12.18.2010

A Quick Reading of A Good Long Way on YouTube

So, Jose B. Gonzalez one of the founding members of LatinoStories.com (an awesome resource for all things Latino/a and literature, so link to it, will you!) taped me reading from my latest short novel, A Good Long Way, and summarizing the rest of it. Click on the following link to check it out, then head straight to his site to check out what all he's got going:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=76HzZoHROhw

This was in Orlando at NCTE's annual convention. The guy is super generous, first to do this work for authors who aren't doing it themselves, myself included, and also because it was one take after another that he had to do to get even this clumsy couple of minutes. So, my hat's off to you, Jose! Mil gracias!

12.17.2010

Ofelia Dumas Lachtman and the Mystery Novel

Looking for La Unica by Ofelia Dumas Lachtman
(Arte Publico Press/Pinata Books, 2004)

I was only recently introduced to the work of Ofelia Dumas Lachtman by Marina Tristan at Arte Publico, after I asked if she knew of any detective/mystery novels out there for children or young adults by Mexican American writers. She said, "Oh, sure, there's this author we publish." She put a few of Lachtman's titles in the mail for me, and though I'm a horribly slow reader, I finally finshed Looking for La Unica (the follow-up to The Summer of El Pintor). In Unica, Monica Ramos is spending her first summer on Lucia Street where she and her dad have moved to after he lost his job in the D.C. area. She is conflicted about her new home because on the one hand it isn't her old posh neighborhood where she'd been friends with some of the girls from school but it is the place where her mother grew up. Curious like she is, she doesn't have to look for mysteries to solve, they simply find her. In this one, La Unica goes missing. Come to find out, La Unica is a guitar, but not just any guitar: it has been in the Salcedo family for a couple of generations, the product of a forefather master-guitarmaker. Accused of being one of the thieves, Monica will discover the real rat in order to prove to Mr. Salcedo that he couldn't be more wrong in putting the blame on her. The search is on, and Monica finds way more than what she sets out for originally.

So, I'll get to The Summer of El Pintor sometime during the Christmas Holidays, but right now I'm reading another of Lachtman's novels, Call Me Consuelo, a mystery for slightly younger readers than Unica as Consuelo is herself 12 years old.

12.08.2010

You Don't Even Know Me: Stories and Poems about Boys

You Don't Even Know Me: Stories and Poems about Boys by Sharon G. Flake

I finished Flake's second collection that works as a companion to her first collection, Who Am I Without Him? This one focuses on boys, while the first one deals with the lives of girls. She also includes poems in this latest work documenting snippets of boys existences. I have to be honest: I wasn't as impressed by this book as I was Who Am I Without Him? There doesn't seem to be the depth there is in the previous title. There is the first poem, from the perspective of multiple young men, each asserting his respective existence, that I like. If you visit Flake's internet site, you'll find a video made by five young men who perform the poem, and it is that much more powerful because you can see the different voices (that is, who is speaking) as well as hear them. And for me, only one of the stories is memorable: "My Hood." It is about two best friends on a day out in North Philly's heat. The two boys make their way to a fire in the area, take a dip in a pool without the family's permission, join a craps session, meet up with some fine Philly girls, eat and dance at a block party, swim in a local pool, watch a fireworks show, then head home. It might not seem like much of a story, but it is about friendship of the best kind: the narrator describes his friendship with Elliot, a kid with fire and emotional issues: "This is why I like Elliott. He's braver than I am. Funny and loyal, too. You can't give up on someone like that just because their mind don't work like yours" (163). The story takes place on July the 4th in Philadelphia. It can't be about anything but independence.

The collection as a whole doesn't necessarily work for me, but the tidbits that I do like, I like a lot.

11.24.2010

New Work Accepted

I got word today that my second in the Mickey Rangel detective series, tentatively titled The Lemon Tree Caper. This is very cool news. I had a ton of fun writing this one, getting Mickey on the case for a second time. Now to get to work on the next.

Also, with Arte Publico Press/Pinata Books: another collection of stories accepted, likely to be called Devil's Dance: Stories from Beyond. The stories are more contemporary takes on Mexican American cucuy legends: la llorona, la mano pachona, the devil at the dance, and the like. Hopefully this one will also come in a bilingual edition. More meant for middle and high school readers than something like Xavier Garza's Creepy Creatures and his more recent Kid Cyclone books, which I'd say are more for older elementary and middle school readers. But it'll be cool to be in the same space as him.

I have gotten started on my next book or story, like I posted before. It's very stream of consciousness for now, but it most likely not stay that way. I was on the plane back and took the couple pages I'd hand-written the day before and added another six or seven hand-written pages. I'm excited about it. More later.

NCTE/ALAN 2010 Orlando

I shouldn't complain because ultimately the venue was easy to maneuver, if you can get over the idea of wanting to walk from where I'm staying (the Yacht Club) to where much of the action is taking place (the Coronado). I mean, the shuttle service was pretty good and always on time. Kudos to those drivers and organizers. But man, the weather was, for the most part, awesome and would that there would've been more forethought on keeping the show as green as could be. At times, I was one of two people on the buses traveling back and forth. TV stunk, for the most part, and it was kind of funny to walk into my room and see a Mickey head on one of the beds fashioned out of hand and face towels.

I'll tell you what: it was great seeing Chris Crowe again, Matt de la Pena, Dana Reinhardt, Janet Wong, Wendy Lamb, Adrienne Waintraub (as always, too cool for school!), Bill Broz (a very awesome co-presenter), Lyn Miller-Lachman, Steve Schneider, Lee Byrd, Benjamin Alire, and the list goes on and on and on. Cool meeting Amy (A.S.) King. Teri Lesesne. Kenan Metzger. James Blasingame. Walter, the Giant Heart. The folks at National Geographic School Publishing: Andy, Tamara, Ellen, and the crew. Marina Tristan at Arte Publico. More later as my memory refreshes.

Got lots of reading done, started on a new story (long or short? don't know--it hasn't defined itself yet in that regard). Had a novel pretty much rejected, but it serves as the impetus to get back to work on it, or on something else.

ALAN was great. I got to sit in on several of the sessions and a couple of the break-outs. Would love to be invited back. I think one of the highlights for me was being on a panel titled "It's a Guy Thing," moderated by Kenan Metzger. The other panelists included Martin Chatterton (a very hip British dude), Brent Crawford, Tom Angleberger, and Derrick Barnes. Tom was hilarious! Especially when he introduced the Shipless Pirates in his latest book. But Derrick was, to me, the highlight. He spook about a man's responsibility for his family and his community. And then on the plane back I got to read his latest novel, We Could Be Brothers, in which he writes about two boys, each from opposite ends of the social economic stratus, but they got each other's back, even through the toughest of situations. It's a must read.

11.03.2010

Pluma Fronteriza Interview

Check out my new interview about A Good Long Way with Pluma Fronteriza's Raymundo Rojas:

http://plumafronteriza.blogspot.com/2010/11/mas-than-menos-interview-with-rene.html.

And Kirkus, Booklist, Teri Lesesne, and ForeWord have all said very cool things about the novel. It's due out sometime soon. No specific date, but I understand it's at the printer's as I type this up. Technical issues kept it from coming out at the end of October.

8.09.2010

A Good Long Way: The Final Cover

So here's the final cover to my up-coming novel, A Good Long Way, due out at the end of October of this year (Piñata Books/Arte Público Press). I like it!

7.25.2010

Monster Truck show at the Lubbock Motor Speedway!

The boys, Lukas and Mikah, their friend Harley, Harley's dad, Harley's cousin Dylan, and I went to the MONSTER TRUCK show last Friday, a first for the Saldañas, and I can tell you what: it was loud and MONSTER FUN!!! Here are some pics:
Lukas and Mikah in the front left of 1/2 Pint
The Bounty Hunter 
(a side note: the fire truck in the back is all F 451: it doesn't put fires out, it lights 'em up. At the end of the night, this jet engine-powered and -fueled fire truck lit up and burned to a crisp a junked van, as part of the show; it was awesome! Not so very enviro-friendly, but it was FUN!!!)


7.24.2010

The Big Red Lollipop by Rukhsana Khan and illustrated by Sophie Blackall

You know, I was really looking forward to reading this title with my sons, Lukas and Mikah. But boy, what a disappointment it was. Here's why: the main character, the oldest sister of three is out and out disrespectful to her mother. I mean, brutally disrespectful, and I can't explain to my boys why this part of the story just wouldn't have made it into the book if I had been editing it myself. It wouldn't have made it if I had written it, as a matter of fact. Don't get me wrong: I didn't not read it to them. I've actually read it a couple times more than the original time, but as a dad I've stopped every time and made it a point to let them know this is just wrong how the girl behaves.

So people might argue that it's just a book, that kids get that it's in the world of make-believe, but if that were the case, why is it that most of these same folks won't support a book that is ugly to one minority group or another? They'd condemn a book that includes the N-word so fast, or anything about kids getting bullied, etc. I would, too, mind you. Because books to affect kids' thinking and behavior. I'm not gonna keep a book from my kids: but it is my responsibility to raise them in the way I know to be right, and so reading to them is key, but pointing out weaknesses and faults of any kind is just as important, if not more so.

This morning, my son Lukas asked if I'd already put this post up, because I'd told him I would. He was checking up on me, to make sure I didn't fail.

A Good Long Way: the next novel

So, my next novel, A Good Long Way, is coming out in October of 2010. Soon enough, but not soon enough for my liking. I wish it'd be out already, but that would mean that I wouldn't have been able to work on it again and again with Gabi V over at Arte Público/Piñata Books. Cleaning it up, and more, and more. I think we're done with revisions, and there should be galley already, though I haven't gotten a copy myself. I've been promised a copy soon. Pictured below. Go to Amazon.com or BN.com to pre-order your copies now.



Newly Finished Reads

I recently finished two mystery thrillers: James Rollins' Doomsday Key and Ted Dekker's BoneMan's Daughters. This was the first time reading both authors and I'm thinking I wouldn't necessarily feel out of sorts if I don't ever read them again. It's not that they're bad writers of the genre, or that their stories weren't interesting; it's more that I didn't feel like I absolutely had to get back to them once I'd put them down for the day. Usually I'll fall asleep reading a book I love, but not these. 

Here's what about Doomsday Key: two things: one, it's a bit too much like Dan Brown's DaVinci Code, with the religious ties and the attempt at revamping the religious traditions; two, Rollins shares too much of his politics. I mean, he, not the narrator, though in the guise of the narrator, preaches his agenda on various and sundry topics: the environment, DADT, religion, etc. As writers, I don't think we could ever write something we don't ourselves believe in truly. Our particular world views are our own, they distinguish us from everyone else, they define us, and we can't separate ourselves from them. But we don't have to shove these ideas down our readers' throats. To me, that's what so weakened Rollins' work.

On BoneMan's Daughter: it was a good enough read, but not extraordinary. Between the two, the more complex story belongs to Rollins, to be honest. Dekker's work was fair, but no more. I didn't identify, not even as a dad of three children, with the main character, Ryan. Too many coincidences to my liking. It could've been better if it had been shorter.

4.19.2010

TLA in San Antonio: 2010

Another fantastic time with librarians and authors and publishers at Texas Library Association's Annual Convention. It was a rainy time in San Antonio, but you know librarians: they deal with whatever issue when it comes to books and their readers' literacy well-being. I got quite a few ARCs and FnGs of some very awesome stuff, hung out with some great people, and ate some good food.

One ARC I got and read and enjoyed immensely is Charlie Price's The Interrogation of Gabriel James, a pretty cool thriller told in alternating perspectives: one is in the form of an official police interrogation; the other is in the first person, past tense from Gabriel's POV. There's been two killings, and Gabriel finds himself smack dab in the middle of the investigation. What gets him there is either caring too much for people and trying to help, in spite of his reverse midas touch, where everything he touches goes to pot; or, his hyper-curiosity, which also leads to trouble. It's due out in August and it'll be a hit with young adult readers.

The prize FnG, for me, is Charles Smith's picture book titled Black Jack: The Ballad of Jack Johnson. The story of the first black heavy weight champion is awesome; there's references to his childhood, his youth, and his traveling around the world challenging the champion, who always blew him off, since blacks and whites didn't mix, even in the ring. The artwork is very cool, too, though the illustrator's name, at present, escapes me.

I got a chance to present on a pre-conference panel with Sarah Cortez (editor of HITLIST, a fantastic anthology of Latino/a mystery) and Ray Villarreal (author of Who's Buried in the Garden?). We were all overjoyed to see the hall full of librarians. It was also nice to sit and talk with Ray over hamburgers at the Fuddruckers and with Sarah at Arte Publico's booth. Also got a good chance to hang out with Diane Bertrand. Carmen Abrego also provided some great conversation. She knows the Arte Publico/Piñata Books list backwards and forwards. And on top of it all, she's hilarious.

Others I hung out with: Sonya Sones, Sara Pennypacker, Kadir Nelson, Chris Crutcher, and Matt de la Peña. It was nice to have that time with them (thanks Sonya and Sara for the get-together).

Also spent a good half hour or so with best South Texas friends and librarians, Albert and Patricia Ramos.

Adrienne and Tracy, as always, were super cool at the Random House booth.

And librarians: would that I had enough time and space and memory to name them all. They deserve it, though.

IRA next. 

2.25.2010

Long Time No Blog

So, I've checked in now and again, but have failed miserably to update my blog. I feel badly because I do feel the blog as a forum is a very useful tool on many levels. In many ways. What else I've dropped the ball on is upkeeping my Notches on the Reading Stick list. Trust me, I've read much, but have not kept track, and so I'll pick up again tonight inputing the info of a fantastic graphic biography/memoir that is a must read in any middle school classroom across the U.S. It's called Smile, and the author/illustrator is Raina Telgemeier. It's a seemingly simple story about a girl, the author, whose problems begin at the news of having to wear braces. Oh, the horror. But before they even go on, she falls on her face, literally, and breaks a front tooth clear off and jams the other up into the top gums. The next four years are one visit to her dentist after another, and beyond that, a girl having to learn who she is, who her friends are, and where she belongs. All in all, it's an awesome read, textually and visually. I will certainly require my next Adolescent lit class read it.

Others I've read but w/o a definite date when: Stitches: A Memoir by David Small (such a deep and touching and dark graphic story), Eternal Smile by Gene Yang (a great collection of graphic short stories), Zippy Fix by Graham Salisbury (a follow-up to his first Calvin Coconut shortish novel, Trouble Magnet). Some more Henning Mankell. Some Vince Flynn. Lots of picture books.

Tomorrow, too, is TTU's 6th Annual Children's Literature Festival: authors invited to meet and present to our students are Chris Crowe, Ann Bausum, and Nic Bishop. It's an exciting list of folks, and if you visit my other blog, chatandchewbooktalks.blogspot.com you'll see what all my students in Adolescent lit have researched on Chris Crowe specifically.

Also, the boys are doing very well, in spite of winter time illnesses. Finn had the croup (spelling very questionable), infected ears, and he's having a hard time kicking the congestion; Mikah's had a cold, on and off, but he's a tough kid; and Lukas is a trooper: he wakes up mornings early to get ready for school, he takes his little AR quizzes and chooses the "this is my favorite book so far" option on the quizzes every time, every book. Trust me, though: I know what AR can do to a reader, and so as soon as he says the passion for quizzes is gone, I'll opt him out. 

It's been cold in Lubbock. We've gotten our share of snow this winter. With another front coming in tonight, according to the weatherman.

In March, I'm travelling down to the Valley again to do some work with Reading Rockstars, a wonderful literacy-advocacy program tied to the Texas Book Festival. I'll visit two schools and another reading that's popped up by chance is one at, get this, Peñitas Public Library. Dig it: my little ranchito's got a reading haven. How cool is that!