencing and offer practical though unwanted support. This is an intense story with brutal descriptions of the abuse Cameron suffers. Phillips provides just enough nuanced details of sexual assault and violence yet masterfully avoids sensationalism. While Burn lacks the eloquence of Nancy Garden's Endgame (Harcourt, 2006) and the broad perspective of Walter Dean Myers's Shooter (HarperCollins, 2004), it instead approaches the inner turmoil of the victim's "real time" during the taunting, humiliation, revenge, and remorse. As Cam's emotional state deteriorates, fantasy and reality blur, effectively conveying his pain and confusion. Reluctant readers will appreciate the fast pace of the book as the disturbing plot unfolds with short day-to-day vignettes. There is understanding to be gained for everyone who reads this timely title.—-Sue Lloyd, Franklin High School, Livonia, MI, School Library Journal.

Camilla d'Errico's Burn by Scott Sanders and Camilla d'Errico.

Burn was once human.

He also had a family and friends, until a metallic angel of death took everything from him. This mechanical monster, Shoftiel, was one of many living machines made to help humanity that revolted and declared war on their creators. It tore through Burn's home and wreaked havoc on his city until the buildings collapsed, crashing down upon them.

Emerging from the rubble, Burn and Shoftiel discover their once separate bodies have become one -- neither human nor machine, but a freak union of both. Internally their minds are caught in a raging battle for control. Just as mankind must struggle against the sentients for survival, Burn must find the strength to overcome Shoftiel's genocidal programming to retain whatever's left of his humanity.

The Kookaburra and Other Stories by Dal Burns.

[Editor's Note: The following is a combined review with OUTBACK.]--Dal Burns left England for Australia as a mere lad of 17. This production is the "story" of his walkabout through the not-so-English colony down under. According to the author, this story includes not only tales of what he did and saw, but also tales of what he wishes he'd seen and done. Launching from Sydney, he journeys to the vast expanse of the Outback, enduring privation as well as meeting a host of colorful characters: a Gallipoli veteran, aborigines, and assorted tough mates. Burns's clear voice is soft and soothing, in contrast to the world he encounters. His adventures are fascinating; a large number of delightful songs set the mood and add color to the incidents he relates. The most memorable is a wonderful performance of "Lime Juice Tub." (This is even accessible via the work's Web site.) KOOKABURRA is Burns's retelling of a number of aboriginal tales. We are told the origin of the kangaroo, how a trickster is himself tricked, and how the cockatiel came into being.--Audiofile.

Pucker by Melanie Gideon.

Thomas Quicksilver (born Thomas Gale) has lived half his 17 years with burn scars that earned him the nickname Pucker. However, neither the scars nor the change in his name is as traumatic as his adventures in the alternative world of Isaura, his birth home. There, Seers hold political power and failed or ruined humans immigrate only to become servants, or Changed, with no personal will. Thomas, who fled Isaura in childhood with his widowed mother, has adapted well to life in contemporary America. However, Serena is losing her life force and sends him on a mission to restore her Seerskin. Once Thomas returns to his homeland purportedly as one of the Changed he must avoid being identified by the natives, fight to keep alive his own will to find the Seerskin and return to Earth, become accustomed to his newly invoked movie-star good looks, and cope with other Changed ones, including a feisty girl with whom he falls in love. Gideon's many characters are nuanced and credible. None is perfect, and even those with major flaws are shown to have positive attributes. The parallel world, with its adherence to late-19th-century technology, offers much to ponder, not only by readers, but also by Thomas. The only shortcoming of this fascinating novel is its abrupt ending, which, at least, comes after he has re-immigrated to Earth and is living with both his recovering mother and his returned keloid scars. --Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA, School Library Journal.

Feature Fun Friday - How I Live Now Book Trailer

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): The Dog Days Are Over by Florence and the Machine.

An award-winner and subculture favorite for a reason, this is a book trailer that won the 2006 Teen Book Video Award. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Heather Epic Failure

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Plan B by Cassiopeia [Disney's Z3 (Zenon) soundtrack] - don't judge.

Okay, I am using my blogging time to make a loud, declarative shout out to the world.

During my EPIC contest of EPIC (you know the one, with like 50 books to give away, Fibonacci number sequences, and all that jazz? Yup? Good). Well, ONE of the prizes was for personalized short stories I would write for people. About half a dozen winners made it. But just recently I got an email from one of them, a book blogger I hold dear to my heart, asking when she would be able to see it.

I. Was. Horrified.

I had put it in a draft folder and was going to give it one more polish-shine, and I left it there. I thought I had sent it months ago. I've gone through trying to find if any others have slipped through the cracks, but my email is more disorganized than a box of kittens with catnip.

So this is a shout out to all the winners, as well as anyone else who has ever sent me something that I have not replied to - PLEASE TELL ME AND I WILL GROVEL BEFORE YOUR FEET. Tell me what I've forgotten, or send it again, and I will bump it to the top of my list immediately.

Literary T-Shirts for the Win!

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Magic Dance by David Bowie [Labyrinth soundtrack].

I'm a sucker for awesome tees, and I found some that are of particular literary merit. Thank you threadless. You rock my world.

And this one is one of my all-time favorites. I need it. Someone needs to write this.

Do you know of any literary-like tees? If so, tell me! I think we should make a compendium of them.

Feature Fun Friday - ALL of the Harry Potter Trailers in One Go

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): The Middle by Jimmy Eat World.

It's a movie in a minute! So you can now watch all seven of them and then get thee to a theater. :)

HP Countdown - Day 10

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): All About Your Heart by Mindy Gledhill.

"Erised" by TomScribble

HP Countdown - Day 9 - SPOILERS

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Marunae Pi by E.S Posthumus.

"Patronus" by toerning

HP Countdown - Day 8 - SPOILERS

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Kyrie by Mr. Mister.

"Soggy Ron" by Saehral

HP Countdown - Day 7

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Arrival and Netherfield by Dario Marianelli [Pride and Prejudice soundtrack]

"Sectumsempra" by sayurikemiko

"R.A.B" by ixlwing

HP Countdown - Day 6

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Afro Blue by Lizz Wright.

"The Worst Birthday" by hannah-dora

"I've Waited Too Long" by thanfiction

"The Deathly Hallows" by terriblyartistic

HP Countdown - Day 5

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Hrafnagaldur (Odin's Raven Magic) by Sigur Ros [Screaming Masterpiece soundtrack]

"The Dark Mark" by deeterhi

"Lily's Letter" by shyduck

"Dementors" by nightgrowler

HP Countdown - Day 4

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Eye of the Tiger by Survivor.

"Expelliarmus" by Gold-Seven

"Weasely is Our King" by Gold-Seven

"The Boy Who Lived" by Gold-Seven

HP Countdown - Day 3 - SPOILERS!

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Bittersweet Symphony by The Verve (this was not even orchestrated!)

"Grim Weasely Twins" by lorraine-schleter

"Chagrin" by HitoFanart

HP Countdown - Day 2

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): All Love Can Be by Charlotte Church.

"Luna Lovegood" by Ninidu

"Ginny Weasely" by Ninidu

"Draco Malfoy" by Ninidu

"Ron Weasley" by Ninidu

"Harry Potter" by Ninidu