Friday, September 26, 2008

Spooky News & Giveaways

Welcome back, (much of) Houston!

It's my understanding that many of y'all had your power returned this week, and we're glad to have you online again!

That said, I also just read that 430,000 remain without power. It's been 13 days, and that has to be awful. My thoughts remain with you and those even more adversely affected.

On a related note, the Austin SCBWI Day with an Editor (Jill Santopolo) has been rescheduled for Dec. 6. Thanks to Jill, Debbie Gonzales, and RA Tim Crow for of your efforts! Thanks too to Gene Brenek, who had originally volunteered his home as a venue!

For me, this week has been a productive one. Greg and I reviewed pass pages for our joint short story to appear in Geektastic: Stories of the Awesomely Uncool, edited by Cecil Castellucci and Holly Black (Little Brown, 2009), and I sent a revised draft of my graphic novel, Tantalize: Kieren's Story (Candewick, TBA) to my editor.

Beyond that, I'm working hard to update my own writer's guide to my Gothic fantasy universe and on Blessed (Candlewick, TBA), which will crossover the casts of Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008) and Eternal (Candlewick, March 2009), picking up at the end of the first novel.

I also had the honor of reading/critiquing two manuscripts for local writer pals, one a picture book and the other a young adult novel. Austin area writers are amazing!

My pop-culture highlight was the season three premier of "Heroes."

More personally, thank you to Sarah for creating her gorgeous Tantalize fan page at MySpace!

Thanks also to author David Lubar for his blog cheers on the ten-year anniversary of www.cynthialeitichsmith.com! I'm honored!


REMINDER: In celebration of the ten-year anniversary of www.cynthialeitichsmith.com, I'm offering one rather eclectic giveaway package, which will include paperback copies of the following books: The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare (1958); Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (1977); Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause (1997); and Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith (2008)(signed).

To enter, email me (scroll and click on the envelope) with a question to for me answer (about writing, my books, etc.) as well as your name and snail/street mail address by 10 p.m. CST Sept. 30! OR, if you're on MySpace or Facebook, you can message me on that network by 10 p.m. CST Sept. 30! But DON'T send in your contact information on MySpace or Facebook. I'll contact you for it if you win. Please also type "anniversary giveaway" in the subject line. All Cynsational readers are eligible!

More News & Giveaways

Enter to win an autographed copy of Dead Girl Walking by Linda Joy Singleton (Flux, 2008). Peek: "...is about 17-year-old Amber who has a bad sense of direction--so bad that when she has a near-death experience, she makes a wrong turn and wakes up in the gorgeous, rich, popular body of a girl who's attempted suicide. Then it's a race for time to find her real body to switch back before her organs are donated and Amber is trapped forever in the wrong body. " Deadline: Sept. 29. See details.

The Book Transfusion by Devyn Burton - YA Author. Devyn is coordinating a "book raising" event for hospitals in lower east Michigan. Peek: "Being in the hospital so much I noticed a trend, teens in the hospital had two options--A) color and do crafts meant for a six year old or option B) 'suck it up' like an adult watch TV all day. That is unacceptable, we need something to occupy our minds as well—and even if you did partake in options A & B, you can only color and watch TV so much! A book is a wonderful tool for anyone in the hospital." Note: YA authors, publishers, businesses, readers, there are ways that all of you can help! Just blogging the link will help!

The Big Questions: Science Fiction and Young Adult Fiction Share Themes and, Hopefully, Readers by Adrienne Martini from Baltimore City Paper. Peek: "The Potter bubble has passed, yet those readers--and their younger siblings--are still buying books by the bucketful." Source: Gwenda Bond.

For the Fantasy Writers Out There from Buried in the Slush Pile. Peek: "I thought we'd start with the trickiest fantasy to write -- first person high fantasy."

DC Cancels Minx Imprint by Matt Brady from Newsarma.com. Peek: "At the time of the line's launch, it was noted that DC would team with Alloy Marketing + Media to promote Minx in the coming months, and had a budget of $250,000, making it 'the largest thing we've done in at least three decades,' according to DC president and publisher Paul Levitz. The titles in the line received their share of positive press and reviews, but never really caught on in the numbers that justified their continued existence, apparently." Note: I'm saddened by the cancellation of the line but grateful for the quality books that Minx did release. See Cecil Castellucci's thoughts.

The Fine Art of Writing Blurbs by Saundra Mitchell from Crowe's Nest: An Agent and Her List Discuss Children's Books, Publishing and Beyond. Peek: "I'm not advising you to write your blurb in rhyming couplets, but the basic rules of poetics should apply to your advertising. The sounds of words, the assonance, the consonance, the rhythm of the words- these are important in any writing, but especially important here." Note: Crowe's Nest is now syndicated to LJ.

Online Events

Reminder: I'll be appearing twice to discuss Tantalize and related forthcoming books in October on the Eye4You Alliance Island at Second Life. From School Library Journal: "There will be two appearances, the first on the main grid of Second Life (for those 18 and over) on Oct. 14, and again on Oct. 28 on the teen grid of Teen Second." See more information.

More Events

To all those heading to Portland this weekend, please know you're in my thoughts! Have a wonderful time. I wish I could be there!

ALA Banned Books Week is Sept. 27 to Oct. 4. See video below. Source: ALA Library. See also Children's book on male penguins raising chick tops ALA's 2007 list of most challenged books and a Cynsations interview with Lauren Myracle.



Plan to celebrate the release of Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception (Flux, 2008) with debut author Maggie Stiefvater. The physical launch will be at 7 p.m. Oct. 3 EST at Creatures & Crooks Bookshoppe in Richmond, Virginia. The virtual launch will be in the Enchanting Reviews chat room at 8 p.m. EST Oct. 1. See details.

The Youth Literature Festival, sponsored by the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will be Oct. 4. All events are free and open to the public and will be held at various locations across the Urbana-Champaign community. I hope to see you there!

The first annual Hill Country Book Festival will be from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 11 at the Georgetown Public Library (Georgetown, Texas). Participating authors/illustrators include Liz Garton Scanlon, Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith, Don Tate, P. J. Hoover, and Deborah Frontiera. The Biscuit Brothers also will be performing! See schedule.

R. L. Stein's Halloween Party will begin at 3 p.m. Oct. 31 at the Austin Children's Museum (201 Colorado St.). R. L. Stein will read and tell a communal (audience-participation) ghost story at 3:30 p.m. and sign books from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. The event is free, but space is limited to 350. Costumes welcome. Note: Barnes & Noble will be selling books; sponsored by the Texas Book Festival in cooperation with the museum.

"Connections & Craft: Writing for Children and Young Adults:" hosted by Brazos Valley (Texas) SCBWI Nov. 15 at A & M United Methodist Church in College Station, Texas. "Editor Joy Neaves, agent Emily Van Beek, and author Cynthia Leitich Smith comprise our faculty for this day-long event. Published BV-SCBWI authors will also conduct a hands-on Writers' Workshop." Download the brochure. Read a Cynsations interview with Emily.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Author Cynthia Leitich Smith To Appear at Second Life

Young adult author Cynthia Leitich Smith, will be presenting on the main grid of Second Life on American Library Association's Island at (129, 105, 29) Oct. 14 at 5 p.m. PST, and on the teen grid at the Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County's Eye4You Alliance island (118, 153, 21) Oct. 28 at 1 p.m. PST. She will present on her YA Gothic fantasy, Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007-2008) and (Listening Library, 2008) as well as forthcoming related releases.

"I've long been interested in the idea that books and technology can compliment, rather than compete, and look forward to stepping into this new virtual venue," says Smith.

For more information on how to access ALA’s island on the main grid, contact Donovan Vicha, Web Developer, ITTS at dvicha@ala.org. For information on how to access the teen grid, contact Kelly Czarnecki, Technology Education Librarian at kczarnecki@plcmc.org.

Cynsational Notes

Founded in 1903 as a Carnegie Free Library, PLCMC has become one of the premiere libraries in the country with 24 locations, 1.6 million volumes, and 28,000 videos, DVDs and CDs. The library sponsors a variety of community-based programs--from computer- and Internet-education workshops to the award-winning Novello Festival of Reading, a celebration that accentuates the fun of reading and learning.

Friday, September 12, 2008

10th Anniversary Giveaway

In celebration of the ten-year anniversary of www.cynthialeitichsmith.com, I'm offering one rather eclectic giveaway package, which will include paperback copies of the following books:

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare (1958);

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (1977);

Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause (1997); and

Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith (2008)(signed).

Why? Each of these books has a personal meaning to me. The first two were favorites of mine as a young reader--the first because it made me feel less alone and the second because it in part inspired my own debut novel, Rain Is Not My Indian Name (2001). The third influenced me most in my own YA writing, and the last is my latest contribution to the conversation of books. I'll also likely include a few additional surprises.

All Cynsational readers are eligible! To enter, email me (scroll and click on the envelope) with a question to answer along with your name and snail/street mail address by 10 p.m. CST Sept. 30!

Note: as examples, questions may be related to the writing life, craft, publishing, teaching writing, or any area within my fields of interest/expertise such as--writing for young readers; children's-YA fiction; diversity (of ethnicity, religion, region, etc.) in books; Native youth literature; writing picture books; writing short stories; writing novels; Gothic/urban/paranormal fantasy; speculative fiction more broadly; promotion; teaching writing; diversifying your "brand;" working with an editor or agent; the youth literature community; blogging; etc. I'll likely pick some to answer as part of the anniversary series of interviews.

OR, if you're on MySpace or Facebook, you can message me with the previous information on that network by 10 p.m. CST Sept. 30! But DON'T send in your contact information on MySpace or Facebook. I'll contact you for it if you win.

Please also type "anniversary giveaway" in the subject line.

Spooky News & Giveaways

Amazing News! In celebration of 10 years of www.cynthialeitichsmith.com, the lovely Angela L. Fox is sponsoring a giveaway at Pickled Pixel Toe.

Enter to win a T-shirt!

Here's how: go to one of the following categories: The Muses (see design sample); The Inner Critics; or Writing, Illustrating, and Conference.

Pick a T-shirt design. Then email me (scroll and click on the envelope) with your design choice, the color you prefer, your shirt size, your name, and your snail/street mail address by 10 p.m. CST Sept. 22! OR, if you're on MySpace or Facebook, you can message me on that network by 10 p.m. CST Sept. 22! But DON'T send in your contact information on MySpace or Facebook. I'll contact you for it if you win.

REMINDER: Enter to win one of four ARCs of Dead is the New Black by Marlene Perez (Harcourt, 2008)! To enter the giveaway, email me (scroll and click on the envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address by 10 p.m. CST Sept. 15! OR, if you're on MySpace or Facebook, you can message me on that network by 10 p.m. CST Sept. 15! But DON'T send in your contact information on MySpace or Facebook. I'll contact you for it if you win.

One ARC will go to a teacher, librarian, or university professor of youth literature (please indicate), two will go to any Cynsational readers, and one will go to a member of Tantalize Fans Unite! at MySpace. Please indicate status. Please also type "Dead is the New Black" in the subject line.

Winners of the ARC giveaway of The Devouring: Sorry Night by Simon Holt (Little Brown, 2008) were: Mandy in Pennsylvania; Jaden in Texas; and Kate, a teacher in Pennsylvania! UPDATE: At Blue Rose Girls, Devouring editor Alvina Ling offers an interesting look at the U.S. versus U.K. covers for this novel with related commentary.

More Giveaways

Fangtastic Contest: sponsored by author Heather Brewer. To enter, "create a piece of artwork that is a tribute to your favorite scene from any book in the Chronicles of Vladimir Tod [(Dutton, 2007-)]." From Heather: "Grand Prize: a character named after winner in the fourth Vlad Tod book, Eleventh Grade Burns (as well as your name in the book's acknowledgments), a vampire smiley t-shirt (as featured on the cover of Ninth Grade Slays), ten (10) temporary tattoos of Vlad's name in Elysian Code (his Mark), and autographed copies of Eighth Grade Bites (paperback) and Ninth Grade Slays (hardcover)." Note: there's also a spooky-cool first and second prize. See deadline and details!

Enter to win from the Texas Book Festival! Grand prize: VIP Trip for two to the Texas Book Festival in Austin from Oct. 30 to Nov. 3. Second prize: Fort Worth Arts and Culture Tour. Third prize: Barnes & Noble and BN.com Gift Basket & Gift Card. Check out the amazing details (airline tickets, spa resort, and much more)!

UPDATE: authors to be featured at the 2008 festival include: Kathi Appelt; Shana Burg; Melissa de la Cruz; Heather Vogel Frederick; Shannon Hale; Varian Johnson; Laurie Keller; Christopher S. Jennings; Marisa Montes; Yuyi Morales; Lauren Myracle; Margo Rabb; Tanya Lee Stone; Philip Yates; Paula Yoo; and Jennifer Ziegler. See the complete list.

More News

Futuristic, Speculative, Science Fiction and Dystopian Fiction for Young Adults: newly updated from Jen Robinson's Book Page.

Query Letter Project from Janni Lee Simner at Desert Dispatches. Janni shares the query letter to Bones of Faerie (Random House, 2009). Note: this is part of a larger series of posts by various authors in which various they share their query letters.

Fresh New Voice of YA- Terri Clark Interview from Book Chic. Peek: "Sleepless [(HarperTeen, 2008)] came from my own fascination with dreams and a series of Denver Post articles that ran on violent criminals who pretended insanity so they would get sentenced to a mental hospital instead of jail. At some point I put the two ideas together and Sleepless was born."

Cool enough for the New York Times bestseller list: an interview with Lisa McMann from Calvin College. Peek: "Some folks believe that authors who write about real issues are in fact endorsing bad behavior and teens will believe that it's okay for them to do drugs or get pregnant too because they read about it in a book. ...give yourself some credit for teaching your child morals, and more importantly, give your teen some credit—if she's reading books for fun, she's not a dunderhead."

'Potter' Author Wins Copyright Ruling by The Associated Press from The New York Times. Peek: "The author of the Harry Potter series, J. K. Rowling, has won her claim that a fan violated her copyright with his plans to publish a Potter encyclopedia." Source: The Horn Book.

Imaginary Friends: You're Never Quite Alone with this Accomplished Artist and Storyteller: an article about Tony DiTerlizzi from Mary Engelbreit's Home Companion. Peek: "What I’ve found to be crucial is something that no one teaches in art school. Learning your craft and creating a good story is certainly half of your challenge, but a big portion of your success has to do with your people skills."

Heinlein's Fan Mail Solution from Conceptual Trends and Current Topics. Peek: "In the days before the Internet, Heinlein's solution was fabulous. He created a one page FAQ answer sheet--minus the questions. Then he, or rather his wife Ginny, checked off the appropriate answer and mailed it back." Source: Editorial Ass.

Censorship and The Right to Read from my main site. Note: feel free to suggest a resource. I'm going to feature the various pages from CYALR in order for the next several weeks and request link submissions. Note: ALA Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read is Sept. 27 to Oct. 4.

Writers and Depression by Nancy Etchemendy from the Horror Writers Association. A frank discussion of warning signs and why writers are so vulnerable. Be good to each other out there. Take care of yourselves. Note: I run this link a couple of times a year.

Check out the book trailer for Skinned by Robin Wasserman (Simon Pulse, 2008):



Mark Your Calendars

YA Author Justine Larbalestier is touring in celebration of her wonderful new novel How To Ditch Your Fairy (Bloomsbury, 2008)!

From Scott Westerfeld: "Next week, she'll be in northern California, then doing a couple of dates near home. In October, she'll be in Ohio and Michigan, and in Texas for November. (I'll be traveling with her some of the time, and maybe popping in to say 'hi' in a few places, but this is her tour, not mine. I will be officially appearing at BookPeople in Austin, though...)." UPDATE: see Justine's page for the latest additions/corrections/changes!

See the schedule for details.

Note: I want a doubles-my-writing-time fairy.

Online Events

Reminder: I'll be appearing twice to discuss Tantalize and related forthcoming books in October on the Eye4You Alliance Island at Second Life. From School Library Journal: "There will be two appearances, the first on the main grid of Second Life (for those 18 and over) on Oct. 14, and again on Oct. 28 on the teen grid of Teen Second." See more information.

More Personally

I thought y'all might enjoy seeing the gorgeous roses Greg sent in celebration of our 14th wedding anniversary, which was last week!

This week has been a quiet one, largely spent revising my graphic novel adaptation of Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008). It's told from Kieren's point of view and includes many new scenes.

My thoughts also have been with the victims of 9-11, their surviving loved ones, and others affected by the tragedy.

Austin SCBWI's Day with an Editor, scheduled for Sept. 13, has been postponed due to Hurricane Ike. I'll keep y'all posted on that.

To folks from Houston-Galveston and surrounding areas, stay safe! To the evacuees headed this way (or already here), welcome to Austin! Note: for Saturday, according to News 8, we're expecting "wind gusts up to 25-40 mph by noon" and "briefly heavy rain bands, mostly east of I-35."

Thanks so much to everyone who sent cheers regarding the 10th anniversary of www.cynthialeitichsmith.com, and a special thanks to author Kimberly Griffiths Little, who blogged about it, to author Sara Zarr, who blogged about it, to illustrator Gail Maki Wilson, who blogged about it, and to author-illustrator Don Tate, who blogged about it, too! Note: if I missed your cheers, please send the URL!

Thank you to Debbi Michiko Florence for highlighting the Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008) sighting at her local Borders! Read a Cynsations interview with Debbi.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Author Interview: Kimberly Pauley on Sucks to Be Me: The All-True Confessions of Mina Hamilton, Teen Vampire (Maybe)

Kimberly Pauley on Kimberly Pauley: "I majored in English at the University of Florida and took as many classes as I could in adolescent fiction and science fiction (it's awesome to read books for class that you'd read anyway).

"I was working as a programmer/Web development manager when I started up Young Adult Books Central and have been reviewing books since 1998.

"Sucks to Be Me is my first novel, and I had a lot of fun writing it.

"I live in Illinois near Chicago with my husband Tony (who is very supportive of the whole writing thing), and my brand new baby boy Max (he's already 4 ½ months old!)."

What first inspired you to write for young adults?

I've always loved YA lit, and I truly believe that some of the best writing out there today is for teens (despite what some authors say about the "YA Ghetto").

I think you can do things and write about things in the YA arena that you just can't do with "adult" books.

Congratulations on Sucks to Be Me: The All-True Confessions of Mina Hamilton, Teen Vampire (Maybe)(Mirrorstone, 2008)! Could you tell us a little about the novel?

It's about a sixteen (almost seventeen) year old girl who happens to have parents that are vampires. She's known about their little bloody secret for just about forever, but only recently has the local vampire council discovered her. And since non-vampires aren't supposed to know that vampires exist, they give her an ultimatum. She's got to decide--in just a month's time--whether or not she wants to be a vampire too.

They make her take these vampire classes (vampire homework, ugh!), and she even has to go on "educational" field trips with her weirdo Uncle Mortie. Meanwhile, she'd really rather be concentrating on her love life (or lack thereof), getting a date for prom, and getting through school.

There are some hot guys, a couple of mean girls, a great best friend, and dashes of normal teenage angst. Oh, and vampires, of course. But no bloody mayhem or skulking about at night.

This is really a humorous look at the vampire life and not a serious one (though Mina's dilemma is big enough for just about anyone!).

The official age range is 12 and up, though I've had 10 year olds write me that they liked it and other people that only recommend it for those aged 14 and up.

That's the problem with age ranges in general…it really depends on the individual reader. There's nothing too risqué in the book, but Mina does get some kissing in and her mother does give her a version of "The Talk."

What was your initial inspiration for writing this book?

A couple of things. At the time, I had recently read a book that shall remain nameless. It was an okay book, but it annoyed me because it referenced bits of the Dracula myth and got things wrong. It was also pretty typical with the whole "evil" vampire vs. virtuous heroine plot line.

That started me thinking, hey what if being a vampire were boring and not at all mysterious or even all that dangerous? What if it were a teenager's parents that were vampires? We all know how teens generally feel about their parents…so, anyway, it went from there.

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

I actually did a lot of research on the vampire myth in general and dug up some of my old college coursework (I'd studied Dracula in a couple of classes). I knew I wanted to keep the book fairly light and funny and not full of blood and gore, but also I wanted a book that teens that weren't into vampires could still read and enjoy.

The comments about Bram Stoker's Mina and Lucy were terrific. Did you give much thought to the role of girls/women in the horror tradition, and if so, would you like to share a few of your thoughts?

Believe it or not, some of what is in the book about Stoker is taken directly or paraphrased from some things I wrote in college.

I had this great professor, James B. Twitchell, who had literally written the book on vampires (The Living Dead: A Study of the Vampire in Romantic Literature) and I'd taken a class in the Romantic period with him. Incidentally, my husband-to-be was also in that class with me.

One of the best things about Twitchell was that he let us write on pretty much whatever we wanted for our weekly papers and didn't mind if we were a little flippant (which I tend to be). He didn't even always pick them up, but you'd better have written something in case he did.

When we read Stoker in class, I found myself really annoyed, just like Mina. Besides the obvious things, Professor Twitchell was really good at pointing out some of the more egregious but hidden digs at women in the novel. Actually, a lot of literature from that time period (heck, a fair amount in all time periods, I suppose) is very male-centric. We used to call the literature canon that everyone studies in college "books by dead white guys."

You know, come to think of it, I probably should have put Professor Twitchell in the acknowlegements section of my book. He still teaches at the University of Florida, and I highly recommend him to anyone that is attending college there.

But getting back to your question…I think that it is a wonderful thing that there are so many woman authors in the horror field now and so many great female characters. I tried to make Mina be someone believable; not too weak, but not too strong either.

And I hope it comes through that she makes the choice she makes for herself and not for a guy or even her best friend.

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

Write more. And write more often. There's always something to interrupt you out there, and you just have to ignore it (even if it is the laundry – after all, you can always wear that horrible looking muumuu in the back of your closet…you're a writer and people expect that anyway), and get your writing done.

Many of us also know you as the YA Books Goddess at Young Adult (& Kids) Books Central! Could you give us the behind-the-scenes scoop on your efforts on that front?

It's hard to believe, but I've been doing that for over 10 years now. Yikes! I feel so old!

My goal has always been to encourage reading and be a place where readers (young or old) can learn about new authors (big or small).

I give away hundreds of books a year and also try to provide a forum for authors and publishers of any size and stature to get the word out about their books.

For those who may be new to Young Adult (& Kids) Books Central, could you give us an overview of the site and/or share any new features/directions?

The site is located at www.yabookscentral.com and there's also an associated blog (where you can find out what the latest postings are) and a forum (hosted on Delphi). I and a number of wonderful volunteer reviewers put up reviews of books for ages 0 and up, so we cover everything from picture books and early readers to young adult and even some adult titles.

There're also interviews, press releases, bios (which authors can submit directly), excerpts from books, and guides (teacher, study, and reader). Readers can also submit reviews, and every 15 they submit earns them a free book from the Prize Bucket. I also feature a couple of publisher-sponsored giveaways every month.

There's always more that I want to do, though the biggest challenges are time and money. Since I want to keep the site accessible for everyone (visitors and those interested in putting their work out there), I don't feature many ads and, for the ones I do feature, I try to keep the price low so that any author can afford to advertise their book.

So, while I'd love to be able to hire someone to code some additional features, I just can't afford to do it. And believe it or not, I coded almost all of the site myself. I used to be a Web development manager at AT&T Labs. But it has been so many years now that I've forgotten half of what I used to know!

That said, I do have plans for additional features…like a publisher search and a way that people can log in and track their reviews. But I just need to find the time to get it done! (Hm, any ColdFusion programmers out there that would like to help?)

What can your fans look forward to next?

I'm working on a sequel now called It Still Sucks to Be Me. I can't say much about it since it would give away the ending of the first book. Let's just say that Mina's always got some kind of trouble in her life.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Spooky News & Giveaways

Enter to win one of four ARCs of Dead is the New Black by Marlene Perez (Harcourt, 2008)(author interview)! From the promotional copy:

"Fashion statement...or something freakier?

"The first installment of this creepy, campy paperback original series introduces the psychic Giordano sisters—and their very strange hometown, Nightshade, California.

"Teenage girls are being mysteriously attacked all over town, including at Nightshade High School, where Daisy Giordano is a junior.

"When Daisy discovers that a vampire may be the culprit, she can't help but suspect head cheerleader Samantha Devereaux, who returned from summer break with a new 'look.'

"Samantha looks a little...well, dead, and all the popular kids at school are copying her style.

"Is looking dead just another fashion trend for pretty popular Samantha, or is there something more sinister going on? To find out, Daisy joins the cheerleading squad....

"Dead is the New Black is a fast-paced mystery that combines romance, humor, sibling rivalry, and lots of attitude."

To enter the giveaway, email me (scroll and click on the envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address by 10 p.m. CST Sept. 15! OR, if you're on MySpace or Facebook, you can message me on that network by 10 p.m. CST Sept. 15! But DON'T send in your contact information on MySpace or Facebook. I'll contact you for it if you win.

One ARC will go to a teacher, librarian, or university professor of youth literature (please indicate), two will go to any Cynsational readers, and one will go to a member of Tantalize Fans Unite! at MySpace. Please indicate status. Please also type "Dead is the New Black" in the subject line.

Enter to win one of three ARCs of The Devouring: Sorry Night by Simon Holt (Little Brown, Sept. 2008). To enter, email me (scroll and click on the envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address by 10 p.m. CST Sept. 8!

OR, if you're on MySpace or Facebook, you can message me on that network by 10 p.m. CST Sept. 8! But DON'T send in your contact information on MySpace or Facebook. I'll contact you for it if you win.

One ARC will go to a teacher, librarian, or university professor of youth literature (please indicate), one will go to any Cynsational reader, and one will go to a member of Tantalize Fans Unite! at MySpace. Please indicate status. Please also type "Devouring" in the subject line.

The winners of the Immortal: Love Stories with Bite, edited by P. C. Cast (BenBella, 2008)(exclusive to Borders/Waldenbooks) giveaway were: Ann, a school library media specialist in Tennessee; Lucile in Florida; and Ciera in South Carolina. Note: there's some delay in adding it to the Borders website, so try to find a "brick-and-mortar" store. Note: read a related interview with P. C. and Kristin Cast. Didn't win? Don't despair! Enter another Immortal giveaway, sponsored by fellow contributor Claudia Gray!

More Giveaways

Join debut author Kimberly Pauley from now to Sept. 10 at the The Official Sucks to Be Me Book Launch Par-tay! Note: it's so gracious (and typical) of Kimberly to be highlighting other authors as she launches her own debut title! There are tons of amazing giveaways!

TeensReadToo is giving away books by Dakota Lane, Sarah Mlynowski, Julie Anne Peters, Laura Resau, Dandi Daley Mackall, Sally Nemeth, Margo Rabb, Kathi Appelt, Michael P. Spradlin, Tamora Pierce, and Kenneth R. Besser. Learn how to enter here!


Contributor Claudia Gray is giving away three copies of Immortal: Love Stories with Bite, edited by P. C. Cast (BenBella, 2008)(exclusive to Borders/Waldenbooks)! Learn how to enter. Read a new interview with Claudia from Book Review Maniac. Peek: "I am currently working on a couple of proposals that are both definitely supernatural and romantic, but no vampires -- one involved witchcraft, and the other--hmmm--let's call them reincarnated time-travelers."

More News

Enter to win from the Texas Book Festival! Grand prize: VIP Trip for two to the Texas Book Festival in Austin from Oct. 30 to Nov. 3. Second prize: Fort Worth Arts and Culture Tour. Third prize: Barnes & Noble and BN.com Gift Basket & Gift Card. Check out the amazing details (airline tickets, spa resort, and much more)!

Stephen King's On Writing by Liz Gallagher from Through the Tollbooth. Peek: "You might be surprised to learn (I was!) that King doesn't plot. He just tells stories as they go. Even the really complicated ones. He says that stories are like relics, and that the writer's job is to uncover the relic, keeping as much of it in tact as possible." Read a Cynsations interview with Liz.

Check out this new book trailer for Zombie Blondes by Brian James (Feiwel & Friends, 2008), and read a Cynsations interview with Brian about the novel.



Coming Soon

Rick Guzman (Austin) will speak at the Sept. 13 meeting of the CenTex Chapter of the American Christian Fiction Writers in Round Rock, Texas. "Book Publishing Contracts: What You Need to Know," will discuss what to look for, what to avoid, and what it all means. "Guzman's law practice includes publishing interests, and he writes biographies of famous Latinos, most recently George Lopez: Latino King of Comedy (Enslow, 2008)." Source: Writers' League of Texas.

The Youth Literature Festival, sponsored by the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will be Oct. 4. All events are free and open to the public and will be held at various locations across the Urbana-Champaign community.

Speakers will include: Ashley Bryan; Betsy Hearne; Dan Keding; W. Nikola-Lisa; Alice McGinty; Patricia Hruby Powell; Melodye Rosales; Marc Aronson; Susan Campbell Bartoletti; Chris Crutcher; Jan Spivey Gilchrist; Jennifer Holm; Paul Jancezko; Francisco Jimenez; M. E. Kerr; Robert Lipsyte; Robert San Souci; Cynthia Leitich Smith; Joyce Carol Thomas; Richard Van Camp; and Janet Wong.

See more information. Hope to see you there!

The first annual Hill Country Book Festival will be from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 11 at the Georgetown Public Library (Georgetown, Texas).

The children's activities will include author and illustrator visits; live music; face painting; crafts (puppets and collages). Free popcorn and snow cones will be available, as will hot dogs for $1.

Participating authors/illustrators include Liz Garton Scanlon, Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith, Don Tate, P. J. Hoover, and Deborah Frontiera. The Biscuit Brothers also will be performing! See schedule.

"Connections & Craft: Writing for Children and Young Adults:" hosted by Brazos Valley (Texas) SCBWI Nov. 15 at A & M United Methodist Church in College Station, Texas. "Editor Joy Neaves, agent Emily Van Beek, and author Cynthia Leitich Smith comprise our faculty for this day-long event. Published BV-SCBWI authors will also conduct a hands-on Writers' Workshop." Download the brochure. Read a Cynsations interview with Emily.

Online Events

I'll be appearing twice to discuss Tantalize and related forthcoming books in October on the Eye4You Alliance Island at Second Life. From School Library Journal: "There will be two appearances, the first on the main grid of Second Life (for those 18 and over) on October 14, and again on October 28 on the teen grid of Teen Second." See more information.

More personally

Happy belated 14th wedding anniversary to Greg Leitich Smith! Last night we had a wonderful, celebratory dinner at Eddie V's.

Autographed paperback copies of Tantalize (Candlewick, 2008) are available at the Barnes & Noble Westlake (Texas), where April Lurie signed The Latent Powers of Dylan Fontaine (Delacorte, 2008) last Saturday. April also signed stock after the end of the event, so you can find them there, too, along with signed copies of her previous novel, Brothers, Boyfriends & Other Criminal Minds (Delacorte, 2007)(author interview).


Autographed hardcover copies of Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007) are available at Austin's famed indie bookstore, BookPeople. Go upstairs toward the BookKids section and you'll find the YA shelves along the east wall (and in that area). You can also call BookPeople at: 800.853.9757, to purchase a signed copy and request that it be shipped to you (postage will be charged).

You can of course also find the book at more fine indies, the various national chains (now including Wal-Mart), and libraries! If you'd like a signed bookplate for a copy of your own, feel free to write me with a snail/street mail address, and I'll zip it right off!

A friend of Cyn? Keep in touch with me at Blogger, LiveJournal, MySpace, JacketFlap, and most recently, Facebook!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Author Interview: Marlene Perez on Dead Is The New Black

Dead Is the New Black by Marlene Perez (Harcourt, 2008). From the promotional copy:

Fashion statement...or something freakier?

"The first installment of this creepy, campy paperback original series introduces the psychic Giordano sisters—and their very strange hometown, Nightshade, California.

"Teenage girls are being mysteriously attacked all over town, including at Nightshade High School, where Daisy Giordano is a junior.

"When Daisy discovers that a vampire may be the culprit, she can't help but suspect head cheerleader Samantha Devereaux, who returned from summer break with a new 'look.'

"Samantha looks a little...well, dead, and all the popular kids at school are copying her style.

"Is looking dead just another fashion trend for pretty popular Samantha, or is there something more sinister going on? To find out, Daisy joins the cheerleading squad....

"Dead is the New Black is a fast-paced mystery that combines romance, humor, sibling rivalry, and lots of attitude."

We last spoke in March 2006 about Unexpected Development (Roaring Brook, 2004)(author interview)! What's new in your writing life?

I've been writing up a storm. I try to keep working on something no matter what. Unexpected Development was the first novel I ever completed. After that, I promptly wrote a novel that will stay in a drawer. Then I wrote Love in the Corner Pocket, which came out in May.

I want to focus on your new paranormal series, but first, tell us about Love in the Corner Pocket (Scholastic, 2008). How would you describe the story?

It's about a love and billiards triangle, and it's set in Laguna Beach, California, which is very close to the city where I live. I played pool (unlike Chloe, the main character in LITCP, I played it badly) when I was in high school, and I was intrigued by the idea of a female competing in a traditionally male game.

While I was writing the book, I had to learn about serious pool playing, and I spent hours watching competitive pool on television. There are some amazing female players.

Congratulations, too, on the release of Dead Is The New Black (Harcourt, 2008)! I love that it's a genre bender--a paranormal mystery with romance and comedic elements! Could you tell us more about the book?

Dead Is the New Black is the first book in a trilogy. It's about three sisters who solve paranormal mysteries in their California high school. I think the reason it's a genre bender is because I love to read in so many genres myself.

The main character is Daisy, who is the youngest. She feels inferior to her two beautiful and psychic sisters and her gorgeous mother, who is also psychic.

Daisy becomes suspicious that something strange is going on at her high school when the head cheerleader returns from summer vacation with a new look and suddenly, "dead" is in.

What was your initial inspiration for writing the novel?

I love urban fantasies, paranormals, and especially vampire novels. I started reading Anne Rice novels when I was in high school and try to read everything in the vampire canon. I'm also a huge "Buffy"/"Angel" fan.

I also have a thing for protagonists who use humor as a shield. That's definitely part of my own make-up. If someone compliments me, I immediately make a joke. Although I'm trying just to say "thank you" instead.

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

I'd always wanted to write a paranormal novel, and I'd been working on an outline.

One of the things that may be different about me from other writers is that I always like to start with a good title. I'm very attached to my titles, although like most authors, I've had to give them up occasionally. I'm thrilled that the "Dead Is" titles have stayed the same.

For some reason, Dead Is The New Black popped into my mind and then Daisy kind of just bloomed (bad pun intended) from there.

I'd just signed on with a new agent in August 2006, after he'd read the manuscript of Love In The Corner Pocket, and he asked me what else I was working on.

When I told him about my idea for Dead Is The New Black, he loved it and immediately began shopping the outline and three chapters around. It went to auction and sold to Julie Tibbott at Harcourt the day before my birthday.

A month later, he sold Love In The Corner Pocket to Abby McAden at Scholastic/Point, right after my husband's birthday. I really like birthdays these days! So, it will be a little over two years from concept to publication.

It was kind of a surreal experience. One minute, I'm without an agent and/or a book contract, and then suddenly, I had a fabulous agent and four books under contract and only one of them (Love In The Corner Pocket) was written. And much of the credit goes to my dynamo of an agent, Stephen Barbara (agent interview).

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

I've always loved supernatural stories, but I think it was a challenge to try to bring something new to the table. There are so many wonderful authors out there who write in this genre.

I did do a lot of research, especially to learn more about psychics. I love music, so it was fun to find the perfect songs for the jukebox. It was also a challenge to create an imaginary town and to give it the perfect name.

I have to confess that I asked for help in naming the town where Daisy and her family live, and my critique partner and my daughter both came up with Nightshade, which I think is just right.

Is this the first book in a series or trilogy? Could you give us some hint as to where it's going?

Dead Is The New Black will be followed by Dead Is A State of Mind and Dead Is So Last Year. Daisy finds out something surprising about herself, and we may or may not finally find out what really happened to Daisy's father.

What inspired you to do a multi-book storyline?

I really loved Daisy and her sisters and thought that there were more stories to tell.

And I had so much fun writing those books! When I wasn't banging my head against the wall, wondering why I thought I could write a mystery-romance-humor-paranormal, that is.

What advice do you have for writers who're interested in doing the same?

I read a lot of writing books about how to write a proposal. I also think you really need to like your main character because you're going to be spending a lot of time with her.

Back in March 2006, you were still relatively new to the author's life. What lessons have you learned since?

Don't let either praise or criticism go to your head, give back to the writing community whenever you can, and surround yourself with positive people who believe in you.

What did you do right? What, given a chance, would you have done differently?

What did I do right? Wow, it was all such a blur! Two of the things I did right were to ask other, more experienced writers for advice and to keep a positive attitude.

One of the things I would have done differently is I would have worked on a paranormal much earlier, since I'd been wanting to write one for years.

In what areas, if any, are you still pushing yourself--both in terms of craft and publishing as a business?

I think you always have to push yourself to try new things in your craft, so I'm always looking for ways to improve and grow as a writer.

I think the best way to pick a new project is to pursue the one you're the most scared of, to go toward the fear. I've heard several actors say that's how they pick the roles they choose, and I think it applies to writing as well.

And we all have those ideas that are bigger than what we're currently capable of, so my next goal is to work on something that will help my writing stretch and grow.

What are you doing when you're not writing?

Hanging out with my husband and kids, going to the beach (although I've been on deadline this summer and haven't made it once) and reading.

We're all really into comic books, and just got back from the "nerd prom" otherwise known as Comic-Con.

What can your fans look forward to next?

After the Dead Is books, I have a stand-alone contemporary YA coming out with Scholastic/Point called The Comeback, which is about a girl who is ousted from the popular clique and plots her way back to popularity.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Author Interview: Suzanne Selfors on To Catch a Mermaid and Saving Juliet

Suzanne Selfors on Suzanne Selfors: "I grew up on Bainbridge Island, which is a thirty minute ferry ride from Seattle. Really, it's an ideal place to grow up because we had the beach, the woods, and a safe place to run wild.

"My dad taught history in middle school and fished in Alaska during the summer. My mom stayed at home for most of my childhood. I have a younger sister who is an ultra marathon runner. She's amazing.

"When I graduated from high school, like most everyone in my class, I wanted to get as far away from the island as possible. And I did, traveling through Europe and going to school on the East Coast. But when I got pregnant with baby #1, I moved back. It's still an ideal place to raise kids."

How would you describe yourself as a kid? As a young adult?

I was a happy kid. I loved playing dress-up with my best friend, Elizabeth. And we made tons of movies with my super 8 camera. I wrote plays and picture books and watched lots of Saturday morning cartoons. We built forts, rode horses and bicycles, and ran wild. It was a different world before computers.

I was fairly happy in my teen years too, though I limited myself to a smaller group of friends. I was madly in love with one guy, but he didn't notice me until our senior year when I finally got the courage to ask him out. High school was all about performing for me, in plays and in dance productions. My parents started having marriage problems, and so being in plays was a way to get out of the house.

College was tough for me. I had a major depressive episode that changed my life for a couple of years. It was horrid.

Why first inspired you to write for young readers?

My kids. I have two, and my husband and I used to read to them every single night. I loved what I was reading and realized that there was this huge Renaissance going on in children's literature.

Every time I went to a bookstore, I'd start in the adult section, find nothing I wanted to read, and then ended up in the kids' section with an armful of books. I wanted to be a part of it.

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

Stumbles? Ha! I fell on my face!

The first year of writing was a glorious year. September to September, I wrote an adult novel, signed with an agent, and the novel went into submission to twelve major houses. I thought I was in heaven. I thought I was a sure thing. Could it get any easier?

Of course nothing is a sure thing in this business. I got twelve rejections. I felt like a total loser. Then my next two adult novels didn't sell, and my agent lost interest in me.

Here's a big lesson learned: Do not write a sequel until you have sold the first novel!

Here's another lesson learned: Sometimes, in this business, you have to be willing to reinvent yourself.

That's what I did. I got another agent and I tried my hand at a different genre. My first kids' book, To Catch a Mermaid (Little Brown, 2007), went out on a Thursday, and by following Monday, we had two offers. Three more came in over the next few days. I had found my voice.

Congratulations on the release of To Catch a Mermaid (Little Brown, 2007) and Saving Juliet (Bloomsbury, 2008)! Let's start with To Catch a Mermaid! Could you tell us a little about the story?

It's the story of a brother and sister who find a lost merbaby and their quest to return the merbaby to its parents.

What was your initial inspiration for writing this book?

My inspiration was a walk in Stanley Park, in Vancouver, Canada. All these kids were playing in the tide pools, squealing with delight as they discovered little wonders. It hit me right then that whether a kid grows up on the beach like I did or whether a kid grows up in the city, the beach always yields treasures.

I asked myself, what would be the most amazing treasure a kid could find on the beach?

My answer--a merbaby.

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

I wrote the book quickly, in about five months. It poured forth. Not like the adult novels where I often found myself fighting through a chapter; this story came fast and furious. I loved writing it.

My agent wasn't quite sure she wanted to represent a kids' book but she read it and got really excited. It ended up going to auction, which was one of the best days of my life. There's nothing like feeling wanted after you've gotten so many rejections.

But the biggest event was when I shipped the manuscript off to Jeanne DuPrau. I'd never met Jeanne, I still haven't, but City of Ember (Yearling, 2004) was one of my favorite books that I had read with my daughter. Jeanne said she wasn't all that fond of books about magic, but she read it over Labor Day weekend and loved it! When I got that email from her, I started crying.

Having an author you admire read your work and praise it is one of the best feelings in the world.

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

The biggest challenge for me, each and every time I sit down to write, is trying to balance my "mom" role with my "author" role. I don't have a daily schedule. I don't write every day. It's really difficult for me to separate myself from my domestic duties.

I find moments--sometimes at my desk, sometimes in my car while my son is at water polo practice. I haven't figured out the right formula, and it's a constant struggle.

The "direct descendants of Vikings" play a charming role in the book! How did this come to be?

My father was Norwegian and very proud of that fact. He belonged to a club called The Sons of Norway. He used to wear a Viking hat around the house.

Funny, but I didn't realize that the character of Halvor was based on my father until I had finished the book. It's so obvious now, but it wasn't at the time. He died at age 59, and his spirit found its way into my story.

Although it has dual-gender appeal, yours has to be the most boy-friendly mermaid story I've ever read! Do you have any thoughts on gender and reading choices?

I wanted to write a book for boys and girls. This was a strategy on my part, hoping it would make the book more marketable. And I wanted my son and my daughter to enjoy the story. That's why the mermaid is more of a wild creature and not a Disney mermaid. I definitely wanted to draw boys in.

The title of the book was not my first choice. I didn't want the word "mermaid" to appear in the title, afraid that it would turn off boys. But publishing houses rely on the shared wisdom of a sales staff, marketing staff, editorial staff, art staff, etc, and more girls buy books than boys, hence their choice of title.

From my visits at schools, boys have admitted that they were worried about reading a "mermaid" book. So most of my readers are definitely girls. The way boys will discover this book is through word of mouth.

What did Catia Chien's (interior black-and-white) illustrations bring to your story?

Catia gets me. She gets the quirky, weirdness of my stories. She's gets the odd humor. I love her interpretations. She's doing the interiors for my next middle grade, too.

You have a wonderful facility for intertwining the humorous and heartfelt! Do you have any advice for other writers in this regard?

Humor is tricky. It can't be forced. I don't even think it can be taught. And it's so subjective. People either get you or they don't.

Humorous books don't tend to win awards, they don't tend to be taken seriously. One reviewer called me "hysterical" while another called me "twee." I had to look up that word. It's not very nice.

The humorous and the heartfelt, as you put it, come from the same place, and that is honesty.

Kids want honesty.

Shifting focus, what first inspired Saving Juliet?

I was under contract for a second middle grade novel, and my intent was to start writing it, but this story wouldn't get out of my head.

I never planned to write YA, never even read much YA but the story wanted to be written.

The most logical course is to stick with one genre, develop readership and write, write, write. But I wanted to tell the Juliet story, and so I threw logic out the window.

How would you describe the novel?

It's a quest of self-discovery. A girl trying to figure out who she is, like most teen girls--trying to find her own voice and find the courage to let others hear that voice.

It's a fantasy because the hero, Mimi, gets transported into the story of "Romeo and Juliet."

What was the biggest challenge in writing the book?

Everything!

At this point in my life, I'm totally in touch with middle graders because that's what I've just been through with my kids.

But teens? Whoa, that's a whole other world I'm just entering. So, I knew right off that I wouldn't write a trendy book, using trendy language.

The roadblock I faced was that while the story was very high-concept, which excited my agent, the magic would prove to be an issue. There's this idea that teens aren't so interested in magic, they want real things, real problems in the real world.

But I wanted that magical element, and so I just went for it.

How is it different writing for the upper YA audience (as opposed to middle graders)?

I think that Juliet is really for a younger YA market. Most of my letters come from 13- and 14-year-olds. And ninth graders write to me to tell me that they enjoyed it because they had to read "Romeo and Juliet" in school.

What is different? Middle graders are all about adventure. They believe anything is possible. And so writing fantasy for them is the ultimate fun ride.

Teens want an element of romance, which is always the most difficult part of the story for me to write.

What are the important considerations in writing a fantasy? What, if anything, did you have to learn the hard way?

Setting is everything in fantasy. I read fantasy because I want a story to take me to another place and time. In my own stories, the setting may seem to be of this world. There are aspects of it that are certainly recognizable, but something is always different, something is always other-worldly. Blending in the magic is the trickiest part.

One thing I've had to learn is not to rush my endings. I tend to do this because after so many revisions a writer can just say, "Let's end this thing already. I'm sick of writing this story!" So, I've learned to set the work-in-progress aside more often. Take a good break before I head into the final stretch.

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

I've only been published since September 2007, so I'm still learning how to balance.

With the first book I went a little nuts on the local level, doing bookstores, schools, conferences, etc., and it really exhausted me and took time from my writing.

So when Juliet came along in February 2008, I was so worn out I didn't do a thing. Feast or famine, there's got to be a better way. I'm writing two books a year, which is nuts in itself, so how does one go about promoting two books a year and finding time to write? I don't know what the answer is. Maybe someone will let me know.

What do you do outside the world of books?

I play with my kids, raise chickens, grow vegetables and flowers, draw cartoons, walk my dog, go to lots of movies and plays, volunteer for our local library newspaper, and sort an endless pile of laundry.

What can your fans look forward to next?

My next middle grade book is Fortune's Magic Farm, March 2009. It's about a girl who inherits the last piece of land on Earth where magical ingredients can be grown. I love this book!

My next YA book is Coffeehouse Angel, Spring 2009. I'm working the final revision right now. It's about a girl who works in a failing coffeehouse and an angel who befriends and falls in love with her. It's a lot of fun.