Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Tantalizing Review; More Party Reports

My new novel, Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007) received a five-star review from Karin Perry at TeensReadToo.com! Karin calls the novel "...a stimulating paranormal mystery mixed with romance. The relationship between Quincie and Kieren is touching and so deep that the reader feels Quincie’s pain at the thought of losing Kieren, while at the same time understanding Kieren’s reasons for keeping Quincie at arms length..." Read the whole review.

Speaking of Tantalize itself, though, Alison Dellenbaugh (AKA She Who Brought Her Own Fangs) offers her report on the novel's launch party at Alison Wonderland. So does Jo--news with many party pics!--and Liz on "community" at their LJs. And Tanya Lee Stone offers cheers. See the full launch party report.

How To Throw A Book Launch Party

Learn "How to Throw a Book Launch Party" via an article I've written that has been posted to Anastasia Suen's blog, Create/Relate: News from the Children's Book Biz.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Tantalize Launch Party

Thanks to all who celebrated with us in person or in spirit at the launch party for Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007) on Friday, Feb. 23!

In keeping with the Sanguini's motif (the fictional vampire restaurant in the novel), guests were asked to sign in as predator or prey.

We decorated in low-key Gothic colors, mostly with accents--including the framed Sanguini's fangs-style logo in the foyer, black-and-red linens for the daybed, black tapers in the candlesticks, black votives in the tray display, black-and-red pillar candles in the fireplace, red drop crystals in the parlor chandelier, black coasters, and black table cloths. We also set three tables with the matching linens on the front terrace for those who wanted to enjoy the bright, breeze, 70-something degree night.

So far as wardrobe went, I opted for a slinky black shell and pants, black cowbody boots, my snake-wrapped earrings, my antique gold watch necklace (originally grandma's), and a full-length black net cape.

The previous day, Barbara Marin at Bo Salon on South Congress had taken my hair to a near black featuring a subtle dark blue sheen with red stripe accent streaks in front, and Kate Pham, also of Bo, painted my nails in alternating red and black. Many guests commented that they thought I should keep the 'do permanently.

The to-die-for menu, from Primizie Catering, featured: antipasto; smoked salmon gravlox; fresh vegetable crudite platter; imported and domestic artisan cheese board with vineyard grapes and seasonal berries; fresh seasonal fruit; oven dried tomatoes finished with local goat cheese balsamic vinaigreette and snipped chives; Italian sausage "spiedini" with peppers and pecorino romano cheese; calzone with mushrooms and Italian cheeses; miniature stuffed and baked pizza pockets filled with Italian cheeses, wild mushrooms and charred tomato; cocktail sandwiches (wild mushrooms, garlicky spinach and artichoke herb spread on Italian flatbread); and stuffed porcini mushrooms. Absolutely delicious! The calzone and porcini mushrooms were especially popular with our crowd. Guest Anne Bustard graciously provided an Italian creme cake.

Colby Neal 's The Flower Studio designed the gorgeously gothic buffet flowers.

Candlewick Press co-sponsored a giveaway of the final book (guests were each welcome to take one). I pre-autographed the copies. A few folks also bought (prior to the party) and brought more for me to sign.

Door prizes included ARCs of the following 2007 novels by Austin-area authors: Brothers, Boyfriends, and Other Criminal Minds by April Lurie (Delacorte); Onaj's Horn: the Silverskin Legacy (Book Three) by Jo Whittemore (Llewellyn); Runaround by Helen Hemphill (Front Street); and Wonders of the World by Brian Yansky (Flux).

We also gave away a basket filled with fixings for an Italian dinner from Central Market. Contents included: black squid ink pasta; pesto sauce with truffles; sun-dried tomatoes; parmesan; dark chocolate; Sanguini's mug, sticker, mousepad, and magnet; wine biscuits; and a bottle of Travis Peak Cabernet Sauvignon.

We had a crowd of about eighty from throughout Central Texas, though with ebb and flow, there were usually only about sixty people inside the house at any given time.

Guests included such luminaries as writers Brian Anderson, Kathi Appelt, Anne Bustard, Janie Bynum, Betty Davis, Alison Dellenbaugh, Peni R. Griffin, Lila and Rick Guzman, Helen Hemphill, Frances Hill, Varian Johnson, Lindsey Lane, April Lurie, Mark Mitchell, Sean Petrie, Lupe Ruiz-Flores, Liz Garton Scanlon, Elaine Scott, Jerry Wermund, Jo Whittemore, and Brian Yansky, illustrators Gene Brenek, Joy Fisher Hein, Christy Stallop, and Don Tate, current and former Austin SCBWI RAs-authors Tim Crow, Meredith Davis, Debbie Dunn, Julie Lake, and Nancy Jean Okunami, as well as a bounty other book pros (teachers, school and public librarians, university professors of children's/YA lit, and so on), including author-librarian Jeanette Larson, librarian-blogger Camille Powell, and a number of additional book lovers, friends, and significant others.

Kathi Appelt was kind enough to propose a toast!

I'd say about a third of the guests were writers or illustrators, about a third other book folks, and about a third significant others and additional guests, which made for a lovely mix.

My special thanks to the central Texas children's and young adult book community for all of its enthusiasm and support. I'm so honored and thrilled to have such amazing people in my life.

Cynsational Notes

Thanks also to our servers, Anna and Eric! They looked fierce in their custom Sanguini's T-shirts designed by Gene Brenek. Thanks to author Julie Lake for facilitating their hiring.

Thanks also to Michael Helferich for lending us his chainsaw. Because the weather cooperated, we didn't need to have the outdoor fireplace on the terrace, but it gave us peace of mind to have it as a back-up plan.

Primizie Osteria – Italian CafĂ© and Wine Bar will open soon at 1000 E. 11th Street, Suite 200 in Austin.

See more party news and pics at GregLSBlog. Once the festivities started, we were too busy to keeping shooting photos, but I'll be sure to highlight any other party posts that may arise. Speaking of which, check out Don's "A tantalizing party" at Devas T. Rants and Raves and Camille's "Friday Night Highlights" at Book Moot.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Illustrator Interview: Gene Brenek on the Logo for Sanguini's from Tantalize

Gene Brenek on Gene Brenek: "Well I had to put on a little 'ABBA Gold' to gear up for this. Let's see, I was born in Houston many moons ago, but not as far back as when ABBA was still in heavy rotation. I was an 80's kid, more Prince back before he changed his name to a hieroglyph and way before he went back to being Prince. Why is my bio suddenly full of old pop artist references? Dunno, I guess that's what happens when I'm left to my own devices.

"Let's move this ahead a few years shall we? I'm currently a creative director for a big ad agency in Austin, Texas. In my spare time, I'm working on a master's in writing for children and young adults at Vermont College, which is truly a great program. I also have been illustrating dummies for my own picture book ideas. Let's just say I don't sleep. And I'm waiting, PATIENTLY, to be discovered. Ahem."

Thanks so much for designing logos for Sanguini's, the fictional vampire restaurant featured in my gothic fantasy, Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007). What was your initial inspiration for the designs?

Designing a logo is a lot like creating a picture book in a way. You need a very simple idea. A logo can't contain several different concepts at once and be effective. The ones with staying power are very iconic.

Certainly what separated the dead from the undead restaurants was the vampire mythology. So I started brainstorming and writing down anything that came to mind when I thought about vampires.

Usually I spend a fair amount of time trying out various color combinations but this assignment begged for two colors. Black, the color of night and red. Yes, black is the absence of color but when you're talking to printers it's still an ink color. Red seemed an obvious but essential choice: blood, wine, marinara.

One logo idea, that for better or worse got nicknamed "the girly one," came out of Quincie's, the protagonist's, femininity. I loved the idea of blood draining off the gothic lettering and dripping down a flowering vine, as if elements of the restaurant were changing who she was.

I also kept coming back to puncture wounds. The other logo (see above) incorporated that idea. So thank you for coming up with a restaurant that had two i's in the name, you made my job easy. If you ever write a book about a vampire-themed Ikea, I may have some leftover ideas for all those umlauted furniture names.

What considerations came into play when developing the logos?

I treated this project as I would any other design project. Before starting any sketches I had a few questions. What the owners were like? What was their vision for the restaurant? Who was their clientele? What cues could I get from the interior spaces? And while that may seem like a tough assignment, given that it's a fictional place, I found that the writing was crafted in such a way that it was very easy for me to get a sense of all of these things.

I approached this as not a design project for author Cynthia Leitich Smith but for Quincie [the protagonist]. I tried to understand her as much as I could and what her sensibilities were. Now it could be argued that Cyn and Quincie are one in the same, certainly there are aspects of that, but they are different people.

What were the challenges in bringing them to life?

Honestly the biggest challenge was not getting to design the menu, interior, the matchbooks, the business cards –all the elements that go into shaping one's identity.

What was your experience working with Printfection and CafePress? Why did you select those companies?

I went with these two companies because they offer so much flexibility. They print on demand, meaning that rather than doing a run of say 100 shirts in every size that I then had to store and ship, when someone places an order then it gets printed and shipped. They take care of it all. And I like the quality of their merchandise.

What advice would you give to folks trying to design and produce book tie-in promotions?

Think outside the box. Why not create items for a fictional vampire themed restaurant? But know that your reader is smart. Just because a tie-in isn't physically in the book, it's a part of the book. Initially I had envisioned staying away from a gothic typeface. I was leaning toward something more modern. Then I read a passage about the gothic lettering on the menu and it guided me away from something slick and contemporary. I needed to remain faithful to the book. It wasn't an entirely blank canvas.

Restaurant items made sense; to me Sanguini's was a prominent character in Tantalize. Designing items based around where the protagonist had gone to school would've made no sense what so ever.

More personally, do you count yourself among fans of the fanged ones? If so, what do you think is the appeal?

Of course I'm a fan. Vampires seem to have all the smarts. They also have big personalities, charisma. You want to hang out with them. Imagine a book where someone opens a tax-attorney-themed restaurant. Yawn.

What do you do when you're not working for the undead?

What do you mean? I'm an art director for an ad agency. I'm always working for the undead.

Actually, I'm writing and illustrating a couple of ideas of my own in the picture book arena. Depending on who you talk to that particular market is either dead or undead. For my sake, I'm hoping it's undead.

Cynsational Notes

Shop Sanguini's at Printfection and CafePress; see the other Sanguini's logo option.

Sanguini's Shops

Austin illustrator Gene Brenek has designed two logos to celebrate Sanguini's, the fictional vampire restaurant featured in my upcoming YA gothic fantasy novel, Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007).

The logos are now available on T-shirts, a mousepad, and a cutting board for sale at Printfection and on more T-shirts, a mug, a magnet, and a sticker at CafePress.

Cynsational Notes

Shop Sanguini's at Printfection and CafePress.

Read a story-behind-the-logos interview with Gene and see the other Sanguini's logo option.

More News & Links

A couple of bloggers have commented on my recent interview with Not Your Mother's Book Club, specifically about my revision process. Check out Justine Larbalestier's "Different Strokes" and Stephanie Gunn's "suddenly my writing methodology doesn't seem so strange."

Thanks also to Elizabeth Garton Scanlon and Lara Zeises for cheering my new release, Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007), and return to blogging.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Spookycyn Returns, Redesign

It's great to be back!

After some tech angst during the Blogger upgrade, I'm delighted to be back on Spookycyn again. Regular visitors will note that both Spookycyn and Cynsations have been redesigned. I also have launched a mirror site to Cynsations on LiveJournal.

Today, I'm going to sit down in the sunroom (ironic, I know) and read Eternal with whichever cat graces me with his company. I enjoyed integrating the setting notes from Chicago into the mss, and I feel that it gives the story more grounding. GLS took a look for me this weekend and had fairly minor comments. I need to beef up Z's epiphany, which I've already drafted. It's difficult because he and M, who're alternating POV protagonists, essentially come to their realizations simultaneously. It's more important to stay in the moment with her, so his right now follows. I'm not sure that's effective. It's definitely breaking a guidelines, though I'm totally willing to do that if it works. The question: does it? I'll find out today.

Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith is Now Available

Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick, Feb. 13, 2007) is now available. Here's a peek:

Classified Ads: Restaurants
Sanguini's: A Very Rare Restaurant is hiring a chef de cuisine. Dinners only. Apply in person between 2 and 4 P.M.

Quincie Morris has never felt more alone. Her hybrid-werewolf first love threatens to embark on a rite of passage that will separate them forever. And just as she and her uncle are about to debut Austin's red hot vampire-themed restaurant, a brutal murder leaves them scrambling for a chef.

Can Quincie transform the new hire into a culinary dark lord before opening night? Will Henry Johnson be able to wow the crowd in fake fangs, a cheap cape, and red contact lenses? Or is there more to this earnest fresh face than meets the eye?

As human and preternatural forces clash, a deadly love triangle forms and the line between predator and prey begins to blur. Who’s playing whom? And how long can Quincie play along before she loses everything?

Tantalize marks Cynthia Leitich Smith's delicious debut as an author of dark fantasy.

Here are the official blurbs:

"Looking for something to read that will make your TV jealous? Cynthia Leitich Smith's Tantalize has it all—hot vampires and wolf-boys, a super-cool heroine in cowboy boots, nail-biting suspense, romance, chills 'n' thrills, and Austin, Texas. What more could you want?"

--Libba Bray, author of A Great and Terrible Beauty and Rebel Angels

"Full of unexpected, delicious delights that kept me guessing and turning the pages, Tantalize creates a froth of danger, suspense, and wit. This original book tantalizes the senses indeed, as it explores the border between attraction and disgust, and makes us question our perceptions. Who are you? Predator or prey?"

--Annette Curtis Klause, author of Blood and Chocolate, The Silver Kiss, and Freaks! Alive on the Inside

In breaking news, we have new reviews:

"If Joan Bauer took a crack at dark fantasy, the result would probably be something like this gothic-horror comedy..." and goes on "...the immersion in food culture--including an overhauled menu, as grisly as it is gourmet--successfully builds on the sensual aspects of vampire mythology."


"An intoxicating romantic thriller... Quincie's longing for a physical relationship with her boy-wolf is as palpable as the taste of the food... Smith adds a light touch of humor to the soup, but the main course is a dark romance with all the gory trimmings."

--The Horn Book Magazine

"Quincie must make a terrifying choice in a heart-pounding climax that will have teen readers weeping with both lust and sorrow."

--Kirkus Reviews

And we have new interviews:

The YA Authors Cafe offers its first interview at a new location. Cynthia Leitich Smith (that would be me) is the featured author, and I'm talking about Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007).

Here's a sneak peek: "My world is eclectic, and (also unlike most genre fiction) reflects the diversity of our real one. Peel back the scary romp, and there's depth there--thematic treatments of alcholism, feminism, race and class relations, all through analogy. But many YAs will just enjoy the marinara-baked chills, and that's just fine." Read the whole interview. Leave a question in the comments today.

Then read the latest interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith (me again) at Not Your Mother's Bookclub. The topic is my new YA gothic fantasy title, Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007), and the Q&As are fangfully fantastic. Here's a sneak peek:

"As for the long answer... It hardly seems possible, but I first began looking through magazines for photos to inspire characters and asking them to write letters to me in late 2001. I don't know though that I did more than just flirt with the story in that first year. I was essentially gathering courage. In the couple of years that followed, I wrote short stories for a number of anthologies, taking full advantage of the opportunity to stretch my skills. Write stronger. Braver. Fangs out. Eventually, I sank in with a vengeance." Read the whole interview.

Check out all the buzz!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Windy City Predators

I'm a sense-of-place writer, and so far, my fiction has been set in places I've lived (Kansas, Oklahoma, Illinois, Texas) or visited regularly (Colorado).

My current WIP, E, is a YA gothic fantasy set in Austin, Dallas, and Chicago. I've lived in all three cities, but it's been some seven-and-a-half years or so since I felt the Windy City's chill for myself (though I have visited at other times of the year).

As I was reading my draft, it was clear that the Chicago scenes of the story weren't sufficiently grounded yet. That's a particular problem in a fantasy set in the real world where such foundation is essential for the leap of faith.

With that in mind, GLS and I made reservations for four nights at the Hilton and Towers. At this point, a certain amount of groveling, apology, and explanation to my much beloved Chicago pals is in order as I had zero time for socializing on this trip. I actually spent most meals ignoring my husband as I scribbled in my notebook, so I'm not sure how great of company I would've been anyway. But next time, I'm all yours, I promise!

It was an otherwise excellent writing weekend.

Last Thursday, we flew Delta through Atlanta, and I enjoyed reading Ebony, Newsweek, Time, and Monk: The Blue Flu by Lee Goldberg (Penguin, 2007), which was hilarious, on the plane.

We got in at about 3 p.m. and took a cab to Italian Village where I gobbled down the chicken marsala with a side of spaghetti marinara and an outstanding calamari appetizer. Then we went back to the hotel where I slept from 7:30 p.m. Thursday to 7:30 a.m. on Friday--probably as a result of exhaustion, my wicked cold, jet lag, the Dramamine, the Advil Cold meds, and the antihistamine.

On the upside, I felt a thousand times better that Friday morning than I had in weeks. By then, I'd also taken notes on the cab, Lake Michigan, and downtown. After a buffet breakfast (decent omlette) at the hotel, we took a cab to the Field Museum (see Sue the T. rex above) where I jotted down some sixteen pages of notes. We also spied Jane Yolen and Mark Teague's How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? (Blue Sky, 2000) and How Do Dinosaurs Get Well Soon? (Blue Sky, 2003) in one of the gift shops.

Afterward, we had lunch at The Big Downtown Chicago (the restaurant at the Palmer House), at a bar-height table looking out on El tracks and Wabash. I recommend the turkey panini.

Our next stop was the Hancock Building and then Bloomingdale's, where GLS picked up a pair of earmuffs. Did I mention that half of the reason for the trip was to remember what real cold felt like? The temperature had graciously fluctuated between 20 and 8 degrees, so by now I had all the reminder I needed. Pages of notes on my frozen nose hairs.

We also stopped into the Border's on Michigan Ave where face-out titles included: A Great and Terrible Beauty (Delacorte, 2003) and Rebel Angels (Delacorte, 2005), both by Libba Bray (author interview); The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen (Viking, 2004)(author interview); TTYL by Lauren Myracle (Abrams, 2004)(author interview); Pretties by Scott Westerfeld (Simon Pulse, 2005)(author interview); and Looking for Alaska by John Green (Dutton)(author interview).

We also swung by Children in Paradise where we spotted face-out: Walter the Giant Storyteller's Giant Book of Giant Stories by Walter M. Mayes, illustrated by Kevin O'Malley (Walker, 2005)(author-illustrator interview); Valiant by Holly Black (Simon & Schuster, 2002)(author interview); Liftoff: A Photobiography of John Glenn by Don Mitchell (National Geographic, 2006)(author interview); and Cracker! The Best Dog in Vietnam by Cynthia Kadohata (Atheneum, 2007)(author interview).

At this point, we ducked into the Four Seasons for cocoa (me) and Irish coffee (GLS) and spent some time just chatting and warming up. Afterward, we continued onto Stetson's Chop House for dinner, where I had a wedge salad, followed by twin lobsters and a side of mushrooms.

On Saturday morning, we arrived at the Chicago History Museum for ever more notetaking. From there, we continued to Cantonesia (wonton soup and chicken chow mein with pan-fried noodles) for lunch in Chinatown and then to Navy Pier for--you guessed it--even more research. Whew.

We finished out the trip with one of my favorite meals ever--a traditional price fix menu from the Parthenon Restaurant in Greek Town (think: "My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding"--only the real deal). Absolutely fantastic! I'll definitely be back.

And then it was over! Whoosh! On Sunday, I enjoyed Dead and Dateless by Kimberly Raye (Random House, 2007)(a light, humorous gothic fantasy for the grown-up market) on the plane, and now, I'm back in sunny Austin--70 degrees and emerging tulips--with 41 pages of scribbled notes. Hm, best snap to it! Revision calls! You know, loudly.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

In the KOOP

Tonight, GLS and I joined Austin illustrator Christy Stallop at KOOP 91.7 FM "Community Radio for Austin" on "Writing on the Air" in discussing live the subject of writing and illustrating books for young readers. Christy is the debut illustrator of There's A Yak In My Bed by K. Pluta (Blooming Tree, 2007). She offered many insights on the role of illustration in picture books and graphic novels. Afterward, we had a divine dinner at Maru on Burnet, which offers some of the best sushi in town and is highly recommended.