Every book I read in 2008

>> Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Since January 2004, I have kept a log of every book I've read. Just titles and authors, no reviews or anything. Merely a record of my literary footprints.

I don't count individual comics--I'd say I read close to 100 of those in a year--but I do count graphic novels. I also don't count my own books, although I read those many, many times over in the writing and editing of them. But that shouldn't count. I don't include books I abandon, which happens occassionally, nor books I only partially read for research purposes. Oh, and I often read books with Jo, but I don't record those in my book. I should, but I always forget to. Bah.

So here they are--every book I read in 2008, in order!

The Blue Girl - Charles DeLint
Star Trek: Before Dishonor - Peter David
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier - Alan Moore & Kevin O'Neill
Star Trek: The Buried Age - Christopher L. Bennett
City of Saints and Madmen - Jeff Vandermeer
Infinite Crisis - Geoff Johns, et al.
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks - E. Lockhart
Looking for Alaska - John Green
Diary of a Wimpy Kid - Jeff Kinney
Sold - Patricia McCormick
I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You - Ally Carter
Catwoman: The Dark End of the Street - Ed Brubaker & Darwyn Cooke
Inexcusable - Chris Lynch
The Maltese Falcon - Dashiell Hammett (reread)
A Midsummer Night's Dream - William Shakespeare
Paper Towns - John Green
Manga Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night's Dream - Kate Brown
Finding Atlantis - David King
Maps and Legends - Michael Chabon
A Thief in the House of Memory - Tim Wynne-Jones
The Ramayana - Ramesh Menon
Our Bones Are Scattered - Andrew Ward
The Great Mutiny: India 1857 - Christopher Hibbert
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea - Jules Verne (reread)
The Mysterious Island - Jules Verne (reread)
Farthing - Jo Walton
Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 8: The Long Way Home - Joss Whedon, et al.
The Thief - Megan Whalen Turner
The Sherlock Files 1: The 100-Year-Old Secret - Tracy Barrett
Gentlemen of the Road - Michael Chabon
Trailers - Mark Kneece and Julie Collins-Rousseau
Astonishing X-Men: Dangerous - Joss Whedon and John Cassaday
Powers: Supergroup - Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming
The Marquis: Danse Macabre - Guy Davis
Feed - M.T. Anderson
Island of the Blue Dolphins - Scott O'Dell
Clouds of Witnesses - Dorothy L. Sayers
Monsters and Water Beasts - Karen Miller
Free-Range Chickens - Simon Rich
Star Trek: Vulcan's Forge - Josepha Sherman and Susan Shwartz
Mainspring - Jay Lake
Little Brother - Cory Doctorow
A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier - Ishmael Beah
The Father Hunt - Rex Stout

Is that it? Wow. A year goes by so fast. 44 books. I averaged less than a book per week--around 3.6 books per month.

Here's to a great new crop in 2009! Happy New Year everyone.


Join me tonight for an online chat!

>> Tuesday, December 30, 2008

We're back from our holiday travels--and just in time! Something Rotten is the first featured book in bestselling author Ally Carter's "Ally Chat" book club, and I'll be joining her online tonight to discuss it with her fans. The chat is free and open to everyone, whether you've read my book (or hers!) or not.

Here are the details:

Ally Chat
Tuesday, December 30th
8:00 eastern/ 7:00 central

The chat room will be located here.

The password will be ROTTEN.

Please note that the room will not be open until probably a quarter 'til and prior to that the password will not work.

The chat should last about an hour. Drop in and say hello!


Merry Christmas!

>> Thursday, December 25, 2008


Happy Solstice - part 2

>> Monday, December 22, 2008

What a fabulous day yesterday! After we opened gifts Alan and Jo played Lego Batman all day (yes - ALL DAY) while I baked bread, baked cookies, baked a cake, and baked lasagna. When I wasn't baking I was sitting in front of the fire doing some embroidery while I listened to Stacey Kent on my new iPod shuffle.
It's so tiny! And pink! I love it. I immediately loaded up the two new CDs Alan got me.I could listen to her all day - but until now we've only had Breakfast on the Morning Tram.

I also spent some time reading this new bookand daydreaming about where to hang this new print.Isn't it awesome? It's available from 826 Valencia.

And last - but not least - is this beautiful tray Jo made me in school with Lisa Clague. She says it's for food but I think I'll want to use it in my sewing room so I see it every day.After Jo went to bed we watched some of Alan's new Jeeves and Wooster DVDs. Pretty much a perfect day - except for the gusting winds that occasionally swept down the chimney to blow ash in our faces and on my embroidery. But other than that - a perfect day. :-)

Happy holidays everyone!


Happy Solstice!

>> Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy solstice, everyone. We've begun celebrating the solstice as our winter holiday, so today was gift-giving day here at Gratz Industries! We were all very pleased with our loot--particularly me, because Wendi and I share almost all the same tastes, and so all her presents are things I can enjoy too. And now Jo's getting old enough that half of her presents are things I want to play with too! As a joke this year, I labeled half her gifts with, "To Jo - unless Daddy wants it," and told her I had first right of refusal on all those gifts. She thought that was pretty funny. Until I took her new Lego PC game and Justice League Unlimited Season One DVD collection away from her. There are advantages to outweighing her five to one.

Here's a rundown of all the loot I legitimately received:

I'm Lego Batman! Or at least I will be virtually.

But I'm always the Big Cheese, as this Jane Jenni melamine plate will now forever attest.

When Wendi can pry me away from playing Batman Lego, we'll watch my new complete collection of Jeeves & Wooster! What ho, Jeeves!

Once I'm in a Wodehouse mood, I'll turn to this collection of Psmith stories...

And then I can read this book about Raymond Chandler's personal life...

Or study up on Japanese ghosts and monsters in my new Yokai Attack! survival guide.

And I am way more excited than I really should be at getting my first Leatherman! The picture here is misleading--this is a Leatherman Micra, and so it's tinier than this. It's about 2.5 inches long, and will replace the longer, heavier pocket knife I've taken to carrying. I am, after all, a mountain man now! I just have to remember not to take this with me to the airport...

And that's it! Wendi and Jo did me right. Now I'm off to become the Brick Knight...


Simply Fabulous

>> Friday, December 19, 2008

Oh my. Words can't even describe how much I love the birds on this wrapping paper. Design*Sponge introduced me to Whigby this morning and it was love at first sight!


Wendi's Vanity Check

>> Thursday, December 18, 2008

This week I've had three mentions out there on the interwebs so I thought I'd round them up here.

Home Of the Perfect Christmas Tree has my ornaments/necklaces up in their online shop here. This is a part of a great local program - you can find a brief bit about it here.

The Crafty Crow Crafty Crow (resource extraordinaire for children's crafts and activities) linked to my super-simple felt polkadot ornament tutorial. Thanks to everyone who's visited!

Karen over at Made by K has made up some super-cute triangle toys based on my pattern. Look at the fabulous elephant! She also made up a penguin and a super-soft chick out of fleece - but I'm especially in love with the elephant. It makes me absurdly happy to see what other people make from my patterns. Karen has some wonderful posts on her blog - check out this one featuring an enormous robot made by her daughter from the contents of their recycle bin. It's taller than she is!


Gratz Industries HQ: Update

>> Wednesday, December 17, 2008

There's been a lot happening here at Gratz Industries HQ - we just haven't had a chance to blog about it all. So here's a bit of catching up. . .

We thought we'd be in the new house for the holidays - and then I called the gas company. I thought it would just be a matter of them coming out, plunking down a gas tank next to the house, connecting it to the furnace, and filling it up. But noooooooo. It has to be at least 10 feet from any structure with a buried line to the house, then it has to be inspected, and THEN they come out and fill it up. That bit of info dashed our hopes of being in for the holidays and led to fun new work. Load as much sarcasm as possible into the word fun.

On Saturday Alan and friend Michael Kline dug a couple of trenches - a trench for the power line to Michael's new studio and a trench for our gas line.

The trencher is a pretty scary-looking piece of equipment--

but Alan handled it like a pro--

while Michael removed some of the million chunks of quartz that the monster turned up. Alan told me later that Michael's dirt had NO ROCKS in it. How does that happen? I definitely see raised garden beds in our future.

Look at that beautiful trench! We'll definitely rent this thing again in the spring when we're building our garden. We have lots of critters around so we'll have to bury the lower edge of our fence.

On Sunday we woke up to a cold house and found out we had run out of fuel oil. Oops. We tried to time things so we'd have just enough to keep us warm until we moved into the new house. We missed by a couple of weeks. So Sunday was cut and split firewood day.

Alan did the cutting and splitting. I mostly stood around taking pictures and tossing an occasional log into the wheelbarrow.

Yesterday was a BIG DAY. Carpet in Jo's room!

Yes - it looks like we definitely need to get something to clean the spots off the lens. But they only show up when we photograph things in the new house. What's up with that?

Jo opted for a checkerboard pattern of Flor tiles and we kept her hustling to deliver tiles as Alan and I set them in place.

Things slowed down a bit when we got to the fussy edge work.

Jo kept us entertained by showing us some of the yoga poses she's been doing in school. No pictures suitable for public viewing. I made a mental note that Jo should always wear pants on yoga days.

It was raining and dark so we didn't get to the baseboards, but I think carpeting a bedroom in a couple of hours before dinner is a job well done.

We are so close. . .


A Muppet News Flash!

>> Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Muppets are producing shorts for YouTube! In the words of Animal: "Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!"

Don't miss Stadler and Waldorf at the end!


Google Alerts Round-Up

>> Monday, December 15, 2008

Time for another vanity check, courtesy of Google Alerts:

I give some advice on writing for young readers in an interview over at Novel Journey.

BookAdvice.net has made Something Rotten their book of the month for December.

The Christian Science Monitor has named Something Wicked one of its ten Best Children's Books of 2008.

Carol Moyer of Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh also recommends Something Wicked this holiday season on the Southern Independent Booksellers Association blog.

Pam Mingle suggests the gift of Samurai Shortstop for boys and girls who might like a little seppuku under the tree this holiday.

And over at author friend Ally Carter's blog, the announcement that I will be participating in an online chat with a reading group made up of her fans over the holidays! More info about this coming soon to a Gratz Industries blog near you...


Liberating Yoda

>> Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Yoda Clone Wars action figure! Excellent. But what's this sticker on the plastic?

"1st Day of Issue"? Force preserve us. This is artificial scarcity. You've got a hundred thousand plastic Yoda figures and you want to make some of them worth more than the others? Slap a "first day of issue" sticker on ten thousand of them, et voila! Same bleeping figures, instant "collectibles." You know what I have to say to that?

I'm-a-comin' for you, Yoda!

Free you I will!

That's what I think of your "1st Day of Issue."

Now, to free Yoda from his further chains--the ridiculous plastic cords they use now to pose action figures in blister packs they never expect collectors to open...

And Yoda joins the pantheon of toys under my computer monitor!


Books: Little Brother

>> Tuesday, December 9, 2008

I finished Cory Doctorow's Little Brother last night, and it, like another book I read this year--M.T. Anderson's Feed--had a tremendous impact on my way of thinking about the world. And like Feed, I thought it was a pretty darn entertaining book as well.

I want to talk a little about Little Brother--you could call this a review, of sorts, or perhaps better put, a "reaction"--but oddly that discussion begins with an almost ten-year-old movie called The Mighty Quinn. That's at least the first place my thoughts went this morning in the shower when I woke up thinking about Little Brother.

Perhaps you don't remember The Mighty Quinn. That's certainly understandable. Besides being a late Eighties vehicle for then relatively unknown star Denzel Washington, it was notable mostly for its infectious reggae remake of Bob Dylan's "Quinn the Eskimo"--which itself had previously been remade and made famous by Manfred Mann in 1968 as "Mighty Quinn."

The movie was about a Jamaican police chief named Quinn (Washington) whose childhood friend and ne'er-do-well Maubee (Robert Townsend) is accused of murdering a millionaire hotel owner and stealing oodles of money from him. Even though all evidence points to Maubee (natch), Washington doesn't believe his childhood friend and local legend would go this far, and he sets out to clear his friend's name and get at the truth.

The truth, it turns out, (and I'm about to spoil the movie for you), is that the President of the United States wants to fund an anti-communist revolution in Latin America, but Congress has turned him down. To get around this small problem, the President takes discontinued $10,000 bills from storage in the U.S. Treasury that he thinks won't be missed and sends them to the hotel owner, who was supposed to pass them along to the rebels. But the hotel owner's death--over an unrelated paternity issue--fouls things up, leading to the mess with Maubee and Quinn.

I first watched this movie on Betamax (I kid you not) when I roomed with longtime friend Greg Bunch in college. It was his Betamax, his video, and he had pulled out The Mighty Quinn as part of my ongoing (and up until then, sorely limited) movie education.

"Well?" he said when it was over.

"Well," I said, "the movie was awesome. But I don't believe it."

"Don't believe what?"

"I don't believe that the President of the United States would lie to everyone and do that."

Greg laughed at me. Hard. Derisively. In retrospect, of course, I deserved every bit of it, but at the time it stung--it stung so badly that I remember the entire experience vividly. I was indignant. Why shouldn't I trust the President? Any president? My default setting for politicians was, "they have our best interests at heart, first and foremost, until they prove otherwise." After all, our elected officials had the trust and faith of an entire nation on them. Wouldn't the sheer pressure of that make them do right by us? Sure, there were bad apples like Nixon, but there were bad apples in every walk of life. Why assume all the apples are bad because one was spoiled? It would be another eight years before The West Wing hit television, but in my head in 1991 the White House was already--and always--filled with similarly earnest, right-minded politicians, no matter what their party affiliation.

Looking back on myself then as a 19-year-old college sophomore, I want to find any kind of excuse for what a numbskull I was. But the truth of the matter is that I was a numbskull, and blissfully so. I was so green I could have sprouted buds. The fact was, all my life until then I had never had cause to question anything. I had a relatively happy childhood, did well in school, achieved a kind of easy, middling popularity, had loyal, supportive friends, had decent success with girls, and had never known poverty, hunger, oppression, or any serious trouble of any kind. I was a reasonably smart fellow with a top-notch education, but I was as naive as they come.

And thus, starting with The Mighty Quinn, began my real education. It has been the work of the last eighteen years of my life to undo the blind, unskeptical, unquestioning person I had become in the first 19 years of my life. And while it has been a gradual process, with each new revelation or understanding about the realities of the world chipping away at my shell of blithe, willful ignorance, I can safely say that the last eight years of American government hurried my transformation to perfect paranoia and distrust.

And yet, there is a part of me that wishes I were 19 again, blissfully benighted, trusting, and uncynical.

Which is why I was reluctant to read Little Brother. (And you thought I'd forgotten.) I knew what it was about: a group of kids playing hooky from school are in the right place at the wrong time when a 9/11-scale terrorist attack hits their city, and they are detained by the Department of Homeland Security for interrogation. When they emerge abused and blinking into the sunlight a week later, they find themselves in a not-so-brave new world, one where the people of their city have willingly resigned their personal liberties in return for "safety."

I love Cory Doctorow's books. I've read just about all of his adult science fiction novels and short story collections, and those I haven't read I own and have in my teetering To-Be-Read stack. When I heard he was writing a YA novel I was ecstatic and bought it as soon as it came out--but then I sat on it. For a long time. Despite the great reviews. Despite it hitting the bestseller list. Despite my ever-growing dedication to Boing Boing the blog he co-founded and contributes to.

I didn't read it because I knew it was going to be painful. Painful in the way that opening my eyes to the realities of the world has been for the last 18 years, but all condensed into one 365-page tome. Painful like reading M.T. Anderson's Feed and realizing I am that consumer, that unthinking harbinger of doom. This book was going to make me angry, it was going to make me scared, and it was going to make me want to get up off my lazy ass and do something about the world, and I was pretty content to sit by my cozy fire and feel calm, safe, and secure in my own home, thank you very much.

But I read it anyway. And of course I'm glad I did. It's witty, it's romantic, it's smart--oh gods is it smart--and it's entertaining. But it is also, of course, all those things I feared it would be. It had to be. And that's why every kid should read this book right now. It belongs in a semester-long--hell, a year-long--course with Fahreinheit 451, 1984, Brave New World, Brazil, V for Vendetta, and Feed, and if I were still teaching teenagers I would chuck my entire curriculum next year and do it.

I'm not sure I could have handled--or appreciated--this book when I was a teenager. Knowing who I was then, I would have read it the way I read 1984 as a teen--as a cautionary allegory about taking the wrong path, not a prescient commentary on the way the world already is. I would have said, "I like it, but I don't believe it." My eyes weren't open enough then to understand. But not every teenager--thankfully--is as dense as I was then, and this book will speak to many of them. Little Brother is this generation's 1984--it lays bare the ridiculousness of sacrificing liberty for "freedom," and represents a call to action to the world's teenagers to adopt a heathly mistrust of the status quo and to take the future into their own hands.

Let's just hope they're listening.


Edward vs. Buffy

>> Monday, December 8, 2008

I was surprised to read recently that, in the spirit of such fan favorites as Aliens vs. Predators and Jason vs. Freddy, the producers of Twilight the movie and the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series were in talks to combine their two franchises for a Buffy Summers/Edward Cullen showdown.

Joss Whedon shared a few pages from his spec script for the movie, given the working title Twilight in Sunnydale, with fansite Whedonesque.com, but Stephenie Meyer was so upset about the leak that she put the kibosh on the project. "I feel too sad about what has happened to continue working on Twilight in Sunnydale," she told fans on her web site, "and so it is on hold indefinitely." It's a real shame, as Twilight in Sunnydale would surely have been one of the biggest blockbusters of our era.

As a writer, I study Whedon as a grandmaster, and so I was lucky enough to download the pages he posted before Meyer's attorneys sent out their cease and desist orders. It's too much to post it all here, and I don't want to get one of those C&D letters either, but I think I can get away with a short excerpt.

From the screenplay for Twilight in Sunnydale:

Following up on the tip from Oz's werewolf contacts, Buffy climbs in the window of recent Sunnydale High transfer student BELLA SWAN to discover EDWARD CULLEN, a vampire, watching the girl as she sleeps. Edward, apparent-age 17, is impossibly beautiful, with angular features and marble-like skin that sparkles.

BUFFY: Whoa. Turn it down there, Tinkerbell.

EDWARD: Shhh! You'll wake my darling Isabella!

BUFFY: Right. Sorry. It's just you really ought to take the batteries out. Somebody might mistake you for a Christmas tree.

EDWARD: I'm sorry. It's my vampire skin. It sparkles in the sun or the bright light of the moon.

BUFFY: Uh-huh.

EDWARD: I'm serious! That's why I can't go out during the day.

BUFFY: That and the bursting into flames thing.

EDWARD: No, really. It's just the sparkle.

BUFFY: Hey, I hate to break it to you, but real vampires don't sparkle. I should know. I have the t-shirt.

EDWARD: Who are you?

BUFFY: Name's Buffy. I'm a vampire slayer. I mean, it's not who I am, or anything. It's just what I do. Girl's gotta have a hobby, you know?

EDWARD: I don't allow Bella to have hobbies. She might get hurt.


BUFFY: So what is this, you just like to play with your food before you eat it?

EDWARD: What? Oh! No! I love Bella. I could never drink her blood! Even though it is the sweetest blood I've ever smelled...No, I just like to watch her sleep.

BUFFY: Sure. And after a little watching, there'll be the 'sucky-sucky.' Wait--scratch that. You know what I mean.

EDWARD: No--you don't understand. I don't drink human blood. I drink rats' blood. I'm a vegetarian.

BUFFY: Um, I don't think you understand the 'veggie' part of that equation.

EDWARD: It's a joke.

BUFFY: Uh-huh. All right, Bunnicula. Step away from the damsel and let's do this.

EDWARD: But Bella needs my protection! She'll hurt herself terribly if I'm not there to protect her.

BUFFY: Riiiight. Seriously, not even Riley was this lame. [SHE STEPS CLOSER.] Wait a minute. I know you. Don't we have chem lab together?

EDWARD: Yes. That's where I met the love of my life.

BUFFY: How old are you?

EDWARD: 108 years old.

BUFFY: And you still go to high school? What are you, a masochist or something?

EDWARD: I still look seventeen. I'm trying to fit in.

BUFFY: Ever heard of homeschooling? The GED? Honestly, if I was immortal I don't think I'd be too concerned about truancy.

EDWARD: Maybe I just like sharing my knowledge and experience with young people.

BUFFY: Yeah. Somehow I don't think you're at Sunnydale High to head up the Junior Achievement program. All right. Let's go.

EDWARD: Wait! I'm a lover, not a fighter!

BUFFY: Me too. But you know what they say: stakes don't kill vampires; girls with stakes kill vampires. Mr. Sparkly, meet Mr. Pointy.


BELLA: Huh? What's going on?

BUFFY: Just a bad dream, sweetheart. [HANDS HER A CARD] I run a support group called Vampire-Lovers Anonymous. We meet Thursday afternoons at 4:30 in the Sunnydale High Library. Drop by sometime.



Swell Stuff - Young Mad Scientist Alphabet Blocks

>> Sunday, December 7, 2008

I don't often post things I find on Boing Boing because I assume everyone reads it already - but I know that's not actually true and these Young Mad Scientist Alphabet Blocks are just too awesome. Click the link to find out what they did for each letter (my favorites are T is for Tentacles and F is for Freeze Ray) and to buy.


Vintage Children's Books: Tiny Tins

>> Friday, December 5, 2008

I love to make things out of the still-good pages of damaged children's books. I've been making some necklaces lately to give as gifts (tutorial to come this weekend) and I wanted to come up with some cute matching packaging. And here you have it! These were so much fun to do that I made lots of extras - including some for everyday occasions.

They're great for holding candy too.
And I was absurdly excited when I found out they were just the right size for a gift card.
Want to make your own? They're really easy. I used Altoids-sized hinged tins (you can buy them here), spray adhesive (I use this), and some great papers. You can use scraps of holiday wrap, pretty scrapbook papers, your child's art - anything really. If you want to use children's book pages you can get assorted packs in my shop.

You can buy whole books yourself, of course. But then you end up with a ton of art from a particular book and, unless you're doing themed party favors and want them all to match, you're going to have a lot of leftovers. And you'll want some variety so you'll likely end up with a whole shelf of badly damaged children's books - not that I'm speaking from experience or anything.

I have two assortments available in my shop - one everyday. . .and one holiday. . .
Each assortment will have a nice variety of pages - some famous characters, some not famous but nice vintage style. No two pages will come from the same book so you'll get a good mix.

I'll be posting lots of fun things you can make with these papers in the coming months. Wait until you see my kitchen canisters!

Have fun!


Tutorial: Easy Felt Ornaments

>> Thursday, December 4, 2008

Here's a fun and easy felt ornament you can make for the holidays. It takes less than an hour, you can use up old scraps, and kids can make them too.
The only stitch it uses is whipstitch. If you've never done that before there's a tutorial here.
Have fun!


Lane Kiffin will just have to keep Tennessee students warm this winter

>> Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I'm a University of Tennessee alum (undergrad and grad), and grew up in Knoxville, so Tennessee orange--and Tennessee football--is kind of in my blood. It's been a rough time for Tennessee football fans of late, what with another disappointing season and the ouster of long-time head coach Phil Fulmer.

So I read with perhaps more than passing interest the news about the hiring of young Lane Kiffin (seen above), former head coach of the equally pathetic Oakland Raiders, to be Tennessee's new football coach. Then I filed that information away and turned my thoughts to Tennessee men's basketball, which is finally enjoying the success the women's side has had for decades.

But then a headline on my favorite sports blog, Deadspin, caught my eye. Check out this funny "coincidence" cited by an eagle-eyed Knoxville news reader. The first was a headline in Monday's Knoxville News Sentinel, the second in Tuesday's paper:

Lane Kiffin will make $2 million next season to coach the University of Tennessee football team. Meanwhile, UT students will have to deal with colder classrooms this winter, as the university "aims to cut its annual energy bill by $2 million."

Well, that money has to come from somewhere, right?

It's all about priorities, people.

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