Winners!

Yay! Winners! Prizes! :D

I was going to all delay everything and draw it out, but why not just get straight to the winnings?

So:

Winner of the Prize Pack from Elana (chocolate and POSSESSION swag) is...

J. Lea Lopez!

Winner of the Prize Pack from Angie (charm bracelet at MEMENTO NORA swag) is...

Elie Nice @ Ellz Readz

Winner of the Survival Pack from Jeff in relation to THE ELEVENTH PLAGUE is...

Julia @ That Hapa Chick

Winner of the Prize Pack from Julia (horse charm and XVI related stuff) is...

Riv Re

Winner of the Prize Pack from Beth (star related swag and an AtU watch) is...



And, finally, the winner of ALL FIVE BOOKS (preordered) is...






The Eleventh Plague by Jeff! Cover coming soon!

Yup, the winner of all that awesome above is....

Jessica B!

Winners, you'll be contacted soon if you've not been contacted yet. Meanwhile, we hope everyone has a great holiday season, and we'll see you next year!!!

All I Want for Christmas...Possession Style

Okay, so there's quite a bit of tech in my upcoming novel Possession. Everything from iris recognizers (which are in development today) to barcode implants (no, thank you) to teleportation.

And that's what I want. There's nothing worse (to me) than wasting time in a car, driving the boy kidlet to school or the girl to dance or the boy to basketball or piano or scouts or... yeah. I swear I spend hours of my day in the car. And the best Christmas present EVER would be to say to the kidlets: "Hurry! Get to the teleport pad!" and then watch them blink away to their destination.

*bliss*

So I wrote that into my book. It's by far the best tech (to me) in Possession. Of course, tech comes with rules. Here's an excerpt from Possession detailing how the teleporters work:

I moved across the room and stood in front of terminal seven. Now for the sticky part. The password. Laboratory. Ranger. Zenn. Ty. Schoenfeld. Thane. What would it take to get into the lab?

I knew I’d only get one chance. Tech doesn’t accept mistakes. “What’s the password for laboratory four?”

No answer. They were personalized. Just great.

Several minutes passed, my heart thumping more wildly with each one. I made a decision, took a deep breath, and stepped into the teleporter.

So yeah. Insta-travel by blitzing into a million+one particles and then reassembling at your destination. I wantz it.

What about you? Is teleportation a little too Galaxy Quest for you? (Have you seen that? I mean, that pig gets reassembled inside out...) Or is this a futuristic wave you could ride?

Click to visit Elana's website

All I Want for Christmas ... from Memento Nora

Ok. We’re supposed to talk about what cool thing or idea from our own book that we’d like for Christmas.

I’m a little stumped.  I don’t know that I’d actually want the glossy things from Memento Nora.

For instance, there’s the little TFC (Therapeutic Forgetting Clinic) shop on every corner that dispenses Amelioral, the forgetting pill. You tell the man (or woman) in the white coat your darkest memory, pop a pill, and go on like nothing ever happened. You even earn Frequent Forgetting points every time you go.

Granted, this would be outstanding for true sufferers of Post Traumatic Distress Syndrome.  I even based the pill (and how it works) on current research in PTSD.  So, if you do have PTSD, that’s my Christmas wish for you: to be able to forget and get on with your life. 

For me, though, not so much.

I’d probably like to have Winter’s Garden in my backyard. Fourteen-year-old Winter Nomura builds a Rube Goldberg-ish kinetic sculpture garden behind her grandfather’s converted warehouse home.  It’s how she deals. She throws her considerable energy and talent into transforming junk in something weirdly marvelous.

Here’s Nora’s description of one of the pieces, the Shopping Bag Crab:

“Watch this,” Micah whispered, pointing to the next thing in the garden. It looked like a metal shopping bag lying on its side.

The water started to lap up onto the sand by the bag. Two slender black pieces of metal peeked out of the bag and felt their way to the ground. The feelers or legs crab walked themselves partially out of the bag, and the creature started to pull itself, bag and all, up the sloped walk. Its frenzied back-and-forth motion reminded me of something.

“Are those windshield wipers?” I asked, thoroughly impressed—and unnerved.

He nodded, a big grin on his face.

Something about the jerky, almost desperate crawl of the wipers dragging the shopping bag shell behind them made me uneasy. Then as the whole thing reached the top of its little hill, it stopped crawling, collapsed back into its shell, and slid back down to where it had started. It was like it couldn’t get anywhere with that bag on its back. 

I don’t have drawings (that look good, that is) of all of the pieces, but here are a couple of the inspirations for her sculptures.

This is Tinguely Fountain in Basel, Switzerland. The artist, Jean Tinguely, created this series of sculptures in 1971.



And, yes, this is a Honda Accord ad. For it, Honda put together a Rube Goldberg assembly of parts working together to start the car. (The windshield wiper part inspired the Shopping Bag Crab.)



The dog might not agree, but I think a kinetic sculpture garden would look great on my patio. Now I just need someone with the talent and energy to build it. (And that ain't me.)

Cool art work aside, my question for you guys is would you take a forgetting pill that only erased selective memories? Or, if that's too deep for the holidays, what kind of secret garden would you create if you could build or grow anything?


Angie Smibert
Memento Nora
Marshall Cavendish, April 2011

 

You can find me at:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Class of 2K11

What I Want for Christmas from The Eleventh Plague

Wow. That's probably one of the weirder titles I've written here. The fact is my book doesn't really contain anything I or anyone else would want to have. No cool gizmos. No hi-tech wonders.

In my book, society completely collapsed around 2024. The story itself takes place about sixteen years later, once the population has stabilized at about a quarter of what it is now. There's no government. No utilities. No infrastructure whatever. There's just scattered pockets of barely functioning micro-civilizations woven together with scavengers, slave traders and loonies. It's a rough world.

Of course if you're the type that looks on the bright side, there's also no traffic, advertising, ringing cell phones, or smog. There are no politicians, no reality TV shows, no Dane Cook movies. No internet time sucks. No one sits in an office all day long doing a job of dubious usefulness.

So, in an inversion of this week's theme, if I had to choose something that's gone in my book to magically disappear in real life, I'd choose... TV. Yeah, I'd miss Community and 30 Rock and Project Runway, but I think it would balance my life greatly if I at least had to leave the house to be entertained. I think I'd spend alot more time reading, writing, chatting with friends and playing with cats. I think my life would be a bit quieter and a lot more productive.

How about you? If you could wish one piece of our day to day technology out of existence, what would it be? TV? Internet? Cell phones? Something else?

Jeff Hirsch
The Eleventh Plague
Coming from Scholastic, Fall 2011


Find me at jeff-hirsch.com and @jeff_hirsch

All I want for Christmas is...

In the world of XVI, there are a whole lot of things I don't want! Goverment surveillance, mandatory identification tattoos, marketing emphasis sexualizing teen and pre-teen girls, a tier system of haves and have-nots, dehumanization of homeless people... oh - that list goes on and on. Methinks Santa will NOT be visiting the powers that be in XVI's world.

But... there are some very cool things, too!

Personal Audio Video receivers (with tiny earpieces that can be used independently of the receiver)
Grocery store delivery systems where you type in what you want and it's picked & bagged & comes to you on a conveyor, ready to go.
Cook centers that you fill with ingredients and then touch a button on a pre-programmed recipe & ta-da! Your meal is cooked!

What I most want, however, is a personal transit (aka a fancy new vehicle for getting from here to there!)

They don't have wheels - they hover about a foot off the ground. Tractor beams keep them stable. Here's a description of one:

"...sliding into the seat, which immediately conformed to every curve of my body.
"Comfort Style," I murmured. I'd heard about the features of Comfort Style in verts, but never imagined I'd get to sit in a tran that had it.
... Inside there were individual entertainment devices, a dashboard chiller, and separate light diffusers in each window."

I've always loved cars. When I was growing up, cars were part of a person's identity - particularly the guys. I have to admit, loved the guys with the cool cars! Particularly ones like this...



Yep - there's a story that goes with a very similar car (and a very hot boy!)  However... for this Christmas - I'd like the cool future personal transit!

Or, as someone commented yesterday - a transporter!

How about you? What futuristic thing would you like under the tree? Or wrapped with a pretty bow in the driveway? :)

All I Want for Christmas...from Across the Universe

Here at the League, all of our books are set in the future. Some are near-future, some are far-off, but either way, it's the future...and the future, as we all know, is filled with cool stuff like jet packs and flying cars.

Or not.

We are talking dystopian lit here. Even so, there are some cool things we've featured in our books, and all this week, we're going to tell you about one of the things we made up in our books that we wish was real.

My book, ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, is a sci-fi set on a space ship. And while I think interstellar space travel would be cool, the thing I really want is...

floppies.

Yup! I want floppies! Floppies are these cool, paper-thin, touch-screen computer-like things that everyone on the ship uses. They have all the digital information from the ship stored, and are as plentiful as notepads are here on Earth. 

Here's how I describe them for the first time in the book:

“There are things you should know,” he says. He picks up a floppy—a digital membrane screen nicknamed for its, er, floppiness—from the table and runs his finger over it, turning it on. When the screen lights up, he scans his thumb over the ID box.
“Eldest/Elder access granted,” the floppy chirps. Eldest taps something onto the screen, then slides the floppy over to me. I can almost see the wood grain through the thin membrane, but then I grow distracted by what Eldest is showing me.

Wouldn't that be cool to have?! It's basically a computer that's as thin as a piece of paper--and practically as disposable as one. The people on the ship treat the floppies as casually as we treat paper--they're plentiful and lie around on tables all over the place.

I got the idea for floppies in part because at the time I was writing the story, the husband had gotten me an iPad Touch. The ease of the touchscreen (and swiping across the screen to manipulate it and such) was something I could definitely see being used in the future.


I'm not the only person who's written about such things in the future. My all-time-love-it-hardcore sci fi show, FIREFLY, used something similar, too, but the more famous example is from CAPRICA.



(PS: I'm in the midst of watching BATTLESTAR GALLACTICA right now, and dudes! All y'all who told me to go see it: you were RIGHT!)

Also--and this is so exciting--but it looks like floppies and things like them aren't that far into the future. As this article points out:

It’s pretty easy to look at tablet computers and flexible thin video screens and realize that it won’t take long to combine these two technologies into a single product that will work just like the science fiction we see in Caprica.

Who needs a jetpack with stuff like this?!

Holy Possession Prizes!

Okay, so we've been giving away book-related swag all week. Up today, some sweet (I think) stuff to go along with my YA dystopian, POSSESSION, coming out next June.

In the book, Vi doesn't want anyone telling her what to do. But she's caged, trapped, inside her society and all their rules.

Thus, the iconic butterfly frozen in ice cover image. So today, I'm giving away a keychain made by the lovely Christina Lee, complete with butterfly charm and icy blue bead. In addition to that, you'll get a couple of temporary tattoos that say "TAGGED," another nod toward the book, when Vi gets tagged with a barcode around her wrist. (I ordered them; they're not quite here yet. But click here and you can see what I mean. Yours will say TAGGED underneath.)

On top of that, I'll throw in some signed and watercolored bookmarks, and a bag of my favorite: Dove dark. (Okay, this has nothing to do with my book, but doesn't everyone need love chocolate?)



You must leave a comment on this post to win all this Possession-related stuff.

But that's not all, my feathered friends. All of us here at The League are also giving away a prize package of our books! To enter the grand prize drawing for all five books, fill out the form below, including a link to your post. You only need to fill out the form once this week (chances are, you've already done this) for the drawing. Winner will be announced on December 20th.

Mementos from Nora

This week we're each giving away a prize pack based on our own books.  For Memento Nora, in addition to a few shiny bookmarks and postcards, I'm offering up a few things the main character, Nora, might think are glossy (her favorite word):  a pearly pink iPod cover, some mobile minutes, and a charm bracelet.




The last one needs a little 'splaining, so let me give you a little synopsis and snippet from the book.

In the not-so-distant future, Nora James, the popular girl and happy consumer, witnesses a horrific bombing on a shopping trip with her mother. In Nora’s world, terrorism is so commonplace that she can pop one little white pill to forget and go on like nothing ever happened. However, when Nora makes her first trip to a Therapeutic Forgetting Clinic to do just that, she learns what her mother, a frequent forgetter, has been frequently forgetting.  (No spoilers!)

That evening, Nora’s father gives her a present—a memento—to “commemorate” her first TFC trip:

Dad pulled something out of his pocket. A small, green¬ish blue box that I instantly recognized as being from the best jewelry store, the Tiffany’s downtown next to his office. Inside was a silver bracelet with one charm on it. A purse. It was, I had to admit, very glossy.

He fastened it onto my wrist. I couldn’t help smiling.
“No little girl of mine should have to see what you saw,” he said, full of seriousness. “But the world isn’t a safe place anymore, and I can’t always be there to protect you. So every time you need to forget something bad like you did today, I’m going to buy you a new charm to remind you that you’re still my little girl.”
I know this sounds sweet, but it’s not really, considering what she didn’t forget and what she finds out is going on.

Nora comments later:

Apparently my milestone was an explosive shopping trip. Dad was more right than he knew.

So the prize I’m offering—to save you any such shopping trips this Christmas season—is a charm bracelet full of purses.

Not exactly Tiffanys, I know, but still very glossy.


To be entered in a drawing for today's prize pack, leave a comment in this post. One winner will be randomly selected.

To enter the grand prize drawing for all five books, fill out the form below, including a link to your post. You only need to fill out the form once this week for the drawing. Winner will be announced on December 20th.



This Giveaway May Save your Life (No, Seriously)

So the world of my book has pretty much fallen apart. No industry. No government. No running water. No electricity. Just pockets of micro-civilizations interwoven with scavengers, nomads and chaos. The smart post-apocalyptic survivor knows the only way to stay alive is to Always. Be. Prepared!

So to help you all along with that I'm offering as my giveaway.....




Stephen, the intrepid main character of The Eleventh Plague would have killed for something like this. And it's yours for free! 

Included are all of your survival and necessities, including:


Rescue Howler- This new, ultra-light whistle is extremely loud. Exceeds SOLAS and U.S. Coast Guard specifications, triple-frequency with lanyard hole. 



Rescue Flash- Signal Mirror
Developed by Adventure® Medical Kits exclusively for the Pocket


Survival Pak- Visible over 20 miles, durable LEXAN® polycarbonate mirror with mil-spec retro-reflective aiming aid for one-handed use.


20mm Survival Compass-
 Accurate, liquid damped, fast acting needle, with groove to accept an improvised lanyard ring.


Spark-Lite Firestarter-  a waterproof official military firestarter, useable one-handed and tested for over 1,000 sparks. 

Tinder-Quik™ is waterproof and burns for 2-3 minutes giving you plenty of time to light a fire.


Waterproof Survival Instructions- Includes detailed, easy to understand, practical information on: setting a plan of action; building shelter; starting fires; obtaining water and food; distress signaling; travel; and how to use the items in this kit to save your life. Includes 33 illustrations!

But Wait! There's more! Also includes: Duct Tape, Scalpel Blade, Stainless Steel Utility Wire, Fresnel Lens Magnifier, Braided Nylon Cord, Fish Hooks, Sinkers and Snap Swivel,  Heavy Duty Sewing Needle, Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil, Safety Pins, Pencil and Waterproof Note Paper

To be entered in a drawing for today's prize pack, leave a comment in this post. One winner will be randomly selected.

To enter the grand prize drawing for all five books, fill out the form below, including a link to your post. You only need to fill out the form once this week for the drawing. Winner will be announced on December 20th.



Goodies from a not-so-good future...

Nina's a low tier in the society of XVI. Her mom works a tier two cashier job and brings home just enough credits to pay for the necessities. Nina's pretty content with her family and her friends, she really doesn't want much more. The little things are what's important... sharing a 70% cocoa Wolf bar with her friends, the smell of Pops's candied ginger, and her most prized possession, a charms necklace.


So, my swag today is a sterling silver necklace with a horse charm (you'll have to read XVI for the significance), a tin of candied ginger, a dark chocolate "wolf" bar and a couple of signed XVI cards. 

To be entered in a drawing for today's prize pack, leave a comment in this post. One winner will be randomly selected.

To enter the grand prize drawing for all five books, fill out the form below, including a link to your post. You only need to fill out the form once this week for the drawing. Winner will be announced on December 20th.



A Week of Prizes!

We here at the League want to thank you all for reading, sharing in the conversation, and making us cool by association :)

In order to thank you, we're going to do a week of prizes! Every day this week, we're featuring a prize that relates to our book in a significant way. Swag, neat extras, and more!

Yes: you heard that right! 
Five prizes announced all this week!

There will be five different winners--one prize announced each day. And the prizes? They're way cool. That's all I'm saying.

Now, it's not enough for us to just offer you a daily prize, is it? :) We're offering one grand prize, too! What's the grand prize?

Pre-Ordered Copies of all Five of our Books:
XVI
Across the Universe
Memento Nora
Possession
The Eleventh Plague

If you want to win the grand prize of all five of our books--and of course you do!--all you have to do is tell someone about this contest online! Put up a blog post or tweet about this contest and the League, and you're entered into the drawing for the majorly huge big grandprize.

So--would you like to know what today's daily prize is? Well, my novel, ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, is a science fiction, and the stars feature prominently throughout it. So, my prize is a collection of star-related items (and some stuff specific to the book):


A set of all three pin buttons in both the large and small sizes
Signed bookmark and bookplate
Official release sticker
A set of goodies I plan on using at the launch party:
Star mints, a star sucker, gummy stars, and star bands
and
An official limited edition Across the Universe watch!

All wrapped up in a star gift-bag:

What are you waiting for? Enter today--spread the word about the contest and enter for the grand prize--and come back every day this week to find out what the rest of the awesome prizes are!


To be entered in a drawing for today's prize pack, leave a comment in this post. One winner will be randomly selected.

To enter the grand prize drawing for all five books, fill out the form below, including a link to your post. You only need to fill out the form once this week for the drawing. Winner will be announced on December 20th.


Worldbuilding With Music

Okay, so I’ve been hard at work on my second novel. It’s another dystopian-type novel, and I decided to include a song that would have an impact on my MC as the story progresses.

But see, my society is a brainwashing society, and well, music doesn’t really fit into that very well. Which, of course, got me thinking about music and the impact it can have on a culture.

And after a lot of thought and struggling to figure out how to include this song in my book, I realized something else. I was worldbuilding.

Worldbuilding includes so much more than just city names and setting. It takes the little things, like music and food and dress and cultural things, and brings them to life so that your readers can really feel established in a world not that different—but completely different—from their own.

And so I took a few minutes (okay, hours) to really think about music and it’s role in my invented culture. I think the book will be better for it.

What do you think? Can you think of any examples where the “little things” have added another dimension to a book? For me, I’m thinking of MATCHED by Ally Condie, simply because it’s the last one I read and I really liked what she did with the Hundred Poems and the Hundred Songs and such.

And what do you think our music of today says about our culture?

Plot Holes

Plot holes. They’re those pesky gaps or inconsistencies in the logical flow of a story.  I must confess I’ve been guilty of them. I want a story to go a certain way. I plot it all out to my satisfaction, and then someone—agent, editor, reader—asks why didn’t they just do X?  Or, if they did Y, why didn’t Z happen?

Grumble. Grumble. “Because it doesn’t work that way,” I say.

In reality, I just didn’t want it to work that way---or I didn’t have a convenient 5-year-old to read the story and point out the obvious lapses in my story logic. (Note to self: add new reader to staff.)

So I console myself with these two lists from Cracked magazine:

•    8 Classic Movies that Got Away with Gaping Plot Holes.

•    5 Gaping Plot Holes Hollywood Knows You Won’t Notice.

One of my favorite holes from the first list is the entire premise to Citizen Kane, which is arguably one of the best movies ever made.  The reporters are trying to figure out the significance of Charles Foster Kane’s final words: Rosebud.  However, no one ever heard them.  He was alone in the room when he died.  The nurse gets there after his last gasp. So how does anyone know what he uttered?

But, if your story is entertaining enough, you can get away with some astonishing lapses in story logic  (though it’s probably not a good idea to try. )

What are some of your favorite plot holes from books, movies, or TV? 

Finding Inspiration Anywhere you Can

So I returned to my theatre roots last night when I joined a friend for a talk between Tony Kushner (Angels in America, Homebody/Kabul) and Stephen Sondheim (Like every classic musical ever) at the Public Theater here in New York. It was a great time and it got me thinking alot about influences and how often some of your strongest ones come from areas outside your own artistic practice.

Like for me, even though I'm now writing books for teens, most of my foundational artistic experiences were in theatres. It all started back when my high school did a production of Equus. I had never seen anything like that before. I think I sat there for two solid hours with my jaw hanging open. Next thing you know I was up on the stage myself acting for the first time ever in Arthur Kopit's Indians. Soon I discovered the work of Tennessee Williams and Eugene O'Neill and after that the more contemporary theatre of writers like Jose Rivera, Erik Ehn, Caryl Churchill and Mac Wellman and theatre companies like Pig Iron.

All of this feels relevant even today when my dealings with theater are purely as an audience member. Getting immersed in theatre gave my writing a tendency towards the dramatic (ok, maybe too much of one sometimes) and a love for the interplay of characters and bold language. It also informed my interest in writing about change and transformation.

I figure it's a good idea to look for creative fuel anywhere you can find. Who cares if you write books but draw your inspiration from music or paintings or film? Whatever works, right? And maybe bringing influences in from outside your own genre can help keep your work fresh and distinct.

So I'm curious to hear from you guys, where do you all find artistic inspiration outside of books?  Does a particular painter do it for you? A poet or musician or film director? Something else? How did they change what you do?



Jeff Hirsch
The Eleventh Plague
Coming from Scholastic, Fall 2011

Find me at jeff-hirsch.com and @jeff_hirsch


Macro-monsters

I ran across this article the other day and thought about how much some of the images remind me of aliens in sci-fi movies.

This guy (a maggot head) kind of reminds me of
this guy     

And this guy

definitely makes me think of this guy...

There are so many things in this world that are so foreign to most of us. I'm guessing the majority of us don't do macro photography or spend time looking at maggots or ants or dust mites under microscopes. But, sometimes it's close attention that sparks the imagination. Like... what if these things were super-sized? Lots of cheesy (and some good) horror movies have been spawned by ants and spiders and other creatures.  And, lots of fictional alien species probably have their imaginary DNA firmly rooted in critters that we barely pay attention to... but, someone did. Someone with a wild imagination and wilder ideas... 

Why don't you check out the pics in the Daily Telegraph slide show & imagine what these creatures might be or do if they really were bigger than life. Care to share your thoughts? :)






Surround Yourself with Your World

So I was recently cruising the intarwebs and stumbled across the Hoxton Street Monster Supplies, "Bespoke and Everyday Items for the Living, Dead, and Undead" (via The Daily What)

This is the awesomest thing evar.

Dude, check it. The shelves are lined with giant wrenches called "neck bolt tighteners," the payment sign states it won't take beans (magic or otherwise) for payment, and there's every kind of canned fear imaginable, from tinned "escalating panic" to "a vague sense of unease."

This store is perfect to every last detail. Personally, my favorite is the jars of "Organ Marmalade" (*snerk* Get it? Get it?)



But the very very best part of all this? The Monster Supply store actually houses a writing center for kids. Behind the awesome displays is a cleverly hidden classroom station:


Because, while you can certainly grab a jar of "Thickest Human Snot" on your way in, this building isn't actually a Monster Supply Store: it's the British Ministry of Stories, an area created specifically to help young authors grow in their craft.


The Ministry of Stories was designed in collaboration with We Made This, and according to their site:

The Ministry has already hosted a series of workshops with local children, all of whom seem to have thoroughly enjoyed the experience. And the press, including BBC NewsThe Today Programme, and The Guardian, have naturally enough, taken a fair interest.

You can also visit the official site of the MoS here.

All of this got me thinking about space and inspiration. I fully believe what we surround ourselves with influences what and how we write. I recently posted on my own blog about how, despite the fact that I was working on a huge deadline, I had to clean the entire house. Once I had my house in order, I could order my brain and get my ideas on paper.

But, of course, it's more than that. All my life I've been fascinated with stars and astronomy. Moons and stars decorate my sheets and towels. When I was in high school, I created an astronomically correct mural of the constellations on my ceiling using glow-in-the-dark stars. I have more star related jewelry than anything else. I use a planetarium as a nightlight. It's not that far of a stretch that I write a science fiction novel where I can make my characters fly through the stars.

You can look at the Ministry of Stories and know immediately what kind of awesome adventures some of those kids will be writing about. Take a look at my star charts and you can see what kind of stories I write.

So look around yourself: What does your space say about your writing? 



League Break!

Hi guys! The League's taking the week off for Thanksgiving holidays. Go eat some Turkey--and if you'd like, tell us here what you're thankful for. :)

What's In Your Pantry?

Okay, so this week we've been discussing foods in dystopian and science fiction novels. Let me just get this out there: I'm not much of a cook. Sure, spaghetti and stuff like that, but that hardly counts as "cooking."

So I thought of the YA dystopian novels I've read the past little while and what the people eat. HOW I LIVE NOW is brilliantly done, what with the way the chocolate becomes so important. But I decided on LIFE AS WE KNEW IT and THE SCORCH TRIALS.

In those two novels, food primarily comes from a can. So today, I give you a food storage recipe, one you supposedly can make with what you already have in your pantry. So if the apocalypse gets triggered tonight, tomorrow you can have Mexican casserole! Ole!

Ingredients:
1 family size package Kraft macaroni and cheese
1 can (12 3/4 oz) canned chicken
1 T. dehydrated onion flakes
1 can chili with beans
1 can tomato soup
1 T. chili powder
1 can corn
Cheddar cheese, cubed (optional--and you could use powdered cheese if you'd like.)
Fritos (optional--I mean, obviously. But who doesn't have like 50 bags of Fritos stored up??)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350ยบ. Cook Kraft dinner according to directions in large pot. Meanwhile, heat chicken with onion flakes. Add to Kraft dinner with remaining ingredients. Heat through. Pour into casserole dish and top with fritos. Cover and bake 30 minutes.

Of course, this is assuming life in post-apocalyptic wherever-you-live still allows you to heat up your oven. Yeah, maybe you better get a cord of wood chopped and stored in the backyard, just in case.

And that concludes food week dystopian style! Hope you found at least something to set your mind at ease about the impending demise of the universe. Ha ha!

What would you eat post-apocalypse? What food do you want to try from your favorite dystopian or science fiction novel?

Spirits of the Apocalypse

This week, in honor of Thanksgiving, we're talking about food and drink--two very necessary things in any world, but especially in dystopias.  Food--as in running out or controlling the supply--is a recurrent theme in many dark visions of the future.  The denizens of dystopia may be scraping by on canned food or worse (Soylent Green anyone?), but, they usually find a good stiff drink can make that dreary future a little easier to swallow.

In the Battlestar Galactica universe, Ambrosia, a popular green liquor, is just that drink. Ellen and Saul Tighe toast with it when they’re reunited. Gaeta imbibes a little green courage to get a tattoo. Amanda Graystone and Sister Clarice share a taste for particular variety of it (on Caprica).

Ambrosia is to Galactica as Scotch is to Mad Men.

In the auction of BSG props last year, the  large Ambrosia bottle below went for over $400.  The label says that Ambrosia is  distilled in the Bliffe sector by prisoners who "are treated as well as could be expected considering the hostile planetary conditions."  In the original series, I think the Galactica liberated the prisoners--and a fair number of cases of Ambrosia--as the rag-tag fugitive fleet made it's way out of Dodge.


Since Ambrosia is green, some sci-fi aficionados think it’s absinthe or some kind wine. But the Geeky Chef  put a little more thought into his recipe for it:

Ingredients
6 oz Midori
4 oz Blue Curacao
2 oz lime juice
Ice

Geeky Chef’s recipe directions say to mix in a Margaritaville Frozen Concoction maker, but I bet you can use a blender. Or not.

Can you think of any other drinks inspired by science fiction, fantasy, or dystopian lit?Anyone have a good recipe for a Pan-galactic Gargleblaster? Or Klah? (Bonus points if you know where those are from.)  Or make one up! What drink would you be thankful to down during the days of dystopia?

(Oh, if you do try one of these, please drink responsibly. The world's not coming to an end ... yet.)

Weight Watchers Cancelled Due to Apocalypse

Ok, so let's say you find out end of the world is coming tomorrow, are you really going to keep worrying about calories? I think not. So if you really want to go out in style I suggest making  this Snickers Bar inspired Caramel, Peanut Butter, Chocolate Pie as one final glorious indulgence.

Trust me here, it only seems complicated. I made it for Halloween and it turned out great. If you I can do it so can you. And hey, if it really is the last pie you'll ever make, you might as well shoot for the moon right?

Thanks to Martha Stewart for the recipe! My comments are in bold.

Ingredients

FOR THE CHOCOLATE CRUST
    1 box (9 ounces) chocolate wafer cookies, finely ground (2 1/3 cups)
    1 tablespoon granulated sugar
    Salt
    1 stick unsalted butter, melted
   
FOR THE CARAMEL SAUCE
    1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
    1/4 cup water
    1 cup heavy cream
    1/3 cup creme fraiche (I couldn't find Creme Fraiche and imagine most people won't either. Plain sour cream works perfectly)
    1 cup roasted salted peanuts
   
FOR THE PEANUT BUTTER MOUSSE
    8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
    1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
    Salt
    1 1/4 cups smooth peanut butter
    1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    1 cup heavy cream
   
FOR THE CHOCOLATE GANACHE
    7 ounces semisweet chocolate (preferably 56 percent cacao), chopped
    1 cup heavy cream


Directions


    1.    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make the chocolate crust: Combine cookie crumbs, granulated sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a bowl. Stir in butter. Press mixture into bottom and 2 1/2 inches up sides of 9-inch springform pan. Bake until dry and firm, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool.

    2.    Make the caramel sauce: Heat granulated sugar and water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, washing down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming (I was not able to prevent sugar crystals from forming and it did not seem to matter)  until medium amber, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, and carefully add heavy cream (mixture will bubble and steam). Return to heat, and bring to a boil, making sure caramel that seized up when cream was added melts. Transfer to a bowl, and stir in creme fraiche. Refrigerate until cool but still pourable, about 45 minutes. Fold in peanuts.

    3.    Meanwhile, make the peanut butter mousse: Beat cream cheese and confectioners' sugar with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Beat in 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add peanut butter and vanilla, and beat until combined. Whisk heavy cream in a separate bowl until medium-stiff peaks form. (It seems like it'd be easier to use store bought whipped cream, but I'd refrain as it would be too sweet. And besides, making your own whipped cream feels like magic!) Fold one-third of the whipped cream into peanut butter mixture. Fold in remaining whipped cream in 2 additions. (If you've never folded it's kind of like a very delicate stir. Here's a great video on how to do it.)

    4.    Assemble the tart: Pour caramel sauce into cooled chocolate crust. (Then let cool in fridge or freezer until caramel is nearly solid. I found that if the caramel is at all liquid the mousse will push it out of the way and your won't get two nice layers)  Gently spread peanut butter mousse over caramel in an even layer, making sure they don't blend together. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

    5.    Make the chocolate ganache: Place chocolate in a small heatproof bowl. Bring cream to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Pour cream over chocolate, and let stand for 1 minute. Whisk to combine. (Use immediately.)

    6.    Remove tart from refrigerator, and pour in ganache to cover surface. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. 






So there you have it. Dig in without remorse! If by some chance you make this and the apocalypse does not come the next day, fear not, this freezes very well.

Oh, and for all of you non peanut butter lovers out there, a variation that occurred to me would be to axe the peanut butter mousse entirely and substitute your favorite ice cream for that layer. Just let the ice cream thaw until it's spreadable, spread over the caramel and then freeze until it's hard enough to top with ganache.


Let me know how it goes if you all make this. Or just tell us about what you make when calories don't matter!

Jeff Hirsch
The Eleventh Plague
Coming from Scholastic, Fall 2011



Find me at jeff-hirsch.com and @jeff_hirsch

Would you like tofu with that?

In keeping with Foodie Week... I really am not going to share a vegetarian (vegan even) recipe with y'all. But, first, a little story...

I've been a vegetarian for a long time, but several years ago I went through a vegan period. I was having such fun making old recipes into vegetarian/vegan ones that I decided to do a cooking show. I partnered with our local cable TV station (BCat) and wrote, produced, edited and starred in four (or it might have been 5 - I don't remember) episodes of my own vegan cooking show. Of course, I am sure you can guess the title... Cooking with the Other Julia!  It was a local hit! lol!

In my novel, XVI, the society is vegetarian. Eating meat is illegal - mainly because there are very few animals left in the world. So... there's lots of seitan burgers, tofu fries and other vegetarian/vegan delights in the book. But, because the League's readership may not be ready for tofu cheezecake... I offer up my award-winning (non-vegan) chocolate cake recipe.

Three layer chocolate cake with chocolate icing.

cream together
1 cup (2 sticks) softened butter
1-3/4 cup sugar
1 T. vanilla

add
3 eggs - beat well

sift together
1 cup cocoa
2-1/4 cups regular flour
1 tsp baking soda
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Add to butter mixture alternately with 1-3/4 cups milk.

Divide between 3 greased/cocoa-ed (rather than floured) 9" baking pans.

Bake for 25-30 minutes in 350 degree oven.
Let cool in pans for 10 minutes
Remove from pans & continue to cool
Fill & spread with Chocolate Frosting

Chocolate Frosting
1 cup (2 sticks) softened butter
4 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
2 tsp vanilla
4 to 5 T. milk

Mix all & beat until smooth. Spread between layers and on top of cooled chocolate cake.

Enjoy!

I apologize for lack of pictures... *licks beaters* Maybe next week.

Foodie Week! Turkish Delight

Hi Leaguers! Well, next week is Thanksgiving, and we here at the League are thankful for two things: food and time off. So we're taking next week off, and this week we're celebrating our favorite food from books!

I know we're supposed to be all about dystopian and sci fi and all...but guys? Sci fi food sometimes grosses me out, and they don't eat good stuff at the end of the world. So I'm going to dip my toe in fantasy and today I'll be showing you how to make my favorite fantasy treat: Turkish Delight.


My favorite books of all time are the Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis. They influenced my life in ways I can't even describe. As such, I've always been a little jealous of this guy:



NOT because he gets tempted by the witch, betrays his whole family, MISSES PRESENTS FROM SANTA CLAUS, and is basically responsible for every bad thing in the first book--but all because he gets this:

This, my friends, is a massive amount of sugar-filled Turkish Delight.

So, first things first: I needed a recipe. I tried to make Turkish Delight once before and...it failed miserably. Y'all, I had to throw out the pan.

But...Turkish Delight is hard to make. There's ingredients from, I dunno, Turkey or something, and I don't know how to make or get Rose Water. I briefly considered dunking roses in water, but then I found this recipe from Cooks.com that uses gelatin instead of Rose Water and other exotic ingredients.

First things first: I gathered ingredients:
You'll note that I have vanilla and a candy thermometer in the pic--
I was going to try a more complicated recipe before I said, "screw that" and took the easier route.

Then I started following the recipe. I'll just go ahead here and say that if you decide to follow my footsteps and use this recipe...don't. Or at least re-translate it into easier to read directions. The ingredients list requires separating several ingredients and argh.

So: Step One--soften three packs of unflavored gelatin in some apple juice.


Unflavored gelatine apparently has no flavor...but it does kinda stink. Yuck.

Next step: boil apple juice and sugar. Things are going swimmingly at this point. I didn't take a picture of that--it's just boiling juice. While the juice and sugar boiled, I mixed lemon juice, lime juice, and cornstarch.


This is the beginning of the end. You can't tell from that innocent picture above, but guys--that cornstarch turned rock-hard with the juice. Eventually--miraculously?--it sort of liquified, but this was a sign of things to come, I fear.

Meanwhile, the gelatin was "softening." Which I guess is fancy cook speak for "turning into a crumbly smelly mess":


Next step: mix the boiling juice-sugar mixture with the "softened" gelatine and the cornstarch mess.


Can you tell what's in the pan? Somehow, once I mixed everything up...it all sort of lumpy-fied. There's chunks of gelatin and long thin slivers of cornstarch mix. I stirred as fast as I could, then upgraded to a whisk, but I never could get all those lumps out. I actually think it would have gone better if I'd softened the gelatin for a lot less time, and if I shook the cornstarch into the mix slowly (like how you make gravy) instead of dumping it in as a thick liquid.

Next, the recipe called for a 9x12 pan that had been dipped in cold water. Well, having once tried this many times before (remember the pan I had to throw away?) I decided instead to dust the pan with powdered sugar.


Then I poured the chunky-gloopy mess inside:

Can you see the chunks?

On the bright side, the bits around the chunks seem to be very candy-like. My plan: eat around the chunks. Or feed the chunks to my husband and/or dog.

The recipe calls for it to be refrigerated for 12 hours, then cut, doused in powdered sugar, and eaten. I put the pan in the fridge when it was cool enough to go, but it's not quite set yet. At least, I hope it's not quite set yet. It's still pretty gooey. It's not something I could exactly cut so much as spoon.

I'm going to hide it in the fridge for awhile longer.

Maybe the husband won't notice.

I hope I don't have to throw away the pan...

So! My advice for making Turkish Delight? Just buy it!

The Backstory

So this is a dystopian/science fiction blog for young adults. We talk about writing, the genre, philosophies, books, etc. I've been reading a lot of dystopian novels lately (and for a while). Sometimes when I go to star them on Goodreads, I'll get sucked into the reviews.

And something I've seen recently is readers commenting on the lack of backstory. Yeah, you read that right. The lack of backstory. They want to know at some point how the world evolved from our present state to the storyworld that exists in the book.

I've been thinking about it a lot lately. I think it's something the author knows--they have to know--and requires careful placement in the novel so readers can find out in an authentic way. But how to do it?

Here's my loose guide:
1. Drop us into the world in the first chapter, but make sure to slip in one-sentence explanations in the narrative. I think the best way to do this is to allow the MC have an opinion on the society. Or be in a heightened emotional state about the society. That can allow the reader to get a feel for the world quickly.

2. In the next several chapters, the MC could either conform to the laws of the new world, or defy them. Either way, the author has the opportunity to establish what goes in this society and what doesn't. Along the way, the author can slip in a sentence or two about the society that contributes to the transition, but without really divulging the whole story.

3. Later, when the MC is realizing things they didn't know about their society, carefully insert how the world we know evolved into the one in the book. Not pages and pages, because the reader already knows the laws and intricacies. They've been living it for hundreds of pages. Just a taste, a few sentences or paragraphs maybe, that give more detail of the journey from now to then.

What do you think? In the dystopian/futuristic books you've read, have you been satisfied with the amount of backstory? Have you found yourself wishing you knew more about the transition from this world to the storyworld?

Behemoth

Scott Westerfeld’s BEHEMOTH saved my sanity a few weekends ago. I was stuck in traffic on I-66. Need I say more? Listening to Alan Cumming narrate a great book can make inching forward at a mile an hour almost bearable.

Even if I’d been listening to the book in my normal reading venue—the gym—I would loved BEHEMOTH as much as I did LEVIATHAN. The latter is the first book in Westerfeld’s Steampunk series. I won’t give any plot spoilers, but the setting for both books should intrigue you enough to run out and get them.

It’s the outbreak of World War I. The world, however, is alternate one. Technology and genetic engineering developed early in the Victorian era. The British and other Darwinists have based their technology (and society) on biological “machines” (aka, fabricated beasties). The Germans and the other Clankers base their technology on steam power and mechanical creatures.

This fabulous trailer for LEVIATHAN should give you a good taste for the novels:





Westerfeld alternates between the viewpoints of Dylan / Deryn —a British girl masquerading as boy so she can serve in the navy/air service—and Alec, the son of the assassinated Archduke. The pace is fast. The worlds of both Darwinist and Clanker are fascinating to say the least. And the voice—particularly of Dylan—is fresh and engaging.

I think LEVIATHAN and BEHEMOTH would appeal to both boys and girls. And adults. Barking spiders! It’s a genuinely fun series to read and/or listen to. (Did I mention the great use of language? Westerfeld invented a clean vernacular for the airmen to use.) I can’t wait for the next one.

So do you oil your war machines? Or do you feed them? (If you didn't get this, you didn't watch the trailer, did you?) What other middle grade or young adult Steampunk (or sci fi / adventure stories) have you read and loved? Do they have both strong female and male characters?

btw, have you taken a peak at the Class of 2K11's brand spanking new website? Fellow Leaguer Julia Karr and I are members, and we are kicking off our year with a big thank you to the Class of 2K10.  Drop by and enter to win a whole slew of books.

Your Writing Tics

Hi all,

Just hit a new stage of the publishing process that I thought some of you might find interesting: line edits.

For those of you that don't know, line edits come after all the major editing work has been done. The story has been hammered into shape, the character arcs are working, all that big stuff. Lines edits are changes that live down on the word, sentence and paragraph level and they're where you start learning alot about your personal tics as a writer. And let me tell ya, it can be scary.

What have I learned? Well apparently...
  • I don't know when to use toward instead of towards.
  • I don't know the difference between farther and further. 
  • I think it's okay to spell okay, OK.
  • I love to compare things to ghosts, stars, birds and boulders. Seriously, I can't stop myself.
  • I sometimes go a bit metaphor crazy and should just let my verb choice do the work for me.
  • I have my characters use the words "a bit" way more than any real human uses them.
  • I have the ability to use the same verb 5 times in one paragraph without realizing it.
Trust me, I could go on and on and I want to thank the kick ass editorial team of David Levithan and Cassandra Pelham for setting me straight on things. It's amazing, if occasionally mortifying, to have a couple pros go over your work with such a find toothed comb. I'll definitely be keeping these kinds of writing tics in mind from now on. 

How about you all? When you look back of your own writing do you notice any little tics? Words or phrases you use over and over? Common grammar misunderstandings?


Jeff Hirsch
The Long Walk Home
Coming from Scholastic, Fall 2011


Find me at jeff-hirsch.com and @jeff_hirsch

Let's Par-Tay!

I saw a tweet about a dinner party blog post from a friend of mine. I haven’t read the entry yet, but the first thing I thought was it must be about who, from the pages of a book or the scenes on a screen, you would invite to a dinner party. Then, I thought about some pairings at a fictional dystopian/sci fi dinner party and wondered what the conversation might be between certain characters. Here are a few I imagined:
Katniss (The Hunger Games) and Guy Montag (Fahrenheit 451)
O’Brien (1984) and Violet (Feed)
Jenna Fox (The Adoration of Jenna Fox) and Thomas (The Maze Runner)
Petta (The Hunger Games) and Mitsuki (Battle Royale)
And, people I would just like to have there:
Gale (The Hunger Games)
Han Solo (Star Wars)
Alex (A Clockwork Orange)
How about your dinner party? Who would you invite?

The Westerfeld Report

Okay, so I don't think it's a secret that I adore like Scott Westerfeld. He only wrote the dystopian novel that inspired me to write one. And the best YA contemporary I've read, well, probably ever.

So when I found out he was coming to my neck of the woods, I jumped on that airship pretty darn fast. He spoke for an hour, and said some really cool stuff about writing and just life.

At the end, he took questions. One teen asked him why his books (and Stephenie Meyers'--ha!) were so popular while some don't get that attention.


I looked at my writing pal, and could tell that we were both thinking the same thing: Riddle me that, Westerfeld.

Because it's such a great question. Why do some books get the buzz and others don't?

Westerfeld's answer (this isn't word for word): If a book can get people talking about it, then it will be more successful. Because when we like a book, we tell all our friends to read it so we can then talk about it.

I thought that was a great answer. There's nothing I love more than to talk about books. So I ask you: Why do some books get more buzz than others? And what books have you read lately that are worth talking about?