Back from Nebraska

I just returned from the Norfolk Literary Festival in Nebraska – my only out-of-town event this month. I was so looking forward to getting out of the rain which has been plaguing San Antonio for the last six weeks. Naturally, as soon as I got to Nebraska, it started raining – the first rain they’ve had in a month. Yes, I’m cursed. Thanks for asking.

Despite the wet stuff, it was a very nice weekend. I’d been to Omaha once before and was pleasantly surprised by what a nice place it is. Norfolk, about a two-and-a-half-hour drive northwest, was surrounded by beautiful farmland. I always think ‘flat’ when I think Nebraska. I suppose most people do. But that part of the state was lush green rolling hills. It reminded me a lot of the English countryside (minus the pubs and stone walls). Thanks to Karen and Marci at the public library for hosting the event. We had a crowd of over a hundred teachers, librarians and kids. I got to work with some of the children at a writers’ workshop in the morning and did a presentation about the Percy Jackson series in the afternoon. I also got to meet two other terrific writers, Karen Kaufman Orloff and Trinka Hakes Noble. I don’t often get to hear other writers do presentations, and both of them did a wonderful job. If you have younger children, check out their picture books. I was very impressed.

Now I’m back home and back to work on several writing projects, including the final touches of Percy 4. Title to be announced soon – stay tuned.

I got to do some reading over the last week, as well. I finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I won’t give any spoilers, but I will say I thought J.K. Rowling wrapped up the series very well. I think most fans will be pleased and satisfied. One thing I had trouble with (which has nothing to do with the book): for the first time as I read a Harry Potter book, I could not get the images of the movie actors out of my head. I kept seeing Daniel, Emma and Rupert – which I didn’t really want. Before, I’d always formed my own images of what the characters looked like, but the movies are just too hard to ignore. I found it quite intrusive. Did anyone else have this problem? Occasionally kids will ask me why I don’t illustrate the Percy books and show what the characters look like. For me, one of the best things about reading is that you form your own images in your head. I like the fact that my image of Percy might be a little different from yours. That way, the characters become who we most want them to be. Movies take that away. They set the images in cement, and when that happens, the story (for me) loses some of its magic. That’s probably why I’m not as excited as everyone else is about seeing my books turned into movies. Oh, it’s cool and everything – but books are just better, people.

I also read Across the Nightingale Floor by Liam Hearn on the plane. I’m a sucker for medieval Japan, and this was a fantasy set in a Japan-like world. The main character, Takeo, is rescued from a massacre and discovers he is a member of the Tribe, with ninja-like powers. He trains to be an assassin and avenge his family, but his loyalties are divided between the Tribe and the samurai family which has adopted him. There’s a good love story here, plenty of action, and a richly-evoked sense of place. I first came across this book in the children’s section of a Scottish bookstore, but it didn’t strike me as a children’s book. Some of the content was mature, though handled discreetly. I’d recommend it for 8th grade and up, and certainly adults would enjoy it as well. I’ve already ordered the other three books in the series.

My younger son Patrick and my wife Becky just finished reading Anne Ursu’s second Greek mythology adventure together, The Siren Song. They both agreed it was even better than her first, The Shadow Thieves. Anne does a lot with character development. They said the ending was particularly exciting. They are hoping to see more of Zee in the next book! Patrick and I are now reading Michael Scott’s The Alchemyst together. So far, we’re both enjoying it a lot, and Patrick is a tough critic. Scott gets right into the action. The chapters are short and finely-tuned. Perfect for a nine-year-old boy (and his dad)!

And now enough procrastination – time to get back to writing!

Rick Riordan