Monday, May 31, 2010


Thanks so much, Amy, for this pretty-in-pink award! I’m passing it on to the following five bloggers:

Allyson Condie of Allyson Condie Ever wondered what it’d be like to have one of the most sought-after ARCs at BEA? Well, now you don’t have to--just check out Ms. Condie’s blog:) Her YA debut, MATCHED* (which sold at auction for an astronomical amount, I might add), comes out this November.

Janice Hardy of The Other Side of the Story I recently discovered Ms. Hardy’s blog and was impressed by the step-by-step advice she offered for crafting plot, characters, and the like. Her second book, BLUE FIRE, the second in her YA fantasy series The Healing Wars, comes out this October.

Myrna Foster of Night Writer, who is, without a doubt, one of my best blogging buddies. Since I hardly ever get to pass awards on to her (since she’s usually passing them on to me), she’s definitely getting a piece of this one:)

Sharon K. Mayhew of Random Thoughts, a blog filled with fabulous tips and contests for writers and readers alike.

Stina Lindenblatt of Seeing Creative Here’s another great blog full of practical advice on writing--and photography. What great hobbies!

Definitely check out these blogs, and when you do, leave a comment. Because we all love to hear from each other, right?

Happy Memorial Day, all!

*If you’d like to win a copy, Ms. Condie's GIVING ONE AWAY on her blog. Here’s the official contest post, but don’t dilly-dally--it closes at midnight tonight.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Interview with an Agent: Stephen Fraser

Today’s installment of “Interview with an Agent” features Stephen Fraser of The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency. See you on the other side.

KV: How did you get into agenting?

SF: After twenty years of work as an editor, I was asked to join a friend’s literary agency. I hadn’t really thought about this before. But now, five years later, it does seem to suit my talents, experience, and personality.

KV: How would you summarize your personal agenting philosophy? What do you expect from an agent-author relationship?

SF: Agenting is a partnering and so there needs to be a trust. It takes time to pitch books and then hear back from editors about their possible interest, so patience is necessary. The onus is on the client to stay in touch with an agent, maybe every six weeks or so. The agent will be in touch when a submission is made or, of course, if there is an offer or rejection.

KV: What client work do you have coming out soon? What drew you to those writers and/or projects?

SF: GLIMPSE by Carol Lynch Williams (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books), a powerful YA novel-in-verse, is coming out in June, as is the wonderful picture book DRUM CITY by Thea Guidone (Tricycle Press). In October, the amazing debut novel, a fantasy, called THE CLOCKWORK 3 [by Matthew Kirby] (Scholastic) is coming out; we have already sold the movie rights to this book.

KV: What genres do you represent? What genres do you definitely NOT represent?

SF: Everything: picture books, board books, chapter books, middle grade, young adult, nonfiction. Even a few adult novels and nonfiction.

KV: Are you interested in picture book writers who AREN'T illustrators?

SF: Yes, most of my picture book writers are NOT illustrators as well. That is a kind of rare gift, to be able to do both.

KV: What query pet peeves and/or pitfalls should writers avoid when querying you?

SF: I don’t like special delivery of manuscripts from people I don’t even know. Query letters which say, “I’ve never been published before and this may not be very good” don’t make me want to read the submission. Being previously published isn’t really an issue. It’s all about the writing. Have the confidence to let your good writing speak for itself. Don’t be apologetic. A simple query stating if you have been published before (what titles, when, etc.) and if you have any “platform” which would help your book get published. And perhaps a sample page. It’s hard to respond to a query, if you don’t see something of which the writer has written.

KV: You only want to see the query letter in a writer’s initial contact, but several respected industry sites have advised writers to include a few sample pages at the bottom of every query, whether the agent asked for them or not. So if a writer goes ahead and adds those pages, do you find that more assertive or obnoxious?

SF: I think it’s a good idea. I actually hate formal query letters, so seeing a sample makes more sense to me.

KV: What are you looking for in a manuscript right now?

SF: Always good writing. A good concept or story is valuable, but the writing needs to be good to carry it off. In terms of specific genres, I’m looking for a solid mystery and for humorous books right now. Both gaps in the current market, I think.

KV: What’s the best way to query you?

SF: E-mail query is fine.

Thanks, Mr. Fraser, for these responses. And for those of you getting ready to query, good luck! Sounds like Mr. Fraser already has a great list, so you’ll be in good company if you end up on that list, too:)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

(Work-in-) Progress Report: Bob

Word count (to the nearest thousand): 65,000
Status: Exactly halfway through the second draft
Attitude: Antsy

Because I really, really, really, REALLY want to get Bob off to beta readers, even though I know I’m still (at least) a few weeks away. Like the first draft, this second one has been progressing more slowly than I’d like--but in the past week, week and a half, I’ve finally made some progress.

I think it has something to do with the fact that I’m a better writer now than I was when I started Bob, so I had to spend some extra time bringing those earlier chapters up to snuff. (Anyone know the origin of that cliché?) Two possible explanations for this phenomenon: First, the more you write, the better you write, so you’ll always be a better writer by the end of a manuscript than you were at the beginning. Second, anytime you take a significant break from writing (which I usually do after I finish a project, and which I especially did between Bob and SEE THE SAMELINGS, as I had a newborn in the house), it takes a while to get your voice back.

And so. The second draft has been coming slowly, but it’s gaining momentum. (Woohoo!) I’m sure you’ll be the first to know once I finally finish it:)

In other news, I’ve been playing around with pitches lately, as you can see from my sidebar. (I added a new one today, in fact!) Although I feel pretty good about writing a two- or three-paragraph pitch a la the query letter, I still find one-sentence pitches tricky. (And what is it with all these parenthetical asides…?) Awesome agent Nathan Bransford shared some fabulous tips in a recent blog post, but I’m still tinkering. And tinkering, and tinkering.

So how are your works-in-progress coming along? Slowly, quickly, wonderfully, awfully? And I’d love to hear the pitches for your latest projects. Share away!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Interview with an Agent: Sarah LaPolla

Today’s interview features Sarah LaPolla of the uber-awesome Curtis Brown, Ltd. She’s the newest agent over there, and another recent addition to my own to-query list. Happy reading!

KV: How did you get into agenting?

SL: I interned with two agencies while I was in grad school. Sadly, those internships were unpaid, but by the time I finished my MFA, I knew I wanted to continue in that field. So when a friend told me about a job opening in the foreign rights department at Curtis Brown, Ltd., I applied and was hired. I’ve been with Curtis Brown ever since and am now building a list of my own.

KV: How would you summarize your personal agenting philosophy? What do you expect from an agent-author relationship?

SL: I hope to create a healthy balance of friendship and professionalism with my authors. I like to be hands-on in the revision process, so being able to converse freely and comfortably with each other, while respecting each others’ opinions and wishes, is important.

KV: What client work do you have coming out soon? What drew you to those writers and/or projects?

SL: Since I am a new agent, I do not have any client work coming out soon. However, I am currently reading a paranormal mystery, literary short story collection, and a couple of “dark” young adult novels that I am pretty excited about.

KV: What genres do you represent? What genres do you definitely NOT represent?

SL: I’m looking for literary fiction, young adult, urban fantasy, narrative nonfiction, and anything that can be called quirky, speculative, or magical realism. I definitely do not represent picture books, self-help books, or romance.

KV: What query pet peeves and/or pitfalls should writers avoid when querying you?

SL: Improper grammar and misspelled words are huge pet peeves. Seeing mistakes like that make me question the person’s ability as a writer.

KV: What are you looking for in a manuscript right now?

SL: I would love to see some strong female protagonists, especially in YA. I also look for multi-faceted characters. I like being surprised by the people I’m reading about.

KV: What’s the best way to query you?

SL: E-mail is best. Query me at Include the query letter in the body of the e-mail--no attachments please.

KV: How do you feel about a writer’s including a few sample pages at the bottom of the query? Do you find that more assertive or obnoxious?

SL: I’m fine with a few sample pages, as long as they’re from the first chapter. Sometimes it is helpful to have a sense of a person’s writing if I’m torn over the actual query. But, I should add that if I’m undecided about a query, I’ll usually request the pages anyway.

Thanks again, Ms. LaPolla, for these responses. And for those of you planning to query, be sure to check out her blog. In fact, even if you’re not planning to query right away, definitely give Glass Cases a look-see, as it’s an excellent resource for writers seeking online publication.

Happy Thursday, everyone!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Few Lessons Bob Has Taught Me

And is still teaching me, I might add. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’ll give you an idea of some of the ah-ha moments I’ve had lately.

First drafts are made to be destroyed. The first way I write something down is never the only way, and rarely the best. I’d be embarrassed to show you the first draft and query draft of some of my other projects, because they are remarkably similar. Sure, I streamlined the prose, even shuffled some scenes around, but in the end, chapter one is chapter one is chapter one. And I’m pretty sure there’s a better way to write it now.

Good writing is all about good decision-making. And when I say good decision-making, I mean making A decision, any decision, about every scene, every character action and reaction, every word. It doesn’t matter when I make those decisions (now that I’m an outliner, I make more decisions earlier, but pantsers tend to make their decisions later and everything works out all right), but sooner or later, I should be able to justify every word on the page.

Which is not to say you can artificially control your story or your characters. Even though I have to make decisions as a writer, they shouldn’t come across as manufactured. They should grow naturally out of the story world I’ve created.

Case in point: In one of Bob’s closing scenes, I thought it would be really sweet if my MC, Seth, picked up my secondary MC, Adair, and carried her back to her (hospital) bed. It sounded like a good idea in my outline, but when I got to the actual writing of the scene, it just didn’t work. Seth is way too geeky/awkward/clumsy to pull off all that knight-in-shining-armor stuff. So he puts his arm around her waist and helps her hobble across the room instead.

Every project will have its low points, but those points do NOT define the project. A few weeks ago, I was stuck. (And a few months ago, same thing.) My second draft was foundering/floundering (I never know which of those words to use), I was only getting through about six hundred words a day, and every night I went to bed feeling like I’d spent the past hour and a half reworking the same stupid sentence over, and over, and over again. I didn’t want to quit, but I didn’t want to keep going, either. I thought about switching over to my other project and coming back to Bob.

But I didn’t. I forced myself to stick it out. And now I’m back up on my board and feeling good about where this wave is taking me. (Not that I know what I’m talking about, at all, because I don’t surf, at all. But I still stand behind the principle.) I fully expect to hit another dip, and I fully expect to climb back out of that one. Writing, like life, has its ups and downs--the trick is not to take myself too seriously, especially during those downs.

Well, that’s all I’ve got, but I’m sure you have a few more. What lessons have your projects taught you lately?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The End + the Winner

My thanks to everyone who entered, and especially to those of you whose entries made me laugh out loud:) Our story took a few turns, but in the end, it came together. Here’s how I finished it off:

The end of the story “Not my father?” Maia tripped over the threshold, but Jackson held her up. “But he looked just like--”

“Maia, darling!” the man called after her. “Wherever are you going?”

“Darling?” She forced herself to hobble faster, ignoring the cobblestones underfoot. “Yeah, there’s no way that’s my dad.”

At the end of the alley, Jackson dragged her around the corner and into a recessed doorway. She collapsed against one side of the doorframe; he pressed his shoulders into the other and peeked around the edge. But the sidewalk was empty.

“Who--was that?” Maia asked around (unnecessary) gasps for air.

“Who else?” Jackson muttered. “The enchanting Cleveland Codswallop, the city’s favorite son.”

“Why was he pretending to be my dad?”

“He must need another Carryon--and you happened to be fresh meat.”

She blushed, or tried to. It was hard to blush without any blood. “I don’t feel very fresh. Or meaty.”

“Oh, you’re fresh, all right. Freshly dead. Which makes you just the kind of partner Codswallop needs to pass back over.”

“To the other side, you mean?”

“No. To the living.”

It’s just begging for another chapter, isn’t it? We might have to come back to that:) And now for the winner!

The winner After much sorting of comments (to identify the story ones) and lots of random die-rolling (well, two die rolls, to be exact), the winner came up as…Esther Vanderlaan! Esther, please e-mail me at and let me know which book you’d like (here’s the list again), and where to send it.

Thanks again, everyone, for playing!

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Supportive Commenter Award

We bloggers love comments. And we all have our frequent commenters, those thoughtful internet friends who comment on pretty much every post (even the ones about French-cooking Mormons, or French cooking and Mormons, or whatever). The Supportive Commenter Award is for all of them.

Here are a few of my top commenters, who are like rays of sunshine on cloudy days (or, since I live in southern Nevada, like patches of shade on are-you-kidding-we-never-have-cloudy days).

A.L. Sonnichsen of The Green Bathtub
Holly (she doesn’t have a blog, but I still think of her as my first (unofficial) follower/commenter)
Kayeleen Hamblin of Kayeleen’s Creation Corner (she's taking a bit of a blog break right now, as she recently found out she's pregnant, but I've always appreciated her comments in the past)
Kelly Bryson of Book Readress
Liesl of Writer Ropes and Hopes

And last but not least, Myrna Foster of Night Writer, who passed this award on to me.

Give their blogs a look-see. And don’t forget to leave a story comment on my first blog contest. The contest is open until midnight tonight, so you still have a chance to win a free book!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Interview with an Agent: Suzie Townsend

I have another great interview for you, this one featuring Suzie Townsend of FinePrint Literary Management. Enjoy!

KV: In your interview with the Blog Realm, you mentioned you used your summers to write while you were in school, both as a student and as a teacher. What did/do you write?

ST: I essentially wrote some fantasy and vampire novels. I was addicted to a couple different series in each genre and when I didn't have any books on top of my TBR pile, I would start writing one of my own. I also wrote screenplays. (In addition to English, I majored in screenwriting in college).
KV: How did you get into agenting?

ST: After feeling disillusioned with teaching, I decided to take a year off and explore other career possibilities. My sister had been working in editorial for a textbook publisher, and the more she told me about the industry, the more I wanted to check it out. This led me to where I found a post for an unpaid internship position at FinePrint Literary Management. I applied, interviewed, and took an intern position. And I loved it! Luckily, they loved me too and offered me a job as the assistant to Peter Rubie, the CEO. Then when I found a manuscript I was in love with, I made a strong case for him to let me offer representation.

KV: How would you summarize your personal agenting philosophy? What do you expect from an agent-author relationship?

ST: I only sign writing that I'm so in love with that it keeps me up at night. I'm hands on and very editorially inclined. I read and edit, read and edit, read and edit, until it's as perfect as I can make it. A book I sold just recently, I had read it multiple times before we went on submission. And each time I read it, I loved it just as much as I did the first time.

I enjoy brainstorming and working with authors, bouncing ideas off each other. This means my authors and I need to share the same vision for the project and who are as committed to putting in the hard work on the project as I am.

KV: What client work do you have coming out soon? What drew you to those writers and/or projects?

ST: I am first and foremost drawn to a strong voice. All of the writer's I work with have voices that grabbed me from the first line and refused to let go.

Lisa Desrochers' debut YA paranormal romance, PERSONAL DEMONS is out September 14th from Tor. The sequel ORIGINAL SIN comes out July 2011, and the third book HELL BENT comes out May 2012.

Hannah Moskowitz's second YA novel INVINCIBLE SUMMER (following her debut BREAK) is out in spring 2011 from Simon Pulse.

Arlaina Tibensky's debut YA novel BELL JAR SUMMER is out summer 2011 from Simon Pulse.

Sarah Wylie's debut YA novel ALL THESE LIVES will be coming out in early winter 2012 from Margaret Ferguson Books/FSG.

Ingrid Paulson's debut YA urban fantasy VALKYRIE RISING is out early winter 2012 from Katherine Tegen Books/Harper Collins.

KV: What genres do you represent? What genres do you definitely NOT represent?

ST: I represent children's fiction and non-fiction (mostly YA and Middle Grade, though I would be open to younger chapter books), and adult fiction (fantasy, urban fantasy, science fiction, speculative, romance). I'm open to representing select narrative non-fiction (with emphasis on memoir, pets, teaching).

I don't represent mysteries, most non-fiction, screenplays, short stories, or poetry.

KV: What query pet peeves and/or pitfalls should writers avoid when querying you?

ST: Don't send gifts or bribes. As for the actual query letter, all I want to know is what the book is about. I'm not that interested in the writer's personal details, the marketing plan, or who in Hollywood they know.

My personal pet peeves are also when queries open with a rhetorical question (or a series of them!) or when a writer insists this book will make me millions.

KV: What are you looking for in a manuscript right now?

ST: I'm always looking for literary YA, especially contemporary or speculative (one of my favorite books is Meg Rosoff's HOW I LIVE NOW), and I'd also love to find an urban fantasy or paranormal romance series with a really strong voice. I'm also shamelessly attracted to first person narrators.
KV: What’s the best way to query you?

ST: I accept e-mail or mail queries (no phone calls or drop ins), and I want writers to include the first five to ten pages (pasted into the body of e-mail). I'm probably fastest with e-mail.

Thanks, Ms. Townsend, for these answers. And for those of you thinking about querying her, don’t forget to check out her blog. In fact, all of you should check out her blog, as she’s hosting a book giveaway at the moment for Lee Nichols’s DECEPTION, the first in a new YA paranormal series.

Good luck!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

My First Blog Contest

Feels like a great day for a contest, doesn’t it? And we all love stories, right? So let’s smash ’em together! I give you my Story with a Thousand Comments Contest.

Here’s how it will work: I’ll begin a story at the bottom of this post. The first player will then continue that story in the comments WHEREVER I LEFT OFF. And the second player will continue where the first player left off, and so on. Once the contest closes, I’ll finish off the story and pick a random comment, the writer of which will be the winner.

The Rules

1. Your story comment must be PG-rated.

2. Anyone may story-comment once. If you’re a follower, you may story-comment again. If you mention this contest on another blog, forum, or Twitter, you may story-comment again, for a total of three possible entries. (Just be sure to include the link at the end of that last comment.)

3. Your story comment must be (around) 100 words. (Not that I plan to count--unless someone clearly violates this rule. In that case, the someone will be disqualified, although I’ll leave the someone’s comment for the story’s sake.)

The Prize The random winner will win one of the books I’ve recommended on the blog. (He or she will get to pick.) Here’s the list, in alphabetical order:

THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak
THE FIRE IN FICTION (Plus a Really Long Subtitle) by Donald Maass
LEVIATHAN by Scott Westerfeld
OUTLIERS: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
WHEN YOU REACH ME by Rebecca Stead

You got all that? You ready? All right, here’s the story:

The Story High school was hard, but dead school was harder. Being dead, it turned out, wasn’t nearly as easy as it looked.

“Rule number two hundred and ninety-one,” Mr. Biggs droned. “Avoid cows at all costs, as they’re fluent in dead-speak. And the living never quite know how to respond to a one-sided conversation with a cow.”

Maia sighed and clunked her forehead on the desk, narrowly missing her shiny new copy of William Shakespeare’s collected works (which had cost her an arm and a leg, literally, in registration fees--good old Willy was still collecting royalties in Dead Man’s Land). According to the pamphlet, they only had three hundred and twenty-two more rules to go.

Contest closes on Monday, May 17, at 11:59 p.m. PDT. The winner will be announced the following Tuesday, May 18. Thanks for playing!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Interview with an Agent: Amy Boggs

So excited about today’s interview, which features Amy Boggs of Donald Maass Literary Agency. She's the new kid on the block over at DMLA--and the newest addition to my own to-query list. See you on the other side.

KV: How did you get into agenting?

AB: I suppose the story really starts in high school, where I was editor of my school's literary magazine. The staff had thousands of submissions to read through, discuss, edit, and put together; it was not uncommon for us to come in on Saturdays. And I absolutely loved it. My sophomore year of college, I found an ad in the Career Development Office's newsletter about interning at the Beth Vesel Literary Agency. I had a vague idea of what agents did by that point (I knew fairly early that I wanted to go into publishing), so I thought it would be a great opportunity. I fell in love with the work, and a year after graduation, I found an ad on craigslist for an internship at the Donald Maass Literary Agency. I already knew their reputation for representing exactly the kind of work I loved to read, so I jumped at the chance. Lucky for me, I was hired as an intern, and then as an assistant. Now I'm an associate agent working on building my client list and loving (mostly) every minute of it.

KV: How would you summarize your personal agenting philosophy? What do you expect from an agent-author relationship?

AB: To borrow from Don's philosophy, good books sell themselves. I like to work with authors on an editorial level, sometimes before representation, to make the book shine. This doesn't mean good books always sell right away, but with persistence and an open editorial mind, great things can happen.

I like comparing the query process to dating, and the best advice for long-term relationships applies to what I want in an agent-author relationship: Communication.

KV: What client work do you have coming out soon? What drew you to those writers and/or projects?

AB: I'm such a new agent that I've only just sold my first work, so it's not coming out "soon" so much as "in a year" (with the next two in the series following pretty close on its heels). But I'm extremely excited about it. Here's the Pub Market blurb: "Teddy Harrison's DRAGON LORD OF NEW YORK, about a half-wyr bartender who is blackmailed into stealing from a multi-billion dollar business dragon, who she then must trust in order to survive both the dragon's nemesis and the complex social politics of his corporate empire. (Berkley)"

I have to admit, I'm not what you would call a die-hard romance fan. Nothing against the genre, but I never felt a need to read it. Teddy's book changed that. She built a complex and intriguing setting, her story was tightly plotted, her humor was unforced, the relationships were both believable and (at least for the romantic relationships) sexy, and her characters were rich and deep, particularly the hero, Dragos. Not for a second do you think he's a human who happens to be able to shift into a dragon; he's an ancient, powerful creature through and through. He could rule his world with an iron fist, but he doesn't; instead he tries to find a way that is best for all involved. The contrasting balance of his personality made him vastly intriguing. Similar with the heroine, Pia, who is strong without being overly kickass and feminine without being overly girly-girl.

KV: What genres do you represent? What genres do you definitely NOT represent?

AB: I am looking for fantasy and science fiction, especially urban fantasy, paranormal romance, steampunk, YA/children's, and alternate history. Historical fiction, multi-cultural fiction, Westerns, and works that challenge their genre are also welcome.

I do not represent picture books, scripts, poetry, or non-fiction.

KV: What query pet peeves and/or pitfalls should writers avoid when querying you?

AB: We'll assume anyone bright enough to read blogs for advice will already know that they should follow my submission guidelines on our agency website.

Aside from that, a peeve of mine are queries that go on and on about what a genius the writer is; similarly, I don't like queries where the writer is humble to the point of trying to convince me the work isn't worth my time. The first kind is like a used car dealer trying to hassle me into a car, the latter is like a needy person trying to guilt me into giving a compliment. Neither type is appealing. Along those same lines, a good rule of thumb is to not use any adjectives to describe your writing or plot, such as "thrilling," "heart-warming," or "beautifully written." You don't need to say these things; they should come across in the writing.

All you need in a query is a summary that touches upon the main protagonist(s), the main conflict, and the main antagonist(s). Rather than trying to summarize the whole work, stick to the first fifty pages; makes the task less daunting.

KV: What are you looking for in a manuscript right now?

AB: I'm looking for a manuscript that takes the idea of steampunk but draws from 1st century Maya instead of 18th century Europe.

Too specific? ;) I'm looking for plenty beyond that, of course, but if someone already has it, send it along!

In broader terms, I want something that draws me right in and refuses to let go. Some aspects that can help with that are unique and complex settings, characters who challenge or break the mold while retaining that appealing blend of strength and humanity, plots that are tightly woven and keep me guessing, and writing that can effortlessly make me cry one paragraph and laugh the next.

KV: What’s the best way to query you?

AB: Always e-mail, I consider paper queries a waste of money (for the writer) and desk space (for me).

Thanks again, Ms. Boggs, for these responses. And for you Tweeters, feel free to check out her Twitter feed, @notjustanyboggs, which she updates several times a day. It'll be like having an all-access pass--or an every-four-or-five-hours-access pass--into the life of an up and coming agent.

Queries away!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

If You're in a Critiquing Mood...

...Check out the latest in-house critique session going on over at the Miss Snark's First Victim blog. The entries are all 250 words from a first-kiss scene, so I KNOW that sounds intriguing to you. Bob's #19--feel free to rip him apart. He needs it:)

And if you just have to read more (wink, wink), here are a few other Bob excerpts that have appeared on Authoress's blog: his first 25 words, and another 250-word blip (keyword: danger).

Monday, May 3, 2010

Book Recommendation: THE LIGHTNING THIEF by Rick Riordan

I’m great at discovering bestsellers after they become bestsellers:) I’m especially great at discovering bestselling series two or three--or four or five--books in. And so it is with THE LIGHTNING THIEF, the first installment in Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series and a delightful romp through Greek mythology, fast-forwarded a few millennia.

Twelve-year-old Percy Jackson is a model straight-D student. He enjoys a good schoolyard brawl, struggles with ADHD and dyslexia, and never lasts more than a year at any of the six schools he’s attended. But when he turns his teacher into a burst of sand with a ballpoint-pen-turned-huge-bronze-sword, he realizes his problems may be a little bigger than he thought. Turns out Percy--or Perseus, for long--is a modern-day hero, a half-man, half-god who’s more equipped for swinging swords and reading ancient Greek than playing baseball or writing five-paragraph essays. And his immortal father needs his help, before Zeus unleashes all-out war.

A wave of ancient-Greece-inspired novels has flooded the market lately, but as THE LIGHTNING THIEF is five years old, Mr. Riordan appears to have been on the crest of this one. Trendsetters are always insightful reads, especially ones with the quick wit and engaging voice of THE LIGHTNING THIEF.

I will definitely be buying this and every Percy Jackson book, as I can’t wait to share them with my kids (once my kids can read, of course). And I look forward to checking out the movie once it makes it to the Redbox.

(Speaking of books-to-films (and borrowing them from the Redbox), have you seen the latest incarnation of SHERLOCK HOLMES? We checked it out over the weekend and absolutely adored it. The acting is impeccable (I’ve decided to cast Robert Downey, Jr., in one of Bob’s leading roles once I land my multi-trillion-dollar movie deal), the cinematography inventive, the art direction breathtaking, and the soundtrack both quirky and spot-on. Also, the plot is nothing short of genre-bending and the writing positively sparkles. Could you ask for anything more?)