Friday, May 29, 2009

Spooky News

Congratulations to Annette Curtis Klause on the forthcoming release of a new edition (with a new cover) of The Silver Kiss. Includes two bonus short stories about Simon and Zoë, one of which ("The Christmas Cat") has never before been published. Read a Cynsations interview with Annette.

The Infernal Devices: check out the gorgeous new site celebrating the latest from Cassandra Clare. Read a Cynsations interview with Cassandra.

Summer Blog Blast Tour: Rachel Caine from Trisha at The Ya Yas. Peek: "The romantic tension between Shane and Claire is, for me, the sweetest part of the series. I think at a certain point, as a writer, you have to let go and let your characters drive, and they seem to do that pretty well when it comes to having feelings for each other." Read a Cynsations interview with Rachel.

Marvelous Marketer: Alan Gratz from Shelli at Market My Words: Rantings and ravings on how authors can better market their books to kids. Peek: "I wish I would have planned for selling more books from the outset, and designed an initial site that could be easily augmented as new books were added. I have that now, but it could have saved myself a lot of nights at the computer if I had made the original site focus on me, not a single book." Read a Cynsations interview with Alan.

Interview with Jeannine Garsee by Debbi Michiko Florence. Peek: "Only when I start on the first revision do I really get into the souls of the characters." To win a copy of Jeanine's Say the Word (Bloomsbury, 2009), leave a comment here by midnight PST June 7. Read a Cynsations interview with Debbi.

Authors Who Skype with Book Clubs from Kate Messner, Children's Book Author at Kate's Book Blog. Peek: "I am starting a list of authors who offer free 20-minute Skype chats with book clubs." Note: opportunity for traditionally-published authors and book club coordinators. See initial list.

Marianna: Further Thoughts on Dialogue -- Distinct Voices for Similar Characters from Crowe's Nest. Peek: "In looking at YA novels that center on groups of friends, I found that some (definitely not all) writers successfully develop recognizable voices for their characters while still believably portraying close-knit groups with much in common. To do this, the writers key into the defining aspects of the characters’ personalities and create voices that reflect those traits."

The Battle of the Red Hot Pepper Weenies by David Lubar (Starscape 2009)(ages 8-up): a recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith at GregLSBlog. Peek: "In his fourth Weenies collection, Lubar delivers another set of often funny, sometimes gross, and occasionally creepy 'Twilight Zone'-ish short stories."

How Ursula K Le Guin led a generation away from realism: The most vital writers of my generation have been weaned from a puritanical distrust of imagination by her influence by Scott Timberg from The Guardian. Source: Miss Rumphius Effect.

YA Paranormal Panel @ RomanceDivas: Christopher Golden, Cassandra Clare, Rachel Caine, Rosemary Clement-Moore, Lucienne Diver, Jeff Mariotte, and Alyson Noel are all talking about writing YA Paranormal fiction at the Romance Divas forum. Ends May 30. Source: Little Willow at Slayground. Read Cynsations interviews with Christopher and Rosemary. See links to interviews with Cassandra and Rachel above.

How Tight is Your Bow? from Kristi Holl at Writers First Aid. Peek: "If we slow down–if we try to live a more balanced life–can we get it all done? Is it really possible?"

Writing from Life Without Boring Yourself by Mary Ann Rodman from Teaching Authors: Six Children's Authors Who Also Teach Writing. Peek: "...unless it makes sense within the context of the story, nobody cares if it 'really happened that way.' This is fiction. Fiction is shaped reality."

Shrinking Violet Promotions has been celebrating independent bookstores!

President Obama and First Lady named Honorary Chairs of the 2009 National Book Festival from Lori Calabrese. Peek: "President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will serve as Honorary Chairs of the 2009 National Book Festival, organized and sponsored by the Library of Congress. Now in its ninth year, this popular event celebrating the joys of reading and lifelong literacy will be held on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2009, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., between 7th and 14th Streets from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (rain or shine). The event is free and open to the public."

Congratulations, Victoria Laurie

Congratulations to Austin author Victoria Laurie, author of Oracles of Delphi Keep (Random House, 2009)! Victoria is shown above (in the multicolored top) with Mandy Books, Kids and Young Adult Events Coordinator from BookPeople. This photo was taken on Tusday night in the small red house at Jeffrey's in conjunction with a Random House dinner party, celebrating the release.

From the promotional copy:

"Ian Wigby is about to find out that he is a very special boy.

"Along the southern coast of England, atop the White Cliffs of Dover, stands a castle. And at that castle’s old keep is an orphanage. Delphi Keep has seen many youngsters come and go through its gates, and Ian Wigby and his sister, Theodosia, are happy to call it home. Life has always been simple at the Keep, and the orphanage safe, until one day, Ian and Theo find a silver treasure box. And within the box, a prophesy. Three thousand years ago a great Greek oracle wrote of a quest. A quest on which the fate of the world depends. A quest that names two children—Ian and Theodosia. Suddenly Delphi Keep is no longer safe. And Ian and Theo, along with a very special group of friends, realize they must unravel the meaning behind the scroll of Dover cavern before darkness falls on the world. And before an unfathomable evil catches up with them."

More Personally

Hooray! I've heard from Listening Library/Random House that Jesse Bernstein and Allyson Ryan will be playing the voices of Zachary and Miranda for the Eternal audio book, which will be available July 14. Jesse's credits include the Percy Jackson series audio books. Allyson's include The Garden of Eve by K.L. Going and the Suddenly Supernatural series by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel audios. Click links to hear their voices! I'll keep you posted as more details arise! Note: news of the cover artist for Tantalize: Kieren's Story (Candlewick, TBA) is coming soon.

Author-illustrator Annette Simon sends this shot of Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007) and Eternal (Candlewick, 2009) from Target in Columbus, Ohio.

On the Reading Table: Eternal from Lindsey Lane at This and That. Peek: "Fascinating. Leitich Smith is in full command of the world she has created in this book."

Beyond that, my Memorial Day weekend was quiet and productive--with a razor focus on my upcoming deadline. Greg made sushi on Monday afternoon.

Thank you to Michelle Stewart and her students at Mt. San Jacinto College for their hospitality during my conference call visit on Wednesday!

Thank you to Chris Eldin for the book roasts!

Howdy to Jennifer Ziegler's mom! Thanks for reading Cynsations, and good luck with your manuscript! I'm rooting for you! Read a Cynsations interview with Jennifer.

Congratulations, Austin readers! The Austin Public Library will join the community 9 a.m. May 30 to celebrate the grand opening of the newly constructed North Village Branch located at 2505 Steck Avenue near the corner of Burnet Road and Steck Avenue. This newly constructed 11,000 square foot library is replacing the 5,000 square foot storefront lease spaced facility located in the North Star Home Shopping Center at 2139 W. Anderson Lane where it has been located since 1971. Source: Austin Public Library. See more information.

Attention: Aleksie in Indiana: your signed bookplate and bookmark have been returned by the postal service as undeliverable. Please contact me to confirm a new address. Thanks!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Author Interview: Lesley Livingston on Wondrous Strange

Lesley Livingston on Lesley Livingston: "I am a writer and actor living in Toronto, Canada. I hold a master's degree in English, with a specialization in Arthurian literature and Shakespeare from the University of Toronto.

"As a principal performer and founding member of the Tempest Theatre Group, I have the good fortune to be able to bring Shakespearean classics to life in productions and workshops for high school students across southern Ontario.

"Wondrous Strange is my debut novel, the first in a trilogy."

What were you like as a young reader?

Voracious. I would read anytime, anywhere. I would read toothpaste tubes if there was nothing else available. I would read walking home from school. I used to keep novels open surreptitiously in my desk while I was supposed to be studying math (there may possibly be a correlation between this and my present-day dreadful lack of math skills...). When I was very young, I used to read under the covers with a flashlight after bedtime.

None of these habits have really changed with the passage of time. Except I don't have to use a flashlight anymore (unless I want to!).

Why do you write for teenagers today?

Having performed for teens for years before I actually started writing for them, I can tell you from experience that they are the both the scariest and the best audiences possible. Because they are never neutral. They love something or they hate it, and they are, in my experience, not shy about letting you know which it is. So if you can get them--truly get them--it is the best. thing. ever. That's one of the reasons.

The other is that it is just--plain and simple--a pure joy. For teens, a lot of what they experience, they do so with fresh eyes and remarkable passion.

It is, in that sense, enormously freeing and so much fun to write, because I get to throw myself into those never-before-worn shoes and experience that same rush of emotion that my characters and, hopefully, my readers do.

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

A lot of it is the freshness I mentioned above--and the capacity for undiluted passion. That sense of purpose with which you can imbue a younger person whereas an older character carries the baggage of experience that sometimes dulls that impetus. And you can still wrap it all up in the fears and freak-outs and insecurities that come with being a teen.

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

Wondrous Strange came about as a sprint after a long-distance haul, actually. My first (unpublished) book took years to write. I came close to getting an agent more than once for it but, alas, it was not to be. Then I wrote a second book which took substantially less time, and I hooked a fantastic agent for that one. Huzzah, right? Well, not quite. That one hasn't sold either (yet). But... here's where it gets interesting.

I went to New York to meet my agent, the fantastic Jessica Regel, face to face. I went with another author friend of mine, who was meeting her publisher for the first time.

Both of us were wowed by the city as a whole, but I was absolutely captivated by Central Park. Even in February. We did the touristy stuff on that trip--carriage ride, Tavern on the Green (both of which are now plot points in Wondrous Strange!)--but it was on my next trip that I really got to wander around the Park with some New Yorker friends. We spent hours there, night and day, and I started to get ideas. Ideas about things in the Park that the average park-goer doesn't get to experience. Magical things.

I was also performing Shakespeare, and had already written a short story about an actress in a production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

Well, those two disparate elements--the Bard and the Park--came together in a flash of inspiration prompted by an off-hand comment from my boyfriend John (bless him!). And Sonny and Kelley and Co. presented themselves to me, en masse and emphatically.

Fortuitously, according to Jessica, it was just the kind of thing that HarperCollins editor Laura Arnold was looking for. Jessica got in touch, and Laura asked me to write an outline for the story. We had many fantastic conversations. There was back-and-forth, sample chapters and synopsis-writing, and apparently the whole thing went over pretty well, because, based on the first five chapters and an eight-page synopsis, HarperCollins made me an offer for two books (which then became three books)! And there was much rejoicing!

Laura is now my editor, and I simply cannot say enough good things about her.

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

I don't think there's anything I could have done differently. I think that the way things have worked out for me so far, I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be.

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

You know... I suppose, for the question previous to this one, I could have said "I wish I hadn't taken so freaking long to write my first book" (the one that failed to land me an agent)...but, conversely, I truly believe that the process I went through and the things I learned while writing and re-writing (and re-writing) that book was what taught me the craft. From the ground up.

Congratulations on your debut novel, Wondrous Strange (HarperCollins, 2008)! Could you tell us about the book?

Here's what it says on my website (it pretty much gives you the gist!):

Kelley Winslow is living her dream. Seventeen years old, she has moved to New York City and started work with a theatre company. Sure, she's an understudy for the Avalon Players, a third-tier repertory company so far off-Broadway it might as well be in Hoboken, but things are looking up—the lead has broken her ankle and Kelley's about to step into the role of Titania the Fairy Queen in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Faeries are far more real than Kelley thinks, though, and a chance encounter in Central Park with a handsome young man will plunge her into an adventure she could never have imagined.

For Sonny Flannery, one of the Janus Guards charged by Auberon, the King of Winter, with watching over the gate into the lands of Faerie that lies within Central Park, the pretty young actress presents an enigma. Strong and willful, she sparks against his senses like a firecracker and he can't get her out of his mind. As Hallowe'en approaches and the Samhain Gate opens, Sonny and Kelley find themselves drawn to each other—and into a terrible plot that could spell disaster for both New York and Faerie alike.

What was your initial inspiration for writing the book?

Well, I mentioned Shakespeare and Central Park above, but it really was the Park that was the first and foremost inspiration. Once I got home from that first trip, I started to do some research on the history of the place and I discovered all these immensely cool factoids about the Park, about one of its founders, and about the Carousel and some of the landmarks, all of which started percolating around the story that I had yet to write.

Since that time--it seems like a very short while ago--I have been back to the Park several times and have busily populated it with beings from the Otherworld. Do be careful where you walk!--not all of them are friendly...

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

There was a degree of research involved, especially with respect to the Park and getting it right. It's such a huge place and, even though my story mostly centres on a small portion of the Park, it was important to get it right.

Same thing with Faerie lore. There's an awful lot of it and, depending on whose telling the tale, the details don't always agree. Which is fine--I was free to choose interpretations, which I liked--but I had to know where they came from and why they worked for me, and I had to avoid inconsistencies.

My Shakespeare, on the other hand, I had down pretty much cold!

What about the publishing process has surprised you most and why?

How much fun it really is. How nerve-wracking it really is, even after (sometimes especially after) you get the contract. How utterly passionate the people who work in this industry are about the books they make and sell. It's all very gratifying and more than a little bit humbling.

Big picture, what was it like, being a debut author?

Big picture? Monster roller coaster. Terrifying, thrilling, unexpected and worth every single second of the metaphorical three-hour lineup to get there.

And I'm still not sure it's quite sunk in yet!

In terms of marketing and outreach, how do you connect with your readers?

Thanks to sites like yours, actually, it has become so much easier to reach such a wide audience (thank you!). Signings and events are lovely and useful but, especially for a debut author, to be able to reach readers through interviews and chat sessions like this is really marvelous. And when those readers touch base with you through MySpace or Facebook or wherever--it's so great to be able to reach back.

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?

Ha! I'm not what you would call the most balanced person, anyway, but I do try! And I've learned that you really do have to budget your time.

It is so much fun interacting online or doing school visits or cons, but you have to be so mindful that--in the busyness of being an author--you cannot forget that, first and foremost, your duty is to the page.

There are times when I go radio-silent online, and my friend requests pile up and my status updates go stale and a tumble-weed rolls through my blog... That's when you can tell that I'm probably neck-deep in the story.

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

Exclusively with my editor. I'm one of those people that needs to see the story through in my own head before I start getting outside input. And Laura's input is fantastic.

What advice do you have for beginning writers?

Read. Read everything. Through sheer osmosis you will pick up on cadence and structure and pacing and all that good stuff. Read. Aside from that? The best writing advice I ever received was--write.

I'm not being facetious. Guy Gavriel Kay told me that when I was an aspiring writer. And I know that aspiring writers have all heard that one before, but it's true. You can't edit a page full of nothing. And you can't call yourself a writer unless you write. Write. Keep writing.

What do you do outside the world of books?

I'm an actor. I frequently perform with a Shakespearean theatre company called Tempest Theatre Group. In summer, I inadvertently terrorize the plants in my garden. I have three cats.

What can your fans look forward to next?

I'm presently doing the copy-edits for the next book in the series (it's a trilogy), and it should be on the shelves late this year! Both books two and three are the direct continuation of Sonny and Kelley's story. All the old familiar faces are back, plus one or two new ones. I had such a blast writing this latest book. I can't wait to find out what my readers think!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Author Kathi Appelt Takes Over Spookycyn, Interviews Author Cynthia Leitich Smith

Dear Cynsations Fans—

Our host, Cynthia Leitich Smith has interviewed literally hundreds of folks in the children’s-YA literature community here on Cynsations.

She’s interviewed authors, illustrators, editors, agents, book packagers, publicists, bookstore folks. You name it, she’s interviewed us.

She’s done this for over ten years now, so I thought I’d give Cyn a day off and take on the role of guest editor.

But then I thought, hey, the person I want to interview is Cyn!

So here you go, sports fans, an interview with our very own Cynthia Leitich Smith about her new book, Eternal (Candlewick, 2009).

(I know, not much of a day off, but at least she didn’t have to think up the questions).

Here's an introduction...

Cynthia Leitich Smith is the successful author of Jingle Dancer (Morrow, 2000), Rain Is Not My Indian Name (HarperCollins, 2001), Santa Knows (Scholastic Book Club, 2007), and numerous short stories.

Her newest book Eternal (Candlewick, 2009) comes on the very successful heels of Cyn’s first Gothic fantasy, Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007), but while it features some of the same elements, it’s definitely its own novel.

KA: Welcome to Cynsations, Cyn! And congratulations on the release of Eternal!

Thank you, Kathi! Welcome to Cynsations yourself!

KA: In a conversation we had on the phone, you explained to me that both Eternal and Tantalize fall into a category of horror literature known as “Gothic fantasy.” For me, horror has always been just that, horror. And yet, it seems to those of us who are unfamiliar with the genre, there are different categories. Can you describe what Gothic fantasy is and how it differs from other sorts of horror?

In Gothic: Ten Original Dark Tales (Candlewick, 2004), anthologist Deborah Noyes says, “…think of Gothic as a room in the house of horror. Its décor is distinctive. It insists on the burden of the past. It also gleefully turns our ideas of good and evil on end.”

I tend to think of myself as a sense-of-place author, and I’m fairly obsessed with the “burden of the past,” the “conversation of books” over the ages. So Deb’s vision and definition are definitely in sync with mine.

My Gothics are interwoven with nods, tributes, and counterarguments to various pieces within the body of classic and, to a lesser extent, current literature. Tantalize is largely inspired by the Pygmalion tradition and offers a parallel construct to Hawthorne’s short story, “Young Goodman Brown.” Eternal touches on DickensA Tale of Two Cities and Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet.”

However, both novels (and Blessed, which I’m working on now) are foremost a conversation with Abraham “Bram” Stoker, the author of Dracula.

Dracula is the quintessential horror novel, perhaps—as often said—more for its elements than execution, but nevertheless a fascinating place to begin. To varying degrees of subtlety, I take on many of Stoker’s themes, such as invasion, the “dark” foreigner, the role of religion, corruption, sensuality/sexuality, and especially gender.

Does a reader have to have studied Stoker (or Hawthorne or Dickens or Shakespeare) to understand my books? Nope, but I have heard from teens that my novels have inspired them to pick up the referenced classics and I’m delighted by that.

I would add that my YA Gothics reflect a multi-faith, multicultural world and include both some humor and strong elements of romance. The latter isn’t new to the tradition. Dracula itself includes some heavy romantic content.

What else? Horror should challenge the readers' comfort zones. Beyond that, in my universe, magic must have a proportional price. I’m not guaranteeing any happy endings (you have read the book to find out what happens). It's not always easy to tell the good guys from the bad, and I like a set of teeth on my monsters or--in other words--a little horror in my horror novel.

KA: One of the trademarks of Eternal and Tantalize is the parallel world that you show in Austin, Dallas, and Chicago, making readers feel as though we could easily step across the portal from one to the other and not even realize that we’ve crossed such a dangerous border. How did you manage to go from a real setting, one that is easily recognizable to anyone who has tramped around in those cities, to one that could be there and yet remains unseen to most of us?

I’m tempted to ask why you’re so sure that magical “parallel world” isn’t the real one. Then again, I’ve been writing Sabine—the eternal queen—so I’m feeling rather saucy.

The short answer is that I’m fond of field trips.

Tantalize is set in Austin. Eternal is partly set in Austin, partly in Dallas, and mostly in Chicago. I make my home in Austin, lived in Dallas one summer, and lived in Chicago for three years. So, I’m already starting on familiar turf, but I don’t take anything for granted.

For example, while writing Eternal, I visited to Chicago and walked every street my characters did. In February (brr). I shopped on North Michigan Avenue with Miranda. I went out for egg rolls with Zachary in Chinatown. I’d ridden the El thousands of times, but it was different trying to imagine it from the perspective of a guardian angel.

What else? I’ve shot rolls and rolls of film in Austin neighborhoods (I’ve since gone digital), visited open houses to find homes for my characters, picked out clothes for them in local boutiques… My theory is that if the universe isn’t real to me, it won’t be to anyone else, and so I try to step into it to the extent possible.

KA: So sometimes you refer to the books as “in a universe” and sometimes as a series. Could you explain that?

It’s a series of books set in the same universe.

It’s not necessary to read Tantalize before Eternal or vise-versa. But the casts of those two novels will crossover in Blessed, which picks up with Quincie right where Tantalize leaves off.

There’s also a Tantalize graphic novel in the works, told from Kieren’s point of view and offering many new scenes.

In addition, I’ve written a couple of short stories set in the universe: “Haunted Love,” which appears in Immortal: Love Stories with Bite, edited by P.C. Cast (BenBella, 2008) and “Cat Calls, which will appear in Sideshow: Ten Original Dark Tales of Freaks Illusionists and Other Matters Odd and Magical, edited by Deborah Noyes (Candlewick, July 2009).

KA: Tantalize introduced all kinds of new werebeasts, including werepossums, werearmadillos and werepossums, and yet it was very much a vampire story (okay, there was that cute werewolf, but still, we’re talking mostly vampires). Eternal, on the other hand, brought in a different kind of supernatural being, a guardian angel. What inspired you to tap into the angels?

I’m working with a multi-creature-verse. While the vampires often take center stage—partly because of Stoker’s influence and partly because they’re grabby that way—I see the world as very diverse in its fantastic entities. Anyone who begins with the Tantalize graphic, for example, will likely think of it as a “werewolf” story.

The idea of guardian angels in Eternal came from the editing team.

My original thought had been to do an elf in the role instead, but he kept coming off too young and naïve to go toe-to-toe with my fearsome vampire princess.

Editorial was right--I needed a new concept for that character. I loved the idea of GAs so I took the story to the studs and began rebuilding.

Notes: Eternal also features werebears; my critique group is still mourning the elf.

KA: While we’re on the subject of heavenly bodies, I want to bring up the question of religion. How in fact did you deal with competing religions, heaven, the “Big Boss,” etc.?

In Dracula and many horror movies, there’s the idea that Catholicism, or at least Christianity, alone can fight the big baddies, and I decided to take a more inclusive tact both in terms of my heroes and “the forces of good.” It’s clearly specified in Eternal, for example, that everyone gets a guardian angel.

“Forget what you might have heard,” Zachary says. “There are no separate corps of angels for agnostics, atheists, Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Mormons, Unitarians, Hindus, Druids, Shintoists, Wiccans and so on.”

I’ve received notes from several young readers specifically saying that they appreciated my including whichever group they identify with.

That said, my angels are fictional fantasy beings, not pulled from any real-life tradition of faith.

K.A: Throughout the story, we get small glimmers of light, including some humor perhaps especially in Zachary’s story. But we never forget that this is a horror story. Can you talk about the horror for a moment? What compelled you to write in this genre?

I’m writing the kind of story that I love to read. In junior high, I was a huge Stephen King fan, and by high school, I was a fan of spooky movies. (Less “Freddy,” more “Poltergeist,” less “Jason,” more “Lost Boys.”). I didn't start writing Gothics until I finished Indian Shoes (HarperCollins, 2002) in late 2oo1, but I was already taking part in the related conversation.

In a 2001 Cynsations interview, author Annette Curtis Klause said:

"Reading about violence and horror is a way for a person to not only clarify their stance on moral issues by exploring the alternatives (and in doing so give license to the antisocial creature within in a safe venue) but to exercise their responses to the terrible and be prepared for it in real life.

"It is foolish to try and sanitize literature and the arts under some mistaken idea that one is protecting youth. Children and teens need to explore the dark side as a healthy part of growing.

"If a child is protected from everything dreadful, he will have no coping mechanisms in place when finally confronted with disaster."

In my twenties, when I began looking at young adult fiction with a writer’s eye, Annette’s Blood & Chocolate (Delacorte) wowed me. It was her female protagonist that impressed me most.

And before long, I was a dedicated “Buffy” fan!

When it comes to gender, horror has had its shining moments (Dracula (1897) arguably cuts both ways), but I still craved female heroes--like Buffy and Annette's werewolf Vivian--and other fully-rounded female characters who were more than the fawning dependent, bait, or gender-clichéd victim or villain.

So, I guess it was that, a combination of an affection for horror and a predisposition, as a YA author, to give the girls their due. I’m not offering super-heroic slayers or shying away from the romantic tradition. But I am featuring, in the mix, active female characters willing to stand and, if necessary, fight on their own.

All of which isn’t to say that it’s an all-girl-powered series. Protagonists Kieren and Zachary are male heroes in the series.

This spring I had the honor of visiting with YA librarians from the Austin Public Library, and I was dismayed when one of them mentioned that a boy patron had dismissed books about vampires as "girl books." He wanted to read one that spoke to him.

I don't mean to gender stereotype. Obviously, I'm a woman who enjoys a scary read. But we want to encourage boys to read, horror appeals to some boy readers, and I'm always happy to recommend books like Thirsty by M.T. Anderson (Candlewick, 1997) or Heather Brewer's tween series, The Chronicles of Vladamir Tod (Dutton).

Note: I mentioned above that Stoker's novel Dracula (1897) "cuts both ways." Quickly... On one hand, Mina is a "modern woman" who can use a typewriter and organize all the available information about the monster and help track him. When the men are grief stricken over Lucy's death, Mina is the one they turn to for support. On the other hand, at times her delicate sensibilities are protected (she's sent to her room like a child, and she goes).

KA: Eternal has two strong voices. What was it like writing from alternating viewpoints?

Finding Miranda and Zachary’s voices for Eternal came naturally. I could hardly shut them up.

Finding Quincie’s solo voice for Tantalize was more of a challenge. But I think that’s in part because, back then, I was still haunted by the voice of Cassidy Rain from my debut tweener, Rain Is Not My Indian Name (HarperCollins, 2001). It sometimes takes an extra effort to get past that debut novel. The release of my “sophomore” novel took five years.

In between, though, I’d done several first-person short stories, which helped. Don’t get me wrong, short stories are a wonderful form unto themselves. But they’re also great labs for experimentation and learning.

KA: You have a whole community of teen readers who are Tantalize/Eternal fans. Can you describe how this closeness to your fans impacts you and your work?

I’m tremendously appreciative of their support and enthusiasm. That said, it’s not only teenagers. I’d say half of my reader mail comes from grown-ups age 25 and up. If there was ever a doubt about the YA crossover market, at least with regard to fantasy, good news! The market lives.

I spend a lot of time writing back to YA readers on the ’net.

(Not all authors can do this—I don’t have, say, three-year-old twins at home).

But especially with teen readers, if at all possible, I want to thank them for reading, cheer their excitement, and point them to other books they might enjoy, no matter whether they’re mine or someone else’s.

Altruism aside, it's not a bad strategy to tell that reader begging for your sequel to, in the meantime, go read Carrie Jones's Need (Bloomsbury, 2008)!

K.A.: It could be said the Tantalize and Eternal are “genre” books, and yet when we think of genre literature, we don’t always equate it with “literary.” But both Tantalize and Eternal are exquisite in their literariness—your use of language, detail, symbolism, etc. all combine to make stories that are linguistically beautiful as well as wondrous in the ways in which they fulfill the requirements of their genre. How did you do that?

Thank you! (Working on learning to take a compliment...).

Much of the credit goes to my wonderful editor, Deborah Wayshak and her team, as well as my early readers, especially my husband and sometimes co-author Greg Leitich Smith.

I should also point out that there's certainly amazing and literary genre fiction out there. A recent example would be Night Road by A.M. Jenkins (HarperCollins, 2008).

As for me, the most significant thing I do—beyond my homework and reading widely—is to take my time. I’m serious about meeting deadlines, but I try to set realistic ones, and I’m going for quality over quantity.

(I know there are novelists who can achieve both higher output and solid craft, but since I also teach and write shorter fiction, I’m not sure I’ll ever be one of them).

Also, my books are for the crossover (age 14+) market, which means I'm under no pressure to make them more accessible than I would otherwise.

Note: outside of the "book world," it can be challenging to explain (mostly to parents) that reading level is more than vocabulary or length or profanity/sexual content. Not every tween/young teen is ready for an upper-level YA with an unreliable narrator or quasi-epistolary elements or alternating point of view or that disrupts his/her comfort zone (which horror tends to do). That's okay. They'll get there. And at the same time, we still need books that challenge strong readers as well as those in transition.

K.A.: You are one of the pioneers of the children’s literary Internet community. How do you balance the demands of your on-line presence with your own writing?

I pre-format most of my non-time-sensitive posts a couple of months in advance. Many mornings, I do a fair amount of just copying and pasting the code to reach my audience via various outlets.

With regard to the main website, I’m blessed (there’s that word again) to be working with the wonder woman that is Lisa Firke of Hit Those Keys.

In addition, Greg contributes a fair number of the book recommendations.

KA: You have a picture book coming out next year. Can you give us a sneak peek?

Holler Loudly will be a humorous, original southwestern tall tale, illustrated by Barry Gott and published by Dutton. It’s a love letter to small-town folks, public librarians, and everyone who likes to be heard.

I should also mention that Greg and I have a short story, "The Wrath of Dawn," coming out in Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd, edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci (Little, Brown, Aug. 2009).

Note: the Geektastic cover shown is not final.

KA: Thanks for letting me to be the guest editor! If I ever set up my own blog, will you do another interview?

But of course! Thank you!

Spooky Notes

Learn more about Kathi Appelt.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Spooky News & Giveaways

Enter to win one of FIVE signed copies of Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick, 2009) from Free Book Friday Teens! Giveaway will be May 22!

More News

Enter to Win Suddenly Supernatural (ages 8-up) from Laura's Review Bookshelf. Peek: "There will be one winner and a second winner for Book 3 (Books 1 & 2 are allocated)." Deadline: May 23.

Getting Crazy With Fonts from Nathan Bransford - Literary Agent. Peek: "I honestly don't know what's behind the wacky formatting craze, but it seems to be sweeping query nation."

Dead Girl Walking Interview with Linda Joy Singleton from J. Aday Kennedy : A Writing Playground. Peek: "For instance, some people think I’m outgoing but that’s only when I’m around other writers and in my element. In different situations, around different people I can be shy, polite, crude, silly, stubborn, easy-going, hard-working, lazy, dark and light. But if you show all of these traits in one character in a book, they’ll come off as unstable."

Criticism, Commentary, and Calmness from Editorial Anonymous. Peek: "It's important to remember that this is one of the magics of creating art, and one of the heaving frustrations." See also EA's answers to submission questions.

Meet author-illustrator Jerry Craft from Don Tate at The Brown Bookshelf. Peek: "I've been fortunate to be able to work on some really cool projects over the years. For me, the biggest would have to be my Mama's Boyz comic strip that has been syndicated weekly by King Features for more than 15 years. But it's not so much as doing the comic strip each week as it is publishing my own Mama's Boyz books."

The Best Way to Improve Your Writing from E.M. Rowan at Postscripts of a Writer. Peek: "If you read enough books, you can learn how to write a novel without ever taking a writing class. Many published authors do not have a degree in English, Creative Writing, or a related major. Study your favorite books to learn about plotting, good characters, and even little things like grammar and mechanics."

SBBT: Amber Benson from lectitans: reading eagerly on. Peek: "You can deal with very topical subject matter, but throw it into an alternate world and no one gets offended. It's really freeing." See the whole schedule, featuring Kekla Magoon, Carrie Jones, Jo Knowles, Barbara O'Conner, Maggie Stiefvater, Cindy Pon, Lauren Myracle, and many more authors. Source: Chasing Ray.

Top 10 SF/Fantasy for Youth: 2009. by Gillian Engberg from Booklist Online. Peek: "Debut novels make a strong showing on this year's roundup of the top 10 science fiction and fantasy titles for youth, all published in the past 12 months." Source: Mitali Perkins.

Sorting Out the Voices from Kristi Holl at Writers First Aid. Peek: "How many voices try to tell you what to write, when to write, and how to write? What voices do you listen to?"

And You Thought a Royalty Involved a Crown from Editorial Ass. Peek: "I realized that royalty accounting must be so mysterious to anyone unpublished. Or published. Or anyone. I realized even I didn't really know what I was talking about. So here is my imperfect attempt to describe to you an author's possibilities for making money with her/his books."


Bridget Zinn Auction is taking place between now and 12 a.m. PST May 31. Bid to win critiques from award-winning and other "big name" authors, agents, and editors, signed books, audio books & other CDs, promotional services, and much more. Latest additions include a custom kitchen knife, a thirty-page read from Kristin Nelson of Nelson Literary Agency, a basket of MG books by the Class of 2k9, a basket of YA books from the Class of 2k9, and more!

Austin Author Christine Rose

Highlights of the week included a Wednesday brunch with local author Christine Rose at Waterloo Ice House.

Christine's debut novel, co-authored by her husband Ethan, is Rowan of the Wood, which was published last fall by a small local press.

What Would You Do to Win a Kindle 2 Contest! sponsored by authors Christine and Ethan Rose at Bitten by Books. Deadline: May 30.

More Personally

Cynthia Leitich Smith: an Interview with the Author of Eternal (and many other books). from Shutta Crum: author and teller of stories. Peek [on character names]: "I often look for variety in terms of syllables, vowel and consonant sounds, first letters, etc. or meanings. The name 'Miranda' from Eternal (Candlewick, 2009) means 'miracle.'"

Once Upon A Romance's Review Of...Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith from Amy. Peek: "His name is Zachary and let's just say that he is a character that girls everywhere would want to live out eternity with... There's danger, romance, and a high dosage of really good writing."

Signed copies of Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007) and Eternal are available at BookPeople in Austin! You can order online or call: (800) 853-9757.

The Royal Bat logo (above), among other designs, is available on T-shirts, caps, and other items celebrating Eternal and Tantalize at the Sanguini's CafePress store.

Check out Carmen Oliver's report on the May Austin SCBWI meeting, featuring author Shana Burg. Peek: "When Shana begins a new novel, she starts with the setting. She says some writers choose character or plot but whatever element you begin with, you need to infuse them with rich details. Oprah Winfrey says, 'Love is in the details,' and Shana said the more love the better."

And finally, here's a little beauty from my world to yours. My Easter lilies are blooming again.

Monday, May 18, 2009

New Voice: Deva Fagan on Fortune's Folly

Deva Fagan is the first-time author of Fortune's Folly (Henry Holt, April 14, 2009). From the promotional copy:

Ever since her mother died and her father lost his shoemaking skills, Fortunata has survived by telling fake fortunes. But when she's tricked into telling a grand fortune for a prince, she is faced with the impossible task of fulfilling her wild prophecy--or her father will be put to death.

Now Fortunata has to help Prince Leonato secure a magic sword, vanquish a wicked witch, discover a long-lost golden shoe, and rescue the princess who fits it.

If only she hadn’t fallen in love with the prince herself...

What inspired you to choose the particular point of view—first, second, third (or some alternating combination) featured in your novel?

For a long time I was committed to only writing in a tight third person point of view. I had an inexplicable prejudice against first person all the way back in elementary school, when I distinctly recall turning my nose up at books written in first person for being "weird" (and I wouldn't even consider first person present tense!). It was like a literary version of refusing to eat vegetables!

Fortunately I grew out of that phase, helped by the realization that first-person books could be really, really good. Suddenly I was reading books like Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine (HarperCollins, 1997) and The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner (Puffin, 1998) and Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman (HarperCollins, 1994). I also discovered Brussels sprouts can be absolutely delicious; it all comes down to finding the right recipe.

I was still dubious about writing in first person, however. So when I originally got the idea for a book about someone telling a fake fortune and then needing to make it come true, I turned to good old third person. That novel failed, miserably. I couldn't find the main character, and the story died after a chapter or two, and I went on to other things.

Then about a year later I decided to give it another try. I had signed up for NaNoWriMo, so I was ready for a challenge! I had started to recognize that my writing process generally involves coming up with a plot element first, and that my greatest weakness is in jumping ahead and trying to write a story before I have the character truly vivid and alive in my mind. I hoped that maybe giving my character her own "voice" right from the start would help with that.

I plunged into the story on Nov. 1, and within about five weeks, I had my completed first draft. It was a thrilling experience to write so quickly; the novel felt "alive" in a way nothing I'd written before ever had. There are certainly plenty of vivid, intense, lively stories written in third person, but for me, giving first person a chance was the key to finding the heart of the character, and thus the book.

It just goes to show that we shouldn’t be afraid to break out of our established and comfortable patterns to try new things, because we just might be rewarded by a whole new world of inspiration.

As a fantasy writer, what first attracted you to that literary tradition? Have you been a long-time fantasy reader? Did a particular book or books inspire you?

I've loved fantasy ever since my mother read me The Hobbit [by J.R.R. Tolkien (1937)] and the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy [also Tolkien, 1945-1955)] aloud during our long summer car-trips to visit relatives.

There's something about the fantastical that plugs into my deep-dwelling archetypal sense of story. As such, it is almost always the place I turn to first for both my own entertainment and as the vehicle to communicate my own ideas.

But I don't think early exposure to hobbits and dragons and elves is the only reason I love fantasy. Fantasy is, paradoxically, the easiest way I can find to explore and try to understand human nature.

I see fantasy as being an extension of the earliest myths and legends told by humanity and passed down through the generations. I respond to it on a more intense, soul-kindling level.

Scholar Joseph Campbell puts it well when he says "Myths are the world's dreams. They are archetypal dreams and deal with great human problems. Myths and dreams come from the same place. They come from realizations of some kind that then have to find expression in symbolic form."

My theory is that human beings like patterns. We like to find elements or symbols that are repeated and reinterpreted, because they help us make sense out of a mysterious and frightening world. Myths and fairy tales serve as a set of building blocks, almost like a language itself, to communicate about those deep truths of human nature.

Sometimes in order to try to understand the big questions, we need to do so in a language of metaphor or parable. If the stories we tell are too close to our real world, we may not have the perspective and freedom to ask why there is evil or what is true heroism.

I think we can use the trappings of fantasy to move a story into that more mythic dream-realm, a fabulous reality that isn't exactly like our own world, but which we can learn from and be inspired by.

In his essay "The Flat-Heeled Muse," Lloyd Alexander puts it wonderfully when he says "Sometimes heartbreaking, but never hopeless, the fantasy world as it 'should be' is one in which good is ultimately stronger than evil, where courage, justice, love, and mercy actually function. Thus, it may often appear quite different from our own. In the long run, perhaps not. Fantasy does not promise Utopia. But if we listen carefully, it may tell us what we someday may be capable of achieving."

And lest I dwell too much on serious stuff, I must admit that I find fantasy to be just plain fun! There’s just something about magical realms, fantastical creatures, and perilous quests that stir my heart. To be a little (okay, a lot!) corny, it's like magic...

Other readers will find their strongest "magic" in realistic modern settings, or historical mysteries, or spy thrillers. But for me, it's the dragons and the wizards.

Spooky Notes

The New Voices Series is a celebration of debut authors of 2009. First-timers may also be featured in more traditional author interviews over the course of the year.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Enter to Win a Signed Copy of Eternal

Enter to win one of FIVE signed copies of Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick, 2009) from Free Book Friday Teens! Giveaway will be May 22!

Peek: "I was interested in writing a story that would pair two characters on as far opposite sides of good and evil as possible. From that, I came up with Miranda, a vampire princess, and Zachary, her one-time guardian angel."

See also Eternal blog buzz, reviews, reading guide, and more interviews!

Thanks to Free Book Friday Teens! and Candlewick Press.

Eternal Trailer

Friday, May 15, 2009

Spooky News

A Writer at Home: Gail Carson Levine from Kimberly Willis Holt at A Pen and A Nest. Peek: "I write everywhere: hotels, airports, trains. But I have my reference material at home: my English usage books, costume books, art books that I refer to when I want to describe a character physically, my own books that I sometimes need to go back to. I’m frustrated when these things aren’t there and I need them." Note: also in honor of Children's Book Week, Kimberly asks authors to highlight their favorite out-of-print titles; see more here and here.

Writers Academy 2009 (PDF) at West Texas A&M University. The first WT Writers' Academy (WTWA) will be held June 8 to June 12. Four classes will be offered including "Writing and Publishing Books for Young Readers," which will be taught by author Dian Curtis Regan. Peek: "Regan will foster writers who want to learn to write for a generation raised in CyberSpace through instruction in voice, character and plot development. She will also emphasize marketing tools and how to connect with agents and editors."

An Index Guide to Bubble Stampede!: Two Authors, Two Books, and a 9-month Conversation about...aack!...PROMOTION from Fiona Bayrock and Laura Purdie Salas. A listing of links to posts on everything from Audience to Word of Mouth.

Congratulations to Lili St. Crow on the release of Strange Angels (Razorbill, 2009)! See excerpt. Source: The Compulsive Reader.

Take a peek at this trailer for Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin (Little, Brown, June 2009).

Bridget Zinn Auction Update

Bridget Zinn Auction is taking place between now and 12 a.m. PST May 31. Bid to win critiques from award-winning and "big name" authors, signed books, promotional services, and much more. Recent additions to auction items include: a personalized book launch consult with Mitali Perkins, a lifetime subscription to Children's Book Insider Clubhouse, Web design by Kristina Romero, a children's poetry mauscript critique by Kami Kinard, an end-paper illustration by Carolyn Digby Conohan, books and painting by Grace Lin, an author-and-editor team critique by Dori Chaconas and Andrea Tompa of Candlewick Press, a custom teacher guide for your book, a manuscript critique by Roaring Brook editor Nancy Mercado, and much more!

Author Janet S. Fox has donated a Texas Author Basket featuring The Underneath by Kathi Appelt, Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith, and her own book, Get Organized Without Losing It!

More Personally

Book Review: Eternal from Janet S. Fox at Through the Wardrobe. Janet gives Eternal 5 out of 5 stars! Peek: "...Smith's blend of fantasy, current cultural references, literary and Biblical analogies, and a ripping (pardon the pun) good story make this novel a winner."

Friday, May 08, 2009

Spooky News

Author Branding: a week-long discussion by Tami Lewis Brown at Through the Tollbooth. Peek: "Does your brand pigeonhole you into one type of work? Or can it free you to create all the books you dream of writing? How do you begin to understand your own personal and unique brand?" Note: don't miss You've Got the Look: an interview on branding with debut author Julie Berry.

Elana Roth: a new agent blog. "Elana Roth is a literary agent, amateur potter, and children's book devotee, who dwells in Brooklyn and thinks a lot about irony." Note: Elana works for Caren Johnson Literary Agency; see her professional listing. Source: Tracy Marchini of Curtis Brown.

Ten Block Walk: a new blog from HarperCollins editor Molly O'Neil. Peek: "...young adult literature's greatness comes from a place that is often just as aesthetically and technically brilliant, but also far more emotional, I think. And perhaps this is why I love it far more than the many Great Works of Literature I read in college." Source: Tracy Marchini of Curtis Brown.

Bid to Win a Critique from Nathan Bransford of Curtis Brown from the Brenda Novak 2009 Auction to Benefit Diabetes Research. Note: critique of a partial and response within one week.

Here's a sneak peek at Austinite C.G. Young's "Toast," which has been acquired by Feiwel & Friends. Learn more about the background behind C.G.'s work and publication story from author-illustrator Mark G. Mitchell at How To Be a Children's Book Illustrator.

Talking with Rick Riordan: The author of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series talks about his runaway best-sellers as well as what's next by Jeanette Larson from Booklinks. Peek: "Mythology is a natural draw for kids. It has magic, mystery, adventure—everything you could want. I try to mix in the modern with the ancient and use plenty of humor." Read a Cynsations interview with Rick.

Summer Teen Writing Workshops: author Deborah Davis will be teaching a series of five-day creative writing workshops in Berkeley for middle school and high school students in June and July. "We'll focus on fiction, non-fiction, and poetry--with students choosing the genres and topics that interest them." Read a Cynsations interview with Deborah.

Cynthia Rylant's modern take on Greek myths: an interview by Linda M. Castellitto from BookPage. Peek: "I could see—as many mythologists have noted—that buried in these strange tales were deeply human stories we all live in some way. We all feel false pride, we all trust the wrong person, we all become obsessive, we all fight for love, we all try to control fate."

Working with An Agent by Sara Crowe at Crowe's Nest. Peek: "Once you have your dream agent, there are some basic rules for maintaining a healthy author-agent relationship." Note: also discusses writer-agent dynamics leading up to this point. Read a Cynsations interview with Sara.

On the Man Telling You "No": Where "the Man" Also = You. from Maggie Stiefvater. Peek: "Not to get too airy-fairy here, but as a writer, you ought to know this: words have power. Choose the right ones. Turn the negativity of your doubts into a positive challenge for yourself. I will get better. I will learn to characterize better. I will unlock the secrets of beautiful prose, stunning character growth, etc. The next book will be better."

Children's author Bonny Becker is closing her critique service due to a sharp uptick in her own writing projects. Candlewick is working with her to develop a line of Mouse and Bear books, including picture books and early readers, which will take up a lot of her time. Note: congratulations, Bonny!

Cynsational Tip: if you're sponsoring a giveaway or other contest, be sure to include the deadline.

Making a Living by Vicki Cobb from INK: Interesting Nonfiction for Kids. Peek: "...I have not held a real job since 1969. I am not rich but I have managed to financially support myself and my two sons as a single mother and put a few dollars away for a rainy day (which is now)."

Take a sneak peek at Navel of the World (PDF file) by P.J. Hoover (The Forgotten Worlds, Book 2)(CBAY, October 2009) from Madeline at Buried in the Slush Pile.

Pirates--who they really hurt from Ally Carter at Ally's Diary. Peek: "You see, whenever a book is online to download and/or read for free, chances are that someone has uploaded it without permission--illegally. And whenever someone reads or downloads that book they are essentially stealing it."

Writers' League of Texas Book Awards
: the deadline for entering has been extended to May 15.

Lee & Low 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... Manuscripts will be accepted from May 1 through Sept. 31 and must be postmarked within that period." See more information.

The Journal/Sentinel (WI) YA Column by Ann Angel: seeking suggestions of YA novels about "good girls and the real guys they love." Seeks suggestions from YA authors on novels, non-fiction, and memoir. Contact Ann.

Congratulations to readergirlz for winning an Innovations in Reading Prize from the National Book Foundation! Scroll for more information!


Hunger Mountain Spring Fundraising Auction: bid to win feature manuscript critiques with notable authors and literary agents as well as limited edition letterpress broadsides! All items are be available for bidding at The Hunger Mountain Store, through noon EST May 9. The auction offers opportunities to work with award-winning children's-YA authors Donna Jo Napoli, Sarah Ellis, Martine Leavitt, and Tim Wynne-Jones. Highly acclaimed picture book author-illustrator Laura McGee Kvasnosky and Newbery Honor author Marion Dane Bauer are offering their expertise. In addition, literary agent Mark McVeigh, founding member of The McVeigh Agency, has donated a full-length children's/YA fiction critique and Tracy Marchini, agent assistant at Curtis Brown, Ltd., has donated a middle grade/YA critique.

The Vermont College of Fine Arts Postgraduate Writers' Conference Fourteenth Annual Event will be held from Aug. 11 to Aug. 17. The award-winning YA faculty for summer 2009 are Newbery Honor author and National Book Award finalist Kathi Appelt and Printz Winner and National Book Award Finalist An Na.

Bridget Zinn Auction: will take place between now and 12 a.m. PST May 31. Bid to win critiques from award-winning and "big name" authors, signed books, promotional services, and much more.

More Personally

This week's highlight was meeting author Pooja Makhijani in person! She was in town for a family wedding, and we met for breakfast at Waterloo Ice House and walked over to BookPeople. Pooja is the author of one of my all-time favorite picture books, Mama's Saris (Little Brown, 2007), which is a great choice for girls who like my Jingle Dancer (Morrow/HarperCollins, 2001).

Congratulations to Alicia in Virginia, who won her choice of Eternal T-shirts, from TeensReadToo! Note: Alicia chose the Royal Bat Blue. Read an interview with illustrator Gene Brenek on Images of Eternal. Learn more about the book!

Thank you to author Deborah Davis for highlighting Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick, 2007) among recent recommended reads in her author newsletter! She says: "Who knew I'd become a fan of vampire stories in middle age? This one has a spunky girl protagonist, werewolves and werearmadillos, and terrific tension throughout the second half of the book."

Thanks to R.L. La Fevers for listing Cynsations among her favorite blogs. She calls it: "The go to blog on the children's book industry. If you visit only one industry blog, let it be this one." Check out her other recommendations.

I look forward to visiting with YA book club readers at the Cedar Park (TX) Public Library at 11 a.m. May 30.