Rick Riordan's Blog, page 5

May 3, 2013

Today is the publication day for Mark of Athena in Brazil. Check out some of the fun promotional items my Brazilian publisher Intrinseca has created for the book!


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Published on May 03, 2013 15:08 • 1,083 views

April 28, 2013

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As you can guess, I’m a sucker for all kinds of mythology, and this middle grade/YA fantasy is steeped in the myth and magic of Nigeria. </div><div class="MsoNormal"><br /></div><div class="MsoNormal">Our main character is Sunny, a twelve-year-old girl born in the U.S. but recently moved to her parents’ homeland of Nigeria. Sunny stands out in more ways than one – she’s albino, she’s a prodigy at soccer, and she’s teased at school for being an <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">akata</i>(literally a ‘wild animal’) because she is from America. Sunny also has to deal with her family’s complicated past. Her grandmother, whom Sunny never met, was a mysterious figure that Sunny’s mother refuses to talk about, and Sunny’s parents aren’t exactly clear about why they decided to move Sunny back to Nigeria.</div><div class="MsoNormal"><br /></div><div class="MsoNormal">Then one night during a blackout, Sunny stares into a candle’s flame and sees a horrifying vision of the end of the world. This is the first sign that Sunny is not like other kids. Her powers have begun to awaken. </div><div class="MsoNormal"><br /></div><div class="MsoNormal">Soon, Sunny makes three new friends who introduce her to the secret world of magic. There is Orlu, her classmate, a kind-hearted boy who has a natural talent for undoing juju spells. There is Chichi, a girl with a smart mouth and a quick wit, who doesn’t go to school and lives in a tiny hut with her strange mother and hundreds of books. Then there is Sasha, an African American boy from Chicago, who was sent to Nigeria for corrective education after terrorizing his classmates back home with an evil spirit – a masquerade. </div><div class="MsoNormal"><br /></div><div class="MsoNormal">Sunny learns that she is one of the Leopard People, a subset of humans who have strong links to the spirit world. The Leopards (as opposed to the Lambs, regular people) have their own society, with centers of juju learning throughout the world. In Nigeria, their town is called Leopard Knocks, and can only be reached by crossing an invisible bridge over a magical river.</div><div class="MsoNormal"><br /></div><div class="MsoNormal">As Sunny begins to master her own powers, she realizes the world is a much more incredible and dangerous place than she imagined. Even the simplest lesson – like visiting a teacher’s house in a forest – could be fatal – and Sunny quickly realizes that she and her three friends are being trained to work as a team for a vital mission. A serial killer is on the loose: Black Hat Otokoto, who is stealing and killing children, often removing their eyes in the process. If that’s not creepy enough, Black Hat is secretly a powerful magician working the most evil kind of juju with human sacrifices. If Sunny and her friends can’t stop him, Sunny’s apocalyptic vision will come true. Can four young Leopard People master enough magic and learn to work together to stop a killer? The answer is by no means certain.</div><div class="MsoNormal"><br /></div><div class="MsoNormal">The book’s premise may sound familiar – a secret society of magic practitioners in the modern world, a group of friends who must master their powers to stop a terrible evil sorcerer. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that Leopard People vs. Lambs is just a takeoff on Wizards vs. Muggles, or Demigods vs. Mortals, or any number of other fantasies in which the heroes find they are special and magical. Sure, Akata Witch has some structural similarities (I particularly loved the fact that ADHD and dyslexia may be signs that you are a Leopard Person – great minds think alike, etc.) but Okorafor’s book is firmly rooted in West African myth, which opens up a world as wondrous as Hogwarts but as different as pepper soup is from tea and crumpets. </div><div class="MsoNormal"><br /></div><div class="MsoNormal">There are too many wonders in this book to describe them all: an artist wasp that builds sculptures out of crumbs and will sting you unless you praise its skill; a juju-powered bus called the funky train, driven by a fast-cussing man named Jesus’s General; a sorceress who lives in a hut at the top of a palm tree; juju knives that can cut pockets out of the air, summon music or carve force fields; and horrible spirits called masquerades, who appear from termite mounds and wield powers so terrible they will kill you or drive you insane if not summoned properly.</div><div class="MsoNormal"><br /></div><div class="MsoNormal">In the world of Leopard People, money is called <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">chittim,</i> and can only be gained by learning. Whenever you cast a new spell or find out something important about your powers, magic money literally falls from the sky – copper the most valuable, gold the least valuable. Any video game fan will appreciate the idea of coins appearing when you defeat an enemy, and personally I felt like <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">chittim </i>fell at my feet whenever I learned about a new monster, spirit or god from Nigerian myth – which happened a lot.</div><div class="MsoNormal"><br /></div><div class="MsoNormal">I used to teach a unit on African folklore in my classroom, but it’s such a huge subject I never really got to do it justice. We would read the animal fables of the Ashanti from Ghana and learn the adinkra symbols. We would read Yoruba myths from Nigeria and learn about the ancient gold-rich kingdoms. We would eventually work our way down to the DR Congo and I would tell the heroic epic of Mwindo from the Nyanga people (Nkuba the lightning hedgehog – best character ever). Still, there are so many cultures in West Africa alone, one could spend a whole year learning stories of gods and heroes and only scratch the surface. </div><div class="MsoNormal"><br /></div><div class="MsoNormal">If you’re tiring of knights, dragons and Merlin-type wizards and are interested in exploring a fresh and different world of magic, try Akata Witch. It’s jam-packed with mythological wonders. Because it is so rich and so different from standard Euro-fantasy fare, some readers may take a little time getting oriented and keeping all the details straight, but it’s well worth the journey. Best of all, the book hints at future adventures for Sunny and her friends. I can’t wait to read more!</div>
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Published on April 28, 2013 13:22 • 1,396 views

April 20, 2013

I had a wonderful time giving the first keynote address for the International Reading Association today in San Antonio. If you're curious, below is the text of my speech:


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mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in;} @list l0:level8 {mso-level-number-format:alpha-lower; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in;} @list l0:level9 {mso-level-number-format:roman-lower; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:right; text-indent:-9.0pt;} @list l1 {mso-list-id:548960401; mso-list-type:hybrid; mso-list-template-ids:-465566020 67698703 67698713 67698715 67698703 67698713 67698715 67698703 67698713 67698715;} @list l1:level1 {mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in;} @list l1:level2 {mso-level-number-format:alpha-lower; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in;} @list l1:level3 {mso-level-number-format:roman-lower; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:right; text-indent:-9.0pt;} @list l1:level4 {mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in;} @list l1:level5 {mso-level-number-format:alpha-lower; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in;} @list l1:level6 {mso-level-number-format:roman-lower; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:right; text-indent:-9.0pt;} @list l1:level7 {mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in;} @list l1:level8 {mso-level-number-format:alpha-lower; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in;} @list l1:level9 {mso-level-number-format:roman-lower; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:right; text-indent:-9.0pt;} ol {margin-bottom:0in;} ul {margin-bottom:0in;} </style> <br /><div class="MsoNormal"><i><span style="font-family: Cambria; mso-ascii-theme-font: minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family: "Times New Roman"; mso-hansi-theme-font: minor-latin;">Reading Myths and the Myths of Reading</span></i></div><div class="MsoNormal"><br /></div><div class="MsoNormal"><br /></div><div class="MsoNormal"><b style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal;">Intro:</b></div><div class="MsoNormal"><br /></div><div class="MsoNormal">The first time I spoke at an IRA convention was right here in San Antonio in 2005. <b style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal;">The Lightning Thief </b>had just come out and there were 15 people in the room. You guys have multiplied! </div><div class="MsoNormal"><br /></div><div class="MsoNormal">It’s an honor to be back, and it’s amazing to reflect on all that’s happened in the last eight years. For me personally, it’s been quite a ride. In 2005, I was a full-time middle school teacher about to take the scary plunge into full-time writing and I had no idea how that was going to go. If I was known for my novels at all, I was known for some adult mystery novels I’d written, set here in San Antonio. But once I quit teaching middle school, I let that series fall away. Being out of the classroom, I lost my motivation to contemplate murder.</div><div class="MsoNormal"><br /></div><div class="MsoNormal">In the last eight years, I’ve written five Percy Jackson novels, three novels about Ancient Egyptian myth, the Kane Chronicles, and now I’m in the home stretch of a <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">second</i>series about demigods in the modern world, The Heroes of Olympus. I’ve received thousands of letters from reading teachers across the world, sharing their sharing success stories of using my books to turn kids into readers. It may sound trite, but as teachers you’ll probably believe me when I say that stories like that are the greatest rewards I can imagine for doing what I do. </div><div class="MsoNormal"><br /></div><div class="MsoNormal">So what am I up to now? I just sent the fourth Heroes of Olympus book to my editor. It’ll be coming out in October. The title is The<b style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal;"> House of Hades,</b> which one reader said sounded like a great place to get a late-night breakfast. The title has caused some confusion online. Another fan wrote that she was extremely anxious to read <b style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal;">The Hose of Hades</b> – just to be clear, that’s a totally different book. </div><div class="MsoNormal"><br /></div><div class="MsoNormal">But today, I thought I’d talk about my experiences with reading mythology – personally, with my sons, and of course with my own students. I call this ‘Reading Myths and the Myths of Reading.’ I’m going to share with you three things I’ve learned about reading myths and why they resonate so well with kids. Then I’ll share with you three myths about reading that over the years, with the help of my students and now my readership, I’ve managed to bust.</div><div class="MsoNormal"><br /></div><div class="MsoNormal"><br /></div><div class="MsoNormal"><b style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal;">Reading Myths</b></div><div class="MsoNormal"><br /></div><div class="MsoNormal">So why are we still reading mythology, even though many of these stories are over three thousand years old?<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">  </span>Why <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">should</i>we be reading myths with our students? First answer:</div><div class="MsoNormal"><br /></div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpFirst" style="mso-list: l1 level1 lfo1; text-indent: -.25in;"><span style="mso-bidi-font-family: Cambria; mso-bidi-theme-font: minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family: Cambria; mso-fareast-theme-font: minor-latin;"><span style="mso-list: Ignore;">1.<span style="font: 7.0pt "Times New Roman";">     </span></span></span><b style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal;">Mythology has something for every reader. </b><span style="mso-spacerun: yes;"> </span>It’s a rare form of literature that appeals to almost <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">every</i> reader. In fact, mythology may be unique in this regard. I couldn’t always get each of my students interested in poetry, or nonfiction, or realistic fiction, but with very little effort, I could engage pretty much 100% of the class in a mythology unit. I don’t think it’s an accident that the first type of literature singled out as mandatory in the common core is the classic myth.</div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle"><br /></div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle">You want edgy romance for your ‘new adult’ readers? Check. Forget <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">50 Shades of Grey</i>. Relationships don’t get much more sadomasochistic than the marriage of Hera and Zeus.</div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle"><br /></div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle">You want adventure for your reluctant readers? Check. You can plunge into the depths of Tartarus or climb the heights of Olympus. You can descend into the Labyrinth to fight the Minotaur or track down a dragon guarding a horde of golden apples at the end of the earth. </div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle"><br /></div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle">You want a thoughtful exploration of the human condition for the discerning future English teachers in your class? Again, check. Explain to me why Jason’s relationship with Medea falls apart, and you have delved deeply into why humans fall in love, why they break their word, why they seek revenge and forgiveness.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">  </span>If you can understand why Hephaestus loves his parents, in spite of them chucking him off a mountain, or why Aphrodite is drawn to the blustery jerk like Ares, then you’ve understood something essential about what makes humans tick.</div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle"><br /></div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle">The deeper you go into mythology, the more you find. After writing five Percy Jackson books, I was sure I’d pretty much exhausted Greek mythology. Wrong! Even now, after writing four additional books about Percy’s world, I’m still finding myths I didn’t know about, and lessons that resonate. </div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle"><br /></div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle">Case in point: And I will announce this here for the first time, right now I’m working on a new book of the Greek myths, told from Percy Jackson’s point of view. My hope is to offer the original stories, but told in a modern perspective that appeals to our kids today. I decided to set aside the earlier anthologies, as much as I love them – Hamilton, D’Aulaires, Evslin, Greene – because the writing is a little dated. Instead, I’ve leapfrogged straight back to the primary sources. I’m using Ovid, Hesiod, Homer and many others, and trying to cast the entire scope of Greek mythology afresh. John Rocco, who does my covers, is illustrating, and we’re hoping to create something that’s going to be useful in your libraries and classrooms.</div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle"><br /></div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle">Anyway, one of my goals is to include lesser-known myths along with the ones kids often hear. Most anthologies only offer a taste of what’s available in the primary sources. While researching for the book, I came across one particular myth I’d never heard before, the story of Erisikhthon and Demeter’s sacred grove. Erisikhthon tries to cut down Demeter’s sacred trees and is cursed with eternal hunger.</div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle"><br /></div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle">As I was writing down this story, and it struck me: this is a myth about addiction. It perfectly captures the obsession and heartbreak of someone who devotes his life to chasing a need that can’t be satisfied. Erisikhthon loses his possessions, his pride, his house just to buy food that can never fill him. Finally he’s even willing to sell his own daughter to serve his need. It’s absolutely tragic, and it’s absolutely timely. Why are we not reading this myth with our middle school and high school kids? The story certainly struck me in a very personal way. Addiction is something I have seen in my friends, my family, and certainly in the lives of my students. And here it is, captured in a myth that is three thousand years old.</div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle"><br /></div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle">Mythology has something for every reader.</div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpLast"><br /></div><div class="MsoNormal"><br /></div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpFirst" style="mso-list: l1 level1 lfo1; text-indent: -.25in;"><span style="mso-bidi-font-family: Cambria; mso-bidi-theme-font: minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family: Cambria; mso-fareast-theme-font: minor-latin;"><span style="mso-list: Ignore;">2.<span style="font: 7.0pt "Times New Roman";">     </span></span></span>My second observation on reading myths: <b style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal;">They are especially good for kids in the middle grades</b>. </div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle"><br /></div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle">We all know that different types of reading, different archetypes appeal to us at different ages. </div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle"><br /></div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle">Toddlers, especially my toddler sons, loved reading about dinosaurs and construction equipment, because these were big powerful things, and young boys like to dream about controlling powerful things because they don’t get a lot of control. Girls, I think, are drawn to stories about horses for much the same reason. It’s a way for them to literally put a saddle on this big scary world they’ve been dropped into, and put themselves in the driver’s seat.</div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle"><br /></div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle">What you find is that as kids get older, the symbols of power and identity that they’re drawn to become more and more human. Elementary school kids are drawn to superheroes, who are more powerful than dinosaurs and horses, but also more like regular people. In the elementary grades, kids are also introduced to the Greek gods, which makes sense, because Greek gods are our first superheroes. The girl who once told me that her favorite Greek god was Batman – she was on the right track. I mean it was much easier for the Ancient Greeks to deal with scary thunderstorms if they could think there was a human-like presence behind it – namely Zeus. </div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle"><br /></div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle">So Greek gods appeal to elementary school kids, but it’s really in middle school that the stories of the Greek heroes achieve full resonance. Let’s consider why. The heroes in myths are demigods – half mortal, half divine. When your dad is Zeus and your mother is a displaced mortal princess, you don’t belong in either world – Greece or Mount Olympus. You’ve got to carve out your own path, discover your hidden strengths, battle seemingly insurmountable forces and find your place in the world. This is the middle school experience. These kids are between worlds in every possible way. Physically they are between childhood and adulthood; socially they’re between family and friends; psychologically they are between concrete and abstract thinking. And throw in the hormones, and you’ve got a mix more volatile than centaur blood. <span style="mso-spacerun: yes;"> </span>Our students aren’t sure who they are, how they self-identify, or where they belong. They can relate to being a demigod. Some days, the adults in their lives seem benevolent. Some days they seem as capricious as the Greek gods. And if you’ve ever dealt with a middle schooler, you know that they see <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">every</i>problem as an epic challenge. Homework is Herculean. A family vacation is a voyage that would daunt even Odysseus. Mythology hits the middle grades at exactly the right time to resonate. It gives them a safe, relatable, engaging context to explore their dreams and their emotions.</div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle"><br /></div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle">I recently had a kid ask me: “How do you write such a great page-flipper” I was tempted to tell the kid, ‘Well, I buy each page, make improvements, and sell it for a profit.’ But actually, when I’m using mythology, targeting the middle grades, page-flippers come pretty naturally. I draw on my years as a teacher. I imagine myself reading each book aloud to my kids fifth period after lunch. I’ve got to use humor. I have to hook them immediately with relatable characters, interesting situations, clear direct language and an engaging mystery.</div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle"><br /></div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpLast">Mythology fits the bill perfectly.</div><div class="MsoNormal"><br /></div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpFirst" style="mso-list: l1 level1 lfo1; text-indent: -.25in;"><span style="mso-bidi-font-family: Cambria; mso-bidi-theme-font: minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family: Cambria; mso-fareast-theme-font: minor-latin;"><span style="mso-list: Ignore;">3.<span style="font: 7.0pt "Times New Roman";">     </span></span></span>Final observation on reading myths? <b style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal;">They are excellent for classroom use. </b></div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle">The first time I attended IRA, I had just finished writing a 50-page teacher’s guide for The Lightning Thief, which pulled together all my favorite myth-based projects from fifteen years in the classroom. At the time, I brought copies for all the attendants. For some reason, they wouldn’t let me print copies of it for everyone here today, but it’s still available on my website if you’re interested, at rickriordan.com. </div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle"><br /></div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle">Now, I’m not saying that <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">every</i> mythology project I did will work for every teacher. For instance, when I brought out my barbecue pit, had the kids dress in togas, write prayers to the Olympian gods and do burnt sacrifices back in the 90s – that was perfectly acceptable for the small private school where I taught in San Francisco. I would not recommend in, oh, say, San Antonio. They tend to look askance at burning Barbie dolls to honor Aphrodite. The Olympian feast, however, complete with Greek delicacies, sports, and skits from mythology – that was a big hit when I taught in San Antonio, and Texas in August, I’ve learned, is a very close approximation for summer in Greece. </div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle"><br /></div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle">I know teachers will often say, ‘I don’t have time for extra things like feasts and games.’ I understand. I really do. I was there, too. I’ve taught public and private, in Texas and California, every grade from 5-12, and most of those years while I was full-time teaching, I was also writing a novel a year. So I get not having time and always feeling under pressure. But as much as possible, we need to experiment and make our classrooms engaging. We need to use as many multisensory approaches as possible when teaching reading, and mythology is the perfect subject matter for this. It is infinitely flexible and you can bite off as much or as little as you wish. The projects don’t have to be time-consuming or expensive, either. One-minute dramatic tableaux from the Greek myths are easy to do, they cost nothing, and they get the kids working in teams. They also appeal to your kinesthetic learners. <span style="mso-spacerun: yes;"> </span>The myths really lend themselves also to short creative writing projects. In fact the concept for Percy Jackson had its genesis in an assignment I used to do in San Francisco, where my students would create their own demigod and describe a new adventure, using the framework of the hero’s quest. </div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle"><br /></div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle">Anyway, if you’re interested in seeing some of activities I’ve used, visit the website. I’ll add that many of the best ideas there came from other teachers, because after all, we teachers are followers of the god Hermes. When it comes to good ideas for the classroom, we are consummate thieves.</div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle"><br /></div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle">The other reason mythology works well in the classroom is that it is so integral to our shared cultural heritage. Mythology is everywhere – TV shows, movies, books, music, architecture, art. Why did Fluffy in Harry Potter have three heads? Greek myth. Why is the snake on a staff the symbol of medicine? Greek myth. Why was The Hunger Games such a blockbuster? Greek myth. </div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle"><br /></div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle">One of the first conversations I had with Suzanne Collins, long before Hunger Games, I was telling her how her series Gregor the Overlander had really saved my oldest son Haley in the days when he didn’t like reading. She told me she was working on a retelling of the Theseus myth – a story that became The Hunger Games. And she did it beautifully. In the Theseus myth, Crete is the evil empire. They have subjugated Greece, and every year as a show of fealty, the Greeks must send fourteen tributes – seven young men, seven young women -- to the Cretan capital to descend into the Labyrinth and fight the Minotaur. None ever return, until Theseus breaks the cycle. Why does The Hunger Games resonate? Because Suzanne did a marvelous job reworking an ancient story that speaks to every age – an oppressive government with unreasonable demands, a conquered people trying to maintain their dignity, a hero who must decide to risk everything for a cause. Could you get by in life without knowing mythology? Sure. But the world is a much richer place if you understand the mythological context in which we live. It’s the difference between watching a movie and watching a movie in high def. 3D.</div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle"><br /></div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle"><span style="mso-spacerun: yes;"> </span>Final thing I’ll say about mythology in the classroom, I still get tons of great ideas from teachers and kids. In a slow week, I get about 500 letters. <span style="mso-spacerun: yes;"> </span>One project I heard about last week definitely stood out. A seventh grader named Kelly wrote from Collegeville PA. She said she’d been assigned to do an obituary on me. She was supposed to find out where I currently lived and who lived with me. As far as I know, I have done nothing to offend Kelly or her teacher. I did not share the information, however, as I would prefer my obituary to be written at a much later date.</div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle"><br /></div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpLast"><br /></div><div class="MsoNormal"><br /></div><div class="MsoNormal"><b style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal;">Myths of Reading</b></div><div class="MsoNormal"><br /></div><div class="MsoNormal">So that’s my three cents on why we should be reading myths. Now here are three myths about reading that I’ve encountered, and busted.</div><div class="MsoNormal"><br /></div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpFirst" style="mso-list: l0 level1 lfo2; text-indent: -.25in;"><span style="mso-bidi-font-family: Cambria; mso-bidi-theme-font: minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family: Cambria; mso-fareast-theme-font: minor-latin;"><span style="mso-list: Ignore;">1.<span style="font: 7.0pt "Times New Roman";">     </span></span></span><b style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal;">Reading is a Dying Habit.</b> I can’t remember a time when we weren’t, as a society, bemoaning the death of reading. Recently I learned about a group of concerned parents that was petitioning the government to put limits on this new form of media that they believed was ruining our children and keeping them from more wholesome activities like playing outside and reading great literature. This new media was radio. The decade was the 1930s. Society was up in arms because programs like Dick Tracy and The Shadow were promoting violence and romanticizing gangs. In the 1950s, the great devil was television. In the 1970s, arcade games. In the 80s, video games. In the 90s, the Internet. And now, of course, social media. <span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">  </span>I’m sure sixty years from now, when our youngest students are grandparents, they will be decrying the death of literate society and vilifying the new media of their day, looking back with nostalgia on how ‘everybody read’ when they were young.</div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle"><br /></div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle">Am I being facetious? Of course. But I also think that reports of the death of reading, like the death of Mark Twain, have been greatly exaggerated. Kids do read. I really can’t help but be optimistic about the future of reading when I see the crowds that come to my events. Last year I was in Boston at a Barnes & Noble in October. The temperature was below freezing, but over a thousand kids and their parents were lined up outside in a dark parking lot behind the store by the dumpsters, waiting to get in just to get a book signed and say hi to me. I mean, first, that’s pretty humbling to me. But they were there because of books. They wanted to ask what I was reading. They wanted to tell me their favorite characters. They wanted to brag about how they got in trouble in math class because they were caught reading my books when they were supposed to be doing fractions. I hear that a lot, for some reason. Sorry, math teachers. Last spring, I was Redwood City, California and met a family that had driven all the way from Nevada to get their books signed. Before that, I met a family that had driven from Pennsylvania to South Carolina just for a book signing. One time, I met a family who had driven from San Antonio to Dallas for one of my events, and I didn’t have the heart to tell them that I was going to be at an event in San Antonio the next evening.</div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle"><br /></div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpLast">My point is: kids <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">do</i> get excited about books. They get very excited indeed. At my events, you’ll meet hundreds of parents who are more than happy to get their kids out in whatever kind of weather since the cause is reading. You’ll see an almost equal gender divide, boys and girls. You’ll see college-aged kids standing happily next to eight-year-olds, celebrating the same books. It’s enough to make me very optimistic. And it’s not just my books. Go to a Jeff Kinney event sometime. Go to a Suzanne Collins event. Go online and look at the tremendous enthusiasm for the books of Cassandra Clare or Veronica Roth.</div><div class="MsoNormal"><br /></div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpFirst">Kids <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">are</i>reading. They will read, as long as we put the right books in their hands. Which brings me to my second myth to bust.</div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle"><br /></div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle"><br /></div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle"><br /></div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle" style="mso-list: l0 level1 lfo2; text-indent: -.25in;"><span style="mso-bidi-font-family: Cambria; mso-bidi-theme-font: minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family: Cambria; mso-fareast-theme-font: minor-latin;"><span style="mso-list: Ignore;">2.<span style="font: 7.0pt "Times New Roman";">     </span></span></span><b style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal;">One Book Fits All.</b> As much as I love mythology, and as universal as I believe it is, I also know that every type of reading does not appeal to every reader, nor is there any single book that will make an entire diverse class of students light up as one and say, ‘Eureka, I love reading!’ Mythology is as close as I’ve come, and possibly Harry Potter, but even with those wonderful books, there are some kids who just don’t care for them. My own sons, for whatever reason, are two Potter-haters. </div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle"><br /></div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle">Kids are different, and they need different books. The book that turns an eighth grade girl in rural Texas into an avid reader may not be, probably <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">will</i> not be the same book that ignites the interest of a eighth grade boy in urban California. Having taught in both places, I can attest to this. One of my biggest challenges as a teacher was choosing my reading texts – trying to pick a set of books, poems and stories that would reach the widest range of students and have the greatest impact. That was when I was <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">allowed</i>to choose my books. Increasingly, classroom teachers don’t even have that luxury.</div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle"><br /></div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle">Despite this, I think it’s incumbent upon us to take our young readers from where they are, and do our best to match the book to the child. I am not a big fan of ‘the 10 Books Every Child Must Read.’ Rather, I think we should find ten books for each child that makes that particular child love reading. <span style="mso-spacerun: yes;"> </span>Reading should be a buffet with an array of choices, not a prix fixes meal where everyone gets the same thing at every course. Of course, as educators, this makes our job much harder. It requires us to be experts on a huge number of texts rather than just a few. The good news is we’re in the middle of a Renaissance of children’s and young adult literature. In the 1990s, when I tried to put together reading lists that would get my students motivated, the pickings were slim. I mean for reluctant reader boys, I could only recommend Hatchet so many times. Children’s literature was the poor stepchild of publishing and certainly was not a viable way to make a living. Then JK Rowling came along. Suddenly the publishing industry realized that children’s fiction could be a powerhouse if they found books that actual kids actually liked to read. </div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle"><br /></div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpLast">Now, literature for young readers is the place to be. It’s the dynamo that’s keeping publishing houses going despite all the changes in the industry. As educators, we have so many wonderful books to choose from. We just have to allow that the books we might personally love may not be the ones that speak to our kids. I found out that the hard way when I tried to share Charlotte’s Web with my boys. No way. Then my wife tried to share The Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Forget it. They just didn’t connect for our kids, so we had to find books that did: Gregor the Overlander, The Time Warp Trio, Skulduggery Pleasant and Bone. To quote Atticus Finch, ‘you never really understand a person until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.’ We must be many things as reading instructors, but above all, we must be empathetic. The best way we can create lifelong readers is by making reading a big tent, treating each reader as individual, taking them from where they are and helping them explore their interests. Getting them to read is much more important than requiring them to read x, y, or z. Reading is an ongoing adventure, not a checklist.</div><div class="MsoNormal"><br /></div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpFirst" style="mso-list: l0 level1 lfo2; text-indent: -.25in;"><span style="mso-bidi-font-family: Cambria; mso-bidi-theme-font: minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family: Cambria; mso-fareast-theme-font: minor-latin;"><span style="mso-list: Ignore;">3.<span style="font: 7.0pt "Times New Roman";">     </span></span></span><span style="mso-spacerun: yes;"> </span>The final myth is very much connected to this:<b style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal;"> Some kids are just reluctant readers. You’re not going to reach everyone</b>. I don’t believe this, primarily because I <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">was</i>the reluctant reader. If I had been in your elementary school class, you never would have identified me as a future reader, much less an English teacher. And a guy who would someday write twenty novels? Yeah, right! In third grade, I would diligently go through the Scholastic Book Club order form and check every item that was <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">not</i> a book. In middle school, the only poem I ever wrote was a satire demonstrating how ludicrous poetry was. By the way, it was mistakenly submitted to the school literary magazine and published to great acclaim. In high school, I never read a single assigned book. Not one. BSed my way through English for four years. Of course, my karmic punishment was that later I became an English teacher and had to go back and read all those texts. You couldn’t find a reader much more reluctant than me.</div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle"><br /></div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle">What turned things around for me? Some good parenting and a good teacher. My mom always read to me, even though I wasn’t a kid who would ever pick up a book by myself. Then when I was about twelve she introduced me to the Lord of the Rings. For me, that was the gateway series. It was the first thing I ever read because I wanted to. Fortunately, my mom was able to steer me toward an 8<sup>th</sup> grade English teacher who had done her thesis on Tolkien. That teacher, Mrs. Pabst, was the first teacher that ‘got me’ as a reader. She said, “Hey, if you like Tolkien, you should check out Norse mythology. That’s where Tolkien got his inspiration.” This was the beginning of my transformation. It took years, but it’s no accident that I eventually became a middle school English teacher, or that I began writing about mythology. </div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle"><br /></div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle">Both my sons were also reluctant readers. My oldest son Haley was diagnosed with dyslexia in second grade. Reading was tough for him. Percy Jackson began as a bedtime story to keep him interested in school. Now, as he graduates from high school, Haley is not only a good reader, he’s finishing up work on his first manuscript, and in the fall he’s heading to Emerson College to study creative writing and publishing. What made the difference for him: paying careful attention to his needs and interests as a reader, even to the point of creating stories for him if none caught his interest. </div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle"><br /></div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle">As for my younger son Patrick, he isn’t a big fan of assigned texts. Ask Patrick his opinion of the Newbery Award sometimes. You’ll get an earful. And yet, he’s become a huge reader, because we’ve allowed him also to pick his favorite texts and explore new authors. We’ve simply set the expectation that he read something. We model reading at home. We talk about books. And it’s okay for him not to like a book, as long as he keeps searching for some he does like. Patrick has also become my frontline editor. His mechanics scores on the ERBS are off the charts. A few years ago he agreed to edit one of my books, and ended up making four hundred dollars at $10 a mistake.</div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle"><br /></div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle">I write for the reluctant reader, because that kid is <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">me.</i> That kid is like my sons. Believe me, if this guy up here can become a reader, any kid in your school can become a reader. It only takes one good teacher, and one good book. My challenge to you, and my lifelong challenge to myself: be that teacher and find that book.</div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpMiddle"><br /></div><div class="MsoListParagraphCxSpLast">Finally, I’ll close with a review I got from a young person on Amazon recently.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">  </span>Bailey read the Mark of Athena and writes: “<span style="mso-bidi-font-family: "Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-font-family: "Times New Roman";">This book is my favorite in the series and I can’t say anything is wrong with it. If you don’t like the book that is ok just lie down with your head in the door and let me slam it about 5000 times.” – which I think shows how reading makes us all better people.</span></div><div class="MsoNormal"><br /></div><div class="MsoNormal"><br /></div><div class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-bidi-font-family: "Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-font-family: "Times New Roman";">Thank you and happy reading!</span></div>
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Published on April 20, 2013 08:43 • 1,635 views

April 18, 2013


The past two weeks I've had the luxury of visiting with fans on Twitter as my manuscript for The House of Hades has been with my editor. Now I've got to head back to 'full-time writing' land, but if you missed our exchanges on Twitter, I'm copying a transcript below. I had a great time answering these questions!RT: ‏ @ bloggernot hurry up writing, Rick! / (Yoda voice) "There is no 'hurry up.' Only 'get it right.'" Write faster = write worse.
RT: @ liamtome will Heroes of Olympus be the last time we'll read about Percy, Jason and company? / Several years too early to say.
RT: @ coleenmikaelson Would you give some teasers/spoilers for HOO? :) / No! (cackles maniacally)
Good opportunity to invite new tweeps to read my FAQ: http://rickriordan.com/about-rick/faq.aspx …Most things ppl ask me are addressed there.
RT: @ Hand9_Remy Can you tell us the name of the 5th book HOO ? / WAY too early for that. It'll be printed at the end of HoH, as usual.
RT: @ Maddiemoo17 if a god/goddess was in mortal form, what would happen if he/she got hit by a car? / Time for a new car.
I have been called sassy. Please. A 48-year-old man cannot be sassy. Cantankerous perhaps. (Shakes cane. Get off my lawn!)
RT: @ LynnPHoran can you please post a picture of you playin guitar.. PLEAAAAASE?? :) / pic.twitter.com/45WDmDcbt1
Oh wait. Wrong pic. Here's me back in the day, circa 1984. And yes, that's my real hair. pic.twitter.com/UxMWL0lKR4
RT: if you give leo a girlfriend can you name her after me. / You realize I've gotten this request 6,784,231 times. No sry. But Leo sez thx.
I really do appreciate how attached readers get to my characters. It's cool that they want even the secondary characters to stay safe.
Me: 'Grover stepped on a twig.' Reader: 'Ah, how could you kill that twig! That twig was my favorite character!!'
RT: ‏ @ rohmatullohA Rick look at me and Hermes. i met him last week :D pic.twitter.com/TvZCgkKFju/ Awesome!
RT: @ bethimusprime I think the other fandoms are calling a therapist for us. pic.twitter.com/Ubaj4cNZ1Z/Disturbing? Perhaps. But I like it!
Supposedly I have 122K followers. Think it's actually 22K & one enthusiastic Brazilian w/100K Twitter accounts. Thank you, my one super fan!
RT: @ Odaircubes did you ever had Greek or Latin Classes in high school? /Latin, yes. It was very helpful. 
RT: @ geekishly A friend & I discussed how knowledgeable you are about locations in your books. How many have you been to? /Most of them.
RT: @ thishalfblood what you pretend to write after percy jackson? /Think I'll pretend to write the Great American Novel, but do a MG fantasy.
Reading Best Served Cold, an excellent fantasy. Forgot how much pain @ LordGrimdark likes to inflict on his characters. *Wince.*
RT: @ oqueidrew What would be if it were not a writer? / Probably still teaching, and that would be fine. I liked teaching.
RT: @ VioletOwls How many times will you rip our hearts out and stamp on them in HoH? /Well, I haven't actually counted....
RT: @ ThatQurlCris Do you get writers' block? /Not usually but.... ah, dang it. I was going to say something. Oh well.
RT: ‏ @ livingpercy what do you enjoy doing when not writing books? /Sleeping. Also, I play guitar, read, and hang out with my family.
RT: @ Clavinerise Do fans attack you when you go to the mall? /What a scary thought. No. Though I will now be paranoid. Thanks.
RT: @ ahsengarfield Will we see more Nico Di Angelo on The House of Hades? /Yes. Quite a bit.
RT: @ notrustingducks you're awesome bro ok Thanks for throwing my otp into Tartarus by the way /No problem! Oh, that was sarcasm...
RT: @ Books_Follower Did you know you are better than any school teacher? /But I am a school teacher. I just don't have to grade papers now!
RT: @ mkwissler Do you think your fans have influenced your writing as your series progresses? /some. Fans convinced me to write about Egypt.
And of course, just the fact that I *have* fans who are waiting to read the next book is awesome. That keeps me excited about writing.
RT: @ MvLannister There is any chance of Jason and Reyna staying together? /They never were together.
RT: @ choconouis why do i have a feeling that hoh is going to have the worst cliffhanger yet ? /Nah. Nothing could be worse than MoA.
RT: @ belongtohale what inspires you to write often? /Deadlines.
RT @ CadeMeuSatiro_ how you see yourself in 20 years? /If I'm still alive and still writing, I'll be happy.
RT: @ MoonieBalloonie @ camphalfblood - Maybe they will, one day. Get to it,  @ DerekLandy ! /Derek is hands down my sons' favorite author.
RT @ KSkogs2113 I'm studying to be a math teacher but your books have me wanting to get a history endorsement! /We need more good teachers!
RT: @ dindagale I hope Luke Castellan will show up on the next book. / Sadly (SPOILER) he's dead.
RT: @amandatbh the turn around time for you to write a book is so fast. u go u wizard./Thanks. Usually I hear FASTER, FASTER, FASTER!
Which is a nice compliment too, by the way, but I can't really speed up the process anymore than I already have.
RT: @ NatTaylor97 How is planning for the Norse series going? Are you excited? /Excited but still a ways off before I start writing that.
RT: @ hadesplease I hope Haley had some input on House of Hades. /He is busy finishing up his own novel, but yes I asked his advice.
All I can tell you about upcoming releases, including first sneak peeks: http://rickriordan.blogspot.com/2013/03/upcoming-release-dates.html …
RT: @ EllenStargazer @ camphalfblood is officially the first person i stalk online. Demigod fever heavily diagnosed / Take some ambrosia!
RT: @ Harun_bala2000 we're probably gonna get a major plot twist like Reyna Beauregard or something /clever idea, but no. : )
RT: @ lolpercy you've met with JK Rowling? / No, strangely she doesn't come to San Antonio TX very often.
RT: @ percableth is there going to be an epilogue at the end of HoO? / No, I dislike epilogues. Twenty years later, blah, blah, blah.
Honestly, I don't kill that many characters. Never killed a main character. If NO good guys EVER died, that wouldn't be realistic, even in a fantasy. 
RT: @ peluciodoron Do you like more of PJ or Heroes of Olympus? / Heroes is more challenging & keeps me interested b/c the many POVs.
@ wtflovarow You think of any actor playing Leo Valdez?/ I never cast my own characters. I have absolutely no interest in that. Leo is Leo.
RT: @ PotterPendragon Do you like Game of Thrones? /Yes, though as with all things, THE BOOKS ARE BETTER.
RT: @ FieryValdez thoughts on John Green?/ Don't know him, haven't read him, but I know he's got a big following.
RT: @ HungerGamesFCBR are you excited to write a trilogy with suzanne and cassandra? / Uh, what? Great authors, but we don't collaborate. Two writers writing together doesn't always work. Just b/c you like pizza and ice cream does not mean they'd taste good mashed together.
RT: @ SublimePotter DO YOU HAVE LUNCH WITH OTHER AUTHORS AND LAUGH AS YOU PLOT ANOTHER DEATH OF A FICTIONAL CHARACTER? / Maybe...
RT: @ Deenerys sarcasm you're becoming one of your characters / someone once said: 'You cannot create a character that isn't partially you.'
RT: @ p0intofview any emotional scenes coming up in HoH? / No. There will be absolutely no emotions expressed in this book. :P
RT: @ karlitaboheme Will we know anything about Grover in HoH? /Okay, very minor spoiler. Yes, you'll see Grover briefly in House of Hades.
RT: @ larryth1ngs who is your inspiration for leo? / Leo is totally made up, though I love his character.
RT: @ Brawl483Matthew Will there be more Kane Chronicles in the future? /Just "Son of Sobek" short for now. Heroes is keeping me busy!
RT: will Tartarus scenes be 18+ / Since I write middle grade novels, aimed at ages 8-14, I'd have to go with NO, ARE YOU CRAZY?
RT: @ wantstromwick what was your inspiration for Sadie? /My mom. Like Sadie, she was an American girl raised in England.
RT: @ _iamzion you are the best serial killer / Uh . . . thanks?
RT: @ ImThisWeirdKid who's your inspiration for Nico? / A former student of mine named, wait for it, Nico. As far as I know, not a Hades kid.
RT: @ likej0nes you could give reyna a surname? /You will learn her surname in HoH, and no, I'm not taking requests. :D
RT: @ sausagecurls any tips for aspiring authors? / Tons: http://rickriordan.com/about-rick/writingadvice.aspx …
RT: @ OhGloryWitches will there be new characters in House of Hades? /Because we don't have enough characters already?
RT: @ JoeeCaraig WOULD YOU DRESS UP AS THE EASTER BUNNY IF ASKED?/ How do you know I'm not already dressed as the Easter Bunny?
RT: @ AlexaLovesYou people just don't read your FAQ, do they? /But you get a gold star. :D http://rickriordan.com/about-rick/faq.aspx …
And guys, if you want to talk movies, you're seriously in the wrong place. I have no info & am not the person to follow or comment to.
RT: I just heard a myth that Leo will die in The House of Hades...Is it true? / I heard a rumor that Internet rumors are just rumors. No one knows what will happen except me, my editor and my family. No one will know until Oct. 8. Anything you see online is pure guessing.
RT: "why does it take so long to write a book?" One year is very fast, actually. Some authors take 3, 5, 10 years to complete a single book.
@ JMwandering @ camphalfblood @ KevinHearne That doesn't account for revisions either. Revisions can take longer than the first draft.
Unfortunately, no plans to visit [insert name of your country here]. Got to stay home and write!
RT: @ juliem13b Don't you live in the US, though? A: No, Texas. Believe me, it's another country entirely. Or planet...  RT: I NEED YOU TO WRITE ABOUT VIKINGS / y u no read FAQ? http://rickriordan.com/about-rick/faq.aspx …
Awesome! Percy would approve. RT: @ queenofsheba29 blue banana bread, in honor of Percy Jackson :) pic.twitter.com/2uIIRtl8sm
Being a novelist constantly asked about movies is like being a cardiologist constantly asked about brain surgery. That ain't my department.
MT: "state writing test. Please send my kids some encouraging words!" A: Dear kids, state tests are just as pointless as you suspect.
But hang in there. You are bright and creative, despite our broken education system. You will prevail! (Hope an HONEST reply is okay)
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Published on April 18, 2013 11:40 • 1,296 views

March 25, 2013

So here are the release dates I know about. These are all posted online, but contact your favorite bookseller for specifics if you want to pre-order, and if anything changes, I will let you know! Again as always, these are U.S. release dates. I don't get information for other countries, so if you live outside the U.S., your best bet is to ask a local bookseller or the publisher of my books in your country. (The publisher is usually listed on the spine of the book and on the cover page inside.)

The Serpent's Shadow paperback edition will be released in the U.S. on May 7. This edition will include the Percy Jackson/Carter Kane story The Son of Sobek, and is the first place you can read that story. That's about forty pages of extra adventure at no additional cost.

But maybe you've already bought your copy of The Serpent's Shadow, and you says, "How can I read The Son of Sobek without buying Serpent's Shadow again?"

Which brings us to the second release date:


On June 18, The Son of Sobek will be released as an electronic e-single. (Actual cover to be unveiled soon.) This will cost less than the paperback book described above, and it will include the text version of Sobek *and* the audio version of the story, read by yours truly -- the first time I've ever narrated one of my own stories in its entirety. And . . . drum roll . . . it will also include an exclusive sneak peek chapter for The House of Hades. You can read it here before it's available anywhere else.

And some of you say, "Whaaa! I have to buy an e-single to get the sneak peek? I want it for freeeeee!"

Yes, Disney-Hyperion will be releasing a free sneak peek as well, a little closer to the release date for House of Hades, as they always do, but bundling it with the e-single first is a 'thank you' for those who order the story. And, of course, I hope you'll want to get The Son of Sobek anyway because I hope you'll enjoy it!

And finally:


The fourth book in the Heroes of Olympus series, The House of Hades, will be released October 8. 2013! We will reveal the actual cover of the book on May 31. Sneak peeks will be revealed during the summer, as described above -- which is pretty much the same timetable Disney-Hyperion uses every year.

To which many of you say, "Ahhhhh! You are trolling us! I need the book right NOW! I cannot WAIT!"

To which the author says, "Glad you're excited! Sorry about the trolling, but ahhhhh! I does not EXIST right NOW! I have to finish WRITING it first!!!"

Anyway, I promise it will be released on time in October, but no chance in Tartarus that it will be released earlier. And speaking of which, I need to get back to my revisions! 







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Published on March 25, 2013 07:11 • 4,317 views

March 20, 2013

A quick break from my revisions to tell you about some recent books I've enjoyed:


Grave Mercy hooked me with a great premise: medieval nun assassins who serve Saint Mortain, the god of death. The novel is set in an alternate realm of Brittany, where the local gods have been subsumed by Christianity and renamed saints. The old ways live on, however, especially among the daughters of Saint Mortain, who serve as the realm's assassins, killing those who need to be killed.

Our lethal heroine, Ismae, escapes a life of poverty and abuse by joining the convent. Soon she is plunged into a game of intrigue and villainy as the realm tries to maintain its independence from France. Unfortunately for Ismae, one of the people she is sent to spy on (and possibly assassinate) is the first man she feels she might love.

The novel is driven by mystery, romance and subtle skulduggery. It isn't exactly an adventure novel, so don't expect a fight on every page, but if you stick with it, it's well worth reading! I'd recommend it to YA fans, especially those with an interest in history. The closest parallel I can think of is Cashore's Graceling -- another fantastic romance about a deadly heroine.


 
Another winner from Dennis Lehane, Live by Night is an adult gangster novel set during Prohibition. It features Joe Coughlin, the little brother of the protagonist in Lehane's previous novel about Boston in the 1910s -- The Given Day. For my money, this book is even better.
We follow Joe from his early days as a Boston criminal to his time in prison, to his eventual rise as a lord of crime in Florida, overseeing rum-running. As you'd expect in a Lehane novel, the writing sparkles, the characters are all deftly draw, and the time period is evoked so well you'll wonder how Lehane managed it without living through the 1920s.
Again, this is not a book for kids! But if you're an adult reader who enjoys a good gritty crime novel that will haunt you afterward, check this out.

Leviathan Wakes was recommended by George R.R. Martin (one of the two authors who comprise the team of 'James A. Corey' apparently works for Martin). It had been a while since I'd read a straight-up space opera sci fi, so I gave it a try and loved it.

I especially liked the scope of the novel, which is set a few centuries in the future, when humanity has colonized much of the solar system but still has not reached the stars (or found alien life). Sadly, human politics and jingoism haven't changed much. Earth and Mars are in an uneasy alliance, and the humans living out on the asteroids of "the Belt" feel like exploited colonists. A fringe group called the OPA are agitating for war, with echoes of the American Revolution. Against this backdrop, two men from very different backgrounds are pulled into a horrifying mystery -- a disappearing ship, a girl with a complicated past, a Black Ops attack that threatens to start a solar-system-wide war, and a discovery that could change or destroy humanity.

The mystery will keep the pages turning. The characters are vividly brought to life. And the world is just alien enough, and just familiar enough, that I'll be anxious to read more books about. An adult novel, but YA sci fi fans will also love it.

Prince of Thorns -- wow, I've heard of dark fantasy and anti-heroes, but this is the darkest fantasy with the anti-est anti-hero I've ever encountered. Our protagonist Jorg is only thirteen, but do not mistake this for a kids' book! Jorg is already the leader of a cutthroat gang of marauders, and has killed more men than most seasoned warriors -- including innocent civilians and a few of his own followers. Despite all this, I found myself routing for Jorg, especially as more of his past is revealed, and we learn why he has become such a hardened, unrepentant killer. He lives in a broken empire where minor lords are constantly squabbling, but who is really pulling the strings of power? Jorg intends to find out. He aims to become king by the time he is fifteen, and once you meet you, you won't be betting against him! If you've ever wanted to read a first-person book about a hero who is also the darkest of villains, try this out. It's not like anything I've ever read before.

 
Think you've read everything about dragons? Think it's a worn-out concept? Seraphina will make you think again. Our heroine of the title lives in a human kingdom that is about to celebrate forty years of a peace treaty with the draconian race, but old prejudice dies hard. When the ruler of the dragons comes to the capital to commemorate the treaty, many factions on both sides wish to sabotage the fragile peace. Hartman's dragons are fascinating. They are part Vulcan from Star Trek -- logical beings who assiduously suppress their violent emotions -- and part Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock -- high-functioning sociopaths who can do trigonometry in their heads and tell you exactly how many people are standing in a crowd, but who don't understand the concept of music or shaking hands (or sometimes even wearing clothes).  The dragons can take on human form -- saarantrai -- which only makes things more complicated. Needless to say, dragons and humans are forbidden from falling in love, which doesn't mean it never happens . . .
A great YA fantasy with plenty of intrigue and romance and several intertwining mysteries that will keep you reading.

 

Divergent has been getting a lot of buzz, so I'm late to the party on this, but I definitely enjoyed it. At first, I had trouble convincing my older son to read it, because he was convinced that every dystopian novel is a "Hunger Games" wannabe, but he read it on a recent plane trip and we had a great in-depth discussion about the characters and their motivations.
The premise: Chicago of the future is a closed city-state. The citizenry really doesn't have any idea what is beyond their borders. They just know it's dangerous. Inside the city, humanity is divided into five factions based on moral imperatives. Candor, for instance, values truth above all else. They serve as lawyers and public speakers. Erudite values knowledge. They serve as teachers. Abnegation values self-denial and community service. They are the community's leaders, since they alone can be trusted not to be power-hungry.
Our heroine Tris is born into Abnegation, but during her choosing ceremony at age sixteen, she decides to join the Dauntless, who value fearlessness and serve as the society's soldiers and guards. The novel follows her through her initiation training, during which Tris discovers that their society is not as harmonious as she once believed. Making things even worse, Tris must keep her true aptitude secret. She is in a small minority of people who are divergent -- whose skills could suit them for more than one faction. What this means is not at first clear, but it will make Tris's life very dangerous.


Lastly, my favorite recent non-fiction read: The Warmth of Other Suns.  This is one of those rare history books that makes history as fresh and relevant as local headlines, and as gripping as a novel. I'll admit that even with my background as an American history teacher, I didn't know much about the Great Migration of the early twentieth century, during which millions of African Americans left the Jim Crow South for the North and the West, permanently changing the demographics of the U.S. Wilkerson follows the lives of three such people in different decades, while augmenting their stories with anecdotes from many sources. The result is a riveting personal narrative, powerfully written, that may open your eyes (as it did mine) to part of our national history that needs much attention. Highly recommended to high school and above.
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Published on March 20, 2013 10:29 • 2,386 views

March 14, 2013

We got to take a quick trip to the Museum of Fine Art in Boston today, and I got to visit some old friends!

Nekhbet was looking very flashy on this pendant, which once adorned the chest of a mummy.

This bracelet from Byzantium features the face of Medusa. Why you'd want to wear Medusa to a dinner party, I'm not sure.

Chicken on a stick! No, actually an eagle in the American art section, but a good reminder than the early America republic modeled itself very consciously after Rome.

A replica of the shield Aegis, done in plaster, from the 1800s. Lookin' creepy, Medusa!


This massive statue of Juno was getting a nose job while we were there. The face is front is a replica. The statue in the back was about twenty feet tall.

I knew John Singer Sargent was a famous artist, but I didn't know he was into mythology. These are some sketches he did for large murals. The top one is Achilles with Chiron. The bottom one is Atlas, surrounded by his daughters the Hesperides.




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Published on March 14, 2013 17:18 • 1,551 views

February 27, 2013

I'm excited to share this for the first time anywhere: the cover for the graphic novel version of The Titan's Curse. Another fantastic adaption by Robert Vendetti, featuring the artwork of Attila Futaki. The graphic novel will be released on Oct. 8, 2013, the same date as The House of Hades.

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Published on February 27, 2013 11:03 • 2,400 views

February 12, 2013

Even though I'm working hard on my deadline for The House of Hades, I always have to make time to read! If anything, it's even more important to read a lot while I'm writing. It fuels my engines and energizes me when I find new good books. Below are some of my recent favorites.







I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy of Siege and Storm, the second in the Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo. I won't give any spoilers, but I will say this: If you liked Shadow and Bone, you will love Siege and Storm when it comes out in June. And if you haven't read Shadow and Bone yet, go get it! This is a great YA fantasy series set in an alternate Tsarist Russia where magic and technology collide.


I've had The One and Only Ivan on my 'to be read' list for several months, and I'm so glad I read it! A fabulous book for elementary and middle grades (and older), this is probably my favorite animal story since Charlotte's Web -- and I don't make that comparison lightly. Like E.B. White's classic, it is by turns tender, funny, sad and uplifting. It's a quick read -- I'm a slow reader, and I got through it in one day. Ivan the gorilla narrates, and he is a very fine fellow indeed. I loved it. More importantly, I think kids will love it too.



Throne of the Crescent Moon is an adult fantasy set in an alternate Middle East during the golden age of the Caliphate. It richly evokes the world of Ali Baba, Sinbad, and Scheherazade. I love the way Saladin Ahmed creates his story, lovingly portraying his characters and his settings, bringing them all to vivid life. This is another very fast read, because the story moves along at a good clip. The main characters are a ghul hunter (one who searches out and destroys magically summoned demons) a holy warrior dervish who has almost supernatural skill with his sword, and a young nomad girl who has the coolest shape-shifting power you've ever seen. Even this powerful group will have trouble against the evil force that is rising to take the Khalif's throne, however. Since this is an adult fantasy, there is some adult content and some extremely creepy and dark villainy, but nothing that would bother most readers of YA fantasies. If you're ready for a fresh and different sort of fantasy, check it out!


I am late to the party with Junot Diaz's work, but wow, what a book! This is realistic adult fiction, with interlocking stories tracing several generations of a Dominican family. I say 'realistic,' though it owes a debt of gratitude to the magic realism of Garcia Marquez and Borges. I knew very little about the Dominican Republic before reading this novel. Now I can't imagine how I got along without the wonderful voices and characters Diaz evokes. He tosses out literary, pop culture, geek, and Dominican Spanish references with equal gusto, and if you don't understand them all, don't worry. Just hang on and enjoy the ride. It all adds up to a rich stew with wonderful, unexpected flavors mixed together.

It's been a while since I read a fantasy trilogy all the way through, back to back. Joe Abercrombie's The First Law series was too compelling not to finish in a single marathon. The first book, The Blade Itself, introduces a cast of well-developed, complex characters throw together in a world loosely based on medieval Europe. At first, it's not entirely clear what the major story line will be. It's also not clear who the good guys and bad guys are -- kind of like real life. If this sounds like A Game of Thrones, well, yes -- the series are very different, but they do share some elements: morally complex protagonists, no easy answers, and a well-rendered world with a long history and many cultures. Logen Ninefingers, the Northern berserker, alone is worth reading about, but he's only one of many great characters. San dan Glokta is the coolest, and definitely the most sympathetic torturer I've ever encountered. If you like fantasy, check it out, and stay with it until the end of the third book. The ending is both satisfying and unexpected.

That's it for my recent reads. And now it's back to that second draft of The House of Hades! A long way to go still, but I'm making progress and I'm on schedule!
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Published on February 12, 2013 19:17 • 2,094 views

January 31, 2013


So, yes, it's true. As announced today in Publisher's Weekly Children's Bookshelf, I have written a crossover story featuring Carter Kane and Percy Jackson. The story is called "The Son of Sobek."

This is something fans have been asking me to do for years, but why this story and why now? My publisher Disney-Hyperion was looking for something fun to add to the paperback version of The Serpent's Shadow, which comes out May 7 -- something to encourage folks who haven't yet tried the Kane Chronicles to pick up the series. I decided what the heck. Let's throw Carter and Percy together in a Greek-Egyptian dilemma and see what happens. The result was SO much fun to write.

If you buy the paperback version of Serpent's Shadow on May 7, "The Son of Sobek" will be at the end of the book, no extra charge.

"But what if I've already bought The Serpent's Shadow?" you ask. "Do I have to buy it again just to read this story?"

Well, the story will be released first in the paperback edition, since that's what I wrote it for, but fear not -- there will be other ways to get "The Son of Sobek." Disney will be releasing it a little later in the summer as an e-single and audio, read by yours truly -- the first time I've ever narrated the entire audio for my own story. As soon as I have more information about the e-release, I will let you know. As always, this information only applies to the US market, as that's the only country I get info for. I can't say if/when it will be available in other countries and other translations.

Now please be aware this is a SHORT STORY. In print, it runs about forty pages, though I think it packs a lot of adventure into those pages. It's not a full novel, because I have been spending most of my time working on The House of Hades, and I know you don't want me taking more time away from that project than I absolutely have to! The e-single will be priced accordingly, and I hope you find the adventure worth it. I certainly had a blast mixing up the Egyptian and Greek worlds.

An excerpt from the story can be found on Disney's Facebook Kane Chronicles' page. Enjoy!



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Published on January 31, 2013 16:27 • 12,657 views