Monday, October 27, 2008

What is it With the Reviews?

No one ever comments on my reviews! Are they all that boring?

Anyways, I just finished reading "Alcatraz Vs. The Scrivener's Bones." It is absolutely awesome. I can't even start talking about it without dropping spoilers so read it for yourself! Instead, I will just tell you it is smart, funny, action-packed, clever, suspenseful to the last drop, and the final scene had me laughing my head off.

I was going to tell you what the final scene was, but I can't because that would spoil everything.

Buy it. Read it. Now.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Rebecca's Reviews: Titan AE

Eight years ago, I missed "Titan AE" when it came out in theaters. It looked cool, but I was afraid it would be stupid. Don Bluth had disappointed me before.

It turns out that this flashy, expensive science-fiction epic brought the Don Bluth studio down in flames - their best, their worst, and their last film.

Let us consider the tragic fall. What went wrong? On the surface, the film looked incredible. The character animation deeply impressed me. Facial expressions, gestures, timing, even the illusion of weightlessness were masterfully executed. The lush interstellar backgrounds, the 3-D ships, the incredible imagination at work - I almost think they should have hired John Williams to compose a soundtrack and simply skipped the dialog and story. It could have been like an outer space version of Fantasia 2000.

Not all of the dialog was bad. In certain individual scenes the exchanges between the characters were delightfully honest. The trouble was, in the next scene the dialog would be stilted and canned and the characters would be, well, out of character!

The story should have been compelling enough to command ninety-five minutes. In the opening sequence of the film, mankind flees planet earth just minutes before an evil alien race turns our home sweet home into an asteroid field. Fifteen years later, humans are living on the fringes of galactic society, homeless and quickly dying out. Wow, what a premise!

Then things begin to go down the drain. Enter surly twenty-year old Cale. He might have been unhappily cutting up derelict spacecraft for his alien employers all his life if it were not for the fact that his dad was a brilliant scientist who built a nifty machine that makes . . . planets! Just what we needed! Unfortunately, Dad hid the machine and went missing, and Cale is about to find out that he's the only one with the secret genetically encoded ring map to find it. He's got to hurry because the evil aliens bent on the destruction of the human race would like to get to it first and blow it up.

Okay, okay, so it's silly, but I still think they could have pulled it off. Unfortunately, the story has no cohesion. I can not watch the film a second time because things the characters did and said early in the movie make no sense in light of later events. Did I mention there's a pirate captain, a kangaroo woman, a batty scientist turtle, and a hot laser-toting space pilot babe with purple bangs? Sounds awful! That's why I didn't go see it in the theater.

Worst of all, this film had no audience. After the exposition, where Cale is a cute five-year old kid on the day the aliens destroy the earth, all my children howled with disappointment when they saw how old he would be for the rest of the film. "I liked him better as a kid!" they all cried. With lead characters in their early twenties and a garage-band soundtrack, the film is aimed directly at teens. It was eight years ahead of its time. The equally sloppy and much less brilliant "Clone Wars" may not be doing tremendously well, but it was cheap to make and enough people went to see it that it hasn't put a hole in the studio and sunk it.

"Titan AE" is one of those films that makes me wonder - is there some kind of inverse relationship between the amount of really awesome visuals and action sequences and the intelligence of the plot? Must it always be this way? Or will anyone ever combine smart storytelling, great characters, and mind-blowing visuals into a single film?

I'm waiting!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Rebecca's Reviews: Hidden Talents

I have wanted to read Hidden Talents by David Lubar for a long time. I started it once, but the first few pages were so much like Holes I thought "Been there, done that" and hopped off the bus. Shortly after that, I felt I had to spend every spare minute revising my first novel to get ready for a writer's conference in June. When I got home from that I felt I had to write the new book I started at the writer's conference. Now, four months later, I'm having a week of rebellion and I'm reading everything in sight.

Oh, it has been so nice to lie on the couch (lie, not lay) for hours and read! This is why I write, why I slave and stress and work and burn the candle at both ends and in the middle, so that somewhere, someday, someone can lie on the couch with one of my books and let the whole rest of the world melt away.

But I was going to tell you about Hidden Talents. This time, I'm glad I stayed on for the ride. The book is clever, fun, and it even has a great sequel! I read them both in one day. The main character is a boy who has such a smart mouth that he's been sent to alternative school for very bad boys. He gets a pyro for a roommate, makes freinds with a clepto and a pathological cheater, and fills out his crowd with a hyperactive boy who wears his hair in little braids (that was one of my favorite parts) and a kid famous for randomly throwing objects.

They all have one thing in common, one thing they haven't discovered yet.

None of it is their fault

There is some language in this book I wouldn't want to hear my kids use, but other than that, nothing objectionable. The sequel is more action oriented and less contemplative, but still clever and well written. I recommend them both.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Rebecca's Reviews: Palace of Mirrors

Palace of Mirrors by Margaret Peterson Haddix is a princess tale of mistaken identities. The character, Ella, from Haddix's earlier book, Just Ella, makes an appearance, but this new book isn't really a sequel. The story stands on its own.

The characters were the best thing about the book. The setting is your typical princess book setting, a very well behaved Medieval Europe that has been through the wash a few times so as not to horrify the kids. As for the story, some very important plot points were a little beyond my willing suspension of disbelief. But the characters were great! I almost didn't mind where the characters were or what was happening to them - I liked them so much.

But the reason I am going to buy this book, besides the fact that I'm a dedicated Haddix fan, is that she did her research on harps! I loved the details on harp-playing in the book, all accurate by the way, and wished for even more. It makes me wonder if Haddix plays the harp, knows a harper, or simply spent hours on the internet reading everything she could find.

Girls ages 9-12 should adore this unusual twist on the "princes raised as a peasant" theme.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What's The Rush?

Last week I was in an all-fired hurry to get my first three chapters off to the editor.

Now I'm thinking I need to take my time.

I like my book, but it still feels a little thin. I think that everything I need is in there, I just haven't brought it all out yet. I especially want to work on the pacing and tension.

One of my major concerns is that no one under the age of 12 has been able to finish reading the book yet. Anyone like to hazard a guess as to why?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Website Update

Hi Everyone!

I've updated my author site with a new page about Earthcrosser. Go check it out!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Draft Three Test Readers, Line Up Here!

I am one chapter away from being done with draft three. Do I have a second round of test readers out there? I'd like to get some new people to look at this manuscript next week.

It is a great little book, and I'm very proud of it, but is it good enough?

Now I am almost as scared as I was at the beginning. When I began I wondered if I could create a book that lived up to that first chapter that caught the attention of a professional editor. In the middle of the process I could forget about all that and simply enjoy my craft. Now here at the end, once again, I wonder if I did it.

Oh the delightful agony of suspense!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Rebecca's Reviews: City of Ember

City of Ember is built upon an intriguing premise. A two-hundred year-old city deep beneath the earth is the last refuge of humankind. But supplies are running short, the mighty electric generator is breaking down, time is running out, and somewhere along the line the secret instructions for returning to the surface have been lost.

When it comes to atmosphere, Ember's got it. Rusty pipe-works drip and spurt, a web of overhead lamps illuminates the drab city streets, citizens wear thrice made-over clothes, and no one dares to venture into the darkness beyond. The characters are simple but compelling, and the best parts of the story focus on the choices that different people make when faced with the imminent collapse of everything they know. Do you wait for someone to come and save you? Do you horde supplies for yourself while everyone else around you goes hungry? Do you keep patching the pipes and hope for the best? Or do you risk everything to find a real solution?

The only thing keeping City of Ember from going down as a great science fiction classic, in my mind at least, was the cheap movie tricks that made the film feel like a grade-B clunker instead of a serious work of art. Cheap trick number one : the giant mole. My daughter could not get over the giant mole. An hour later she was still complaining, "If there were a mole that size running around in the pipe tunnels, someone would have noticed it and killed it! They wouldn't let it go around eating people!"

The giant mole was not in the book. Ember author Jeanne DuPrau is probably rolling her eyes. I hope they paid her well for the movie rights.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Love My Ceramic Cook-Top

Our old stove started to give out a few months ago. Two of the burners stopped working. So, after putting up with it for a while, we caved in and bought a new stove. This time I decided I wanted one of those flat cook tops, the type without ring pans. They looked so easy to clean.

Little did I know.

Ceramic cook tops are not really easy to clean. They are possible to clean. Ring pans are absolutely impossible to keep clean for long. Something falls down there while you're cooking, scorches on, and then never completely comes off. On the other hand, when something drips onto the ceramic cook top, it does scrub off again, if you scrub it right away and you use the nifty ceramic cook top cleaning cream.

The nifty ceramic cook top cleaning cream is a little like car wax. You wipe it on, then polish it in before you even start cooking. It cleans and protects the cook top, and makes it easy to clean up scorched drips. There have been a couple of drips that resisted even the nifty cook top cleaning cream, so I gently scraped them off with the edge of a metal spatula.

So far my ceramic cook top has withstood encounters with my giant boiling water canner and my cast iron griddles. As soon as the cook top cooled I polished off all the black marks, dripped syrup, and hard-water deposits, and it looks as good as new. I love my new ceramic cook top.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Perfect timing! Scientists at Mount Lemmon observatory near Tucson, Arizona spotted a tiny asteroid about a day before it struck the earth's atmosphere over Egypt, burning up in a spectacular display that outshone the moon. Here's the article:

This is the FIRST, the very first time an object from outer space has been spotted before it hits. All you Earthcrosser readers will be interested in this link to animated observational photos of the asteroid, which perfectly match a certain scene in my book:

Yes, I feel very vindicated today, thank you.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Thank You Readers!

Thanks to everyone who read Earthcrosser and got back to me with comments! I am pleased with your responses and very, very excited to start my third draft.

The main comment I've heard is that the setting is not consistent. Towards the end of the book, all of a sudden there are helicopters, guns, trucks, military bases, and all sorts of things that must have been hiding just over the ridge if they could descend upon us so quickly and save the day. It makes the reader wonder why the characters had so many problems due to lack of technology at the beginning of the book.

I have some good ideas for ways to fix this. Hee hee.

If any of you have other remarks, you can put them in the comments or e-mail them to me.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Writer's Keyboard

My poor old keyboard! The only letters that hadn't been rubbed off were Q,W, T,Y,U,I,P,G,Z,X, and B. I can't write much with that.

I typically touch type, but every now and then, especially when I'm typing in a password and can't see what I'm hitting by watching the screen, I just have to look at the keys! So I took my Dremel and etched the missing letters back in.

That should last a little while.