Friday, August 27, 2010

Spooky News & Giveaways

R.A. Nelson: redesigned site from the author of Teach Me (Razorbill, 2007), Breathe My Name (Razorbill, 2008), Days of Little Texas (Knopf, 2010), and Throat (Knopf, 2011). Read a Cynsations interview with R.A.

New Agent Alert: Jason Pinter of Waxman Literary Agency by Chuck Sambuchino from Guide to Literary Agents. Note: Jason is seeking middle grade and YA fiction. Peek: "I'm a sucker for stories about ordinary people thrust into extraordinary situations, and normal people who must overcome seemingly insurmountable odds."

Life on the Road: Tips for Authors on Tour by Richelle Mead from Blue Succubus. Peek: "Because most signings are at 6 or 7 p.m., I often get picked up at 5 or 6 p.m., meaning I don't get to eat at dinnertime. Get food when you arrive, or you may not eat at all."

6 1/2 Ways to Impress an Agent by Tina Wexler from Donna Gephart at Wild About Words. Peek: "Demonstrate knowledge of their list. This doesn’t mean you have to read every book they’ve ever sold--I leave that job to my mom--but by showing them you know a bit about who they represent, you’re telling agents you’ve done your research on who to query."

Congratulations to Vermont College of Fine Arts, which is ranked first among low-residency MFA programs, according to Poets and Writers!

The Package of Services That Publishers Provide Authors and How This Is Changing by Nathan Bransford - Literary Agent. Peek: "Here are the basic services traditional publishers provide for an author, why these services matter, and how this is (and isn't) changing...." Read a Cynsations interview with Nathan.

Guest Post: Agent Michelle Andelman on Dystopian Fiction from The Spectacle. Peek: "I dived in feeling self-important, feeling like my mom trusted my opinion, feeling like I was revisiting a place I’d just left. Cracking the spine, I felt adult for the first time. And, then I fell in love."

Agent Interview: Mary Kole from Alice Pope's SCBWI Children's Market Blog. Peek: "I'm still very much looking for talent, but I feel like I can take my time now and be really picky. I'd say I can sum up my goals in agenting and in life with, 'Read and learn more and more every day.'" See also Mary on Mature Voice for the YA Market from

Inevitable Envy by Eric from Pimp My Novel. Peek: "If you feel it—or rather, when you feel it—first of all, take comfort that you’re in the very best of company." Source: Elizabeth Scott.

How Many Projects Do You Have to Write Before the Big One? from Jennifer Hubbard. Peek: "I think the typical answer is around four (I vaguely recall someone compiling statistics on this, but it's also my experience anecdotally, from talking to other writers). I do know writers who have sold the very first book they ever wrote, but they are the exception."

Writing in the Woods: authors Marsha Wilson Chall, Phyllis Root and Jane Resh Thomas are offering a writing workshop from Oct. 9 to Oct. 15 in Spring Valley, Minnesota. Application deadline: Sept. 1. Note: "Two graduate credits will be available through Hamline University." Peek: "As teachers, readers, and creators of children’s literature, we invite you to live and write with us for a week in the woods. We provide a safe, supportive writing environment and promise to nurture you and treat your art kindly." Read a Cynsations interview with Phyllis.

Congratulations, David Macinnis Gill

Congratulations to David Macinnis Gill on the release of Black Hole Sun (Greenwillow, 2010). From the promotional copy:

Durango will take on any mission—as long as it is dangerous, impossible, and hopeless, and as long as it pays enough for him and his crew to get by.

Fortunately for Durango, he also has Mimi, a symbiotic nano-implant, to keep him on the straight and narrow, as well as a crew of loyal soldiers. Because he’s going to need everything he’s got for his latest mission—defending a rag-tag clan of helpless miners from a ravenous horde of feral cannibals and their enigmatic but brutal leader, who is hellbent on taking out the miners, and Durango along with them.

Read a Cynsations interview with David about his previous book, Soul Enchilada (Greenwillow, 2009)

Spooky Screening Room

Mocking Jay (Scholastic), the third and final book in the Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games trilogy is now available. Check out Editor Spotlight: Jennifer Rees by Sherrie Peterson from Write About Now. Peek: "It wasn’t until she delivered the manuscript for The Hunger Games (Scholastic, 2008), however, that we truly realized just how big and wide-reaching a project this was. We literally walked around with goosebumps for days."

More Personally

I'm honored to be among the 2010 Festival Authors scheduled to appear at the 15th annual Texas Book Festival Oct. 16 and Oct. 17 at the State Capitol Building in Austin.

The line-up also includes M.T. Anderson, T.A. Barron, Chris Barton, Holly Black, Heather Brewer, Cinda Williams Chima, Andrea Cremer, Tony DiTerlizzi, Keith Graves, Justine Larbalestier, April Lurie, Deborah Noyes, Scott Westerfeld, and Brian Yansky.

My fave amusing links of the week are (a) Erm. This Hope This Doesn't Ever Become a Fashion Trend by Leila Roy from Bookshelves of Doom, highlighting hats made out of books (check out the photos!); and (b) Inside the Science Fiction Book Contract by Greg R. Fishbone from The Spectacle (I particularly liked the "Cloned Author Clause.")

Spooky Giveaways

Reminder: Surf over to Mundie Moms to read the latest interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith, and enter to win bookplate-signed copies of Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008) and Eternal (Candlewick, 2009, 2010)! With Blessed (Candlewick, 2011) coming soon; now is a great time to get caught up on the series, if you haven't already. Or enter to win a book to give to your local high school or public library. All you have to do is fill out a short form. Deadline: Sept. 15; U.S. entries only.

Enter to win Vampire High: Sophomore Year by Douglas Reese (Delacorte, 2010)(author interview). To enter, email me (scroll and click envelope) and type "Vampire High: Sophomore Year" in the subject line (Facebook, JacketFlap, MySpace, and Twitter readers are welcome to just privately message or comment me with the name in the header/post). I'll write you for contact information, if you win. Deadline: Aug. 31. Publisher review copy; U.S. entries only.

More Spooky Events

Join author Mari Mancusi at 11 a.m. Aug. 28 for a discussion of Boys that Bite (Berkley, 2006) at Cedar Park Public Library in Cedar Park, Texas. The Teen Book Club is open to all teens ages 10-17 and meets in the Teen Zone. Teens can come by the library and pick up their free copy of the book in advance. Read a Cynsations guest post by Mari on Kids Don't Read Like They Used To, and That's a Good Thing.

The launch party for Brains for Lunch: A Zombie Novel in Haiku?! by K.A. Holt, illustrated by Gahan Wilson (Roaring Brook, 2010) will be at 2 p.m. Sept. 12 at BookPeople in Austin. Read a Cynsations interview with K.A.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Guest Post: Alma Alexander on Revising a Novel She Wrote at Age 14 (Now With Teen Advisors' Input)

By Alma Alexander

More than thirty years ago, I wrote my first original novel.

In longhand. In pencil. In three hard-cover notebooks.

Approximately 200,000 words of it.

I was fourteen years old.

It was not the first novel I had written, but it was the first one which wasn't a "practice" one, derivative of the authors whom I loved at the time.

It proved to me several things - that I was capable of writing something of this length that was purely my own, that I was capable of keeping a large plot arc in the back of my head while I juggled subplots, that I was capable of writing characters who live and change as the circumstances dictate.

To be sure, looking at the actual writing, after more than three decades of living and ten years as a professional author, it shows, sometimes painfully, how very young I was when I wrote this thing. But the story is still good. The story still stands. The characters still live.

So I launched a new project. I would post this novel online, chapter by raw and terrifying chapter, and then - with the commentary and suggestions of a panel of teen advisors who will weigh in on the original chapter and all of its flaws as they see them - I will edit and rewrite this novel with all the experience of my years as a professional, and see that story re-born in a new and glittering guise.

I have four Teen Advisors, ranging in age from 14 to 19, scattered across the length and breadth of the United States (and one from Australia!), and they and I will lick this thing into shape - and then I will be posting a new and shiny chapter, rewritten and repurposed. We will continue doing this, chapter by chapter, until the novel is done.

My young friends and I think this will be quite an experience. For all of us. And I'm hoping that lots of young writers interested in process and craft will join us for the ride.

The first chapter is now live, and awaiting commentary. We are here.

Spooky Notes

Alma Alexander is the author of 10 books, including the internationally acclaimed The Secrets of Jin-shei (HarperOne, 2004)(published in 14 languages) and the HarperCollins young adult series, Worldweavers.

Bellingham teen to advise on rewrite of early novel by Alma Alexander by Dean Kahn from The Bellingham Herald. Peek: "Steiger did wonder if she was up to the task of advising an author she admires - "I feel like I don't have a right to do that," she said - but decided working more with Alexander was worth the challenge."

West Richland teen helping fantasy author rewrite novel by Sara Schilling from the Tricity Herald. Peek: "The author said the project will benefit both her and her young collaborators. She'll get insight into what teen readers want in books, and they'll get a window into the writing world and experience they can tout as they apply to college or pursue careers."

Friday, August 20, 2010

Spooky News & Giveaways

Ads and E-Books: Money Should Still Flow Toward the Author by Saundra Mitchell from Making Up Stuff for a Living. Peek: "Product placement should be treated as a subright- I propose, on the same percentages as foreign rights subrights. Approximately 25% to the house, 75% to the author." Read a Cynsations interview with Saundra.

Ageless Wisdom by Kristi Holl from Writer's First Aid. Peek: "While sorting donated books and magazines for a library book sale, I came across a real treasure: a 1956 Writer’s Digest. Priced at 35 cents, it was a far cry from the large glossy print magazine or colorful web site of today."

Writing Under the Influence by Tabitha Olson from Writer Musings. Peek: "So, now we have a dilemma: read and possibly be influenced by other authors, or don’t read and possibly come across as na├»ve or uninformed. What’s the solution?"

Copy Cat by Allison Winn Scotch from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "I’m trying to toe this line, to figure out the balance between recreating my work and challenging myself and not, say, offering a work so different that no one recognizes the threads that tie all of my books together." Source: Elizabeth Scott.

YA Fantasy Showdown: "There are 32 characters, all present and accounted for. That means sixteen battles. Half of them will not be making it to the next round (yes, you may shed tears for them. We will). BUT. It is up to you to vote on who moves on."

OpenSky helps authors develop their brands: The website gives them the chance to make money by selling books, as well as their favorite products, directly to consumers. By Geraldine Baum from the Los Angels Times.

How to Create a Dystopia by Parker Peevyhouse from The Spectacle. Peek: "Since the point of a dystopian novel is usually to magnify a current flaw in society, it works best to create a world based on one main flaw."

Writers Against Racism: Get Caught Reading an Author of Color's Book by Amy Bowllan from Bowllan's Blog. Peek: "I was hoping to end the summer, catching everyday people, reading books by Authors of Color. Please send these jpeg snapshots to me, via e-mail, with a short blurb about the setting and who is in the picture, name of the book, author etc..."

Agent Interview: Erin Murphy by Brenda Sturgis from Peek: "Picture books have to have enough layers that their genius only becomes truly apparent through multiple readings. Which is not the same as having a lot of words--not by a long shot."

Random Acts of Publicity - Sept. 7 to Sept. 10 by Darcy Pattison from Fiction Notes. Peek: "a week when you do something to promote a friend’s book, or to promote a recent book you’ve read. Four days of promoting others’ books should be great fun."

Onward Through the Fog by Brian Yansky from Brian's Blog - Writer Talk. Note: Brian talks about the temptation to quit writing and holds up "The African Queen" as a model for reconsidering.

Congratulations, K.A. Holt

Congratulations to author K.A. Holt on the release of Brains for Lunch: A Zombie Novel in Haiku?! by K.A. Holt, illustrated by Gahan Wilson (Roaring Brook, 2010)! From the promotional copy:

The difference being that this middle school novel is written entirely in Haiku. Loeb, its zombie protagonist has a problem: the object of his affection, Siobhan, is a lifer (i.e. human). What to do? In scenes set around a lunch table (the menu: brains) and around the school, eyes roll and jaws drop (literally). Also featured in the cast of characters is Carl, a chupacabra (bloodsucking critter) and Mrs. Fincher, a sympathetic and seductive librarian.

The launch party for Brains for Lunch will be at 2 p.m. Sept. 12 at BookPeople in Austin.

Austin Scene

In the BookKids department of BookPeople, children's author Pamela Ferguson shows off her debut novel, Sunshine Picklelime, illustrated by Christian Slade (Random House, 2010).

We both were attending a panel on "Diversity in Children's Literature," sponsored by Austin SCBWI. Regional advisor Debbie Gonzales led the discussion with author Varian Johnson, author/illustrator Don Tate, author/librarian Jeanette Larson, and author Lila Guzman.

After the meeting, a bunch of us met for lunch at Frank and Angie's Pizzeria.

More Personally

Jeepers! I received nine blurb requests last week, most of them from folks who had some kind of connection to me. Here's the scoop: I require that all book blurb requests come from editors or agents. I do not want to hear via email or in person from the author, no matter who it is.

U.K. readers: you can find Tantalize and Eternal at WHSmith. Happy shopping!

Speaking of international releases, thanks to Curtis Brown for sending more copies of the Polish edition of Eternal and this copy of Sanguine (Tantalize) from Intervista Editions in France. Note: Tantalize was featured as a Random Recommendation at A Simple Love of Reading. Peek: "Although Kieren doesn't have the largest part in this book, his feelings for Quincie are unmistakable, and I hope that in Blessed, the next book in the series, they are able to overcome what happened to Quincie in Tantalize." I'm not giving out any spoilers (yet), but I will say that I suspect Quincie-Kieren fans will be pleased with what happens next.

Giveaway Reminders

Surf over to Mundie Moms to read the latest interview with me, and enter to win bookplate-signed copies of Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008) and Eternal (Candlewick, 2009, 2010)! With Blessed (Candlewick, 2011) coming soon; now is a great time to get caught up on the series, if you haven't already. Or enter to win a book to give to your local high school or public library. All you have to do is fill out a short form. Deadline: Sept. 15; U.S. entries only.

Enter to win Vampire High: Sophomore Year by Douglas Reese (Delacorte, 2010)(author interview). To enter, email me (scroll and click envelope) and type "Vampire High: Sophomore Year" in the subject line (Facebook, JacketFlap, MySpace, and Twitter readers are welcome to just privately message or comment me with the name in the header/post). I'll write you for contact information, if you win. Deadline: Aug. 31. Publisher review copy; U.S. entries only.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

New Voice: Amy Brecount White on Forget-Her-Nots

Amy Brecount White is the first-time author of Forget-Her-Nots (Greenwillow, 2010). From the promotional copy:

Something—some power—is blooming inside Laurel. She can use flowers to do things. Like bringing back lost memories. Or helping her friends ace tests. Or making people fall in love.

Laurel suspects her newfound ability has something to do with an ancient family secret, one that her mother meant to share with Laurel when the time was right. But then time ran out.

Clues and signs and secret messages seem to be all around Laurel at Avondale School, where her mother had also boarded as a student.

Can Laurel piece everything together quickly enough to control her power, which is growing more potent every day?

Or will she set the stage for the most lovestruck, infamous prom in the history of the school?

What were you like as a young reader, and how did that influence the book that you're debuting this year?

I read everything I could get my hands on and always checked out the maximum number of books from the library! My days were filled with Encyclopedia Brown [by Donald J. Sobel (1963-)], Betsy Byars, Madeleine L'Engle, and even Harlequin romances. I've never felt complete unless I'm in the middle of or looking forward to a book.

Later in high school, I was steered into the classics and fell in love with Dickens, Jane Austen, and some Russian novelists. I like to think of my tastes as eclectic, although definitely preferring fiction.

When I thought about my audience for Forget-Her-Nots, I wrote for the girl that I was: someone with endless curiosity about the world who wanted to come away from the last page of a book with more than she started.

So, I gave my readers something that most of them have never encountered before--the language of flowers. Many of them have already told me that they don't look at flowers in quite the same way anymore. I love books that help me connect with the world in a new and creative way. I hope I've inspired readers to do that with mine.

As a magic realism writer, how did you go about building your world?

The world of the Avondale School was tremendously fun to build. The fictional girls school was constructed in the Victorian period (in the U.S.), but it's also set in Charlottesville where I used to live.

So the campus is a wonderful combination of a mysterious, Gothic-type conservatory and neoclassical buildings, like those on the campus of the University of Virginia.

I gave the school a rich history of strong women and fascinating traditions, such as the May Day maypole dance.

Laurel's school had to have extensive gardens that she could wander through and explore her gift, but it's also a modern campus with soccer fields, a dining hall, and a quad with Frisbees zipping across.

Charlottesville has a climate with a long spring and fall -- plenty of time for lots of flowers to show off. Most of the novel takes place in the spring, and I did do a lot of research and observation to make sure that I got the bloom times correct.

I also did a lot of research on the language of flowers and human/flower relations throughout history. The Avondale campus is a place where the language comes vibrantly and unpredictably alive, so the campus seems to reverberate with myths, poems, and stories about flowers.

I had so much fun creating the gardens and conservatory in particular, that I'd love to revisit the campus in a companion novel to Forget-Her-Nots and already have some ideas rooting.

Spooky Notes

Amy Brecount White has taught English literature and writing to middle school and high school students. She has written numerous articles and essays for publications such as the Washington Post, but Forget-Her-Nots is her first novel.

She can often be found in her garden and gives flowers to her friends and family whenever she can, though none have had magical effects—yet.

Interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith; Tantalize and Eternal Giveaways

Surf over to Mundie Moms to read the latest interview with me, and enter to win bookplate-signed copies of Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008) and Eternal (Candlewick, 2009, 2010)!

With Blessed (Candlewick, 2011) coming soon; now is a great time to get caught up on the series, if you haven't already.

Or enter to win a book to give to your local high school or public library.

All you have to do is fill out a short form. Deadline: Sept. 15; U.S. entries only.

In the interview, I talk about my inspirations, Austin and Chicago settings, my writing process, my books, and my upcoming releases.

Peek: "Legend has it that if a cat sits on your manuscript, it will sell. (You can't just plop the kitty down on the paper. He must choose to position himself in that spot)."

Here's Sebastian "Bashi," lounging in my writing chair in the reading room.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Shelf Sightings: Eternal in Poland

James Klise, author of Love Drugged (Flux, 2010), writes, "We saw the Polish edition of Eternal in Warsaw, Krakow, Gdansk, and Torun (famous for two things: Copernicus and gingerbread!). The Polish chain Empik, which is like Borders, is promoting it heavily. Yay!"

Let's take a peek!

Wow, top row, face out and in great company!

Here's the back cover! Can any of y'all read it? (I recognize "bestsellerze Top 5, the New York Times...Zachariasz...Mirandy...wampira..." and that's about it!

Big thanks to James for sending on the report and photos! Much appreciated!

Cynsational Update

Over at Cynsations at LiveJournal, Anna Staniszewski translates:

A romantic and lyrical story of the dangerous love between a girl turned into a vampire and a fallen angel in this Top 5 bestseller in the New York Times in March 2010.

Eternally Banished

Zachary would do anything for Miranda. For her, he breaks the rule that guardian angels are warned never to break: he shows himself to his dying love. But even then he isn't able to protect her. Attacked by a vampire, Miranda succumbs to a dark transformation...

Thank you, Anna!

Spooky News & Vampire High: Sophomore Year Giveaway

Nancy Werlin: The Anatomy of a Book Cover: a conversation with Elizabeth Bluemle from Shelf Talker. Peek: "Conceptually, though, the 'same but different' mission was tricky for the designer. You couldn’t have the cover of Extraordinary (Dial, 2010) suggest to readers that they’d be getting the continuing adventures of Lucy Scarborough from Impossible (Dial, 2008), only that they are likely to get a similar reading experience." Read a Cynsations interview with Nancy.

Cover Stories: Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey from Melissa Walker. Peek: "The model who represents Jess looks eerily like how I picture her in my mind...." Read a Cynsations interview with Beth.

Unreliable Narrators by Jennifer R. Hubbard from writerjenn. Peek: "How can we convey this unreliability without shouting it at the reader? How can we walk the tightrope between being too obscure and too obvious?"

The Book Trailer Manual: Build Trust, Gain Readers and Break-out with the Right Video about Your Book: a new blog from Darcy Pattison. Read a Cynsations interview with Darcy.

Thinking Like a Nine-to-Fiver by Kristi Holl from Writer's First Aid. Peek: "Yes, it’s easier if you work at an office with a boss. None of your friends or family members expect things from you during the day when you work outside the home. So your only option is learning to say 'no.'"

Making the Most Out of Your Conference Critique by Cynthea Liu. Peek: "Your hands are sweating. You lie awake at night. You can’t stop thinking about your face-to-face critique with the publishing professional of your dreams." Source: A Brief Word (Writers' League of Texas). Read a Cynsations interview with Cynthea.

ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults Nominees from YALSA. Updated as of Aug. 9. Nominees include Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs by Ron Koertge (Candlewick, 2010).

Is Your Story Real, and Are You Your Characters? by Brian Yansky from Brian's Blog: Writer Talk. Peek: "I write what I know and what I know is that any story I write will have parts that are taken from real life and put into the Crazy Imagination Blender™ and used in the construction of character and story along with totally made up parts." Read a Cynsations interview with Brian.

Interview with Lisa Schroeder from Debbi Michiko Florence. Peek: "My best books have come about because I tried something new, even though I was scared to do so." Read a Cynsations interview with Lisa.

Writing Is a Business by Lisa Shearin from The Magic District. Peek: "Before I was published, my deadlines were self-imposed, which meant that I could take all the time I wanted to make my manuscript as perfect as possible. Now, I essentially have nine months from typing that first word, to turning in a final manuscript to my editor. The deadlines are in your contract, so they might as well be graven in granite." Source: Elizabeth Scott. Note: hang in there, debut authors; others before you have survived this and gone on to prosper.

Do You Tell a Potential Agent About That Other Project? by Jackie Morse Kessler from Open Up and Say "Blog." Peek: "You may never write that down-the-road project." Note: also includes insights on YALITCHAT at Twitter.

Balancing Pain: Things to Consider When Throwing Rocks at Your Character by Maggie Jamison from Apex Book Company. Peek: "A friend asked me a few weeks ago about balancing both pain and sympathy in fiction: how do you create a character who suffers immensely, but who doesn’t sound whiny to the reader?" Source: Jennifer R. Hubbard via Terri-Lynne DeFino.

Congratulations to fellow Austinite Lindsey Scheibe for signing with literary agent Mandy Hubbard, and congratulations to Mandy for signing Lindsey! Read a Cynsations interview with Mandy.

Spooky Screening Room

Check out the trailer for Stalker Girl by Rosemary Graham (Viking, 2010).

Check out the Rampant and Ascendant (both HarperTeen) Book Trailer, featuring author Diana Peterfreund:

WriteOnCon: a free online children's-YA writers' conference. Check out: The Revision Process by Cynthea Liu (part two, three), Romance in YA by Lisa Schroder, Plot and Pacing by author/literary agent Weronika Janczuk (part two, three) and much more!

In the video below, P.J. "Tricia" Hoover offers writing advice from many children's-YA authors (and at least one librarian) who attended the June conference of the American Library Association.

Interview with Egmont USA publisher Elizabeth Law by Angela L. Fox from az-ang. See also a Cynsations interview with Elizabeth.

Author-librarian Erica Silverman on the importance of librarians to writers from Lee Wind at I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell Do I Read? Save L.A. Libraries.

More Personally

This week was quiet and productive. Yesterday, I sent off my final, final response to my Candlewick editor's final, final line edits on the pass pages for Blessed. Look for cover art soon!

I also sent her a draft of Eternal: Zachary's Story, a graphic novel. It's significantly less text heavy than Tantalize: Kieren's Story was when it first went in. Hopefully, I've learned something by having taken out so much text on that last book.

Congratulations to Margaret, winner of the Figment flash fiction contest! Note: I had the honor of judging the finalists, and Margaret has won signed copies of Tantalize and Eternal (both Candlewick). Figment is currently a private site, but you can sign up at to join in!

Spooky Giveaway

Enter to win Vampire High: Sophomore Year by Douglas Reese (Delacorte, 2010)(author interview). To enter, email me (scroll and click envelope) and type "Vampire High: Sophomore Year" in the subject line (Facebook, JacketFlap, MySpace, and Twitter readers are welcome to just privately message or comment me with the name in the header/post). I'll write you for contact information, if you win. Deadline: Aug. 31. Publisher review copy; U.S. entries only.

Spooky Events

Author Pamela Ellen Ferguson will be presenting and signing Sunshine Picklelime, illustrated by Christian Slade (Random House, 2010) at 2 p.m. Aug. 15 at BookPeople in Austin.

The launch party for Brains for Lunch: A Zombie Novel in Haiku?! by K.A. Holt, illustrated by Gahan Wilson (Roaring Brook, 2010) will be at 2 p.m. Sept. 12 at BookPeople in Austin.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

New Voice: Leah Cypess on Mistwood

Leah Cypess is the first-time author of Mistwood (Greenwillow/HarperCollins, 2010). From the promotional copy:

The Shifter is an immortal creature bound by an ancient spell to protect the kings of Samorna. When the realm is peaceful, she retreats to the Mistwood. But when she is needed she always comes.

Isabel remembers nothing. Nothing before the prince rode into her forest to take her back to the castle. Nothing about who she is supposed to be, or the powers she is supposed to have.

Prince Rokan needs Isabel to be his Shifter. He needs her ability to shift to animal form, to wind, to mist. He needs her lethal speed and superhuman strength. And he needs her loyalty--because without it, she may be his greatest threat.

Isabel knows that her prince is lying to her, but she can't help wanting to protect him from the dangers and intrigues of the court...until a deadly truth shatters the bond between them.

Now Isabel faces a choice that threatens her loyalty, her heart...and everything she thought she knew.

Are you a plotter or a plunger? Do you outline first, write to explore first, or engage some combination of the two? Then where do you go from there? What about this approach appeals to you? What advice do you have for beginning writers struggling with plot?

I am definitely a plunger. It depends on the book, but I often start with only the vaguest idea of how the plot will come together. With Mistwood, all I had when I first put pen to paper was that first scene – a misty forest in which a supernatural creature was being hunted by men on horseback. I had no clue what would happen in chapter two.

This approach appeals to me because it’s fun. I love that creative rush when the ideas flow from my mind to my pen; I love it when my characters surprise me by taking the story in new directions. I love it when a random line of dialogue turns out to hold an important plot twist – one I didn’t know was coming when I wrote that dialogue.

I have to say that this approach isn’t terribly efficient – I often end up throwing out pages of writing that were leading me down dead ends, and I go through a lot of revision. But when I try to start with an outline, I find that once the outline is done I have no real urge to write the book.

My advice to beginning writers would be to do what works for you. I like my method (using the term “method” criminally loosely), but a lot of other writers are probably shuddering as they read it.

Experiment. Read about how other authors write – I once read in an interview with
Diana Gabaldon that she writes parts of her book out of order, and experimenting with that technique really freed up my creativity.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes or to "waste" writing on plot threads you’re sure you’ll have to delete. You may surprise yourself. And even if you don’t, what you learn will help you write scenes you don’t have to delete.

As someone who’s the primary caregiver of children, how do you manage to also carve out time to write and build a publishing career? What advice do you have for other writers trying to do the same?

I wrote most of Mistwood before I had kids; but I started its companion book, which will be published in 2011, when my oldest daughter was about six months old.

She’s now three years old, with a baby sister; and, obviously, the career building is mostly happening now.

So it’s been a bit of a challenge, though it’s a challenge I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Last summer, my toddler could be occupied for hours at the playground, my infant was still happy to lie in the stroller, and I could've written a perky, little post about how I took my kids to the park and sat and wrote.

But last winter, when it was below freezing outside, my younger daughter was mobile, and so my writing for the day became...sporadic.

The main thing I try to do is make sure that when my kids are asleep (by hook and crook, I can usually get an hour’s overlap between their naps), that’s writing time.

Many of my other tasks – shopping, cooking, laundry – can be done together with my kids.

The tasks might take twice as long. They might involve more frustration. But they can get done. Which means that while my kids are asleep, I can concentrate on writing.

This doesn’t always work, of course, but I try to make it my goal.

Spooky Notes

Leah Cypess has been writing since the fourth grade, but before becoming a full-time writer, she earned her law degree from Columbia Law School. She worked for two years at a large New York City law firm, then moved to Boston, where she now lives with her husband and two young children. Mistwood is her first novel.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Spooky News & Vampire High: Sophomore Year Giveaway

Enter to win Vampire High: Sophomore Year by Douglas Reese (Delacorte, 2010)(author interview). From the promotional copy:

In the satiric and funny sequel to the witty Vampire High, Cody's hopes for a great sophomore year at Vlad Dracul are dashed when his train wreck of a cousin, Turk Stone, moves in and messes with his life.

Turk's a brilliant teen artist and goth with a sky-high ego . Her attitude infuriates the vampire (jenti) students, especially the dark, brooding Gregor. But something changes in Turk when she stumbles on the abandoned nineteenth-century mill in the forgotten district of Crossfield and immediately claims it as her new arts center project.

Though Cody resents his cousin at first, he has his own reasons for helping make Turk's dream come true. But Crossfield has many secrets, and a mysterious vampire army called the Mercians will do anything to make sure they stay hidden. And when he takes on the Mercians, everything Cody has learned about courage and determination his freshman year at Vampire High will be tested.

To enter, email me (scroll and click envelope) and type "Vampire High: Sophomore Year" in the subject line (Facebook, JacketFlap, MySpace, and Twitter readers are welcome to just privately message or comment me with the name in the header/post). I'll write you for contact information, if you win. Deadline: Aug. 31. Sponsored by the author; U.S. entries only.

More News

Prime Real Estate by Mary Kole from Peek: "The more descriptive (and scene) space you give something, the more characters think and talk about it, the more important it will become in the reader’s mind." See also Mary on Writing Woes. Read a Cynsations interview with Mary.

Writing Between Diapers: Tips for Writer Moms by Mayra Calvani from The National Writing for Children Center. Opens with this quote: "Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent." –C. G. Jung Source: Kristi Holl from Writer's First Aid.

Dealing with Bad Reviews from Nathan Bransford - Literary Agent. Peek: "It takes an exceedingly thick skin to be an author these days, perhaps moreso than at any time in the past." See also An Open Love Note to Debut Authors about Hurtful Online Reviews from Cynsations. Read a Cynsations interview with Nathan.

A Peach of an Agent from Sarah Davies's Blog at Greenhouse Literary Agency. Peek: "With ever more agents on the children’s/YA scene (I can count 10 new ones in the past year without even trying), the most standout new writers will increasingly experience the thrilling, bewildering fluster of The Agent Battle." Note: on how to pick between multiple offers of representation. Source: Elizabeth S. Craig. Read a Cynsations interview with Sarah.

Food in Fantasy: opening thoughts from and an interview with Cindy Pon from Lisa Mantchev from The Enchanted Inkpot. Peek: "Food is such an important part of the Chinese culture, always bringing to mind time with family and friends as well as festivities. I wanted to write a fantasy novel that celebrated food as much as the Chinese culture does." Read a Cynsations interview with Cindy.

Manipulation by Brian Yansky from Brian's Blog - Writer Talk. Peek: "In revision, you need to keep getting to that place in you, the dream zone place, to revise at the scene level…but you also need to step back and analyze how the various aspects of story are working in your manuscript." Read a Cynsations interview with Brian.

We Begin Again. And Again. by Lindsey Lane from This and That. Peek: "Whenever I finish something, whether it is my newly minted MFA degree or a book or a play or an article, the inevitable question people ask is: 'What’s next?'" Read a Cynsations interview with Lindsey.

Choose Your Friends Wisely by Kristi Holl from Writer's First Aid. Peek: "Sabotage from non-artist friends has more to do with your lack of availability. These friends may not understand your need to set aside time to work."

PR Notes: Book Trailer Software Demonstrated by Darcy Pattison from Fiction Notes. Peek: "So, here are my trailers. I used the same stock images for all of these, just experimented with different programs. There’s a slide show from Photobucket, a short trailer using, and a trailer made with Vegas Movie Studio HD." See also Time Line Helps You Plot.

The comic book steps up as an aid to literacy by Wendy Martin from From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle Grade Authors. Peek: "For the reluctant reader, they are absorbing and entertaining. For a struggling reader or the reader learning English as a second language, they offer a bridge with pictures for context, and hopefully a different path into classroom discussions for higher-level texts."

Overpromotion from Scott Tracey. Peek: "Build a fan base by being interesting – you’ll sell more books that way. Otherwise, you’re just trolling for bodies – and bodies don’t buy books." Source: Elizabeth Scott.

The Mechanics of Novel Writing for Children and Young Adults: online class taught by Jill Santopolo (pictured)(Oct. 26 to Dec. 15) through McDaniel College. Jill is the author of the Alec Flint mystery series, including Alec Flint, Super Sleuth: The Nina, The Pinta and The Vanishing Treasure (2008) and The Ransom Note Blues: An Alec Flint Mystery (2009). She also is an executive editor at Philomel. See also a spring 2011 class, Reading Like a Writer, taught by Lisa Graff. Lisa is the author of Umbrella Summer (HarperCollins, 2009) and The Life and Crimes of Bernetta Wallflower (HarperCollins, 2008). She's also a former associate editor at FSG. Note: Lisa's class appears to be on campus in Westminster, Maryland. Read Cynsations interviews with Jill and Lisa.

Supportive Writer Friends by Kristi Holl from Writer's First Aid. Peek: "Supportive writer friends pump you up to do your best work, and even act as cattle prods. ('Quit stalling. Sign up for that conference.')"

Dead or Alive: Top Ten Children's Writer Collaborations I'd Love to See by Bethany Hegedus from Writer Friendly; Bookshelf Approved. Peek: "M. T. Anderson and Judy Blume: Are You There, God? It’s Me, Octavian."

Congratulations, Y.S. Lee

Congratulations to Y.S. Lee on the release of The Agency: The Body at the Tower (Candlewick, 2010), a companion to The Agency: A Spy in the House (Candlewick, 2010). From the promotional copy:

Mary Quinn is back, now a trusted member of the Agency, the all-female detective unit operating out of Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls.

Her new assignment sends her into the grimy underbelly of Victorian London dressed as a poor boy, evoking her own childhood memories of fear, hunger, and constant want. As she insinuates herself into the confidence of several persons of interest, she encounters others in desperate situations and struggles to make a difference without exposing --or losing --her identity.

Mary’s adventure, which takes place on the building site of the clock tower of the Houses of Parliament, offers a fictional window into a fascinating historical time and place.

Highest recommendation. Read a Cynsations interview with Y.S.

Cynsational Screening Room

Celebrating Arthur Slade's The Hunchback Assignments -- book 2 is now out in Canada and Australia; it'll be released Sept. 14 in the U.S.; see an interview with Arthur.

Don't miss book one:

M.T. Anderson sings the Delaware state anthem at SCBWI Nationals. Don't miss Jasper Dash and the Flame-Pits of Delaware, illustrated by Kurt Cyrus (Beach Lane, 2009).

See also What's Hot? a report by Chris Eboch from SCBWI Nationals on what kind of manuscripts are selling well to national children's-YA book publishers. Read a Cynsations interview with Chris.

More Personally

Last weekend, Greg and I had the pleasure of meeting children's author Kerry Madden and her husband (AKA eye candy) for brunch at Maudie's Tex-Mex on South Lamar.

I first fell in love with Kerry's writing in her Maggie Valley books (Gentle's Holler (2005), Louisiana's Song (2007), Jessie's Mountain (2008)(all Viking) and, more recently, was wowed by her new biography Up Close: Harper Lee (Viking, 2009).

We chatted over migas and breakfast tacos, and believe me, Kerry sparkles every bit as much as her books. What a delight!

Then on Wednesday, I was joined around the dining room table by fellow Austin authors P.J. Hoover and Jessica Lee Anderson for a day of writing and some visiting and much laughter.

P.J. is the author of The Forgotten Worlds trilogy (Blooming Tree); book three--The Necropolis--will be available this fall!

Jessica is the author of Trudy (2005), Border Crossing (2009)(both Mikweed) and books for younger readers.

It's an honor to be pals with such talented and inspiring writers! Can you see the smoke rising from their fingertips?

Featuring Greg

Interview with Greg Leitich Smith by Melissa Buron from Book Addict. Peek: "Attorney by day, author by night, Greg Leitich Smith is a special brand of Texan super-hero. Recently, Greg took a minute to visit about what enticed him to make Texas his home, how he became an award-winning author and what new projects the Austin-based Superman is working on now."

Spooky Events

Author Pamela Ellen Ferguson will be presenting and signing Sunshine Picklelime, illustrated by Christian Slade (Random House, 2010) at 2 p.m. Aug. 15 at BookPeople in Austin.

Monday, August 02, 2010

New Voice: Ann Finnin on The Sorcerer of Sainte Felice

Ann Finnin is the first-time YA author of The Sorcerer of Sainte Felice (Flux, 2010). From the promotional copy:

"I was only an apprentice. I swear it. By all the angels in Heaven."

Condemned to death by the Holy Office for sorcery, fifteen-year-old Michael de Lorraine is rescued from the flames by Abbot Francis and granted refuge at Sainte Felice, a Benedictine monastery in fifteenth-century France.

Michael learns that this strange and wonderful place, famous for its healing wine, harbors renegade monk-sorcerers, enchanted gargoyles, and a closely guarded secret that could spell violent death for the Abbot.

As the church intensifies its cruel pursuit of Michael, Abbot Francis and the wizard monks find themselves in grave danger.

Michael will do anything to protect his mentor, but are his own magical powers great enough to save the monastery from the merciless, bloodthirsty Inquisition?

Looking back, are you surprised to debut in 2010, or did that seem inevitable? How long was your journey, what were the significant events, and how did you keep the faith?

Mine was a long, long journey – over thirty years. And while my debut didn’t seem inevitable, I have to admit there was a certain "well, it’s about darned time" feel to it.

The first draft of this book was originally completed in 1978. Obviously, it went through many revisions since then. The version that actually sold was completed in 1991. But the idea of the book, the characters, the setting and the basic storyline remained the same from one version to the next.

In the meantime, I completed several other novels in a variety of different genres, from adult fantasy to romance, gradually honing my skills, so when I drafted the final version of this book, I was able to craft a much better story than I did in the original version (I still have it, and I cringe to read it).

None of the other books have sold--yet. I have had some serious nibbles over the years, and once you are published in one genre, it is easier to publish in another. So, there is hope that some of my other stories will appear in print before too long.

Sometimes a story has to wait for the right time for an editor to want to publish it. If you continue to keep improving it and sending it out, eventually, it will find its home.

As for keeping the faith, I never really lost it. When I was a teenager, my mother gave me a book that still sits on my shelf. The title is: A Writer is Someone Who Writes.

I am a writer. I write. I love to write. I can’t go for too many months without writing something, an article, a short story, a novel, anything. I’ve published articles and a short story or two over the years. But even if I hadn’t, I would still write. Because I’m a writer. I can’t not write.

As a historical fiction writer, what drew you first-character, concept, or historical period? How did you go about building your world and integrating it into the story? What were the challenges? Where did you turn for inspiration or support?

I chose my time and place (France, 1480) with considerable care. There were things that I wanted to have happen that couldn’t have happened if the time period were fifty years earlier or fifty years later.

In any good historical novel, the time period is just as much of a character as the flesh-and-blood people. It determines how the characters think, what they worry about, what’s important to them and how they react to events that happen around them. It determines how they grow up, how they earn their livings and how they relate to authority. It shapes the characters and makes them what they are.

My main character, 15-year-old Michael de Lorraine, is a child of his time. He would not have had the conflicts and the character arc that he has if he had been born a century earlier or later.

The biggest challenge in writing a story set in another time is liberating your mindset from the assumptions of the modern era that we think are so self-evident but which didn’t exist in other centuries. This includes allowing sympathetic characters to have attitudes about sex, gender, race, religion or social class that we find repulsive.

This isn’t easy to do, and the inability to do it convincingly results in "historical" fiction which is simply a contemporary story featuring contemporary conflicts in which all the characters wear the costumes of another era.

When I was active in Renaissance Faires and other historical reenactment groups, there were always the people who dressed in elaborate and historically accurate costumes sitting in a pavilion in which all modern items were carefully expunged, chatting about their computers.

Part of this was because it was difficult to know enough about what a sixteenth century noblewoman would chat about to be able to carry on a convincing conversation without a script. But it was also because few people, even reenactors, were willing to voice politically incorrect opinions, even if such opinions were as much a part of their chosen historical period as their clothing and accessories.

What has to happen is that the author has to peel away the generalities of the historical era and get to the basic humanity of the characters.

The hero of a story set in nineteenth century England might genuinely think that a woman’s proper place in the kitchen, but would treat the women he encounters with kindness and consideration whereas the villain in the same story would have the same attitude towards women but would treat the individual women of his acquaintance with harshness and disrespect. In this case, the attitude towards a woman’s proper place is part of the historical era in which these two characters grow up, but the treatment of this woman or that would distinguish the hero from the villain.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Artlapse: The Joker by Ming Doyle

Last week, I turned in my notes on both the pass pages of Blessed and the copy edits of Tantalize: Kieren's Story, a graphic novel being illustrated by Ming Doyle (both Candlewick, Feb. 2011). This week, I'm diving back into Eternal: Zachary's Story, likewise to be illustrated by Ming.

To celebrate, here's a artlapse video of Ming Doyle painting The Joker (15 minutes scrunched to one):