Archive for November, 2010

I have a kid. A rough and tumble, Xbox playing, iTouch texting, nerf shooting tween boy.

And you know what? He loves books.

Year after year, they’re on his Christmas list, alongside the video games, Lego sets, and foam darts. Yes, you heard me right. A boy. Who reads. Want to know my secret? How I created such a budding bookavore?

I’m sneaky. I lurk. I watch and observe. I find out what games and movies he loves and then I fiendishly offer books which complement them. Why fight pop culture, when you can pair up interactive media and a good book like tender steak and a fine Cabernet?

This holiday, why not encourage your own XBox kids to enjoy one of the following picks?

For the tween/teen obsessed with HALO, pick up a copy of ENDER’S GAME by Orson Scott Card (an amazing classic) or Brian Yansky’s riveting new adventure, ALIEN INVASION AND OTHER INCONVENIENCES. Both are guaranteed to please kids (and adults!)  into the whole rocket launching, would-be saviors of earth thing.

So your reluctant reader is more into zombies and ghosts, ala FALLOUT 3 or ALAN WAKE? No problem. Middle grade readers will enjoy Neil Gaiman’s THE GRAVEYARD BOOK, full of the supernatural adventures of a boy named Bod. Olders teens are sure to devour Jonathan Maberry’s smash PATIENT ZERO or his latest, ROT & RUIN.

**NOTE: Not that I’m biased or anything, but it should go without saying that any of A. Lee Martinez’ books (THE AUTOMATIC DETECTIVE, GIL’S ALL FRIGHT DINER)  are home run hits with the monsters vs. aliens crowd, too.**

For hardcore FINAL FANTASY or FABLE aficionados, I suggest Garth Nix’s SABRIEL or MISTER MONDAY. Both begin  fantastic, magical series. Arthur Slade’s steampunk-tastic THE HUNCHBACK ASSIGNMENTS will satisfy a hunger for epic adventure as well.  Many other great fantasy titles can be found here.

In the comments below, I’d love to hear what terrific books do you recommend this Christmas for the Xbox crowd.

Hungry for more?

Try this recipe for Snarf Worthy Caramel Brownies, one of my fave holiday snacks.

**spoiler alert**

So I saw the movie SKYLINE this weekend. It was dissappointing, to say the least. SKYLINE is a bad movie that could have been great.

As I watched the big screen, I couldn’t help but see the movie as a semi-solid first draft. It was as if they took a freshly written NaNoWriMo piece and filmed it. If only the screenwriter, director, and producer had put more work into polishing the movie, it could have been EPIC. If only they’d revised as any good NaNoWriMo scribe would.

What revision lessons can writers learn from SKYLINE?

1. Prologues (usually) stink, so start where the story starts.

Don’t begin with the alien invasion and then backtrack to the day before. Build in bits backstory as the action unfolds. Or simply anchor the beginning of the story in the ordinary world, just before the action explodes.

2. Cut. Cut. Cut.

Only include scenes that matter. Don’t include irrelevent subplots. For example, don’t spend an ungodly amount of time developing a love triangle between a hollywood player and his two vapid mistresses if you’re just going to have an alien snap off each of their heads off midway through the story.

 Edit out any characters who don’t pull their weight and bulk up the ones who do. In Skyline’s case, we needed less rich-girls-we-don’t-care-about and more *cough*  hot and angsty, alien-punching ERIC BALFOUR.

What can you cut from your novel?

3. After editing out the fluff, deepen and develop the good stuff.

Skyline had a great premise, but it played out like a disjointed sequence of special effects scenes. It didn’t quite gel. (ME GRIMLOCK EAT A DELICIOUS VFX REEL AND POOP OUT SKYLINE.)

But if the creators of the movie had cut out some of the extraneous story arcs, they could have really focused on the characters that count, aka Jared and his pregnant girlfriend, Elaine. Their conflict, their relationship,was a great thread. But because SKYLINE squandered so much energy on other subplots, the movie ran out of time. At the story’s most climactic moment, SKYLINE just sputtered out. The film had a non-ending–no satisfying conclusion was offered, only the worst kind of ambiguity.

Boo, hiss. Don’t do that with your NaNoWriMo novel. Revise it to the point that it: 1.) has a satisfying, complete story 2.) has interesting, compelling characters and 3.) has an actual, HONEST-TO-GOD POINT, for crying out loud.

 Hungry for more? Whip up some alien-apocalypse-proof trail mix and then check out A. Lee Martinez’ most recent post, in which he writes the ending of SKLYINE so you and I don’t have to.

Binge!