Sunday, May 08, 2011

Spookycyn is an Inactive Blog

Thanks for surfing by! I'm sorry, but Spookycyn is no longer an active blog.

However, I'm letting it remain here for those who might want to peek at the pre-existing posts.

For news of children's and YA literature, visit Cynsations!

To learn more about my spooky books, check out Tantalize, Eternal, Blessed, and Tantalize: Kieren's Story.

And for more reading suggestions, check out Gothic Fantasy, Horror, Paranormal Romance, and Urban Fantasy for Tweens and Teens.

YALSA's Teens Top Ten Nominees, Including Blessed by Cynthia Leitich Smith

I'm honored to report that my new novel Blessed (Candlewick, 2011) is among the 25 titles nominated for YALSA's Teens' Top Ten! See annotated list (PDF).

From YALSA: "Teens' Top Ten is a 'teen choice' list, where teens nominate and choose their favorite books of the previous year!

"Nominators are members of teen book groups in sixteen school and public libraries around the country. Nominations are posted on Support Teen Literature Day during National Library Week, and teens across the country vote on their favorite titles each year.

"Readers ages twelve to eighteen will vote online between Aug. 22 and Sept. 16; the winners will be announced during Teen Read Week."

Cynsational Notes

Check out the readers guide and book trailer for Blessed!

Friday, May 06, 2011

Spooky News & The Owl Keeper Giveaway

Children's Choice Book Awards Announced (PDF) from The Children’s Book Council (CBC) in association with Every Child A Reader, and the CBC Foundation. Rick Riordan was named author of the year, and David Wiesner was named illustrator of the year. See the complete list of winners.

An Address and a Map Discovering Your Genius as a Writer by Tim Wynne-Jones from The Writers' League of Texas. Peek: "...I’m talking about the genius that each of us possesses to some degree: a natural ability or capacity or quality of mind; the special endowments which fit each of us for our work."

The Interminable Agency Clause by Victoria Strauss from Writer Beware. Peek: "...language inserted into an author-agency agreement whereby the agency claims the right to remain the agent of record not just for the duration of any contracts it negotiates, but for the life of copyright." See also On Agency Agreements by Jennifer Laughran from Jennifer Represents...

Book Talking and Preparing for Focus Meeting by Little, Brown editor Alvina Ling from Blue Rose Girls. Peek: "....because I only have between 1 and 2 minutes to present each title, the presentation needs to be really tight. I want to touch on the summary of the book...."

Twitter Tutorial: The Long Version by Lynne Kelly from Will Write for Cake. Peek: "It's not okay to pitch your novel or query an agent or editor via Twitter, but following them is a great way to find out what's going on in the publishing industry and with their own work...."

Castellucci Joins 'Los Angeles Review of Books' as YA and Children's Editor by Wendy Werris from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "'So few venues review YA and teen books regularly, and even then it’s usually bestsellers and known authors, so this is an opportunity to assign reviews to the quieter books and older titles,' Castellucci says."

From Publishers Marketplace: "Nikki Loftin’s debut novel The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy, pitched as Coraline meets Hansel and Gretel, about a young girl whose seemingly delightful new school hides frightening secrets, to Laura Arnold at Razorbill, in a two-book deal, for publication in Summer 2012, by Suzie Townsend at Fineprint Literary Management (World)." Congratulations, Nikki!

Attention New Yorkers: anticipated budget cuts in NYC would effectively shut down many libraries, reduce hours and staff. Please stop by your local library or click to your local library website to sign a petition to save the libraries. See Queens Library, Brooklyn Public Library, and New York Public Library.

Career Planning: Who, Me? by Kristi Holl from Writer's First Aid. Peek: "...making a writing budget–the nuts and bolts of figuring out how much income you need, where it’s going to come from (all possible sources,) and what to do to get it. You’ll want to study this too." Note: Kristi references Chip MacGregor's excellent post Strategic Planning for Writers, but her pep talk/insights/summary are worth considering, too.

Author Advances: How Much You'll Get and When by Author/Agent Mandy Hubbard. Peek: "If you sell a book to one of the big six publishers, and it's a single book deal, and it's something deemed more quiet or literary, you may see $7,500-$10,000. if it has a bigger commercial hook, but still seems a little risky, you may get $15,000." Note: keep in mind that authors also make money from royalties, sub rights sales, public speaking, etc.

From Publishers Marketplace: "Brian Yansky's Fighting Alien Nation, the sequel to Alien Invasion and Other Inconveniences, which continues the story of the survivors of an alien invasion, again to Candlewick, with Kaylan Adair to edit, by Sara Crowe at Harvey Klinger (world English). Congratulations, Brian!

Career Insurance: Five Ways to Sell Your Next Book Before Its Written by Roni Loren from Fiction Groupie. Note: emphasis on series writing. Peek: "Unless you're writing the next blockbuster of the century, one book does not a career make. One book is just the gun going off at the starter gate." Source: QueryTracker.netBlog.

For Writers: Race and Science Fiction and Fantasy by Mary Anne Mohanraj from Whatever. Peek: "’s easy to be paralyzed by that fear, to retreat back to only writing characters who are just like you, or so vague that they can’t possibly be mistaken for anyone real. But again — that makes for bad fiction. If you’re going to write well, you have to get past those fears." See also Your Process of Creating Characters Across Culture or Class from Mitali Perkins from Mitali's Fire Escape.

I Live in the Middle of Nowhere. How Can I Promote My Book? by Kristina Springer from Author2Author. Peek: "'s hard to get a book faced out at the book store for more than a couple of months. So what can I do?"

Giveaway Reminder

Enter to win a signed copy of The Owl Keeper by Christine Brodien-Jones (Delacorte, 2010). First prize: a hardcover copy. Second and third prize: paperback copies.

To enter the giveaway, comment at this link or email me (scroll and click envelope) and type "Owl Keeper" in the subject line. Deadline: midnight CST May 27. Note: Author sponsored; U.S./Canada entries only.

See also Christine on Writing Scary But Not Too Scary for Tweens.

Hunger Mountain Critique Auction

Hunger Mountain Critique Auction: Bid for a chance to win critiques from authors, illustrators, and agents from picture books to YA and beyond. See details on:

Note: Hunger Mountain is the Vermont College of Fine Arts Journal of the Arts, featuring an in-depth focus on children's-YA literature.

Spooky Screening Room

Edit Letter Fun: Butcher or Coddler? from lynnekelly2000.

More Personally

This week I turned in my revision of my upcoming YA Gothic fantasy novel, which will be the next fully prose addition to the Tantalize series.

To the left, we see Bashi in the guet room, helping to guard the manuscript as I read through it, tweaking text.

To the right, we see Leo, lounging on Greg's copy of the draft in the parlor. Greg, the kitties, and I read the manuscript out loud to catch typos, missing words, and other minor issues. I'm especially include to skip right over two-letter words like "to," "of," "on," and "so."

See also Official Writer Cat Bios.

I'm pleased to announce that actress Kim Mai Guest will be reading as the character Quincie P. Morris for the audio edition of Blessed for Listening Library/Random House.

Kim Mai also performed as Quincie in the audio production of Tantalize (Listening Library, 2008).

Reminder: all blurb requests must come from editors or agents. Never authors. No exceptions.

Tantalize Reviewed by Anna from Troublingly Good Teen Lit. Peek: "This book could help teens who find themselves with more responsibility than they can handle, or whose parents/guardians are absent. It could also help teens who feel they may have a drinking problem."

Personal Links of the Week:

Spooky Events

Authors Jennifer Ziegler and Cynthia Leitich Smith will speak to YA readers at 2 p.m. June 18 at Bee Cave Public Library in Bee Cave, Texas. Mark your calendars for book talk and pizza!

The Chills and Thrills Book Tour will be stopping at 2 p.m. May 15 at BookPeople. Turn out for authors Mari Mancusi, Tera Lynn Childs, Sophie Jordan, Jordan Dane, Lara Chapman, Jennifer Archer, and Tracy Deebs.

The First Annual BooksmART Festival will be from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 11 as part of Arts & Letters Live from the Dallas Museum of Art. Peek: "Come spend the day with authors, illustrators, musicians and actors, and enjoy talks, workshops, gallery tours, and entertainment, designed to appeal to every member of the family and every age group." Featured children's-YA book creators include Rick Riordan, Norton Juster, Laurie Halse Anderson, David Wiesner, Jerry Pinkney, Gene Luen Yang, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Duncan Tonatiuh, Antonio Sacre, Joe McDermott, Jan Bozarth, and Ann Marie Newman.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Guest Post: Christopher Golden on Shared Vision: Writing with a Co-author & The Secret Journeys of Jack London

By Christopher Golden

One of the many curious things about being a writer—especially a novelist—is the number of people you encounter who believe they could do your job, that the only thing that separates you from them is that you bothered to sit down and write a book, and though they’ve got that bestseller in them, they just haven’t made the time for it yet.

That’s not everyone, of course. Some people look at writers as if we’re strange objects behind glass in some museum display that ought to have a plaque to explain our purpose.

This isn’t a complaint, mind you. Both reactions are fascinating and sometimes amusing.

But I’ll tell you something that’s even more fascinating to me. When it comes to collaborations—two authors writing a novel together—even the just-haven’t-had-time-to-write-my-bestseller crowd seems to get that curious look on their faces, that what’s-that-odd-animal expression that comes over people who encounter the giant South American rodent at the zoo for the first time, the thing that looks like it should only exist in The Princess Bride. Due, presumably, to the fact that I regularly collaborate with other authors, I get that look—and that question—a lot.

“How does that work?” “How do authors write a book together?”

People really do seem mystified by the idea that two people can create one voice. Actors create a scene together, musicians perform a song together and write music together…but you don’t often seen painters working on the same canvas.

Perhaps that’s where people draw the line. Maybe, even subconsciously, a novel is perceived as a solitary work, much like a painting. And I suspect for a lot of writers, that is absolutely true. I suppose many—even most—writers have difficulty imagining creating a piece of fiction that is a shared vision, but it’s simply never been a problem, or even a question, for me.

Writing, I am fond of saying, is a solitary occupation, and I am not a solitary person. In the nineteen years since I quit my job (at the tender age of 25) and became a full-time writer, I have collaborated with more than half a dozen different writers, and those experiences share certain fundamental qualities. In each case, my collaborators were my friends first, and they were all writers whose work I respected and admired.

More often than not, such collaborations don’t arise from a conversation that even vaguely resembles what you might imagine. They don’t start with, “hey, we should write something together sometime.”

Nearly always, they begin with conversations about mutual interests, or drinks and dinner, or a stupid joke on an elevator…something that leads to an idea being born, sometimes in jest, and then a moment when you look at each other, both thinking, hey, that’s not a bad idea. We could really make something out of that. And if it’s something both authors are enthusiastic enough about, then you do it.

I first met Tim Lebbon via e-mail, when I asked him to contribute a short story to an anthology of Hellboy short stories I was editing called Odder Jobs (Dark Horse, 2004). That, I believe, was in 2003.

It feels like we’ve known each other much longer, but we didn’t meet in person until a World Horror Convention in New York City in 2005. I’d been cooking up the plot for a novel I wanted to write called Mind the Gap (Spectra, 2008), but because it was set in London and very much a British story, it felt to me like something I wanted to collaborate on with a British author.

As soon as I met Tim, I felt a kinship with him. We became fast friends and it seemed like serendipity. I told him about the concept for Mind the Gap and he jumped on board immediately.

That novel became a series of four loosely connected urban fantasy novels collectively called The Hidden Cities. They are Mind the Gap, The Map of Moments (Spectra, 2009), The Chamber of Ten (Spectra, 2010), and (coming later this year) The Shadow Men.

While I’m proud of the work we did on those books, especially The Map of Moments, which I think is one of the finest things either of us has ever written, collaboration or not, those books were born “on purpose,” if that makes sense. We wanted to create ideas, to build stories, all of that.

Which brings me around to The Secret Journeys of Jack London (Harper, 2011).

World Horror Convention, Toronto, 2007. Tim and I were at dinner with a large group of friends and colleagues. Thai food. Drinks. Tim was talking about his novelization of the movie "30 Days of Night" and somehow the subject of vampire polar bears came up. [Tim pictured.]

Yep. Vampire polar bears. The very thought of it sparked an instant excitement and enthusiasm in me—not necessarily vampire polar bears themselves, but all of the images and ideas that flooded into my brain at that moment.

Back up. My father was in the Coast Guard during the Korean War, stationed on Kodiak Island in Alaska. Some of my favorite pictures of him were taken during that time of his life. My parents were divorced when I was eleven, and my father died when I was nineteen.

I always wished I could have talked to him more about Alaska. Despite his many flaws, I romanticized Alaska and that part of his life in my mind.

Perhaps that’s one of the reasons that Jack London has always been my favorite “classical” writer, from the time I first read “To Build a Fire” and The Call of the Wild (1903) in middle school. Jack London inspired me with tales of the frozen north, with darkness and ice and stories told around fires and rough men in rough terrain and the purity and savagery so perfectly melded in the image of a wolf.

In the eighth grade, I wrote a paper called “Atavism in the Works of Jack London.” Fairly certain I got an A. It’s still around here somewhere, if I can only track it down.

Another aside. Also in middle school, I used to run across advertisements for some liquor or other in magazines, and the ads would have bits of poetry quoted from the works of Robert Service—all of them about the same sorts of things that were so central to the works of Jack London. The frozen north. Grim and determined men. The wild.

I can remember those snippets even now. “I have clinched and closed with the naked north, I have learned to defy and defend. Shoulder to shoulder we have fought it out, but the wild must win in the end.”

The Wild.

Robert Service became my favorite poet. I bought collections of his work. I quoted him in my second novel. Then, about ten years ago, my uncle gave me a packet of letters he’d found that my father had written to his Aunt Marguerite during his time stationed on Kodiak Island. He’d been romancing a girl there, and her father had taken a liking to mine. The man had given my father a book that had become my father’s favorite…a collection of poetry by Robert Service.

Full circle.

It’s all wrapped up in one strange cycle for me. Jack London. Robert Service. My father and me.

Back to that Thai restaurant in Toronto and someone says vampire polar bears and all of this goes through my head in a single moment. I look at Tim and say something about how we could do that. Jack London in the Yukon fighting vampire polar bears. Tim says we could do a whole series of them, a trilogy. I say: The Secret Journeys of Jack London.

Because, you see, he loves Jack London, too. He has had the same childhood imaginings of adventures in the frozen north and the grim and determined men of the Yukon and the noble wisdom of wolves. And we both love monsters.

The story started to grow right then, for both of us. After dinner, we walked back to the convention hotel, plotting Jack’s adventures. I think, in that moment, we were both twelve years old again. As adults, going back and rereading the works of Jack London, we’ve discovered even greater depth than we had seen as kids, though I believe we both recognized the power of Jack London’s themes even then.

So we collaborated.

I know, I know. We’re the weird things behind the glass museum case. How does it work? We plot together and we talk—a lot. We started with an outline and then one of us starts writing, does the first chapter and sends it to the other. We get on the phone again (well, on Skype) and talk about the chapter, and then what needs to come next, how far the next chapter should take us, how much we should keep to or stray from our outline, and then whoever is next at bat takes the next chapter.

And it grows. Like that.

It’s The Secret Journeys of Jack London. The first book is The Wild, and that’s out now.

VOYA and Booklist love it, and we love them for loving it, because it’s meant a great deal to us. It’s come from a very personal place that collaborations sometimes don’t come from.

The second book is The Sea Wolves. We’re starting the third one soon. White Fangs. And yep…vampire polar bears.

See, even though these are Jack’s journeys, they’re our journeys, too. And we’re loving every minute of them. [Christopher pictured.]

Maybe some of you still have that curious expression on your faces, wondering how two authors collaborate on a novel together.

Maybe for some of you, I haven’t explained it well enough because I haven’t gone into the mechanics of it thoroughly.

But, really, it isn’t about mechanics, and when it comes to how two writers can create a shared vision, I think I’ve explained it perfectly.

Cynsational Notes

The Princess Bride by William Goldman (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1973) was adapted into a film of the same name in 1987.

This video features celebrated comic artist Mike Mignola (Hellboy) and award-winning novelist Christopher Golden, talking their illustrated novel, Baltimore (Random House, 2007).

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Book-spine Poem

Check out this book-spine poem by Christy Cochran, an Austin Independent School District librarian. Copyright 2011, reproduced with permission.

It reads:

Notes from the midnight driver
On the run
Magic steps
One false note
Dark fire

Isn't that cool? Thanks, Christy! Support Texas librarians.

In a Similar Vein: Vampire Books

In a Similar Vein: Vampire Books by Heather Brewer from The Guardian. Peek: "Heather Brewer, author of The Chronicles of Vladimir Todd, explains the allure of writing about vampires and suggests some of her favourites."

Guest Post: Christine Brodien-Jones on Writing Scary But Not Too Scary for ‘Tweens

“If you look up before you get the light on, It will be there.
"The Thing. The terrible Thing waiting at the top of the stairs.”
--Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity (1990)

By Christine Brodien-Jones

Shortly after Cynthia invited me to write a guest post, I was cleaning out a filing cabinet and ran across my old stories from elementary school. They confirmed what I already knew: I’ve always loved writing tales that terrify and scare.

I grew up reading myths, fairy tales and fantasy. I was a fan of horror movies. Not surprisingly, these influences—vampires, mummies, ghosts, monsters—followed me into adulthood. They began turning up in my fiction.

When writing fantasy for young readers, I find myself revisiting those old frights. Evoking the altered insects in sci-fi films like “Them!” (1954)(ants mutating into man-eating monsters), I created the Usk Beetles in The Dreamkeepers (Macmillan, 1992) and giant scorpions in The Scorpions of Zahir (Delacorte, 2012).

If I think about readers of my books, I imagine Megan, eleven years, sitting under a tree reading her favorite novel, The Magician by Michael Scott (Random House, 2008).

Megan has a child’s sense of wonder and a teen’s rebellious yearnings—and she adores old-fashioned adventures with heroines who save the world. At eleven, she’s at that magical in-between age of the ‘tween, a marketing concept that wasn’t around a generation ago. Maybe what draws her to fantasy is a wish to be brave: by confronting imaginary monsters she slays her own demons.

But Megan, dreamily turning the pages, isn’t concerned about conquering her fears. Her head is filled with incantations, leygates and immortal elixirs. She’s on Chapter Three, lost inside her own adventure, waiting for the magic to take her down a road she’s never traveled, to strange and wondrous lands.

And she doesn’t mind getting a little scared along the way.

I grew up in a house where the stairs creaked at night and I knew someone—or something—was making its way up. I still shudder at the memory. If you write what scares you, it may just happen—what my husband calls a ‘goosebump’ moment, what some British fuddy-duddies call ‘getting the collywobbles’: that delicious instant when the hairs prickle on your neck, your stomach goes hollow and you feel a catch in your throat.

Images from books haunted me as a child, long after I closed the covers: Kay’s heart turning to a lump of ice in Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, Bluebeard’s wife unlocking the forbidden door, Meg Murry’s confrontation with IT in A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (FSG, 1962). “The wolves are running,” says the old man to Kay Harker on the train in The Box of Delights by John Masefield (Heinemann, 1935). I still go shivery, recalling that phrase.

‘Goosebump’ moments in my book The Owl Keeper (Delacorte, 2010) occur when Max sees the misshapens (genetic experiments gone wrong) approaching the house where he and Rose are hiding, and also when a plague wolf surprises the two children inside a tower, just when they thought they were safe.

Fantasy storylines are sometimes dark—but not too dark for younger ‘tweens. Many authors use humor to take the edge off the scary parts, as in Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl (Viking, 2001) books, Suzanne CollinsGregor the Overlander (Scholastic, 2004) series, and The Witches by Roald Dahl (Cape, 1983)(amusing book, but those witches are fearsome).

There’s a fine line between ‘goosebump’ and horrific.

My editor Krista Marino discouraged me from having the scientists in The Owl Keeper extract the eyes of mutant skræks, saying it was too frightening for young readers. I later remembered my ten-year-old son’s nightmares after reading John BellairsEyes of the Killer Robot (1986), where a scientist tries to take out Johnny Dixon’s eyes. Shudder!

When describing hopeless situations, things can be bleak but not totally without hope.

Certainly there can be loss, tragedy, even death, but for ’tweens fantasy books tend to have upbeat endings. And hope, according to Lloyd Alexander, author of The Chronicles of Prydain (Henry Holt, 1964-1968), “is an essential thread in the fabric of all fantasies.”

‘Tween reader Megan turns the page, shivering as her heroine flees the Dark Elders. The magic is working, the world needs saving. I watch (from behind my computer screen) as she disappears into Chapter Four.

Cynsational Notes

Christine Brodien-Jones, a graduate of Emerson College, Boston, is a former teacher and editor, and lives on the Massachusetts coast with her husband Peter.

Her post-apocalyptic children's fantasy, The Owl Keeper (Delacorte, 2010) comes out in paperback (Random House Yearling) in April 2011 and has been licensed to Scholastic Book Club for Fall 2011.

The Scorpions of Zahir (Delacorte), an adventure/fantasy set in Morocco, will be published in Summer 2012.

She is represented by Stephen Fraser of The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency.

Cynsational Giveaway

Enter to win a signed copy of The Owl Keeper by Christine Brodien-Jones (Delacorte, 2010). First prize: a hardcover copy. Second and third prize: paperback copies. To enter the giveaway, comment here or email me (scroll and click envelope) and type "Owl Keeper" in the subject line. Note: if you comment, be sure to include an email address (or link to one) where you can be reached. Deadline: midnight CST May 27. Note: Author sponsored; U.S./Canada entries only.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cynthia Leitich Smith Signs Three-Book Deal with Candlewick Press

From today's issue of Publishers Marketplace:

"New York Times bestselling author of Tantalize, Eternal, Blessed Cynthia Leitich Smith's YA novel Smolder, to Deborah Wayshak at Candlewick Press, in a three-book deal, for publication in 2013, by Ginger Knowlton at Curtis Brown Ltd. (world English)."