Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Making of a Book Trailer

A note from Jennifer Archer

I was so excited when Emily Greaser, the motion designer of the book trailer for my YA novel Through Her Eyes, agreed to guest post about her process.Although I have previously written several novels for adults, this was my first book trailer. I found the process of collaborating with Emily on the project to be fun and exciting, as well as a wonderful new creative challenge. It was so surreal seeing certain elements in the story come alive through graphics, motion and sound. Emily did an amazing job of capturing my vision and the tone of the novel. Working with her on the project was a wonderful experience, and I look forward to collaborating with her on the design of more trailers for my future books. Since Emily can explain better than I the creative progression she went through in order to arrive at the beautiful and eerie finished product, I asked her if she would share her process with us, and she graciously agreed! So without further ado . . .  here’s Emily!  

Thank you for this opportunity to speak to your readers about my work! As a motion designer, book trailers provide me the perfect opportunity to utilize my design skills, and to jump right into visual storytelling by combining beautiful graphics, typography, photography, and live footage. When Jennifer and I first discussed the possibilities of creating a trailer for Through Her Eyes, the ideas I had were electric. The main character, Tansy, exists on the brink of two different worlds. I was intrigued by the challenge of visually communicating a mood of tension, along with an edgy and exciting aesthetic for readers.

I began the process by asking Jennifer to send me a rough script of the content  she wanted to communicate to the audience. From there, I jumped straight into the “visual concept phase” of the design process. A large part of this phase involves researching and sorting through stock photos and footage, as well as my own media libraries... and then mentally absorbing the material in order to establish a visual direction.From there, I brainstormed and storyboarded my ideas in order to pitch them to Jennifer. We exchanged thoughts and ideas about the storyboards, and discussed budget in order to know how much stock materials the project could afford. We eventually chose a direction based on some of the thematic elements, including text on a page, photography, crystal pendants, and the contrast between color and black & white. We also decided that the technical approach would be based on still photos combined with typography.

Next came one of my favorite and challenging parts of the design process... the sound design. Fortunately for this project, I was able to find the perfect audio track. This is one of my favorite parts of the process because the audio is so key in inspiring and driving a project. However, often times it's not so easy to find (or afford) the ideal audio solution, and in those cases, I choose to hire a sound designer to join the collaboration and to create the perfect audio track.

During the animating and editing phase, Jennifer and I were able to consistently communicate back and forth in order to reach a successful solution. I would create a draft, we would talk about revisions, and then I would reply with a next draft. This is another part of the process that I really enjoy, because it is true collaboration... two professionals feeding off of each other's creative energy. Also, in my experience, working with authors usually results in smooth teamwork due to the fact that our creative processes are very similar.

The experience of working with Jennifer was extremely positive and professional, and I look forward to more collaboration within the realm of book trailers. We are both very proud of the finished trailer for Through Her Eyes and think it captures beautifully the tone and subject matter of the book. I hope you enjoy it!   -Emily Greaser



After earning a BFA in graphic design at Montana State University, Emily Greaser completed her education at Vancouver Film School in British Columbia, Canada.  Since then, she has spent time traveling and gaining experience through a variety of freelance projects, spanning from Seattle, Washington all the way to Sydney, Australia. Significant projects include:  Book trailers for award-winning author Jennifer Archer and  NY Times Bestselling author Linda Castillo, a series of logo animations for K2 Skis, and a series of visual effects composite shots for a feature film produced in Australia.  Emily currently resides in New York City, and can be contacted through her website 

Visit Jennifer Archer's website 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Not Enough Hours in the Day

Well, sometimes timing sucks. Here it is my turn to post and wouldn’t you know it? I’m putting the final touches on my next novel because it has to get to my copy editor by the end of the day tomorrow.

So, yeah…I’m a bit swamped. Which means I need to put The Experiment on hold for a post or two. So, if you’ll excuse me, I'd like to throw out some questions to get a dialogue going, and get us all thinking today. Who knows, some of it may help me with the experiment, too!

Answer as many as you’d like, even if it’s just one.

What in a story will make you put a book down and never pick it up again?

Do you give authors second chances, or if they lose you in one book, that’s it?

What are some types of things that get you excited when you’re reading?

What are you looking for when you read a book, if anything at all?

Are there any books you’ve read that you went into with no particular expectations, but came away excited that you’d discovered it? If so, I loved to know titles!

Looking forward to your answers!

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Better to Hear You, My Dear

This past week saw a very welcome piece of news: Katy Kellgren, a fabulously talented narrator, is up for an Audie award for her solo narration of my very own ASHES .

Is this a tribute to Katy's skills in bringing my story alive? You bet. As a long-time listener, I love a good audiobook, and I also know that a narrator can spell the difference between a wonderful experience or an exercise in Chinese water torture. Bad narrators can kill an otherwise good story (I won't name names here, but get me alone and I'll tell you some of the worst offenders); great readers can turn a so-so story--one I might even have passed by--into something to be savored.

Which got me thinking not about the pleasures of listening to a good story--there is certainly something primal about that, a vestigial inherited memory of Og talking about the mastodon that got away or, closer to home, the deep comfort of listening to a parent read

then translated to the voices which reach up to us from the page

to give us comfort and an escape from our dull, wretched lives (or, in Sawyer's case, a place to go in his head that ISN'T that bloody island)

--but about public readings by writers.

Here's the honest-to-God truth: I love listening to writers speak. But I don't love hearing writers read their stuff aloud. The simple truth is that many don't know how. This is strange, I know, but I have been to some truly atrocious readings where you could tell the writer would rather stick pins in her eyes. Or that while they may have really liked their story, they just don't have the necessary performance skills to make it an enjoyable experience. On the other hand, I've been to a couple readings that were great--but they were the exception, not the rule. Pity that I missed out on Dickens, too, probably the first (documented) author to understand the art of performance: that reading aloud IS an art.

If you believe the biographies--and I do, especially Dickens as I Knew Him by George Dolby, who was the Inimitable's stage manager for these readings and tours--the readings probably helped do Dickens in. Still, his public readings were, apparently, quite something. This article gives a nice summary. But suffice to say that women fainted, grown men trembled--and still others, like Mark Twain, thought him as atrocious reader. So, really, how much was hyperbole?

Now, did it matter that Dickens once had ambitions to the stage? That he co-wrote and then starred in amateur theatricals? You bet. I've often wondered how many writers have acted, wanted to act, or act. (For the record, I have and, yeah, I once thought about a life in the theater, too. Predictably, my parents were against it. Now that I am older--and have been in my share of productions--I understand why.) Have I done readings? Sure, when asked . . . but I'm not sold that's what audiences want and, in fact, I'm always reluctant to read my stuff. Do I understand that readings are great marketing tools? Yes. In fact, Janet Mullany has a fine article in this month's Romance Writers Report on the topic, and some useful tips and bon mots, including my favorite: less is more.

But all that presupposes that writers make good readers, and not all do. Even those who are good at it--and I think I do pretty well--pale in comparison to people, like Katy, who do this kind of thing for a living. Yet you can learn a lot from listening to very good narrators, such as the value of enunciation and pacing. (Listening to yourself can be a cringe-worthy exercise, too; you are never the best judge of your own voice. Doing so, as well as reading to a real live human being who isn't necessarily your pal or husband, is worthwhile, too. )

A public reading is also a very strange beast because, on the one hand, people want to hear a good story. But, on the other, a really dramatic reading--think of Dickens storming and weeping and gnashing his teeth and then lying on a couch for hours afterward, taking eggs in Champagne as a restorative--may not be what your audience wants to hear or expects. Setting is everything; expectations are, too. I once did a reading at a small club with a bunch of other writers where it seemed that droning was the order of the day. I listened to a couple guys maunder on and thought, piece of cake. So I got up, gave my wonderfully splendid reading only to realize, after a lot of tittering, that a story with some sex in it--not tons, but the story was centered on sexual obsession--was making people VERY uncomfortable, so much so that their anxiety was plain. My bad. You can bet I never made that mistake again. Now, you could say I was being overly sensitive, too. Maybe. For me, reading an audience is as important as knowing what I'm performing.

But, like I said, I'm also not sold that people want to hear us read. I think they want to hear FROM us, which is a very different thing. In fact, more often that not, I'll be prepared to read something--notice that word "prepared" there; this means I have PRACTICED and quite a bit; that chapter is, for me, no different than a script--but nine times out of ten, we get caught up in talking, a back and forth exchange, which I personally believe serves an author and her work better than a random chapter, no matter how well done.

I could be all wrong, too. Witness Stephen King giving the closing address at the Savannah Book Festival a couple weeks ago. (A friend of mine was there, by the way, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.) He appears about six minutes and change into this, but pay attention to one thing he says: Writers are not that interesting to listen to. That may be so, but King also a) has practice and b) understands the value of marketing or else he wouldn't have read the first chapter of the forthcoming Dr. Sleep (a sequel to The Shining).

Now, is King a good reader of his own stuff? Not really, although he is a fine speaker (pay attention to what he does; he knows exactly what he's doing and understands the value of pacing) and I love listening to and learning from him. I would also much rather listen to him speak like this than read his own work. (And I've heard him read a bunch of his work. If, for example, you want the unabridged audiobook version of Desperation, his narration is the only one out there. The one with Kathy Bates is abridged.) For years, Frank Muller was the voice of Stephen King; when he died, the baton's been passed around to readers as various as George Guidall, Steven Weber (one of my faves; his performance of IT made a so-so novel truly superb; his acting work on the movie remake of The Shining was out of this world, too).

Campbell Scott is another fave for his work on Cell and The Shining) and, most recently, Craig Wasson (11/22/63).

But contrast King's reading with the rest of his talk and then ask yourself: was it really that good? Did it really enhance the value of seeing/hearing him speak? For my money, that would be have to be no.

How about you? Why do you think some people like to hear authors read their own works? Or are people just as happy to listen to a writer talk? What do people get out of hearing from writers they admire? Is it curiosity, hero-worship, a learning experience? What?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Your Turn to Play Casting Director...

by Michelle Gagnon

A friend and I were recently discussing the upcoming Hunger Games movie (which we're both EXTREMELY excited about). We both agreed that Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss was a stroke of genius, but my friend felt strongly that the two male leads (Josh Hutcherson as Peeta and Liam Hemsworth as Gale) were not at all what she'd pictured for those characters. I figure it's hard to say until I see the film; sometimes actors surprise you, after all. But it got me thinking about the pictures of characters we develop in our minds, and how frequently seeing a casting director's take on those roles lets us down.

For example, there's been a lot of discussion online about the possibility that Tom Cruise will play Jack Reacher, and Angelina Jolie will be Scarpetta in upcoming films for those popular series. Strong opinions both for and against, in those cases. And when One for the Money was recently released, a lot of Janet Evanovich fans doubted that Katherine Heigl had the chops to play Stephanie Plum (I haven't seen the film yet, so I can't weigh in on that).

Today let's throw on our amateur casting directors' hats and discuss who we think would best portray our favorite roles from YA fiction.

I recently finished Cassandra Clare's first few books in the Mortal Instrument series, which hasn't been greenlit yet, although they've apparently done some preliminary casting. Lily Collins will be Clary, and Jace will be played by Jamie Campbell-Bower. Once I saw their photos, they both struck me as excellent choices for those roles, at least judging by the way they look (whether or not they can act is another thing entirely, obviously). But what about Simon, and Isabella? Not to mention my personal favorite from the books, the warlock Magnus?

The funny thing is that for my most recent YA novel, DON'T TURN AROUND, the editor and I developed the characters together, which I've never done before. And he even helpfully provided photos of what he imagined the characters would look like. And no matter what, once I had those images locked in my mind, I couldn't picture them any other way (I'm posting the photos here, in case you're curious).

So: if you could choose the actors who will star in the film version of your favorite YA novel, who would they be, and why?

Thursday, February 23, 2012


by Wendy Corsi Staub

Two weeks ago, I blogged about my first-ever experience with…well, I hesitate to say a ghost, because it’s not like a saw an apparition or heard voices. But a Very Strange Thing definitely occurred that defied rational explanation. If you missed that post, you can catch up HERE.

That was the first time a Very Strange Thing happened to me, but it wasn’t the last. There have been other Very Strange Things over the years, usually when I was alone. I rarely told anyone about them, because, well…you never know how others might interpret something like that, especially when you aren’t quite sure how you should interpret it yourself. I just knew that I didn’t want anyone to try to talk me into—or out of—anything. I wanted to make up my own mind.

Have I?

I wish the answer could be a straightforward yes or no. But when these Very Strange Things occur, I tend to go from initial disbelief (Whoa--is this really happening?! No way!) to absolutely certainty that I’ve just had a paranormal experience—and then the pendulum gradually swings back again to uncertainty as time passes and the specifics fade.

Unless, of course, someone else shared the experience. Better yet…a roomful of someone elses. When you have eyewitnesses, you at least know that it wasn’t all in your head, which means the phenomenon, at least, is real--though the cause may still be open to interpretation.

A few summers ago, at Thrillerfest in New York City, I was invited to present a panel with my author friends Heather Graham (aka Heather Graham Pozzessere and Shannon Drake) and Alexandra Sokoloff, who also write paranormal. Actually, the Thrillerfest committee had asked us to present a “séance,” but none of us were comfortable with that idea, so we instead decided to lead a discussion on spiritualism. We were thrilled when my good friend, Dr. Lauren Thibadeau, phD and registered Lily Dale medium, agreed to join us as a special guest.

There we were–we three authors talking about the personal experiences that had led us to write our “ghost stories,” with Dr. Lauren elaborating with informative anecdotes–when a Very Strange Thing happened.

I’ll preface it by mentioning that earlier in the evening, as Dr. Lauren and I sat chatting together in the hotel bar, she had confided that playful spirits have been feeding off her recent stress and moving objects around on her, manipulating appliances, etc. She described a couple of experiences that would probably freak out most of us, but to her are irritating nuisances, all in a day’s work. (Even, apparently, when she’s not working!)

So as we sat there on our panel, basically talking about whether spirits can make themselves known by manipulating energy, the recessed light in the ceiling directly above Lauren’s head turned itself off.

Then on.

Then off again.

Then on again.

You can imagine how that went over in a roomful of paranormal authors, aspiring paranormal writers, and fans of paranormal writing. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I might not have believed it. Every other recessed bulb in the ceiling remained steadily on.

Not that one.

There it was, blinking like a beacon over Lauren, who was amused, and pretty much chalked it up to an opportunist spirit.

That light continued turning itself on and off for a good part of the lively discussion that ensued. We had a terrific interactive audience and they were filled with questions for Alex, Heather, me–and of course, Dr. Lauren. At the end of the evening, as the room was emptying and we were gathering our things and chatting, we noticed that the light had long since stopped blinking. It glowed steadily now, not a flicker in sight.

Leave it to a psychic medium to inject a new kind of “thrill” into Thrillerfest!

If you’ve experienced Very Strange Things, have you always been alone? Or was someone else there to witness it—and assure you that you weren’t imagining things?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Tease is Only Fun if...

by A.G. Howard

Don't you just hate when someone teases you, tempts you, and taunts you with the promise of something amazing and, then, when you're salivating at the chops, they walk away laughing without giving you anything at all? Feels kinda like this...

Well, here at ADR3NALIN3, we understand the subtle art of teasing. We're authors, after all. And we know that a tease is only fun if the teasee (yes, it's a word! I just made it one, see?) eventually gets what they're promised.

Back in January, our Weekend Warriors, Frans and his zombie twin, Hans, teased our readers on this post, promising details of how to win this EPIC ADR3NALIN3 gift pack:

Bet you thought we forgot, right? Well we didn't. And today I'm going to give you all the deets you need to make this lovely dream package a gratifying reality.

What does this pack entail, you ask?

- Jordan Dane: ON A DARK WING autographed paperback and a snack pack inspired by her main character.

- Ilsa J. Bick: DROWNING INSTINCT and ASHES autographed hardbacks

- Wendy Corsi Staub: LILY DALE: AWAKENING autographed hardback

- Jennifer Archer: THROUGH HER EYES authographed hardback

- Chris Grabenstein: CURIOSITY CAT autographed paperback and assorted bookmarks

- Dan Haring: OLDSOUL autographed ARC

- Carol M. Tanzman: DANCERGIRL autographed paperback

- Brett Battles: HERE COMES MR. TROUBLE autographed paperback

- A.G. Howard: A creepy Alice in Wonderland themed journal, ribbon bookmark, and a signed bookplate, in homage to SPLINTERED, her upcoming YA Alice in Wonderland spinoff

- AND assorted and sundry swag too numerous to mention

How to win it? Easy cheesy (you'll have to read the Frans and Hans post to truly appreciate that little adage). Just hop over to Young Adult Books Central where they're having a Mega-Giveaway of EPIC Proportions.

Our package isn't the only thing up for grabs, either. Over twenty-some established and debut YA authors donated: t-shirts, lanyards, temporary tattoos, SIGNED books, SIGNED bookmarks and bookplates, magnets, felt coffee sleeves, shuriken hair clips, a USB flash drive, bracelets, pens, notepads, keychains, and more. There are five different prize packages to win, including ours.

So what are you waiting for? Hop over and enter the giveaway! (Entrants must have a US mailing address.)

The giveaway is open for entries from now until midnight, March 1st. Winners will be announced on Friday, March 2nd.

See? Here at ADR3NALIN3, we know how to make teasing fun. (◕‿-)

Good luck, everyone!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

YA: How Dark is TOO Dark?

Brett here...Today I'm honored to present a guest post by my good friend Alexandra Sokoloff. Alex is a screenwriter and novelist who has made a name for herself in the world of adult supernatural thriller fiction and is now dipping her toe into the YA world. Something, for which, we should all be glad!

Enough from's Alex:

First, I am thrilled to be in the company of the Adr3nalin3 writers. Thank God conference season is upon us and I will get to see all your shining faces soon (hopefully on the dance floor!).

Second, Happy Mardi Gras, y’all!!!!!!!!!

And third. . . oh, God, this is such a dark post for Mardi Gras.

See, the thing is, Brett cleverly roped me into blogging for him by cleverly calling today TUESDAY, not MARDI GRAS. I only realized in retrospect...

But this blog is ABOUT dark, isn’t it?

And nothing in New Orleans (or Brazil) is ever just sweetness and light, right? Well, neither is this post.

We can party in a minute, or two, I promise, but first I actually have a serious question for all you darkside writers.

Is there such a thing as TOO dark in YA?

I know, I know, I can hear you all thinking back at me: Well, Hunger Games is dark. Twilight is – well, at least twisted. The Wicked Lovely series is TRULY twisted, and dark, especially in later books. Beautiful Creatures deals very realistically with teenage depression in a fantastical setting. Forest of Hands and Teeth has ZOMBIES, yo, of course it’s dark!

But fantastical dark, or paranormal dark, or sci-fi dark, or steampunk dark, or dystopian dark, is different from dark as it happens in real life. For example, I love the first Hunger Games, but it’s SO high concept - for once I’ll use the odious “It’s ---- Meets -----!!!!!!!“ paradigm: It’s Survivor meets The Lottery!!!!!!!!

I mean, unquestionably brilliant, but let’s face it, there is nothing that is not Hollywood about it. And Hollywood just doesn’t do dark, these days. Not on a budget over $1 million, anyway, not since the seventies (or unless you’re Steven Spielberg and you’re doing the Holocaust. But that was a while ago, even so.).

The sheer VASTNESS of the Hunger Games setting undercuts the darkness of it. These days, Hollywood is not going to go all the way to the dark side. Sorry, but it’s simply not. Edgy, fine, but Katniss is not going to die, okay? That’s not a spoiler, it’s just the way it is.

And that’s what I’m trying to get at for today’s discussion. Dark in a fantastical, paranormal, dystopian, sci-fi setting, is not the same as dark as it happens . . . in real life.

Now, I’ve read some dark YA. Dark as I am, I tend to seek out the dark. Um, compulsively. And currently, for me, the winner of that particular lottery on the YA front is Chris Lynch’s Inexcusable, a riveting and completely realistic exploration of a high school boy who walks the line between high school jock narcissism and sociopathy, and –

Well, read it. It’s not pretty.

Speak is dark, too. Can you believe people have tried to ban this book? Like, let’s pretend rape just doesn’t happen. After all, it wasn’t even a felony for. . . a REALLY REALLY LONG TIME. Oh and especially don’t let teenage girls know how often this happens, with them as the primary target. Although boys certainly aren’t exempt—but that’s even darker to write about, isn’t it? Nobody wants to talk about THAT. But with that monster Jerry Sandusky all over the news, maybe we’ll finally have to.

But this is the thing for me as a writer, writing dark YA. What I write, personally, is a cross between reality and - supernatural, paranormal, horror, whatever you want to call it – it confuses even me. So when I write dark, which I do with my adult thrillers and which I have done in spades with my own first YA, THE SPACE BETWEEN, it’s fantastical, sort of, and supernatural, sort of, and sci-fi, sort of, and horror, sort of - and maybe even paranormal, sort of - but the thing that makes it dark is the reality of it.

A reality so dark that I made this novel my first indie-published novel after - five traditionally published books and four more traditionally contracted books coming in the pipeline. I didn’t even want to try to publish THE SPACE BETWEEN traditionally, because I didn’t want to undercut the reality of it, and I didn’t want to fight with the powers that be about the content, I just wanted to DO it. Because I REMEMBER high school. I had a wonderful time in so very many ways; our school had an awesome theater department and I had some of the best times and the best professional training of my life there. But I remember how – outside theater – how high school really was, the stuff no one really talks about. And I’m not just remembering as a student – I taught incarcerated teenagers in the Los Angeles County prison system before I sold my first film script, when I was just 22 years old, so as a young teacher I was able to observe the darkness of that teen age while I still had all the feelings of BEING that age. And it impacted me, let me tell you.

So my first and only-so-far YA is dark in a way I was just too uneasy to unleash on traditional publishing. It’s not like there’s no hope in it, I swear! In fact, because of the subject matter, there are so many potential endings, light and dark, I’m going to have to make the whole thing a trilogy. But I did not want anyone telling me you CAN’T DO THAT, and I truly believed that was what would happen. I’m a hopelessly right-brained person in reality but I had to research and come to some understanding of advanced algebra, probability, and quantum physics just to make this book a reality, and I knew going into it that the scariness of the science involved could make it a hard sell, let alone the themes of school shootings, sexual harassment, sexual predators, mental illness, PTSD, dwarfism, some pretty brutal bullying and teenage sex. But no one was going to tell me I couldn’t do it, and the miraculous thing is, these days, we authors don’t have to worry about people telling us what we can and can’t do.

And so far, so good. The book IS too dark for some people but it really lights others up with its subject matter, fascinating dreamworld and emotonal reality.

So my questions for the day are: Do you ever worry about writing TOO dark? Can you give me examples of YA books that are so dark that you are shocked they were ever published?

Or – tell me how was your high school? Light? Dark? Grey?

And please, if you know any – give me good examples of YA horror. I’d just like to know!

Thanks for having me, and Happy Mardi Gras! Laissez les bons temps rouler!!!!

- Alex

The Space Between

Sixteen-year old Anna Sullivan is having terrible dreams of a massacre at her high school. Anna’s father is a mentally unstable veteran, her mother vanished when Anna was five, and Anna might just chalk the dreams up to a reflection of her crazy waking life — except that Tyler Marsh, the most popular guy at the school and Anna’s secret crush, is having the exact same dream.

Despite the gulf between them in social status, Anna and Tyler connect, first in the dream and then in reality. As the dreams reveal more, with clues from the school social structure, quantum physics, probability, and Anna's own past, Anna becomes convinced that they are being shown the future so they can prevent the shooting…

If they can survive the shooter — and the dream.

Based on the short story The Edge of Seventeen – winner of the ITW Thriller award for Best Short Fiction.

$2.99 on


Monday, February 20, 2012

To Be Read...Eventually

Pretty much everyone I know has an extensive TBR (To Be Read) list, and this is especially true of my writer friends. I know for a fact that I will never get caught up on my TBR list, because until the day I die there will be books published that I'll want to read. And that's okay. The point is that we keep reading. But there are certain books, for one reason or another, I've had on my TBR list for years.

Being from a small farming community, I grew up working. But my first real official job when I turned 16 was making burgers at McDonald's. Yes, quite glamorous, I know. But hey, you gotta start somewhere. One day I was in the break room and noticed someone had left a copy of Jack Kerouac's DESOLATION ANGELS on the table. I picked it up and read the first few pages, and was struck by the writing - both the style and the words that were written. It was unlike anything I'd ever read. My break ended and I went back to the burgers, but I never forgot that book.

Fast-forward a few years, I was in my early 20's trying to figure out myself and the world and how the two things were supposed to fit together. I ended up reading a ton of Kerouac at that time. ON THE ROAD was and is my favorite of his. That book, combined with John Steinbeck's TRAVELS WITH CHARLIE, sent me off into the unknown: Backpacking in Europe, cross-country road trips and even a summer spent in Alaska. I had the wanderlust for sure. And I started reading DESOLATION ANGELS again. But at some point something must have come up, and I put it down.

A few years ago I picked it up again, fully intent on getting through it, but again one thing or another made me put it down. But it always stayed in the back of my mind. It was always one of those books that I needed to read.

The last few years I've been keeping track of the books I read on Goodreads. I love being able to see what I've read, and I wish something like this had existed my whole life. Anyway, I made a goal in 2011 to read 100 books, a goal which I happily achieved. But this year I wanted to do something different. I didn't want to just go for quantity. One night I was looking at my bookshelf, and DESOLATION ANGELS caught my eye. It was sitting up there with a bookmark I'd gotten in Italy still sticking out of it, marking the place I'd last abandoned it, and the decision was made. 2012 would be the year I'd get some of those eternally TBR books crossed off my list.

This past Saturday, I finally finished DESOLATION ANGELS, about 16 years after I picked it up for the very first time. Although it's no ON THE ROAD, I still really enjoyed it. Kerouac isn't for everybody, but a lot of what he says strikes a chord with me. And the end was a very fitting quote, considering my history with the book:

"A peaceful sorrow at home is the best I'll ever be able to offer the world, in the end, and so I told my Desolation Angels goodbye. A new life for me."

It was pretty cathartic to read those lines. It was almost as if the book and I were finally saying goodbye to each other. There's a new life (and book) waiting for me. As much as I enjoyed reading it, I enjoyed being able to cross it off my list just as much.

As you can see in the picture above of a few of the books on my eternal TBR list, other than James Joyce's ULYSSES, they're not all the most famous or prestigious books. They're just books I've always wanted to read, but for some reason have never gotten around to. I'm still going to read new books as they come out, but I'm also going to try to implement something I learned back at McDonald's all those years ago: FIFO, or First In, First Out. I want to get through those books that have been on my mind's bookshelf for years. There will be plenty to take their place, and I won't have to feel guilty every time I see those books gathering dust.

Am I alone in this? Hopefully I am, because I can't help but wonder a little about how and if my life (or at least approach to life) would have been different if I'd read this and other books years ago. But all I can do is move on and try to get them read. As Kerouac says in my favorite quote from the book, "Shut up, live, travel, adventure, bless and don't be sorry."

Friday, February 17, 2012

Close Encounters with my Overactive Imagination - Guest Post YA Author O'Dell Hutchison

Hosted by Jordan Dane

I really excited to have O'Dell Hutchison as guest on ADR3NALIN3 today. O'Dell is a busy guy. He's the head TWIRP at BOOKTWIRPS book blog, he's a new YA author, a theatre director, actor, book trailer maker, systems geek, dog rescuer, and he can probably cook and clean windows too. I'm reading his debut book THE WEEPING now and am totally hooked. Bwah Ha HAAA! Welcome, O to the Dell!

I have a very overactive imagination, especially when I’m scared. It really kicks into high gear when I’m lying in bed at night. I can easily take a small thump, which is more than likely something harmless such as the refrigerator kicking on, or the house settling, and turn it into a full-fledged zombie attack in a matter of seconds. As I lie frozen in my bed, I’ll quickly run through my plan of attack:

1. Grab the old wooden rocking chair in my room and smash it to pieces against the wall.

2. Take one of the wooden legs and use it as a weapon.

3. Run to the living room, wielding said wooden sword and grab my keys, phone and dog.

4. Fight off the zombie who managed to break in through the window.

5. Barely make it to the garage, open the door and prepare for the horde of undead waiting to eat my brains.

6. Start the car (praying it actually does start), then plow my trusty Nissan backward, mowing over the flesh-eating monsters trying to get to me.

7. Flee to safety.

Once I have my plan, I eventually fall asleep, surrendering myself to a barrage of crazy dreams.

About five years ago, I was at a local theatre painting the set for a show I was directing. It was over the Christmas holiday and my entire crew was out of town. It was the perfect time for me to get the painting done without any distractions. I locked all the doors, turned on the stage lights so I could make sure the woodgrain effect had the proper shadowing, and set to work.

About an hour later, as I stood on the ladder painting away, I heard what sounded like footsteps walking up the stairs to the tech booth. I glanced up and thought I saw someone walking through the booth. I called out, asking if anyone was there, but received no answer. A few seconds later, the stage lights went out. Luckily, I still had the work lights for the stage, so I wasn’t totally left in the dark.

I climbed down from the ladder and walked out to the lobby, my mind racing with who it could possibly be. It was well after midnight, and very unlikely that anyone other than my stupid self would be at the theatre that late. The doors were locked and firmly closed and all the lobby lights off, just as I’d left it. I walked up to the booth, calling out for someone, but no one answered.

I walked into the booth, checking both spot lofts and found no one up there. I turned the lights back on and went down to finish painting.

No sooner had I climbed the ladder when the footsteps came back. This time I glanced up to see the shape of a man standing in one of the spot lofts watching me. The stage lights were so bright I couldn’t see who it was. I climbed down from the ladder, shielding my eyes and walked to the edge of the stage. I was both a little freaked out and a little pissed that someone was messing with me. When I got to the edge of the stage, the figure was gone.

I decided I was done for the night, and walked back to put the lid on the paint can when suddenly, all the lights went out - stage lights, work lights - everything. Thankfully, I had a small light on my keychain to help guide me out of the theatre.

Since that night, I’ve had other encounters. One night, several of my crew members for another show I’d directed claimed to see a man standing in the second floor scene shop watching them during the show.

During a sold-out performance of yet another show I’d directed, I went upstairs to watch the show from the spot loft. I was up there alone, but after the show, several of my cast members asked me who was in the loft with me. I insisted that I was there alone, but they all claimed someone was standing behind me.

My logical self has many explanations for what could have happened on those occasions: The power went out the night I was painting and the thumping noises I heard were probably just the ice machine or the building settling. My crew probably just saw a piece of wood in the shape of a man standing in the scene shop, or maybe a homeless person wandered in and got lost (It could happen). Whatever the case may be, I had plenty of inspiration for “The Weeping”. Thanks to my overactive imagination, and maybe even a little help from a wandering soul, I was able to take all of these events and mold them into a tale that combines two things I love the most: Ghost stories and theatre.

Have you ever had a close encounter with a ghost? I’d love to hear about it.

THE WEEPING Trailer & Synopsis:

Twenty years ago, Catherine Whitley was the victim of a horrible crime. Betrayed by her friends, including the boy she loved, she was left to die when the Rock Harbor Opera House caught fire, taking a disturbing secret with her to her grave. Seventeen-year-old Heath Ingram was driving the night his Jeep careened off the road, killing three of his closest friends. His parents send him to live with his uncle for the summer, hoping he can move past the tragedy. When Heath starts working at the newly renovated Rock Harbor Opera House, he meets Molly, a young dancer who awakens in him a desire to start over and move on. But, when he begins having visions of a half-burned girl in a white dress, he starts to think he may be slipping even further over the edge. As the apparent hauntings become more intense, Heath begins to fear for his safety. With the help of his friend Josie, Heath discovers an unsettling secret that ties the mysterious girl to both their families. When two of their friends die unexpectedly, Josie and Heath realize that something, or someone, is after the children of those who wronged Catherine…and they are next.
O’Dell Hutchison resides in Katy, Texas. By day, he is a business systems analyst in the medical field. When not working or writing, O’Dell spends most of his free time acting and directing at local Houston theatres. O’Dell enjoyes reading (a lot!), blogging ( and hanging out with his rescue husky, Gia.

Visit his website at or catch him on tumblr at, or on Twitter @otothedell

Thursday, February 16, 2012


by Chris Grabenstein

For me, every week is "Back To School Time."

This week I'm off to a middle school in Indiana.   Next week, I'll be at a middle school in Albany, New York.  And so it goes for the rest of the school year.  I limit myself to one school visit a week because of LOOMING deadlines.  Otherwise, I think I might try to go to a new school every day.

My "mission" is to make reading and writing fun.

First I talk about story structure, using examples from my books.  You know, the basics:  setting, protagonist, antagonist, conflict, resolution.

Then with suggestions from about 250 eager 5-8th graders crowded into an auditorium, I create an instant Ghost Story right on the spot, using some of the tricks and tools I picked up back in the early 80s when everybody had mullets, thought Miami Vice was cool, and I was doing improvisational comedy in a Greenwich Village basement theatre with these knucklehead.

Bruce Willis was also in the group but missed photo day that year.  (By the way, I'll be doing a talk on "Improv For Writers; Saying 'Yes, And...'" at Sleuthfest on Thursday, March 1st)

In one improv at a school, when I was looking for a name for our antagonist, a sharp fifth grader yelled out: "Ickleby!"

He is thanked in my newest Haunted Mystery THE BLACK HEART CRYPT as the inspiration for the villainous family's name.  If you squint, you can see Ickleby chiseled over the crypt doorway on the cover...

To get a sense for how much fun I have doing these assemblies, here's a little video I put together about my school visits.

In my travels, I have met all sorts of terrific teachers.  One, I remember, taught his students to clap whenever they heard alliteration when someone was reading aloud.   Imagine my surprise when I got a clap-clap-clap when I read about my hero Zack Jennings' "famous firebomb fandango fastball."

I remember that, at one school I visited, the librarian asked, "Will you talk to the 8th graders?"   Apparently some authors won't.  8th graders can be scary, I guess.  So far, I haven't met one I couldn't out-smart-aleck.

Mostly, the kids ask wonderful questions.  Why do you like writing so much?  When did you first start writing?  (That answer is easy -- when I was in middle school and was terrible at sports).   How do you make a character in a book?  How many books have you written?  

Ah, that question always leads us into a nice discussion of things like rejection letters.   Yes, I have published 17 books/stories/plays since September, 2005. But, I have written about 27, if not more.

At schools, I have also learned how to eat pizza topped with french fries.   Why the name "Bob" is the most popular name for a character in a story.  That fart jokes work every time.

My favorite schools to visit are the ones where the students have been studying one of my books in class.   Another great teacher I met read The Crossroads to her special needs classes.   There is one character in the book, a ghost, whose presence is always preceded by the minty scent of Brylcreem wafting on the air.  To make the book more vivid for her kids, she told me she would light a peppermint scented candle right before reading them those scenes.

At a school in North Carolina, the students had been working on The Crossroads for a month before I showed up.   They not only had questions, some had even constructed dioramas based on scenes from the book.

And how could I ever forget the school in Maryland where another great teacher dragged in all her Halloween decorations so the cafeteria would look just right for an assembly about ghost stories.

So, number me among those who greatly admire teachers.   I buzz into a school,  put on 3-4 shows, have a blast, teach a little something about writing, get kids jazzed about writing, and go home exhausted.  They do the same thing every day.

And it was a teacher, years ago, back when I was one of those smart-mouthed 8th graders, who scribbled a red-ink note in the margins of one of my theme papers saying, "You will make your living as a writer some day."

I remember thinking, "Hmmm, maybe I will.  Maybe I can."

All because of a teacher.

Oh -- and sometimes, the really cool teachers and media specialists  bake you a cake with your book cover in the frosting! 

If you're interested, you can read more about my Author Visits to schools here.