Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Spooky News

Movie Trailer for "Where The Wild Things Are" (Oct. 16, 2009).

Print Run Set for New DiCamillo Novel by Judith Rosen from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "This week Candlewick revealed the cover art and announced a hefty first printing of 500,000 copies for the 208-page fable, in which a boy who learns from a fortuneteller that not only is his sister alive but an elephant will take him to her."

Introducing the cover of Ash: an interview with designer Alison Impey from author Malinda Lo. Peek: "When I first read a manuscript, I’m immediately looking for imagery and moods that are specific and unique to the book. I try to focus on the themes that carry through the story. I usually read the manuscript once for the overall feeling of the book and a second time..."

Free Book Stimulus Plan: Increase Your Karmic Footprint: " Wanda Jewell, Executive Director of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance for nearly 20 years, is overrun with books. All kind of books, galleys, advance reading copies, advance reader editions, paperbound and hardbound, slip-covered and not, limited editions, signed and unsigned, personalized and not; and finds herself overrun with books. Books here, books there, books, books, everywhere...and when contemplating the management of her extensive personal library, had her aha moment. How to weed her collection and support her southern indie bookstores at the same time? Thus was born the Free Book Stimulus Plan." Source: David Macinnis Gill.

Mixing Writing & Adult Children from Kristi Holl at Writers First Aid. Peek: "Just when your days (or evenings and weekends) are blissfully free to write, your college-age children are home for the summer. They turn your precise schedule upside down. They also provide such a temptation to sit and chat and go shopping, etc. Or maybe your adult child moves back home, perhaps with small children." See also Kristi on Staying Afloat in Hard Times. Peek: "The slump eventually ended, as it will again for writers struggling in the current recession. After five years of selling no books, I sold four of my middle-grade novels in one year. If I had quit writing my fiction during that recession, I would have had nothing to sell when publishers started buying again."

From Damsel in Distress to Warrior Princess by Tim O'Leary from The Torch: Exploring All Things Fantasy. Peek: "...it is in their influence on female characters in contemporary fantasy that one can see how the legacies of Buffy and Xena truly endure. And that influence is vast." Source: Brent Hartinger.

The King's Rose by Alisa Libby: an author interview from Melissa Wyatt at The YA Authors Cafe. Peek: "My agent advised me—rightly so—to cut the first 190 pages and have the story begin when Catherine arrives at court. Still, I was stuck for a while: should I start the story when she first arrives at court, or when she suddenly is noticed by King Henry? Or should it start later, when she is already the king’s favorite?"

The Amaranth Enchantment by Julie Berry: an author interview by Emily from Homespun Light. Peek: "I don't write when the kids are awake and needing attention. I write when they're asleep, or elsewhere. I need to focus in order to write, and that's hard to do when they're here."

Event Planning by Kelly Bingham at Through the Tollbooth. Peek: "We have noble intentions through our visits, and it is true that many authors do them for free. But most authors get paid, and to be frank, many authors earn up to half their annual income from school visits. So that is something to consider as well." See also Creating Your Presentation(s). Read a Cynsations interview with Kelly.

More Personally

Hello, spring! I hope to see some of you at 3 p.m. Thursday, April 2 at the Candlewick Press booth at the Texas Library Association conference. On a related note, I was so incredibly jazzed and honored to see the cover art for Eternal (Candlewick, 2009) included in Professor Nana AKA Teri Lesesne's slide show "Best New YA Books TLA 09." See the low-down on other Austin authors at TLA from Varian Johnson.

The next day, Friday, April 3, I'll be speaking at 4 p.m. at the Barbara Bush Branch Library in Spring, Texas. The event will include an informal talk, reading, and Q&A session.

The latest recommendation of Eternal (Candlewick, 2009) comes from Garden in my Pocket: "Once again, Smith has managed to grab hold of the vampire genre, spin it around her head and pitch it over a mountain." Read the whole review.

What is Cynthia Leitich Smith reading? from Campaign for the American Reader: The official blog of the Campaign for the American Reader, an independent initiative to encourage more readers to read more books. What else? Writers Read: Cynthia Leitich Smith.

Highlights of the past week included a celebratory lunch (in honor of Eternal (Candlewick, 2009) with the Delacorte Dames and Dude--April Lurie, Varian Johnson, Shana Burg, Jennifer Ziegler, and Margo Rabb--at Suzi's China Kitchen in South Austin. Thanks, DDDs!

Sadly, I was feeling under the weather on Saturday and missed two sparkling social/book events. Greg was able to go, though, and he took this picture of Laurie Halse Anderson's reception at BookPeople. Here, Laurie is talking to Alison Dellenbaugh, April Lurie, Varian Johnson, and Carmen Oliver. You can also see Lindsey Lane and Mark G. Mitchell chatting in the background.

Here's a closer look at Mark and Lindsey with Donna Bowman Bratton, April Lurie, and Jennifer Taylor in the background.

Later that night, author-illustrator Erik K hosted a book-signing party in celebration of A Dog a Day! Don't miss the documentary.

And in other news, Greg and I received these nifty promotional items for Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd, edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci (Little, Brown, summer 2009). (Yes, that is a pocket protector and little box of candy). Our story in the anthology is "The Wrath of Dawn."

Remember my interview with publicist Julie Schoerke of JSKCommunications? As a thank you she sent a set of six "antique book coasters" from Expressions. Aren't they nifty? Perfect for a bookish hostess like myself. Note: catalog image used with permission.

The winner of Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt (Front Street, 2006) is Pamela in California! Watch for more giveaways in the future!

And that's it for me this week!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Author Interview: Catherine Gilbert Murdock on Princess Ben

Catherine Gilbert Murdock graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 1988 and went on to earn a doctorate from Penn.

Her first novel, Dairy Queen (Houghton Mifflin, 2006), won the Borders Original Voices Award, the Midwest Booksellers Award, the Great Lakes Booksellers Award, numerous Readers' Choice awards, and is currently in production for a television series. Her other books include The Off Season (Houghton Mifflin, 2007) and Princess Ben (Houghton Mifflin, 2008).

What first inspired you to write for young readers?

Um, I didn't really set out to write for "young readers," really, but for myself. I came up with the idea of a girl playing football and couldn't stop until I'd written the book, because I was dying to read it.

But I've always adored YA fiction, and so I think on some level I was simply writing to my passion. Also, I have the mentality of a 13-year-old, so that part wasn't hard at all.

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

I didn't write Dairy Queen for publication, really--I'd been a screenwriter for almost a decade when I first set out and so was intimately familiar with rejection and quite accepting of it. The book was more of an intellectual exercise, a practice novel so I'd have a better sense of what to do when I actually wrote one.

Then my sister, who's a published author, read it and said, "You need to submit this." She recommended an agent, who read it and agreed to represent me, but the book needed tweaking. So I tweaked it for her, because again, I'd spent a decade interminably revising screenplays and was very comfortable with that process.

Then she called to say she'd sold it, and I thought, "Well, isn't that nice." Without ever realizing, at any point in this process, that what I'd just done was rare and extremely difficult. It's not even a Cinderella story because Cinderella, you know, suffers a lot before she wins the prince.

I didn't suffer, or at least I didn't view it as suffering. I enjoy revising. It's only now, looking back, that it's slowly dawned on me that most writers, well, suffer. Now I feel really dumb.

Looking back on your writing apprenticeship, what helped you most in terms of developing your craft?

Screenwriting, screenwriting, screenwriting. If you want to write fiction, don't write short stories: write screenplays. Because the structure is so precise, and the demands so rigorous, that you can't fudge anything. You have to learn to create great dialog and sympathetic characters, and rising drama and a gripping conclusion because, well, that's what a screenplay is.

And then you move from that experience to fiction, and everyone thinks you're a genius because you can write tight dialog. Tight dialog doesn't require genius, but it does require discipline. Screenwriting's where you get that discipline.

Congratulations on the success of Princess Ben (Houghton Mifflin, 2008)! What first inspired you to write this story?

I had a dream about a girl jumping out the window with a broom. It was so dramatic, one of those dreams where you wake up gasping. And it just glommed onto my consciousness, so much that I had to keep going with it or I would have...well, I would have had to write the sequel to Dairy Queen, which was overdue and very stressful. So instead I pounded the first draft of Princess Ben in something like 16 days.

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

See above for the first spark. Then I sent it to my agent and editor, who both said, tactfully, "Fantasy is kind of oversold right now."

I hadn't thought of Princess Ben as fantasy--the term hadn't even entered my consciousness until my agent uttered the word. I thought of it as a fairy tale.

But I responded with something like, "pooh pooh," though now I know that fantasy is, well, pretty thick on the ground these days.

Plus, neither of them thought the manuscript was that stellar, which at that point it wasn't. So I ground my way through The Off Season, and then went back and gutted the manuscript. Then gutted it again. That broomstick dream occurred in November 2005, and the book was released Spring 2008, so the process took a while.

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, and logistical) in writing this novel?

Not much research! I love that about fantasy. I'd written my dissertation on drinking customs in late 19th and early 20th century America, so I had this wealth of slowly rusting facts related to dining etiquette and food preparation--can't tell you what a blast it was to weave all that data in.

I did need a spot of research on military-dress terminology and forms of address for royalty and nobility; not that anyone will ever notice, but Princess Ben very precise about that sort of thing.

And since I imagined the kingdom of Montagne as a sort of southern European bastion, I needed to make sure that all the foods were Old World--I had a bit of panic, for example, about nectarines. But they're as old as apples, whew.

It drives me absolutely bonkers when authors get that sort of detail wrong. I read a kids' book last year that on the first page described a heifer who'd lost a calf. Well, a heifer by definition is a cow who hasn't calved yet. You have a calf, you're not a heifer. Period. Don't use words you can't even define.

Back to Princess Ben...psychologically, the story began with Queen Sophia as a classic fairy tale villainess, but the more I wrote, the more I kept returning to her--what made her tick? Plus I'd also done a fair amount of work on architectural history in my day, so tying that in and relating it to her, was just a joy. Now she's my favorite character.

Logistically I've found that, unless I'm under painful deadline, I simply cannot write if my children are in the house. Don't even speak to me about snow days. Alone, though, I just sit there and churn away until something good comes out. Or I play solitaire.

How do you balance your writing against the responsibilities of being an author (business, promotion, etc.)?

Badly! I did a lot of touring last fall, most of it with a hellacious head cold, and that was the tipping point. Don't know how much more touring I'll manage going forward.

I love meeting students, and I'll confess I love staying all by myself in nicer hotels (i.e., the windows need to open), but it's the traveling that takes it out of me.

Also, no more bookstore events. Ever. Unless one is Stephenie Meyer, there is simply not enough turnout.

It makes me very jealous of picture book writers, who have the most enthusiastic fans who show up in droves while we YA writers sit in a sea of empty chairs...

I may have to write a picture book one of these days just to feel that love.

Who are your first manuscript readers and why?

My children. I read draft #3 or 4 aloud to them; when they start to squirm, it means the writing's bad, and should probably be deleted. Took me many years to learn, but boy, is this method foolproof. Then a couple drafts later, I send it to my agent, who has an eye like a jeweler.

If you could go back in time and talk to your beginning writer self, what would you tell her?

I wouldn't tell her how hard it is, that's for sure! Sometimes ignorance is truly bliss. I don't think I'd tell her anything, really; though I wouldn't mind my 2011 self giving me some tips on how to get through this dry patch.

As a reader, so far what is your favorite children's/YA book of 2009 and why?

I just read The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (HarperCollins, 2008) last weekend and loved it. This means something, because I'm instinctually suspicious of award winners--I read with a jealous and critical eye. But it was truly wonderful.

My 13-year-old son is reading it now, and I can't tell you how sweet it is to discuss it with him. We had a great chat last night about Miss Lupescu versus Lupin in Harry Potter.

What do you do outside the world of books?

Cook, garden, procrastinate -- I cleaned out the medicine cabinet on Monday! Oh, it's tidy now. Lots of child schlepping. Some teaching of creative writing, but it's not really my calling. Hard to critique others when I'm too busy criticizing myself.

What can your fans look forward to next?

My lips are sealed. But it will not be set in Wisconsin.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Spooky News & Keturah and Lord Death Giveaway

Last call: enter to win an autographed hardcover of National Book Award Finalist Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt (Front Street, 2006) from Cynsations. To enter, email me (scroll and click envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address and type "Keturah and Lord Death" in the subject line. Deadline: March 30! All Cynsational readers are eligible! Note: there is a slight uneveness to the cut of the back of the cover and a couple of slightly bent page corners, but it's otherwise in great shape.

More News

Congratulations to the finalists for the Texas Institute of Letters Award for Best Young Adult Book: Varian Johnson for My Life as a Rhombus (Flux), Anne Estevis for Chicken Foot Farm (Arte Publico/Pinata), and Jo Harper for Birth of the Fifth Sun (Texas Tech Press). The TIL winners in all categories will be announced at the organization's annual meeting in April.

Marvelous Marketer: Harold Underdown (Author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books) from Shelli at Market My Words: Marketing Advice for Authors/Illustrators from a Marketing Consultant & Aspiring Children's Book Author. Peek: "Some books can be effectively and efficiently promoted by their authors, while others can't. Some authors aren't good promoters. There are times when writing is a better use of your time, and writers shouldn't feel guilty about that."

Check out NYPL's Stuff for the Teen Age 2009. Categories include The Undead, Girl Drama, For Real, Urban Stories, It Hurts, For Guys, LOL, Sci Fi/Fantasy, and RIP.

Attention Young Readers: vote in the Children's Choice Book Awards. Note: teachers/librarians may also want to highlight this link to their students/patrons.

Writing and School-Age Kids by Kristi Holl from Writers First Aid. Peek: "You may also work full- or part-time. More demands are made on your evenings and weekends. At this stage, the key is to be flexible and disciplined."

A Rotten Resolution from Stephanie Green at Through the Tollbooth. Peek: "The ending is where you tie up loose ends. The resolution is the moment when your main character realizes the circumstance she has created and accepts the consequences of her actions and acts accordingly."

Fairy Tale Contest from Cyn Balog, author of Fairy Tale (Delacorte, 2009), at the B-log Blog. Peek: "Grand Prize: A signed copy of Fairy Tale (hot off the presses, before you can buy it in stores!) AND A hand-crafted, silver fortune cookie necklace with a special message, Believe. This is just like the one that Morgan wears in Fairy Tale!"

Parent Ex Machina from Editorial Anonymous. Peek: "Parents swoop in to solve kids' problems, give them things they couldn't have gotten by themselves, and save them from danger. That's real life. But it's not real storytelling.

A Chart & A Checklist from Helen Hemphill at Through the Tollbooth. Peek: "So let's randomly say that a novel is 200 pages. If it's longer or shorter, you can figure out the percentages on your own. Here's a story sequence chart that I made up from my notes..." Note: tons of insight into pacing a novel! Read a Cynsations interview with Helen.

Skype an Author Into Your Library or Classroom from library media specialist Sarah Chauncey and author Mona Kerby. Peek: "This Wiki provides a page for each author who joins the network. A template has been designed to ensure consistency of content among authors and to keep things simple for authors, teachers, and librarians. The author pages provide procedural and contact information." Source: Elizabeth O. Dulemba.

Erik Kuntz-One Bad Mouse from Lindsey Lane at This and That. Peek: "I blog about my art, I create tutorial blogs for computer graphics and web issues, and I sometimes write about pop culture. I also post a regular webcomic, which is sort of a blog."

Online Social Networking for the Busy Writer: How to Blog, Tweet, and Friend (and Still Have Time to Write): an online class from author Susan Taylor Brown. Note: " May 4th – May 7th That’s Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday." Cost is $60.

Library-lovin' challenge from Jennifer R. Hubbard. Peek: "Why not open up a blog post in which I promise to donate 25 cents per comment (per unique commenter, that is--no getting 100 comments from the same person!) to my local libraries?" Also: "I'm going to do this starting the evening of March 26 and ending around noon on March 28." Note: Bloggers, let her know if you'd like to host a challenge, too. Source: Jama Rattigan.

Getting All Blogged Down by David Lubar. Peek: "A great trailer or a killer essay might get attention. But even then, I'm not sure it translates into increased book sales or even return blog readers. I'm pretty sure it is much better to have a blogger with tons of readers mention your book." Learn more about The Battle of the Red Hot Pepper Weenies (Starscape, March 2009). Read a Cynsations interview with David.

Maggie Stiefvater: the newly designed official author site. Read a Cynsations interview with Maggie.

Writing the Query Letter: a Q & A with Wendy Burt-Thomas, author of The Writer's Digest Guide to Query Letters (2009), from The Stiletto Gang. Peek: "I remember telling someone about a really high-paying writing gig I got and he said, 'Wow. You have the best luck!' I thought, Luck has nothing to do with it! I've worked hard to get where I am." Source: Susan McBride's Blog.

The Writer Mama Two-Year Anniversary Blog Tour Giveaway: each day in March, Christina Katz, author of Writer Mama: How To Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids (Writers Digest) is blogging and offering a giveaway copy at a new location. See schedule. From Zook Book Nook: "So, whom will you lean on while you write your book? Pick a few people so you don’t wear any one person out. And don't include your agent, your editor, or any of the others on your professional team on your list."

New Voices Award: "Lee & Low, award-winning publisher of children's books, is pleased to announce the tenth annual New Voices Award. The Award will be given for a children's picture book manuscript by a writer of color. The Award winner receives a cash grant of $1000 and our standard publication contract, including our basic advance and royalties for a first time author. An Honor Award winner will receive a cash grant of $500." Note: "Manuscripts will be accepted from May 1, 2009, through September 31, 2009, and must be postmarked within that period." See eligibility, submissions, and announcement information. Source: The Brown Bookshelf.

Encouragement For Writer Wannabes a video interview from Mitali Perkins. Peek: "Each rejection means you can learn. Each rejection means you can pick yourself up and try again." Read a Cynsations interview with Mitali.

First Color eBook Reader is Here! from Tracy Marchini at Curtis Brown. Peek: "...does mean that perhaps we'll see beautiful e-picture books? Or maybe, depending on the resolution, beautiful books on the arts that can reproduce an image as well as the print edition?"

The Uninvited by Tim Wynne-Jones: a recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith of GregLSBLog. Peek: "...a richly atmospheric story of stalking, suspense, lies, and family ties."
For Children's Authors: Need a teacher's guide for your book? Ideas for school visits? from Natalie Dias Lorenzi. Peek: "I'll show you how to present your book as an essential link to learning, not merely an 'extra.'" See sample guides, highlighting A Sock is a Pocket for Your Toes by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser (HarperCollins, 2004) and My Father The Dog by Elizabeth Bluemle, illustrated by Randy Cecil (Candlewick, 2006), both PDF files. Source: Liz Garton Scanlon. Peek: "eachers are given less and less discretionary time to devote to these sorts of non-standards-based enrichment activities. And PTAs, librarians and districts are likely to see less and less discretionary funding made available for the same. I'm lucky in that I actually love doing school visits. They exhaust but inspire me and remind me of exactly what it is I'm doing and why."

Mark McVeigh has announced the formation of The McVeigh Agency. Mark has a long career in publishing as an editor and was most recently at Simon & Schuster/Aladdin. Mark may be contacted at: mark@themcveighagency.com Note: Mark was the editor for Santa Knows (Dutton, 2006)(available from Scholastic Book Club).

Cynsational Tip: if you are running a giveaway contest, please include the deadline. Note: at least for me, when I'm trying to decide whether or not to feature the link, it helps to know whether the online promotion is still ongoing.

More Personally

Walker U.K. has tentatively slated Eternal for a fall 2009 release. It will also be published in hardcover by Walker Books Australia and New Zealand in May 2009. See more information.

At Writers Read, Kathi Appelt says of Eternal: "Romance, sorrow, longing ... lots of longing ... all lead up to a story of redemption in the darkest place imaginable, the soul."

Thanks so much to everyone at the Tuscson Festival of Books for their hospitality, especially my escort, Aimee! Thanks also to author pals Janni Lee Simner and Jennifer J. Stewart for making me feel extra welcome!

Highlights of this week included R. L. LaFevers signing at BookPeople. See R.L.'s and P.J. Hoover's reports.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Spooky News & Keturah and Lord Death Giveaway

Reminder: enter to win an autographed hardcover of National Book Award Finalist Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt (Front Street, 2006) from Cynsations. To enter, email me (scroll and click envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address and type "Keturah and Lord Death" in the subject line. Deadline: March 30! All Cynsational readers are eligible! Note: there is a slight uneveness to the cut of the back of the cover and a couple of slightly bent page corners, but it's otherwise in great shape.

More News

Here's the book trailer to Fragile Eternity by Melissa Marr (HarperCollins, 2009). See also the newly launched micro site. Read a Cynsations interview with Melissa.

Getting a Spine by Tiffany Trent from Eudaimonium. Peek: "I've always hated it when people tell me the two basic things about fiction: a character must want and a character must change. Because the rebel in me always says: Why?" Read a Cynsations interview with Tiffany.

Barry Goldblatt Literary has added two new agents: Joe Monti and Beth Fleisher. Source: Jo Knowles via Publishers Weekly. Read a Cynsations interview with Barry.

Combine Babies and Bylines by Kristi Holl from Writers First Aid. Peek: "The (survival) skills you need to both write and parent change with each stage of your children's lives. (Sometimes your biggest need is time or energy. Other times your biggest need is keeping your sanity!) So over the next few days, I thought I'd blog about practical ways to combine writing and parenting throughout these stages."

On Conflict from Nathan Bransford - Literary Agent. Peek: "A character at peace with their surroundings and the characters they're interacting with is, well, completely boring."

"Take a right turn. Or a left." from Helen Hemphill at Through the Tollbooth. Peek: "So, as you are working the middle of your novel, you probably are thinking about the conflict and moving your story forward. You probably aren't thinking that your story should just change directions. But it should—that’s what will keep readers turning the page." Read a Cynsations interview with Helen.

The Silence of the Bunnies: the revelation of Horn Book editor Roger Sutton's Kryptonite from Read Roger. Peek: "We've been entrusted with the care of Ruby for a couple of weeks. She may look like a rabbit but behaves more like a Sphinx, her silent inscrutability causing me to project all manner of implacable menace into her unblinking gaze." Note: raises the question of whether Roger is a vengeance demon, but to be sure, this is my Geektastic link description of the day. Read a Cynsations interview with Roger.

In celebration of the upcoming release of Stargazer (HarperCollins, March 24, 2009), author Claudia Gray is giving ten winners their choice of Evernight Academy T-shirts and other nifty stuff. Learn more here. Note: peek at the Stargazer prologue and chapter one.

More Personally

Thank you to my website designer, Lisa Firke of Hit Those Keys, for my beautiful new page to showcase my book trailers. Read a Cynsations interview with Lisa.

Thanks to author Helen Hemphill for reporting a sighting of Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007) in Cape Town (South Africa). Wow, I can hardly believe a story made it all there way there from that first draft tapped out on the daybed in my sun room. Read a Cynsations interview with Helen.

Author Interview: Cynthia Leitich Smith from {Insert Book Title Here}. Peek: "I'm pretty happy as a human being. But if I had to pick, I'd rather be an angel. Among other things, I'd get better hair with the deal. Are shape shifters an option? It would be fun to be a werecat!"

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Author Interview: Laurie Faria Stolarz on Deadly Little Secret

You last visited Cynsations in December 2007 to discuss the release of Project 17 (Hyperion, 2007). Do you have any more recent news to share on that novel or your other books?

Project 17 will be coming out in paperback in June. For its release, I'll be launching a very exciting contest (more details will be available this spring). Also, I was very happy to hear that Project 17 made the ALA Quick Pick List for 2009.

Congratulations on the success of Deadly Little Secret (Hyperion, 2008)! Could you tell us about the novel?

Up until three months ago, everything about sixteen-year-old Camelia's life had been fairly ordinary: decent grades; an okay relationship with her parents; and a pretty cool part-time job at an art studio downtown.

But when Ben, the mysterious new guy, starts junior year at her high school, her life becomes far from ordinary.

Rumored to be somehow responsible for his ex-girlfriend's accidental death, Ben is immediately ostracized by everyone on campus. Except for Camelia. She's reluctant to believe he's trouble, even when her friends try to convince her otherwise. Instead she's inexplicably drawn to him, and to his touch.

But soon, Camelia is receiving eerie phone calls and strange packages with threatening notes. Ben insists she' in danger, and that he can help, but she's not so sure she can trust him. She knows he's hiding something, and he's not the only one with a secret.

What was the inspiration for writing it?

I wanted to write a story where the main character has to struggle with the idea of falling in love with someone who could potentially be dangerous. I tinkered with this concept in the first three books of my Blue is for Nightmares Series [(Blue is for Nightmares (Llewellyn, 2003), White is for Magic (Llewellyn, 2004), and Silver is for Secrets (Llewellyn, 2005) as well as in Bleed (Hyperion, 2006)].

In Bleed, in particular, there's a young male character who was convicted for the murder of his girlfriend. His next relationship consists of pen pal letters he exchanges with a young girl while he's in prison. Without giving too much away, the relationship is briefly pursued once he is released, but I wanted to bring this concept to another level.

Additionally, I wanted to continue experimenting with the supernatural (which I also use in my Blue is for Nightmares Series as well as in Project 17), showing how we all have our own inner senses and intuition and how, with work, we can tap into those senses and make them stronger.

I started researching different types of supernatural powers and discovered the power of psychometry (the ability to sense things through touch). The concept fascinated me, and so I wanted to bring it out in a character, showing how sometimes even the most extraordinary powers can also be a curse.

Lastly, I wanted this book to be part of another series because I love the idea of growing a main character over the course of several books. Deadly Little Lies, the second book in the Touch Series, will be released this fall.

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

I sold the book based on a detailed synopsis. It came out about a year and a half later. I keep a strict ten-pages-per-week deadline for myself while I'm working on a project. This keeps me right on target, time-wise.

Do you have a vision for your career as an author or take it book-to-book or both? How does that come together in your mind?

I definitely do like to take things book-by-book. I'd like to be able to continue this career for many years to come. I'm having fun with it, I have a generous and devoted fan base, and I'm learning a lot. I'm very lucky and very grateful. For now, that works for me.

Of the ways you reach out to your readers, which do you think are most effective and why?

I'm really enjoying Facebook right now. It's very user-friendly, which is definitely a big plus for me. I like being able to update it so easily, and I've been able to connect with a lot of my readers by using it. I also send out an e-newsletter every couple of months, informing readers about signings, events, new books, and contests.

Do you have a mentor (or did you earlier on)?

Yes, my English professor during my undergraduate time at Merrimack College, Dr. MaryKay Mahoney. I was a business major in college with huge dreams of becoming a writer. It just never occurred to me that I could actually pursue that dream.

I came from a very practical family with not a lot of money, and the idea of becoming a writer was about the equivalent of going to Hollywood and becoming the next Julia Roberts. It just wasn't within the realm of possibility for me.

But MaryKay told me that I owed it to myself to pursue my writing, that I was very talented, and that she knew if I tried I could do it. No one had ever said anything like that to me before. Not so coincidentally, I dedicated Deadly Little Secret to her and to my mother.

Do you work with a critique group, a partner, or exclusively with your editor? Why does that work for you?

For years, I worked in a writers group that I really loved, but then people started doing other things and taking breaks, and so I went back to working on my own.

For Deadly Little Lies, I swapped first draft pages with Stacy DeKeyser, author of Jump the Tracks (Flux, 2008). I really like getting feedback on my work. I think it's important to get that perspective. I get so close to my work and I like having someone there to ask just the right questions along the way.

How has publishing changed since you first entered the field?

It feels as though the young adult market has quadrupled since I first started. It's exciting. There are so many more options for teens to read than when I was a young adult, which makes more opportunities for writers.

I never imagined having the opportunity to write graphic novel, being able to return to my love of screenwriting (I wrote the draft in screenplay format), and having the opportunity to work with an illustrator. But I was able to do just that with Black is for Beginnings, the fifth book in my Blue is for Nightmares Series (Flux, 2009).

If you could go back in time and talk to your beginning-writer self, what would you tell her?

I think she managed pretty well on her own, though I would tell her to have a bit more confidence. Looking back there are indeed some things I would have changed, but I've learned a lot since then, and I think I'm better for the process.

Cynsational Notes

Listen to Laurie read from the first chapter of Deadly Little Secret.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Spooky News & Keturah and Lord Death Giveaway

Enter to win an autographed hardcover of National Book Award Finalist Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt (Front Street, 2006) from Cynsations. From the promotional copy:

"Keturah follows a legendary hart into the king's forest, where she becomes hopelessly lost. Her strength diminishes until, finally, she realizes that death is near. Little does she know that he is a young, handsome lord, melancholy and stern.

"Renowned for her storytelling, Keturah is able to charm Lord Death with a story and thereby gain a reprieve--but only for twenty-four hours She must find her one true love within that time, or all is lost.

"Keturah searches desperately while the village prepares for an unexpected visit from the king and Keturah is thrust into a prominent role as mysterious happenings alarm her friends and neighbors. Lord Death's presence hovers over this all until Keturah confronts him one last time in the harrowing climax."

To enter, email me (scroll and click envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address and type "Keturah and Lord Death" in the subject line. Deadline: March 30! All Cynsational readers are eligible!
Note: there is a slight uneveness to the cut of the back of the cover and a couple of slightly bent page corners, but it's otherwise in great shape.

Congratulations to Martha in Wisconsin, the winner of paperback copy of Never Trust a Dead Man by Vivian Vande Velde (Magic Carpet Books/Harcourt, 2008)!

More News

Interview: Cyn Balog - Author of the upcoming Fairy Tale (Delacorte, June 23, 2009) from Want My YA. Peek: "Fairy Tale is about a teenage girl who learns her boyfriend is a fairy, and that he's due to leave her and return to Otherworld on his 16th birthday. She decides to fool the fairies and fight to keep him with her." Learn more about Fairy Tale.

Fillers and Drainers by Kristi Holl at Writers First Aid. Peek: "After you attend your next writing event (large or small) ask yourself: 'Was I filler or a drainer today?' Did you make encouraging comments as well as ask for help? Did you give as well as take?"

Audiobooks with Mary Burkey of Audiobooker from Elizabeth O. Dulemba. Peek: "No, I don't feel that listening to audiobooks is reading - but it isn't cheating either! In today's world, we often overlook the listening component of Language Arts. By integrating audiobooks into a literacy program, students increase vocabulary, gain fluency, hear how phrasing and intonation results from punctuation, and experience authentic accents and dialects."

Author R.L. LaFevers of Shrinking Violet Promotions fame will be appearing at 11 a.m. March 22 at BookPeople in Austin. Read a Cynsations interview with R.L.

Join author Michelle Knudsen to celebrate the release of The Dragon of Trelian (Candlewick, 2009) from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. April 14 at Books of Wonder (18 W. 18th Street) in New York City! Peek: "A middle-grade fantasy adventure involving a princess, a mage's apprentice, a dragon, a hundred-year war, several secrets, old grudges, new enemies, lots of danger, a little romance, and an evil plot against the kingdom of Trelian that must be stopped at all costs!" Read a sample chapter (PDF file). Read a Cynsations interview with Michelle.

Kids book author accumulating accolades for first novel by Kayla Slimp from The Eagle of Bryan-College Station, Texas. Peek: "Kathi Appelt said she still feels like she's shaking the glitter out of her hair."

Maggie Gets Violent: My Thoughts on Bloodshed in Books by Maggie Stiefvater at Words on Words. Peek: "While I think there's a time and a place for physical pain in a novel (anyone who has read any of my novels will see that I live by these words), I never think that physical pain will have the same affect on the reader that emotional pain does." Read a Cynsations interview with Maggie.

More Personally

Attention MySpace readers: you may want to check out the fan-generated Eternally Tantalizing Role Playing Game and new character page for Sabine on MySpace. In addition, there are now over 400 members of Tantalize Fans Unite! (Thanks, Britmett Bear!).

Attention Facebook readers: you may want to check out my featured author interview at The Ultimate YA Reading Group.

Publishers Weekly says of Eternal: "The confessional style, alternating between Miranda and Zachary's points of view, is intriguing as a diary—readers should be hooked by this fully formed world, up through the action-packed finale."

Gwenda Bond of Shaken & Stirred says of Eternal: "the best kind of sequel--the kind that's even better than the first book... If you never thought guardian angels could be awesome, we have something in common: We were wrong. Dark, witty, fabulous. Read this now."

{Insert Book Title Here} YA Book Blog chimes in: "The whole vampire/guardian angel concept was interesting... I loved how she left us with a glimmer of hope at the end that left me begging. I want the third novel now! I can't wait to see what this author will come out with next."

Thanks to Kim Winter at Kat's Eye for re-reading Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007)!

Thanks to Donna Bowman Bratton for her report on author Lila Guzman's Austin SCBWI presentation (with photos!).

Friday, March 13, 2009

Spooky News & Never Trust a Dead Man Giveaway

Congratulations to Rosemary Clement-Moore on the release of Highway to Hell (Maggie Quinn: Girl vs. Evil)(Delacorte, 2009)! From the promotional copy: "Maggie Quinn was expecting to find plenty of trouble with Lisa over Spring Break. Give a girl a bikini, a beachfront hotel, and an absent boyfriend, and it's as good as a road map to the dark side. But Maggie doesn't have to go looking for trouble. Trouble has started looking for her. One dead cow and a punctured gas tank later, she and Lisa are stuck in Dulcina, Texas—a town so small that it has an owner. And lately life in this small town hasn't been all that peaceful. An eerie predator is stalking the ranchland. Everyone in town has a theory, but not even Maggie’s psychic mojo can provide any answers. And the longer the girls are stranded, the more obvious it becomes that something is seriously wrong. Only no one—not even Maggie's closest ally—wants to admit that they could have been forced on a detour down the highway to hell." Note: Rosemary will be signing the book from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. March 14 at Barnes & Noble in Hurst, Texas! Note: I would be there myself, except I'm heading out of state this weekend. Read a Cynsations interview with Rosemary.

Definitions for the Perplexed: Sell-In and Sell-Through from Editorial Anonymous. Peek: "It's a tough, tough business, and it's only tougher these days. Do everyone a favor and go buy a book, okay?" Note: buy two! Also, if you haven't already read through EA's whole Publishing Dictionary. Very useful info.

Wonderful Bookclub Books! Cheap, Badly Bound, Wonderful Bookclub Books! from Editorial Anonymous. Peek: "The idea of the Scholastic Book Clubs is to make children's books available at prices that children could conceivably afford. In poorer areas, this is a blessing, and studies have shown the important psychological difference that owning a book makes to children."

Interview with Flux Editor Brian Farrey from Karen Screk at Crowe's Nest. Peek: "You can learn from writers whose material you don’t care for just as much as you can from writers whose material you adore. Know what’s out there. It’s very, very easy for me to spot a submission written by someone who hasn't read a contemporary YA novel. Ever." Read a Cynsations interview with Brian.

Attention, Writers with an Advanced Degree: The Fourteenth annual Vermont College of Fine Arts Postgraduate Writers' Conference is scheduled for Aug. 11 to Aug. 17. Note: The event will include two workshops in Writing for Young Adults, led by award-winning author-teachers Kathi Appelt and An Na. Note: the event is open to all writers with an advanced degree, not just VCFA alumni (though of course we hope they'll come).

Dealing With Negativity from Nathan Bransford - Literary Agent. Peek: "All of this boils down to one thing: negativity is a test of strength. If you show weakness in the face of negativity: you lose. If you show strength and character in the face of negativity: you win." See also suggestions from Nathan's readers on Dealing with Frustration. Read a Cynsations interview with Nathan.

How (and When) to Follow-Up with Agents and/or Editors from Tracy Marchini at My VerboCity. Peek: "Sometimes, it seems that writers are over-anxious in their follow-up methods after submitting to an agent or editor. Here's some basic guidelines to make sure your follow-up is professional and effective."

How to stay organized if you are a disorganized writer by Emily Marshall at Author2Author. Peek: "Sometimes I’m dealing with hundreds of story ideas, multiple drafts of a project, and even two or three books at a time. That’s a lot of computer files, paper, and general confusion."

Agent Advice: Kelly Sonnack of The Andrea Brown Literary Agency from Chuck Sambuchino at Guide to Literary Agents. Note: Kelly is looking for middle grade fiction and cultural memoirs. Peek: "I will admit a particular soft spot for picture books but there's only so many of those I can take on at a time. I really love literary, coming-of-age YA, as well as quirky and smart MG. I'm also particularly loving graphic novels for kids these days. We're living in a time that is ripe for them, and it's exciting to help shape that." Source: Alice's CWIM Blog.

Congratulations to Arthur Slade on the U.S. release of Jolted! See trailer below. Trying to get a feel for steampunk in the children's-YA market? Check out the covers of Arthur Slade's upcoming novel, The Hunchback Assignments.

Trapped by Kimberly Willis Holt at A Pen and a Nest. Peek: "As writers we sometimes forget to explore the endless possibilities when we create our worlds. Sometimes we hit a barrier and if we're too tunnel-visioned we may lose the chance at adding another layer or plot point that enriches our story." Read a Cynsations interview with Kimberly.

Sara Crowe Literary Agent: new official site features client list, news, and blog. Peek: "I am always looking for young adult fiction and middle grade fiction for my children's list. I represent a few wonderful picture book writers and am not looking to add to that list at this time. I am open to hearing from author/illustrators."

Swagology 101 by Mary Hershey from Shrinking Violet Promotions. Peek: "...as a former kid that had no disposable income, I love being able to give a child something totally free, no strings attached. I give out postcards, candy, stick-on gem earrings, small notebooks, fun erasers, and pencils. Only the postcards have my promotional information on them."

The Book Roast blog will be hosting a Pitch Party on St. Patrick's Day--March 17 from 7 a.m. through 7 p.m. EST. Peek: "We're inviting participants to submit a pitch for a book (real or for fun). The theme is 'luck,' and the pitches will be limited to 75 words. One pitch per participant. You'll have fun, and you can use a pen name if you like! Five highly esteemed editors (Evil Editor; Editorial Anonymous; Edittorrent; Moonrat; Ms. Spitfire) will select their favorite three, and say why those pitches stood out. The winning pitches will be announced at 9 p.m. EST." Note: "Ms. Spitfire is technically in marketing, but she has occasion to touch the slush." More info will be posted late Friday evening on the Book Roast blog.

Q & A with Melissa Marr from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "...it only gets easier to work with this world. When I write I often know where my characters will go in the future."

Congratulations to Jennifer Ziegler on signing with Erin Murphy of Erin Murphy Literary Agency and to Erin for signing with Jennifer! Congratulations to on the sale of Jennifer's "Sass & Stupidity" to Stephanie Elliott at Delacorte. Read Cynsations interviews with Jennifer and Erin.

Resource Recommendations

Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland (Image Continuum, 1993). As relevant for writers as musicians as painters as photographers as dancers, this economical slim paperback is a godsend for anyone who's a human being and trying to create art.

Walking on Alligators: A Book of Meditations for Writers by Susan Shaughnessy (HarperCollins, 1993). This gem of a paperback is a must-have for the writer's peace of mind and piece of soul. From the promotional copy: "This daily motivator of people who write provides an insistent wake-up call for the creative urge, with insights on how to work against resistance, live with the loneliness, develop discipline, and dare to take deeper risks in their work. These 200 essays explore every aspect of the process of writing."


Enter to win a paperback copy of Never Trust a Dead Man by Vivian Vande Velde (Magic Carpet Books/Harcourt, 2008)(originally published in 1999) from Cynsations. To enter, email me (scroll and click envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address and type "Dead Man" in the subject line. I'll touch base if you win. Deadline: March 18! All Cynsational readers are eligible! Read a Cynsations interview with Vivian.

More Personally

The social highlight of the week was a surprise visit by author Shana Burg, who came bearing an out-of-this-world gift--a Princess-Senator Leia Organa Flash Drive!

Do you think it holds the plans to the Death Star?

I'm guessing that many of you will want one of your own. So FYI: designs featuring C3P0, Wicket, Luke Skywalker, and others are also available. Note: Han Solo and Boba Fett are low on stock (figures). See Star Wars MIMOBOT designer USB flash drives.

Attention Austinites: as you know, it's almost time for SXSW 2009! If you're like me and want to support our live music scene, but feel somewhat lacking in band savvy, you may want to check out Turn2live ("the first online tool that enables users to discover shows using intuitive search terms. These terms exist outside of the traditional boundaries of genre, artist and venue and include creative, mood-oriented keywords such as 'sunny' and 'sensual.'")

Donna Bratton at Simply Donna highlights Indian Shoes (HarperCollins, 2002). Peek: "Through it all, Grandpa Halfmoon is there for him whether it is to rescue Ray from a catastrophic haircut, or to share a precious night-fishing trip where the biggest catch had nothing to do with a fish."

Booklist calls Eternal (Candlewick, 2009) a "witty, dark love story of death and redemption" and says "Miranda and Zachary are complex, sympathetic characters, and their hopeful ending is well earned."

Notes from the Hornbook says of Eternal, "Suspenseful, entertaining, and enthusiastically gruesome, Smith's latest will be lapped up by vampire fans."

Thanks to author P.J. Hoover for reading Eternal and saying "
Love the attitude of the guardian angel (GA for short). So go out and buy this book." Read a Cynsations interview with P.J.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Author Interview: A.S. King on The Dust of 100 Dogs

A.S. King on A.S. King: "A.S. King was born in Reading, Pennsylvania. After earning a degree in photography and working in a few stinky darkrooms, she moved to Dublin, Ireland; where she swore off television and started writing novels.

"Two years later, she moved to a small farm in rural Tipperary. There, she divided a decade between writing, teaching literacy, breeding rare poultry, and finding exciting ways to feed herself. She now lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and children.

"Her short fiction has appeared in numerous literary magazines and has been nominated for cool stuff. The Dust of 100 Dogs (Flux, 2009) is her first young adult novel. "

What were you like as a young reader?

When I was a child, I'd stay up reading in my "office" (my bedroom closet) later than everyone else in my family, even though I was the youngest. I can't remember much of what I was reading. I recall A Wrinkle in Time and a few other titles (Harriet the Spy and a lot of mysteries and ghost stories) but for the most part, I'd read anything. The weirder, the better. Once I found Paul Zindel, my early teen life was complete.

What about young fictional heroes appeals to you as a writer?

I relate well to young heroes and heroines. Younger characters tend to have genuine innocence, and can explore certain themes and subjects that adult characters can't approach realistically. I feel this type of character has the potential to change (or at least, challenge) minds -- and that will attract me every time.

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

Well, it took me seven novels and fifteen years to finally sell a book. I can't say there were any sprints in that. Mostly, I stumbled along.

Looking back on your apprenticeship as a writer, is there anything you wish you'd done differently? If so, what and why?

While we were living on the farm in Tipperary, I wrote all day nearly every day, balanced with farm chores--gardening to feed us, minding the chickens. It was the most ideal writer's life I could ever imagine.

Though I did query agents and try occasionally to seek publication, it became clear that I was in the wrong country to sell the books I was writing, so I concentrated on enjoying my time there, because, man, was it nice! So, there was nothing I would have done differently.

I wouldn't trade that time for anything.

On the flip side, what was most helpful to you in terms of developing your craft?

I think, relating to craft, taking a few years to write poetry, and more recently, short fiction was most helpful to me as a novelist. I'd sworn off short stories back in 1996, when I'd written a few that were horrid. Then, in 2006, I wrote a story that got published and nominated for an award, so I continued to write and publish about fifteen more stories. It's amazing how concentrating on the short form for a year made my novel-length fiction more immediate and fresh.

Congratulations on The Dust of 100 Dogs (Flux, 2009)! Could you tell us about the novel?

I like to say The Dust of 100 Dogs is part historical, part contemporary and part dog-training guide, but here's the back cover blurb for a better description:

"In the late seventeenth century, famed teenage pirate Emer Morrisey was on the cusp of escaping pirate life with her one true love and unfathomable riches when she was slain and cursed with the dust of 100 dogs, dooming her to one hundred lives as a dog before retuning to a human body--with all her memories intact. Now she's a contemporary American teenager, and all she needs is a shovel and a ride to Jamaica."

What was your initial inspiration for writing the book?

The idea came from my journeys into Irish history. I used to walk my dogs down my small road [in Ireland] and think of the people who had walked that road before me. The rest unraveled from there.

My exploration of what the Irish endured, especially during Cromwell’s time, stirred feelings about the things women have endured throughout history.

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

For The Dust of 100 Dogs, the timeline goes something like this:

Idea circa 1999/2000.

Started writing in 2001/2.

Finished in 2003.

Queried and rejected by a lot of U.K. agents.

Moved to the U.S. in 2004. Rewrote book and queried U.S. agents with no luck. Put book in drawer with five other drawer books and started writing seventh book.

2006 - agent liked #7; he offered to represent me and started shopping the older novels, including The Dust of 100 Dogs.

Sold The Dust of 100 Dogs to Flux in late 2007.

Publication in 2009.

I think that makes it an even decade between idea and book. I'm really hoping to slim that down next time around.

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

The big challenge when it came to publishing The Dust of 100 Dogs was my location.

Even as late as 2004, many agencies refused to accept email, which made things very expensive for someone like me, who had to spend up to $60 per full manuscript sent.

On the more positive side, that same location made the Irish history research easier through generous neighbors who offered their libraries of books I would have never found elsewhere.

How do you balance your life as a writer with the responsibilities (speaking, promotion, etc.) of being an author? Or, more globally, how is that adjustment going?

Though I enjoy promoting, I'm still most excited by writing, and I've trained myself to turn off the Internet before noon when I am writing new material.

As promotion becomes a bigger part of my life, I plan to invoke the "I'm Allowed to Disappear Any Time I Want" rule at least twice a year.

What do you do outside the world of books?

I'm a mother of young children, and I run a contracting business from home.

At different times in my life I've been: a breeder of rare poultry; a photographer; a master printer; a pizza delivery driver;an electrician; a self-sufficient smallholder; a swimming addict; and (my favorite job ever) a literacy teacher.

And now that I've settled into my new home here in the U.S., I've started serving on my community library board as well as the swimming pool board. (Spot my two favorite things.)

What can your fans look forward to next?

I just finished a YA book called Ignore Vera Dietz and I'm working on another historical/contemporary YA mix that I should finish by December, all going well.

You can find me online at www.as-king.com or www.thedustof100dogs.com, or my blog, where I keep readers updated on D100D events and hold weekly writing contests.