Book Review: Chuck Sambuchino’s ‘Gnomes’ Equips Readers with the Essentials

Chuck Sambuchino* is the master of guides. Since 2008, he’s given us Guide to Literary Agents (Writer’s Digest Books); now, he’s unleashed a new kind of guide—one that, he says, will save your life. In his aptly-named and recently-released How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack: Defend Yourself When the Lawn Warriors Strike (and They Will) (Ten Speed Press), he lays it out in the very first line:  Keep reading if you want to live.

What, you don’t think you’re at risk? Sambuchino disagrees—and whom are you going to believe, yourself or a Class 1 gnome slayer?

Yeah—that’s what I thought.

In Sambuchino’s easy-to-read handbook, he provides tips you never realized you needed to know in order to defend yourself in the event of an ambush of the lawn ornament variety.

 

What's he got behind his back? (Probably an axe.)

 

He has used his extensive garden gnome defense training to develop a foolproof four-step system (Assess, Protect, Defend, Apply), which will have you well on your way to total safety in just 106 pages.

Sambuchino not only equips readers with the proper tools to gnome-proof their homes and yards, but he also shines the light on the fact that these garden gnomes have infiltrated our world, down to well-known (and seemingly innocent) idioms (“gnomenclature”). The worst part is they’ve done so virtually undetected.

That’s what makes the little buggers so dangerous, he says. But fear not—it’s Sambuchino to the rescue.

 

The photographer's body was found three yards away. The horror! The horror!

 

I had no idea how much of a threat these pint-sized pests could be, but my eyes have been blasted open. I can now sleep much easier at night, after having acquired this knowledge, thanks to Sambuchino.

In the words of G.I. Joe, “knowing is half the battle.” The other half? Strategically placing weapons throughout the house and kicking some gnome ass.

From fashioning weapons out of household items to memorizing escape routes, you won’t find a more complete survival guide out there than Gnomes.

*For the most clever gnome pun left in the comments (winner chosen by moi), Sambuchino has generously offered to give a free critique of up to 5 pages of a manuscript or a query letter—so get commenting!  CONTEST ENDS OCTOBER 15 AT 11:59 PM EST.

Buy it here!

For more information on this book—and some life-saving tips, visit the official Gnomes blog.

To follow Sambuchino’s “ultra-nemesis,” Gnomevicious, click here. (Might be a good way to get an inside look at how these forces of evil think . . . )

Book Review: Meg Cabot’s ‘Blast from the Past’ Delivers Just That

Remember that time in grade school when your class went to “Pioneer School” and only you and one other girl wore pants (the rest wore bonnets, hoop skirts and aprons)—and that fake teacher lady made you stand up in front of your whole grade and went, “Why’d you wear your brother’s britches, young lady?”

No?  Just me? (Thanks, Mom.) Well, I’m thinking it must have been Meg Cabot, too—or else, that fake teacher lady must have told her about it—because Blast from the Past, Cabot’s latest middle-grade novel, lived up to its title for this reviewer.

In this sixth installment of Cabot’s “Allie Finkle’s Rules for Girls” series, fourth grader Allie Finkle must overcome a slew of obstacles: convince her parents she’s responsible enough to buy her own cell phone (she’s shed blood, sweat and tears saving up the $36—and it is her own money, after all), save her cat from being sealed up inside the walls while the construction guys rid her house of dry rot (ew—and snails!) and survive her first-ever field trip (to lame Honeypot Prairie, not somewhere cool like the SpaceQuest planetarium or the Dinosphere or the rare collectible Barbie exhibit at the Children’s Museum).

With her little brother insisting on wearing a hard-hat in public, Mrs. Hunter possibly getting married and moving away and Cheyenne O’Malley being—well—Cheyenne O’Malley, Allie has more than enough on her mind without having to also worry about the presence of her ex best friend, Mary Kay Shiner, and the rest of her former classmates from her former school, Walnut Knolls Elementary.

In the effortless way only she can, Meg Cabot disguises life lessons with humor, and she crafts memorable, true-to-life characters. Joey will remind you of that kid in your grade school who always got the nose bleeds, Brittany and her crew will take you back to those girls who wore training bras and made fun of you because you didn’t (unless you’re a dude—then she’ll probably remind you of someone else) and Allie will remind you of the girl you hoped your fourth grade teacher thought you were.

The premise of the entire series is that Finkle (or Stinkle, as Scott Stamphley calls her) keeps a book of rules—which she writes, based on what she learns throughout her adventures.  While a lesser author might use this as an opportunity to get on her soapbox, Cabot infuses Allie’s rules in a way that always feels fun and never feels preachy.

Although it’s the sixth book in the series, one can read Blast from the Past without having read the first five (although if you pick up the others, you’re promised five great middle-grade reads!).  As with any of her books in any of her series, Cabot weaves in the characters’ backstories to perfection.

With just the right amount of pop culture references and an authentic middle-grade voice, Cabot offers valuable guidelines for kids to adopt in their daily lives—and she makes it fun.

I highly recommend this book—and the entire series—to any reader, from middle-grade to adult (one who *ahem* still acts like a kid).

**And for my writers out there, this is a fantastic example of tight plotting, great voice, seamless backstory infusion, and character development.

Favorite quotes from Blast from the Past:

It was like President George Washington and I were practically the same person.

Allie’s thoughts upon discovering Washington’s 110 Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior

Boys do even weirder things than that to show girls that they like them, such as try to wipe boogers on them.

Allie’s thoughts about Mrs. Hunter’s “old friend” throwing rocks at their classroom window and sending her flowers

According to Mrs. Danielson’s class, all they had at Honeypot Prairie were people dressed in old-timey clothes, who talked in old-timey talk, refusing to answer the simplest question like, “Where is the bathroom?” without going, “Well, there, young feller. If you want to take a bath, you have to pay five cents to do it at the grand hotel! That’s the only tub in town. But if it’s ye olde water closet you’re talkin’ about, you’ll find it down the milking trail, behind the bake house, but to the right of the ye olde covered bridge!

Oh, okay. Thanks for that. That explains everything.

Allie’s thoughts after finding out their field trip is to Honeypot Prairie, a one-room school house

Here's Cabot and me at RWA10! *dies*

Book Review: 2011 Guide to Literary Agents

With over 500 literary agency listings and its easy-to-navigate setup, the 2011 edition of Chuck Sambuchino’s Guide to Literary Agents is the best resource out there for finding and landing your dream agent.

I might be *slightly* biased, being that my article on how to make the most of a writers’ conference adorns its pages—but that’s not the *only* awesome thing about this edition.

In addition to updating last year’s listings, Sambuchino also includes a horde of new agencies that have arrived on the publishing scene.  Likewise, the volume includes articles on everything from crafting query letters to what agents want.  Hope Clark’s piece on researching agents is a must-read as well.

We all know getting an agent is tough—so why not make it easier on yourself by picking up this book?

**Click here to check out the Guide to Literary Agents blog.

**Click here to see my agent interviews and guest columns on the GLA blog.

Book Review: Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript

With all the conflicting information regarding formatting out there in the blogosphere, whether you’re a screenwriter, novelist, or freelancer, the 3rd Edition of Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript (Writer’s Digest Books) is a one-stop resource you cannot do without.*

Chuck Sambuchino and a slew of other editors of Writer’s Digest Books have outdone previous editions of FSYM as well as similar books on the market because, not only do they provide detailed instructions on how to format screenplays, scripts, and manuscripts, they also demonstrate how to put together query letters and nonfiction book proposals. They show dozens of good and bad examples to boot, so you can see where you fall on the spectrum.

In addition to formatting Do’s and Don’ts, FSYM is loaded with tips from industry professionals such as literary agents, award-winning authors, screenwriters, playwrights, editors, and producers. Aside from all the great info, one of my favorite aspects of this edition is that Sambuchino and the gang uses The Office, How I Met Your Mother, as well as other popular, modern shows to demonstrate proper style. Not only is it cool to see snippets of your favorite TV shows’ scripts, but this touch makes the whole thing more authentic—to see this formatting in action in a “real” script as opposed to a generic one crafted by the editors just to give the example.

I highly recommend it, no matter what kind of writing you do—no matter where you are in your career.  Sambuchino and his colleagues do a great job of explaining the query and submission processes in ways that are palatable enough for beginners to understand; but they also pack each page with information even the most seasoned scribes need.

I didn’t even bother making room for FSYM on my bookshelf because it’s one of those titles I reach for so often, it didn’t make sense to keep it out of arms’ reach.

Um … did you order it yet?

Here’s a link with more info on it.

*FSYM is one of my main resources/references in my session at RWA Nationals in Orlando, Sweat the Small Stuff: Getting Your Work Read & Represented.