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Category: fantasy

Not just for kids: Andrea Cremer discusses 'Bloodrose'

BloodroseAndrea Cremer spent years studying -- and teaching about -- slavery and sexuality before spinning her expertise into the fantastical, feminist saga of witches and werewolves known as the "Nightshade" trilogy. Her bestselling series for young adult readers concludes with "Bloodrose," to be released Jan. 3. I recently caught up with the Minnesota-based author to talk about the books and an ending that shocked even her editor.

Jacket Copy: One of the things readers relate to with "Nightshade" is the double standard applied to Calla and Ren. Ren's allowed to be a playboy, but Calla, whom he's supposed to marry, has to remain chaste. That's a double bind that doesn't only exist in fantasy but continues to thrive in the real world as we kick off 2012. Why is that idea alluring to you?

Andrea Cremer: I'm very much a feminist, and as a girl I was so needing strong young women to be heroines to me in the books I read. Eowyn in Lord of the Rings, I lived for the moment when she ripped off her helmet and said, "No living man am I!" I wanted a character with all those qualities, but the parameters of society were constantly around her telling her she couldn't do that. You're allowed to be a warrior but only to a certain extent before she would have to submit to someone else, and that someone else was always going to be a man.

JC: That brings up another idea you tackle -- society's fear of the powerful female and its desire to suppress her. Calla needs to prove she's the pack's alpha, but there are forces working against that.

AndreacremerAC: Sexuality and sexual awakening were key for me to explore in this book because so often the "boys will be boys" attitude is still so dominant in contemporary society. It is not considered to be the norm or even healthy for girls to be aware of their sexuality unless it's coquettish. If you're not using your sexuality to get a life mate, then you're a whore. That's really what I wanted to work against. Women who are sexually self-actualized are dangerous, but only to those people who want to control them.

JC: It makes sense that you'd explore these ideas in the context of witchcraft and warfare, which you also teach at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn. Why are you attracted to those subjects?

AC: The war that was waged on witches is so much about subverting female power. In the early modern period, 1500 to 1800, witchcraft was redefined from being something where magic was tied into folk medicine and could be helpful to being malicious and aligned with the devil. Warfare for me, I love weapons, so that's the geeky part of it, but it's really how multilayered warfare is. You have so many class and social components. The infantry comes from the lower and working classes and the generals and kings are elite, but they're all brought together for this machine that is war for really diverse reasons that are all tied into social, religious and cultural belief. War for me is simply a space where all the dynamics of history I'm interested in tend to converge in a really amplified and intense way.

More from the interview with Andrea Cremer -- including possible spoilers -- after the jump.

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Not Just for Kids: 'Daughter of Smoke & Bone' -- the movie

DaughterofsmokeandboneSince Laini Taylor's "Daughter of Smoke & Bone" was released in September, the first book in a trilogy about a tattooed, blue-haired angel falling for a winged devil with a "gaze like a lit fuse" has found its way onto the 2011 best books lists of Publishers Weekly, Amazon.com and the Huffington Post.

Now it's being picked up for a movie. Universal Pictures announced Wednesday that it has acquired worldwide rights to the young-adult fantasy novel, publishing rights for which have already been picked up in 25 countries.

"My goal is always to write stories that readers will want to climb inside of and live in, and which -- I hope -- will allow them to just lose themselves in the page," the Portland, Ore.-based author said in a statement announcing the Universal acquisition.

"It is a hugely thrilling prospect to think about Universal and filmmakers translating my world onscreen and giving it a second life in such a grand way. I'm over the moon."

Taylor is the author of three other novels, including "Blackbringer," "Silksinger" and the National Book Award finalist, "Lips Touch: Three Times."

LainitaylorThe second book in Taylor's "Daughter of Smoke & Bone" trilogy will be published in September.


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Photos: "Daughter of Smoke & Bone" book cover, Laini Taylor author photo. Credit: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Harry Potter's wizardry coming to L.A. theme park

Harry Potter has already made the move from books to screens to amusements -- the Wizarding World of Harry Potter has been wildly -- magically -- successful at Universal's Orlando Islands of Adventure theme park. On Tuesday, officials toasted with Butterbeer when announcing that Harry Potter would be coming to Universal Studios Hollywood.

Brady MacDonald reports:

Conventional wisdom holds that the California park will feature a replica of the Hogsmeade village and Hogwarts castle found in Florida. Forbidden Journey is generally considered to be the best ride in the amusement industry and a likely addition. Hogwarts was purposely built a few feet taller than the castle down the road at the Magic Kingdom. Expect a similar nose-thumbing in the general direction of Anaheim....

It's possible the California Wizarding World could be completely different from the Florida version. One possibility: an authentic re-creation of Diagon Alley complete with a Leaky Cauldron restaurant, a Gringotts Wizarding Bank indoor roller coaster and an Ollivander's wand shop (misplaced in Hogsmeade village at the Florida park).

Although Harry Potter is family-friendly enough to be turned into a popular theme park attraction, the books by J.K. Rowling remain among the most frequently challenged in schools and libraries.


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Photo: Actors James, left, and Oliver Phelps (who play Fred and George Weasely) toast with Butterbeer following the announcement of the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Credit: Phil McCarten/ Reuters

Not Just for Kids: Author Tahereh Mafi discusses 'Shatter Me'

Shatter MeIn Tahereh Mafi's young-adult debut, "Shatter Me," a young woman is jailed for something she has no ability to control. Whomever she touches, she kills. Whether that's a gift or a curse she discovers over time -- and with the help of an attractive cellmate. We caught up with the Orange County author to talk about the kickoff to her much-talked-about trilogy.

Jacket Copy: One of the more intriguing aspects about your book is your decision to strike out sections of text and let the reader see the words the main character is contemplating but ultimately rejects. Why did you use this technique?

Tahereh Mafi: I never made a conscious decision to use strikethroughs in the novel; they just became an organic way to express the chaos and turmoil in Juliette's mind. When we first meet her, she's been in isolation for 264 days; she hasn't spoken a single word in just as long. She's struggling with reality, too petrified to speak, not even trusting the things she writes down in her journal. But as her character develops -- and the story progresses -- the strikethroughs lessen as well.

JC: Some readers consider "Shatter Me" a dystopian fantasy because it takes place in an environmentally degraded landscape with an oppressive government, while others view it as a paranormal romance due to Juliette's "gift" and romantic liaisons. Do you think one is more accurate than the other?

TM: It’s more of a dystopian novel with paranormal elements even though the romance is a central theme in the story. Juliette has this lethal touch, so it’s considered paranormal in our world, but in her world it isn't.

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Take a look at 'The Hunger Games' trailer [Video]

The first installment of Suzanne Collins' "The Hunger Games" trilogy is coming to screens in March 2012, but fans can get a look inside now. This new trailer, released Monday, shows the setup: Katniss volunteers to be one of the contestants to save her sister from being drafted.

It shows the game itself to have the artificial gleam of "Dancing with the Stars," the youthful competition of "American Idol," the frenetic start of "The Amazing Race" and to be as lethal as "The Running Man." It's "intense," writes New York Magazine's Culture Vulture, which has decided "this looks genuinely awesome."

Some fans of the books thought Josh Hutcherson was a bad choice for Peeta, and couldn't see Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss. Watching them now, what do you think?


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How to make a book trailer for $50,000


Oh, the book trailer. What's it for, really? Who watches it, exactly? Can it sell a book? Does it matter if book trailers are going Hollywood? Our On Location column visits book trailer producer the Other House, owned by Chris Roth and three partners, on set to see the lay of the movies-meet-publishing land.

The company already has produced more than 50 spots for publishing giants Random House and St. Martin's Press, most of them shot locally, Roth said. The 15-to-30-second spots air on cable channels such as Sci-Fi and MTV, Internet outlets including Google TV and Hulu, online gaming sites and at movie theaters.

"We're doing four or five of these a month, and there are no signs of this letting up," said Roth. "The budgets just keep growing."...

Roth's book trailers cost as much as $50,000 each, and involve a full complement of actors, computer-generated effects, costumes and set designs with the high production values of a movie trailer. The book trailers, which often appear on social media sites, help to spur book sales, in much the same way movie trailers help market Hollywood films, said Nancy Trypuc, senior director for creative services at St. Martin's Press.

"It's a way for us to try to excite people prior to the book's publication,'' said Trypuc. "We find, especially in the paranormal space, that fans are really attracted to things like this."

Among the book trailers that the Other House has made are two for bestselling author Sherrilyn Kenyon's urban fantasy novels. The trailer for "Retribution" has been seen 125,000 times on YouTube and the one for "The Guardian" 285,000 times. Those trailers are after the jump.

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Stephen King plans to donate up to $70,000 to heat Maine homes


With federal budget cuts taking a bite out of a charitable fund that helps lower-income Maine residents heat their homes, author Stephen King announced plans Wednesday to help bridge the gap. His Stephen and Tabitha King Charitable Foundation will match up to $70,000 donated to Maine's heating oil fund, with hopes that they can raise $140,000 total.

King no longer lives year-round in Bangor, Maine, but he returns there and owns three local radio stations that will spread the word about the effort, the Bangor Daily News reports. “We’ll match up to $70,000 of the amount raised,” King said. “This economy is terrible and Tabitha and I both worry so much about Bangor because it truly is a working-class town and we are always looking for ways to help, and right now this is a great need.”

King added, “And on top of it the price of fuel continues to rise. The cost goes up, the need goes up and the assistance goes down. That’s the bottom line. That’s what is happening.”

Last winter the federal government gave Maine $55.6 million for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program; the state learned last month that this winter's funds will be just $23 million. The Bangor News writes that people are "desperate to find help to fill their oil tanks." The governor plans to seek funds to fill the gap from the Maine Legislature.

The average high temperature in Bangor during the winter months is just around freezing, with lows averaging around 11 degrees; in 1962, it recorded a record low of 30 degrees below zero.


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Photo: A house in a 2008 Maine snowstorm. Credit: Anathea via Flickr

The new Lord of the Rings video game


The new Lord of the Rings video game, "Lord of the Rings: War in the North," takes its cue from J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Return of the King." The Warner Bros. Interactive title, developed by Snowblind Studios, was released Tuesday. It features, as you can see, some pretty fearsome graphics.

Our sibling blog Hero Complex talked to the game-makers. "The Tolkien story has so much depth to it, and it's really important to be accurate to that and keep things true to Tolkien's vision," says lead game designer Andre Maguire. "There’s a dichotomy with it being an RPG, since they are choice-driven, while the Tolkien vision needs to be a very true and accurate thing."

Nevertheless, Maguire explained they had "different characters that weren't in the movies that we've been able to visualize and bring in. Also different areas of middle-earth that were never before in a game. So we've been able to invent the looks of these places that were described in the books in a unique way."

Some video game fans have found "Lord of the Rings: War in the North" disappointing. At G4, Morgan Webb writes that it's "an action RPG that fails on many levels." Well, if it's really that bad, they can always check out the action-packed "The Return of the King: Being the Third Part of Lord of the Rings"  in its original 544-page version.


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Image: Farin the dwarf champion faces off against a troll. Credit: Warner Bros. Interactive

George R.R. Martin joins Kindle million-seller club


Amazon announced Monday that George R.R. Martin, author of the Song of Ice and Fire series, has become the 10th author to sell 1 million Kindle e-books.

The popular series, the basis for the HBO television series "Game of Thrones," has just five, fairly massive books: "A Game of Thrones," "A Clash of Kings," "A Storm of Swords," "A Feast for Crows," and "A Dance with Dragons." The long-awaited "A Dance with Dragons" was published in July to an enthusiastic reception, debuting at #2 on Amazon. It remains on the LA Times bestseller list after spending five weeks at No. 1.

Series have helped propel many of the authors who have already sold a million Kindle ebooks, including James Patterson, Charlaine Harris, Stieg Larsson, Lee Child, Suzanne Collins, Michael Connelly and Janet Evanovich. Nora Roberts' popular romance novels have made her a Kindle million-seller. John Locke is the only independent author to have reached a million Kindle ebook sales; Kathryn Stockett, author of "The Help," is the only one to sell a million Kindle ebooks with a single title.

A series, of course, is no guarantee of becoming a million-ebook seller. Stephenie Meyer, author of the "Twilight" series, was among the first five authors to reach 500,000 Kindle ebook sales in July 2010, but she still hasn't crossed the 1-million mark.


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Photo: George R.R. Martin speaks at a Television Critics Assn. meeting in January. Credit: Mario Anzuoni / Reuters

Mysterious Galaxy Books opens in Redondo Beach today


If you're in Redondo Beach, step into Mysterious Galaxy Books, which threws its doors open for the first time Tuesday morning. Mysterious Galaxy, which focuses on the genres of mystery and science fiction and their nearby constellations, has been operating in San Diego since 1993; the Redondo Beach location is its second store.

While the bookstore promises a monthlong grand opening this fall, Tuesday is full of celebratory events, including food trucks in the parking lot and a signing at 7:30 p.m. by Denise Hamilton, author of the Eve Diamond series. Her new book is the surf noir "Damage Control."

"We gutted a building and completely 100% renovated it," owner Terry Louchheim Gilman said Tuesday. Located at 2810 Artesia Avenue, the new Mysterious Galaxy occupies about 4,000 square feet; a cafe is coming soon.

It's no timid undertaking in a climate that seems inhospitable to bookstores. Borders is in the process of closing the last of its hundreds of stores nationwide. On the store's blog, Gilman writes:

Almost every day people ask us how we can possibly open a bookstore in the current climate, with bookstores closing and eBooks catching on in such a big way. Our answer is that we think this is exactly the right time to open an independent bookstore. We think that people treasure their communities and especially bookstores, because they bring them together and introduce them to new reading experiences and the authors that write the books that they love.

Gilman had an inside track on the new location. The building was built by her grandfather and is still in  her family.

The grand opening starts Oct. 9 and lasts for weeks, featuring almost daily events with some big bestsellers. Orson Scott Card, Larry Block and Charlaine Harris, author of the popular Sooky Stackhouse novels, will all be signing books in Redondo Beach.

Apart from special events, Mysterious Galaxy Books is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. It inherited those hours from the San Diego store -- if the Redondo Beach community clamors for something different, it plans to adjust accordingly.


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