Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Darque Reviews features Tantalize

Kimberly Swan at Darque Reviews writes of my YA Gothic fantasy, Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007): "With an intriguing murder mystery to capture the reader's attention, Ms. Leitich Smith fuels her captivating tale with a heavy paranormal influence and a sweet first time love." Read the whole review.

In a new interview with me she inquires: "Quincie has some very unique friends and acquaintances in Tantalize. If you had the ability to turn into any one of them, which would you choose, and why?" Read my answer and the whole interview.

From now until midnight Oct. 31st, stop by Darque Reviews and share what your plans are for Halloween for a chance to win one of two copies of Tantalize. To double your odds, share the title and author of your favorite paranormal read. Be sure to check back at Darque Reviews on Nov. 1st for the winners!

Spooky Link

Check out the spooky illustration by DT of Austin's haunted locales.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Author Interview: Marta Acosta on Happy Hour at Casa Dracula and Midnight Brunch

Marta Acosta received a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing from Stanford University and "is a frequent contributor of humor, gardening and design columns to The San Francisco Chronicle and The Contra Costa Newspapers." She lives in the San Francisco Bay area.

Could you tell us about your path to publication? Any sprints or stumbles along the way?

My path to publication was like going into the Great Mall of America, intending to buy a pair of Hello Kitty socks, and getting detoured, lost, confused, and distracted for an excessively long time. I was lucky enough to eventually get out with the socks.

My first detour was having the delusion that selling a screenplay was easier than selling a novel. It isn't, and, as a friend of mine once informed me, "It's who you know, and you don't know anyone." My second detour was writing a rather cynical (okay, a really cynical) noir thriller. Editors thought it was well written and original, but not marketable. I'd always written humor to entertain my friends and myself, and it occurred to me that I should write a funny novel.

Congratulations on the rave reception to both Happy Hour at Casa Dracula (Pocket, 2006)(excerpt) and Midnight Brunch (Pocket, 2007) from the Casa Dracula series! Could you give us a brief overview of the books?

My heroine, Milagro, has a degree in writing from a Fancy University (F.U.), but she can't seem to make a decent living. She's a funny, good-natured, smart young woman who likes having a good time and is serious about her writing. She worries that she's too frivolous and wants a serious relationship and to be seen as a serious person. She meets "a fabulous man" and accidentally becomes infected with his family's condition. The "condition" would generally be called "vampirism."

When the vampires' enemies discover that Milagro is infected, they pursue her and she's forced to hide out with the wealthy, accomplished vampires at their country estate. She thinks they're snobs, and they think she's a tacky skank. The vamp enemies track them down, capture them, and endanger the whole family. Milagro uses her wits, wiles, and courage when she goes to save the vamps. The vamp family comes to appreciate Milagro and she finds a home with them. The second in the series, Midnight Brunch, follows her further adventures with nuts, extremists, and egoists.

What was your initial inspiration for creating this series?

I love screwball comedies, comedies of manners, comic romances, all that stuff. So I wanted to write a story with an impoverished, independent young woman trying to make her way in the world. I also wanted to spoof the vampire conventions of these angsty, supernatural creatures. My vamps know how to throw a party, laugh, and fall in love.

What was the timeline between spark and initial publication, and what were the major events along the way?

I had the idea, but wrote sporadically. I was working full time, busy with my family life, and writing other projects, too. So the book took me two years to complete, on the occasional weekend and evening. It took about six months to get an agent, a few months to do a rewrite and for her to sell it in a two-book deal. And once the sale was made, it was at least a year before publication. Things happened faster later.

What were the challenges (literary, artistic, research, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?

The challenge is fight self-doubt and discouragement. The publishing business makes no sense to me. I think it shouldn't even be called a business. It should be called a whimsy, or maybe a caprice. Some people will like your writing; others will hate it. You can't take it personally.

If you could go back and talk to yourself when you were beginning in this field, what advice would you offer?

The advice I would offer is no longer applicable since newspapers are vanishing, but it would be to establish oneself as a writer by writing newspaper columns and articles. It teaches one to write on deadline, to write to an audience, to accept editing, and to do research. Also, getting paid for your writing is fab.

Any advice for series writers specifically?

I'd written Happy Hour at Casa Dracula as a single-title, and I was pleasantly surprised when my editor asked for another. You must find your characters interesting enough that you want to stay with them and follow them.

How do you balance writing with your responsibilities (promotion, contracts, travel) as an author?

I don't. I find myself back in that damn mall, being lured into stores that don't have socks and thinking that a ride on the roller coaster would be fun.

What can your fans look forward to next?

I just handed in the manuscript to my third novel, The Bride of Casa Dracula, which will be published in September 2008. Alas, I am once again throwing poor Milagro into dangerous situations, but that's her fate. I'm also writing a Gothic young adult novel that I'm excited about. It's set at an exclusive, all-girls school with a dark secret. Dark secrets are the best kind, and I love Gothic fiction.

Is there anything you would like to add?

Yes, I'm always happy to hear from readers. My email is marta@martaacosta.com, and my website is www.martaacosta.com. I'm also on MySpace and trying to figure out FaceBook.

Spooky Notes

This interview is half of a discussion that the two of us are having vamp to vamp, blog to blog. See her brand new interview with me, and leave a comment to win a prize. A winner will be chosen on Friday! Likewise, leave a comment with me at Cynsations LJ!

Pumpkin-Carving Party

GLS and I had the honor of attending a pumpkin-carving party at JL's house this weekend! It was a wonderfully creative and boisterous crowd.

I expect this to be my last social occasion for a while as events are ongoing and I'm deep in the midst of novel revisions until early-to-mid December. Cross fingers and fangs for me!

Spooky News & Links

Congratulations to Writers' League of Texas Teddy Award winners: Grandpa for Sale by Dotti Enderle and Vicki Sansum, illustrated by T. Kyle Gentry (Flashlight, 2006) in the short-works division and Long Gone Daddy by Helen Hemphill (Front Street, 2006)(author interview) in the long-works division. In the short-works category, the finalists were: Blue the Bird on Flying by Becky Due (Due Publications, 2006) and The Man Who Named the Clouds by Julie Hannah and Joan Holub, illustrated by Paige Billin-Frye (Albert Whitman, 2006). And in the long-works category: Journey to the Alamo by Melodie Cuate (Texas Tech, 2006) and Alpha Dog by Jennifer Ziegler (Delacorte, 2006)(author interview). The awards ceremony will be held during the Texas Book Festival, Nov. at 3 p.m. in Capitol Extension Room E2.030. Read Cynsations interviews with Dotti, Helen, and Jennifer.

Unriddling the World: Fantasy and Children: features links to Horn Book "articles on fantasy by Susan Cooper, Gregory Maguire, Philip Pullman, Lloyd Alexander, and others."

More Personally

Reminder: Attention MySpacers! On the online events front, I'm honored to be featured tonight Oct. 29 as one of 31 Flavorite Authors by the Readergirlz! I'll be chatting about Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007).

Thank you to Mathews School in Austin and BookPeople for your hospitality and enthusiasm at my school visit last Thursday! After my presentation, inspired by the fictional vampire restaurant in Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007), students broke into groups to devise menus for fictional restaurants catering to the following audiences: werewolves, werecats, werearmadillos, wereoppossums, and were-turkey-vultures (the types of shape-shifters featured in the novel). The results were inspired (and a little creepy!).

Plan to attend the Twenty-Fifth Annual Children's Book Festival and the Twenty-First Annual Young Adult Conference hosted by The Department of Library Science at Sam Houston State University Nov. 3 in Huntsville. Featured speakers are: Joan Bauer, Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith, and Mo Willems.

Attending the Texas Book Festival Nov. 3 and Nov. 4 in Austin? I will be among the YA authors featured at the Not-For-Required Reading Event from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Nov. 3 at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar (1120 S. Lamar). Authors also will include: Sherman Alexie, Jacques Couvillon, Adrienne Kress, April Lurie (author interview), Perry Moore, Neal Shusterman, and Brian Yansky (author interview). Note: I'll be a little late as I'm driving in from Huntsville that evening with Greg and Mo. I'll also participate with authors Adrienne Kress and April Lurie on the "Tough Girls" panel, moderated by author Julie Lake, from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Nov. 4 in Capitol Extension Room E2.012. See schedules for Saturday and Sunday.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Author Interview: Amanda Marrone on Uninvited

From Simon Pulse: "Amanda Marrone grew up on Long Island, where she spent her time reading, drawing, watching insects, and suffering from an overactive imagination. She earned a BA in education at SUNY Cortland, and taught fifth and sixth grade in New Hampshire. She now lives in Connecticut with her husband, Joe, and their two kids."

What were you like as a young adult?

Awkward! I was very shy, always had my nose in a book, and I was a little too much like my main character in Uninvited (Simon Pulse, 2007), Jordan.

While this story is in no way autobiographical, Jordan and I do share some traits. I was a total social phobic, something I'm happy to say I got over! I loved being outside—walking in the woods, watching insects—-something I still love. We even have hissing cockroaches among our menagerie of pets, although my husband is always afraid they will escape. I haven't told him about the time I found a baby roach crawling on the computer one day!

Could you tell us about your path to publication? Any sprints or stumbles along the way?

I've always wanted to be a writer—a picture book writer-illustrator, but I'm not one of the "I've been writing stories since I picked up my first crayon" writers. I have a really bad pencil grip, and back in the day, writing long hand, or even using a typewriter—was exhausting.

If it weren't for computers I wouldn't have finished a book. I wrote and illustrated two picture books. The third turned into a novel, and I realized that was where my comfort level was.

Getting published for me was mostly kismet. After sending out two novels to just a handful of editors, I took an online young adult writing class, and the instructor suggested her agent. I queried the agent, she took me on, and the first person she sent it to bought it. It was very quick, but the editor was leaving for a two-week honeymoon—in Europe, and I think that got the often-slow process speeded up.

Congratulations on the release of Uninvited (Simon Pulse, 2007)! Could you tell us about this new title?

It's not a typical vampire story. When my agent pitched the story, she didn't even mention there was a vampire—she said it was a YA with a paranormal twist—which I think is a good description. But the story follows Jordan's struggles to take control of her life or open the window to her ex—a new vampire.

What was your initial inspiration for writing this book?

I was working on a middle grade novel, and I suddenly pictured a boy coming up to a girl's window asking to be let in. I immediately knew she was scared to open her window, but that it was tempting. I banged out the first chapter--which essentially stayed the same after revisions, but I needed time to figure out what I had written, and what direction it would go in. Months later I started chapter two.

What was the timeline between spark and publication, and what were the major events along the way?

It was probably four years between spark and publication. I needed to think about the book for a bit, but my husband also got a new job, we moved to another state, and my daughter has cerebral palsy and there were things to take care of for her. I wasn't writing every day or even every month, but the story was in the back of my mind percolating.

Once we moved to Connecticut, I started in again. When the book was done, I won first place in the YA division of the Tassy Walden Awards for aspiring Connecticut children's authors. That was a real confidence booster as the judges were agents and editors. A year later, I took that YA class, and then things moved along quickly. But I started the first chapter of Uninvited in 2001, revised the finished novel in 2004, and it sold in 2005.

In contrast, I wrote my second book, Revealers, in a few months and I'm waiting to hear back from my editor about revisions.

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?

While I was well read in vampire lore, I dug a little deeper for the book. The biggest challenge I had was what to include? I had to anticipate what my audience knew about vampires—I didn't want to do a vampire 101, but I also wanted to include enough information so those who where in the dark about vamps could follow along. I was surprised to hear from one reader who hadn't known vampires had to be invited it. I had thought that was common knowledge.

How did you find out you'd sold your first book? What did you do to celebrate?

My agent called me—she said it was a good offer, but we didn't have to accept it right away, and she could even shop the book around elsewhere while the editor was out of country. I nixed that idea, and said to accept the offer. After a lot of happy screaming, my husband and I did the usual champagne-and-fancy-dinner thing to celebrate.

If you could go back and talk to yourself when you were beginning writer, what advice would you offer?

Keep the faith! Friends and family often cheer you on when you start writing, but when it doesn't happen overnight or if years have passed—well, some lose their support. For every true overnight success, there are dozens of authors who've been toiling to perfect their work for years. You can't make it happen if you give up. Take classes, network, join a critique group--join SCBWI.

What would you say specifically on the topic of writing Gothic fantasy?

I'm so impressed writers are finding new stories to tell with age-old characters. It's a lot of fun to read everyone's different takes on the vampire, werewolf and fairy legends.

What is it about the young adult audience that appeals to you?

It's a tumultuous time—I still feel what I went through vividly. I like the discovery of the age—the way people change and hopefully assert themselves. How they develop their own identities.

What can your fans look forward to next?

I just turned in my next YA, Revealers, to my editor. It's due out sometime in 2008. It's about five teen witches who hunt vampires, werewolves and demons as a public service—only it turns out their coven has a dark secret worse than any of the creatures they hunt. The first chapter is in the back of Uninvited if anyone wants a sneak peek.

I just started a new paranormal YA I'm excited about. It's a murder mystery/ghost story set at a small New England amusement park.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Author-Editor Interview: Nina Hess on A Practical Guide to Monsters

Nina Hess on Nina Hess: "I'm senior editor at Mirrorstone, an imprint of fantasy fiction for young readers which I launched at Wizards of the Coast in 2004. I'm also the author of A Practical Guide to Monsters (Mirrorstone, 2007) and Whose Feet? (Random House 2003). I've been a children's book editor for almost ten years and a writer for as long as I can remember."

Could you tell us about your path to publication? Any sprints or stumbles along the way?

My first book, written at age 8, was a picture book manuscript entitled "The Gingerbread People." My mom gave it a rave review. I've always loved children's books, and I secretly read them all through college.

After graduating, I found a way to take my secret reading habit and legitimize it by becoming an editorial assistant at Harcourt Children's Books, working for Anne Davies. She taught me everything I know about children's books.

Various circumstances brought me to Seattle years later, where I worked as an editor at Wright Group/McGraw-Hill, editing and writing early readers for the educational market. There I really cut my teeth on writing books for kids.

I also enrolled in a terrific Writing for Children class at the University of Washington taught by Kathryn Galbraith, Meg Lippert, and Laura Kvasnovsky (author-illustrator interview). In that class, I wrote an early reader called Whose Feet? which became my first trade book published by Random House in 2003.

Congratulations on the publication of A Practical Guide to Monsters (Mirrorstone, 2007)! Could you give us an overview of the book?

Thank you! The book covers all sorts of monsters, from the commonly known (and well-loved) vampires and werewolves, to mythological creatures like chimeras and medusas, to the more obscure creatures like beholders and otyughs. Those last two are some of my favorites in the book, because they're simultaneously disgusting and cute! The beholder has eleven eyes, each with different powers, and the otyugh eats trash!

What's not to love?

What was your initial inspiration for creating this book?

In 2003, I joined Wizards of the Coast to launch a new imprint of fantasy fiction for kids, which we named Mirrorstone. Wizards of the Coast has been publishing fantasy for adults for many, many years. But they are probably best known as the publisher of games, including the Dungeons & Dragons game.

In many ways Dungeons & Dragons is more than a game, it's a guided storytelling session, and as a result, it's full of some amazing fantasy lore and creatures. The game isn't meant for a very young audience, but I thought young readers would adore a book about these creatures and all the intricate lore related to them.

So I proposed to our editorial director that we do a line of picture books for kids featuring all of these wonderful fantasy monsters.

What was the timeline between spark and publication, and what were the major events along the way?

The initial proposal, which we first talked about in 2003, was for one book on dragons followed by one on monsters. I signed up Lisa Trutkoff Trumbauer to write A Practical Guide to Dragons (Mirrorstone, 2006), and then our managing editor suggested that I write A Practical Guide to Monsters, partly because I had direct access to our vast monster library for research. (Yes, we really have a library in our office filled with monster resources!)

A Practical Guide to Dragons came out in October of 2006, and to the delight of everyone, it hit the New York Times best seller list a few weeks later. It stayed on the list for 14 weeks, which was a record for our company. By that time, I had finished writing the Monsters book and had handed it off to editor Stacy Whitman (editor interview), who worked with art director Kate Irwin, and book designer, Lisa Hanson, to turn the manuscript into a book (about a six month process). When the book hit the New York Times best seller list, we were all celebrating!

What were the challenges (literary, artistic, research, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?

I worried about making sure the details were accurate. Even though it's a fictional book, it's presented as nonfiction. I consulted with our monster experts at Wizards, and did a lot of research to make sure the monsters felt "real" and stayed true to their origins.

We also had a relatively tight timeline to work with, and we weren't able to publish the books early enough to secure advance review copies. But Random House is our distributor, and they were fans of the Practical Guide books from the very beginning. Their support really helped make the book a success.

What is it about monsters that's so fascinating?

It's probably partly the psychological function that Bruno Bettelheim talks about; I'm guessing that he would say that monsters and the stories surrounding them help children to process fears. Young readers who are a bit scared of monsters can find lots of useful information in A Practical Guide to Monsters for how to defend themselves that may help allay their fears.

But, really, people are probably fascinated by monsters because they are just plain fun. The book is filled with a huge diversity of monsters, with many different awesome powers that you can imagine you have. I mean, who wouldn't enjoy imagining they're a beholder, who can freeze people with their petrifying eye ray?

If you could go back and talk to yourself when you were beginning in this field, what advice would you offer?

As an editor who writes, it's very hard to turn off that self-editing instinct. So I would tell my internal editor "Stop criticizing me!" And then my internal editor would tell me not to tell it what to do.

What can your fans look forward to next?

On the writing side, I'm working on a bunch of picture book projects that have yet to see the light of day. Editing-wise, we're launching the Supernatural Rubber Chicken series by D.L. Garfinkle (author interview), with illustrations by Ethan Long in June 2008 and I'm continuing to edit new books in the delightful Time Spies series by Candice Ransom.

Practical Guide fans can look forward to two more Practical Guides coming soon, A Practical Guide to Dragon Riding (by Lisa Trumbauer) and a Practical Guide to Wizardry (by Susan Morris).

Shifting Gears and Skin Hunger

I'm pleased to report that my third round of packets are graded and off to my MFA students. This week is relatively lighter than those previous in the sense that I won't be spending the equivalent of a work day on the road.

That said, I do have one school visit in conjunction with BookPeople, a couple of media interviews in the queue, and I need to run through the tech for Readergirlz 31 Flavorite Authors for Teens (chat with me on Oct. 29).

Beyond that, GLS and I turned in a short story on Monday, and I received my novel revision comments today--love revising!

Spooky Link

Rita Williams-Garcia interviews the National Book Award finalists, including Kathleen Duey. See also Cynsations interviews with Rita and Kathleen.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Predator or Prey Giveaway Winners

"Alas, I can't enter. As I approach my mid fifties, surrounded by young novelists, I find myself more and more not predator or prey, but predater."
-- author David Lubar

From Oct. 2 to Oct. 15, I invited Cynsations (also at LJ), Spookycyn, and MySpace readers to answer the following question: Are you predator or prey?

(It's the same question asked in my recent novel, Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007), to diners at a fictional vampire-themed restaurant called Sanguini's.)

Today I'm announcing the winners of three Tantalize prize packages. Two will go to people who connect books to YA readers (booksellers, teachers, librarians) and one will go to an individual reader.

The packages each include an autographed copy of Tantalize, a Sanguini's T-shirt, bat and wolf finger puppets, stickers, and additional surprises!

In addition, the individual winner will receive one signed Tantalize bookmark, and the bookseller/teacher/librarian winners will each receive a stack of twenty signed bookmarks.

I'll also send autographed bookmark stacks to runners-up in the bookseller/teacher/librarian category. Note: Due to volume of entries, I added two runner-up slots in the individual category.

WARNING: some winning entries include spoilers to the novel.

Individual Winner

"I am most definitely a predator because of my headstrong nature. I tend to love coming first, which drives me to always want to win, but if I do lose, I back down willingly and silently. This only drives me to do better the next time around, and I tend to come back with a bite.

"I am a nice person, and I am loyal and trusting to everyone I meet until they do something that would otherwise incline me not to be. If so, there are rarely such things as second chances. But in some cases there are, and they have to work twice as hard to win me back.

"I'm always there for everyone I know; I am the ear that everyone relies on to be clear and open for listening. I know more secrets about people than anyone knows.

"I love to try new things at least once, so I doubt eating a squirrel would be too hard for me. Anyways, it is all in the head...right? I believe it is, and those things you are scared of are usually the most thrilling and the most fun. So, why not experience them while you have the chance? One of my favorite quotes explains it all: 'It is important to live life, not exist in it.' --Wayne Newton.

"I am the predator; I take chances when the time comes, leap at opportunities that benefit me and occasionally others. I am most certainly not skittish of blood. On the contrary, it intrigues me, and I love fresh meat... BRING ON THE CHILLED BABY SQUIRREL, BRADLEY!!!

"P.S. this goes to Bradley...you can give me a drink of red wine anytime."

--a YA reader

runners-up in the individual category

"I would, unfortunately, consider myself to be in the prey category. Over the years, I have let many people take advantage of my kindness, whether it be as small as a piece of gum, or as large as a sum of money, or a favorite book. I think that they see in me that I will lend them things or go along with them. I can't seem to say 'no' to people, unless it involves controlled substances.

"'Predators' seem to view me as a warm gooey chocolate chip cookie that just want to get their grubby hands on and devour until all that's left is a dribble of crumbs. Certainly, though, I am attempting to curb my prey appeal to the vast world of predators, but, as of now, I still regard myself as one of the hunted."

--a YA reader from Washington (state)

"I would definitely be a predator, because, to be honest, I couldn't stand to think that someone else would be brave enough to eat squirrels if I couldn't. I would have to eat them, too, to prove to myself I could do it. Plus, I've always been a dominant person, and I know if I was a wild animal I would probably be a wolf or something. I'm also a naturally darker person."

--a YA reader

Teacher/Librarian/Bookseller Winners

"I am a predator. I am headstrong, and I always stand out. I am the first to step up and take charge, and I always make myself heard. I am passionate about everything I do, but I do not take any gruff. I am confident in my own skin, and my every imperfection. That is what makes me a predator."

--K, a bookseller from Pennsylvania

"I have not yet read your book! Want to know why? I carried it to class. That's why! Silly me! It was snatched from my hands and is making the rounds of the students... I see it, now and then, as it passes from one set of hands to the others. So...I need to win. Otherwise I will have to wait for a long time, as I'm sure I won't see my copy before spring break.

"Which...is just one of the reasons why I think I'm prey. I know I'm prey. I am too easy to be the predator. A sane person would just say, 'Give it back, kids! I bought it! It is mine!' Right?

"A predator would've made the school pay for it...or the kids! Yeah! That's what a predator would do. But...I am prey, I have always been prey (all of my lifetimes), and I imagine I always will be. Well, that is okay. Can't have predators without prey, I guess, so at least I serve a purpose.

"Then again my intent was to get them interested...so...maybe being prey is simply one effective way to get what you want (be the predator, so to speak)...if you are sly enough. *evil laugh*"

--K, a teacher from Florida

Cynsational Notes

Ten runners-up in the teacher/librarian/bookseller category have also been contacted. They'll each receive an autographed stack of bookmarks, stickers, and--just for fun--bat tissues and vampire napkins.

I elected not to list names of the entrants (who may prefer to remain anonymous), but they are certainly welcome to shout-out their winning status, if they'd like.

Entries by predators outnumbered entries by prey by about a two-to-one margin. Interpret at will, and be careful out there.

All Roads Lead to Plano

GLS and I woke early Friday morning and loaded up the Olds for I-35 North. Our first stop was the Georgetown Public Library for my speech to members of TLA District III. The new library (opened this year) is in the historic district, the old downtown.

Before the event, we grabbed breakfast at The Village Inn (exceptional ham-and-cheese omelet). Then we continued to the library itself, after swooping through the downtown area and noting Chantal's Bistro & Wine Bar for future reference.

Visiting the eighty-ish Austin/Central Texas librarians was a pleasure. We also were wowed by the library, especially the murals by TS in the children's section and the hip YA section.

After a ham-and-cheese on wheat with mustard sandwich (it was a big day for ham-and-cheese) and tortilla chips, we chatted a while, and then hit the road again for Dallas.

I-35 was as busy as always, packed with truck traffic and construction. It was a pleasant relief to arrive at the historic Adolphus Hotel (lobby pictured above).

It wasn't until we'd settled into our suite that I had a chance to investigate my lovely thank-you gift from TLA--bath salts, a knitted potholder, a fourteen-month mouse-pad calendar, Grow-a-Smiley face, C-shaped sticky notes, a beautifully decorative notepad, and a round crystal candy dish. I was enchanted. And I will grow a smiley face soon!

Afterward, we investigated our welcoming basket from the Star-Lit Festival: Dealey Plaza National Historic Landmark (The Sixth Floor Museum, 1997); D Magazine; a Dallas skyline postcard; bottle of water; Nieman's over-sized chocolate chip cookie (the hotel is down the street from the flagship store); a Sixth Floor Museum postcard; a small bag of Goldfish crackers; and Captain's Wafers (cream cheese and chives). We also were delivered a fruit plate (pear, banana, orange, and apple) and ordered artisan cheeses.

Our amazing escort Hope (with Lea) picked us up in the lobby later for the reception at the Dealey Plaza, which is a museum in memory of JFK.

I worked as a reporting intern in Dallas, covering "high fashion" and "high profile" at the Morning News, during the summer after my second year of law school. I remember people telling me how powerful it was and encouraging me to go, but I shied away then.

This was my first visit, and I was moved and impressed by the exhibit. The photograph that stands out most in my memory features two African American women grieving after the announcement of the president's death--the pain fairly radiates off the picture.

We shifted into a celebratory mode downstairs as the reception went on, fueled by much good news at the Dallas Bethlehem Center. I had the honor of meeting BC for the first time and found him to be quite the gracious and lovely gentleman. The barbecue also was outstanding (sausage, chicken, and beans). Highlights of the evening also included some quality time with KWH.

My report on the festival itself may be found at Cynsations, but I would like to shout out again to Hope, and also to Jeff and the Lamar Middle School Book Club (loved the card, loved the photos, thanks for reading Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007)!).

On the way home, GLS and I had dinner at Chantal's Bistro & Wine Bar. I adored my tapas (Catalan sizzling shrimp served in a sizzling pan with garlic and chili pepper infused oil; jumbo lump crab cakes with pickled English cucumber slaw, remoulade and cilantro crema; and selected imported cheeses, fruit, prosciutto with crackers).

Now, it's Monday, I'm back in Austin, and the week started out with a great treat--lunch with GLS, CB, SP, LL, JL, LGS, and AB at Central Market. I had the chicken tortilla soup.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Spooky News & Links

Alex Flinn, author of Beastly (HarperCollins, 2007): from the YA Authors Cafe.

From Page to Screen" David Cunningham's 'The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising' by Claire E. Gross from The Horn Book.

Free Autographed Bookplates from Children's and YA Authors, or How to Get Your Book "Autographed" by an Author by Cheryl Rainfield. Features information on YA/teen authors, picture book authors, and other children's authors. See also Teen Books that Have Something to Say from Cheryl.

Character Building with Alma Fullerton: a chat transcript from the Institute of Children's Literature. Visit Alma's site.

More Personally

I spoke to a boo-fest bevy of teen (and grown-up) fiends at the Plano Public Library (outside Dallas) Oct. 13 about Gothic fantasy literature and Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007). The event room was gorgeously decorated with (paper) candles hanging from the ceiling, a Sanguini's table set up (cake, punch, nuts, etc.), signs tying into the book, tombstones, pin-the-tail on the werewolf, a smoke machine, strobe lights, and much much, more. In addition, stations were set up for temporary tattoos (fang and scratch marks), buttons (chapter titles represented were "predator," "prey," "Fangs Are Us" and "Baby Got Bite"), and photos of the much-costumed guests. I also was presented a corsage (complete with teeth), and a gift bag filled with a Gothtini, framed event announcement, mug, candies, and pen. The event opened with the stations and food. Then I offered a PowerPoint presentation on my own book and recommended several other YA Gothic fantasies. We wrapped up with a signing, costume contest judging, and giveaways. Note: I don't feature kid/teen photos online without permission, but we had a boisterous, gloriously vamp-ish crowd. Thanks to Deban and pals for a spooky fantastic event!

Plan to attend the Twenty-Fifth Annual Children's Book Festival and the Twenty-First Annual Young Adult Conference hosted by The Department of Library Science at Sam Houston State University Nov. 3 in Huntsville. Featured speakers are: Joan Bauer, Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith, and Mo Willems.

Attending the Texas Book Festival Nov. 3 and Nov. 4 in Austin? I will be among the YA authors featured at the Not-For-Required Reading Event from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Nov. 3 at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar (1120 S. Lamar). Authors also will include: Sherman Alexie, Jacques Couvillon, Adrienne Kress, April Lurie (author interview), Perry Moore, Neal Shusterman, and Brian Yansky (author interview). Note: I'll be a little late as I'm driving in from Huntsville that evening with Greg and Mo. I'll also participate with authors Adrienne Kress and April Lurie on the "Tough Girls" panel, moderated by author Julie Lake, from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Nov. 4 in Capitol Extension Room E2.012. See schedules for Saturday and Sunday.

Reminder: Attention MySpacers! On the online events front, I'm honored to be featured as one of 31 Flavorite Authors by the Readergirlz on Oct. 29! I'll be chatting about Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007).

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Author Interview: Melissa Marr on Wicked Lovely

Melissa Marr on Melissa Marr: "The easy version--I write; I'm a mom; and I used to teach.

"The longer version--I grew up in Pennsylvania. I tended to be too curious for my own good, so I experimented with trouble. I knew though that I wanted to teach and write some day, so I went to college and then grad school. Somewhere in there, I started bartending and teaching university--both of which were great fun. In 1998, I switched from bartending to motherhood, and in 2006 I switched from teaching to writing novels."

Could you tell us about your path to publication? Any sprints or stumbles along the way?

I suppose it depends on what we consider as the starting point. I decided I wanted to write when I was 12 or so, but I didn't really do anything about it until I was around thirty. I was afraid, so I decided to wait until I was 40 to try it. The biggest stumble was my belief that I couldn't provide for my family and be a writer. When I did start writing novels, when I was around 30, things happened pretty much instantly.

Congratulations on the publication of Wicked Lovely (HarperCollins, 2007)(excerpt)! Could you fill us in on the story?"

I'm so bad at this part. Hmmm. It's a story about three characters who each want something. Keenan wants to find his missing Summer Queen (who happens to be a mortal); Donia wants freedom from the curse she's carrying (because of Keenan); Aislinn wants a normal life (but she sees faeries). Keenan and Donia are at odds, bound to compete to convince Aislinn to choose as they want/need. Aislinn is trying to hide the fact that she knows faeries are real. Ultimately, it's a story of choices made and un-made.

What was your initial inspiration for writing this book?

An obsession with the importance of choices? The name Aislinn? Fascination with faeries? Egalitarian issues? Being a mom? I'm not sure there's a solitary inspiration. I can do the retrospective assessment bit, but that's assigning meaning after the fact. At the time, I only knew that I couldn't get the characters out of my head.

What was the timeline between spark and publication, and what were the major events along the way?

In late 2004, I wrote a short story that would linger in my mind for the next eight-to-nine months. Then in 2005, I wrote two novels--one that didn't work and the one that was an evolution of that short story. That novel became Wicked Lovely. Once I started writing WL, things became blurry. I finished it in January, queried agents, picked an agent in February, sold the book in a multi-book co-acquisition (with the US and UK) in March. From starting the novel to signing with an agent to deal was six months total. It was ridiculously fast.

What about the young adult audience appeals to you?

I don't know that I think of it that way. People appeal to me. Some of the most interesting people I've met are those I met through teaching, so I guess it made sense to write a text that was available to this readership.

What is it like, being a debut author in 2007?

For me, it's been surreal. I never thought much about the "being an author" part. I wrote a book. I've dreamed of seeing it in readers' hands. I'd never thought about the between writing and on the shelves part. I never thought about events. I'm just not a book-signing, event, author-party kinda person. But my publishers are energetic. There was a pre-publication tour. There was a lunch date with BGI. There's another tour coming. And, of course, there were (and will be more) events, signings, and...just things. There are things, and I had no clue how to do most of them. I regularly have great fears of failing my publishers by not doing these things well enough.

If you could go back and talk to yourself when you were beginning writer, what advice would you offer?

I'm pretty simple in that I believe that where we are today is the result of every aspect of where we were before, so I wouldn't want to say anything to my prior self.

What do you do when you're not writing?

I hang out with my family, read, travel, go to museums, roam with my camera, get tattooed, meditate... To write, to live, I think it's pretty important to keep the well full, so I try to sate my senses and spirit.

Luckily, my family thinks this is a fine plan, so they're game for new adventures and cool with my going on solitary adventures. For example, we just returned from a wonderful trip to Ireland and a few days in England. I'm preparing for a work trip on my own, but that schedule also includes "go to museum" and "roam" time.

How do you balance your life as a writer with the responsibilities (speaking, promotion, etc.) of being an author?

I'm not sure I am very good at the balance part yet. I'm lucky in that my Harper US publicist (Melissa Ditmar) and my US & UK editors (Anne Hoppe & Nick Lake) are very good at this, so they look at my schedule and sort things out so I'm not terribly dizzy. My agent, Rachel Vater, also does a great job of taking care of me.

Between the lot of them (and my at home support team), I generally know where I'm to be and what I'm to be doing. Plus, I like caffeine, so that helps.

What can your fans look forward to next?

Readers can expect to see Ink Exchange in Summer 2008. This story picks up about six months after Wicked Lovely; this one centers on the Dark Court. It's the narrative threads of characters we meet in WL--Leslie (Ash's friend), Irial (Dark King), & Niall (Keenan's friend). The MCs from WL are in it, but it's not their story. There will also be a short story in the Love Is Hell anthology in Fall 08. Then my manga series (and another novel) will be out in 2009.

Monday, October 15, 2007

A Day In The Life

A writer's life is often more about being an author than the writing itself.

Currently, I'm waiting for a revision letter on my next novel from DW at CP, and on weekends, when we're not traveling, GLS and I are working on an anthology story for LB (CC and HB).

Consequently, during the week, the writer hat has been off, and the author hat has been on.

Often when I speak, people ask me what I do on a typical day. It's a hard question because the days vary so much and are often filled with less than glamorous minutia. This inspired me to try to pin it down, just once.

Here's what author Cyn did one day last week:

woke up and got ready for the day (dressed, etc.);

sent two posts to a listserv for YA writers;

responded to a follow-up post by a member of that list;

sent a lead on a new agent to a writer;

sent flight information to GLS for the following weekend;

made and gobbled down breakfast (scrambled eggs and turkey bacon);

made decaffeinated iced tea to drink throughout the day;

reported to an illustrator on the "cumulative brain's" take on a burning question;

sent a blog-post URL to an author in which I featured news of her website update;

sent a reassuring note to a second author feeling at a loss;

sent another reassuring note to a writer-illustrator juggling a lot of responsibilities;

touched base with a debut author whose book I'm interested in reading;

sent a set of interview questions to a YA fantasy author;

sent a set of interview questions to a librarian-blogger;

wrote and sent an evaluation of a candidate for the VCFA program to the admissions office;

corresponded with an author-industry journalist about an upcoming feature;

congratulated pals who were finalists for the WLT Teddy Award;

contracted area YA authors about featuring signed copies of their recent books at a forthcoming librarian event;

corresponded with a prospective MFA student;

fielded two queries from beginning writers, referring them to SCBWI and relevant pages of my site:

autographed 15 bookplates and 7 bookmarks upon reader request and packaged them to go out;

autographed 25 bookmarks for a YA library reading group and packaged them to go out;

wrote back to about 10 YA readers on MySpace (and one YA librarian);

calculated the cost of postcard postage to Canada, Italy, Australia, China, etc. and stamped Santa Knows cards to go out internationally;

addressed more postcards to bookstores which we've worked with recently (about 20);

wrote a two-and-a-half minute script for a podcast;

sent thank yous to everyone who had entered the predator or prey? giveaway contest (deadline is today!);

picked up guacamole from the larger Randall's on Exposition;

dropped off dry-cleaning;

dined with GLS--ostrich tacos with whole-wheat tortillas (he of course cooked);

continued watching season one "Bones" (second time through) while signing my name with a green Sharpie to 2,300+ postcards (note: wouldn't normally do such a big mailing for a book--especially past season, but holiday books have a very short sales window, and reviews usually come out toward the end/after it);

slept.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Spooky News & Links

Congratulations to Kathy Duval on the publication of The Three Bears Halloween, illustrated by Paul Meisel (Holiday House, 2007). From the promotional copy: "Boo! It's finally Halloween. Baby Bear is trick-or-treating with Mama Bear and Papa Bear. As the bears come up to the very scary house, they notice that the door is open. Maybe they should go inside. But is that a 'tee-hee-hee' coming from behind the bush? Could the three bears be in for a Halloween trick? Goldilocks gets a visit from the three bears in this spooky companion book...." Read a Cynsations interview with Kathy on The Three Bears Christmas.

2007 Cybils: "the only literary awards by bloggers;" the committees are seeking nominations from book lovers (that means you!) in eight genres: fantasy/science fiction; fiction picture books; middle grade fiction; nonfiction (middle grade and YA); non-fiction picture books; poetry; young adult fiction. Deadline: Nov. 21. See details and nominate!

Finalists for the National Book Award in the category of Young People's Literature have been announced: Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Little, Brown); Kathleen Duey, Skin Hunger: A Resurrection of Magic, Book One (Atheneum)(author interview); M. Sindy Felin, Touching Snow (Atheneum); Brian Selznick, The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Scholastic); Sara Zarr, Story of a Girl (Little, Brown)(author interview). Read Cynsations interviews with Kathleen and Sara.

YA Author Gail Giles has revamped and expanded her official site. It now features additional pictures, a teacher's guide for What Happened to Cass McBride (Little Brown, 2006), unofficial trailers for her books, and a page about school visits. Read a Cynsations interview with Gail.

To celebrate Halloween, there's a special promotion taking place at Teens Read Too, where you can win a copy of Betrayed by P. C. & Kristin Cast, The Beast of Noor and Dragon's Keep by Janet Lee Carey (author interview), Lord Loss and Demon Thief by Darren Shan (author interview), a Twilight audiobook CD by Stephenie Meyer (author interview), Don't Die, Dragonfly by Linda Joy Singleton (author interview), Bras & Broomsticks by Sarah Mlynowski, A Great and Terrible Beauty and Rebel Angels by Libba Bray (author interview), a Cirque Du Freak box set by Darren Shan (author interview), A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb, and Twilight and New Moon by Stephenie Meyer (author interview)! Last but not least, you can enter for a chance to win a copy of Cristo's Chronicles: The King's Challenge by Anthony J. Mirarchi by checking out the Hidden Contest!

More Personally

The Haggard Library/Plano (Texas) Public Library (2501 Coit Road) will host Cynthia Leitich Smith from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 13. Grades 6 to 12. Come dressed in your best vampire finery!

Star Lit, a children's literary festival, is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 20 at St. Andrews Methodist Church in Plano (TX). The event benefits the Dallas Bethlehem Center. Featured authors and illustrators include: Will Hillenbrand; Dee Scallan and Daniel Myers; Laura Numeroff; Bryan Collier; Kim Brown; Kimberly Willis Holt; Cynthia Leitich Smith; Greg Leitich Smith; and Tracy Dockray.

Attention MySpacers! On the online events front, I'm honored to be featured as one of 31 Flavorite Authors by the Readergirlz on Oct. 29! I'll be chatting about Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007) .

"More Hot Titles for Teens" from Copiague Memorial Public Library in Copiague, New York. Note: what great company! Read Cynsations interviews with Daria Snadowsky, Cecil Castellucci, Libba Bray, A.M. Jenkins, and Sara Zarr.

Reminder: Are You Predator or Prey? Giveaway Contest: In recognition of October's spookiness, I'm giving away three Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007) prize packages--two to people (booksellers, teachers, librarians) who connect books to YA readers and one to an individual reader. The packages each include an autographed copy of Tantalize, a Sanguini's T-shirt, bat and wolf finger puppets, stickers, and additional surprises! In addition, the individual winner will receive one signed Tantalize bookmark, and the bookseller/teacher/librarian winners will receive twenty signed bookmarks. I'll also send autographed bookmark stacks to at least three runners-up in the bookseller/teacher/librarian category. Deadline Oct. 15. See details!

The October giveaway at Tantalize Fans Unite! at MySpace is Ironside by Holly Black (Simon & Schuster, 2007)(excerpt)(three copies).

From the promotional copy: "In the realm of Faerie, the time has come for Roiben's coronation. Uneasy in the midst of the malevolent Unseelie Court, pixie Kaye is sure of only one thing--her love for Roiben. But when Kaye, drunk on faerie wine, declares herself to Roiben, he sends her on a seemingly impossible quest. Now Kaye can't see or speak to Roiben unless she can find the one thing she knows doesn't exist: a faerie who can tell a lie.

"Miserable and convinced she belongs nowhere, Kaye decides to tell her mother the truth--that she is a changeling left in place of the human daughter stolen long ago. Her mother's shock and horror sends Kaye back to the world of Faerie to find her human counterpart and return her to Ironside. But once back in the faerie courts, Kaye finds herself a pawn in the games of Silarial, queen of the Seelie Court. Silarial wants Roiben's throne, and she will use Kaye, and any means necessary, to get it. In this game of wits and weapons, can a pixie outplay a queen?

"Holly Black spins a seductive tale at once achingly real and chillingly enchanted, set in a dangerous world where pleasure mingles with pain and nothing is exactly as it appears."

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Author Interview: Tiffany Trent on In the Serpent's Coils

Tiffany Trent was born and raised in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Southwestern Virginia. She fell in love with reading at an early age and writing shortly thereafter. After a childhood steeped in fairy tales, myth, and the natural world, she went on to earn three master's degrees in English, creative writing, and environmental studies. Besides breeding poison frogs, her most exciting job occasioned a move across the globe to Hong Kong, where she worked as a senior editor for a wildlife conservation organization. However, she continued nurturing her secret passion for writing fantasy, and now writes while teaching English at Virginia Tech. Her first novel, In the Serpent's Coils (Hallowmere)(Mirrorstone, 2007), is a BookSense Children's Pick for Autumn 2007.

Could you tell us about your path to publication? Any sprints or stumbles along the way?

Oddly, the sprints and stumbles seem to be coterminous. I'd worked on an Asian-inspired epic for most of my life. I submitted it two years ago to a writer's workshop, and it was so well received that I was introduced to a senior editor at a large house. He kept the manuscript for a year and a half before finally rejecting it.

I had only just begun work on the Hallowmere proposal, and this editor really pushed me toward stretching my abilities. "You’ve been working on this too long. Work on something else," he said, before tossing my darling epic back in my lap.

That stung, but he was very, very right.

Two months later, I had the Hallowmere contract and was suddenly faced with working on a ten-book series that I would never have dreamed of writing before that fatal rejection. I'm very glad it all happened as it did!

Congratulations on the release of In the Serpent's Coils (Hallowmere)(Mirrorstone, 2007)(excerpt)! Could you tell us a little about this new title?

As the Civil War ends, Corrine's nightmare begins...

Orphaned by the Civil War, Corrine Jameson is forced to live with her aloof Uncle William. Mysterious letters, strange dreams, and supernatural encounters cause Corrine to be sent to Falston Reformatory School, where she is thrust squarely into an ancient conflict between mortals and fey. When Corrine's schoolmates begin disappearing, Corrine wonders: will she be next?

What was your initial inspiration for writing this book?

A conglomeration of things, really. I've loved the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale "The Marsh King's Daughter" since I was a child. Once, when I was in Charleston, South Carolina, I took a ghost tour and learned about the Gullah, descendants of West African slaves who live in the South Carolina Low Country. Also, a dear friend of mine owns an old farmhouse in Culpeper, Virginia (where the book is set), and she would often tell me Civil War ghost stories while we sat on her porch at midnight. Mash all that together, and you get In the Serpent's Coils.

What was the timeline between spark and publication, and what were the major events along the way?

I had been toying with this idea off and on probably since 2000, but I hadn't really done much with it, because I was working on the aforementioned epic and writing nonfiction essays.

My editor, Stacy Whitman, was searching for YA dark fantasy writers and asked my friend Shannon Hale if she knew anyone who might write that sort of thing. Stacy and I began speaking in August 2005. I had a couple weeks to draw up a proposal--an interesting task when you're living in the middle of the Chinese wilderness, as I was at the time. (I was staying with my husband during his research on Asiatic black bears).

When I got to Hong Kong, I sent her the single novel idea I had in mind. Then she asked, "What if you had to do a 10-book series? Can you expand this idea?"

I gulped, and said, "Sure!"

In late December 2005, the final decision was made and Hallowmere was born. In the Serpent’s Coils was completed by April 2006 and launched on Aug. 28.

For some of the books, I'm very fortunate to have a great group of co-authors, among them Angelika Ranger, Paul Crilley, and Amanda Jenkins (author interview). I'm very much looking forward to seeing their books.

I can't emphasize enough how wonderful the Mirrorstone publishing team has been, from the editors to the folks manning their beautiful booth at this year's trade shows. Everyone has been truly excited and supportive from the very beginning. It means a tremendous amount to have a publishing team with that much faith in me.

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?

The challenges stemmed mostly from balancing the tight publishing schedule with teaching full-time. Being on deadline definitely changed the speed at which I wrote! Also, I had to do a bit of gear-shifting because I had been spending all my creative time steeped in Chinese lore for the other series and suddenly I needed to be thinking about Civil War-era Virginia. It was definitely a bit of a head-spinner, but also very refreshing--a splash of cold water to the brain.

If you could go back and talk to yourself when you were a beginning writer, what advice would you offer?

Go toward the writing that feeds you, and don't be ashamed of it. If genre feeds you, then feast. If literary fiction feeds you, devour it. Don't let anyone make you feel that your desire to write is invalid or not worthy because of the stories that have chosen you to write them.

What would you say specifically on the topic of writing historical fantasy fiction?

What I like best about writing historical fantasy fiction is that it opens up a forgotten world by connecting me with people who are often long-dead. Getting to know someone's past, even through something as simple as the weather she experienced in 1865, is an excellent exercise for the imagination. Such work forces me to seek answers. Even if I don't always find what I'm looking for, research helps me craft the novel carefully.

How do you balance your life as a writer with the responsibilities (speaking, promotion, etc.) of being an author?

Life for me has always been a balancing act between writing and whatever else I needed to do to survive, so I'm very accustomed to splitting my time between those things. Thus far, promotion has been very well-organized by my publisher and I'm deeply grateful for that. Right now, I'm learning how to do promotion for myself. It's definitely a challenge but also fun to use my creative skills in a different way.

What can your fans look forward to next?

More Hallowmere! Book 2 will be out in December and Book 3 will be out in March or April. A Hallowmere story called "Blackwater Baby" will be in the Magic in the Mirrorstone anthology, edited by Steve Berman, in 2008. A YA Victorian dark fantasy is also in the works.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Sunflowers and Steaks

The 2007 Kansas Book Festival was held Oct. 5 to Oct. 6 at Koch Arena on the campus of Wichita State University. I spent much of my childhood in Kansas and am a graduate of the journalism school at the University of Kansas, Lawrence. See my full report on the festival at Cynsations.

GLS and I decided to drive, taking I-35 most of the way to and from Wichita. Fortunately, game traffic on the way home was lighter than we anticipated.

We left before dawn, taking with us 3,000 stamps and Santa Knows (Dutton, 2006) cover art postcards. I applied just fewer than 2,500 stamps to cards while on the road. (You'll be pleased to know that GLS was the one driving).

One of the challenges of marketing a holiday picture book is the short window. Oddly, no one wants to buy a Christmas book in January or July. In addition, reviews often follow the release of the book by some time. So, now that the window is open again, we've decided to send postcards featuring quotes from three of our favorite reviews. We'll be labeling this week.

I don't remember the last time I was as charmed by lodging as at the Hotel at Old Town (virtual tour), which is in the historic district. The building is the much-renovated Keen Kutter warehouse, the largest warehouse in the world in 1906. Each suite has a fully-equipped kitchen with a full-size refrigerator with ice maker, microwave, range, dishwasher, coffee maker, dining and cooking utensils. The hotel also features a top-notch piano bar and cupboard, featuring 25¢ soft drinks along with frozen meals, vending items and snacks, all modestly priced. It works on an honor system, too. Very trusting and open-hearted and, well, Kansas.

We had a lovely dinner at the highly recommended Larkspur Bar and Grill with KWH and Her Majesty KLP. Our table began by splitting the pâte, cheese and fruit platter--"a plate of in-season fruit, a medley of cheeses and soft pâte served with a variety of crackers"--and then I had the chicken pistachio ("topped with cream cheese sauce and pistachios") served with the metro salad ("fresh seasonal mixed greens with balsamic vinaigrette dressing, topped with roasted almonds and bleu cheese crumble") and mashed red-skin potatoes.

The following evening, after the festival, we dined at the Martini Steakhouse, located in the historic depot. We began by splitting artichoke dip, and then I had the ostrich (medium rare) steak with rice pilaf and green-and-white beans. GLS of course took full advantage of being in beef country, not that we don't spend much of our time along what was once the cattle trail.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Spooky News & Links

My fave spooky picture books include Boris and Bella by Carolyn Crimi, illustrated by Gris Grimly (Harcourt, 2004)(inside spread). From the flap copy:

"Bella Legrossi is the messiest monster in all of Booville. Her slime is the slimiest and her grime is the grimiest. Alas, she is neighbors with Boris Kleanitoff, a persnickety ghoul so tidy he vacuums his vampire bats. What could ever bring these two together?

"It will take a Halloween party like no other--a full creature-feature of beasts, ghosts, and creepy-crawlies, and some of the fanciest dance moves since Morrie Mummy shook a leg clean off. So grab a mug of ghoul drool and join the fun!

"Wicked wit Carolyn Crimi and illustrator Gris Grimly have put their heads together (along with a few they found in the graveyard) and cooked up the funniest, funkiest, and out-and-out freakiest monster mash you've ever seen!"

More News & Links

Project 17 by Laurie Faria Stolarz (Hyperion, December 2007) book trailer. Learn more about the novel from Laurie's site. Read a Cynsations interview with Laurie.

Harry Potter and the Fundamentals of Fantasy by Philip Martin from Absolute Write.

Thrills and chills for Halloween reading: reviews by Katie Lewis from BookPage.

More Personally

My Halloween decorations include--two Jack-O-Lantern pillows on side chairs in the parlor; stout black candles in the candelabra in the fireplace, which front-light the miniature black metal haunted house; black tapers in crystal candlesticks on the bookshelf in the parlor; bat lights in the foyer; hanging black metal bat from the foyer-to-parlor arch; new bat-themed doormat. Note: so far Tarrytown Pharmacy and Prima Dora Gifts have the best decorations. Central Market has extremely cute but very expensive kitty vampire cards. I may have to buy some.

Reminder: Are You Predator or Prey? Giveaway Contest: In recognition of October's spookiness, I'm giving away three Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007) prize packages--two to people (booksellers, teachers, librarians) who connect books to YA readers and one to an individual reader. The packages each include an autographed copy of Tantalize, a Sanguini's T-shirt, bat and wolf finger puppets, stickers, and additional surprises! In addition, the individual winner will receive one signed Tantalize bookmark, and the bookseller/teacher/librarian winners will receive twenty signed bookmarks. I'll also send autographed bookmark stacks to at least three runners-up in the bookseller/teacher/librarian category. Deadline Oct. 15. See details!