Sunday, March 25, 2012

Contest Time!

The awesome paperback cover
 Contest time! The prize is an "uncorrected proof" (aka an ARC aka a bound galley) of Sammy Keyes and the Power of Justice Jack, due out, it turns out, in July (not May).

Below, you will find a (rather lengthy) excerpt from the upcoming book. Worked into the text are forty-four (44!) Elvis Presley song titles. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find them. You don't have to be an Elvis freak to do this. I'm not an Elvis freak and I wrote it, so do what I did--research a little and dive in.

 Here are da rulz:

1) Copy the below excerpt from Sammy Keyes and the Power of Justice Jack.
2) Open a draft e-mail using this address:
3) Put JUSTICE JACK ARC CONTEST in the subject line (yes, use all CAPS).
4) Type YOUR NAME and MAILING ADDRESS as the first few lines of your e-mail (no worries, it's just me handling the ARC contest mail).
5) Put a little dashed line (like this: ---------- ) under your address (to separate it from the rest of the e-mail
6) Paste the copied text in the body of the e-mail
7) Underline (or highlight) each Elvis song title that you find (saving your draft often!).
8) When you've underlined (or highlighted) as many Elvis song titles as you can find (or are just sick of looking for more), send me your entry NO LATER THAN MIDNIGHT on SATURDAY, APRIL 7 (2012).

If these instructions seem excessively picky, forgive me. My ETRTR mailbox is an ocean and I just don't want you (or me) to drown.

Also, in case you're wondering, I'm giving two weeks for the contest instead of one because you probably have a life or are on spring break or need a reason to procrastinate looking up songs Elvis sang.

(Also-also, midnight on next week's Saturday puts us at midnight on March 31st, which is a mere second away from April Fool's Day, and I wouldn't want anyone worrying that this is the ultimate prank.)

(I'm considerate like that, in case you weren't aware.)

I have (I believe) five (5!) ARCs to give away. If there are more than 5 (five!) people getting all the answers correct (which I doubt, so don't be shy about sending in what you do find, okay?), then those names will go into the proverbial hat and we will draw 5 (one-plus-one-plus-one-plus-one-plus one!) winners. Otherwise, we will move from most answers (songs) found down.

Ready gang?

Here we go!

(And even if you don't want to do the contest, I hope you enjoy the excerpt.)

Sammy Keyes and the Power of Justice Jack (Chapter 24, in case you were wondering) EXCERPT:

You’re probably thinking I got sidetracked.

Well guess what?

I didn’t.

Instead, I almost got killed.

Now, if Maynard’s freeloading son TJ had been working the counter instead of the Elvis impersonator, I might have had to go clear down to the supermarket because TJ likes me about as much as a chained dog likes a cat. Something about seeing me sets him off, and he will bark and snarl and snap at me until he finally drives me away.

So there was definitely the potential for a sidetrack, but Elvis was happy to see me. “Hey little mama!” he calls from behind the counter. “How are things in Carny Town?”

Now, with Hudson’s help I finally figured out that the Elvis clerk talks only in Elvis songs.

Well, almost.

He’ll throw an extra word in now and then to tie together the lyrics or song titles, but pretty much everything he says is something Elvis sang. And it used to drive me kinda nuts because I’ve never heard any Elvis songs –well, except maybe Jailhouse Rock or Hound Dog—so it was like he was talking in riddles.

No, not even riddles.

More like mixed up phrases.

Nonsense that actually made sense.

In a weird, Elvis-impersonator sort of way.

Even so, I’m always super happy to see Elvis because seeing him means I don’t have to see TJ. Of course, Elvis doesn’t know that. He just thinks I’m a happy camper coming in for bubblegum.

“Things are hoppin’ in Carny Town,” I tell him, and then right away I flash to the similarities between him and Justice Jack. Not what they do—just how they dress in costumes and prefer to be people they’re not. “Have you heard about Justice Jack?”

“Didja Ever? He’s catchin’ on fast!” Elvis says with a crooked Elvis smile. “Beginner’s luck.”

“Think so?”

He nods. “Watch him try to move from a jack to a king.”

I laugh. “But you’re the king, right?”

He laughs, too. “Doin’ the best I can.”

I grab the Tums and put them on the counter. “Seems like the two of you could be friends.”

He shakes his head. “I got wheels on my heels, baby.”

I stare at him. “Okay. What does that mean?”

He rings up the Tums. “I’m just a lonesome cowboy in a long black limousine.”

I almost tell him, No you’re not. You’re an Elvis impersonator working in a corner market! But instead I ask, “Can you translate please?”

“My long legged girl told me to get on the long lonely highway.”

“So…you had a girlfriend who broke up with you?”

He nods, “My honky tonk angel turned out to be the meanest girl in town. I told her, ‘Reconsider, baby, put the blame on me! Let’s patch it up!’ I said, ‘Baby, I’ve been steadfast, loyal, and true! You’re the only star in my blue heaven!’ But she’s a machine with a wooden heart and now there’s been too much monkey business.” He shakes his head. “I’m afraid it’ll be the twelfth of never before my blue moon turns to gold again, so it’s viva Las Vegas for me.”

I hand over the twenty.“You’re moving to Las Vegas?”

“Cross my heart and hope to die. I’m movin’ on.”


“Tomorrow night. It’s now or never.” He makes my change, snaps off the receipt, and as he hands them over, he sort of cocks his head and says, “You look like you’re gonna sit right down and cry.”

“I really liked you being here,” I tell him.

He gives me a little shrug. “I slipped, I stumbled, I fell, and I’m leavin’. But that’s alright mama. Don’t think twice.”

“Well, I’ll miss you,” I tell him, then grab the Tums and head out.

“Hey, hey, hey!” he calls after me and actually follows me to the door. “Before we go our separate ways, let it be me that gives you some sound advice.”

“What’s that?”

“As we travel along the Jericho road, anyplace is paradise.”

He’s looking like Serious Elvis now so I nod and say, “Thanks.”

But Elvis isn’t done. “Keep a pocketful of rainbows.”

“Will do.”

And since I’m now at the corner and about to cut across a red light he calls, “Always stop look and listen!”

I laugh, “Thanks!” And as I’m heading across the street anyway he shouts, “By the way, my real name’s Pete Decker! I’ll get you passes to my show if you’re ever in Vegas!” And since I’m so shocked to hear his real voice and his real name, I do something you should never do when crossing against a red light.

I stop, turn, and stare.

All of a sudden horns are blaring and zooming by and I’m running and jumping like crazy trying not to get killed.

“You almost had the steamroller blues!” he shouts when I’m safely across. Then he waves, “Bye Sammy! I’ll remember you!”

I laugh and wave. “Who could forget you?” Then I hurry up the sidewalk, and sneak back over to the Senior Highrise.


Sunday, March 18, 2012

High-Wheelin' Around Bend

I try to get out for a "jogging tour" of whatever town I happen to be visiting while doing author visits. It's a good way to see the area and helps get you over jet lag, but I'm notorious for getting lost.

In Bakersfield, CA I wound up climbing a fence and getting snagged on top. Stuck snagged. (Yeah, I was channeling Marissa.)

In Fargo, ND I got so turned around and hopelessly disoriented...and couldn't remember the name of the hotel I was staying in. Or the street it was on. All I knew was it was across the street from a Hooters.

I should probably have waited for a female pedestrian to inquire directions, but there was one pedestrian as far as I could see and so I just asked, "Is there a Hooters around here?"

I was desperate and tired and cold (even though I'd been running for an hour and a half), and yeah, he knew which direction to point me.

There was also that spooky bridge to nowhere in some desolate park in Atlanta, and confusion in the vicinity of the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City. (Lesson: Never enter the Tabernacle or any of its extensive side buildings in shorts, even to beg directions. People in white will evict you.)

What contributes to my repeated lostedness is that there is no address on a hotel room key card.

There's also no room number.

All for safety, granted, but when you're in a different room / hotel each night the locations and room numbers become a blur. So even when I promise myself I'll remember, even when I say the number aloud, even when I take a mental snapshot of my hallway and its relative position to the EXIT signs, I wind up in tabernacles getting evicted by men in white.

I tried the strategy of a straight line. Go out for, say, twenty minutes, turn around and go back.

But sometimes a road doesn't go along for twenty minutes. Sometimes freeways pop up. Or roads T. Or there's a really cool park with drakes and herons and squirrels just over there.


So directions change, roads meander, tabernacles appear (and go on forever), and men in white rebuff my desperate plea for their knowledge.

Being someone who tries to learn from past experience, last week while doing school visits  in Bend, Oregon, I tried a new strategy.

I took a map!

Please. A runner with a map? How embarrassing is that?

Well, obviously you've never asked a man for directions to Hooters or you'd understand--not very!

I didn't have it out and open while running, come on. I had torn it down to the bare necessities, then folded and stashed it in my Race-Ready shorts' pocket.

Unfortunately, after I set out it started snowing. So I really should have been wearing SWEATS, but as bright as I am about all this I went out there in bare legs and froze (because my last pair of sweats was left at the beginning of the last marathon I did for ETRTR).

I did, however, have mittens and a beanie and a fat headband for my ears.

And a map!

I'd intended to go on an out and back with a straight(ish) shot through a park, but I did end up taking two detours. One took me through some scary ice by a river and required me to slip-slide through big 'n' nasty patches of goose poop to get back to being simply snowed upon. The other took me past the High Wheel.

I had no idea what a high wheeler was. And since the snow had, at this point, turned into a weird drizzle of ice-rain, and since I knew where I was and how to get back to my hotel, I could just have blasted past this wheeled wonder, but I actually stopped and read the plaque because I couldn't imagine what this giant thing was or had been used for and wanted to know!

Turns out it was used as logging equipment (before the invention of the diesel engine). A "buncherman" would bunch together felled trees, the "high wheel log skidder" would be placed over the logs, a "gopherman" would dig a tunnel under the logs and snake a chain beneath the logs, and then the front end of the logs would be chained to the long post of the high wheel, so a team of four horses or oxen could pull the high wheel (with the back of the logs skidding) through the forest to a collection area.

This is a picture of it in the springtime!

Okay. Normally I wouldn't stand around in an icy drizzle reading about antique logging equipment, but they had me at Buncherman.


And then there was Gopherman! How could I not read a plaque that had Buncherman and Gopherman as key characters? They sound like they belong in a Sammy Keyes book, and I spent the rest of my run back to the hotel chuckling to myself about Buncherman and Gopherman. (Well, except for a little break in that mental action when I saw a cool Beatles shirt in a store window and had to check it out.) (Squirrel!) Anyway, what's a little icy rain and goose poop when you've got superhero loggers in capes flying around in your brain? It was a good run, really, all things considered.

And you can bet I'll remember Bend.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Librarian By Day, Dame Deviant By Night

Never underestimate the power of a librarian.

This is something I've learned over the years and if you're a whippersnapper, take it to heart.

Also, never stereotype a librarian.

I was hosted in Oregon this week by one who's a big fan of Death Cab for Cutie, and three--count 'em, three---who compete in roller derby.

That's right, they're...(pump up the volume)...Derby Dolls!

Of course derby dolls have their character names, and let me tell you, at nearly six feet of pure power, Dame Deviant (aka a YA public librarian) is not someone with whom you'd want to argue about overdue books.

Sounds like a character out of a Sammy Keyes book, only she's the real deal.

Bend, Oregon is built on volcanic earth, so, going with the geography, the derby league is named the Lava City Roller Dolls and the teams have such names as: Smokin' Ashes and Cinder Kittens, and on the back end of their costume (aka uniform?) you can read Kiss My Ashes.

There are also teams named 12-Gauge Rage and Moulin Bruise.

You gotta love it. Especially since they roll for more than just fun and competition. From their website:

LCRD is made up of strong women from all walks of life who share a common passion for the sport of Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby. The members of LCRD are also passionate about our community and participating in charitable events throughout the year that benefit a variety of charities throughout Central Oregon. Some of our charitable partners include: Saving Grace, The Leukemia & Lymphoma, and The Boys and Girls Club of Central Oregon.

Alll this has gotta make you wonder, what's my librarian up to after she skates out of the building?

You might want to check out the roller rink.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Sammy Keyes In Japanese

Thanks for checking in!

I traveled to Texas last week and did a bunch of school presentations, and since the town had chosen Sammy Keyes for a community read (pick any title!), I found myself wishing I'd scanned in the foreign editions of Sammy Keyes and included them in my slide show. Some of the foreign editions are so cool!

So tonight I'm doing just that because I have another group of school visits coming up. And while I was scanning away I thought, wow, of all the people on earth who would love to see these, it's my Sammiacs!

So this week I'll share my favorite with you--Sammy Keyes in Japanese!

Don't you love it? I think Dorito's a hoot, too. I mean, that is one charred Dorito chip, huh?

Receiving foreign editions is one of my tippy-top favorite things about being an author. When I get my copies (I get 5 and I part with them carefully--one for each 'kid', one for me, one for my sister, and one for my awesome in-laws, without whom Sammy may not exist...) I really savor them. Just turn them over and over in my hand and wonder at the art choices and the illustrations. (Yes! Some of them have illustrations! You should see the dangling spider freaking out Marissa in the Spanish version! So funny. )

And the very coolest thing of all?

Looking through the pages of my own story, I can't read a word!

It's awesome!

On the back flap of the Japanese version (well, front, to them) is a picture of me with Japanese characters underneath.

My name!

How do you translate a name like mine?

Only...maybe it's not really my name. Maybe it says something else.

Maybe it's all a big joke on me!

Translation: "Woman from USA who thinks she's hot."

Crack me up!

Anyway, I'm sharing this awesome cover with you now. Sorry I didn't think of it sooner.

And to catch you up, I've been working manically! I re-re-re-re-wrote Justice Jack (final stages!) and am sweating through a rewrite of Sin City...both of which landed on my desk days apart and interrupted me from plotting #17 which my husband is calling Killer Cruise, even though there are no deaths!

But one may turn up, right? It's a Sammy Keyes book! Anchors away!

Plus, the name is awesome.

So yeah. We'll call that the working title even though it's sure to change. (But if you've been with me any length of time, you already knew that!)

And now, back to scanning for me. Miles and miles to go before I sleep...

PS Comments on comments on previous postings will be coming! Thanks for your patience.