"I hadn't really thought about doing thrillers for adults," says best-selling children's author R.L. Stine. He's speaking of his new book, The Sitter, a creepy summer read aimed at the twentysomething set that grew up reading Stine's Goosebumps series. "I thought maybe I'd try to grow with my audience," adds the author of more than 200 kiddy reads. To capture the flavor of 24-year-old Ellie Sacks, the novel's tortured protagonist, Stine enlisted his son Matthew, 22, who edited the manuscript and let Dad know what youngsters drink, wear and say. "He hands the manuscript back after he read it," Stine says, laughing, "and he's circled this thing. It says, Dad, it doesn't take three people to carry a keg.'"
In the book, Ellie takes a job in the Hamptons as a nanny for a troubled 4-year-old who's stopped speaking. Meanwhile, a long-dead face from Ellie's past is haunting her, and disturbing gifts keep arriving in the mail. The story -- definitely not for Stine's younger fans -- twists so that, just when you think you know what's happening, you find out how wrong you are.
Stine will discuss and sign his book at Changing Hands Bookstore, 6428 South McClintock in Tempe, at 7 p.m. Monday, July 21. Call 480-730-1142 for more information. - Brendan Joel Kelley
The day goes to the dogs in Tempe
The doghouse will be rockin' Saturday, July 19, when Pooches in Paradise, 220 West Lodge in Tempe, hosts a Paradise Pooch Party benefiting RESCUE. From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., pets and owners can get serious (with pet health seminars) and silly (a canine costume contest, bobbing for hot dogs). And since pups sporting beachwear ought to be in pictures, each $10 donation gets two formal photographs. See www.poochesinparadise.com. - Jill Koch
Out Far! film series keeps festival spirit year-round
Out Far! Phoenix International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival doesn't happen until mid-February, but that isn't stopping festival director Amy Ettinger from constantly scouting out new films. In fact, with the Out Far!/Echo Magazine quarterly film series up and running, Ettinger doesn't even have to wait until next spring to screen them. At 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 23, the series' latest installment features Gasoline, an Italian lesbian flick that caught Ettinger's attention at a Toronto gay festival in May. "I thought it was just really well made, and wanted to grab it now," she says. "It's very intense and very dark, but it also has an element of comedy that just slayed me."
Advance tickets are $7 from outfar.org or Movies on Central; tickets at the door are $8 at Harkins North Valley 16. - Michele Laudig
Salon hosts fund raiser
One of the Valley's premier purveyors of pretty proves that beauty is more than skin deep on Saturday, July 19. From 4 to 8 p.m., the Elizabeth Arden Red Door Salon & Spa hosts a special event to support Logan's Playground, founded in 2000 to serve more than 40 families affected by AIDS in the Phoenix area. While the organization continues to struggle financially, Red Door answers its call for help by offering $25 haircuts to raise funds to support Logan's Playground programs. "Many people have joined together to make this event special and fun," says salon general manager Mary Knadler. Indeed, other vendors at the Biltmore Fashion Park are helping to make it a glamorous affair, with a fashion show by Stacy Ellen Designs (with jewelry from Premier Designs Jewelry, shoes by Enzo Angiolini, hair and makeup by Elizabeth Arden), and exotic eats provided by Bamboo Club. Contact the Red Door at 602-553-8800 for more information. - Maidi Terry
Flake and Bake
Tempe's Downtown Cooldown brings summer snow
Snow, like high fashion and hickeys, provides momentary pleasure. But after a while, the novelty wears thin -- and the scarf gets itchy. Of course, Valley kids who know no snow may not tire so easily; an opportunity to frolic in the fluffy white stuff comes but once a year. On Saturday, July 19, Tempe's Annual Downtown Cooldown dumps 50 tons of snow on Tempe Beach Park, just north of Mill Avenue and Rio Salado Parkway.
Beginning at 8 a.m., kids and parents can chill out as the Downtown Tempe Community hauls out a giant water slide, kiddy car wash, dunk tanks and slip-and-slides. The cool vibe continues until 1 p.m., with interactive games and an entertainment lineup of dance troupes, musical groups, street performers and a magic show. Kids can escape the sun inside the storytelling tent and the arts-and-crafts tent, where projects include bubble art and marshmallow snowflakes. The park's new Splash Playground starts spurting at 8 a.m. as well, and exhibitors will be on hand to peddle gadgets, food and beverages.
Admission is $1. For more information, call 480-921-2300, extension 4. - Jill Koch
Stomping at the Bit
Clogging champs step lively
Scottsdale is hosting a hoe-down -- the Southwest U.S. Clogging Championships, Friday, July 18, and Saturday, July 19, at the Doubletree Paradise Valley Resort. Born in Appalachia from sturdy immigrant stock, clogging blends Irish, English and Scottish folk dance into a singular art form. Some call it hillbilly tap; Bill Clinton called it American Riverdance. Whatever you call it, double toe-step-rock-step to the Doubletree, 5401 North Scottsdale Road, for competition, cash prizes, door prizes and Southwestern hospitality. The competition takes place from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. both days, with a Saturday evening session from 7 to 10. Admission is $7 per session; children 11 and younger get in for half price. For information, call 480-947-5400.- Kim Toms