Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Strict Pick: THE MEDUSA PLOT (39 Clues) by Gordon Korman

I was introduced to the 39 Clues both from its high-visibility placement in the store, but also from its incredible popularity with the middle-grade-aged readers in my reading classes this summer. I've been fascinated with them for a number of reasons, chief among them the way that these books are designed to make reading a multi-dimensional experience.

One of the things I spend a lot of time thinking about as a writer, and especially a writer with  penchant for turning out male protagonists, is how we get boys to read. Just having a boy MC isn't enough for many, not in these days when books are competing with Wii, texting, PS3 and so many other things that draw in our boys--figuring out a way to make books tap into the "gaming" aspect that is so appealing to boys in this age group

39 Clues fits this bill. With so many authors (and big authors!) working on this project, books end up coming out so frequently that they keep the readers engaged--the aspect of being able to "follow along" was what most of my students most enjoyed. Add to that the interactive missions which tie in to the books and you have a series that's managed to turn reading into exactly the kind of game that will make my nephews put down their Wiimotes.

Here's what the publisher has to say about MEDUSA:
After the mysterious Vespers kidnap Cahills around the globe, they order Amy and Dan to steal a priceless painting in exchange for the hostages. The siblings rush to Italy to execute a heist that rivals the most famous art thefts in history. There's just one problem—the painting they steal is a fake. With the clock ticking, Amy and Dan have to track down the real painting before one of Cahill hostages pays the ultimate price. But Dan and Amy can't stop the Vespers alone. Each book comes with six game cards that unlock an online mission and allow you to join the fight against the Vespers. Are you ready?

39 Clues gets my strict pick this week because it's such an innovative way to deal with the changing nature of the readers of today's kidlit. Enjoy it!

The Medusa Plot at Powell's
The Medusa Plot at Amazon
The Medusa Plot at Barns & Noble

Monday, August 29, 2011

Writing Hack: Develop the Ctrl+S tic

I try hard to do everything I possibly can from my keyboard. A lot of time is wasted when you're constantly moving from keyboard to mouse to keyboard, and if you're writing a difficult passage, taking the time to put your hand on your mouse can break your concentration just enough to pull you out of the writing.

For that reason, one of my favorite writing hacks is what I call the "Ctrl+S tic." I developed it while working in a particularly buggy but useful piece of shareware, Transcriber, which I use for my Linguistics work. Transcriber has a nasty habit of crashing after you've put in several hours' work transcribing an interview. So I got my fingers into the habit of pushing Ctrl+s (save) nearly every time I pause to think. It's pretty easily to train your left hand to run this function, and the shortcut works in almost every application (Mac users, you'll need to pull your pinkie finger in a bit and hit the Apple key, but same idea). The gesture has now become so automatic for me that it's rare that I go more than a few paragraphs without getting a new hard save in.

It's inevitable that you'll have a power surge, or a program crash, or a feline who loves to rub against the power button right when you've just had your stroke of brilliance. Making Ctrl+S an automatic habit means less data lost any time the worst happens.

Friday, August 26, 2011

In Brief: Duh Moment

I frequently check out books from the DC Public Library on my Sony Reader. I went to get some comp titles for SONATA, and was dismayed to find that there were no ebook versions available. Saddened, I started to investigate how much it would cost me to buy the books, in print or e-formats.

And then it dawned on me that the library loans out paper books, too. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

DC Earthquake Aftermath

My earthquake "damage." One of the photos on the box also fell on the floor, knocked over by the books.

I wonder if my renters' insurance has a "toppled stack of ARCs" clause?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Strict Pick: BLOODLINES, by Richelle Mead

Monday nights are my favorite night to work at the store, because that's the night (and afternoon) that we get to break open the boxes labeled STRICT ON SALE. These are the books that everyone (or at least some someones) are waiting for--the ones where the store gets fined if a single copy leaves early. Having always been someone who eagerly waits for the next installment from the authors I love, there's something that never ceases to be magical about being the first to handle their newest release, even if it does mean a slow closing to the store because there's a lot of work we have to do after we lock the door!

So I'm starting a new feature here, where each week, I'll give my pick for the must-read Strict On Sale book that week. If I've gotten my hands on an ARC, you'll get a full review--but some of the time, you'll just have to live with the fact that I'm bound by the SOS rules, too, and I haven't done more than just put the book on its display (which is the case this week).

My Strict Pick this week is BLOODLINES, by Richelle Mead. Now, everybody knows that vampire books are so glutting the market right now it's almost cliche. But in my opinion, there's always room for someone who is tweaking the same-old same-old in a unique and fresh way. BLOODLINES spins off the VAMPIRE ACADEMY universe, and will bring to fore some of the characters who played second-fiddle in the original series.

Here's what the publisher has to say:

When alchemist Sydney is ordered into hiding to protect the life of Moroi princess Jill Dragomir, the last place she expects to be sent is a human private school in Palm Springs, California. But at their new school, the drama is only just beginning.

Populated with new faces as well as familiar ones, Bloodlines explores all the friendship, romance, battles and betrayals that made the #1 New York Times bestselling Vampire Academy series so addictive - this time in a part-vampire, part-human setting where the stakes are even higher and everyone's out for blood.
As a writer and a reader, there's nothing I love more than staying in a good universe I've already grown to love. So for those who've fallen for the VA universe so far (and maybe those that haven't!),  this is the pick for you.

Bloodlines at Powell's
Bloodlines at Amazon
Bloodlines at Barnes & Noble

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