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Story Starters: Jasmine J.

Lamar Signing at Kelly Miller Middle School, Washington, DC

Lamar Signing at Kelly Miller Middle School, Washington, DC

I recently had the privilege of visiting Kelly Miller Middle School in Washington, DC (before we in Virginia got slammed with snow and I got slammed with the flu) as part of An Open Book Foundation’s and We Need Diverse Books’ WNDB in the Classroom initiative. I met about 75 great kids and during our time together, they each participated in an activity that I call “Story Starters”. As a group, we came up with a couple of story prompts, and the kids then ran with the concept creating their own unique short story. I’m happy to debut one of those stories right here. This one is from Jasmine J., a promising writer/poet.

Without further delay, Jasmine’s Story…

Brenaeh never wanted to fall in love again, but the new kid would not be so kind. One day in class, at wonder view middle school. In Ms Honey’s class, Brenaeh was minding her own business doing her work. But then suddenly, there was a knock on the door and coming through the door was the new kid along with the principal at his side. Ms Honey said ” attention everyone, principal Luna has someone that she would like to introduce”. Principal Luna said ” thank you for your attention, good morning students”. The class said ” good morning principal Luna”. Principal Luna said ” well, everyone this is Mason and he is your new student in your class and I want everyone to be kind to him”.

Copyright © 2015 Jasmine J.

Thank you Jasmine for such great work!

More story starters to come!

 

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2015 Edgar Award Nominee: FAKE ID

So, this happened this morning: http://www.theedgars.com/nominees.html

2015 Edgar Award YA nominee My debut YA Thriller, FAKE ID, was nominated for a 2015 Edgar Award for Best YA Book by Mystery Writers of America.

I have no words (even though I just wrote a bunch of them and will write some more–what can I say? I’m a man of contradictions).

To put this in context, this is the Oscars, Golden Globes, Grammy’s, for mystery writers. Now I know when people say that old line about how it’s an honor to even be nominated, they’re probably telling the truth. I know I am.

Winners are announced at a big deal, black tie banquet in April, in NYC. I will keep you posted as the time draws near.

Stay tuned…

 

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Live from the Write Cave: Writing Every (or Most) Days

Word Count It’s your buddy, Lamar. Broadcasting from my secret lair, The Write Cave. Some days the writing goes easier than others. Today was not one of those days.

I started my efforts around 8:30 this morning and slogged through, not hitting my word count until 6:30. Mind you, I took breaks to run to the post office, buy a new pair of badly needed casual shoes, get in a workout at the gym (still maintaining the 2015 goal), and grab some groceries. Yes, that’s a lot of breaks. And no, I wasn’t super-focused distraction free writer today, but I think that had a lot to do with words. Let me explain…

When I’m in a story, and I’m excited, the writing goes faster. When the writing slogs, one of two things are happening. Either it’s just one of those scenes that has to be slower to facilitate what’s coming, OR the scene is wrong. Today was the latter. I’d ventured down a path that just wasn’t leading anywhere. It felt dull, the pacing was off. What to do?

Delete, delete, delete. When in doubt…cut a bunch of stuff you already wrote. Maybe cry a little.

This is the importance of writing constantly. Write everyday (or most days) because a lot of that writing will be garbage, meant to be tossed. You write often to eventually get to the good stuff.

That’s all for now.

BTW, the blog is back!

Don’t forget, enter to win an ARC of my latest, ENDANGERED. Info Below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

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My Birthday Wish: Meet Stephen King

sk_book_tour_14This year, for my 35th birthday, I want to meet Stephen King. I need your help to do it. Bear with me.

Mr. King’s latest novel, REVIVAL, releases on November 11th, and he’ll kick off a six city tour in New York. The second stop on that tour is Washington D.C. on November 12th, two days before my birthday. I already have tickets to the event–Go Me!–but, I want to go one step further. I want to shake the man’s hand.

ONE of my SK shelves

ONE of my SK shelves

Any of you who know me, may know what his work has meant to my life and career. If you don’t know, I only mention it here, here, and here. I read IT when I was 11; it’s the book that made me want to be a writer. Then, every year since my 14th birthday, whenever a new Stephen King novel was released in the fall, it became my go to present (seriously, ask my mom, who will be attending the DC event with me).

I’m not going to drag this out. This is me turning on the Bat Signal without shame. Can any of the many publishing peeps I know help me facilitate a brief meeting–seriously, a handshake, maybe a photo; no Annie Wilkes stuff over here–with one of the greatest literary icons of all time? If you have a connection with Politics & Prose (the sponsor bookstore), The George Washington University (the host venue), the Scribner imprint at Simon and Schuster (Mr. King’s publisher), and/or Mr. King himself, would you please consider hooking a brother up?

Of course, we roll with Godfather rules here. There may come a day when you need a favor, I will gladly reciprocate.

If you can assist, feel free to contact me directly at lrgileswriter [at] gmail [dot] com, Facebook, or by Twitter PM (if we follow each other). Operation: We All Float commences now.

Thanks in advance.

Want to spread the word, here’s a ready made tweet for you:

@LRGiles has a birthday wish: meet @StephenKing. Details here> http://tinyurl.com/k4o4whl #operationweallfloat

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LRGiles_Headshot_ProBoardsLamar Giles writes stories for teens and adults, and is a founding member/VP of Communications for We Need Diverse Books. His YA thriller FAKE ID is out now, and his next novel, ENDANGERED, will be published by HarperCollins in 2015.

 

 

 

 

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#WeNeedDiverseBooks: A Call to Action

Hey Gang,

For my piece, I’ll keep this short because there’s a lot of information below. But, I want to give the internet a collective high five for the enthusiasm around the #WeNeedDiverseBooks Campaign (reblogged on Tumblr over 3,500 times as I type this, and I don’t even know the numbers for other social media…but it bet they’re in the general vicinity of GREAT). Anyhow, official event details are below, and if you’re down for the cause, click this link for the FB Invite.

If you want more diverse choices in your literature, here’s your chance to let the world know. Read on and let’s shout together:

#WeNeedDiverseBooks

WNDB_Resize

Recently, there’s been a groundswell of discontent over the lack of diversity in children’s literature. The issue is being picked up by news outlets llike the NYT, CNN, EW, and many more. But while we individually care about diversity, there is still a disconnect. BEA’s Bookcon recently announced an all-white-male panel of “luminaries of children’s literature,” and when we pointed out the lack of diversity, nothing changed.

Now is the time to raise our voices into a roar that can’t be ignored. Here’s how:

On May 1st at 1pm (EST), there will be a public call for action that will spread over 3 days. We’re starting with a visual social media campaign using the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks. We want people to tweet, Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, blog, and post anywhere they can to help make the hashtag go viral.

For the visual part of the campaign:

• Take a photo holding a sign that says “We need diverse books because ___________________________.” Fill in the blank with an important, poignant, funny, and/or personal reason why this campaign is important to you.

• The photo can be of you or a friend or anyone who wants to support diversity in kids’ lit. It can be a photo of the sign without you if you would prefer not to be in a picture. Be as creative as you want! Pose the sign with your favorite stuffed animal or at your favorite library. Get a bunch of friends to hold a bunch of signs.

• However you want to do it, we want to share it! There will be a Tumblr at http://weneeddiversebooks.tumblr.com/ that will host all of the photos and messages for the campaign. Please submit your visual component by May 1st to weneeddiversebooks@yahoo.com with the subject line “photo” or submit it right on our Tumblr page here and it will be posted throughout the first day.

• Starting at 1:00PM (EST) the Tumblr will start posting and it will be your job to reblog, tweet, Facebook, or share wherever you think will help get the word out.

• The intent is that from 1pm EST to 3pm EST, there will be a nonstop hashtag party to spread the word. We hope that we’ll get enough people to participate to make the hashtag trend and grab the notice of more media outlets.

• The Tumblr will continue to be active throughout the length of the campaign, and for however long we need to keep this discussion going, so we welcome everyone to keep emailing or sending in submissions even after May 1st.

On May 2nd, the second part of our campaign will roll out with a Twitter chat scheduled for 2pm (EST) using the same hashtag. Please use #WeNeedDiverseBooks at 2pm on May 2nd and share your thoughts on the issues with diversity in literature and why diversity matters to you.

On May 3rd, 2pm (EST), the third portion of our campaign will begin. There will be a Diversify Your Shelves initiative to encourage people to put their money where their mouth is and buy diverse books and take photos of them. Diversify Your Shelves is all about actively seeking out diverse literature in bookstores and libraries, and there will be some fantastic giveaways for people who participate in the campaign! More details to come!

We hope that you will take part in this in any way you can. We need to spread the word far and wide so that it will trend on Twitter. So that media outlets will pick it up as a news item. So that the organizers of BEA and every big conference and festival out there gets the message that diversity is important to everyone. We hope you will help us by being a part of this movement.

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My Next Big Thing: FAKE ID

Last week, I got tapped to participate in “The Next Big Thing”, an ongoing blogging experience for up-and-coming writers. The way it works is an awesome writer (A. B. Westrick, author of BROTHERHOOD in this case) tags me, I post details about my next project here, then I tag other writers to do the same on their blogs next week.

“Easy-Peezy,” as Brooks Hatlen would say.

What is the title of your book?

FAKE ID

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A teen in witness protection investigates his best friend’s murder and stumbles on a dark conspiracy that may lead back to his own father.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

FAKE ID began as an adult novel with a female protagonist. I’d been reading a book by the founder of the Federal Witness Protection Program called INSIDE WITSEC and I found the genesis of the program fascinating. Particularly the stories about how witnesses wouldn’t follow the rules, thus endangering themselves, thus forcing their handlers to make in-the-moment adjustments…. like switching their identities and moving them to a new location. In my original story, I’d envisioned a protected witness, Nicole Perry, who was the daughter of a big-time crime boss, getting caught up in a small-town murder mystery. But, it just wasn’t coming together. I was bored writing it, which meant anyone who picked it up would likely be bored reading it.

Around the same time, a friend suggested some YA fiction to me…maybe the GONE series by Michael Grant. I’m not 100% sure, I’ve read so many YA books since. In any case, I was a bit ignorant to YA at the time, thinking it was all kid’s stuff. CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY and THE MYSTERIES OF HARRIS BURDICK came to mind. But, when I read whatever book it was, I realized my preconceived notions were way off. I began devouring YA books, realizing the creativity on display for teens was as deep, if not deeper, as anything I’d seen in adult books. The realization brought me back to my little murder mystery and I asked myself, ‘what if it wasn’t an adult female, but a teen? Maybe a teen boy?’ The story just about wrote itself after that, no boredom. Nicole Perry became Nick Pearson, and the rest is, as they say, history.

What genre does your book fall under?

Young Adult Mystery

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

For Nick and his Dad, I’d love to see the Smiths (Jaden and Will) in the roles. For the remaining cast, I’m having some difficulty. The Cruz siblings are Latino, and while there are a couple of names that come to mind for Reya (Selena Gomez, Victoria Justice), Hollywood’s limited diversity has me drawing a blank on others. I mean, think about it. For African-American father and son roles, who else do YOU think of besides Jaden and Will Smith?

That being said, maybe you all will have better suggestions once the book debuts.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

My book will be co-published by HarperCollins Children’s Books/Amistad and I am represented by Jamie Weiss Chilton of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About 9 months. But there have been many drafts since. I just turned in a (hopefully final) draft to my editor yesterday. Draft 5 or 6, I think. I’ve lost count.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I think it could be called a mashup of REALITY CHECK by Peter Abrahams and I HUNT KILLERS by Barry Lyga.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Mostly, I wrote FAKE ID because I thought the story was cool. But, part of my inspiration has to do with how little diversity there is in YA. There are few male heroes represented, even fewer minority males. I wanted to write a story about a young, African-American male that was set in modern times and could be embraced by a large audience. Also, should I have a son one day, I’d like to be able to point to my work and say, “See, there are heroes who look like you. When I was growing up, there were few, maybe none. I did what I could to fix that.”

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Here’s a more detailed synopsis than the one-sentence in my earlier answer:

Nick Pearson is pretending to be someone he isn’t. Not high school pretending. Witness Protection pretending. And the #1 rule is “stay low-key”. But, when his sole friend Eli dies in the school’s journalism room under mysterious circumstances, and Nick stumbles upon the conspiracy Eli planned on exposing, staying low-key takes a backseat to staying alive.

Newspaper Nerd Eli had a secret, an in-the-works story codenamed “Whispertown”. And it’s got a lot of folks interested. Like corrupt cops, the town’s shady mayor, and certain high-ranking government officials. Teaming with Eli’s estranged (and gorgeous) sister, Nick sets out to unravel the mystery and still maintain his cover. He’ll have to use all the deviant skills he’s gained from his racketeering dad, assassin godfather, and their Serbian gangster boss to find the truth. However, each clue brings him closer to answers he may not want. Whispertown is bigger than he could have ever imagined, and in its shadow stands a killer…a killer Nick fears may be his own father.

Next week on “The Next Big Thing”… author, Aimee Salter will be talking about her new project, IN YOUR SKIN. Be sure to check her out and keep the NBT chain going.

Thanks again to A.B. Westrick for the invite. This was fun. More soon, gang.

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Could Idris Elba be the secret hero in PROMETHEUS?

*SPECULATION WARNING*

I have not seen PROMETHEUS, the latest sci-fi film from Ridley Scott, the director of the classic ALIEN (to which PROMETHEUS is a prequel). Nothing I say here will spoil the movie for you because it is simply conjecture. However, I am basing the thesis of this post on things I’ve observed in the film’s promotional material. And I will be referring to major plot points in ALIEN and its sequels, which could be considered spoilers if you’re the rare person who cares  enough to read this and HASN’T seen the film (which came out in 1979…if you claim I spoiled a 32 year old film for you, you really had it coming. Also, in THE SIXTH SENSE, Bruce Willis is actually dead the whole time). Moving on…

courtesy of screenrant.com

So, the question: could Idris Elba be the secret hero in PROMETHEUS? I have no idea, but I think it’d be cool for a few reasons, which I’ll get to in a moment. First, why even ask this question? At best, he’s a blip in the trailer. Blink and you miss him.

In trailer 2 he gets a bit more screen time and we get to hear some line readings, but everything we’ve seen so far leads one to believe that Noomi Rapace is the heroine. She’s top billed*, is the one featured prominently in all the trailers, and she even has a passing resemblance to Sigourney Weaver. Surely, she’s the one who will save us all from whatever threat exists in this film. If not her, then Charlize Theron, or Michael Fassbender, or Guy Pearce, all of whom have played top billed, kick-ass heroes in films before. How in the world does Idris Elba–most noted for his role as Russell “Stringer” Bell on HBO’s The Wire–jump to the head of THAT pack?

My Argument

Sigourney Weaver was NOT the star of ALIEN in 1979 – Ripley was. While featured prominently (though with little context) in the trailer, Sigourney Weaver was not the talent we now know her to be. ALIEN was her first major role. Tom Skerritt, who played Dallas in the film, was top-billed. And, until his unfortunate demise in the film’s second act, was presented as the hero. He’s what audiences of the 70’s would’ve been comfortable with in their sci-fi saviors. The rugged, handsome white guy. In a sense, Ripley was a bait-and-switch. If not for the necessity of a trailer, audiences would’ve been blind to the role this unknown actress would play. Ripley being the one to defeat the alien in the end would’ve been considered a twist. † Given the similarities in the ALIEN and PROMETHEUS promotional materials, I think another bait-and-switch could be in the making. What better twist than for the Ripley-like character to not be as Ripley-like as we’ve been led to believe?

Idris Elba seems to  be a non-dumbass in the film, one of the few – Though along for the ride, for whatever reason, Idris’s character is not the one initiating the foolhardy mission of searching for alien life on what looks like a hostile world. In ALIEN and ALIENS, the first two films of the franchise (and the only two I’m willing to discuss because the other two stunk), those insisting on going places they shouldn’t have gone for less than admirable reasons (money, glory, to be ultimate bad asses), turned out to be either villains or casualties. Sometimes both. In both films, Ripley was the cautious individual. The voice of reason. Because of that, she was the only one suited to be hero (also by process of elimination…meaning the aliens eliminating everyone else). Based on the snippets available in the PROMETHEUS trailers and TV spots, Idris plays this same role. He’s the one concerned with contamination, and giving threats access to safe havens. This makes him Ripley-like, more so than Noomi’s character, who seems to be the driving force of this stupid mission.

Why it would be cool if I am right

Because it would mean Ridley Scott’s still got a mean curveball -In a world where whole scripts can leak to the public two years before a movie screens, it’s nice when a director can still surprise us (unless of course you’re reading this, and I’m right, in which case…well…damn it!)

Because Idris Elba is an awesome actor – But Lamar, there are a lot of awesome actors in this movie. Why him?

Because someone scoffed at the idea that Idris Elba might be the secret hero in PROMETHEUS – Before reading one word of my argument, someone out there will see his name and/or picture, and immediately have a negative reaction to the possibility that this actor might be more than Victim #1, 2, or 3 in this film. I’m not saying it’s you. But, is it? There’s so little diversity in entertainment. So few solid roles for minority actors and actresses. Particularly in science-fiction or fantasy films. Hmmm….it reminds me of a time when kick-ass female characters were the exception, not the rule, in those very same genres. That changed when a certain director launched a certain franchise and blew us out of the air lock with a concept that would become normal, then cliche. The Female Action Hero. Is it so hard to fathom that that same director might do something similar when returning to the franchise? I hope so. Because, just as a generation of girls grew up idolizing a female hero who wasn’t scared to face off with a space demon, it would be nice if a generation of boys, who are IGNORED by Hollywood, could cheer for a fearless alien fighter who, for a change, happens to look like them.‡

In Space No One Can Hear You Dream

I grew up watching movies where the guys who look like me often died horribly. Heck, I still watch movies like that. To avoid them would mean avoiding the stories that speak to me more than any others. So I make concessions, and sit through what could be considered genre genocide. We’ve all heard the jokes. ‘The black guy dies first’. That’s not always the case, but (too) often, in situations of peril, a guy with brown skin is no different than a Starship Enterprise crew member in a Red Shirt. I wasn’t always aware of it, but once it came to my attention, it made me sad in ways most people can’t understand (Or, in cases of extreme insensitivity, they write off as an overreaction). I’ve long dreamed of a day when the hero who saves the world, survives the conflict, and gets the girl§ resembles somebody I might see at a family reunion. I don’t really think it plays out the way I would like it to in PROMETHEUS, but I’d settle for Idris Elba getting a Ripley moment, if only for one film. He’s got his whole career to get his due. Sigourney Weaver went on to lead many films with nary an alien in them. I hope the same fate lies ahead for Mr. Elba, who is a fine actor. And if he gets to kick an alien out of an airlock, I hope we see the old trope of “black guy = cannon fodder” go out right along with it.

If you enjoyed this commentary, please share this post through the social media outlet of your choosing and be sure to LIKE my fan page on Facebook. I’m a writer and I need the buzz. Thank you kindly.

*Billing refers to the order in which actors names appear in the credits. The person whose name appears first is top-billed, the star of the production. In situations where a number of big egos stars appear in the same film, credits might be listed alphabetically to avoid any dust ups about who is the bigger prima donna should be billed first.

I think it was considered a twist. The movie premiered the year I was born, only coming to my attention after Sigourney Weaver was pop-culture icon and “Get away from her you bitch” was one of the most famous lines in the history of cinema. So any opinions/analysis on my part is retrospective. That being said, I can’t think of many other kick-ass female characters from 30+ year old mainstream studio flicks. Thus, this would’ve been surprising in ’79, while we’re all too used to Buffy, and Black Widow, and Trinity here in the 21st century.

If anyone points out Will Smith in the comments, I’m coming to your house and plucking you in the forehead.

§ You may think these three events (wins, survives, gets the girl) happen a lot for minority actors/characters. I could write a whole series of articles on how you’re probably wrong. That’s another discussion.

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Know the business, part 2

Hey, Future Independent Authors out there…check out this conversation between J.A. Konrath and Barry Eisler. Great information.

 

 

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The Shadows Gallery is open for business

Under ConstructionHey Gang…it’s a bit of a new look for www.lrgiles.com.  Give me some time to get things together, and I’ll let you know when you can take your hardhat off.

It’s going to be a fun summer, folks…stay tuned!!

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