Latest Blog Posts

by Nikki Tranter

14 Jul 2007

Well… have I ever anticipated a book quite this much?

Christmas has come early for the Achievers. I’m a Lebowski, You’re a Lebowski (Bloomsbury, August) is a brand new must-have book from the creators of Lebowski Fest. According to the press release, it’s filled with Big Lebowski trivia, cast interviews, interviews with character inspirations (Jeff Dowd, Dude; John Milius, Walter), and a guide to speaking Achiever. The writers talk to the real Dude, and Jeff Bridges writes the into, and contributes artwork! I’m buying one for everyone.

The UK Sunday Herald has a small piece on the book, and information about the first UK Lebowski Fest.

by Nikki Tranter

14 Jul 2007

New day, new kid author receives book deal. What is in the cordial? Ever since The Guardian remarked on 11-year-old Nancy Yi Fan’s book deal with HarperCollins, I’ve been noticing more and more new authors with ones at the start of their ages.

This should be disconcerting, but, weirdly, I find it a tiny bit exciting. Super-kids are popping up all over the place—that means kids are reading, right? That means hope is not lost for a Generation Z Catcher in the Rye. It’s on the cards, I can feel it. And so, today we take a brief look at the teenage writers making literary waves across the world.

Yi Fan shone on Al Roker’s Book Club for Kids segment on Friday’s Today Show. Her Swordbird is Roker’s new club selection, and Yi Fan explained on the show how the book is a fantastical response to global terrorism enacted by warring birds. Yi Fan explains Swordbird‘s inspiration on Today‘s website:

“In school, I was learning about the American Revolution and terrorist attacks. One night, I had a dream about cardinals and blue jays fighting, and of a huge white magical bird. When I woke up, I started writing a story about them to express the importance of peace and freedom.”

Yi Fan wound up with a publishing deal after simply emailing the Swordbird manuscript to HarperCollins chief exec, Jane Friedman. Yi fan was born in China in 1993, and has lived in the US for five years. One of her favourite books is Night by Elie Wiesel. SwordQuest, a prequel to Swordbird, will be out soon.

Thursfield is the granddad of this bunch at 18. His Life’s Cruel Lesson is available on, and is inspired by Tolkien and Philip Putman. The book is about a brother and sister who must decide how to move on after uncovering potentially dangerous family secrets. Thursfield told the UK Gazette that he opted to self-publish because he “wanted to have something I’d created made into a book.” I’m betting Thursfield gets picked up by a major publisher soon. The teen author trend is simply too hot right now, and Thursfield has an added grabber—he’s actually related to his idol, Mr. Tolkien.

Sixteen-year-old May Zhee is the author of teen-chick-lit novels Vanitee Bee and Sweetheart From Hell. Zhee is wild-spirited, and may prove the dark horse as far as staying power goes. Check out her precocious and hilarious blog at Here’s a sample:

“I have a phobia of balls, rubber bands and guitar strings (on top of tampons and staining myself, of course). All for the same reason: They might hurt my precious face and I would have to pay thousands for plastic surgery. Not to mention my parents will bury me alive after that because I stole their money for surgery.”

This is a girl who revels in her girl-ness. Her books are self-published as well, but the big shots can’t be far away—this one is a phenomenon waiting to happen. A Hannah Montana for the smart, edgy set.

Clark is a kind of 17-year-old Dr. Phil, directing kids to brighter futures. Clark has five books on the market including You’ve Got What it Takes and You Can Change Your World. She is a spokesperson for various children’s charities, and is a devoted church-goer. She has two new books on the way this year—12 Going on 29: Surviving Your Daughter’s Tween Years (from Praeger), co-written with her mum, and Snap 2 It! A Real Girls’ Guide to Keeping a Positive Outlook (SourceBooks). There’s something a bit Kids Inc. meets Go Ask Alice about super-clean Sondra’s advice shilling, but there’s undeniable positivity here that has potential to work wonders. 

King is the teenager behind Arianna Kelt and the Wizards of Skyhall, a Reagent Press book about a reformed thief and wizard seer who must protect the Earth from warlocks and other pesky beasts. I can find very little in the way of bio information on King, but he is said to have completed Arianna Kelt at age 12. A sequel is due shortly.

by Jason B. Jones

11 Jul 2007

I’m just finishing a review of Jack Dann’s The Man Who Melted, out in a reissue from Pyr. Writing the review has had me thinking about genre fiction I’d like to see come back into print.

If I could bring a title back into print, it would be two by Sterling E. Lanier Hiero’s Journey (1974) and The Unforsaken Hiero (1985).  (Ok, that’s technically two titles, but the books are short, and it’s the same series . . . .)  These post-apocalyptic works, set in a North America ravaged by nuclear weapons, portray a warrior-priest’s struggle to incorporate science, religion, and new mental powers in the fight to maintain civilization.  Lanier handles the psychology of this character, and his telepathic bonds with animals of varying levels of sentience, masterfully. 

Growing up, I read borrowed copies of these books dozens of times, and when I found some battered copies at a laundromat-cum-used-books store in Atlanta almost 10 years ago, I was giddy for weeks.

Lanier died on June 28th.  Beyond his own fiction, his sculptures of the Tolkien characters ensure his legacy for fans of science fiction and fantasy.  I was sorry to learn of his death.  (I’m also weirdly irritated that he doesn’t have a Wikipedia entry—the true measure of reputation these days . . . . Cryptomundo has an interesting take on his life, though.)

Update: HTML glitches fixed.

by Sarah T. Williams [Star Tribune (Minneapolis) (MCT)]

10 Jul 2007

Michael Dahl, a children’s book author and editorial director of Stone Arch Books in Mankato, Minn., oft has been heard to say that “the No. 1 rule for writing good children’s books is to get rid of the parents.”

No need to take “Umbridge,” moms and dads; it’s just food for thought during the burbling buildup to the July 21 00:01 release of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” the seventh and final book in J.K. Rowling’s phenomenally successful series.

Part of the secret to Rowling’s success, said Dahl and other children’s book experts, is that she understood the enormous appeal of creating an orphan (or otherwise unparented child) and throwing him to the wolves. It’s a formula that has worked well for others.

by Nikki Tranter

9 Jul 2007

NPR News this week interviewed Scott Rice from San Jose University about the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest “honoring the very best of the worst in fiction”. The contest invites writers, published and not, to submit the very worst opening line to a non-existent work of fiction. Winner of last year’s contest, Jim Guigli of California, ripped on Raymond Chandler to come up with this classic:

Detective Bart Lasiter was in his office studying the light from his one small window falling on his super burrito when the door swung open to reveal a woman whose body said you’ve had your last burrito for a while, whose face said angels did exist, and whose eyes said she could make you dig your own grave and lick the shovel clean.

Honestly, I’d read that book. But, you get the idea. Contest mascot Edward George Bulwer-Lytton is the man behind Snoopy’s favorite opening line, “It was a dark and stormy night”, and Rice reveals in the NPR interview that he also invented the phrases “the almighty dollar” and “the pen is mightier than the sword”. So, while the poor guy is often regarded as a terrible writer, he pulled out a few gems in his lifetime.

Among the fun to be had at the contest website is a competition called Dickens or Bulwer?—you’re provided with a published paragraph and must identify its author as either the revered Dickens or the reviled Bulwer. (It’s actually not that easy.) You can also check out some actual real-life bad opening lines worthy of the Bulwer prize, such as:

Anthony Rowley didn’t look like a self-confessed sadistic rapist.
—Sarah Lovett, Acquired Motives

By the end of the alley the fine hairs in my nostrils were starting to twitch.
—Lindsey Davis, Shadows in Bronze

An ineffable tranquility hovered over the villa, was broken only occasionally by the intermittent sounds of the staff going about their duties: the whirr of the vacuum, the faint birdlike chirpings of the maids as they dusted adjacent rooms, the echo of the butler´s brisk tones issuing orders, the click of a door closing, the patter of distant busy feet. Gradually these individual noises were beginning to merge, flowed together to create a vague and muffled hum that hardly intruded at all on her gentle peregrinations through the labyrinth of her mind.
—Barbara Taylor Bradford, Voice of the Heart

Results of this year’s contest are released 30 July.

//Mixed media

Tricks or Treats? Ten Halloween Blu-rays That May Disrupt Your Life

// Short Ends and Leader

"The best of this stuff'll kill you.

READ the article