Paying Tribute to Christopher Pike

October is one of my FAVORITE months. The weather starts to cool, but we don’t usually get snow, the shorter daylight hours become impossible to ignore…it’s all about transition. And then there’s HALLOWEEN.

Every year, S and I watch a marathon of scary/thriller/horror movies from October 1st to 31st in celebration of the season, and this year will be no exception. Last year I blogged movie reviews, and I might this year too…but when I started to think about great blog topics for this month Of All Months, I wanted to do something different. I tried to think of what DEFINED my love of Thrills and Chills…and Christopher Pike jumped out at me!

…and then I screamed! ;)

For those who may be ~unfamiliar~ with The Great Mr. Pike, he was known as the Stephen King of Young Adult Fiction in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He is also famous for being completely mysterious – no one knows much about him personally, and good luck trying to find out (his name is a pseudonym taken from Star Trek - FTW!). It’s part of his ~mystique~.  He was a MASTER of teen thrillers and science fiction, always pushing the envelope. I devoured these books in middle and high school, always checking the stores to see if a new one had come out. Recently, I reread some of them (I still have ALL my original copies), and I’m so impressed that not a single one seems formulaic or trendy, even now. Many of them deal with paranormal phenomena, but often times, the scariest things in them are simply human beings.

My absolute all-time favorite Pike book is Master of Murder. Observe the completely amazing 1992 cover art (it was redone later, but to me this is the only cover): MasterofMurder

The book is about an eighteen-year-old guy named Marvin who is a bestselling author of teenage fiction, but NO ONE KNOWS IT except his sister and his agent. Marvin needs to keep his identity secret, but he starts to realize that the stories he’s been writing – murder mysteries - are actually true. And then he receives a fan letter that reads: “I know who you are.”

People have speculated that MASTER OF MURDER is semi-autobiographical for Mr. Pike. The first time I read it, I became convinced that he WAS a teenaged novelist, and that if I met him, he might realize that I loved writing too and go out with me!! I no longer think this is true…okay, the part about him being a teen novelist, ;) though I’d still LOVE to meet the mysterious Christopher Pike.

Does this cover not SCREAM amazing to you? The 90s computer! The dead girl! The chilling font! The guy tapping away at his novel! <3

 

One of the more disturbing Pike books I’ve read  is Whisper of DeathWhisperofDeathThis one definitely has a supernatural element to it, though it is hard to define – which is one of the BEST and scariest things about Pike – how uncomfortable he makes you feel. You don’t understand the threat, and that is SO terrifying. !!! Anyway, those two terrified-looking kids are Roxanne and Pepper. That hooded death-figure on the road may or may not be Betty Sue, a dead girl with a GRUDGE.

Roxanne is pregnant, so she and Pepper leave town to try and solve their problems (I LOVE how vague the back cover copy is about this). When they get back, however, the town is deserted except for three other kids Betty Sue wants dead.  

Christopher Pike is a magnificent storyteller, and one of his great talents is weaving stories into stories. Betty Sue left stories behind that she’d written about each of the kids – telling how they died, before it happens – and of course things unfold exactly how she wrote them! One of the greatest things about Whisper of Death is the ambiguous ending. I still couldn’t tell you exactly what happened, but it wasn’t happy for anyone – except maybe Betty Sue, who we find out, was also pregnant when she died. I’ve read this book several times, and it still bothers me. Which is why Mr. Pike is a master of the craft.

 Midnight Club

The Midnight Club has stuck in my mind for fifteen years. I reread it recently, and cried all over again. Yes – I CRIED over a Pike book. That’s what a gifted author he is.  The Midnight Club is about a group of teens in a hospice (I KNOW – depressing). But Pike makes you realize teens in a hospice are still TEENS, and they act like them. A group of five meets at midnight to tell stories (more stories within story – FTW!), but as each of them gets sicker, they start to speculate about ~the after life~ and make a pact that the first of them to die will try to make contact–from beyond the grave. Eeee! I LOVE this book. It feels so well-researched, so compassionate…and so hopeful, despite the theme.

I guess a post about Christopher Pike wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Remember Me. Except that I am sooo disappointed I couldn’t find a bigger picture of the cover than this.  You can hardly see the ~ghostly hand~ on the balcony railing, not to mention poor Shari’s artistically-arranged body on the ground – without a trace of blood in her gorgeous blonde hair. RememberMeRemember Me is about Shari Cooper, a murdered girl whose ghost sticks around trying to find out who pushed her from that balcony at a party. The story is compelling, with lots of interesting familial backstory and baby-swapping, but the ending totally makes the whole book. I might as well ruin it, it’s so…NOT anything I ever expected. Shari’s (not dead) brother is diabetic, and his crazed girlfriend-slash-actual-sister tries to kill him by using his own syringe to inject an air bubble into his veins. Shari’s ghost slips INSIDE her brother’s veins to stop the air-bubble from giving him a heart attack. I mean – WHO would have thought of that? CHRISTOPHER PIKE.

There are TOO MANY excellent Pike books for one blog entry! However, I found out while writing this that The Last Vampire series is being re-released. Which isn’t a huge surprise considering the YA market right now…but it isn’t one of my favorites. I think one of the most impressive things about Christopher Pike is that he could write fantastic stand-alone thrillers. Remember Me became a series, so did The Last Vampire, Final Friends, Chain Letter, etc… and I’m not saying I didn’t buy every single one and enjoy them. But I remember and hold dear the single, sweet, intense books like Road to Nowhere, Spellbound, The Eternal Enemy, The Immortal, Die Softly, Last Act, and who can forget the very FIRST book: Slumber Party.

So on the first day of October, the spookiest month, a month of transition, I pay humble tribute to Christopher Pike. For keeping me up reading at all hours as a teen, for making me afraid to turn out the lights, for blowing my mind with compelling tales, and for instilling an everlasting love of YA that continues to shape me as a writer.  ~*~

Pike

Quoth the emo maybe-pire… EVERMORE

I’ve completely broken my ban on reading while writing this week because frankly…it was KILLING ME.  As I told my parents, I instituted the ban because the ‘voices in my head’ would get mixed up and I didn’t want what I was reading to impact what I was writing…my parents know enough by now just to say “uh-huh” and ask about the dog.

So I splurged. I went to Barnes and Noble (because my indie, The Tattered Cover, which is located ACROSS THE STREET FROM A HUGE HIGH SCHOOL has the WORST YA SECTION I’VE EVER SEEN). When I left, I was toting EVERMORE by Alyson Noel, FADE by Lisa McMann, BLISS by Lauren Myracle, and a non-black-market copy of CRACKED UP TO BE by Courtney Summers to go next to my um…*cough*blackmarket*cough* copy. I would have walked out with DUST OF 100 DOGS by A.S. King, but B&N was OUT – so I shook my fist at them and ordered it, and will have to wait.

So I decided to start with EVERMORE because it is completely new and I’ve never read Ms. Noel before, and I know several other people who have read it/will be reading it and we’re going to Twitter-Book-Club it – which is the ONLY was to book club (140 characters or less), if you ask me. Anyway, I’m about 2/3 through it and…

WHY did I not have this book in high school?? This would have been sooooo up my emo little alley! Srsly, aside from the car-accident-killed-family-leaving-her-with-psychic-abilities thing, I could have been Ever in HS. But I don’t understand something… I totally did the 90′s equivalent of hiding in the hoodie not talking to ANYONE, not looking at ANYONE, and trying my very hardest NOT TO BE NOTICED – just like Ever. If iPods had been invented, I might have stitched a secret pocket into all my hoodies just like Ever …if I could have convinced myself I wouldn’t get in trouble for it, because the biggest thing to me in HS besides trying hard to be noticed not getting noticed was NOT GETTING IN TROUBLE. I never *once* had a late pass. Ever. Though I cut class. A lot. Like Ever.

But for all of my emo-before-emo-existed-hood-wearing don’t-talk-to-me I’m-so-pre-emo-I-must-be-some-undiscovered-level-of-frumpy-sexy antics in high school…NO AMAZINGLY HOT GUY WHO JUST MIGHT BE A VAMPIRE EVER FELL IN LOVE WITH ME DESPITE MY EFFORTS. I still don’t get it. I tried my hardest. I wore jeans that didn’t fit, big flannel shirts, I ~never~ did my hair (not that that’s changed), and my legs haven’t seen the sun since 1992. I sat at the back of the class day in and day out, ate lunch by myself, and sent off such great don’t-talk-to-me vibes that the male half of the “class couple” accused me in European History of being a ‘man-hater’ (he *obviously* was NOT a sexy maybe-vampire).

So I don’t know…maybe it’s better that I didn’t have EVERMORE to obsess over at 16. I might’ve felt all validated, and then been left to question myself. I might’ve tried to be in a car accident to gain psychic powers to attract the maybe-pire, and would probably have just ended up in the special ed room. I guess we’ll never know.

But OMG, in 140 characters or less – I HEART THIS BOOK.

You Make My Heart Pound Throbbingly

Recently, I’ve been reading a very successful YA series (NOT Twilight). These books are right up my alley – they’re paranormal, action-filled, humorous, and the concept is unique. And most of all…I am ~swooning~ over the male love interest. *c’thunk, c’thunk, c’thunk*

But OMG the writing is atrocious.

All through the series I have been asking myself WHY I am so compelled to keep reading when I am literally tripping over unnecessary adverbs down every page. Not only that, but this author has a habit of telling, telling, telling. Don’t get me wrong, they often *show* what’s happening with the characters quite effectively – but it is almost always followed up by a sentence or two *telling* the reader what they were just shown.  

Maybe I am simply a snarky writing snob.

And yet…when the love interest takes the MC in his arms, my hearts pounds in my chest.

So I guess I don’t really need to ask myself WHY I’ve kept reading. I suppose if characters/a story is strong enough, it can make you look past the bad writing. It’s just one of those things that makes me face-plant along the writer’s path. I peel my face off the pavement, pull pieces of gravel out of my wound, and look down *unbelievingly* at the writing that made me fall. And then *I think how that fall HURT*.

All of this makes two thoughts run in circles through my mind: If this book is what’s successful, I’m never going to make it. And then, If this person can be successful, darn it, SO CAN I.

…Hello Mr. Doubt.

A little rewrite analysis:

1st Draft: taught me all of the above about adverbs, telling, and BAD writing in general.

2nd Draft: taught me that even with nice writing, all the elements in the book MUST tie together – despite how badly I wanted to tell those pages and pages of backstory or have that unrelated shih tzu run through that scene.

3rd Draft: Isn’t finished yet but…maybe will ~finally~ bring all the lessons of Draft 1 and 2 together??

Or maybe I’ll reach the end and have a well-written story no one wants to read.

…she said *sulkily* and walked off to finish Draft 3.

She's Come Down with the YA

Hee hee. 

The title of this blog comes from something Husband said to me the other day. -BTW, am I the only one who pronounces it Why Eh in casual conversation?- Husband has been doing a long metamorphosis when it comes to my young adult writing. At first he didn’t take it at all seriously, and there was a lot of Why Eh bashing…but through classical conditioning (and perhaps the long nights alone in the dungeon) he has come to the point where he still doesn’t understand it, but recognizes it as an art form. :D

So anyway, we were having a conversation about YA books, and he teased me saying the way I said it, it sounded like some kind of STD. So I was in the right humor, got the mental image and thought it was funny. 

And that got me thinking: When did I come down with YA?

I remember almost exactly – I was 15.

The summer between my freshman and sophomore years was a big one. I was leaving some friends behind me (who really needed to go), and being left behind by others (sob). We did not have “the internet” yet, but when we got it that October, my life changed forever. :-) My sister was going to college in the fall and I was struggling to identify myself as something other than Charlotte’s Sister. I was terrified of boys, and had been given a 20-year-old’s body for a nice kick of irony. 

During this time I read and read and read. Mostly YA. Christopher Pike and L.J. Smith were my favorites. Books where boring everyday life is suddenly interrupted by the not-quite-possible totally grab me. But there was not enough YA to satisfy me! I sat up from a book one day and said I want to write this stuff! So I sat down at my PowerMac one night and decided to give it a go.

It was bad. High fantasy about a group of redheads who are persecuted for being redheads. (Hmmmmm….) I got about fifty pages in and hit a sex scene. I turned lobster red. All writing ceased. 

Now, there are all kinds of ways I know I could have gotten around this …fade to black, promote abstinence, fake it… But what the hell was I doing writing high fantasy anyway?? 

So I stopped, and then we got “the internet” and my sophomore year began, and I started to become a real person. And that October my life became the plot of a YA novel. Someday I’ll blog about it.

Anyway, it took me years to come back to YA after all that (I know, and years to get to the end of this post!), but I remember that moment when I realized YA is what I want to do!

So…when did you come down with YA?