Friday, May 30, 2008

Spooky News, Links & Giveaway

Feast of Fools: The Morganville Vampires (Book Four) by Rachel Caine (NAL/ Jam, 2008)(sample chapter) goes on sale next week. To enter to win a copy of the book, email me with your name and snail/street mail address by midnight CST June 3! Please also type "Morganville Vampires" in the subject line. Read Rachel's LJ, visit her page at MySpace. Read a Cynsations interview with Rachel. Peek: "Read the classics. Don't just read what's out now, go back and see what used to interest (or scare) people. Some of it's still scary, some isn't."

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund: fights censorship and defends First Amendment rights of comic book professionals.

John Michael Cummings: official site of the debut author of The Night I Freed John Brown (Philomel, 2008). Includes biography, published works, and contact information. See also JMC Notes, John's blog. From the promotional copy: "Young Josh knows there is something about the tall Victorian House on the Harpers Ferry Hill, the one his father grew up in, that he can't quite put his finger on—ghosts he can't name, mysteries he can't solve. And his impossible father won’t give him any clues. He's hiding something. And then there's the famous John Brown. The one who all the tourists come to hear about. The one whose statue looms over Josh's house. Why does he seem to haunt Josh and his whole family? When the fancy Richmonds come to town and move right next door, their presence forces Josh to find the answers and stand up to the secrets of the House, to his father—and to John Brown, too! The historic village of Harpers Ferry comes alive in this young boy's brave search for answers and a place of his own in this brilliant first novel by John Michael Cummings."

"To celebrate the release of Up All Night by Peter Abrams (HarperTeen, 2008), an anthology containing short stories by Peter Abrahams, Libba Bray (author inteview), David Levithan (author interview), Patricia McCormick, Sarah Weeks, and Gene Luen Yang], HarperTeen is offering aspiring authors the chance to write their own story to be included in the paperback edition. Submit an original short story about a character that stays up all night. The story must take place in the course of a single life-changing night. All stories must be between 5,000 and 10,000 words (12 pt font, double spaced, one inch margins) and all contributing entrants must be between 14 and 19 years old as of April 2, 2008. Download the official entry form (PDF). Entries must be postmarked by October 1st and received by October 7th." Source: readergirlz.

Question of the Week Thursday: Lisa McMann from Robin Friedman's JerseyFresh Tude. Robin asks: "Did your publishing experience turn out as you expected?" Peek: "Like any new author knows, there are thousands of new books coming out every month and publishing houses have a lot of authors to tend to. So I knew that if I wanted Wake to get attention, I had to help make it happen."

The Horn Book Magazine has revised the order in which it lists the books in C. S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia. Read a Cynsations interview with Roger Sutton, editor of The Horn Book. See the preceding conversation.

Looking "Underneath" the Imagination Process of Kathi Appelt, author of The Underneath (Atheneum, 2008) from Lynn E. Hazen at Imaginary Blog. Peek: "For me, the key has always been faith. I simply have faith that if I sit there long enough, the words will come to me. But I've also learned (the hard way) that the words that come aren’t always beautiful and lyrical and all of that. That falls into that category called revision. So, I'm gentle with myself in a number of ways." Read Cynsations interviews with Kathi and Lynn.

Check out Rogelia's House of Magic by Jamie Martinez Wood (Delacorte, 2008).

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Tantalize Fan Trailer by Jaden; Darren Shan Fan Art; Official Soul Encilada Trailer

Thanks, Jaden! See also the official Tantalize trailer.

By the way, new Darren Shan fan art is now online. See demons and vampires and read a Cynsations interview with Darren.

On a more official note, remember yesterday's trailer for Soul Enchilada, a debut novel by David Macinnis Gill (Greenwillow, 2009)? Here's the "Bug" version:

Friday, May 23, 2008

Spooky News, Links & Author Marked-Up Tantalize Giveaway

Interview with Elizabeth C. Bunce by Julie M. Prince of Off to Turn Another Page... at The Edge of the Forest. Peek: "Don't get me wrong—I'm a huge fan of girls with swords! But there are many ways to be heroic, and I wanted to show a quieter sort of heroism, one that girls who maybe aren't tomboys could relate to, and one that hasn't traditionally been as visible in fantasy for young people." See also Julie's interview with Linda Urban; and Time for Prom (or Not) by Little Willow of Bildungsroman.

Presenting...Claudia Gray: an author interview from Journey of an Inquiring Mind. Peek: "I've been a vampire fan for a long time, and I really enjoyed the TV show 'Alias,' which had an immortality cult as the baddies, so I suspect I've spent more time than most people thinking about how weird/difficult/great/bizarre it would be never to die."

Children's Writing Web Journal: From the Editors of Children's Book Insider, the Newsletter for Children's Writers. Note: recent posts include: a link to "YA Sci-Fi/Fantasy Author Simon Rose Interview;" a loaded "Video Interview with Walter Dean Myers;" a link to "10 flagrant grammar mistakes" and much more.


Shooting Stars Mag is giving away a Sanguini's T-shirt and a marked-up hardcover copy of Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008). Note: Sanguini's is the vampire-themed restaurant featured in the novel. I made notes in the margins about the writing of the book, the characters, the Austin setting, and much more! The deadline is midnight EST May 31. See more information! And thanks to the Shooting Stars!

On a related note, Jamie has created an "I Never Drink...Wine" fan image celebrating Tantalize and its literary roots in Dracula by Bram Stoker (1987). She suggests using it as wallpaper; I'm using it on my desktop.

More Personally

Congratulations to Amanda King, whose fresh and fascinating Gothic fantasy YA novel manuscript has made it to the final round in a contest in conjunction with the Writers League of Texas Agents and Editors Conference!

Greg and I saw The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian last weekend at The Alamo Drafthouse Theater on South Lamar. I recommend it. I liked the departures from the book--yes, including the romance--and didn't mind it's "more serious" tone. I plan to see it again at the theater. Austinites: the Drafthouse is serving a Narnia-themed menu. See also "From Page to Screen: Andrew Adamson's 'The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian'" by Anita L. Burkam from The Horn Book.


Wouldn't you just die to read Soul Enchilada, a debut novel by David Macinnis Gill (Greenwillow, 2009)?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Author Interview: Lisa Schroeder on I Heart You, You Haunt Me

Lisa Schroeder, a native Oregonian, is an expert juggler of all things, including kids, work, writing, cooking, and cleaning. But when her arms get tired, you'll probably find her curled up in a corner with a cup of tea and a good book.

She's the author of the picture book, Baby Can't Sleep, illustrated by Viviana Garofoli (Sterling, 2005) the young adult novel, I Heart You, You Haunt Me (Simon Pulse, 2008), and two forthcoming books, Little Chimp's Big Day (Sterling, 2010) and Far From You (Simon Pulse, 2009).

Visit Lisa's Little Corner of the Internet, check out her MySpace page, and learn more about the Class of 2k8! See also the 2k8 blog and visit The Class of 2k8 at MySpace!

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

Lots of stumbles, like most writers. I started out writing picture books, and around the 100th rejection (on various books), I received an offer from Sterling on my picture book, Baby Can't Sleep.

For the first few years that I was seriously writing and submitting, I didn't think I'd ever write a novel, even though I've always loved reading novels for kids and teens.

But then the picture book market took a nose dive, and I was ready to challenge myself and try something new, so I decided I'd never know unless I tried.

I ended up writing three mid-grade novels over the course of a couple of years, none of them published. I see those books as my schooling. With each one, I learned things about novel writing, the publishing industry, and a lot about myself as a writer. I still hope I can publish a mid-grade novel someday, because I have such strong memories of reading books at that age.

I Heart You, You Haunt Me was the book that landed me an agent and became my first published novel.

Congratulations on the release of I Heart You, You Haunt Me (Simon Pulse, 2008)! Could you tell us a little about this new title?

It's a novel-in-verse about a fifteen-year-old girl, Ava, whose boyfriend dies and comes back to live in her house as a ghost. More than a ghost story, however, I believe it's a story of love, loss, healing, and hope.

What was your initial inspiration for writing this book?

I had a dream about a girl whose boyfriend died but loved her so much, he didn't want to leave her. I got up the next morning and started writing. It was an amazing thing. I wish it'd happen more often!

I've always loved verse novels but hadn't ever tried writing one. When I sat down to write, that's how it came out. I think the verse created a special atmosphere for the story.

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

Let's see, I had a first draft finished in like six weeks. That was in the spring of 2006. I was so excited about the book, and the story came really easily, which was a real gift. After that, I spent some time revising, had some trusted writer friends read it and give me comments.

By the fall, I felt it was ready to go out. I queried a couple of agents, and had some, uh, interesting responses. One agent told me flat out that with such a low word count, I didn't have a novel, I had a novella. Another one told me he wouldn't know a great verse novel from a lousy one, so he definitely wasn't the agent for me.

I kept querying, mostly getting rejections, so I decided to try a couple of well-known editors. I had two requests really quickly, which gave me a new hope.

I tried a couple of more agents, and mentioned I had some requests from editors in my letters. I had a quick response from Sara Crowe (agent interview), asking for the full manuscript. A couple of weeks later, she offered representation. I was thrilled!

I did some revisions for her, then she sent it out in November of '06. We got some rejections, and one revision request, wanting me to make the story darker and scarier. I thought about it a long time, but ultimately, I decided that wasn't the story I wanted to tell. I have to thank that particular editor, however, because she gave me some other suggestions that resonated with me, so I incorporated them into the story and they really improved my manuscript!

In March, 2007, we received an offer from Simon Pulse. A few weeks later, I had an editorial letter, with a due date fast approaching. They were working toward a publication date of January 2008, so we had to work quickly. The editorial letter was fantastic, though. I could tell my editor really got my book, and all of his suggestions made the book much stronger.

I'm excited to share that a couple of weeks ago, I sold another novel-in-verse to my editor at Pulse, tentatively titled Far From You. It's slated for publication some time in 2009!

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

The actual writing of the book came pretty easily for me. I'd get up in the morning, eager to write, grudgingly go to work, and then when I got home, I'd race to the computer to get back to the story. That had never happened to me before. It was awesome!

I was a little worried about the believability of the ghost. I did some research--reading message boards and watching ghost specials on TV and just hoped that I wasn't doing anything too far fetched.

In general, a verse novel is challenging because it should be poetic, but it also needs to be accessible. It's a fine line at times, and I'd often find myself asking, is this poetic enough, and if not, how can I make it more poetic? Some dialogue is necessary of course, and that's when it can be particularly difficult.

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

I would probably tell her to stop worrying so much about publication and instead, worry about writing the best book possible. I think when you're first starting out, you're hungry for validation of some kind. But sending books out too early is one of the worst things you can do.

I would also tell her to not be afraid to try new genres, new formats, new stories, because that's how you learn and grow as a writer.

Mostly, I would tell her what I've told myself all along. Keep working hard. Keep writing. Keep believing. It does pay off. It really does!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Giveaway of an Author Marked-up Copy of Tantalize

Shooting Stars Mag is giving away a Sanguini's T-shirt and a marked-up hardcover copy of Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008).

Note: Sanguini's is the vampire-themed restaurant featured in the novel.

I made notes in the margins about the writing of the book, the characters, the Austin setting, and much more!

The deadline is midnight EST May 31. See more information!

And thanks to the Shooting Stars!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Impossible trailer, Kids Comics, Franny Billingsley, and Weathering the Storm

Check out the book trailer for Impossible by YA superstar Nancy Werlin (September, 2008)(author interview):

Kids' Comics: this blog "is an online publication of RAW Junior, LLC, publisher of the Little Lit Library and TOON Books. The blog is maintained by Bill Kartalopoulos with contributions from TOON Books artists and authors." Source: Anastasia Suen's blog.

Attention Austin Event Planners: famed fantasy author Franny Billingsley has a particular interest in visiting the Texas Hill Country! Drop her an invite! Check out her newest release, Big Bad Bunny, illustrated by G. Brian Karas (Atheneum, 2008). Read a Cynsations interview with Franny.

More Personally

On a more dramatic note, Austin is still cleaning up from Thursday's early morning storm.

It hit the center of town between 12:30 a.m. and 1 a.m. with four-inch hail and winds clocked as high as 47 miles per hour.

Trees still block many neighborhood streets (including mine, headed north), three elementary schools were closed yesterday, and up to 40,000 people lost power. More than 3,000 are still without. Here's the latest from the Statesman.

We were lucky, losing only a medium branch and one west-facing second-floor window. West-side windows were hit (and broken) hard across town; at least one east-side apartment complex lost all of theirs. The problem was that the large hail was flying fast and horizontally toward them. If your angle was right, it looked like a blizzard.

I was on the second floor at the time, rushing to unplug my laptop and grab my flash drive (priorities?) when hail broke the window behind me. We never lost power, though our cable service was out until about 4 p.m. yesterday.

The kitties weathered the storm in their cat carriers in the first floor central hallway, except for Mercury, who was temporarily in hiding and then decided that clinging--claws out--to my shoulders was the only way to go.

Of course many other cities have been hit much worse by spring storms. It appears that none of our funnel clouds actually touched to cause tornado-level damage. From the reports, it appears that our damage was to property--not people. There was time enough to secure animals, etc.

Still, quite a night. See Greg's report and Don Tate's.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Author Interview: Rick Riordan on Demigods and Monsters: Your Favorite Authors on Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series

You last spoke with Cynsations about The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians)(Hyperion, 2005) in December 2005. Could you update us on what's new in your writing life since?

So much has happened in three years, it's hard to believe. The fourth Percy Jackson book, Battle of the Labyrinth, will be out May 6. The response from kids, parents, and teachers has just been overwhelming. Interest in the series really started to snowball in the last year or so.

The biggest change in my writing life has been the increased demands on my time. It's always been a balancing act between family, writing, and touring, but in the last few years, it's definitely gotten trickier.

Fortunately, I love what I do! Right now I'm working on the fifth Percy Jackson book, along with an adult mystery novel, and planning for a fantasy/adventure that I'll publish with Disney in 2010.

Congratulations on the release of Demigods and Monsters: Your Favorite Authors on Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series (BenBella, May 2008)! Could you tell us about the book?

It's a collection of essays by a variety of authors about themes and characters in the Percy Jackson series. It never would've occurred to me to do a book like this, but I was very impressed when I saw the essays!

How did the project evolve, and how did you come to be involved in it?

BenBella puts out a series of these anthologies which they distribute with Borders.

They have collections about everything from Stephenie Meyer (author interview)(A New Dawn: Your Favorite Authors on Stephenie Meyer's Twilight Series edited by Ellen Hopkins) and Narnia (Through the Wardrobe: Your Favorite Authors on C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia edited by Herbie Brennan (author interview) to Veronica Mars and the Gilmore Girls.

Leah Wilson from BenBella contacted me about possibly editing the Percy Jackson volume, Monsters and Demigods, and I was curious to see what the different writers were saying, so I agreed.

What attracted you to the idea?

I was a little hesitant at first. I didn't know if people would want to read it. I'm also wary of over-analyzing books that are meant for pleasure--which is probably something I picked up in my days as an English major! However, I was flattered that anyone would want to write an essay about my books, and I wondered what these other authors would say. Writing a forward for the book also gave me a chance to reflect on my own writing path, which is something I don't often have the luxury to do.

Could you give us a hint of what to expect from the various contributors?

I was very impressed by the range of ideas, and the entertaining way those ideas are presented. The book is anything but dry. The essays cover so many topics -- what makes a good parent, what the Oracle's prophecies mean, why so many monsters seem to go into the retail business.

Many of the essays made me stop and wonder: "Wow, is that what I was doing?" It was like someone showing me an x-ray of my own head.

What were the challenges, from an anthologist's point of view?

For me, the biggest challenge was maintaining distance, since I wrote the series the essayists were analyzing. It took a while to get used to that.

But honestly, the essays were so insightful, and most of them gave me much more credit for being clever than I deserved. How could I complain?

What did you love about it?

The variety. It's amazing how a dozen authors can look at the same series and find a dozen different angles to talk about--all of them unique and thought-provoking.

Was it in any way surprising or uncomfortable or particularly marvelous to read essays (by other authors) that were inspired by your work?

Everything was surprising! I've been an English teacher for years, but I never look at my own books the way an English teacher does -- for themes, messages, symbolism, etc.

When I write, I'm just telling a story. If there is symbolism in the books, it happens subconsciously, the way a native speaker might use subject-verb agreement without ever consciously thinking about it. To have someone else hold up a mirror to your work is pretty amazing, and yes, a little uncomfortable!

It would be hard to single out one essay, since they are all so great, but I definitely related to the discussion about what makes a good parent. I see this from both sides -- as a parent myself, and from Percy Jackson's perspective, as my teen narrator.

What do you hope readers take away from the book?

I hope it will enrich their reading of the Percy Jackson series and encourage readers to come up with their own interpretations.

The author creates the book, but what the book means --that's a long discussion, and the author is not the sole authoritative voice.

What can your fans look forward to next?

Percy Jackson and the Olympians will wrap up in book five, spring 2009, but it won't be the end for Camp Half-Blood. I'll be returning to Percy's world for a new series with demigods and Olympians in 2011. More on that later!

I'll also have a new fantasy coming out from Disney in 2010, as I mentioned, and a mystery adventure The Maze of Bones, which launches the series 39 Clues, will be out from Scholastic this September.

Cynsational Notes

Contributors include:

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Author Interview: Herbie Brennan on Through the Wardrobe: Your Favorite Authors on C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia

Herbie Brennan on Herbie Brennan: "A professional writer whose work has appeared in more than fifty countries, Herbie Brennan is enjoyed by children and adults alike--sales of his books already exceed 7.5 million copies.

"Herbie has an well-established career writing for the children's market--from picture books to teenage fiction, from game books to school curriculum non-fiction. His keen eye for novelty, both in technology and market development, made him among the very first writers to create adventure game books and his GrailQuest series was an international bestseller.

"His teenage novel, Faerie Wars, also rocketed to international success, achieving best-seller status in more than 20 overseas editions, and was voted No 1 Top Ten Teenage Pick in the United States and listed as a New York Times Best Seller title.

"When he can be persuaded to take a break from his writing, Herbie give lectures and seminars, which have included modules on reincarnation research, the astral plane, dreamwork, healing, spiritual development, psychical research, quantum physics and magical training.

"With a background that includes writing for radio, the creation of boxed games and computer software, perhaps his greatest strength lies in the realm ideas, particularly in the diversification of publishing product into allied fields like audio and CD-ROM."

With the understanding that it's vast indeed, could you please update us on your back-list books, highlighting as you see fit?

The following listing gives first English-language publication only—all publishers listed are U.K. based unless otherwise stated. Most recent books are in bold. All books are listed alphabetically by category.

Children's Fiction

Bad Manners Day, Macdonald; Barmy Jeffers and the Quasimodo Walk, HarperCollins; Barmy Jeffers and the Shrinking Potion, HarperCollins; Black Death, Mammoth; Blood Brothers, Poolbeg (Ireland); Capricorn’s Children, Mammoth; Doroth’s Ghost, Heinemann; Eddie and the Bad Egg, Puffin; Eddie and the Dirty Dogs, Puffin; Eddie the Duck, Puffin; Emily and the Werewolf, Liber; Fairy Nuff, Bloomsbury; Faerie Wars, Bloomsbury; Faerie Lord, Bloomsbury; Final Victory, A&C Black; Kookaburra Dreaming, Scholastic; Letters from a Mouse, Walker; Little House, Macdonald; Marcus Mustard, Transworld; Mario Scumbini and the Big Pig Swipe, Hamilton/Puffin; Ordeal by Poison, HarperCollins; The Purple Emperor, Bloomsbury; Return of Barmy Jeffers, HarperCollins; Ruler of the Realm, Boomsbury; Shiva, HarperCollins; Telling Times: Jennet’s Tale, Egmont; The Crone, HarperCollins; The Gravediggers, Reed; The Mystery Machine, McElderry (USA); The Thing From Knucker Hole, Scholastic; Zartog’s Remote, Bloomsbury; Nuff Said, Bloomsbury; Frankenstella and the Video Shop Monster, Bloomsbury.

Children's Non-Fiction

Alien Contact, Scholastic; Death of the Dinosaurs, Longmans; Eleven Things You Never Knew About Cats, Longmans; Atlantis; Time Travel; Hidden Powers of the Human Mind; Parallel Worlds — Herbie Brennan’s Forbidden Truths, series published by Faber; How to Remember Absolutely Everything, Longmans; Internet, Scholastic; Memory, Scholastic; Mindpower 1: Succeed at School, HarperCollins; Mindpower 2: Make Yourself a Success, HarperCollins; Seriously Weird True Stories, Scholastic; Seriously Weird True Stories 2, Scholastic; Space Quest, Faber; Techno-Future, Puffin; The Alien-Hunter’s Handbook, Faber; The Code-Breaker’s Handbook, Faber; The First Vaccination, Longmans; The Ghost-Hunter’s Handbook, Faber; The Man Who Invented (nearly) Everything, Longmans; The Spy’s Handbook, Faber; The Young Ghost Hunter's Guide, HarperCollins; The Wizard’s Apprentice, Faber; Why Race for Space?, Longmans.

Phew! Bet you haven't even read the list, let alone the books.

Congratulations on the release of Through the Wardrobe: Your Favorite Authors on C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia (BenBella, April 2008)! Could you tell us a bit about the book?

Somebody at BenBella came up with the brilliant idea of asking a number of YA fantasy writers to contribute to an anthology on the works of C. S. Lewis.

Borders liked the idea and decided to make the finished product a Borders exclusive. Most of the authors involved had read Lewis as kids—no surprises there—and some even credit him as the ultimate inspiration for their own writing careers. So what you have in the book is 15 essays, all highly personal, by top flight fantasy authors on various aspects of the Narnia Chronicles. Great fun if you like Lewis; and who doesn't?

How did the project evolve, and how did you come to be involved in it?

As far as I know, what happened was BenBella brought out a book of essays [edited by Scott Westerfeld (author interview)] on Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass to celebrate the movie.

It proved so popular that they thought they might extend the idea into a series of anthologies on the works of other fantasy writers, and Lewis was an obvious choice for inclusion.

I'd contributed an essay to the Pullman collection and they kindly asked if I'd like to contribute to the Lewis one as well. It was a fairly batty piece about how Hitler became a black magician, but they must have liked it because the next thing was they asked me to edit the whole anthology.

Actually, if you look on the title page you'll find I'm jointly credited as editor with Leah Wilson. I can tell you Leah did all the hard work.

What attracted you to the idea?

I was flattered to be asked. (And I'm a big fan of Lewis's work, science fiction and fantasy.)

Could you give us a hint of what to expect from the various contributors?

There's some super stuff in there, varying from quite serious literary criticism to very quirky contributions.

Diane Duane, for example, did a piece about food in Narnia which I thought was brilliant because I'm a foodie myself and like talking about it. Ned Vizzini contributed an essay that was so funny it made me laugh aloud. Diana Peterfreund took her starting point as the crush she had on Lewis's character Edmund Pevensie when she was a girl. My friend Orla Melling, the Fairy Queen of Ireland, pretended to write about being good (she called it "Being Good for Narnia and the Lion") but actually wrote about being bad, which is always far more interesting; that was another very personal piece, and I learned a lot about Orla's naughty teenage days. Kelly McClymer tackled girl power in Narnia.

And so it goes on—quirky and personal, as I said. If you're interested in Lewis, or fantasy writing, or even just fantasy writers, you'll love it.

What did you love about it?

What I loved most was the surprise in my wife's voice when she leafed through an advance copy and said, "This is really very, very good." Of course that was due to the contributors, not me, but I liked getting the credit.

What do you hope readers take away from the book?

What I really hope the readers will take away is something I don't think any of us really planned at the beginning—a little of what it feels like to be a fantasy writer.

There is a lot of very personal material in the anthology so if you read between the lines, you can really dig into the way a writers' minds work and what motivates and inspires them.

And, of course, understanding other fantasy writers will help you understand C. S. Lewis as well.

What can your fans look forward to next?

I'm not sure "look forward" may be the best way to describe it, but I've just finished a Magician's Memoir about my personal interest in magic and mysticism. Highly unsuitable for young adults, of course, but some of them might read it under the covers at night.

I've also send my agent a novel called The Shadow Project, which is a weird teen thriller. But next in line… not sure, except I keep thinking about a daughter Henry and Blue produced after the Faerie Wars Chronicles finished. She's fifteen or sixteen now, half fairy, half human (a faeman child) and a bit of a tearaway with some serious problems, so I might be heading back to the faerie realm before too long…

Cynsational Notes

Contributors include:

Friday, May 09, 2008

Spooky News & Links

Rowling Keeps Company With Seuss, Blume and Steinbeck from The Washington Post. Source: Donna Gephart. Note: I'm pleased to see so many of my own favorites featured, but fret what this says about the embracing (or lack thereof) of diverse voices and characters in youth literature.

Little Brown editor Alvina Ling blogs about the recent Austin SCBWI conference at Bloomabilities. Peek: "Follow your compass, not your clock. ...this advice holds true in all of your careers as well. many of us are rushing, anxious, constantly comparing our own careers with everyone around us. We all need to make sure we remember the things that are really important to us." Note: post includes many photos of Texas cuisine!

is giving away about 75 books and audio books in May! Surf over to enter!

Dr. Seuss and Dr. Einstein by Chet Raymo from Science Musings. Peek: "Dr. Seuss was a botanist and zoologist of the first rank. Never mind that the flora and fauna he described were imaginary. Any kid headed for a career in science could do no better than to start with the plants and animals that populate the books of the madcap master of biology." Note: Originally published in The Horn Book.


The Cynsations grand-prize May giveaway is an autographed paperback set of all three of Lauren Myracle's New York Times bestselling Internet Girls novels (in chat-room-style writing)--ttyl, l8rg8r, and ttfn, all published by Amulet!

Read a Cynsations interview with Lauren. Read Lauren's blog, and visit her at MySpace!

To enter the giveaway, email me with your name and snail/street mail address by 10 p.m. CST May 31! Please also type "Internet Girls" in the subject line. Note: one autographed set will be awarded to any Cynsations YA reader.

Here's The Underneath by Kathi Appelt (Atheneum, 2008)!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Author Interview: S. A. Bodeen on The Compound

S. A. Bodeen on S. A. Bodeen: "S.A. Bodeen is the author of several acclaimed picture books, and a winner of the Ezra Jack Keats Award. A native of Wisconsin and former Peace Corps volunteer, she most recently lived in the Pacific Northwest where she wrote The Compound and taught creative writing."

How would you describe yourself as a teenager?

Sheltered. I went to a small school with 49 kids in my grade, most of whom I had known since kindergarten. Nothing ever changed. I was very into sports, was in band, drama, and choir, and only did enough schoolwork to keep myself in A's and B's. I loved to read, thrived on Stephen King and John Saul novels which I had to sneak into the house.

Could you tell us about your apprenticeship as a writer?

I kind of lucked into it. My first few picture books were totally written on my own, the only instruction was from books I found at the local library.

What helped you the most?

Getting my MFA was very helpful, but I learned so much about the actual writing process while working on this novel. It was hands-on, trial-by-fire writing you can't learn in a classroom.

What might you do differently, given the opportunity?

Definitely go to conferences. I'm amazed the connections people make there and the wonderful workshops and lectures. Now I run workshops and give lectures myself, but I still love to hear the other authors and I learn so much.

What is it about young people as fictional heroes and/or as an audience that especially appeals to you?

That time of life, to me, was so formative. I had no clue who I was or wanted to be at that age, and my persona shifted with the wind. I loved reading about people my age who knew what they wanted or their personal journey to discover that. And I've never grown out of that.

My husband says I'm stuck in high school. I don't agree, but I still love to read YA.

Could you tell us about your path to publication?

I just decided to do it one day, so I wrote my first story, Elizabeti's Doll, illustrated by Christy Hale, which was based on my Peace Corps experience. I was very naïve and sent it to three huge publishers in NYC.

Crazily enough, I got a personal letter within three weeks. The editor suggested a few things, and I revised and sent it back to her. I never heard back, and after waiting a year, I sent it to three more places. Lee & Low called two months later with an offer.

Any sprints or stumbles along the way?

Definitely some slow times, where I went a year or two with no sales. Also long stretches where I didn't even write. One of which led up to me writing this novel. I had sent my agent a few novels, then spent a year, when people asked what I was working on, saying "Oh, I’m just waiting for my agent to get back to me with revision notes." And I began to believe it myself. I didn't write at all for over a year.

Then, August 2005, he sent them all back to me in a box, told me in a nice way that that they were unsellable, and that he would be there when I did have something sellable.

For three months I pouted, then told myself "Either you are a writer or you aren't."

It was do or die. So I signed up for National Novel Writing Month that Nov. 1.

Could you please update us on your recent back-list and/or current titles, highlighting as you see fit?

Forthcoming in 2009 from Little, Brown for Young Readers: a picture book: A Small Brown Dog with a Wet Pink Nose. Also, a second novel from Feiwel & Friends.

How have you grown as a writer over time?

I've gotten better at it, but I still have a long way to go. I've learned, somewhat, how to develop the characters.

What do you see as your strengths?

I have a wild imagination and get some pretty cool ideas. And usually I tend to write a decent ending.

In what areas do you feel as though you must still push yourself?

Voice and pacing, some days I feel like I'll never have a handle on those. (As I'm sure my agent would concur!)

Congratulations on the release of your debut novel, The Compound (Feiwel & Friends, May 2008)(excerpt)! Could you tell us a bit about it?

For the past six years, fifteen-year-old Eli has been living in an underground compound with his family after a nuclear attack. And it goes downhill from there…

What was your initial inspiration for writing this book?

Some dinosaur show my husband was watching on the Discovery Channel. Not to give it away, but there was a dinosaur with this odd habit of raising offspring and I wondered "what if a human did that?"

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

I was three days into National Novel Writing Month 2005 when I went upstairs and saw the dinosaur show. Lightning struck, and I switched to this story.

By Nov. 30, I had a draft. I worked on it until January, when I sent it to my agent. He gave it to a reader, and I revised again, based on her comments, then sent it back to my agent in March.

He sent me back a laundry list. Plot is implausible, setting doesn't work, etc. etc. So, I threw away 240 pages of the 250 page manuscript, kept my premise and most of the characters, and started over, my agent's checklist in my hand the whole time. (My family can attest I was fairly ornery that week)

By early May, I had a good draft and sent it to him again. (Yes, I should be the Poster Girl for revision) One more quick set of revisions, and he deemed it ready to be sent out.

First week of July, Feiwel & Friends took it in a pre-empt. (I thanked my agent profusely for sticking with me, and he told me that he knew I had a great idea and that eventually I would find the story.)

Then the real work started. My editor and I revised for a solid nine months. There were times when I was like "There, it's done." And my editor would say "Just one more little thing…"

And it would be some huge thing, like "We really don't know the father that well." And I'm thinking to myself "Well, I certainly don’t know him, who can I call that knows him?" But then I'd sit down and get to know the father better…

My editor was so great. Thank heavens she wasn't one of those who wrote large missives covering the whole book, or I would have been paralyzed. Instead, she wrote questions on every page of the manuscript, so I could deal with just one page at a time. Even up to about two weeks before the ARC’s went to print, we were still tinkering. She emailed and said that the epilogue needed something.

So I was just loopy from it all, sent in a revision of the Epilogue with an element that I really kind of meant as a joke, thinking it was just so dumb. She emailed back and said "Perfect!"

The entire revision process was like taking an intensive novel-writing course. I learned so much that I can apply to future projects.

The book is riveting! Without giving too much away, how did you frame the psychology of your main characters?

I owe a lot to my editor. One of my favorite quotes about revision (and I am probably mangling it): "Revision is not about correction; it is about discovery." My editor would ask questions that totally caused me to go way deeper than I ever thought I could. Somehow, she brought things out of me that needed to be brought out, but I never could have done on my own. My characters changed a lot once the two of us started working on them.

Do you do a lot of pre-writing?

Absolutely none. This was NaNoWriMo, and I just jumped into it, no clue where I was headed.

The novel stands out as an example of a story with both a strong internal and external arc. Do you outline first?

I should, but I don't.

Do you just begin writing and see where it goes? Or, put another way, are you a plotter or a plunger and why?

Totally a plunger, probably because I'm totally disorganized and doing an outline would be the death of me , I fear. I don't deal well with the big picture, totally stresses me out, and just telling myself "Hey, you just have to get through 1000 words today" is much easier than an insurmountable "Hey, you eventually have to write this whole book." It's the same way I clean house, one room at a time, trying to deny that the entire house is involved.

It seems that a common challenge among writers is fighting their instinct to protect your characters. After all, the bigger the obstacle,the stronger the conflict and, often, the protagonist's growth. Did you ever have to push yourself to push the characters?

We actually had to eliminate some of the stuff I threw at my main character! I guess I was pretty brutal to the poor guy.

How did you deal with these dynamics?

I think he had to have a lot to deal with or he wouldn't have grown as a character. And the dude seriously needed to grow. All the decisions helped him do that, I think.

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

Be persistent and develop a thick skin ASAP.

What advice do you have for YA novelists?

Absolutely none. I have so much to learn myself that I'm in no position to offer coherent advice. I still feel totally young and dumb about the genre.

How about those writing suspense?

I did learn this. Suspense is not the ticking bomb in the corner. Suspense is what makes the reader want to keep turning the page.

You write for different age levels. Do you have many inner children?

Yes, some are all goodness and light, while some are a tad more demented.

What are the creative and professional pros and cons?

Sometimes I think it's easy to get caught up in being an author and forget to be a writer. I've been there and don't plan to ever go there again. They are two different animals, I think, and I'm trying to focus on being a writer. You're only as good as your next book…

You are well published in the picture book! How did you make the jump to novel writing?

It's funny, people are like, "Oh, you wrote your first novel!" and I'm like, "This is my ninth novel, it's just the first one I've gotten right." I've been writing novels since 1997, the year I sold my first picture book. So it's something I’ve been attempting for a while.


For me, it's all about the ideas. Some, like a rock for a doll, are picture-book ideas. Some, like a dystopian underground world, are not. And when I get an idea, I have to run with it, whatever genre that may be. Some of my ideas are successful. Others, not so much.

What was the biggest challenge?

Getting The Compound past my agent. He's very astute, and I knew the day he started submitting that it was just a matter of time before it would sell.

The greatest delight or opportunity?

Absolutely has to be when my editor acquired it. She was also my very first editor, the one that picked Elizabeti's Doll out of the slush pile back in 1997, so doing this novel with her has been a dream come true. Together, I think we've created a fabulous read.

Do you like to speak to groups? What sorts of programs do you offer?

I do school visits, programs at conferences, etc. I like to stress my personal 3 R's: Reading, Writing, and Revision. My most recent was a guest author stint at the international school in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. And now I have a new keynote about this entire YA journey.

How can planners get in touch with you and/or find out more?

My website, or email me through it.

As a reader, so far what is your favorite YA novel of 2008?

I'm in a rural area with a small library and am on the wait list for a lot of 2008 YAs, but, sad to say, haven't actually had a chance to read one with a 2008 copyright yet.

I recently caught up on some from last year, a couple I really liked were Zen and The Art of Faking It [by Jordan Sonnenblick (Scholastic, 2007)] and Lessons from a Dead Girl by Jo Knowles (Candlewick, 2007)(author interview). I was totally enthralled by Life as We Knew It [by Susan Beth Pfeffer (Harcourt, 2006)], so I'm really looking forward to the companion book, The Dead and the Gone (Harcourt, 2008), this year. [Read a Cynsations interview with Susan.]

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

I spend a lot of time in the bleachers, watching my kids at sporting events. This spring I'm coaching 8th grade volleyball, a true test of patience. I read a lot, but I'm also a TV junkie on certain days. I'm addicted to "Lost." I also Netflix way way too much.

What can your fans look forward to next?

A second novel from Feiwel & Friends.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Author Interview: Mary Hooper on Newes from the Dead

Mary Hooper on Mary Hooper: "I've been writing books for children and young adults for about twenty years. I'm happily (re)married with two grown children and live about forty miles outside London."

What kind of teenager were you?

I was an only child and not born until my mum and dad were forty, so I think my teenage years were a bit of a shock to them. I hit my teens in the sixties and was lucky enough to come from West London, where I saw the Rolling Stones every Sunday (then later, Eric Clapton and the Yardbirds) at the local athletic ground. I had some great times.

Could you tell us about your apprenticeship as a writer? What helped you the most? What might you do differently, given the opportunity?

What helped me was not starting off with any great expectations. Had I begun writing today, in the shadow of J. K. Rowling, I might have felt too intimidated to even try.

I started off by writing short stories for magazines, which was a great way in and not too daunting. You learn what works and what doesn't, and if no one takes your stuff, at least you haven't wasted too much time over it.

Gradually, my stories got longer and longer until they reached book size, and there I was, a writer.

What is it about young people as fictional heroes and/or as an audience that especially appeals to you?

I don't consciously think of the age of my audience or my main character, but write the sort of things that I like to read. The main reason I began to write books for children, rather than adults, is that they were shorter.

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

I was at home, rather bored, with two small children, read a short story in a magazine and thought, I can do that!

When I'd written and sold lots of stories I sent some tear sheets from the magazines to a publisher of teen books saying I'd like to write a book, so how about it? (It's different and far more difficult now!)

About six years ago, I ran out of ideas for modern teen novels (and also got a bit baffled with all the new technology business: mobile phones, texting, blackberries, ipods, etc., knowing that if I was going to write credible books for teens, I'd have to have them in there). It was then I decided to write historical fiction.

Could you please update us on your recent back-list and/or current titles, highlighting as you see fit?

A book I particularly love is The Remarkable Life and Times of Eliza Rose (Bloomsbury, 2006), about two babies who are exchanged at birth. This is set around the Court of the Merry Monarch, Charles II.

Before this, came a book about London's Great Plague: At the Sign of the Sugared Plum, and its follow-up about the Great Fire of London: Petals in the Ashes (also published by Bloomsbury, 2003/4).

At the moment, I'm writing a third book about Dr. Dee, who was a magician at the Court of Elizabeth I (the first two in this series books are At the House of the Magician and By Royal Command, published in the U.K. by Bloomsbury but not yet sold to the U.S.).

How have you grown as a writer over time? What do you see as your strengths? In what areas do you feel as though you must still push yourself?

Early on I realized the importance of moving with the market. When animal books were popular, these were what I wrote, ditto diary books, issue books, funny books, etc.

The only thing I haven't attempted is fantasy, because I know I wouldn't be any good at it, and also because I like my books rooted in reality. My historicals contain real people (Nell Gwyn, The naughty Earl of Rochester, gorgeous highwayman Claude Duval, Dr Dee, Aphra Benn, etc.) As to pushing myself, well, I should really test my skills by seeing if I can manage to write a book with multi-viewpoints, but I much prefer writing in the first person.

Congratulations on the release of Newes from the Dead (Roaring Brook, May 2008)! Could you tell us a bit about it?

It's the true story of Anne Green, a maidservant, who in 1650 was seduced by the grandson of her employer. She found herself pregnant, miscarried the child and was taken to be hung for infanticide.

After hanging for half an hour, her body was cut down and taken to the dissectionist at an Oxford college. When the physicians gathered and lifted the coffin lid to begin the procedure, they heard a rattle in her throat...

What was your initial inspiration for writing this book?

I heard Anne Green's story on the car radio and thought, Wow! I was supposed to be taking the car in for a service but, sitting there listening, I missed my time slot.

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

At the time, there was a major competition going on in the U.K. to write the first chapter of an adult novel, so I did a little research, then sat down and wrote a few thousand words about Anne Green.

Seeing as I'd written lots of YA novels, I thought I might be in with a chance, but I didn't even get a mention.

I sent the start of the book and a synopsis to my agent, Rosemary Canter, who said I'd have to write the whole thing before she could send it out, so I took six months off writing my commissioned books to do just that.

The more I found out, the more fascinated I became; it seemed that this was the story idea I'd been waiting for (and how come no one had found it before?) When I'd finished it Rosemary sold it to Random House, who then sold it on, after a bidding war, to Roaring Brook Press. It's now been three years since the "spark."
What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?

There is not much written about Anne herself, rather more about the doctors who saved her, so it was just a case of putting down the facts, what was actually recorded at the time, and then fitting the other bits (customs, dress, housing, food, servant/master relationship, medical practice, etc) around what I knew for sure.

Finding out that Christopher Wren was present was a bonus, as was discovering that Charles I had visited the house where Anne was a servant, and then that Sir Thomas Reade had died within a few days of Anne's ordeal.

As I wrote, it all seemed to come together. I found it easier having a template to follow instead of writing a pure fiction story where you find yourself having to decide between with ten possible endings.

The language is mesmerizing! It's a beautifully evocative read. Did you read texts of the era? Jump into a time machine?

I had been reading Pepys Diary for gossip and information, and--like one finds themselves speaking in mock-Shakespearian after seeing a couple of his plays (well, I do!)--I found myself thinking in Olde Englishe. It's just a matter of rearranging words and altering the rhythm of people's sentences rather than lots of "prithees" and "unhand me, knaves!"

What advice do you have for writers of historical fiction?

People are the same whatever century they're living in--but they will already know this.

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

Potter about, read a lot, visit interesting places (old graveyards a special favorite), walk, be curious about things.

What can your fans look forward to next?

I am hoping to write another book about Anne Green and find out what happened to her afterwards.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Austin SCBWI, Giveaways, The Underneath, Pirates

Austin SCBWI offered a great line-up for its April 26 conference.

Featured speakers included: author and editor Deborah Noyes Wayshak from Candlewick Press (author-editor interview); Alvina Ling from Little Brown (personal blog); agent Erin Murphy (interview by Pam Mingle from Kite Tales, Rocky Mountain chapter, SCBWI); artist's agent Christina Tugeau; writing professor Peter Jacobi; illustrator Christy Stallop; and retired educator Naomi "Mama" Pasemann.

The Critique Clinic and Success Panel Authors included: Brian Anderson (author interview); Chris Barton; Lila Guzman (author interview); Helen Hemphill (author interview); Varian Johnson; April Lurie (author interview); Jane Peddicord (author interview); Jo Whittemore (author interview); and Brian Yansky (author interview).

Special contributions also were made by Julie Lake (author interview) and Gary Schumann, Lyn Brooks, and the conference committee--Regional Advisor Tim Crow; Lyn Seippel; Meg Shoemaker; Donna Bratton; Julie Lake; Christy Stallop; and Carmen Oliver.

Highlights included the inauguration of the Austin SCBWI Meredith Davis Volunteer-of-the-Year Award, named in honor of our chapter founder and first regional advisor. The first recipient was current ARA Lyn Seippel.

The night before the conference, Greg and I had the honor of hosting a reception in honor of the conference faculty and volunteers. The menu (above) included: green goddess crudites with anchovy green goddess dressing; peak season fruits paired with cheddar, Jarlsberg, Havarti and Gruyere cheeses, an assortment of bite-size pinwheels of carne asada, grilled vegetable and roasted turkey with fig spread on colorful tortillas, jumbo shrimp poached in a court-bouillon and served with a choice of traditional cocktail sause or spicy gazpacho sauce, along with fresh lemons, lime, and dill, and two-bite sweets--cookies, brownies, and bars. We also served red and white wine, water, and sodas. The event was catered by Whole Foods (Lamar).

Thanks to the committee, critique clinic faculty, and speakers for an amazing event! Cheers again to Austinite and rising star, Varian Johnson, on his first hardcover sale (to Delacorte)!

May Giveaway

The Cynsations grand-prize May giveaway is an autographed paperback set of all three of Lauren Myracle's New York Times bestselling Internet Girls novels (in chat-room-style writing)--ttyl, l8rg8r, and ttfn, all published by Amulet!

From a recent Cynsations interview with Lauren:

"The credit for inspiration all goes to my fabulous and adorable and brilliant-beyond-words editor, the great Susan Van Metre.

"One day, she and I were having a talk about how different things are for girls now than when we were teenagers, and we circled around to the whole IM thing. You know, how when we were in school, we'd come home and phone our buds and go over the day (who wore what, who said what, etc.), but now, girls come home and IM their buds to do their post-op.

"And Susan said, 'Someone should write a book all told in IMs.'

"And, being no dummy, I said, 'Okay!' And so I did."

Read Lauren's blog, and visit her at MySpace!

To enter the giveaway, email me with your name and snail/street mail address by 10 p.m. CST May 31! Please also type "Internet Girls" in the subject line. Note: one autographed set will be awarded to any Cynsations YA reader.

Giveaway Winners

Autographed copies of A Growling Place by Thomas Aquinas Maguire (Simply Read, 2007)(author-illustrator interview) went to Katie, a fifth grade teacher from Las Vegas as well as Cynsational readers Tracy in Poway, California; and Sheila in Coral Springs, Florida.

Autographed copies of How Not to Be Popular by Jennifer Ziegler (Delacorte, 2008)(author interview) went to Cana, an eighth grade teacher in Starke, Florida; and Em, a Cynsational reader from Boulder, Colorado! Visit Jennifer's LiveJournal and MySpace page!

And finally, Cynsational YA reader Kate in Bangor, Maine; and Tantalize Fans Unite! member Breanna in Tacoma, Washington; won copies of By Venom's Sweet Sting by Tiffany Trent (Mirrorstone, 2007)! Read a Cynsations interview with Tiffany.

More News & Links

Kathi Appelt hits the road to promote her debut novel, The Underneath (Atheneum, 2008)(author interview)! See her live at 7 p.m. May 6 at the Barnes & Noble Arboretum (10000 Research Blvd.) in Austin; at 5 p.m. May 8 at Hastings (2311 Colorado Blvd.) in Denton, Texas; at 4:30 May 9 at Learning Express (6828 Snider Plaza) in Dallas; at 2:30 May 10 at Blue Marble (1356 S Fort Thomas Ave.) in Fort Thomas, Kentucky; at 6:30 May 12 at Borders (1 North La Grange Road) in La Grange, Illinois; at 6:30 May 14 at Borders (3140 Lohr Road) in Ann Arbor, Michigan; at 6:30 May 15 at Barnes & Noble (2800 S. Rochester Road) in Rochester Hills, Michigan; at 1 p.m. May 17 at Octavia Books (503 Octavia St.) in New Orleans, Louisiana. Note: Tell Kathi I said "howdy!"

Take a peek at The Castaway Pirates: A Pop-Up Tale of Bad Luck, Sharp Teeth, and Stinky Toes, story and pop-ups by Ray Marshall, illustrated by Wilson Swain (Chronicle, 2008)!