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I used to be compulsive about my reading. I had to finish the books I started and, if I couldn’t–if I wandered away fromDavid Coperfield or left the Mayfair Witches to their fates–I saw it as a sign of personal weakness.

It was an easy attitude to have when I was sixteen and had evenings, weekends, and physics class at my reading disposal. As I got older, as more responsibilities fell my way, this attitude became more and more relaxed. These days, I give a book about fifty pages (unless I have to read it for a specific purpose).

I’m  a far cry from the girl who took a decade to read LOTR, who kept coming back to it every couple of years because she couldn’t stand the thought of not having read it.

How about you? Once you start, are you committed to seeing a book through to the end? Do you feel life is too short to read something you don’t enjoy? Are there any books you’re secretly embarrassed to have quit on?

 

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Just a quick note that my interview with Katie Alender, author of Bad Girls Don’t Die (which you should all read before Halloween), is up at Old People Writing for Teens. Stop by and take a look.

Trying to decide what I think of the new Doctor Who logo. The “DW” as the TARDIS is pretty cool as a standalone but I’m having trouble imagining it used in credits.

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My favorite Doctor Who logo has always been the one from the 1996 television movie. I love the colours and the “H”.

Least favorite (I’m sorry to say) is the logo used during Sylvester McCoy’s run. Seven was so great. It’s unfortunate that he got the rubbish scripts and the rubbish logo.

I just saw (and fell in love with) the traler for Hold Still by Nina LaCour. The narration is just gorgeous. I think a lot of YA books lend themselves to trailers with narration. There’s something intimate and immediate about a lot of YA novels and having a trailer narrated by a character really reinforces that.

Over at My Sphere of Domesticity, Kate posted a list of her top forty books (an idea from Corrine Jackon). Her list was a wee bit more high tech than mine and used the ratings she bestowed on Goodreads. I’m not nearly so thorough (and I’ve only entered about a quarter of my books into Goodreads). These are not in order. Some of these were chosen more for their significance at a specific time in my life (yes, I was one of those Lestat obsessed 15 year-olds girls who wrote bad vamp fiction) than for my curent affections. These may not even be my real top forty. I gave myself 7 minutes to puzzle it over.

  1. Life, the Universe and Everything, Doug Adams
  2. The Mirror of Her Dreams/A Man Rides Through, Stephen R. Donaldson
  3. Good Omens – Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman
  4. The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, Douglas Adams
  5. Someplace to be Flying, Charles De Lint
  6. The Princess Bride, William Goldman
  7. Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Helen Fielding
  8. About a Boy, Nick Hornby
  9. The Road, Cormac McCarthy
  10. I’m Perfect, You’re Doomed: Tales of a Jehovah’s Witness Upbringing, Kyria Abrahams
  11. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, John Berendt
  12. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
  13. Owly Volume 2: Just a Little Blue, Andy Runton
  14. Looking for Alaska, John Green
  15. The Blue Girl, Charles De Lint
  16. Microserfs, Douglas Coupland
  17. The Paper Bag Princess, Robert Munsch
  18. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, JKR
  19. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. JKR
  20. The Vampire Lestat – Anne Rice
  21. The Tale of the Body Thief, Anne Rice
  22. Circle of Friends, Maeve Binchy
  23. Stardust, Neil Gaiman

And my seven minutes are up.

Of all the characters in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Ford Prefect is the one whose character shifts I notice the most between adaptations (which is, I suppose, reasonable since he’s my favorite character).

My own impressions and thoughts on Ford are very much shaped by the fact that the first book in the HHGTTG Trilogy that I read was Life, The Universe and Everything. The above fanvid by taylaca for the TV series  doesn’t come at all close to book Ford but it does perfectly reflect David Dixon’s Ford. And I must admit that I really quite like Mos Def’s Ford as well.

What was it that Douglas said about points escaping the author’s mind?

Personal Douglas Adams timeline:

  • Age 13: read The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul
  • Ages 15-16: read (and re-read) Life, The Universe and Everything, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, So Long and Thanks for all the Fish, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, Mostly Harmless, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (read all of out order as I could aquire them).
  • Age 18: Watched the TV series/mini-series
  • Age 21: Radio series
  • Age 23: Broke down and read The Salmon of Doubt (after a year of refusing to do so)
  • Age 26: Movie

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MSN Entertainment just released Kim Linekin’s list of best and worst adaptations of beloved children’s books.

I was glad to see Iron Giant make the list under the “best” category, annoyed to see Stardust included under the “worst” category, and greatly puzzled by the inclusion of The Princess Bride.

Though I don’t consider Stardust a children’s novel, I can sort of see why someone would think of it as such (it started off as a comic book and, no matter how far the medium comes, there will always be people who assume comic book = kids).

But I can’t understand why The Princess Bride is on the list. While the book can definitely be enjoyed by children (assuming they make it through the 40 page introduction), I’ve never considered it a children’s book. In fact, in all the years I’ve been buying copies (I’ve gone through several and have given it frequently as a gift), I’ve always picked it up in Literature in Fiction.

This isn’t a slam against kid lit (I frequently write and read YA), merely a case of bafflement.

So I’ll ask you: Princess Bride? Kid lit or adult lit? (Either way, it’s great)

Sunday afternoon saw me shopping at a big box bookstore in a city some two hours away. When I reached the cash, the clerk let out a squal and grabbed the arm of the girl working next to her. The object of their excitement? The small black button on my purse that said “got books?” in the “got milk?” font.

When I told them I had bought it at a small secondhand bookstore back home, and that the bookstore had other buttons and magnets bearing phrases like “Books kick ass!” and “Reading is sexy…”, the girls immediately began debating a road trip.

These two girls–barely out of their teens–were willing to drive two hours to get a $2.00 button proclaiming their love of books.

I’ll be interviewing Katie Alender later this month for OPWFT. In the meantime, I just want to point to her website as an example of an author who really uses the power of the web and the idea of the book as an experience to her advantage.

Her website features a seperate section for fans of Bad Girl’s Don’t Die called Alexis’s Darkroom. The mini-site makes thegraphic design and marketing part of my soul do flip flops. It features quizes, downloadable wallpapers, authors commentary, playlists and more. It also features a different look and feel than the main site which is key to its appeal.

Well worth checking out. web

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Urban fantasy/paranormal author Kelly Meding’s debut novel, Three Days to Dead, is coming out this November from Bantam Dell. When she’s not writing, Kelly can often be found on Absolute Write where she gives unpublished writers hope that new authors can, and do, get published. Kelly was kind enough to answer a few questions about her new book and the road to publication.

Can you give us a brief overview of Three Days to Dead?

Three Days to Dead is the first in a new dark urban fantasy series from Dell.

Evangeline Stone was one of the best Dreg bounty hunters in the city, until she wakes up in a morgue, stuck in a strange new body, with no memory of how she died. As she struggles to piece together the missing, final week of her life, she learns she may possess information vital to stopping a devastating alliance between the city’s vampires and goblins…and she only has three days to remember what it is.

Urban fantasy is often populated by tough female protagonists with sharp senses of humor (I like to blame Joss Whedon – and, by “blame”, I mean give him big hugs and thanks). What would you say sets Evangeline Stone apart and did you worry about competing with heavy-weight genre characters like Anita Blake and Mercedes Thompson?

(I’d like to give Joss Whedon big hugs and thanks, too. He’s certainly been one of my inspirations for many, many years, and he’s created some of the most memorable hours of television ever.)

I love discovery stories (the heroine has no prior knowledge of the paranormal until she’s thrust into it head-first), but I’d sort of done that with other novels I’d trunked. When I set about creating this world and the character of Evy Stone, I knew I wanted a character who was already immersed in the paranormal world and was really good at killing the paranormal critters who hunted humans (the Dregs). So she started out as the typical tough female protag, but by beginning the novel with her resurrection into an untrained, unknown body, I was able to turn those skills on their collective heads. She knows how to throw a knife and kill something at a hundred paces, but dang it if this new body doesn’t have the hand-eye coordination to do it! She’s at a disadvantage from the start, she doesn’t have all the answers, and as her memories start to resurface, she discovers deep emotional scars that affect her in ways she just doesn’t like.

As for competing with Anita and Mercy….I wish. I haven’t read the AB series, and I’m a little ashamed to admit that I hadn’t read the Mercy books until this year (but I now bow to the feet of Patricia Briggs, because I freaking adore her books!). I really didn’t think much about competing with the current market as I was writing—doing so is crazy-making. The best think you can do when writing a first draft if to write for yourself only. Don’t think about the market or your potential audience. Write something you love and you’re proud of and it’ll show in your work.

My best hope is that Evy is able to make a mark of her own, however large or small.

Three Days to Dead is the first in a series. A lot of new authors are advised not to mention series potential in their query letters, but urban fantasy seems to be a genre which seems to love its series writers. How many Evy Stone books are planned and did you mention “series” when you queried agents?

I think mentioning or not mentioning something as part of a series definitely depends on what genre you’re writing in. Urban fantasy is perfect for series writing, because it gives the author and readers a chance to continuously explore these unique and exciting worlds. So yes, I did put the standard “this novel stands alone, but has series potential” in my queries. But I didn’t let myself entertain the series notion (ie, work on book two or expand the overall story arcs) until we actually sold to Dell. I’d written sequels to unsold books before, and I wasn’t about to jinx this one.

So far there are two contracted books for the series, and I’ve plotted in my head as far as four. The story I have in mind to tell can go on further, and there are so many supporting characters begging for attention, as well. However, if sales allow it (*fingers crossed*) I think Evy’s story would stop around six books.

A lot of new writers are so focused on finding an agent that they don’t think about next steps. Once you had an agent, how long was the road to publication? Did Three Days to Dead undergo any significant changes between the draft that you sent to your agent and the book we’ll see on shelves next month?

My road to publication with this book was super-fast. Everything happened last year, within eight months. I sent agent queries in February ’08. Was offered representation in May by a terrific agent. We went on submission in July and had an auction in August. It was the right book at the right time, and it got into the hands of the right people.

Another aspect a lot of folks don’t expect is the length of time between that first offer and actually seeing your book on store shelves. There are so many things that happen in between—contract negotiations, editorial letters, copy edits, cover art and copy, galleys, promotion. Every once in a while I hear folks who say “editors don’t edit” or “new authors will be dumped out there without any support,” and those things are just not true. But the few folks who have bad experiences are more likely to shout it to the rooftops than the majority of us who have good ones. That’s why learning everything you can about the industry BEFORE you seek publication is a good idea—know what to expect so you know how to spot a scammer.

/end tangent and back to question

The original draft has a few semi-significant changes character-wise, although no full scenes were ever cut and the plot itself never really changed. My agent and I did two rounds of edits, one of which altered the way a particular relationship plays out (to my eternal gratitude, because it’s just a million times better this way). When it got to my editor, a few more scenes were tweaked and mined (I was rather mortified when she pointed out a glaring logic flaw in the ending), and she had me add a scene to further clarifying things. So somehow the final draft is actually 2-3k longer than the original, but mostly the same story-wise. Everything that I changed made the book so much better.

Some people believe that previously unpublished authors without MFA’s have a better chance of finding Atlantis than getting published. Do you think you’re the exception to that rule or is there hope for new writers?

There is absolutely hope for new writers, and no, I don’t think I’m an exception. Maybe an MFA will help if you write literary, but it’s certainly not necessary for all genres. No education is wasted education, in my opinion, but “Author” doesn’t come with specific resume requirements. An MFA is no guarantee you’ll ever be commercially published. Your manuscript should be able to speak for itself, regardless of your credits and degrees.

New writers sign with agents every single month. Editors buy debut novels every single month. Every single author you see on bookstore shelves, whether they’re a NY Times bestseller of eighteen novels or a struggling mid-lister with four, was new at one time or another. No one is born a published author. You don’t have to know someone or have a contact within the industry—I didn’t. Most of my author friends didn’t.

Learn your craft. Find your voice. Write a story you love. Polish it until it shines.

Then hunker down and treat publication like the business that it is. Don’t take rejections personally. Be persistent. Be polite. And be prepared for criticism—if you think agents are tough, wait until that first editorial letter comes across your desk. *grin*

I’d like to thank Kelly for taking the time to talk to me. Three Days to Dead will be released on November 24, 2009. You can keep up with Kelly by reading her blog and you can read the first chapter of Three Days To Dead here (click the “Features” tab).