Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Blogger Transition

Spookycyn is caught in some kind of limbo between Blogger 1 and Blogger 2 (on the off-chance that someone can help, my dashboard is on 2, but, after a few days, the blogs themselves still haven't been moved over).

Following the troubleshooting directions has been hit or miss. I have managed to log in at least once daily, but I'm not sure that will continue to be the case. Apparently larger blogs are being moved over latter in the queue.

All of this is to say, if Spookycyn goes quiet for a while, please don't think I'm abandoning the blog. I'm simply waiting for it to be sprung from purgatory by the Google gods. I'm hopeful that everything is resolved in a somewhat timely manner so I don't have to re-evaluate where I blog.

Cross fingers though that my luck holds, and I'll do my best to keep posting.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Five Little-Known Facts

Helen Ginger at Straight from Hel tagged me on a writing exercise. So, here goes:

The rules: Each participant shares five little-known facts about themselves. Those tagged are asked to do the same as well as reinterate this guideline. All select five folks to be tagged and list their names. (Leave a comment letting them know that you've tagged them and that they may see your blog as an example.)

1) I have an almost Harmony-esque love of unicorns. When I was a tween, I had cloth prints of a unicorn and Pegasus, respectively, with rainbows in the background, hanging in my bedroom. My favorite picture book is Where Have the Unicorns Gone? by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Ruth Sanderson (Simon & Schuster, 2003)(paper).

2) I was once blonde. During my senior year of college, I stayed in Lawrence--where I was studying journalism at the University of Kansas--for all but the last weekend of spring break. My friends were all out of town, and I was bored. While wandering around a drug store, inspiration struck! I would dye my hair. If it turned out horribly, no one would see it. My natural color is a very dark brown, and maybe it was just a bad chemical mix, but the result was a dramatic orange. Nevertheless, unable to get an appointment with a trusted pro, I kept it that way over the weekend as I represented my college at a PR student conference in Phoenix.

3) I have paid to see "Star Wars: A New Hope" in a movie theater 384 times. The fact that it was showing at the dollar movie during much of my childhood in suburban Kansas, where (with love) there wasn't a whole lot else to do was a factor. That said, I had a tremendous affection for Chewbacca, and I've never quite gotten over the fact that "Star Wars: Return of the Jedi" involved the forest moon of Endor instead of Kashyyk, the Wookie homeworld. In any case, my readers will recall that Cassidy Rain Berghoff of my tween novel Rain Is Not My Indian Name (HarperCollins, 2001) is a huge fan of sci fi (past and present) and named her lab "Chewie."

4) During the summers after my senior year of high school and freshmen year of college, I worked in a gas station. I also was taking classes at Johnson County Community College (so I could get into the KU journalism school sooner) and working as a waitress at the same time. My job was to basically to run the register behind the bullet-proof glass. It was wonderful. The owner/manager was a former KC Royal, who'd been injured playing. During the early morning shift, nobody cared if I did my homework or read. I also had a little microphone to talk to the customers at the pumps, which resulted in some funny moments and one summer romance.

5) I have only memorized one poem, and I learned it in first grade. It was more the owl than the sentiment that caught my teacher's, Mrs. Woodside's, attention. She was an avid collector of owl figures and other owl images. She also was one of the kindest people I've ever known.

Tagging Austin YA authors:

Varian Johnson at They Call Me Mr. V

Greg Leitich Smith at GregLSBlog (author interview)

April Lurie at April's Blog (author interview)

Jo Whittemore at Jo's Journal (author interview)

Jennifer Ziegler at Jennifer Ziegler Word Processor (author interview)

Monday, January 29, 2007

Gender Speak

You'll remember a few days ago, I was researching tips on gender-specific voice. This inspired the following conversation with GLS.

Me: "So, I'm reading that men tend to express themselves using shorter sentences as opposed to women using longer ones, and I'm really not sure that's true because, you know, men have just as complex of thought processes, it would vary by individual anyway, and it's not like you think men speak more succintly, do you?"

GLS: "Sure we do."

Cough. I'm revising accordingly.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

APL Sponsors Tantalize ARC Giveaway

APL (Austin Public Library) Teens is sponsoring a giveaway of ARCs of my upcoming gothic fantasy novel, Tantalize (Candlewick, Feb. 13, 2007).

The word is: "A few of us have read it and we can say with confidence that if vampire novels are your thing, THIS is one book you must read." Find out more.

Because I'm so much a sense-of-place writer, it's especially exciting to me when folks from my settings like my books.

In researching Tantalize, I dined in virtually every Italian restaurant in the city (a real hardship, I tell you), put together outfits for my characters at local boutiques, and spent days shooting photos of the Bouldin Creek, South Congress, Fairview, and Old Enfield neighborhoods.

I also walked up to more than one local and said something like, "Do you mind I take your picture? You'd make a great model for a werewolf!"

minded. And a remarkable number of human beings here can pass for shapeshifters and/or the undead. At least I think they're human beings...

I love this town!

More News & Links

"Memories of a Writer's Summertime Reading" by Cynthia Leitich Smith from The Bridge, Austin Public Library Programs for Youth (p. 2)(2002)(PDF).

I dropped about 650 Tantalize announcement postcards in the mail this week--cover art on the front, blurbs by Libba Bray and Annette Curtis Klause on the back. They went out to speculative/horror fiction bookstores, members of the American Booksellers for Children, and YA librarians in the Texas Library Association.

Thanks to Sterling's Print & Copying and AB for your assistance! If you're a Spookycyn reader who just loves snail mail, feel free to send me your snail, and I'll pop one off your way.

Visit Patricia's Vampire Notes: "musings on vampires and various other fictional, paranormal critters."

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Spooky Sneak Peeks for 2007

Picture books: Mucumber McGee and the Half-Eaten Hot Dog by Patrick Loehr (HarperCollins).

Middle grade: Bearwalker by Joseph Bruchac (HarperCollins)(author interview); The Chaos King by Laura Ruby (HarperCollins)(author interview); Monsters and Water Beasts by Karen Miller, illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier (Henry Holt); Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy (HarperCollins); Vampyre: The Terrifying Lost Journal of Dr. Cornelius Van Helsing by Dr. Cornelius Van Helsing and Gustav de Wolff (HarperCollins).

Young adult: Daemon Hall by Andrew Nance (Henry Holt), Hauntings and Other Tales of Danger, Love, and Sometimes Loss by Betsy Hearne (Greenwillow); Repossessed by A.M. Jenkins (HarperCollins); The Restless Dead edited by Deborah Noyes (Candlewick)(author interview); and Vampire Kisses 4: Dance with a Vampire by Ellen Schreiber (HarperCollins).

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Fiction First Aid

Today I printed a copy of E, the manuscript due to Candlewick on March 1.

I'm going to hand it off for GLS to read this weekend and once again begin flipping through Fiction First Aid: Instant Remedies for Novels by Raymond Obstfeld (Writer's Digest, 2001). It's an excellent resource for revision; great for both global rewrites and spot fixing.

I want to take a look at the sections on "overly evil antagonist" and "inaccurate gender-specific details."

I'm guessing the answer to the former is to further ground my big baddie, offer a less stereotyped personality, though my archetypal treatment is intentional. On the latter, this will be my first novel at least partially written from a male POV, so I'm feeling a tad nervous.

That said, I have published two previous short stories written in a first person, male voice: "A Real-Live Blond Cherokee and His Equally Annoyed Soul Mate" from Moccasin Thunder: American Indian Stories for Today, compiled by Lori M. Carlson (HarperCollins, 2005)(interview) and "Riding with Rosa" from Cicada literary magazine (Vol. 7, No. 4, March/April 2005).

Short story writing for me has always been a venue for growth and experimentation, but sustaining convincing cross-gender voice over the course of a novel is a bigger beast.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

A Book Is Born

I received my first copy of Tantalize (Candlewick, Feb. 13, 2007) in book form last week, and I'm absolutely wowed by its production.

The cover art is produced in a softer, more romantic light than the image posted here, and the title has a sheen. There's a black page at the front and back and three more plain ones at the back. The new interior art element, the bio of Bradley Sanguini, looks great on page 208. We're looking at 336 pages all together. The size is 5 1/4 x 7 3/4. The total weight is exactly one pound. Look for the double page spread on pages 26-27 of the Candlewick spring-summer 2007 catalog.

In other news, I have a fully signed contract for a second YA gothic fantasy to be published by Candlewick, and I'm working with great enthusiasm to meet my March deadline.

Spooky News & Links

Author Interview: Deborah Wilson Overstreet on Not Your Mother's Vampire: Vampires in Young Adult Fiction from Cynsations. See also Gothic Fantasy for Teens and Tweens.

Remember my post on the mysterious dead birds found on Congress Ave.? This being Austin, some folks had a little fun with the still unexplained incident.

Trendy Titles from ravelda. Fun! My motivation? Having typed Rain Is Not My Indian Name a billion times, my titles have been two words or less (Indian Shoes, Santa Knows, Tantalize) ever since. I only wish I'd had the foresight to shorten my byline. You know...Cher, Avi, Cyn!

Friday, January 12, 2007

So Few of Me

So Few of Me by Peter H. Reynolds (Candlewick, 2006) is about To Do list pressures. It seems like if there were more than one Leo, he'd have a better shot at getting his tasks done. But no matter how many Leos there are, the more responsibilities pile up. In the end, Leo does less, but offers it his best effort. A simple solution, yet one so many of us struggle to employ. The text and illustrations are airy, flow well. Recommended for ages 4-up; at least as well suited to overscheduled teens and adults as younger children. Maybe even better.

My Thoughts

It seems "balance" ranks high on many working writers' lists of new year's resolutions. Leo's answer: Do less, but give it your all. This makes perfect sense in theory, but still we struggle. What do we cut? How?

I'm a writer. Therefore, I write. I love to craft short stories, but I found myself turning down a couple of invitations last year from anthologists I admire--one because my muse had temporarily abandoned me, the other because of a tight deadline and competing family responsibilities. Yet I know that my other fiction is stronger because of the chances I've taken, the lessons I've learned as a short story writer. I also imagine someday publishing a collection of my contemporary Native American YA short stories. I know that when the next invitation comes, my answer may well be "yes."

I'm a writer. Therefore, I read. A shocking number of writers underestimate the importance of reading, especially beginners. They do so at their own peril. It is through reading (and listening to stories told aloud) that we develop an "ear," a feeling for story structure, a sense of each market, and, ultimately, that we discover what we want to say in the conversation among books. Publishers, publicists, authors, and illustrators send me titles for review consideration, and I've studied them with great enthusiasm. Yet due to time constraints and consistent quality concerns, I'm considering changing my policy to exclude self-published titles. On the other hand, Debbie Leland, a self-published author whose work I'm featuring on Cynsations this week, is among the finest I know.

I'm a writer. Therefore, I'm part of a community of writers and a larger community of readers, including editors, teachers, librarians, and booksellers. Over the years, I've taught, spoken, mentored beginners, talked shop over lunch, hosted workshops and parties. It's these people who understand and share my passion for books, for the writing life. It's with them that I belong, not exclusively but at least enough that I don't feel alone and that I can bolster them in return. I especially enjoy supporting new voices. But at this time, I can't actively mentor any additional beginners, not with my teaching commitments.

I'm an author. Therefore, I'm an ambassador of my own children's and young adult literature. Most authors are the best point people to connect their books to others. I'm comfortable that I can represent my work in a positive and productive way. But more than that, I enjoy it. I have a lot to say about my process and the stories I write. I'm honored when readers are interested in learning more. Yet I say "no" to more than half of the invitations in my IN box, usually--but not always--because I'm already booked. Even promoting at home can be too much for one person, especially one who is supposed to be a writer first. This past fall, I hired publicist Rebecca Grose and web designer Lisa Firke to help me navigate through the narrow marketing window for Santa Knows (Dutton, 2006). It's okay, I've learned, to get help when you need it.

Along with folks like Esme Raji Codell, Chris Barton, and the collective of author bloggers, it's also my pleasure to highlight and cheer the work of my colleagues. I find inspiration in the stories of my peers. I love being able to help introduce a debut author or a departure from a quality mid-lister or the latest news from the famed and acclaimed. It also feeds my inner journalist. Much of what I do is online, but when Netscape "improved" its web design program, I was in over my head and offering an amaturish-looking site. Again, it was designer Lisa Firke, who brought me into the 21rst century. Now, much of my daily efforts are through blogging, which is so much quicker and easier. Better yet, I finally have high-speed Internet.

So what's my strategy?

It's fluid. Sometimes, I have to say "no" or ask for help or embrace the latest technology. I try different approaches, mix it up, realize the writing and promotion of each book brings with them specific demands. Rather than feeling trapped in a certain way of doing things, I continue to experiment, seeking the balance that suits my life at a particular time.

Rather than angsting over what I can't control, I jump on the treadmill and pound out an hour to soundtracks to "The Blues Brothers," "Xanadu," or "Buffy: The Musical." Maybe you're thinking, isn't working out another To Do? And the answer is "yes," but it gives me more energy for the rest of them.

Most of all, though, I keep in mind that it is a priviledge to write for young readers and those who connect books to them. That if the mix isn't working, it can always be changed. That I have as much control of my life as I'm willing to take. That I'm living my dream.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Castle Bran for Sale

According to the Austin American-Statesman, Castle Bran--famous for its connections to Vlad, the Impaler (widely believed to have inspired Bram Stoker's Dracula), is being offered for sale by the Hapsburg family for $78 million.

Candlewick's 2004 edition of Dracula, originally published in 1897, is illustrated--magnificient, compelling, and creepy--by Gary Blythe. It's edited by Jan Needle, and gorgeously produced with type big enough to read comfortably (unlike most re-releases of classic novels). Read an excerpt and view an inside spread.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Blood and Chocolate Movie Trailer

Did you know about the movie based on Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause (Delacorte, 1999)? Check out a new, online trailer.

In our December 2001 interview, Annette said: "The Amoeba, Aiden's friends in Blood and Chocolate were based on my group of friends known as The Blob. We used to go to free rock concerts in the park, and some of us would talk our way in free to pay concerts by flirting with the bouncers."

Annette's latest book is Freaks! Alive on the Inside (Delacorte, 2006). Read a recent Cynsations interview with Annette.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Elvis, Dead Birds, and Leslie

Today is the King's birthday. It seems only fitting to highlight Shake, Rattle and Roll: the Founders of Rock and Roll by Holly George-Warren, illustrated by Laura Levine (Houghton Mifflin, 2001). You can learn more about Elvis and about other picture book biographies at Anneographies.

Attention Texans: if you show up today dressed like Elvis or Priscilla at any local Chuy's, you can eat for free. There also will be food and drink specials, giveaways, and a performance by the man in the white suit himself.

On a more ominous note, dozens of dead birds were found along Congress Avenue, which leads up to the Capitol Building. The street is closed until noon today. No word as to the cause, but for those who saw it on the national news: no one has asked us to evacuate; we feel fine; so do the cats; and the squirrels, blackbird, mourning dove, and chickadees in the back yard seem just fine, too.

As long as we're talking local, I'd also like to note that, according to News 8 Austin, dress-up magnets of Leslie, central Austin's own beloved "cross-dressing, homeless, occasional mayoral candidate and celebrity," are now available state wide and in 23 states across the U.S. You can also order a set from BookPeople.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Ford Memories

I've been watching some of the coverage of former president Gerald Ford's funeral and reflecting back on my own childhood experiences with the Fords.

In my tween years, my parents spent a week each summer in picturesque Vail, Colorado. Back then, during the off-season, it was still an affordable destination for a middle-class family.

We always stayed at a hotel in town, usually during the Jerry Ford Invitational Golf Tournament. It was a celebrity-studded event, and in that small town, I happened to meet Dinah Shore, watch my mama nearly swoon over Clint Eastwood, and try on sunglasses one afternoon with Betty Ford. I also remember playing with the Fords' dogs and at least once meeting the former president.

Under the heading of "small world," Gerald Ford and I also both studied at The Univeristy of Michigan. He earned his undergraduate degree there and played football. I'm a graduate of the law school.

As a tween, I didn't know them, Betty and Gerald Ford. Those were chance meetings. But I do recall that they were geniuinely kind to me, friendly and gracious.

Spooky Note

You can find out more about Gerald Ford via Lives of the Presidents: Fame, Shame (and What the Neighbors Thought) by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Kathryn Hewitt (Harcourt, 1998). Learn more about picture book biographies at Anneographies.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Holiday Happenings

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday.

Our Christmas Eve, dinner was chopped cucumber and dill over crab salad on pita bread, asparagus-shitake mushroom soup with chicken tamales. Christmas dinner was turkey, green bean casserole, and stuffing. Classic, eh?

On New Year's Eve, we usually go out big. It's my birthday, which is a lot of pressure on one evening. But I felt like taking it easy this year. So, GLS made a shrimp creole over brown rice, and we spent the new year watching various shows, including "Teen Witch," which is still gloriously awful--love it, various episodes of "Northern Exposure", and various episodes of "Bones."

"Bones" is new to me. It stars David Boreanaz of "Buffy" and "Angel" fame and reminds me quite a lot of "The X-Files" without the supernatural angle. Appropriately, the pilot starts with a "Scully-Mulder" joke.

Last week we also had a great lunch with HH, and her husband, N, at Cantina Laredo in Austin's new Second Street District. I was wowed by the Camarones Escondidos.

What else? You can see a photo of our cat Blizzard taken with GLS' new digital camera.

I also have been writing quite steadily on E. I'll be back at it again today, closing in on my--cough--third first draft. Research topics: Marilyn Monroe.

Thanks to all for the holiday cheer, especially KA, GB, RB, NB, AB, TB, JB, Candlewick Press, Dutton Children's Books, RG, MLG, R&LG, HarperCollins Children's Books, Hatchette Book Group (Little, Brown), JFH, Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, FH, AH, GK, JL, DL, MM, NJO, DS-B, TLS, JW, JW, BY, JZ, TVZ.