You Want To Do WHAT?

January 28th, 2014 by Helen

Greg and CameraMy big project right now is a comprehensive rewrite of The Gloaming, which I’ve mentioned here before. It’s a paranormal scifi web series with six episodes, each approximately 20 minutes long, that has elements of my vision of The Land Of The Dead from the Spellbinder books (including one cross-over character), as well as plenty of science fiction, which I was pretty much immersed in from birth.

When I tell people about it, the response is frequently surprise. Not surprise about the story, but that I’m planning on raising funding for it myself. The first issue that is generally raised is why I can’t just sell it to some production company or network. After all, I’m a published author!

There are three reasons for this.

  1. Experience. My first book, Spellbinder, was optioned by a production company. I was extremely reluctant about this, as the books are set in the UK and I knew that they’d be re-set in the US, which I wasn’t happy about. At the time, I had a veritable slew of agents and advisors, all of whom thought it was a really good idea. The main reason for this was that that they all felt that it would raise the profile of the books and bring new readers. I signed. MTV ordered a pilot script. The production company announced the deal, but omitted to mention that the story was based on a book (or who had written it). The script was written by a couple of experienced TV scribes and was competent as a TV pilot –  but in addition to setting it in the US, the 12 & 13 year old characters were aged up to 16/17 and the story Read the rest of this entry »

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Paradigm and THAT Car

January 21st, 2014 by Helen

1968 GTOBy “that car,” I man Sam’s ’68 GTO, of course. It’s elicited a few comments, the most recent being on yesterday’s Amazon review: “…I did scratch my head about Sam’s ability to find gas but realized I so enjoyed the idea of him in that GTO that I let it go…”

I actually did quite a lot of research into mixed fuel cars but very little of it ended up being in the book, apart from a few throwaway remarks about being able to afford “real gas.” At one point there was even a whole section on gassing up the car. On the suggestion of my agent, it was cut from the book very early on as she felt that it slowed the story down. I was sad to see it go as I thought it illustrated a recurring part of Sam’s life well. I’ve pasted it below, so you can make up your own minds.

Obviously, given the future that I created for Paradigm, getting actual gas for a car would be extremely difficult. The only gas available would be domestic, and even then it would most likely only be available in areas close to oil fields. But the history of automobile fuel is not simply one of hydrocarbons, and while gasoline has been the dominant fuel for most of that history, there are alternatives. The most well-known of these are methanol and ethanol, which have seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years.

For centuries before the automobile was even thought of, methanol and ethanol provided fuel of another kind – alcohol. A favorite tipple, it was known as the “water of life” and has been warming Scotsmen right down to their toes since at least the 14th century. By the end of the 19th century and the rise of the internal combustion engine, inventors were looking at practically anything that could be used to generate a spark. By the time Ford started producing his Model T in 1908, the jury was still out on which fuel would become the standard, so the Tin Lizzie was made to use either gas or ethanol, or a combination of the two.

The abundance of cheap gasoline led to methanol and ethanol being discarded as a fuel in most production cars until very recently, but it didn’t vanish completely. In 1964 seven cars crashed on the second lap of the Indianapolis 500, killing two drivers. The gasoline in the cars exploded, not only ending the lives of the drivers, but also sending dense black smoke across the track, reducing visibility to zero for the other drivers. One driver, Johnny Rutherford, was using methanol as fuel, and although it leaked following the crash, it burned at a much lower temperature and was invisible. The following year, the USAC Indy car competition mandated the use of ethanol in race cars on the circuit. Methanol is also used by many short track organizations, as well as in drag racing and monster truck competitions. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Best Conspiracy Theory Ever: Neanderthals, Julius Caesar, and The Red Baron of Paris

January 13th, 2014 by Helen

Notre Dame CathedralThe other day I got embroiled in a…discussion (I think that’s the right word) with someone on Facebook. It all started out innocuously enough, but it turned out that he was a major conspiracy theorist. His posts got longer and longer and more and more rambling, until he suddenly decided that I was some kind of government spy (or possibly a spy in the pay of scientists, I’m not entirely sure), at which point he blocked me. I felt quite proud – I’ve never been blocked before! Anyway, the whole thing reminded me of another conspiracy theorist I encountered a few years ago while living in LA. His theory was so wonderfully epic, so majestically off the wall, that I wrote the whole thing down the moment I got back home. So I now give you…drumroll please: The Best Conspiracy Theory Ever. You’re welcome. Read the rest of this entry »

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Q: When is YA not YA? A: When it’s a movie

October 6th, 2013 by Helen

Paradigm Front CoverA recent article in Studio System News (SSN) discussed the appeal of what it described as “YA lit” to studios and motion picture production companies. (You can read the original article here.) The writer of the article described all literature aimed at children and teens as “YA.” This is not uncommon, but it goes quite a long way toward explaining why Hollywood keeps making movies based on successful book series and ends up scratching its collective head when the box office results are disappointing. I initially wrote this article in the comments section of the article, but I think it bears repeating.

Basically, there seems to be some confusion in the entertainment industry as to what exactly constitutes a YA novel. The publishing industry sees Middle Grade (books intended for 10+) and YA (books intended for teens) as distinct markets. While there is a great deal of crossover between the Middle Grade age group and the age group that reads YA, the publisher-imposed definitions have a great effect on what actually makes it to market.

My first two novels Spellbinder and The Midnight Gate are Middle Grade. Those books feature a girl, Belladonna Johnson, and a boy, Steve Evans, who travel to the Land of the Dead. My third novel (as you know if you’ve been following this blog) is Paradigm, a scfi story with a male lead, Sam Cooper. This was when my troubles began.

Publishers love Middle Grade books with boys as the central character. The Harry Potter books, Percy Jackson, Ender’s Game, The Wardstone Chronicles, The Golden Compass, City of Ember, The Giver, and Artemis Fowl (all categorized in the article as YA) are actually Middle Grade. However, The Hunger Games, The Mortal Instruments, and Divergent are squarely YA and aimed at teen readers. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Spellbinder’s Halloween Giveaway!

October 3rd, 2013 by Helen

The Blood Binding - Front CoverAs you go about your Halloween preparations – making costumes, buying candy, planning parties – spare a thought for the girl who can see ghosts all year round.

For Belladonna Johnson, ghosts are almost as real as living people. Real enough that she has a hard time telling them apart, at any rate. But since discovering that she is the Spellbinder and that Steve Evans is her Paladin, things have become a bit more manageable. Her (dead) parents don’t try to shield her from things quite so much, though they’re not particularly happy with all her journies to the Land of the Dead, and now that she’s discovered the identity of the Queen of the Abyss (no spoilers!), things are making a little more sense. That, and the fact that ghosts are only able to haunt a single place, makes it relatively easy for her to have a ghost-free day when she feels like it.

Except on Halloween. On Halloween all bets are off…because ghosts can wander wherever they like.

They’re on the bus on the way to school, they’re in the library and sweet shop, they’re wandering through town admiring the shop windows…they’re everywhere!

It’s like that every Halloween, but this year is different — this year Belladonna and Steve discover the ghost of a girl who has been waiting two thousand years for someone to rescue her, and it will take more than a quick trip to the Land of the Dead to set her free. She has been bound by Old Magic and people and spirits unknown to even the mighty Queen of the Abyss.

The Blood Binding is a Belladonna Johnson novelette written specially for Halloween. At 64 pages, you can read it aloud on All Hallows Eve. Just make sure you don’t say the Nine Herbs Charm out loud — you don’t want to risk awakening the Spirits of the Black Water!

Aaaand to celebrate the spooky season there is a signed Blood Binding giveaway over at Goodreads!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Blood Binding by Helen Stringer

The Blood Binding

by Helen Stringer

Giveaway ends October 15, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

 

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Here’s An Idea: Think Before You Type, Text or Talk

September 28th, 2013 by Helen

There was a bit of a kerfuffle over on my Facebook page yesterday. Basically, I had posted a link supporting the boycott of Barilla products because of the, quite frankly, vile remarks of that company’s CEO about gay families. Nothing unusual there, similar links are everywhere at the moment. What was unusual was the first comment left by a fan and fairly long term FB friend. It just read: “Gay.”

That’s all. No emoticon. No wink. Nothing to say “I am being ironic,” which I knew he was. I knew that this person was not bigoted, but that did not alter the fact that the comment was inappropriate. Under normal circumstances, I would have deleted it and sent him an explanation, but I was battling a cold and withdrew to bed instead. Big mistake. Big. Read the rest of this entry »

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Storytelling and The Gloaming

September 24th, 2013 by Helen

gloaming project imageThere’s a weird thing about writing. Or, rather, about what is actually considered to be “writing.” For many years I worked on screenplays, honing my craft, creating stories intended for features or television. I considered myself a writer, but most of my friends and acquaintances did not.

Then I wrote Spellbinder, a middle-grade fantasy novel, and suddenly I was a writer.

“What does it feel like to be a writer?” people asked, when I showed them the ARCs.

But it’s not like that. I didn’t suddenly become a writer. I had always been a writer, or more accurately, a storyteller. The compulsion to create stories, to observe the world around you and extrapolate a sequence of events, does not magically appear one day, unbidden. It has always been there. The medium does not dictate whether or not someone is a “writer.” Books are not more worthy than plays or screenplays or songs. Each has its own place and some stories are better told through one medium than another (one reason why movies based on novels are frequently disappointing).

Alex and VeronicaI mention all this because I recently decided to return to filmmaking for one of my favorite tales. It’s called The Gloaming, and is a paranormal scfi story that I actually first worked on while writing Spellbinder. Both stories had ghosts as major characters, but The Gloaming was intended for adults and was much darker. I worked on one or the other each day, depending on what mood I was in. But, unlike Spellbinder, The Gloaming wasn’t a novel. It was a screenplay and was intended as a television pilot. Why? Well, because there was such a strong visual element to the story and I really “saw” it in my minds eye.

I see all my stories as if they were films unspooling in my head, but some are just meant to be told in pictures rather than words. Okay, you may ask, so why a series, why not a movie? Because the best television shows tell their stories gradually, unfurling as the characters learn and grow and change.  They draw their audience into the world of the people inhabiting the tale, until the story becomes almost real. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sorry, What?

August 24th, 2013 by Helen

Buffy the Vampire SlayerAn article in the New Statesman last week has created a lot of discussion on the interwebs. The title was I Hate Strong Female Characters, a real go-for-the-jugular, in-your-face statement if ever there was one. The writer was female, which is a good thing, because if it had been a bloke all hell would have broken loose. I came across the article via Facebook and strongly suggest you read it before going any further here.

Finished? Okay…so here’s my ten cents’ worth.

While the writer makes some valid points, an awful lot of it the article is a rather labored effort to make a point. “Strong female character” here seems to actually mean “strong female character in a superhero movie,” because, with the exception of Bridesmaids, that’s all she talks about. Her knowledge of even those films seems fairly superficial. Although she doesn’t actually mention Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the editors decided to illustrate the article with a picture of the character. It’s therefore not clear if she includes Buffy in the reviled “strong female character” category, but the implication is there nevertheless. Was Buffy a “strong female character?” Well, yes, she was strong, but she was also vulnerable, which is what made her such a great character.

The thing with movies bases on comic books, of course, is that the industry (both the comic book industry and the TV/motion picture industry) has historically seen those franchises as predominantly of interest to guys. They now know that is not the case, but they also know that their audience, male and female, would have a collective coronary if they just arbitrarily changed the sex of a major character. Incorporating more women into lesser roles is certainly a great idea, but in an industry dominated by men, it’s going to take some time. Read the rest of this entry »

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Goodreads Giveaway!

July 7th, 2013 by Helen

To celebrate the publication of Paradigm, I’m giving away twenty copies via Goodreads. Click the link below to enter. Oh, and the books will all be signed — I forgot to add that bit on the Goodreads page.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Paradigm by Helen Stringer

Paradigm

by Helen Stringer

Giveaway ends July 12, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

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The 2nd Annual SUPER SWAG SUNDAY is finally here!!!

June 24th, 2013 by Helen

Join me and more than 50 other authors for Laurisa White Reyes’ annual Super Swag Sunday! Just click on the link below and Laurisa will explain everything. Prizes include all kinds of book-related STUFF, as well as loads of actual books. So follow Laurisa’s blog and enter every day. Oh, and a copy of Paradigm is one of the prizes on Tuesday!

 

When:  June 24th thru June 30th

Where:  laurisareyes.blogspot.com

Why:  For a chance to win lots of cool promotional items signed by 55+ of today’s best middle grade and young adult authors!


Every day for seven days, Laurisa’s blog will spotlight some of the most amazing new books for kids and teens! Monday June 24th thru Saturday June 30th visitors will be able to enter for chances to win one of 6 Swag Packs containing everything from signed bookmarks and postcards, to pins, pencils, totebags, stickers, key chains, lip balm, charms and more all donated by 54 of today’s top middle grade and  young adult authors! Most of it is autographed!
On the last day, SUPER SWAG SUNDAY, one last MEGA SWAG PACK will be given to one very lucky winner! This pack so far includes everything listed above PLUS:

1- hardbound copy of THE UNWANTEDS signed by author Lisa McMann

1- TEST TASTE charm bracelet

1- TOUCHING THE SURFACE T-shirt

1 – LOVE AND LEFTOVERS charm necklace

1 – SEND ME A SIGN guitar pick

1 – paperback copy of EVERTASTER: THE BUTTERSMITH’S GOLD signed by author Adam Sidwell

1- hardbound copy of THE SCORCH TRIALS signed by author James Dashner

1- paperback copy of THE ALWAYS WARS signed by author Margaret Peterson Haddix

1 – OyMG! T-shirt

1 – Original Artwork Print from FISHTALE signed by author Catherine Masciola

1- LOSING IT water bottle signed by author Erin Fry

1 – hardbound copy of LOSING IT signed by the author

1 – paperback copy of HYSTERIA signed by author Megan Miranda

1- hardbound copy of STARTERS signed by author Lissa Price

1 – poster of THE BINDING STONE signed by author Lisa Gail Green

1 – DRAGONWITCH pencil

1 – signed Margaret Petersen Haddix PIN!

1 – MONSTERS (Ilsa J. Bick) Back Pack & Advanced Reader Copy

1- Paperback copy of DESMOND PUCKETT MAKES MONSTER MAGIC signed by author Mark Tatulli

1 – DC SUPERHERO Totebag

1 – paperback graphic novel TERRA TEMPO

Just a few of the very cool MEGA SWAG PACK goodies!

Where is this all taking place???LAURISAREYES.BLOGSPOT.COM

Stop by every day from June 24th – 30th  

for plenty of chances to win!

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