Friday, October 28, 2011
When Spartacus Ryan “Poop Lip” Zander finds his house destroyed and his wacko, Human Cannonball mother missing, it’s obvious that she’s been kidnapped by Bartholomew’s World-Renowned Circus of the Incredible. But when his dad and brother refuse to believe it—because they’re morons, obviously—it’s up to Spartacus to be the hero.
With the Internet-wizardry of his best friend and clues from his mom’s postcards, Spartacus sets out on a zany, west coast rescue mission. But as the stories about the circus get stranger (and Spart’s enemies get weirder), he realizes the only way to bring his family back together is to bring the big top down, once and for all.
An entertaining read, with lots of twists and turns as you follow Ryan a 13 year old boy through the adventures. Learning who to trust and who not to trust for sure. You get a hilarious outtake on this adventure of discovery and watching his reactions as things are not how they at first seem.
Monday, October 24, 2011
Guest post on your favorite books at ages 5, 11, 16 and 20. If there are any books released in the last few years you wish you had back then, you can talk about that too.
Age 5 – Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak
I’ve never been able to decide which I love more: the illustrations or the actual story. This is a book that has never faded from my memory. There is something about the emotions within those few pages that feel raw and vulnerable, even in the middle where there are no words at all. I think each one of us as a child has felt ashamed or scared or angry at one time or another, and ended up retreating in our own way to a place ‘where the wild things are.’
Age 11 – The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin
Every summer when I was a kid my big sister and I would strap on trusty backpacks and pedal our bikes four miles across town to our favorite place in the world…the library. This was how I came across The Westing Game. After having exhausted Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden mysteries but aching for more, this book surprised me; it felt so grown-up: clues, bombs, shady characters, dead bodies, worms, blood… I still think of it every time I hear the song ‘America the Beautiful.’ Written in such a unique, skillful way, The Westing Game was probably the first book to really suck me in until I felt like I was part of the story, which as a kid is truly the best feeling in the world.
Age 16 – Watership Down, by Richard Adams
I’ve never been an ‘animal person,’ though I get the whole cute, best-friend factor. But movies and books about animals (Old Yeller, Black Beauty, etc.) never really did it for me. Perhaps that was why Watership Down took me by surprise (shocked me, was more like it). This was no feel-good, save the animals kind of story. Rather, it was like an action movie with rabbits in the starring roles! Sure, I eventually came to appreciate what this epic tale was really about—but at sixteen all I cared about was that Fiver and friends took me on one heck of an adventure. Rabbits rule!
Age 20 – Harry Potter and the Socerer’s Stone, by JK Rowling
Okay, so technically this book was still inside JK Rowling’s head when I was twenty. But, for a period of time I lost my love for reading. The boy who lived brought it all back to me in full force, and I’ve been running ever since. How does one sum up the genius that is Harry Potter? I don’t believe it is possible, except to say it’s like combining the innocence and imagination and radiance of childhood and rolling it all up into something that feels a little bit like magic.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
When I’m not writing
How to Live It Up In Just Two Hours of Free Time a Week: A Writer’s Guide
From the author: While some of these tried and true “not writing” activities…well, actually involve writing, it is purely “for fun writing” and doesn’t count toward the writer’s “professional” writing.
- For a fabulous, free mood booster during the dark winter months, find a nearby river or other body of water…and jump into it. Seriously. It’s actually quite easy to do; simply run toward the icy river, screaming obscenities, and fall face-first into two feet of water, and run back to your car. Also, while you don’t technically need a swimsuit, check your specific state’s laws, just in case.
- If you work from home, keep your surroundings interesting by rearranging your entire living room…often. After you exhaust all possible placements of the couch, you might try switching your bedroom with your living room, just to see if anyone notices. Repeat until your roommate/significant other threatens to bolt everything to the floor.
- Visit a second-run movie theater and watch an awful flick like Birdemic or Battlefield Earth. Seeing something terrible that became at least modestly successful will encourage your writing. Need a more social way to spend your two hours? Share these terrible movies with friends in your yard, using a sheet and a borrowed projector! Neighbors will love hearing the comically bad scripts—especially those that involve gunshots, explosions, and excessive screaming.
- Most writers don’t have time to shop for groceries and learn to cook and eat at a table with actual plates and then do dishes—and not three times a day! Add exercising and seeing what it’s like outside to that list and suddenly you don’t have any free time at all! Instead, combine all three chores into one: Enjoy a brisk jog in the great outdoors to a nearby café, food cart, or mini-mart. Buy an affordable meal and jog back. To gain extra time, choose foods you can eat with one hand so you can sneak in some stolen writing time. To take back even more time, put a tall, standing table over your treadmill so you never have to stop writing to exercise again.
- Impulsively buy any song on iTunes that gets stuck in your head. The small pleasure of immediately acquiring something you want can give you a feeling of accomplishment that you may not get from your writing for years.
- Buy every book that is recommended to you and start reading immediately, regardless of how many other books you’re in the middle of. Read them in fifteen minute stints, alternating books. The math begins to get complicated, but, in theory, you should be able to finish four books in a year. TIP: Do not tweet the same title every week for #fridayreads; try tagging chapter names instead so your followers won’t notice it took you seven months to finish Dave Egger’s What is the What.
- Bonus free time activity, just in time for Halloween! While this breaks the rule of only two hours of fun per week, this holiday activity is worth the time splurge. Make an overnight reservation with a friend to stay in a state park yurt with a creepy name, like Devil’s Lake. Your goal, from nightfall until midnight, is to each write a scary story using the park you’re staying in as the story’s setting. At midnight, pencils go down and you flip a coin to see who reads aloud first…! Winner is the last person to run screaming into the dark and lock themselves inside their car.
- Molly E. Johnson is the author of Spartacus and the Circus of Shadows, a middle grade novel from RainTown Press.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Top 10 Disaster Books
Well, this is going to be a bit of a random list. Call it the Top Ten Disaster Books Mike Mullin Likes. I chose to exclude most dystopias, which usually have a disaster in the backstory. Otherwise books like The Hunger Games and The Road would appear on my list. Some of the titles are chosen for love alone, others in part because of the influence they had on my disaster novel, ASHFALL. I’m including young adult novels, non-fiction, and adult science fiction because, hey, it’s my list, and I can do what I want. Enjoy!
Earthquake at Dawn by Kristiana Gregory
Real photographer Edith Irvine and her fictional fifteen-year-old maid, Daisy, are caught up in the devastation of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. Gregory does a great job depicting the full range of responses to the disaster including: the chaos, cooperation, and governmental corruption. Young adult fiction.
Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded August 27, 1883 by Simon Winchester
This is easily the finest account of a volcanic disaster yet written. Covers the eruption in exhaustive detail, from its global impacts to the long term local social changes it wrought, sowing the seeds of Indonesian nationalism. Winchester’s prose is clear and accurate but never boring. This work had a major impact on ASHFALL—since no supervolcano has erupted in recorded human history, accounts of large Plinian eruptions like Krakatoa were the best source for many of the details I needed to make my novel realistic. Adult non-fiction.
Catastrophe, the Origins of the Modern World by David Keyes
Describes how a volcanic event in 535 CE changed the world, leading to mass migrations, causing some empires to founder and others to flourish, and sparking the plagues that later ravaged Europe. If you want to get an idea of what Alex and Darla might be up against in the sequels to ASHFALL, this is a good book to read. Adult non-fiction.
The Last Survivors Series by Susan Beth Pfeffer
A comet strikes the moon, moving it closer to earth. Catastrophe ensues, as higher lunar gravity wreaks havoc on the earth’s tides, weather, and mantle. The second book in the trilogy is the best—grittier and more realistic than books one or three. Young adult fiction.
Shipbreaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
If you want to be afraid of a disaster, this is the one to fear. Climate change and dwindling oil turn the U.S. into a third-world state. The teenage protagonist, Nailer, struggles to survive by scrounging scrap metal from rusting tankers while the small privileged class flits along the ocean just beyond him in sleek new hydrofoils. Ship Breaker is just as plausible as ASHFALL, but a lot more likely to happen within our lifetime. And this disaster is one we can do something about—there’s no existing or foreseeable technological fix for a supervolcano. Young adult fiction.
Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
Published in 1951, so it’s got to be hopelessly out of date, right? Not so much. Genetic engineering of plants without adequate research into the long-term impacts? Check, we’re doing that. Mixing the animal and plant genome with genetic engineering? Check. A looming shortage of oil that will incentivize further experimentation with plant sources? Check. All the conditions Wyndham wrote about for the plantpocalypse are just now coming to fruition, sixty years after he wrote the novel. Adult science fiction.
Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven and David Pournelle
What happens if the comet in Pfeffer’s books misses the moon and slams into the earth instead? Something like this. This is the classic annihilation by comet novel. A bit slow to get started, but worth the ride. Adult science fiction.
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond
One of the questions I faced in writing ASHFALL was this—what is it like to live in a society in collapse? Diamond compares about a dozen modern and historical societies, examining why some flourished while others failed. Along the way, we learn that members of collapsing societies suffered terribly, typically struggling with environmental degradation, war, and cannibalism. Many, such as the Easter Islanders, died out completely. Adult non-fiction.
The Postman by David Brin
Another realistic disaster novel—the world succumbs to an accumulation of environmental, military, and political catastrophes. Focuses on rebuilding as a drifter, Gordon Krantz, happens upon an old postal uniform and unwittingly becomes the symbol around which scattered communities across the Pacific Northwest coalesce into a reformed United States. Adult Science Fiction.
A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster by Rebecca Solnit
Probably the most single influential book in writing ASHFALL. Solnit examines several disasters in exhaustive detail. We see humanity at its sublime best: the communities that fed everyone without regard to race, class, or money after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, and at its brutal worst: the mix of police officers and volunteers who lined up to shoot refugees fleeing the Superdome after Katrina. Hopefully I’ve succeeded in portraying both of those extremes accurately in ASHFALL. Adult non-fiction.
Thank you for hosting me on Star Shadow. Today (October 11) is the official launch day for ASHFALL! *Throws confetti*
Below find extras you may use in your blog post or not as you wish, including pictures, cover art, a bio, flap copy, and links.
Mike Mullin’s first job was scraping the gum off the undersides of desks at his high school. From there, things went steadily downhill. He almost got fired by the owner of a bookstore due to his poor taste in earrings. He worked at a place that showed slides of poopy diapers during lunch (it did cut down on the cafeteria budget). The hazing process at the next company included eating live termites raised by the resident entomologist, so that didn’t last long either. For a while Mike juggled bottles at a wine shop, sometimes to disastrous effect. Oh, and then there was the job where swarms of wasps occasionally tried to chase him off ladders. So he’s really hoping this writing thing works out.
Mike holds a black belt in Songahm Taekwondo. He lives in Indianapolis, Indiana with his wife and her three cats. ASHFALL is his first novel.
Many visitors to Yellowstone National Park don’t realize that the boiling hot springs and spraying geysers are caused by an underlying supervolcano. It has erupted three times in the last 2.1 million years, and it will erupt again, changing the Earth forever.
Fifteen-year-old Alex is home alone when the supervolcano erupts. His town collapses into a nightmare of darkness, ash, and violence, forcing him to flee. He begins a harrowing trek in search of his parents and sister, who were visiting relatives 140 miles away.
Along the way, Alex struggles through a landscape transformed by more than a foot of ash. The disaster brings out the best and worst in people desperate for food, clean water, and shelter. When an escaped convict injures Alex, he searches for a sheltered place where he can wait—to heal or to die. Instead, he finds Darla. Together, they fight to achieve a nearly impossible goal: surviving the supervolcano.
The first two chapters are available on my website: www.mikemullinauthor.com. You may reprint the first two chapters in whole or in part on your website so long as you do not charge anyone anything to access them.
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