Wednesday, February 24, 2016

60 Minutes released these short interviews with David. They are super cool. I would love to watch them over and over, but I think I'd probably cry. These interviews simply show me how brilliant David was and reinforce all of the reasons I have always loved him.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The best book I've read in the last few years has to be The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey. The writing is so wonderful that it transports the reader to its intended time period, the late 1800s. The narrator, young Will Henry, is innocent at first, but loses so much more than his parents and his childhood by working with Pellinore Warthrop: he loses his sense of self.

The horrific aspects of this novel are occasionally shocking, especially considering the intended YA audience. But my God, did I love this book! I has since read the three sequels and have enjoyed each one equally well, though the last was a tiny bit of a let-down. At first it was a huge success since Simon and Schuster had decided not to publish it and fans seemed to have changed their minds. I was beyond myself happy with the announcement that the fourth book would be published. And it is quite a conclusion to the series. Only it emphasizes the theme I mentioned in the first paragraph here: Will loses himself completely due to his work with monsters and Dr. Warthrop. It's a gradual loss through the first three books, but it's obvious that it's happening nearly from the start.

I will reread this series the way my wife rereads Harry Potter. I think these books are pure art. The characters are so complex, the stories so chilling, the writing so passionate and beautiful. I wrote down bits of it in the journal that I keep about my own writing, as if to tell myself, "Here's something to aspire to."

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Dystopian YA Literature Pt. 2

Well, I've gotten over a little bit of my angst about all of the dystopian literature that has appeared on the market for teens in the last few years. I would have to credit some of the recent stories I've read for helping me out of my slump: Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi and Starters by Lissa Price.

I can't say that the prose in Starters is as good as in Under the Never Sky, but Starters has a pretty interesting premise that was definitely worth the read. In the future after a plague has taken all but the young and the very old, children who haven't been claimed by grandparents are homeless and considered a threat to society. Protagonist Callie's parents are dead, and she is left in charge of her little brother Tyler who is sickly. With no money, Callie turns to Prime Destinations where she can essentially sell her body for Enders (the elderly) to rent out and use for any activities they choose. Of course, Enders sign an agreement that they won't do anything life threatening, but Callie finds out later that Enders don't take that clause very seriously. The opening two chapters or so really get things moving and create the setting of this odd future as well as showing all of the massive conflicts Callie is up against. And while there are two boys in the story who could be love interests, the basic plot does not revolve around whom Callie will pick, but rather how Callie will be able to stop Prime Destinations from stealing the bodies of teenagers to give to the elderly.

Under the Never Sky is completely different except that it also takes place in a dystopic future. In this setting, the haves/the wealthy live in a sort of domed society to avoid the sky which is rife with electricity. Inside the domes, the people mainly exist in virtual realms where they can do anything they want -- much like Simms. Main character Aria participates in a childish prank in which she leaves the dome for the real world where she KNOWS she will die if she breathes the air or will be eaten by cannibals. After getting caught leaving the dome, she is kicked out of her society to live in the "real" where she honestly does think she will die if she breathes the air and/or be eaten by cannibals. She comes across a "savage" named Perry who is in search of his nephew, kidnapped by the "dwellers" (the ones who live in the domes). They team up and go on a quest to fix Aria's eye piece which will not only show that she isn't to blame for the prank, but will also help Perry and Aria get in touch with the domes so Perry can find his nephew.

Both great page turners. Both unique.

My faith in the publishing world is not completely dead.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Dystopian YA

I finally got my wish. Years ago, maybe as many as ten, I read the few available dystopian YA books and longed for more. I said to myself, Why can’t all YA be dystopian?

Well, I’ve gotten my wish. Nowadays, if a YA book isn’t about the supernatural—vampires, werewolves, ghosts—then it’s about a futuristic world where the teens must fend for themselves without adult help. “In post apocalyptic America, so-and-so must come of age against all odds.”

I have to say at first I was pleased. I really believed that a world of dystopian fiction was what I wanted. But now, after reading Matched, The Hunger Games, Delirium, Hush Hush, The Field of Hands and Teeth, The Maze Runner, Peeps, Divergent, The House of the Scorpion, and a host of others I can’t even remember, the problem with dystopian fiction for young adults becomes blazingly clear: it all falls into a basic formula with very little originality.

I’ve just begun reading Enclave, which is about a girl growing up in an enclave in post apocalyptic America. She becomes 16 and gets a name and a position in her group. She is paired up with a mysterious bad boy type and sent on dangerous missions with him.

Okay. This could be about seven of the last books I’ve read. Why is this one new and worthy? A review for a different novel I was just reading on Amazon said this, “It's possible that I'm getting sick of the same typical dystopian societies in YA now. The girls are either baby makers, zombies are eating brains, or love is forbidden and girls are paired up with boys they're initially madly in love with... until they meet ‘the bad boy.’ Then all bets are off.” I couldn’t agree with this sentiment more. When will publishers realize that saturating the market with the same thing will only flood the market with the wrong thing in the near future? Take a chance on something that isn’t paranormal or dystopian.

I have to say I already like the writing better than in most of the last few books I’ve read. That said, though, I have found several places in the writing (I’m on page 30) where I had to reread the sentence because of an unclear pronoun or unclear phrase. Ann Aguirre, the author, is gifted, but not a great proofreader.

And that leads me to my next rant. Why is so much fiction published with mistakes that should have been caught? Don’t publishers have their people read through for errors BEFORE publication? When I read I Am Number Four¸ there was a typo on page one. An x was in the middle of a word. I thought it was some sort of new term in the novel world for a little while. But no, it was a typo.

I just went through the bestselling dystopian books at Amazon and I’m proud to say I only have two of them in the top twenty. I read about a few of the others that mildly intrigued me, but the premises are the same as what I’ve read. I don’t need a new name on the main character and her homeland which is sequestered from the main world by something. I need a new plot.

Saturday, July 02, 2011


The day we visited Belfast, Northern Ireland, we went to the peace wall that separates the Catholics and Protestants. The wall was built so the different factions couldn't throw bombs at each other. It's high enough that the amount of effort needed to throw a lighted bomb over the wall will extinguish the flame before it reaches the top.

And thus: Peace Wall.

All over the wall are messages from people, both from Northern Ireland and from around the world, asking everyone to be peaceful and get along. But the morning we visited, there were other messages, too. John Cassidy, a local vigilante, had beaten his wife and child the night before and put them in the hospital. Locals were enraged at Cassidy's hypocrisy, and wrote notes to him, threats.

We left that day for Scotland only to find out that riots broke out hours after we were safe.

It's a crazy world where we still have such hatred. And yet, doesn't John Cassidy deserve what he gets?

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Let the Right One in

I watched the Swedish version of this movie, the original, a couple nights ago while sitting up with my 3 week old son. The volume was down, so hopefully the crazy bloodthirsty weirdness did not penetrate his tiny mind at all.

I hav to say this movie requires patience from an American viewer. The scenes are long and completely voyeuristic rather than narrated. The viewer must intuite a number of things. This is the type of movie I generally enjoy; however, for some reason, I didn't enjoy the intuiting as much with this movie. I struggled with some of the scenes to find the intended meaning.

One scene near the end is a visual masterpiece. When Oskar is held under water by Jimmy the bully and Eli saves him, the view is underwater and incredibly unique. For this filming, and a few ote things, I must say I liked the movie overall. Still it wasn't until I talked about the movie with my wife for a while tha I began to appreciate it more. Talking through what I thouht the director was trying to say helped me understand the movie much more.

That said, I don't think I ever need to see it again.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Excellent, Creepy, but over the top?

One of the editors who turned down my book said that their publisher already has my type of writing covered with Andrew Smith. So naturally, I have been reading Andrew Smith. I take that editor's comment as a real compliment.

I found The Marbury Lens almost impossible to put down. I had to know what happened next to Jack, whether he'd put the glasses on again, whether things would work out with Nickie, whether Jack will stay friends with Conner, and so on. Additionally, the novel had a number of subplots that all came together at the end in quite a skilled way: Seth's story, Jack's kidnapping, Jack's relationship with Nickie, Jack's life in Marbury, Jack's trip to London, Jack's relationship with Henry. Furthermore, the writing itself was quite advanced. So many YA books are written in a rudimentary way as if the story is the only thing that matters, not the telling of it. Smith seems to have both of these components well under control.

So thank to the unnamed editor who compared me to him. That is quite an honor. I hope one day to write a book as marvelously complex as The Marbury Lens.

I have to admit, though, when Jack first went to Marbury, I was a bit put off by the massive graphics with severed limbs and heads all nailed to a wall, and massive black bugs chowing down on these and other remains. It was shocking. After I became accustomed to Smith's style, though, it wasn't upsetting to me at all. I watch all sorts of crime shows that contain dismembering and inhumane violence.

I read a review on line that questions the content of the book, and says perhaps a new YA category should be made for the new books like this that are intended for mature audiences. I don't disagree with that, but I think this book is the type of thing that teens are looking for. In the world we live today, violence has to be extreme to get the reader's attention. We've all been desensitized by the thousands of acts of violence we see on the news, in the paper, on cable, and more so on line and increasingly on "regular" TV.

I do have to admit that I was a bit disappointed in the end. There was no real answer about why Marbury exists to begin with or about whether Marbury is all in Jack's mind and he's still trapped with the doctor who kidnapped him. A more solid conclusion would have been more satisfying.