Friday, April 25, 2008

Spooky News, Links & Giveaways

Enter to win one of three autographed copies of A Growling Place by Thomas Aquinas Maguire (Simply Read, 2007)(author-illustrator interview)! To enter, email me with your name and snail/street mail address by 10 p.m. CST April 29! Please also type "A Growling Place" in the subject line. Note: one copy will be awarded to a teacher/librarian (please identify yourself accordingly in your entry), and two copies will be awarded to any Cynsational readers!

Thomas says: "It's about nighttime and tea, wind gusts and windows, feathers, birds, blankets, bears, bedtime and a little girl named Aril who befriends all of these things." Read the whole interview.

Reminder: Enter to win a copy of By Venom's Sweet Sting (Mirrorstone, 2007). To enter, email me with your name and snail/street mail address by 10 p.m. CST April 30! Please also type "By Venom's Sweet Sting" in the subject line. Note: one copy will be awarded to any Cynsations YA reader, and one copy will be awarded to a member of Tantalize Fans Unite! at MySpace. Please identify yourself accordingly as part of your entry! Don't miss the latest Hallowmere book, latest Hallowmere novel, Between Golden Jaws by Tiffany Trent (Mirrorstone, 2008)(sample chapter)! Read a Cynsations interview with Tiffany.

More News & Links

Harry Potter Author J.K. Rowling's Copyright Case: Behind All The Legal Jargon: Case against The Harry Potter Lexicon hinges on the doctrine of fair use — but what does that mean? by Shawn Adler from MTV. Peek [quoting J.K.]: "This trial has decimated my creative work over the last month," she said. "You lose the [plot] threads and worry whether you'll be able to pick them up again. Should my fans be flooded with a surfeit of substandard books--so-called lexicons--I'm not sure I'd have the will or heart to continue." Source: Alex Flinn.

"We Don't Make Fuzzy-Bunny Books" (Part 2) from Tony DiTerlizzi, co-creator of the Spiderwick Chronicles. Peek: "Before I post more sketches of the characters and world I created for Kenny and the Dragon, I thought I would share some of the inspirational art that I looked at while writing the story."

The Adoration of Jenna Fox (by Mary E. Pearson (Henry Holt, 2008)): official website has been expanded to offer trailer, reviews, sample chapter, author bio, author interview, and medical-ethics related links. See also "Meanwhile, Back in the Garden..." from Mary.

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This weekend's Austin SCBWI conference has sold out! Here's a warm Texas howdy to all of the speakers and participants, especially my Candlewick editor Deborah Wayshak! I hope to see some of you there! Note: here's a sneak peek from Chris Barton at Bartography: Get some wisdom from accomplished children's literature professionals. Or from me.

Congratulations, Y'all!

Congratulations to Austin YA author Varian Johnson on his sale of The Path of The Righteous to Delacorte!

Crank the sound and check out the Austin Public Library's Bibliofiles book cart drill team's winning performance at the recent Texas Library Association in Dallas, Texas. Wow!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Author-Illustrator Interview: Thomas Aquinas Maguire on A Growling Place

Thomas Aquinas Maguire on Thomas Aquinas Maguire: "Thomas Aquinas Maguire is the author and illustrator of A Growling Place (Simply Read, 2007). He was born, raised and educated in Rochester, New York; and currently lives in Milwaukee. His first book was conceived of and produced in Denmark where he also worked for The LEGO Company as a toy designer.

"Thomas is creating a variety of new books for 2008 and 2009. He develops exhibits with Discovery World and teaches drawing and illustration courses at The Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design."

Could you tell us about your apprenticeship as a writer and an illustrator? How did you come to each? Where did you study and/or otherwise develop your skills?

I was professionally trained as an Industrial Designer at RIT in Rochester, New York.

At the end of my second year of study, I found myself working as an intern toy designer for Fisher-Price. I absolutely loved it. I focused the remaining two years of my studies at RIT towards toward a career in toy design, and upon graduation, I flew across the ocean to Denmark and got a job with LEGO.

In Denmark, I had a lot of time to myself, I used this time to educate myself in picture book creation and spent almost every evening drawing, writing, and imagining.

Congratulations on the release of A Growling Place (Simply Read, 2007)! Could you tell us a little about the book?

A Growling Place is my first picture book. It's about nighttime and tea, wind gusts and windows, feathers, birds, blankets, bears, bedtime and a little girl named Aril who befriends all of these things.

What was your initial inspiration?

I would have to say loneliness--and I don't mean that in a sad way. To an imaginative mind, loneliness can be a great collaborator. I remember most of my childhood being in the company of my brother and sisters, but I also clearly remember (especially before my little brother roommate was born) the lonely and imaginative moments before sleep.

The isolation that I experienced in Denmark evoked those same quiet imaginative moments familiar from childhood. Loneliness became a great friend to me, and, in many ways, A Growling Place is about just that.

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

It took about three years from the very first sketch to the publication of A Growling Place. I had actually just abandoned my very first attempt at a picture book manuscript called "Cricket Nights." I began A Growling Place by experimenting with a new technique using tea washes and graphite crosshatching in my sketchbook. Some of the colors in the first illustration from A Growling Place are actually painted with tea!

While living in Europe, I had the opportunity to expose myself to children's literature history. I studied the work of my favorite illustrators from childhood, including of course, Maurice Sendak and Edward Gorey. I traveled and saw some original Beatrix Potter drawings in London. With my aunt, I visited the home of the Grimm brothers in Kassel. On my days off from work I would visit Hans Christian Andersen's birthplace in Odense.

After each trip, I'd settle back in at home with some tea and continue work on A Growling Place. It was probably one of the healthiest environments I could've been in at the time. Surrounded by the work of these storytellers, I went home each night and put their teaching to use.

A little bit later, I made the decision to move back to the U.S. and completed the rest of A Growling Place at my parents home in Rochester. They were wonderful to give me the whole downstairs to set up a little studio and get the thing finished!

I printed five sample books and sent them to some people that I thought would be interested. Dimiter at Simply Read Books gave me a call, and we pulled it all together with a great cover, a striking long format, and a beautifully crafted half cloth book construction. Simply Read Books did such a good job with it.

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

In the early stages of the book's creation, I was diagnosed with an eye disease called Keratoconus. The disease affects the rigidity of the corneal tissue--the cornea loses the perfection of its shape and vision is blurred. My right eye began to lose it's precision and continues to... This became a problem with some of the detail work that went into the illustrations.

The other challenge that I consistently find with creation is sustaining a mood. Before I can begin working on an established project, my mood must match the spirit of the book. This, at times, can be a great stumbling block, especially if the project stretches over years--as A Growling Place did.

Music helps me to find, sustain and revisit a mood. This is why I'll sometimes spend whole evenings searching for perfect music. Sometimes, though, even with music, it can take me hours to transform my mindset.

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

I'm not sure that I would. I feel that my motivations and methods for A Growling Place were right-on. If I had to translate the most important of my realizations from those three years into a piece of advice it would be this:

"Create work that you believe in: work that you want to see and that you believe is worth making. Completing a work that you truly respect is a greater reward than gaining the respect of others or finding publication."

What do you do when you're not in the book world?

If I'm not at work, I usually have books or drawing on my mind, so this is a tough one.

Sometimes I'll just sit in my chair and listen to music, or sit in my chair and think about things. I spend a lot of time boiling water and drinking tea--an almost unhealthy quantity of tea. I've also been very fond of my bicycle recently. Looking out of the window with a blanket is another favorite past-time. Video gaming is my guilty hobby.

What can your fans look forward to next?

I've been working on a few new books. One is complete, one is nearly complete and the other is very young. In August, there should be a nice set of little companion stories for A Growling Place. After that you can expect something much different.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Author Interview: Margaret Peterson Haddix on Found (The Missing: Book 1)

Margaret Peterson Haddix on Margaret Peterson Haddix: "I grew up on a farm near Washington Court House, Ohio. As a kid, I completely took it for granted that my brothers and sister and I had our own pony; that, if we went outside to play, we had hundreds of acres to roam around on; that, if something bad happened—-the hogs got out, the fields flooded—-my parents expected the whole family to pull together to deal with the problem.

"I think a lot of people I met my freshman year in college thought I was very strange, because they were all from suburbia, and I felt like I was coming from a completely different world. But, who knows? Maybe they would have thought I was strange anyway.

"I was also a big bookworm from an early age, and dreamed of becoming a writer, though I didn't see it as a very practical or realistic goal. I ended up majoring in both creative writing and journalism in college (as well as history, just for fun) and kind of spent the whole four years wavering between the different types of writing. But I had summer jobs at newspapers three years in a row, so it seemed logical to follow that route after graduation.

"Before my first book came out, I worked as a newspaper copy editor in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and a newspaper reporter in Indianapolis, and then detoured into freelance writing and teaching writing at a community college. I also got married and had two kids."

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

Even during the phase when I was more focused on journalism, I was also writing fiction and trying to get it published. I had a few small successes early on that made me think I had a chance: during college, I won an honorable mention in Seventeen's annual fiction contest; later on, I won a trip to Hawaii because of a short story I'd written. These things gave me hope, and I really needed that to get through the long dry spell that followed.

I left journalism when my husband got a job in a small town in Illinois where there wasn't much job opportunity for me. I tried to look at this as a gift, as my chance to focus on fiction: I taught part-time and wrote Running Out of Time (Aladdin, 1997); Don't You Dare Read This, Mrs. Dunphrey (Aladdin, 2004); and numerous short stories. And I spent two years collecting nothing but rejection letters for my fiction, before I finally got an agent, who then sold both books to Simon & Schuster.

Those two years didn't exactly feel like a stumble: they felt like I'd lost my footing completely and was sprawled flat on the ground being trampled by... I don't know--vicious wolves, maybe? Stampeding elephants? It's hard to write about that phase of my life without sounding melodramatic.

To make matters worse, for much of that time, my husband and I had good reason to believe that we might never be able to have children, which we both very much wanted. So I felt stymied, all around. And yet, within a few years after that, we had a baby and a toddler, and my editor was asking me to write another book.

In that speeded-up time-lapse thing that memory does, it seems like I went from a drought to a deluge, almost instantly. But in real time, things didn't change quite so fast.

What has surprised you most about being an author? Delighted you? What do you wish you could change?

I was somewhat surprised that writing fiction wasn't pure, unadulterated joy every single moment. But I've been delighted at how often it does feel like that.

One thing I do miss from my journalism days is having co-workers. I have plenty of friends, relatives, etc., I can call or e-mail or meet with face-to-face, if I want a break from writing, but it's not the same as having someone at the next desk over whom I can ask in the middle of a sentence, "What's another word for 'scintillate'?" The thesaurus function on my computer just isn't as entertaining as co-workers would be. (Though it's also not as disruptive and distracting--there are trade-offs.)

Congratulations on the launch of Found (The Missing: Book 1)(Simon & Schuster, April 2008)! What was your initial inspiration for writing this series?

The first spark of the idea came to me when I woke up on an airplane and couldn't immediately remember where I was flying to or from. In those first moments, I'm not sure I even quite remembered who I was. (In my defense, I had flown across six time zones that day, and, in the last place I'd been, everyone had been speaking French.)

As I figured out exactly who and where I was, I had a flash of thinking that the sensation I'd just had might be interesting in a book. What if a kid or kids were similarly disoriented on a plane? What if the grown-ups around them didn't know who the kids were either?

The thought didn't go very far that day (please--I was doing well just to remember my name). But later, I thought, what if the mysterious kids on a plane weren't just lost and disoriented, but very young—babies, even? And then I just had such a strong image in my head, of a plane full of babies. I just had to figure out how and why such a thing would happen.

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

I got the first inkling of the book in July 2006. I thought about it off and on the rest of the summer and into the fall, but I was doing final revisions of another book (Uprising (Simon & Schuster 2007)) and traveling a lot for author visits and then starting to write a completely different book (Palace of Mirrors (Simon & Schuster, fall 2008)). I thought it'd be a long time before I got around to the babies-on-the-plane idea.

Meanwhile, though, I'd been having sporadic conversations with my editor and agents about starting another series, since the Shadow Children series (Simon & Schuster, 1998-2006) had just ended. I'd already suggested a couple of possibilities that weren't exactly taking the world by storm.

Rather defensively, I told one of my agents, "I do have another idea that could be good, but I haven't figured everything out yet." He urged me to write it up as a proposal and send it in.

I wrote the proposal for Found the same way a kid would write a book report for a book he never actually read. I used vague words. I fudged details. I fully expected to be caught and exposed as a fraud, turned into one of those embarrassing publishing stories people tell for years.

Instead, everyone was delighted.

My editor and agent began talking about contracts and publication dates. And I just sat there thinking, "What have I done? How am I ever going to carry this off?"

My family came to my rescue. That night at dinner we were talking about my new series (which I was thinking of as, "random thought about babies on a plane that everyone thinks I'm going to be able to turn into a book. No--several books! Arghh!")

This was unusual, because I don't usually talk about what I'm working on until it's in fairly final form. And this was a long, long way from final form. But my husband and kids were cheering me up because they kept making hilarious suggestions about what I could do with my idea.

My son suggested a recurring character named Chippy the Annoying Rodent. (I didn't take that suggestion, but I did name one of the human characters "Chip" in his honor.)

My daughter, who'd just finished doing a research paper about Watergate, suggested a secret source named Strep Throat, who'd break the whole story to the media. And then my daughter had another suggestion--The Suggestion. It was the Holy Grail of suggestions, the idea that made me think, "Oh, wow, this can really work! That's perfect! It all fits!"

I can't say exactly what The Suggestion was, because it gives away too much about the book, but it helped a lot.

It was mid-December 2006 when I agreed to write Found. Simon & Schuster really wanted to be able to have the book on the spring 2008 list, rather than spring 2009, so I stopped in the middle of Palace of Mirrors, threw myself into Found, wrote furiously and obsessively for a couple months, and had a draft of the manuscript to my editor by mid-March 2007.

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

Once my daughter helped me out, my biggest challenge was just the timing, since I'd agreed to such a tight deadline. That constant sense of urgency probably helped Found, since the kids in the book needed to be stressed out and anxious, too. But lots of other things I should have been taking care of outside the book fell through the cracks for a while.

Also, since I was dealing with a type of science fiction that lots of other writers have written, I agonized about how to be original without completely disregarding certain standard conventions (not to mention, accepted scientific thought). I read a couple of research books that tied my brain in knots, and I consulted with my younger brother, who's read a much greater range of science fiction than I have. And I decided that, right or wrong, I had some very strong opinions about how I wanted to set up my fictional world.

Another challenge I had early on was with one of my characters, Katherine, who originally wasn't supposed to be a very major part of the book. But it was like she kept standing there at my elbow, needling me: "Hey, you really need me in this scene, too. You don't think Jonah and Chip can handle this by themselves, do you? I'm going in, whether you want me to or not." Eventually I stopped fighting her and realized she was right: I did need her a lot more than I'd thought.

Could you update us on your earlier books, highlighting as you see fit?

There are 21 of them--I feel a little like a grandmother with lots of grandkids trying to restrain herself from pulling out the whole wallet full of pictures. One thing that makes it hard to talk about my books collectively, in any cohesive manner, is that they range from early chapter books to middle grade fiction up through YAs--and they cover a range of types of books as well.

My second-newest-book, Uprising (Simon & Schuster 2007) was a foray into straight historical fiction, which was a little different for me. That book is set in the early 1900s, and deals with a few events that changed history, including the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and the first major American strike that mainly involved females. I found all the research fascinating, but it was challenging putting everything together.

As far as news about the other books goes, several of my earliest books (Running Out of Time (1995); Don't You Dare Read This, Mrs. Dunphrey (1996); Leaving Fishers, (1997); Just Ella (1999); and Turnabout (2000), all with Simon & Schuster) have now been re-issued with new paperback covers.

Dexter the Tough (Simon & Schuster 2007), my most recent book for younger kids, is coming out in paperback in July.

And Among the Hidden (Simon & Schuster, 1998) has been optioned to be a TV series, although the writers' strike put that notion on hold for a while.

What did the Shadow Children series (Simon & Schuster, 1998-2006) teach you about writing a series?

That I couldn't even pretend to be J.K. Rowling. Among other issues, there's no way I could ever figure out the last line of a seven-book series before I wrote the first book. (Assuming that that story about her writing process is true, I'm in awe.)

I found that, even though my books were closely linked, I could never step back enough to get the giant, overall perspective until the very end. I had to do my plotting on a book-by-book basis, with bursts of panic in between books when I wasn't sure I would be able to make the leap from one to the next. This time around, with The Missing, I'm using a similar technique, but I'm not quite so panicked about it.

How has your writing grown since the early days of your career?

I'd like to think I've become a better writer over the years, but I'm not sure if that's true or not. It's a little hard for me to judge.

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

In college, I really needed someone to tell me, "Stop spending so much time wondering whether you're a journalist or a fiction writer. It's all writing! You're a writer! Just write!"

After that, I would have appreciated hearing my future self tell me, "It's all going to work out. You'll have your books published. Everything will be fine. Don't get so upset."

But if I'd known then that everything was going to work out, I'm not sure that I would have tried so hard. Even now, I'm highly motivated by fear of failure. Maybe I need that.

How about advice for speculative fiction writers in general?

I think the key to writing speculative fiction is that you have to have the courage of your convictions--or, in this case, the courage of your speculations.

If you're going to write about what it's like, say, for a girl to find out that she's the clone of her dead sister, or that a teenager has her parents' memories implanted in her brain, or that two old ladies can un-age back to their teenage selves, or whatever your speculation is, then you have to first convince yourself that it's not only possible--it's true. It happened. No reader is ever going to believe you if you don't believe yourself.

But, really, that's true of any fiction. The willing suspension of disbelief has to begin with the author. To write fiction you have to believe fervently that there's a deep truth embedded in your story, even though you know--because you're not completely insane--that you're making the whole thing up.

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

Mostly not very well.

In the early years, when my kids were small, I did very, very little in the way of presentations and author visits and book signings and other promotions, because I didn't feel that I could be away from home very often. This gave me something of a reprieve, because then I could focus on writing the next book, rather than constantly wondering, "Should I be writing something new right now or should I be out promoting the book that just came out?" (Instead, my dilemmas were more along the lines of, "I was up all night with my baby--can I manage to stay awake to write during my kids' nap time, or should I take a nap myself?")

Now that my kids are older, I have started traveling more to promote my books, and I enjoy both the travel and the chance to meet new people. But I still feel torn about finding the right balance.

There are other things I've neglected that I can't blame on my kids. It's embarrassing how many times over the past decade or so I've said, "I'll put together a website after I finish writing this book." And then I'd finish that book, and feel compelled to start immediately on a new one, instead of working on the website. It finally got too humiliating to constantly tell people, "No, I don't have a website," so I am launching one this spring, to coincide with the release of Found. It's

Do you have a critique group? If not, who are your early readers?

For a long time I was jealous of other writers who would talk about how closely they worked with their critique groups. But for so many years, when my kids were little, I felt like I had time enough to write or I had time enough to talk with other writers about writing--I just couldn't do both. So I chose the writing.

About a year ago, one of my friends invited me to join a writing group, and I've greatly enjoyed it from a social angle--it's somewhat reminiscent of having co-workers. But it seems to be a little late for me to change my writing habits and build in that extra time to get feedback.

Since my kids are now within the target ages for many of my books, sometimes I've consulted with them, or sometimes with other relatives or friends who have a reason to be knowledgeable about or interested in that particular book.

But typically my editor and/or agent are the first to see my work. I've been lucky enough to work with the same editor on every one of my books—David Gale, at Simon & Schuster--and my agent, Tracey Adams (agent interview), has represented me for about a decade now. So they've undoubtedly seen some of the worst writing I'm capable of, and have somehow managed to forgive me for it.

What do you do when you're not writing?

It seems like a huge chunk of my time is spent driving my kids around, but my daughter assures me that that will all change when she gets her license at the end of the year. She also promises to run to the grocery for me, return library books, and take her younger brother wherever he needs to go. So then I'll have loads of time on my hands--to be spent worrying about her, out on the roads among all those other careless drivers...

Okay. Enough of the mom angst.

A lot of my time is taken up with family-related and kid-related activities. I used to volunteer quite a bit at my kids' schools, but that's tapered off as my kids have gotten older.

My husband and I teach fifth-grade Sunday school at our church, which is always entertaining and often educational (for us, anyway). I serve on the board of a group that tries to prevent people from becoming homeless, and sometimes do volunteer work at a homeless shelter or tutoring kids.

I can be a little bit of an exercise junkie: I swim laps a couple of times a week, and try to walk every day. I like to hike and bicycle, too, but don't usually do much of that except on vacations.

I enjoy traveling a lot, and do quite a bit of it with family and friends.

And, of course, I still love to read.

What can your fans look forward to next?

After Found, the next book I have coming out is a companion book to Just Ella (Simon & Schuster, 1999) called The Palace of Mirrors. (This is the one that Found interrupted.)

I stop short of calling it a sequel because, although Ella plays an important role in the book, she's not the main character, and it's very much another girl's tale. Plus, it sounds really pathetic if I say it took me nine years to get around to writing a sequel. But nine years between companion books--that doesn't seem so bad.

After that, the second Missing book, Sent, will come out next spring. And right now I'm working on the book that will probably come out in fall 2009. I'm playing around with a couple different possible titles—at the moment, the leading contenders are "Claim to Fame" and "Has Been."

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Video Interview with Neil Gaiman

Video Interview with Neil Gaiman at his home from Comic Book Resources. Neil discusses comics, graphic novels, being a Goth icon, working with artists, movie adaptations, script writing, promotion and traveling, getting to know his fans more personally than other authors, and his next children's book. Source: Amanda Williams.

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Tantalize review from "The story is engaging, the menu is (dare I say it?) tantalizing, and the locale shines. This one is worth reading for teens (the target audience) and adults alike."

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Spooky News & Links

"Catherine Gilbert Murdock's first two YA novels, Dairy Queen (Houghton Mifflin, 2006) and The Off Season (Houghton Mifflin, 2007), feature laconic Wisconsin farm girl--and football player--DJ Schwenk. Murdock's latest novel, Princess Ben (Houghton Mifflin, 2008), stars a very different type of character in an imagined fantasy world." Horn Book executive editor Martha Parravano interviews Catherine about "this shift from contemporary realism to fairy-tale fantasy." Listen to the Horn Book podcast!

Kids Q&A with Justine Larbalestier from Powell's Ink. Peek: "I remember that feeling when I was a young reader, finding books that were set in Sydney with Australian characters was incredibly exciting." Read a Cynsations interview with Justine.

More Personally

Congratulations to Kathy Lenning on the publication of Amber Eyes (Book Surge, 2008). Note: Kathy was in my original critique group in Austin. She will be signing from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 19 at Java Stop, 301 Main St., in Longmont, Colorado.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Spooky News & Links

"We Don't Make Fuzzy-Bunny Books" from Tony DiTerlizzi, co-creator of the Spiderwick Chronicles. Peek: "I am in the thick of finishing the 30+ illustrations for my upcoming chapter book, Kenny and the Dragon. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, it is inspired from Kenneth Grahame’s short story, The Reluctant Dragon, from his book Dream Days." Note: I covet the art of Mr. DiTerlizzi, which I suspect is out of my price range. Sigh.

In Profile: NY Times Bestselling Novelist Lisa McMann by Kelly Spitzer from Writers in Profile. Peek: "There are millions of people who would give anything to be in your shoes. How badly do you want this? Enough to step out of your comfort zone and go get it? Enough that you don't want to have to start this process over again because you were too afraid to promote your first book and it's failing? If you want it, if you want this life as an author, if you ever want to sell another book, your goal needs to be this: You must do everything in your power to make this book succeed, because if you don't, and this book fails, nobody gets fired...except you." Learn more about Lisa.


The winner of the Magic in the Mirrorstone, edited by Steve Berman (Mirrorstone, 2008)(author interview) giveaway is a Cynsational YA reader from Crowley, Texas! Read a Cynsations interview with Steve.

Reminder: Enter to win a copy of By Venom's Sweet Sting (Mirrorstone, 2007). To enter, email me with your name and snail/street mail address by 10 p.m. CST April 30! Please also type "By Venom's Sweet Sting" in the subject line. Note: one copy will be awarded to any Cynsations YA reader, and one copy will be awarded to a member of Tantalize Fans Unite! at MySpace. Please identify yourself accordingly as part of your entry! Don't miss the latest Hallowmere book, latest Hallowmere novel, Between Golden Jaws by Tiffany Trent (Mirrorstone, 2008)(sample chapter)! Read a Cynsations interview with Tiffany.

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Check out the latest Tantalize fan trailer! See also the official trailer.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Spring Flowers, The Writing Life, Lost Pines

Spring equals flowers...sometimes sunny, sometimes rainy days...and blessedly comfortable temperatures.

GLS and I have been doing some socializing. We had VJ and his wife over to dinner late last month. GLS prepared hearts-of-palm, red onion, and tomato salads, chilled asparagus soup, beef filets with salmon sashimi, mushroom ragu, and a chocolate cheesecake with mixed berries.

That same week, I also had lunch with DT at Maudie's Too on South Lamar and enjoyed one of my old favorites, the chicken fajita salad with queso sauce.

The following weekend, we had dinner with SB and her husband at their home. They prepared a fresh greens and vegetable salad with asparagus and chicken marinara over (I think) fettuccine. We had chocolate mousse with wee mint candies for dessert.

What else? Easter came early! That morning, GLS and I took a long walk through Zilker Botanical Garden.

Later that day, he made dinner--chicken and lobster in a pot with a salad and berries. AB was our guest.

It's been an incredibly productive period for my writing. So far this year, I've finished the final revision of Eternal (Candlewick, 2009)(just signed off on the flap copy!) and written/revised three short stories--one for Geektastic: Geeky Stories, edited by CC and HB (Little Brown); one for Cabinet of Curiosities edited by DW (Candlewick); and one for an as-yet unnamed vampire anthology (BenBella, 2008). At the moment, I'm working on the graphic-novel adaptation of Tantalize. More on all of that as details arise.

On a related note, I often say that I believe in celebrating every bit of good news in the writing life. I can't tell you yet what's pending, but this week, GLS and I had a particularly outstanding celebratory dinner at Cibo, which is at 819 Congress, not far south of the Capitol Building. It's the row restaurant where I first enjoyed a lunch with RP, whose husband is the subject of a glowing front-page feature in today's Statesman. For dinner, I had the fried fresh calamari with frisee, radicchio, grapefruit, olive oil, and red wine vinaigrette, followed by risotto with porcini and hedgehog mushrooms (for two; we split it), followed by the grilled "polletto alla diavola" with olive-oil whipped potatoes, green beans, and micro kohlrabi. The real news was the risotto. Absolutely heaven, and you could make a meal out of just that (we had big to-go boxes).

This afternoon, we're just back from a long writing weekend at the Hyatt Lost Pines, a new full-service resort about 20 minutes outside Austin (near Bastrop). Note the "dueling laptops." A dear friend had given us a gift certificate to Stories Fine Dining Establishment for Christmas, and as long as we were going, it only made sense to stay a couple of days.

I worked on the Tantalize graphic-novel adaptation (12 new manuscript pages!), and GLS worked on his novel in progress, which I haven't yet seen.

For our "fancy" dinner on Friday night, I had tuna tartare with yuzu, avocado mayonnaise, candied ginger and black pepper potato chips, followed by roasted Maine lobster with corn fondue, grilled house smoked bacon, avocado and cornbread soufflé. Afterward, we had a drink at Scribes' Club.

I especially appreciated how, throughout the hotel, Texas authors were featured alongside musicians and other local artists, though I'd like to see more attention paid to youth literature. I may send a letter to the manager about that.

We also enjoyed breakfasts and lunches at the Fireside Café and Shellers Bar and Grill.

At Fireside, I recommend: the Cedar Creek Wrap (pecan-smoked turkey, jalapeño bacon, jack cheese and herb spread). Note: They hard-sell the breakfast buffet, but order off the menu. Just the basic scrambled eggs with a side of ham was divine.

At Shellers, I recommend: the Colossal Shrimp Cocktail with Bloody Mary horseradish sauce (excellent sauce!) and pickled vegetables; the "Traditional" Cheese Pie (it's a pizza) with sautéed mushrooms, onions, and sausage; and the Grilled Chicken Pecan Wrap (chicken salad with toasted pecans, grapes, apples and honey-mustard in a whole-wheat wrap served with vegetable chips).

I also enjoyed my hour-long Django massage at Django Spa. The Four Seasons spa still has it beat, but overall, the new Hyatt resort is serious competition, especially for those wanting to get away from it all. The service at both are outstanding.

This is peak season for travelers to Texas, so prices were a bit, well, pricey, but it was a special treat to see the wildflowers. I'm wondering if some of my local writer pals might be interested in retreating to the Lost Pines during the off-season. If it's too hot, we'll just get more work done. (See also GLS's report).

Friday, April 11, 2008

Interview: Shayne Leighton on the Tantalize Trailer, "Guardian of Eden," and Writing

Shayne Leighton on Shayne Leighton: "Since the early age of five, I have been acting in various television commercials such as the SAG International commercial for Nike that aired during the 2005 Olympics. I have also participated in many live-performance venues such as dancing in the 2005 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade with the Hip Hop Kids and a touring musical style show called 'Babes on Broadway.' I have recently ventured into the world of independent film with my on screen debut as 'Dana' in Kurt Donath's 'Miami Ghost Tale' and most recently the vampire drama, 'Guardian of Eden' (Deep C-Star Productions) in the title roll, 'Eden.' You can also look for me in future independent projects such as the feature film, 'Rough Winds' from Spoon Entertainment and the online series, 'The Caped Crusaders' from Aberdeen Soldier Productions. I am in the process of writing my second feature length film titled, 'The Dedication,' which will start filming this summer, as well as writing my first full-length novel manuscript, 'Of Light and Darkness'." Visit the "Guardian of Eden" page at MySpace!

Thank you for creating my book trailer (find the code)! How did you come to the project?

You're welcome! I had so much fun doing it! I think it all goes back to the day I found your book, Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007), on a shelf in my local bookstore. The cover art and the synopsis intrigued me so much that I had to take it home and I was so pleased to find that the story was so...well...tantalizing.

I was captivated by your dynamic characters, and I sent you a fan email singing your praises as an author. I was so excited when you wrote back (most authors find themselves very busy), and over the year I kept in touch, telling you about my various projects.

Recently, I emailed you a trailer I did for my work-in-progress, Of Light and Darkness [scroll to view], that I am still writing, and you wrote me back telling me how cool you thought it was and that you were in the market to have a good trailer done for Tantalize. I was more than excited to bring my creativity to your project, and I couldn't wait to collaborate!

What was the timeline between the start and finish, and what were the major tasks along the way?

We finished the project over the course of about one work week. If I remember correctly, we established that we wanted to create your book trailer sometime toward the end of the week, and then decided to take the weekend to take care of some other obligations.

Then, on Monday, you got back in touch with me and we emailed back and forth all day long. You sent me pictures that you wanted to use, the music file, and a basic outline of what you had in mind for it to look like.

I spent a good amount of that afternoon putting together the first draft of the teaser, complete with text, music, and graphics (even some small animations) and sent that to you in a small file so you could see if you liked what I did and figure out some revisions you wanted to make.

That night, you emailed me a list of some minor corrections that I took care of immediately the next day. By the end of the day on Tuesday, you had a final version of your official trailer, and because we took the time with it, and kept working at it, it seemed to take no time at all.

What did each of us contribute to the process?

It was a lot of fun because it was an extremely collaborative effort. We both brought our different sides of creativity and ended up with something really great. That is my favorite thing about working with other artists; they aren't quiet about their vision, and they are supportive of everyone else's visions.

You provided the choice of song, the outline of what you wanted the textual graphics to say, and the pictures. Then, I took all of these raw materials and put them together. I timed the pictures to the mood of the song, I added the animations to the texts, and I blended the pictures in a way that told a lot about the story, but not too much as to give away anything vital to future readers.

How did we approach revision?

After I sent you a first draft copy of the trailer, making sure that you liked the style and the mood, you went over it with a fine-tooth comb, finding small grammatical errors, recoloring a few pictures differently, and even adding in a few other graphics that we felt needed to be included.

After receiving an email with a list of alterations, I went in and changed the things that needed to be corrected, which didn't take long at all. The second draft of the trailer ended up being perfect, and we found ourselves with a really cool final product!

How did you enjoy the process? What were the challenges? What did you enjoy most?

I greatly enjoyed the process because I love mixing visuals with sound to create something that is emotionally captivating for the viewer. I absolutely love when all the hairs on the back of my neck stand up when I'm watching a really great trailer or film, and that happens when the climax of the music is mixed perfectly with an evocative image. So because of that feeling, I love being able to do it for other people as well.

It's a great outlet for my creative and emotional energy, and when I come home from a particularly hard day at school or on a movie set, I love to be able to sit down at my computer, put on some dramatic music and really tell a story.

The thing that I found challenging was taking someone else's vision and honoring it in the right way. There is always a lot of pressure when you are working with someone else's idea, because you want to do a good job with it and satisfy that other person's creativity.

The thing that I did enjoy most, however, was being able to work with a different brain. There is something magical when two artistic minds intersect, and I love the feeling of one idea blending in with another. It's like painting a giant mural. Someone has to paint the background, and someone has to paint the foreground, and if you have two talented painters, you are going to end up with a fantastic piece of art!

I was especially thrilled by your making two shorter versions of the trailer--one a minute, and one 30 seconds! I can use them not only online but in presentations. What inspired you to offer to do that?

Film trailers are always made in different lengths. Normally, the theatrical trailer is longer, and the trailers advertised on TV are a lot shorter. (Commercials only run 60-30 seconds) Basically, you never know who is going to ask to see your book teaser and where they are going to want to post it. I feel that its best to give them different options.

More globally, what is the appeal of a book trailer to YA readers?

I think that in today's world of vastly changing technology, young adults are more likely to pick up their iPod, or get on MySpace rather than reading a good novel. Reading has been turned into something that is strictly academic for a lot of young readers, and so entertainment is rarely associated with books. But I think if you bring the dramatic entertainment aspect to a great story through advertising with a captivating trailer, young people are going to be more likely to become intrigued.

If you think about it, what makes you want to see the latest blockbuster initially? Most of the time, its going to be a really amazing trailer that makes you want to see more. I think it works the same way with books. If you give them a reason of why they should be interested, then they will become interested, because you can't judge a book by its cover anymore.

What do you think are considerations in creating an effective trailer? Why is each important?

This is a difficult question for me to answer. For me it has a lot to do with having an "eye" for color and balance and technical things like that, but I also think that an effective trailer takes the most dramatic points of your story and amps them up.

When you are watching a trailer for a film, the shots that are always advertised are the heart-pumping, evocative shots. It's the same thing with a book trailer. You need images and key points of the novel to get your reader's attention, and then the perfect song choice to reel them in. Music is so important in the way people view things.

If you think about movies without their soundtracks, the story is not nearly as effective. And when you have recently been broken up with, and your driving down that pretty country road, what really makes you start crying is that sentimental song that comes on the radio.

So, I think the most important aspect of any trailer is the music, because it displays human emotion in the most accurate way. I am a very dramatic personality, and that's how I think when I am making a trailer. I am thinking about the way this is going to affect the viewer.

Do you have an interest in doing book trailers for other YA books?

Absolutely! For me, its just another type of art media I use to express myself, and I would love to have future opportunities with it. Plus, I love working with authors. I'm a writer myself, and I just think that storytellers are so much fun because we have the ability to imagine up an entire world, and imaginary people, and not have society view us as weird! And I love the feeling of taking someone else's imagination and making it real--adding visuals, and other concrete things so that I can bring their world to life.

If so, how much do you charge? Are there be different price points for different results?

Creativity and passion for what your doing is so difficult to come by these days. I have seen a lot of different cases where someone hires someone else for their art, and it turns out, the person they hired really had no passion for it. And in those cases, the finished product isn't as high quality as it should be.

I think that if it is a collaborative effort and the author provides the royalty-free images, music, and a basic outline of what they are looking for, the introductory price (for the next three months) would be $150.

If the author really has little to no experience in visual storytelling, and they asked me to find the pictures and tell their story for them, then the introductory price would be around $200, because it would take a longer amount of time, and a lot more creative energy. Again, I'll re-evaluate rates down the road.

In any instance, the author should always find their own royalty-free music. They can ask for my opinion, but when it comes down to the final thing, the music track is the most personal preference.

What would be included for that price?

For that price, no matter what the instance is, the author is going to receive a first draft copy of what their trailer is going to look like. Then, after making all the alterations until the author is happy with the final product, they will receive a hard copy of their trailer on DVD in 3 forms (2 minutes, 60 sec, 30 sec) mailed to them. They will also receive an HTML code via email so that they can post it onto whatever website or MySpace site they want.

How could people get in touch with you?

Authors can find me at MySpace or contact me at my email address.

You're a YA reader yourself! What are a few of your favorite books and why?

I absolutely love to read. It's my favorite pastime because one story lasts longer than any TV show or movie, and I feel like if the writing is good, it brings you right in to that world, and you can experience what the characters experience. It tears reality away.

The most inspirational novels to me as a writer started when I was very young with my first fantasy novel, My Father's Dragon (Random House, 1948). Next I would have to say Anne Rice's Interview with a Vampire (Random House, 1976). What got me into writing for young adult fiction recently has been Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series (Little Brown, 2005-)(author interview), and finally, Tantalize.

What's more, you're a writer. What kind of stories do you write?

I have a very large interest in fantasy and romance, though I'll probably never actually write a romance novel. I'm a die-hard romantic, and so I love bringing that aspect into the world of fantastical things.

Reality is extremely boring to me most of the time, and I love to daydream instances where something extraordinary happens to liven up the day. Sometimes, if my teachers or friends possess a particular character trait, I like to imagine them as witches or trolls or vampires.

Life is just way more fun that way, and I think if magic exists anywhere, then it would have to be in books. My first novel and newest project, "Of Light and Darkness," is a fantasy that is loosely based on truth set in the Czech Republic. I am really excited to get that story out to the world.

What do you love most about the craft of writing?

I love getting lost in my own words. Sometimes I'll be writing and I'll start laughing in reaction to something that one of my characters said, or feel my stomach twist if something bad happens.

I like to do a lot of acting, so that makes me an extremely empathetic person, and if I'm reading about seemingly real people, then I will have seemingly real emotions. I think that is the coolest part.

I also like that people can have the opportunity to share their imagination with the world and hopefully evoke readers with a lesson, or something they can relate to. I really just love having the ability to create.

Tell us about "Guardian of Eden!" What is it? What's it about?

Guardian of Eden is a project that I embarked on over a year ago.

Essentially, because I am first and foremost an actress, I decided to write my own screenplay to see where it would take me. I sent it to two production companies in my area who decided to team up and make my screenplay an independent feature length film.

It's a story about a young girl, who upon the death of her mother, is forced to live with her father in a new town, and go to a new school where she is reunited with her love from another life who is now a vampire.

Along with writing and directing the film, I also play the title roll of Eden Channing. The movie has a possible premiere date for the second week of May at the Delray Beach International Film Festival. Our plan is, after the film debuts at various festivals, we plan on obtaining a distribution deal so that audiences all over the country will be able to see it.

For more information on the film, you can visit its official website or the MySpace. There you will find official photo galleries, cast bios, interviews, a guest book, and a lot more, and I encourage vampire lovers to check it out.

What was your role in it?

I had the pleasure of directing an extremely colorful and fabulous cast that I now consider to be my extended family. Each person brought their own personality to every role, which made the film extremely vibrant and fun to watch. I also played the lead role, Eden Channing, opposite the alluring a captivating Jade Raven. He was so much fun to work with!

What have you learned from the process?

That process was the most educational experience I have ever had. Not only did a learn a lot of life lessons as an adolescent from some extremely experienced people, but I also grew artistically.

I started out very wet behind the ears. Most of my cast was adult, which was very intimidating at first, but once we all got to know and respect each other, building the characters was fun. I won't say it was easy, but it was fun.

I learned a lot of technical things about the craft of film making itself. I learned what it meant to go location scouting, choosing the right wardrobe to compliment the colors of the scene, directing actors and so on. And it was so much fun.

I was only sixteen years old, and I was able to say that I was excited to get up for work everyday. (This was filmed over the course my spring break and on weekends.)

I also learned a lot about myself as a person. With all of those gorgeous vampires running around on set, crushes were inevitable and I was very young. I still am.

I still remember a conversation my "movie dad" had with me about priorities. Whenever I felt myself becoming distracted on set, he would always remind me how talented I am, and point me back in the right direction. I feel that the film came out to be a great artistic masterpiece with a lot of help from a lot of people that I will never forget.

What do you do when you're not creating book trailers or writing or making movies?

Ha ha ha ha! That is quite an interesting question. The truth is...not much. I hang out with my friends like any other normal teenager. I like to go see movies, and go out for pizza, and have sleepovers, and talk about my latest crush, and all of the normal things.

But the truth is, when I am not creating, I get really frustrated. It's a way of relieving a lot of stress and anxiety and a way to express my widely colorful personality.

When I am not behaving like a normal teenager (which is hardly ever) and I am not writing, making book trailers, or making movies, then you can most likely find me playing in a musical or a play at school or at the local playhouse or taking acting classes or reading, or further enriching my imagination. And when I am not doing all of that, I'm daydreaming.

Are you the answer to the world's energy crisis? I'm wowed!

The answer to this question is yes. Once the government runs out of all energy sources, they are going to plug me in at Capitol Hill, and I am going to be responsible for lighting up the nation. Ha ha ha ha!

Cynsational Notes

Tantalize trailer music from Music Library, Sanguini's logo by Gene Brenek (illustrator interview), and images from Fotosearch: Stock Photography and Stock Footage, Stock.xchng: The Leading Free Stock Photography Website, and Public Domain

Want to add the Tantalize trailer to your blog? Find the code here!

Guardian of Eden poster from Deep C-Star Productions.

Are you a teen writer? Check out Writer Interview: Elisabeth Wilhelm on Absynthe Muse from Cynsations.

Spooky News, Links & Giveaways

Enter to win a copy of Magic in the Mirrorstone edited by Steve Berman (Mirrorstone, 2008)! To enter, email me with your name and snail/street mail address by 10 p.m. CST April 14! Please type "Magic in the Mirrorstone" in the subject line. Note: one copy will be awarded to any Cynsations YA reader! From the promotional copy: "In this anthology for teen readers, fifteen best-selling and acclaimed fantasy authors weave all-new stories filled with magic. Comic and dark, epic and entertaining, these stories introduce new voices of Mirrorstone beside the treasured favorites of YA fantasy. Holly Black (New York Times best-selling author of Tithe, Valiant, Ironside and The Spiderwick Chronicles)(author interview), Cassandra Clare (New York Times best-selling author of City of Bones)(author interview), Cecil Castellucci (acclaimed author of Boy Proof and Beige)(author interview), Tiffany Trent (acclaimed author of Hallowmere)(author interview), and many more offer tales as varied as they are bewitching. A voodoo princess, a necromancer, and a wizard's apprentice mingle with enchanted jewelry, talking amphibians, and an aloof unicorn. What binds these stories is the spell they cast over readers." Note: "Includes a 'lost' story of Hallowmere by Tiffany Trent!" Read a Cynsations interview with Steve.

Reminder: Enter to win a copy of By Venom's Sweet Sting (Mirrorstone, 2007). To enter, email me with your name and snail/street mail address by 10 p.m. CST April 30! Please also type "By Venom's Sweet Sting" in the subject line. Note: one copy will be awarded to any Cynsations YA reader, and one copy will be awarded to a member of Tantalize Fans Unite! at MySpace. Please identify yourself accordingly as part of your entry! Don't miss the latest Hallowmere book, latest Hallowmere novel, Between Golden Jaws by Tiffany Trent (Mirrorstone, 2008)(sample chapter)! Read a Cynsations interview with Tiffany.

Children's author (and sometime cartoonist) Marc Tyler Nobleman: offers "adventures in book research, rejection, and promotion." Books include Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman (Knopf 2008).

"Big Bad Wolf" by Colleen Mondor at Chasing Ray. Here's a sneak peek: "We have created a myth and allowed it to flourish for our own amusement and it is wolves who pay the price, simply because they are wolves."

More Personally

Huge cheers to executive producer Dan Musselman, producer-director Tony Hudz, actress Kim Mai Guest, and everyone at Listening Library/Random House on their fantastic audio production of Tantalize (Listening Library, 2008)! Note: I've been listening to the audio book, and I'm wowed by Kim's distinct characters, her ability to project emotion, suspense, and humor, and the overall effort. The voices of Ruby and Nathaniel are particularly perfect! Thank you all. Note: listen to an excerpt of the audio book.

Jamie has created a new fan trailer for Tantalize!

And finally, it's my pleasure to congratulate the University of Kansas Jayhawks (men's basketball team) on its NCAA National Championship! I'm a 1990 graduate of the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications with majors in news/editor and public relations. Rock Chalk!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Author Interview: Steve Berman on Magic in the Mirrorstone

Steve Berman on Steve Berman: "At 17, Steve Berman sold his first children's story, a makeshift fairy tale, to a small Midwestern journal. The editor promptly removed all mention of magic from the story without ever telling Steve. Since then, he's been a bit more fortunate retaining the fantastical in his words, with over 80 articles, essays and stories sold. Magic in the Mirrorstone, an anthology aimed at young fantasy readers, released from Mirrorstone Books in February 2008. Steve resides in New Jersey, the only state in the Union with an official Devil. He has been well-trained by his polydactyl feline, Daulton, who is not impressed by writing but by one's ability to nap well."

Magic in the Mirrorstone edited by Steve Berman (Mirrorstone, 2008). From the promotional copy: "In this anthology for teen readers, fifteen best-selling and acclaimed fantasy authors weave all-new stories filled with magic. Comic and dark, epic and entertaining, these stories introduce new voices of Mirrorstone beside the treasured favorites of YA fantasy. Holly Black (New York Times best-selling author of Tithe, Valiant, Ironside and The Spiderwick Chronicles)(author interview), Cassandra Clare (New York Times best-selling author of City of Bones)(author interview), Cecil Castellucci (acclaimed author of Boy Proof and Beige)(author interview), Tiffany Trent (acclaimed author of Hallowmere)(author interview), and many more offer tales as varied as they are bewitching. A voodoo princess, a necromancer, and a wizard's apprentice mingle with enchanted jewelry, talking amphibians, and an aloof unicorn. What binds these stories is the spell they cast over readers." Note: "Includes a 'lost' story of Hallowmere by Tiffany Trent!"

Could you tell us about your apprenticeship as a writer?

As a kid, I wrote some really terrible stories. It had never been my intention to become an author--I wanted to be a physician, but when I discovered I fainted at the sight of blood, medical school was out. That left creative writing classes. I sold my first story while still a teen and thought, Wow, this is pretty easy.

Only, it wasn't, and it took me a few more years before I sold another and then another. Along the way, I learned how helpful it is to work in the publishing industry, so you can understand the how and why books are bought and sold, and make friends who're also invested in writing, so you develop a support network of trusted critics.

How about your path to publication, any sprints or stumbles along the way?

Plenty of stumbles. I worked on several books before I ever managed to complete a novel. Then, after a single rejection, I dumped the manuscript into a drawer and never looked at it for years. I then started Vintage, a young adult novel, in 1997. Ten years later, it released to great reviews and award nominations, only for the publisher to fold months later.

Congratulations on the release of Magic in the Mirrorstone (Mirrorstone, 2008)! Could you tell us a little about the book?

Well, the book collects fifteen fantastical short stories. Some are by well known YA authors, like Holly Black, Cecil Castellucci and Nina Kiriki Hoffman. Then there are some terrific newcomers, like J. D. Everyhope and Craig Gidney.

I've always considered fantasy as much a genre of exploration as it is escapism, and one of the greatest times to read such stories is when you're a teen. Your suspension of disbelief is less wary, and you aren't so jaded, allowing you to immerse yourself in fiction with such eagerness. Reading becomes a magical act of its own.

And the fantastical elements within the story engage the teen protagonists, who struggle to incorporate the wonders into the chaos of their lives. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, which makes the unreal very realistic by the story's end.

How did the project develop?

I had been invited to submit proposals to Mirrorstone for a dark fantasy series. They went with Tiffany Trent's Hallowmere but remained eager to work with me. I had just finished editing So Fey for Haworth Press and, feeling ambitious, I pitched to Stacy Whitman (editor interview) several ideas for a Mirrorstone anthology. It took a couple of years, many ideas exchanged, before we finalized on a showcase for the sort of fantasy tales that Mirrorstone wants to offer young readers in the days to come.

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

I think I began corresponding with the editorial staff in 2004 and had a contract by early 2006. For So Fey, I relied on an open call for submissions in addition to asking some close friends to submit.

That worked well, but for Magic in the Mirrorstone I chose an invite-only approach that significantly trimmed the time spent reading submissions. I did not personally know all the authors I invited—I'd stalked Nina Kiriki Hoffman once at a convention--but others I've come to know well from sharing table of contents in other young adult anthologies.

The deadline was the first of 2007. I had an estimated word count and finalized the manuscript with 15 authors by the spring of 2007. The final manuscript was turned in by late summer. The book released this past February.

During the Midwinter ALA Conference, Mirrorstone sponsored an event at the Mummers Museum (more sequins and feathers than I ever wanted to see) and Greg Frost, Lawrence Schoen, Ann Zeddies and I attended. We signed a lot of free books for the librarians.

What challenges are inherent in putting together an anthology? Did any additional ones creep up that were specific to this book?

Well, because most successful authors are novelists, some people you invite just cannot spare the time to write a short story; they are facing deadlines to turn in a manuscript ten or twenty times the length. I almost lost Holly Black because of this. Fortunately, I know where she lives so I started sleeping outside her door. Nothing says "dedication" like an unwashed editor in a sleeping bag. Really, despite the restraining order, we're close friends.

Then there are unforeseen problems. Late in the process, one author pulled her story from the book for reasons I can't go into. But it created a ripple effect that jeopardized the editorial deadlines. Fortunately, I could rely on another member of the Nameless Workshop, a secretive Philadelphia-area writing group I attend. She revised a trunk story into a terrific piece. Crisis averted.

What do you do when you're not in the book world?

My day job still involves writing, but it's for a small consultant company in the field of human resources.

What can your fans look forward to next?

Vintage was named a finalist for the Andre Norton Award and has been reprinted by Lethe Press, who will release my second short story collection in August. I hope to soon finish another YA novel, Glamour & Gaslight, a historical fantasy with plenty of soot and grime and snogging.