Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Toughest Creatures - guest post from Daniel Arenson

Here's a guest post from Daniel Arenson, author of the Song of Dragons series. The first two books - Blood of Requiem and Tears of Requiem - are available now for ereaders or in paperback. For more info, please check out his website - www.danielarenson.com

Song of Dragons is a fantasy series about one of the toughest creatures around. But besides dragons, what are the other toughest creatures out there?

10. Fireys (Labyrinth)

The Fireys are creatures from the fantasy film Labyrinth. Lanky beasts with flaming red pelts, they enjoy removing their limbs and heads and tossing them around. The Fireys enjoy pulling off humans' heads too, not understanding that our heads don't detach and reattach like theirs.

9. R.O.U.S.s (The Princess Bride)

Rodents Of Unusual Size from the 80s film The Princess Bride. They're nasty creatures who live in fire swamps. One savaged and nearly killed Westly while Princess Buttercup wrung her hands.

8. Skeksis (The Dark Crystal)

Mmmmm MMMMmmmm. The Skeksis are villanious creatures who killed most of the Gelflings. They're not quite birds. They're not quite reptiles. They're definitely some of the ugliest Muppets around.

7. Dementors (Harry Potter)

They dress in black. They suck all joy and hope from everyone around them. If you misbehave, they'll drag you off to prison. No, they're not IRS agents -- they're Dementors. These are possibly the foulest creatures in the world of Harry Potter. They'd rank higher on the list, were it not for their Achilles' heel; a simple Patronus Charm sends them fleeing.

6. Formics AKA The Buggers (Ender's Game)

Huge, alien insects are hardly original in science fiction. They exist everywhere, from Heinlein's Starship Troppers to Futurama. But they're rarely as effective as in Ender's Game. They almost destroyed the Earth, and they inspired a string of sequels.

5. Beholders (Dungeons and Dragons)

A Beholder resembles a floating orb of flesh with a large mouth, a single central eye, and lots of smaller eyestalks on top. Most D&D creatures -- goblins, dragons, elves, orcs, and the like -- are based on folklore or literature. The Beholder is an original D&D invention, and one of the meanest creatures in the game.

4. The Others AKA White walkers (A Song of Ice and Fire)

They're the reason for the Wall. These undead creatures from the north live in snow and ice. If they kill you, you become one of them. After five books in A Song of Ice and Fire, we still haven't seen too much of them... but when they do appear, they're creepy.

3. Aliens (Alien series)

Game over, man. Arguably the toughest, ugliest, creepiest creatures in science fiction.

2. Ringwraiths (Lord of the Rings)

Even Led Zeppelin sang about them. The Ringwraiths are among the most dangerous creatures in Middle Earth, and in all of fantasy literature.

1. The Gorgs (Fraggle Rock)

These huge, shaggy creatures are the rulers of the universe. They are the terror of Fraggles and defendors of raddishes. We bet they can defeat any other creature on this list. The Gorgs top the list for toughest creature.


Excellent list, Daniel - with one notable exception. Where's the thing with the hands?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Enough Already

We have become a society of bullies.

The magazines, the television shows, the twitter, the youtube - so much of it is about making fun of somebody else. Most of the time, it's celebrities, and we all seem to think that's okay because celebrities aren't people. If you're famous, it's automatically assumed that you're made out of the same material as Barbie, so no matter what is said about you, it can't hurt.

I am so sick of making people famous just so we can hate them. This whole thing with the Jersey Shore and the Kardishians. People never say anything nice about them, bitch about them being famous, and then keep watching the shows to keep them famous. It's like we've been addicted to looking down on people.

(Side note: I do watch the Jersey Shore. But I watch it because I like Jenni, Snooki, Pauly, and Vinny. I think they seem like nice people, and Pauly is really funny).

Making fun of people has become a part of our culture, and I'm not expecting to change that. But I am sincerely asking that everybody stop with the kids - and I mean all kids, from Justin Bieber to Rebecca Black.

I just this really inspired post by Jensen Karp, who is a generally very funny person which is what made this piece so moving. I urge you all to check it out: Why My Daughter Will Never Have a Webcam: The Jessi Slaughter Story. (You should also follow him on the Twitter, because he really is hilarious).

But this is something that's been on my mind for awhile. I actually wasn't familiar with the whole Jessi Slaughter debacle until I read that post by Jensen, but I'm getting so sick of the way people talk about kids.

Take Rebecca Black. She's thirteen years old. I want you to remember your thirteen-year-old self and how most of you would be thrilled to have a recording contract and also probably not be world weary enough to realize how terrible the song was that you were recording. You didn't write it or produce it, and you don't know enough about the music industry or even music in general to know that this wasn't going to make you the next Miley Cyrus.

She was vilified in a way that is totally inappropriate and completely unjustifiable. She is a kid who dreamed of being a singer and sang a crappy song. She did not kill a million Jews. She is not responsible for the recession. She didn't step on a puppy. She sang a song.

I haven't gotten 1/1000th of hate mail she's gotten, and I'm an adult, and I find it rough sometimes. I cannot imagine what that must be like for a child.

Really, honestly, Jensen said everything better than I did. So read his article.

But I beg of you, when it comes to kids, enough already. I don't care if they're in the public eye or not - most of them don't even realize what that means. They're just kids doing stupid stuff. And nobody deserves to be ridiculed, humiliated, and judged like that just for being an awkward adolescent. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Is it the Books?

I read this blog the other day: The Problem Isn't the Books

I really think you should read it, mostly because it's interesting, but also because I don't want to rehash it. The main bullet points are this:

A NY Times article came out basically saying that teenage boys aren't reading books anymore, and they (the author of said article) think it's because of how few books are marketed toward teenage boys.

The blog I linked to is a rebuttle to that, but what they're really rebutting is this quote:

“We need more good works of realistic fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels, on- or ­offline, that invite boys to reflect on what kinds of men they want to become.”

The blog author is Sandra Mitchell, an author of several YA novels. (Full disclosure: I was not familiar with her or her work before reading this blog, which I discovered via a tweet).

Sandra makes the counterpoint that these books already exist - they simply have a female protagonist.

Look, you really need to go read the whole article, so I don't have to copy and paste the whole thing. Go read the blog. Hurry. Go.

Before I go any further, I want to clarify a point:

"News flash: the only markets in which women dominate literature are romance and YA. All the rest of it is predominately male and male-oriented. Somehow, though, James Patterson and John Grisham still manage to be bestsellers– because women are reading their novels."

She's referring to women characters. Women read far more books than men, in all markets. According to my brief internet research, in fiction books, men are 20% of the reading population. So the fact that boys are reading less isn't just a teenage problem - males in general don't read as much.

I find this blog and this whole idea really interesting. I don't want to turn this into a marketing debate, though - where it becomes "market books to boys and they will read them" vs "we don't market books to boys because they won't read them either way so we market to the readers we have - girls."

What I find interesting is the valid points that Sandra made. Here are some of my favorite things: Batman. Fight Club. Star Wars. Bret Easton Ellis. Stephen King. Zombies. American Psycho. Goodfellas. Documentaries about WWII. Pulp Fiction.

I genuinely enjoy all of those things, and not one of them is marketed towards ladies. In fact, some of them - like Fight Club and American Psycho - I would say were marketed specifically against ladies. But I managed to find them and enjoy them just the same. And I got absolutely no flack from my lady friends for liking them.

In turn, I love When Harry Met Sally, the Vampire Academy series, Sex and the City, Gossip Girl, Jane Austen, Lifetime movies, and musicals. And I think that boys do like those things, but most of them aren't comfortable with admitting it, especially if they're straight. Because they would get flack for it.

That's the point that I really find interesting. It's something I've been thinking about for awhile but hadn't found the right words for, but Sandra said it perfectly: "Male is neutral, female is specific."

Anyone can like Batman. Girls and gay guys can like Sex and the City.

I don't know what this means, exactly, or what the answer to the problem is. Why teenage boys aren't reading is actually a multifacted problem, and this answer isn't as simple as changing the cover of a book. But Jo Rowling had to go by J. K. Rowling because the publisher didn't think boys would read a book written by a girl.

What does this say about society? I don't know. I am not a feminist. I find the term annoying. To me, saying I'm a feminist sounds like I'm saying I'm pro-female, which is essentially anti-male, and I'm not. Some of my favorite people are boys.

But I am for equality, and I do think it's a shame that predominantly male interests are held in higher regard than predominately female interests.

Is there a solution to any of this? I don't know. I'm just saying that I find the conversation interesting. And some of it disheartening. And whether we come up with an answer or not, its a good conversation to be having.

Friday, August 19, 2011

We Just Decided to Go

Earlier today, Wil Wheaton posted this pic on twitter:

I'd never heard it before, but now I'm totally in love with it.

I think so many people take for granted that we went to the moon, especially my generation and the ones following. I was born 15 years after we landed on the moon, and 8 years after Star Wars came out. So by that time, adventures in space already felt somewhat commonplace.

With all the CGI and special effects, all the fake outerspace, we've forgotten that we've really been there. We didn't just make it up. We were there.

People stared up at the stars for centuries, making up stories, monitoring time, imagining all the grand adventures that go on up there. And we went there, after centuries of mankind dreaming about it.

The impact of that had been lost on me until today. I saw this really awesome movie about the Hubble telescope in the omnitheater a few months back, but in a way, these are things I've been seeing my whole life, either in text books or in summer blockbusters.

I forgot how totally fricking insane is that we traveled thousands of miles in outer space, in an atmosphere we can't even breathe, to a giant lifeless rock floating in the sky.

Not only does it make everything I've ever done seem really inconsequential, it reminds me that everything is possible. We hold the power to shape our lives, our dreams, our worlds to be whatever we want them to be - no matter how far fetched they may seem.

The point is we went to the moon because we decided to go there. We worked hard to make it a reality. If we can do that, then what's stop us from doing anything else? The biggest obstacle between a man and his dream is himself. 

I don't know. I just feel really re-energized and inspired by that. The simplicity and almost obviousness of Jim Lovell's quote. "We just decided to go." So I thought I'd shared it with you.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Book Covers!!!! (plus some other fun news)

The new covers for the Trylle Trilogy were revealed on USAToday.com! Their whole piece is up: here.

And in case you don't want to click that link, here are the covers:

Coming January 24, 2012

Coming February 28, 2012

Coming April 24, 2012
Aren't they fancy? I love them! ARCs should be going out for Switched soon, but it won't be in stores until January 24, 2012. There's going to be a ton of stuff going on in January to promote it, too - all of which I'm incredibly excited for.

AND I have another announcement about the books. Readers are always telling me how they want me to continue the series - and while I have no plans to do that - I do like new content. So for fans of the series, I wanted to give them a little something extra. Each of the books will contain a never-before-seen short story set in the world of the Trylle.

I don't want to give away too much about the stories except that each is set in the time frame the book takes place. The first short story is set during the time that Switched takes place, and so on. I will also say this: Both the short story for Switched and Torn do not take place from Wendy's POV.

But anything else, I don't want to say. We're trying to keep it a surprise. The short stories aren't even going to go out in the ARCs.

In other fun news - I'm picking out the models for the covers of Wake. It's neat, and it makes me feel fancy that I get to look at models portfolios. That cover probably won't be released for quite awhile, I imagine, since Wake isn't set to come out until fall 2012.

And I also wanted to thank everybody for their input on my new turtle, Jasper Tortuga. It was very helpful. I have him set up in a ten gallon tank with water and a floating land barge. He also has a filter and a heat lamp.

I ordered him new food and a UV light, but right now, he's eating the food I got at Walmart fine. I just made sure to get more enriched food for hatchlings, since he needs more stuff because he's going to be doing so much growing.

He hides every time I walk by his aquarium, but the turtle books said that's a good sign. It means he's alert and active. So he's doing good, even if he hates me.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Meet Jasper!

Today, I went to our county fair. They had a game where you could win live turtles, live iguanas, and live hermit crabs. I still find this concept weird that you can win animals that require specialized cages and lighting. It would make more sense to win a puppy or kitten, since most homes are already equipped for them.

In reality, I don't agree with the practice of the animals as prizes. But that's another story for another day. The long and the short of it is - I'm a sucker for animals of any kind, and I always think I should adopt everything so I can be certain it's taken care of. The fact that I walked away with only one turtle and not a whole slew of reptiles shows an extreme level of self restraint on my part.

Anyway - I digress. Meet Jasper - the newest edition to my family:

The picture's a bit blurry, but rest assured, Jasper's face is perfectly clear in real life.

That's Jasper running away from a Dixie cup. He's insanely fast. I'm starting to think the Tortoise and the Hare was a total lie.
 From what I can tell, Jasper is a red eared slider. I'm not sure of his age, but he's small enough to easily fit in a Dixie cup. (I didn't put him in one. I just put him next to one for a size comparison.).

There's a chance that Jasper isn't a boy, but I don't know how to tell the difference, and I figure that Jasper won't care if I refer to him as a "he" even if he's a she, as long as I take proper care of him and give him food and lots of clean water to swim around in.

I've never had a turtle before. I've had iguanas and frogs and toads, but never a turtle. This didn't occur to me until I got home, and I begun to panic that I would somehow kill him.

Jasper's currently set up in a ten-gallon tank that has water about half way up and a resting rock thing designed for turtles such as himself to hang out on. He also has a heat lamp and turtle food that I bought at Walmart. Walmart was the only store open that sells turtle food after I got Jasper, but tomorrow, I'll go to the pet store to see what else the recommend.

My aunt has three turtles, so I asked her how to take care of them. She said that she feeds her turtles minnows sometimes, but I think Jasper might be a bit too small for that right now. Unless minnows are smaller than what I think they are. She also said she feeds them greens (I think she said lettuce).

I also ordered some books on turtles. And I expect I'll talk to my aunt more about how not to kill Jasper and keep him happy.

The point is - Jasper is very, very cute. He might be the cutest thing I've ever seen. I know some things about turtles - like that have salmonella and they need a habitat with land and water. But if any experienced turtle owners have tips, feel free to throw them my way.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Quick Reminder

Just a quick reminder, folks: I'm unpublishing Torn and Ascend tonight at midnight (Central time), and they go down almost immediately. So this is your last chance to buy them until February and April 2012, respectively.

If you miss them today, it's not that big of a deal, because they will be out in a few months, which a much shorter amount of time then George R. R. Martin fans have to wait for the next book to come out. So comparitively, it's not big thing.

Plus, the new editions of the Trylle Trilogy coming out with St. Martin's in early 2012 have a little something extra with them that I think fans of the series will dig. I'll explain more about that next week.

Sometime next week, there should be a big cover reveal for all three books. It was going to be Monday, but we're doing some last minute cover changes, so it might be at the end of next week or possibly the week after. I will let you know as soon as I get the exact date. But trust me, the covers are worth the wait. 

For those of you wondering why I've unpublished the Trylle Trilogy, please read these blogs, which explain it all:

And Yet Another Announcement (from May 5, 2011)
Good News, Everyone (from July 26, 2011)
A Bit More on My Decision... (from July 28, 2011)

In conclusion: I'm sorry for any inconvenience this has caused any of you, and I appreciate those of you that bear with me through this transition.

But the fact is: I'm really excited. Not just about what this all means for the books, but what's going on for you, the readers. I literally cannot wait for you guys to see what we have up our sleeves. I'm going to start revealing a bit more next week, but until you guys get the books in your hands next year, I'm going to be sitting on pins and needles.

And I'm leaving you with this awesome song that I'm sorta of obsessed with right now:

EDIT: Based on my previous experience with unpublishing Switched last week, Torn and Ascend will NOT disappear from your Kindle or nook if you've already purchased them. (One reader did recommend backing them on your hard drive, just be on the safe side, because apparently, Amazon can and does very rarely remove books from you device wirelessly, but it cannot remove them from you hard drive.)

The books are however unavailable for lending. I was unaware that this would happen before unpublishing Switched. When questioned about it, Amazon basically stated that they couldn't do anything about it and it was up to the publisher. Since I am the publisher, and I'm fine with them them being lended, I'm not exactly sure who it is up to then. I apologize for that.