Posted in Geek Out, Reading

My First Books of Wonder Event

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Every few months in the past year or so, my NY bestie and fellow writer Melissa tells me about going to YA author events at Books of Wonder, an independent children’s bookshop in Manhattan. So when visiting NY this year, I half jokingly asked her if the bookstore would have an event when I’d be there, and they did!  I hadn’t heard of a single one of the authors there. Melissa had only heard of/read one book of one, but we figured, why not?

The guests who showed (I think one may have canceled) were Patrick Ness, Robin Wasserman, Alex London, and Gene Luen Yang. Before the event (because I feel weird taking pictures of people without their permission, heh):

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I browsed some of the books by the authors we’d see and wasn’t sure which I wanted to buy. Melissa bought one to get signed for a friend. We got seats at the event and waited. And it was so fun! Even my non-YA-author-reader boyfriend had a nice time. Seriously, they were all incredibly funny, and I think I could never in a million years be as entertaining if called on to give a talk. (I’m worried about future signings apparently, ha.) The authors were also good at pitching their books to the point where I wanted ALL THE BOOKS. I settled on buying three… But I wished I could buy them all. ;-;

The authors were all nice, but I was too chicken to say much other than their books sounded great… (And point out to two of them I didn’t have a nifty post-it with my name on it like everyone else–but that was rectified by the time I saw the third one.) Mr. Ness asked if I’d just bought the book there, and I said yes and admitted I’d never read ANY of his books, and he said not to worry, I hadn’t been spoiled much (a fan in the audience asked what she even admitted was a spoilery question 0-0) and he hoped I enjoyed it. The other authors seemed like big fans of his, so I’m sure his writing is awesome!

It was a fun way to spend an afternoon, and I definitely recommend that anyone in Manhattan keep an eye out for future events!

My goodies:

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Posted in Geek Out, News, Reading

The Sight Seer Is Only 99¢ This Weekend!

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you may have noticed me getting excited over a particular book release. The Sight Seer, published by Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly, is one of my dearest friends’ first published book. Melissa Giorgio and I are beta readers for each other, and I had the pleasure of reading about Gabi and Rafe and all those nasty tricky demons long before most. If you haven’t followed my advice to check her book out yet, now is the time.

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That’s right, for three days only you can get your hands on a Kindle copy of The Sight Seer for just 99 cents! This is a limited time sale, and you may never be able to read this book for so cheap ever again.

So click here and buy The Sight Seer! Sale ends this Sunday, August 25th! Don’t forget to tell your friends!

Gabi Harkins likes to think she’s a pretty normal sixteen-year-old. She goes to school, suffers though an awful part-time job, and deals with a bratty younger sister. But when a potential shoplifter morphs into a monster right in front of her, Gabi realizes her life is far from normal—especially when that monster follows her home and ends up battling a boy wielding a sword in her backyard.

The boy, Rafe Fitzgerald, is a member of Silver Moon, an organization devoted to eradicating demons before they kill humans. If this little bit of news isn’t earth-shattering enough, Rafe reveals that he needs Gabi’s help. As strong as Rafe is, he does not possess the Sight—a rare ability that allows a hunter to See through a demon’s glamour, enabling them to strike before the demon does. But guess who does?

While Gabi is reluctant to face another demon, she knows she owes Rafe big time for saving her. Together, they’re thrown headfirst into heart-stopping situations as they battle newer and more frightening demons. When she starts to fall for Rafe, Gabi knows her normal life is gone forever.

Posted in Geek Out, Reading

The Sight Seer is in paperback!

Those of you without a Kindle or those who just prefer the feeling of a paper book in your hands:

The paperback version of Melissa Giorgio’s The Sight Seer is now available! Please support my friend!

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Gabi Harkins likes to think she’s a pretty normal sixteen-year-old. She goes to school, suffers though an awful part-time job, and deals with a bratty younger sister. But when a potential shoplifter morphs into a monster right in front of her, Gabi realizes her life is far from normal-especially when that monster follows her home and ends up battling a boy wielding a sword in her backyard.

The boy, Rafe Fitzgerald, is a member of Silver Moon, an organization devoted to eradicating demons before they kill humans. If this little bit of news isn’t earth-shattering enough, Rafe reveals that he needs Gabi’s help. As strong as Rafe is, he does not possess the Sight-a rare ability that allows a hunter to See through a demon’s glamour, enabling them to strike before the demon does. But guess who does?

While Gabi is reluctant to face another demon, she knows she owes Rafe big time for saving her. Together, they’re thrown headfirst into heart-stopping situations as they battle newer and more frightening demons. When she starts to fall for Rafe, Gabi knows her normal life is gone forever.

Posted in Geek Out

ALA Conference 2013

I’m not a librarian. (A few job interviews and a perfect score on an entry exam for entry-level work at the local libraries are as far as I’ve gotten to that career path.) So I’ve certainly never made a point of attending the American Library Association conference before. It’s one of those cons that floats around the country once or twice a year. A couple of weeks ago, thanks to my Twitter feed, I discovered it was being held in Chicago this summer, which is somewhat easy commuting distance for me. With a little research, I discovered it was open to the public and there was an affordable exhibits-only entry fee. With the blessing of one of my librarian friends (how can you be a book lover and not know more than one?), I decided to go ahead and go, and stop worrying about con-crashing something intended for a different career field than the one I’m in.

After all, I’m a writer and a reader, so we all love books, right? And I do love comic book, entertainment and anime conventions, so I was eager to attend what would be my first “book convention.”

It was a lot of fun! It was also very crowded, but NYCC holds the record for most-people-squishing-me-into-booths still. (And hey, sometimes being squished into booths is a good thing, like when I was accidentally squished into a signing line on my way out, and it turned out to be for free graphic novels and signatures from a few comic book writers!) I’m so grateful for the opportunity to attend and to be introduced to popular and upcoming books, and to meet a few authors of those books in person, all of whom completely rocked. It’s a good thing I was nearly finished with all the books on my to-read shelf because I just filled it up with these:

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And I also got my paws on some cool posters!

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Sorry for the glare. Was anyone else there? Did you attend any signings or panels?

Posted in Geek Out, Reading

To E-Read or Not to E-Read?

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Perhaps you can tell from the odd extra spacing, but that’s my manuscript cover page on my new Kindle.  My manuscript looks so… real! (Like it wasn’t real before? Well, you know, it’s nice seeing it almost book-like in any format outside of Word.) I finally joined the digital book world and got an e-reader as a gift this week, and I love it even more than I thought I would!

Let me back up. I’m not a huge digital gadget person. Cell phones don’t interest me, and I pretty much only use mine for calling people, and not that often. Reading books has always been a nice way to escape the endless LCD- and backlit-screens I stare at all day while working, surfing the web, watching TV and playing games. The idea of staring at yet another screen to read just wasn’t appealing since reading was one of my last hobbies left that was screen-free.

That’s not to say I poo-pooed anyone else who wanted to read books on e-readers! It doesn’t bother me at all how people choose to read (or “hear” books like radioplays via audiobooks, as my sister loves to do!); I just love that they’re reading. My mom got a Kindle a few years ago, and it’s made reading easier than ever for her, and she’s become an even more avid reader. I just never could think of a reason for me to get one. But when I saw my mom’s Kindle in person, I was surprised how paper-and-ink-like the screen was! Seriously, I’ve never seen such a beautiful, glow-free digital screen with such crispness and clarity.

Last summer I was invited to review some e-books in the new Sweet Valley adult series, The Sweet Life, but I didn’t have an e-reader. (And my mom couldn’t lend me hers. She seriously reads too much to part with it for too long!) So I read it on my laptop. My eyes went googly. I saw a cheap brand e-reader on sale for like $30 one day and thought I’d get it just to finish the e-books on, but it was terrible. It was an LCD screen (so it felt just like staring at the laptop screen anyway), and the e-bookstore was terrible, and it was hard to navigate, and yeah… You get what you paid for. Luckily I was able to return it even though I’d opened it and tried it out! I knew then I’d wait and save up or ask someone for a Kindle.

So I got it last week and I uploaded my manuscript to it right away to check it out. I also bought an e-novella and got the first five chapters of Leigh Bardugo’s Siege and Storm, which are currently available for e-readers for free. (And which only serve to make me more anxious about waiting for the release of the rest in a couple of months, but I’ve been reading it anyway!) I got a few more free e-books I haven’t really touched yet. I’m scared of having too much to read because there’s a lot available for free!

But I’m still reading traditional paper books. I have nine on my to-read shelf (six of which have been there for way, way too long and keep getting pushed down the priority list) that I vowed to finish this year. I love being surrounded by shelves full of books, and I think I will buy Siege and Storm in print instead of electronically to finish reading. But I’ve been surprised how little reading the first few chapters on my e-reader has bothered me.

I have decided that whenever the next A Song of Ice and Fire book comes out (years from now…), I’m going with the e-reader since I realized with the last book that it’s a bit of a pain to carry a 1000+-page hardcover around. And it’ll be great for the dozenth time I read a manuscript, when I’m just looking for little tweaks (and then can run to the laptop and make them, without having stared at the laptop screen for hours and hours).

Do you have an e-reader? Which one? Do you prefer reading books electronically, on paper or both?

Posted in Geek Out, Reading, Writing

The Fanfiction in My Head

I read a tumblr post recently (sorry, lost the link!) in which someone asked a professor what he (she?) thought of fanfiction. The overall point seemed to be “write what you enjoy, and actually, all writing is fanfiction to a degree and has been for hundreds and hundreds of years.” The professor also said something about how before this stress on originality (and even then, how 100% original can we be?), readers really only wanted what was essentially fanfiction. A writer would take something like a King Arthur tale, for example, and make it even better than ever before.

In any case, the post got me thinking about fanfiction and my own experiences with it. I actually have never read much of it (for one, the best source for it is the Internet and I don’t like staring at a computer screen to read text for long, long periods if it can be helped), but I did write some when I was pre-teen and early teen. One was a relatively short pure Mary Sue about a “Sailor Universe” in the realm of Sailor Moon who had ALL of the senshi’s powers (before I knew about Sailor Cosmos, by the way). Another was a somewhat more original seven-chapter series about Genbu no Miko, a prequel to Fushigi Yuugi. In the original manga and anime, Watase hinted at a girl who had been the Genbu priestess in the past, but she hadn’t yet fully developed the story, so I took her hints and spun my own tale. Years later, Watase did her own version, which of course was infinitely better than mine.

They’re actually still on the Internet under a pseudonym (yes, we had Internet when I was that young, ha, although it looked a whoooole lot different), if you tinker around with the way back machine, but I’m not going to link you to it. Geh! I just visited the page and found another short fanfiction I’d forgotten all about: Usagi from Sailor Moon wishing she could leave Mamoru for Seiya. Too bad for Chibiusa, eh?

But then I was thinking, what other writing did I do back then? It may not have been fanfiction, but it was inspired by my love for something at the time. I read The Chronicles of Prydain, and I was writing my own (unintentionally hilarious!) attempt at high fantasy. I saw and read Centennial, and all of sudden I was writing a Western historical. And it sometimes still happens today. I got back into a Regency and Victorian era kick recently (not that I ever stopped liking them), and an idea for a Regency historical started kicking around in my head.

Perhaps most embarrassingly of all to admit, but ever since I could remember, I’ve “performed” (?) fanfiction in my head. Not as much these days since I have less trouble hitting the hay, but when I was younger, it’d take me quite a while to fall asleep after I went to bed. If sleep wasn’t happening, I imagined whatever book/movie/show/comic/anime was new to me or a favorite thing at the time, only with… Me. Basically, with a Mary Sue. And the very worst kind of Mary Sue, who has greater powers than the other X-Men, for example (a favorite “power” to give my Sue, as you can see from the Sailor Universe thing above, is having EVERYONE else’s powers, ha, like a single being wouldn’t like explode with the sheer force), and who’s befriended by all of her favorite characters. Now that I know what a Mary Sue is (I did start doing this in elementary school), it’s extremely mortifying to admit that that entertained me, but I guess it entertains a lot of people. The term exists for a reason, right?

That said, short of my young days of writing those few fanfiction, I don’t pretend that a Mary Sue I come up with would entertain anyone else. As a reader, I would hate to read about a perfect, deus-ex-machina character. (Not that I haven’t come across a few…) In fact, even in the fanfiction in my head, I prefer drama to everything magically going the Mary Sue’s way. There’s something about arguments, misunderstandings, obstacles and characters learning to improve themselves along the way that perfect Mary Sues just don’t hold a candle to.

Then again, apparently people are entertained by fanfiction and Mary Sues. I’m not even talking about the tons of free fanfiction available online to those who seek it—read what you love, and enjoy the well written stuff out there. But I just love informing the random women I come across who love a certain extremely insane-selling erotic book series how it’s a Twilight fanfiction. These types of women don’t usually know what fanfiction is, but once I explain the Twilight parallels (and how the author originally uploaded it for free with the Twilight characters’ names in tact and basically just did a search-and-replace with new names for publication)*, they start understanding: they love fanfiction! They love erotic fanfiction at that. And for them, that’s okay. Apparently I love fanfiction in my head, so who am I to judge? (Just maybe, the next fanfiction to get published could have a little better character development and prose? _)

*How do I know so much about these books? No, I haven’t read them, but I have read samples and articles explaining the original Twilight connection. That’s my story (but it’s truel!) and I’m sticking to it.

Posted in Geek Out, Reading

Late to the Party or First One in Line?

I was trying to think of how many books I’ve read as soon as they came out. It’s a pretty limited number, and that small number is limited largely to sequels/prequels to books I already loved, or on occasion, a book by an author I know I already love. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a brand-new book by an new (or new to me) author anywhere near its release date.

It seems like I’m always “late to the party” when it comes to books. They have to get a lot of buzz and/or a recommendation from a friend before I bother to pick them up. It’s not that what the new (or new to me) authors have to offer doesn’t interest me–far from it–but it feels like I’ve always got a pile of books to read (probably because I literally do) as is, mostly books that others read months or even years ago and I’m just getting to. Fitting in a brand new book I’m not even sure I’ll like is hard when I’m already excited about the books I already have! But it does feel weird to be on the sidelines, to hear friends discuss a book you may not read for years if at all. (But of course, I do have friends who plow through books at a much faster rate than I do!)

I picked up ONE YA book last year that my friends hadn’t already read, and I wasn’t too impressed. (I read it a few months after it came out–I’d just read a summary online and got intrigued.) A few years ago, I did read another series that I liked and none of my friends have yet read (The Forbidden Game by LJ Smith, if you’re interested), but I think that covers the only YA books I’ve read that they haven’t. So maybe I’m not meant to explore the bookscape wilds without someone to light the path before me, and that’s okay. I may be late to the party, but I’ll get there someday!

That said, I’d love it if people read my first book as soon as it came out. 😉 But I understand that there are just too many exciting books out there to read!

Do you love discovering new favorites in brand new releases or are you still crossing old releases off of your to-read list?

Posted in Geek Out, Reading

Happy Reading, Happy Holidays!

I haven’t been blogged in a few weeks, largely because of the holidays. I hope you’re all enjoying the end of the year and all the vacation time (I hope), celebration and laughter that comes with it. I know I have!

I just decided to drop by and blog about the books I got this Christmas:

  • The Casual Vacancy (don’t know when I’ll read it, but I have to read Rowling’s new offering!)
  • The Luxe final book (I got this from a friend a few weeks ago–I’ve yet to read the series, but she likes it so much, she got me all four over the past couple of years!)
  • Death Note complete box set (I borrowed it from the library in the past, and now I have my own copy; one of the most thrilling manga I’ve ever read [until about halfway through, but it’s still good])
  • Fullmetal Alchemist 3-in-1 volumes 1-3 (so really volumes 1-9; also a library read in the past, and one of my favorite anime series [both incarnations])
  • Skip Beat 3-in-1 volumes 2-3 (so really volumes 4-9, as I had 1-3 already; another former library read, a humorous and fun shoujo story)

I also got a lot of games, so it’s going to be hard to decide which to do in my free time. What reads did you get this year?

Posted in Geek Out

My Trip to NY

Once a year for the past five years, I’ve visited New York (stayed on Long Island, took the train in to NYC as often as possible) to visit some of my boyfriend’s family. Coincidentally, his family lives a short car or train ride away from one of my best friends of thirteen years, fellow agented writer and one of my beta readers, Melissa. So it’s been a lot of fun making time to hang out with her when I visit–although this is the first year we met as two agented authors!

And speaking of agents, I met mine for the first time, the very kind Jason Yarn, who picked out a chic restaurant with great food, Gramercy Tavern, for our meeting. (I apologize for being a few minutes late! That was the only day I’ve ever had to deal with train delays to that extent!) I had a fun time talking my writing, books in general and the geek culture at large. Now that I’m back home, I need to snap back into focus and get back to editing and working on new drafts!

Some highlights of the trip include:

Shopping

I’m not usually big on shopping, or clothes shopping in particular, but that’s not the case in NY. We hit all of our favorite stores, including Uniqlo, which I admittedly just started liking because it was a Japanese brand of fashion (similar to Old Navy in pricing–I don’t like spending tons on clothes!), but I really do love their HEATTECH line during frigid winters.

We also stopped at the Scholastic store, so I could squeal over Harry Potter and Hunger Games displays.

I hit the HBO Store, Disney Store, Nintendo World, FAO Schwartz, Kinokuniya (Japanese bookstore), Book Off (used Japanese and American bookstore), and Mitsuwa (Japanese marketplace in New Jersey), to name a few.

Eating

Aside from the aforementioned Gramercy Tavern, we ate at another chic restaurant with yummy food for a lunch, NoHo Star. We got some peanut butter sandwiches at Peanut Butter & Co, ate delicious Japanese food at Go Go Curry (multiple times), dined at the Mitsuwa food court, and stopped by Cafe Zaiya and Sunrise Mart for Japanese cakes and sweets more than once. (Sensing a pattern here? Yes, I tend to focus on Japanese places in NY!)

Wax Museum

Melissa convinced my boyfriend and I to accompany her to Madame Tussauds, and it was a lot of fun! The wax figures were so real, at one point, we fell for a trick; there was a wax figure of a tourist taking a photo of other wax figures and we seriously hesitated to let her take her picture… Which she never did. There was a Marvel 4D experience, and it left a bit to be desired, plot-wise, but it was amusing. And there were wax figures of the Avengers outside!

Central Park Zoo

We headed to the Central Park Zoo for the second time; we went a few years ago, too. But it’s conveniently placed in a beautiful location, pretty affordable for a NY attraction, and full of cute animals. The red pandas are my favorites here, but I got slightly better pictures this time of other adorable guys, like the polar bear, the snow leopard and the sea lions! Too bad my camera battery died right toward the end!

All in all, it was a great trip. Bye, NY! (And have fun at the NYCC next week, everyone there! I’m sorry I’m missing it… Even though it’s impossible to move inside the convention center anyway.)

Posted in Books I Loved in Middle/High School, Geek Out, Reading

Books I Loved in Middle/High School, Part 6

Sorry I haven’t been posting as often as I’d like; I’ve been busy in the writing cave, working on exciting things! Today I felt like reminiscing about some more of my favorite reads from high school.

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin

This was another required reading in high school (I think my senior AP English class? I’m not sure…) that I took to. (I have an honors degree in English literature and I was still bored by half the books I had to read for school, bad me! But I read them, analyzed them and all those good things.) It’s about a young American man, David, who spends time in Europe as sort of a last hurrah before getting married to his girlfriend. While he’s there, he’s pretty unsure he even wants to get married… It turns out, we eventually discover, it’s because he’s gay but isn’t fully ready to admit it.

After quite a while abroad failing to find himself, David meets Giovanni, a bartender in a gay bar. They fall in love, and David moves into “Giovanni’s room.” However, David has still not come to terms with himself and broken it off with his fiancee… And a dark act soon threatens their relationship.

It’s been a while since I’ve read the book, so I don’t remember the details, but I do remember being swept up in the narrative, particularly the beautiful, desperate romance, and crying toward the end, I felt so bad for the characters. I went on to recommend the book to a few friends at different schools, and they loved it too. This is a very poor analogy for a piece of classic literature written in the 1950s, but I felt at the time it had a very “anime” feel to the story (and my 17-years-and-counting love of anime was certainly strong in high school), which is perhaps why my friends and I enjoyed it. I’d love to see an anime adaption someday, but that’s never going to happen!

Star Wars: Heir to to the Empire trilogy by Timothy Zahn

In high school and late middle school, I was obsessed with Star Wars. I’d seen bits and pieces of it here and there before (I remember having a fondness for Jabba as a kid for some reason), but I didn’t properly sit down to watch them from start to finish until the 20th anniversary theatrical re-release in 1997… And I went nuts. I saw each of the original trilogy three times in theaters over the next few months (so nine visits for SW), I wore SW shirts every day I could to school (when we were allowed to stop wearing uniforms), I so blindly defended anything to do with SW that I saw The Phantom Menace SEVEN TIMES in theaters. (Ha ha, eight if you count this year’s 3D re-relase. Yes, I saw it, despite disliking 3D movies… I still watch the Clone Wars TV series, too, which my boyfriend makes fun of as being one long series of senate meetings, despite being a show for kids… It’s mostly true. But where else would you get the insane, flesh-eating torso of Darth Maul melded onto a robotic spider?) Attack of the Clones kind of finally made me see that the prequels lack what made the originals great (yes, I still dislike II more than I; maybe it’s the crappy romance… Oh, by the way, I still saw it twice in theaters despite that!), although I’m all right with Revenge of the Sith, disappointing that the dialogue and acting may be at times.

But anyway, back in high school, I was still in high SW gear. So that meant getting my hands on SW in any form, and I discovered the rich novel universe, which told what happened to the characters over the next few decades. (I wonder how far they’ve gotten now? Seriously, I was reading through until some of Han and Leia’s kids–yes, they have three, boy and girl twins and another son–had kids of their own, and Leia was dealing with grey hair and menopause…) There were quite a few of the novels I really liked (and some that bored me a bit), but the “Thrawn trilogy” was my favorite.

Set about five years after Return of the Jedi, these books center around the heroes of the New Republic dealing with the last remnants of the Empire. (They didn’t all just die when their leader blew up, after all.) Strangely, the Empire is led by an alien–bizarre considering Palpatine was an alien-cist (? racist against aliens?)–but he was that good at what he did; he made it to Grand Admiral even when Palpatine was alive, and was the highest-ranking leader left. Thrawn. The well-mannered, harsh blue-skinned guy with black hair in a white uniform… After Darth Vader, he’s just the perfect SW villain to me.

The books are also notable for introducing Mara Jade, a secret assassin strong with the Force called “the Emperor’s Hand” (She’s also so good, she got the job–Palpatine was also a misogynist after all–all those white human men in high ranks…) who’s out to fulfill her final mission from her master: kill Luke Skywalker. I loved Mara Jade–a strong, likeable female villain! I tend to like villains in fiction in the first place, though…–and all the fights she had with Luke… And readers did, too. It took quite some time, and she had to move beyond her dark past, Luke had to have another fling or two, but I’ll tell you a huge spoiler: Mara Jade Skywalker. Enough said!

There are some funny things in the books now, too. The details are vague (I read them more than once, but it’s been a while), but since they pre-date the prequels by eight years (I believe they may have been the first official books that took place after RotJ? Later books went back and bridged the five-year gap, though–Leia and Han already have their older two kids in these books for one!), the “Clone Wars” was still misunderstood and I think a crucial part of the book involved them stumbling upon a random cloning facility and there being clones of Jedi Masters… Oops. I’m sure they shoehorn that in there somehow, though.