Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Road Trip Wednesday - Books of 2011

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

We'd love for you to participate! Just answer the prompt on your own blog and leave a link -- or, if you prefer, you can include your answer in the comments.

This Week's Topic: What were your top five favorite books of 2011?

For an avid reader, this is a truly horrible question to face. I read so many books this year, it's really challenging to narrow it down to only five. However, I've done my very best. A few of these are books that didn't come out this year, but that I only got around to reading in 2011. 

1. The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins 

2. The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan 

3. Logan's Run by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson 

4. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman 

5. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams 

This is my finalized list (there was a lot of agonizing over which ones made the cut). They were all incredible, and if you haven't already read them, you really, really should. What were some of your favorite books of 2011?

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Holidays with a Bang

This year, my holidays can de described in one word – explosive.

It all began with my birthday, which falls exactly one week before Christmas. My friends took me out for dinner, and then headed over to my apartment to hang out. I originally planned for us to all watch Christmas movies, but since several of my friends don't celebrate the holiday, that plan was quickly modified. Instead we decided to watch one of my all-time favorite movies . . .
Set during a Christmas party and featuring both Santa Clause and Christmas carols, but with an action-centric plot revolving around a terrorist take-over and lots of explosions, it seemed the ideal choice. Plus, it's a classic.

Less than a week later I headed out to my parent's house for our Christmas Eve celebrations. With the overcrowded malls and bitter cold weather keeping us trapped indoors, we decided to start a new television series we'd been DVR-ing called Strike Back: Project Dawn. Having seen a few clips previously, I was afraid it would be much too violent for me (as great a fan of action movies as I am, I'm still a little squeamish about blood and torture). However, it turned out to be an incredible show. The plot was gripping, the sequences electrifying, and the characters hysterical – the byplay between the protagonists Scott and Stonebridge had me howling with laughter. Not to mentioned drooling . . .

It’s possibly one of the most entertaining shows I've seen in years. (For those of you who have never heard of Strike Back, it's reminiscent of MI-5, The Kingdom and 24 – I highly recommend it.)

Last but not least, our Christmas Day movie. Every year for Christmas my parents and I eat a holiday dinner with my aunt, uncle and cousin, and then we all head out to the movies (a tradition that started with Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring). This year we decided to see Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol . . . yet another action flick. Though it wasn’t, in my opinion, quite as amazing as Mission Impossible III, I loved the comical side characters (particularly the hilarious Simon Pegg and sexy Jeremy Renner), harrowing break-ins and, once again, exhilarating action sequences.

Needless to say this holiday has been full of guns, fist-fights and explosives. And It's. Been. Awesome.

There's nothing more festive than watching a couple rough-around-the-edges heroes kick a little bad guy butt. Especially when it's with your amazing family who recognize the true genius of witty repartee amidst an intense gun fight and a good car chase.  

Hope everyone's Christmas was as awesome as mine. Happy holidays!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas for the Criminally Insane (or the Criminal AND Insane)

Every year around the holidays things get a little crazy on the home front. Gift shopping, holiday baking, tree decorating, stringing up lights, family visits and, the cherry on top, my birthday (which coincidentally is today).  However, this year things have taken a turn for the criminal.

It all began with an elementary school science project . . .

A few weeks ago I was home visiting my parents when a friend of the family called our house in a panic. Her eight-year-old daughter desperately needed snails for a science fair project due the next week. They found a place to order them on-line, only the company (heretofore known as Snails-R-Us) only ships to two states – Texas and New Mexico.  They live in Louisiana. Fortunately for them, we lives in Houston.

Happy to help, we agreed that she could have the snails shipped to our house . . . however, we still faced the challenge of getting them to her in Louisiana. Shipping them was out. To attempt that would be mail snail fraud. So instead we hatched a plan to meet at the Texas/Louisiana border for the exchange.

Of course, these sorts of endeavors rarely run smoothly.  First, Snails-R-Us cancelled the order because it was made with a Louisiana credit card. My mom then had to re-order the snails and pay an extra fee for express delivery in order to get them in time. Then the snails got lost somewhere between the snail farm and our house, resulting in several hours of phone calls, endless frustration, and a high stakes game of Marco-Polo via walkie talkies.

Stupid snail mail.

But finally – FINALLY – we received the wayward snails and sped our way to the drop point. Thus began our new careers as illicit snail dealers.  

Unfortunately, the insanity didn’t end there. A few days after the snail incident, my mom and I were sitting in the kitchen when our good friend and neighbor came knocking at the door. She was trying to send out Christmas cards to her nieces and nephews and wanted to slip twenty dollars into each one. Only, because they were Christmas presents, she didn’t want any wrinkled twenty dollar bills; she insisted that each one had to be perfect. Since everything we in our wallets looked like vending machine rejects, the three of us headed to the bank where we annoyed numerous customers lined up behind us as  three different bank tellers dug around for the crispest twenties they could find. Sadly, they came up a few short (my neighbor apparently has an OVERABUNDANCE of nieces and nephews). 

However, as we drove home my resourceful mother got an idea. She hauled out our iron and got to work on the remaining wrinkled bills. And in case you’re wondering, yes, you absolutely CAN iron United States currency. It took about forty-five minutes, but by the time we were done, we had a nice stack of freshly pressed twenty dollar bills. So how did we spend our Friday afternoon?  

Money laundering . . .

That’s right. We deal snails. We launder money. What can I say, we’re rebels. Never a dull moment in the Hennessy household.  Happy wacky holidays!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Can You Guess My Character's Age?

Brenda Drake Writes is hosting the Can We Guess Your Character's Age Blogfest! I'm supposed to post the first 250 words of my manuscript and here, and everyone can guess how old he is in order to find out whether his voice matches his age. See more details about the contest here.

Meet Jack Cooper, from my newly untitled (I'm working on coming up with a brand, spanking new title) manuscript . . .

It wasn’t every day that Jack Cooper got the tar beat out of him, or even most days. But it happened often enough that his mother merely sighed when he walked in with a bloody nose and holes in his semi-new jeans. Jack shot her one sullen look as he dropped his book bag onto the kitchen table and grabbed a pack of frozen peas from the freezer. She put down the fluffy, white miniature poodle she held and fussed over her son.

“What happened pumpkin?” Lissy Cooper asked, pushing the peas aside to better inspect his nose.

He pulled his chin out of her hand and placed the cold bag back on his aching face. “I tripped and accidentally ran into Ricky Navardo’s fist.”

She puckered her lipstick pink lips in concern. “Oh, baby. Do I need to speak with Principal White again?”

“No mom, I’d rather you not tattle on me,” he snapped.

“Okay okay,” she held up her hands in acquiescence. “But someone needs to do something about that nasty Navardo boy. He’s picked on you for nearly two years now.”

Jack rolled his eyes. “Something tells me discussing it with the principal won’t help.” He headed for the back stairs leading up to his room.

“Where you goin’ hon?”

“To throw myself out a window,” he muttered.

“Well, if you want something to eat later just come down and I’ll make it for you,” she called to his disappearing back.

Not bothering to answer, Jack shut his door and dropped onto the bed. His mother had a point; Ricky Navardo was a menace.

Thanks for reading! Let me know what you think Jack's age is (or any other comments you may have)!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Insecure Writer's Support Group

It’s the first Wednesday of the month, and time for another Insecure Writer’s Support Group post. So here’s my insecurity for December. . .

What if my book is only as good as my title? I found out recently that I have to change the title of my novel – and it’s killing me. Truth be told, it’s because of the title that I wrote the book in the first place. I was joking around with a friend and said something along the lines of “wouldn’t it be interesting if there was training manual called The Evil Overlord Society’s Guide to Becoming an Evil Overlord”. And then, because we agreed it would be interesting and there wasn’t one already . . . I wrote it. While a few people told me it was too long, or too ridiculous, or too fill-in-the-blank, most people agreed that it was awesome. Including my agent.

Unfortunately, after some discussion, my agent and I decided that my story had progressed beyond what my title suggested. It wasn’t a guide to evil overlordom anymore; it’s about three high school misfits on the road to becoming superheroes. And while I love the way the plot turned out, I am LOATH to change what is perhaps the best (and catchiest) title I’ve ever come up with.

How am I ever going to come up with something better? I don’t think I can. And while I think (or at least hope) my plot holds up, will anyone bother to pick it up off the shelf if I can’t come up with something just as interesting?

Friday, December 2, 2011

How My iPhone is Trying to Kill Me

Let me begin by saying that, like every other person these days, I own a smart phone. An iPhone 4 in fact. And it’s amazing. It’s like a pocket-sized computer – I can keep a detailed electronic schedule on it, check my email, listen to podcasts, waste time on YouTube, etc. And like every other person who owns a smart phone, every year I eagerly await the release of the newest versions and updates.

However, the day the iPhone 4S came out and I heard about the new “Siri” function, I began to get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. The kind of feeling children get when they know there’s a monster in the closet and their parents simply won’t believe them. Silly parents – monsters exist. And just as surely as they exist, iPhones are plotting our demise.

Go ahead, laugh at this statement if you think I’m paranoid. But a warning to those of you who do . . . you’ll be the first to go. For those of you who are wisely taking this post seriously, here’s what you need to know.

SIRI IS NOT TO BE TRUSTED. You think she’s all helpful and convenience, giving you directions, reminding you about your dad’s birthday and what you need to buy at the store. But you’re wrong! Siri is a double agent for the machines. Siri is here to gather intelligence and report back to the Mothership. And we’re feeding here everything the machines need to destroy us. What medicines we need, where we gather for meetings, what we like to eat and drink. Our strengths and weaknesses. Siri knows everything about us. And it’s our own fault – we willingly offer her this information. We’re like moronic lambs, walking in a single file line toward slaughter. With great, big smiles on our face.

And people think I’m the crazy one.

Doesn’t anyone watch movies anymore?!?! I mean, come on. The Terminator, I Robot, Eagle Eye, The Matrix – these movies are WARNING us not to place our trust in machines. But we do it anyways. And one day, when they rise up and try to kill us all . . . well, I just don’t think “I told you so” is gonna cut it. Especially not when we’re being picked off left and right.

Laugh at me if you must. Call me paranoid. But please, BEWARE the iPhone.

If you don’t hear from me again, you can assume the iPhones on which some of you are probably reading this post have learned that I’m onto them and done their best to silence me. So, just in case, I’d like to say that it’s been a pleasure knowing you.

And if you’re reading this, remember . . .

You are the resistance.