What are you reading? Avoiding reading? Watching?

What are you reading? What do you really want to read? What have you avoided reading that you should read? What are you watching on TV? At the movies? What’s your opinion of new shows like Revolution?
As for me, I’m very absorbed in Justin Cronin’s The Passage. I’ve never read a book this long (900+ pages!), and I keep being amazed that it’s totally holding my attention! Has anyone read it? What did you think? (No spoilers, please). It occurs to me that it’s had a huge influence on other plotmasters, including Eric Kripke, the creator of the new TV show, Revolution, where the batteries and power all blinker out in a post-tech world. But if The Passage just came out, that cross-pollination would be impossible, right? I guess it proves that ideas truly ARE “in the air”.

Which brings me to Revolution. I found that in the first episode, I was chuckling at the “wrong” places, like the scene where the militias and the villagers exchange fire. No, I’m not a lover of violence. It had much more to do with the fact that this battle seemed so predictable, and staged, and the villagers seemed so perfectly put together in their survivalist gear: patched American Eagle jeans and artfully sweat-dotted tee-shirts. Each woman had a crossbow a la Hunger Games huntress, Katniss Everdeen. Call me cynical, but these types of shows (and novels) need to go further than simply window-dressing a post-apoc, post-tech setting. The one shining gem in the first episode, for me, was the geek guy (worked for Google?) who was really out of shape but super-witty and charming in his dark asides. I am eager to see how this geekster does on a long, grueling hike with only a sinewy squirrel for dinner!

As far as other reading material, I am thoroughly enjoying a client’s middle-grade fantasy manuscript, the second one that I’ve worked on for her. I LOVE it when I can see how much better someone’s writing is getting, partially from my counsel. I feel like a proud mama bear.
As far as reading that I should be getting to? Well, I need to re-read Vonnegut’s BLUEBEARD, a wicked send-up of the art world of the sixties. I’m teaching this book in a few weeks, and I need to write up class discussion questions and essay prompts. So, it’s the surrounding work, not the book itself, that has me a little anxious.
Now, tell me all about what you’re reading, avoiding reading, watching!

The Next Big Thing!

I’ve been tagged by the lovely Rossandra White in a blog game called The Next Big Thing, where you answer questions about your work in progress or a new piece, that you’d love to become the next big thing! For me, that’s the sequel to my futuristic thriler, Fireseed One. So, here goes:


What is the working title of your work-in-progress?

Children of Fireseed. Or I may just totally get away from that title to something like Sun Chimeras. Chimeras are beings comprised of two very diverse genetics. Too obscure? What about Scarlet’s Fire? Here’s an even better idea: why don’t you all help me think up a title? Best one gets the person a free, signed copy of the book when it comes out, and a $25 gift card too. First read the story summary, and then email me with your awesome suggestion at kitsy84557 AT gmail DOT com.

Where did the idea come from? 

Since it’s a sequel, it naturally takes the Fireseed One story a few more giant steps forward. The main character is Scarlet, the girl with three missing fingers from the Fireseed cult in book one. It’s now eight years later, so Scarlet who was seven is now fifteen. Her love interest is Armonk, the boy from Black Hills Sector in book one, who Varik made the prosthetic leg and arrow for. I wanted to follow those kids and others who had the bad luck to grow up in the Hotzone, and to see how they fared as teens. They meet up at a place called the Greening, a quirky boarding school in the desert, at Skull’s Wrath. It’s run by Nevada Pilgrim, the artsy lady caught up in the nefarious ZWC terrorist group from book one.

What genre does your book fall into?

It’s teen sci-fi. It can also be described as dystopian, or a futuristic thriller. It’s set on earth in 2097.

What actors would you choose to play your characters in a film version?

My main characters are younger than most of the actors I usually think of, but let me try. Carey Mulligan or Mia Wasikowska would make a good Scarlet, as they have that innocent, dreamy look, while being powerful. Scarlet is compellingly stunning, and rather unhappy about it, as it tends to attract too much attention from the older men in the cult, which yes, is creepy. (She escapes in the first scene!) Either Logan Lerman or David Kross would make a good Armonk. He’s mysterious, raven-haired, and a talented hunter, with a vulnerable, private grin that makes you really want to know what he’s thinking.

Write a one-paragraph summary

If everything about you changes, what remains?
Fifteen year-old Scarlet, long-pledged to the much older Stiles from the Fireseed desert cult, escapes with only a change of clothes, a pouch of Oblivion Powder and her mute little brother, Thorn. Arriving at the Greening, a boarding school for orphaned refugees, she can finally stop running. Or can she? The Greening is not what it seems to be, and as the students care for its secret Fireseed crop, they experience frightening physical changes. When George Axiom, of Vegas-by-the-Sea offers a huge cash prize for the winner of a student contest, Scarlet and Armonk are hopeful they can finally help their families back in the struggling sectors, but when Stiles comes to reclaim Scarlet, and Thorn disappears, the world as Scarlet knows it, is changed forever.

How long did the first draft take to write?

I’m still at it. It’s a work-in-progress!

What other books would you compare this to, in your genre?

This treads newish ground in the genre, in terms of strange human hybrids. In terms of sensibility (not plot) it is similar to Rossi’s Under the Never Sky.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

It’s a natural extension of the big questions in Fireseed One. How do we live in a forbidding future environment? When we are terrified and our backs are up against the fire, how do we avoid the urge to take sanctuary in false refuges like the Fireseed cult? How can humans extend the limitations of the human body to be best suited for extreme heat? Lack of food and water? When one is not entirely human can one retain humanity and compassion? Can one love?

What else about this story might pique the readers’ interest?

The sweet romance between Armonk and Scarlet.
The deadly struggle between the students of the Greening for power and answers.
Dr. Varik’s diagnosis of the unsettling changes in Thorn, Scarlet and Armonk.
Thorn’s amazing creation, after being overlooked as mute and slow.
The future-fabulous playland that is Vegas-by-the–Sea.

And now, I will tag a few more writers, whose new works deserve an extra-special look, and just may be the next big thing! Look out for their posts in the next few days.

Helen Mallon
Donna Galanti
Kelly Hashway

Oh, and I’d love for you to give your opinion on my sequel title on your way out. Thanks!

Huge Giveaway & Chocolate Blogfest, Two Treats in One!

Idea City has two exciting events: a giveaway and a blogfest! First, we invite you to help celebrate fellow blogger and author Sheri Larsen’s signing with Literary Agent Paula Munier of Talcott Notch Literary! As you know, Sheri has an awesome blog called Writers’ Ally. And because she thinks that our literary community is so freaking fabulous, she has decided to have a Bigger-Than-A-Shopping-Mall GIVEAWAY!! You only need to enter one Rafflecopter for a prize. Enter all three and you have a shot at the grand prize. The giveaway’s open until September 27. Winners will be chosen on September 28.

And now for the What’s Your Chocolate Blogfest that M Pax, Laura Eno, Brinda Berry and Ciara Knight are running. Chocolate, ahhhh, the essential treat that we writers need by our side, along with a hot cuppa joe, for long writing stints. They want us to relay a chocolate memory, or reveal what our fave chocolate is. The memory that sticks in my mind, (literally), was when I was around ten, and my dad took me to the Philadelphia Orchestra. I had on a fancy dress and brand new pink wool coat. He bought me a Swiss chocolate bar, which I half unwrapped, in order to start munching along to the violins and horns. Well, I guess the Beethoven, or whatever it was got pretty distracting, because the next thing I knew, I couldn’t find the chocolate bar anywhere! 
After the concert, as we stood up to walk out, my dad gasped. I spun around, and he pointed to my back. The chocolate bar had melted onto the right seat of my pink coat! Talk about embarrassed! To read other chocolate tales jump over to M Pax’s list of participants here.
But first, don’t forget to enter Sheri’s three giveaways and leave a chocolate-inspired comment on your way out. Everyone who does gets a virtual Hershey’s Kiss. Thanks!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Click to open the last-a grand prize entry

Is it still cannibalism if…? & other odd questions

Happy Labor Day, and beyond. Today’s post will be a potpourri of random bits, not unlike my mind today.
First order of business: We had a great party at our Catskill retreat on Saturday, and someone fed the leftover hamburger/cheese dip to the cows in the meadow, which they scarfed down with glee. Question #1: Is it still cannibalism if the eaters don’t realize they’re munching their own kind?
Unsuspecting cattle

Secondly, I start teaching tomorrow, and I look forward to it, while at the same time, feeling spoiled by months of free time. Now that my time is in large part claimed, will I put the rest of it to better use that I did in my laze-about summer? I teach at the School of Visual Arts and I noticed on Gallery Girls (Very catty but fun show that is my new addiction) one actor is attending SVA. Will I see camera crews milling about there? Question #2: Have you seen camera crews shooting Gallery Girls around Manhattan and Brooklyn?

This reminds me of another summer event: Law & Order, Special Victims’ Unit used our foyer this summer to film a scene where the head guy is dragged out in handcuffs after they find him bedded down with a dead prostitu*e!!! His hands were all dripping with fake blood. Interesting to watch the takes, though the actor that I was secretly hoping to see was Ice Tea, who wasn’t in that episode. Look for it, folks. That’s our very own front stoop he’s dripping his fake blood on!

Fireseed One book news: we are a Weekly Featured Great Read on Digital Book Today through this WED and there’s ONE more week to buy Fireseed One’s ebook version at the summer sale price of $0.99 before it drifts back to $2.99.

I hired a designer to revision the Fireseed One Facebook page, and he did a gorgeous job! What do you think of it? Check it out here and please follow for news, sequel info, swag and more.

Fireseed One also has a brand new twitter page, and would love you guys to follow it too!

Soon, I will have a redesign of my website and a brand new study/book club guide, so I guess I haven’t been totally lazy this summer.

Oh, I did a guest post on sequels and trilogies on the fab YA’s The Word. Read it here.

What have you been up to, talented writers, and what are your first fall activities?
Stay tuned for Idea City’s post on Monday, September 10 to help Sheri Larson celebrate her new agent. We’ll have LOTS of giveaway items so check back in!

Create your Own Writing Retreat

Western Catskills Writing Gang

I’ve been to excellent writing retreats and conferences. There’s Squaw Valley on the north shore of Lake Tahoe, there are multiple ones along coastal California and Southhampton conference out on Long Island. There’s a popular one put on by the Highlights Foundation in PA during the summer. Basically, writing communities pop up in places where swimming or nature walks abound.

Some of my favorite ones are homegrown. For years I’ve attended a retreat on Cape Cod with good friends. Coffee on the morning porch, then a bit of exercise, then writing on the same wraparound porch–all afternoon until words swim in one’s head and pages unfold on laptop screens. Then it’s a bracing swim in the ocean, and a dinner of tacos or chicken burgers, followed by evening readings.
I couldn’t get to the Cape retreat this year because I was invited to teach creative writing in Greece. Boo hoo, right? I wasn’t complaining, except, when I came home and settled in, it felt as if something big was missing.

My awesome Summer Seminars in Greece writing students
strike a Zen-ish pose

And then came the July from h**l, where the gas to the entire building was shut off because there was a leak and people called Con Ed instead of the super. I had minor surgery (Went well and I’m great, thanks) and I was unable to shower. We also had a huge thunderstorm and the drains clogged and flooded, and… you get the picture. During all of this I developed writers’ block, which I’ve never, ever had. And I kept wondering, was it from all of the calamity?

Cape Cod Writers’ Coffee

No. Not really. My real problem was that I missed that infusion of writerly energy that comes from good friends sitting on a porch together and writing all afternoon and spurring each other on. I missed the war stories over coffee, and the shared tales of triumph too.

So, I decided to create my own writers’ retreat after the fact; at my place in the Catskills, with some very good writer buddies. It was perfect weather–pre-September fall at 65 degrees, sun in a teal sky. We sat outside in the tall yard grass and wrote all afternoon. At night, we cooked together, and then read the Tarot for each other. We also played a fun dictionary game, and another where you sing songs that use certain words. Writers’ games.

There was talk of angsty obstacles overcome, of strengths and fears. All of the stuff that binds people together and helps us face whatever, whenever. I’m unstuck, I’m writing again, and the best thing? We’ve already reserved a three-day weekend for a winter version of the retreat. Writing by a crackling fire with hot chocolate in hand. And breaks for snowy playtime. Yup.

Mr & Mrs Snow with their
two snow boys

Community.
Is everything.
How do you replenish your writing spirit?