Wednesday, June 30, 2010

New Voice: Dia Reeves on Bleeding Violet

Dia Reeves is the first-time author of Bleeding Violet (Simon Pulse, 2010). From the promotional copy:

Love can be a dangerous thing….

Hanna simply wants to be loved. With a head plagued by hallucinations, a medicine cabinet full of pills, and a closet stuffed with frilly, violet dresses, Hanna’s tired of being the outcast, the weird girl, the freak. So she runs away to Portero, Texas in search of a new home.

But Portero is a stranger town than Hanna expects. As she tries to make a place for herself, she discovers dark secrets that would terrify any normal soul.

Good thing for Hanna, she’s far from normal. As this crazy girl meets an even crazier town, only two things are certain: Anything can happen and no one is safe.

In writing your story, did you ever find yourself concerned with how to best approach "edgy" behavior on the part of your characters? If so, what were your thoughts, and what did you conclude? Why do you think your decision was the right one?

Before I ever sat down to write Bleeding Violet, I knew that the main character hallucinated, but I didn't know what mental illness caused hallucinations, and so I had to do some research.

When I discovered that people with bipolar can hallucinate (especially during manic episodes), that's the illness I went with. It was the illness itself that shaped most of Hanna's personality: recklessness, impaired judgment, hypersexuality, delusions, and thoughts of suicide.

I know a lot of people are offended by Hanna's behavior and don't feel that she's an appropriate role model or simply can't relate to her because her experiences and point of view are so out of the norm.

When I wrote her character, I never intended that Hanna should be the guiding example of what a teenager should be. I'm not interested in writing about saintly paragons of virtue, nor am I interested in writing about "normal" teenagers. I prefer abnormal teenagers, the ones on the fringe, the ones who don't think or operate the way "normal" people do.

That's why I had so much fun writing Bleeding Violet; with Hanna being an unusual type of character (certainly an underrepresented character), what built up around her was, correspondingly, an unusual story.

I wish everyone could experience the creative freedom that comes with upsetting the status quo; there are no words for it.

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

I knew I wanted to write about East Texas; there's something romantic and fairytale-ish about huge forests.

Also, when people think of Texas, they tend to imagine flat, dusty plains and tumbleweeds. I wanted people to know that the geography of Texas is much more varied than that.

But what gives the imaginary town of Portero its otherwordly vibe is less the town itself but rather its townspeople: their matter-of-fact outlook on death, how they value bravery above almost anything else, their high tolerance for weirdness.

Porterenes have their own rituals and styles of dress and modes of behavior all centered around the fact that they live side by side with monsters. So the world building grew out of character; for me, characters inform everything.

Spooky Notes

Dia Reeves is a librarian and lives in a suburb of Dallas, Texas. Her family, however, hails from East Texas. Bleeding Violet is her first novel.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

New Voice: Alyxandra Harvey on Hearts at Stake (The Drake Chronicles)

Alyxandra Harvey is the first-time author of The Drake Chronicles--Hearts At Stake (My Love Lies Bleeding in UK)(Dec., 2009-Jan., 2010); Blood Feud (June, 2010) and Out for Blood (Nov. 2010), all from Bloomsbury Walker Books. From the promotional copy:

On Solange’s sixteenth birthday, she is going to wake up dead. As if that’s not bad enough, she also has to outwit her seven overprotective older brothers, avoid the politics involved with being the only daughter born to an ancient vampire dynasty, and elude Kieran Black—agent of an anti-vampire league who is searching for his father’s killer and is intent on staking Solange and her entire family.

Luckily, she has her own secret weapon—her human best friend Lucy—who is willing to defend Solange’s right to a normal life, whether she’s being smothered by her well-intentioned brothers or abducted by a power-hungry queen.

Two unlikely alliances are formed in a race to save Solange’s eternal life—Lucy and Solange’s brother Nicholas, and Solange and Kieran Black—in a dual romance that is guaranteed to jump start any romance-lover’s heart.

How did you discover and get to know your protagonist? How about your secondary characters?

Quite often, my characters just pop into my head. They have a basic shape and voice, but it's like I need glasses to really focus on their individual details.

First, I find a name. I have lots of baby name books, and I keep lists of names I like as I come across them. I've also been known to out and out steal from movie credits!

I also keep a notebook for each novel I write, and it's filled with lists of characters' eye colour, hair colour, favourite band, book and food... I don't necessarily know all of this information when I first start, it is revealed to me as I go along.

But my favourite way of getting to know a book and a character is through collage. You don't need any particular artistic talent, just a few magazines and a glue stick. And I find it frees me up and gives me a different viewpoint. Imagery and certain colours, or bits of poetry all contribute to the "feel" of any given character. There's something instinctive and subconscious about this process which appeals to me.

Sometimes characters also have a "theme song." For Hearts At Stake and the main protagonist Solange Drake, this song was "Killing Moon" by Echo and the Bunnymen.

Hearts at Stake started with an image I had of a girl and a car full of her many brothers driving up to whisk her away. I knew she was in danger, but now how or why.

So I wrote the story to find out.

Eventually, I realized I wanted to loosely retell the Snow White fairy tale but in the vampire YA genre. I had Solange's basic details that way: black hair, pale skin and red lips. But I didn't really get to know her until I got to know her family. She is so overprotected because of vampire politics that she feels smothered and beloved all at the same time. She is just discovering who she is as a person when she is forced through the bloodchange into a vampire...if she can survive long enough, that is.

Another defining aspect for the characters in this book is their friendships with others. The family you make for yourself is just as important as the family you're born with. And for Solange Drake, that's Lucy Hamilton.

Lucy was fun to write because she's reckless and snarky. She doesn't really have a mute button, and she tends to act before she thinks. Her parents are pacifists, but she definitely has a violent streak!

Since both characters spoke to me so strongly that I chose to use both of their perspectives, in alternating chapters. I didn't want to be limited to one part of the story. I wanted to explore both the vampires and the humans and the way they interact. And often they hijacked the plot for their own purposes!

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

I have always been a reader. When everyone else was in love with actors and musicians, I was in love with literary characters or dead poets. I've cultivated very satisfying crushes on Robin Hood, John Keats, Mr. Rochester and, of course, Mr. Darcy.

In high school, I started to read fantasy novels which eventually led me to paranormal and urban fantasy. But at first I was a terrible snob. I refused to read any modern fantasy. If it didn't happen in some crumbling castle, I wanted nothing to do with it!

Tanya Huff's Blood Ties series whet my appetite in high school as my first literary introduction to vampires and werewolves and supernatural creatures. I adored her books; they were snarky and fun and took place in Toronto, where I lived. My best friend and I used to trade them back and forth, writing each other notes about the characters in the margins.

And then in university I discovered Charles de Lint. That was it. He finalized my conversion with a single book: Memory and Dream (1994).

Keep in mind that urban fantasy meant something different back in the 90s. It was more magical folkloric realism (Charles de Lint, Emma Bull, Terri Windling...) than the detective/action/horror type books that make up the genre now. In fact, Terri Windling's The Wood Wife (2003) remains my favourite book to this day. Some other favourites now also include Solstice Wood by Patricia A. McKillip (2006) and Guy Gavriel Kay's Ysabel (2007).

What I love about this genre is the braiding together of myth and history and magic. It has the flavour of old fairy tales but with more modern sensibilities. It's the beauty of the rose, the blood on a thorn and the girl passed out in the castle behind the briars. It has so many layers. The mystery of it helps us to look beneath the surface, which is always a valuable tool. And (especially now) the girls almost always kick butt!

And never forget, it's only fairly recently that paranormal creatures are shelved in the fantasy section. They used to be a real concern, as real as choosing which crops to plant, how to avoid the plague, and who you were going to marry.

Spooky Notes

Alyxandra "studied creative writing and literature at York University and has had her poetry published in several magazines. When not writing, she is a belly dancer and jewelrymaker. She lives in Ontario, with her husband, hawk, and two dogs."

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Spooky News

Fresh Hell: What’s behind the boom in dystopian fiction for young readers? by Laura Miller from The New Yorker. Peek: "There are, or will soon be, books about teen-agers slotted into governmentally arranged professions and marriages or harvested for spare parts or genetically engineered for particular skills or brainwashed by subliminal messages embedded in music or outfitted with Internet connections in their brains. Then, there are the post-apocalyptic scenarios in which humanity...." Note: Great article, but I respectfully disagree with the latter assertion that you don't have to offer a fresh twist, but rather just be "harrowing." YAs may be young, but those who are avid fans of a particular literary tradition may well trump us grizzled types in expertise. Source: Nathan Bransford.

How to Grab An Agent's Attention in a Query: Tips from Twenty Agents to Make Your Query Shine by Suzette Saxton from QueryTracker.

What It Takes to Be An Agent by Jessica and Kim at BookEnds, LLC. Peek: "So often I hear people say that they love to read, therefore they want to be agents. Oh, if only it were that simple. As any of you who have followed agents on Twitter or through blogs have probably come to realize, being an agent is not a 9-5 job. It’s a 9-9 job and then some, and the truth is the reading is such a small part of what we do."

Agents Are Not Just Gatekeepers by Nathan Bransford - Literary Agent. Peek: "For an aspiring author, the gatekeeping function is basically all they think about when they think about agents. But in actuality, agents spend most of their time on their existing clients, who happen to be the ones that have already made it through the hoop." Read a Cynsations interview with Nathan.

What Does Fantasy Teach Us? by Deva Fagan from The Enchanted Inkpot. Peek: "I believe that the fantastical can teach us just as much about life and the world as gritty realism. That it can help us learn to be better people, allow us to explore injustice and cruelty and beauty and hope. That fantasy can teach us about the real world." Read a Cynsations interview with Deva.

Author An Na will join fellow visiting faculty Coe Booth and Franny Billingsley at this July's residency of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. See the entire list of VCFA faculty.

Fighting Fatigue by Lynn Viehl from Paperback Writer. Peek: "Publishing loses so many great writers every year. The stress of trying to be-all and do-all as a professional writer inevitably and negatively affects the writer as well as the quality of their work, which tips over the seven dominoes of writer self-destruction via creative fatigue: exhaustion, paranoia, burn-out, depression, isolation, renunciation and, finally, tossing in the towel." Source: Elizabeth Scott.

What Kind of Fantasy is Tu Looking For? And what kind of synopsis? by Stacy Whitman from Tu Publishing. Peek: "I just want to be sure that you’re also familiar with what’s out there right now for children and teens, and not just what was published in the 70s and 80s by some of the best authors on the adult side. If you haven’t already, I suggest going to your local bookstore (or library, but the bookstore is better for seeing more current books all in one place) and looking at the middle grade and YA shelves to get a good idea of how broad the definition of SF/fantasy is in that section." Read a Cynsations interview with Stacy.

Cynsational Screening Room

Write On Con: "We’d all heard so many writers tell us they wished they could attend a conference, but simply didn’t have the time or money. So we decided to bring a conference to them—a free online conference that anyone could attend in the convenience of their own homes. And so, WriteOnCon was born. (Rated MC-18: for main characters 18 and under.)" The online event is scheduled for Aug. 10 to Aug. 12; see roster of presenters and more information. Source: the Texas Sweethearts.

The Vampire Hunters hosts give you the inside scoop on how to tell the if your friend is just a regular teen or a vampire! Need more tips? Check out the book Fat Vampire: A Never Coming Of Age Story by Adam Rex (HarperCollins, June 27, 2010).

More Personally

Summer seems to have already arrived in Texas. At least according to the sunflower blooming in my yard. (It's less fuzzy in real-life).

Authors That Inspire by Kristine Carlson Asselin from My Writing Journey. Kristine offers her reaction to my recent keynote at the New England SCBWI Conference. Peek: "First of all, Cyn's speech was funny. And that's important for a Saturday morning conference presentation. She talked about her adorable husband, her life as a law student, and the epiphany that came when she decided to start writing for children (as I recall, it had something to do with ducks.) And I loved her immediately." Note: Kristine's Taurus, Virgo & Capricorn: All About the Earth Signs was published by Capstone Press in January 2010.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Enter to Win Signed Copies of Eternal by Smith, The Wild One by Farley, and Chicken Dance by Sauer

Larissa's World is giving away signed copies of:

Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith;

The Wild One (Phantom Stallion #1) by Terri Farley;


Chicken Dance by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Dan Santat (signed by both)!

Deadline midnight EST today! See more information how to enter.

Cynsational Notes

From Larissa's bio: "I'm a wife, mother of three, preschool teacher, writer, handbell choir director, Creative Memories, yeah, not much going on around here. I am also the 2010 Silent Auction Chairperson for the Florida Writers Association. If you would like to donate, please contact me."

Check out Sterling Publishing Loves Chicken Dance; enter to win.

And for those who haven't already seen it, the Eternal trailer by Shayne Leighton; enter to win.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Immortal: Love Stories with Bite (Various Language Editions)

I'm pleased to announce new and forthcoming editions of Immortal: Love Stories with Bite, edited by P.C. Cast, which includes my short story, "Haunted Love." Language rights sold and the respective publishers to date include:

Russian: Eksmo Licence Limited;

Portuguese: Editora Planeta do Brasil;

Polish: Pravada | Prevodi;

Turkish: Pegasus Yayinlari;

French: Editions AdA Inc.

Cynsational Notes

The U.S./English language publisher is Ben Bella Books.

Thanks to LaĆ­s for sending these shots of the Portuguese language edition!

Spooky News

Cover Stories: Forgive My Fins by Tara Lyn Childs from Melissa Walker. Peek: "I sent it immediately to my friends at Blue Willow Bookshop for their bookseller perspective and then sent on their suggestions with mine. The art department at Harper absolutely took those suggestions to heart. They were extremely committed to making the cover as perfect as possible and worked on every little detail."

Dealing with Flash Point, Difficult Topics by Darcy Pattison from Fiction Notes. A discussion of how to approach hot-button topics, using The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson (Henry Holt, 2008) as a case study.

Austin Avant-Grande Mentoring Program: "a network of successful kid-lit artists and writers offering support, providing guidance, and sharing expertise in a highly professional manner. AAMP amplifies a sense of community through a concentrated focus on craft."

Attention Gothic fantasy, horror, paranormal romance, and urban fantasy authors! Please swing by spookycyn and my related bibliography to make sure your blog/author site links are included. If not, please contact me with the URLs and where they should go.

PR Notes: Book Publicity by Darcy Pattison from Fiction Notes. Peek: "For some time, I’ve been very interested in the ins and outs of marketing, public relations, social media, etc. I’ve thought about doing a separate website; instead, I’ve decided to write a PR Notes column on Wednesdays. I’d love to include your PR story in a guest post or I’d be glad to send you a Q&A."

Margaret Bechard: new official author site. Learn about Margaret and her books, read her journal, and find out about her teaching. Peek: "Writing is hard and frustrating and sometimes I just want to be a barista at Starbucks. But then there are those moments where everything comes together, when my fingers are typing just a little bit faster than my brain is working, and then I know why I always wanted to do this."

Selling Yourself by Parker Peevyhouse from The Spectacle. Peek: "Is all this talk about post-its and Halloween drowning out the carefully crafted noise of a well-written story?" See also What It Means to Say "Brand Me" by Colleen Mondor from Chasing Ray, which springs from Maureen Johnson's Anti-branding Manifesto.

Critiques: Guidelines and Tips by Donna Bowman Bratton from Simply Donna. Peek: "As a critique group member, you will at times be a partner, a therapist, a sounding board, an impartial reader, an editor, and a cheerleader."

Dystopian and the Apocalypse: What's the Difference? by Kaitlin Ward from YA Highway. Peek: "These terms sometimes have that same confusion factor (for me, at least) as 'urban fantasy' vs. 'paranormal romance.' So much potential for overlap, but really, they are their own unique snowflakes." Note: includes model books for reference.

Excerpts of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Children's Book Publishing (3rd and latest edition) are being tweeted by author Harold Underdown (@HUnderdown), beginning June 8. See hash tag: #cigpcb

The Elephant in the Room by Elizabeth Bluemle from PW Shelf Talker. Peek: "What I’d like to do is open the conversation by offering some positive, creative steps we can all take to make the world of children’s books—behind the scenes, in addition to between the covers—catch up to the amazing, diverse, infinitely rich world those books are meant to reflect and celebrate." Note: features original, tie-in art by Kevan Atteberry, Addie Boswell, Jerry Craft, Katie Davis, Nancy Devard, Elizabeth O. Dulemba, Laura Freeman, Erin Eitter Kono, Grace Lin, Nicole Tadgell, and Sharon Vargo. See also Is My Character Black Enough? from Stacy Whitman's Grimoire.

The Thrill of Harry Potter Rides On by Neil Genzlinger from The New York Times. Peek: "...rides aren’t really the point; workmanship is. This attraction was made for the kind of people who have more or less memorized Ms. Rowling’s books, and it shows in all sorts of details. The weathering of the stone to make it look indefinably old. The way the snow sits on the rooftops, just on the verge of melting." Note: don't miss the video.

Reminder: the deadline for the Katherine Paterson Prize for Young Adult and Children's Writing is June 30. Peek: "One overall first place winner receives $1,000 and publication! Three runners-up receive $100 each." This year's judge is Holly Black.

Cynsational Screening Room

Check out the book trailer for Susan Beth Pfeffer's post-apocalypse trilogy (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

Celebrating Ming Doyle

Rumor has it that the delightful folks at Candlewick are starting to talk about the spring 2011 list, which is a big list for me because it'll include both Blessed and Tantalize: Kieren's Story, a graphic novel, illustrated by Ming Doyle. This strikes me as another call to celebrate the awesomeness of Ming, so here's a Lois & Clark video snapshot from her LJ.

On a related note, Ming now has a journal of her art available for purchase. Note: this would be a lovely gift to give one's wife for her anniversary. This is a hint to my husband.

More Personally

Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd, edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci is being released in paperback this month by Little, Brown. The anthology includes "The Wrath of Dawn" by Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith.

Thanks to Shveta for hosting my latest interview--Dancing and jingling and tantalizing: Interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith--at A desi faerie spins stories of stars, jasmine in her hair.... I talk about the inspirations for Tantalize, Eternal, and even Cynsations as well as what I've learned from teaching, a few recommended multicultural novels, what I'd like to see more of in children's-YA books, my upcoming releases, and fictional role models.

Interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith: Author of Eternal by J.E. from Fresh Dawgs' Book Blog. Peek: "My reading tastes have expanded over the years. When I was in high school, I enjoyed spooky stories, and I still do. But I also love great creative nonfiction, historical novels, novels in verse, and many more genres and formats. Writing has made me appreciate more what I can learn from embracing a wide variety of books."

Reminder: any ARC/book blurb queries should be emailed to me by editors/agents, not from authors directly. Please also note that I have been swamped of late with such requests, so it's not an ideal time. Thanks!

Austin Area Events

"The Metaphor: So Much More Than a Simple Comparison," a lecture by Varian Johnson at 11 a.m. June 12 at BookPeople.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Spooky News & Giveaways

Enter to win Linger by Maggie Stiefvater (Scholastic, 2010) and Matched by Ally Condie (Dutton, Nov. 2010) from P.J. Hoover at Roots in Myth. See more information on the giveaway. Deadline: June 16.

The 2010 finalists for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature are: Kage Baker, The Hotel Under the Sand (Tachyon); Shannon Hale, Books of Bayern consisting of The Goose Girl, Enna Burning, River Secrets, and Forest Born (Bloomsbury); Grace Lin, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (Little, Brown); Malinda Lo, Ash (Little, Brown); and Lisa Mantchev, Eyes Like Stars (Feiwel & Friends). Peek: "The Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature honors books for younger readers (from 'Young Adults' to picture books for beginning readers), in the tradition of The Hobbit or The Chronicles of Narnia."

More Than a Little Crazy: An Interview with Darren Shan by Penelope Przekop from Aberration Nation. Peek: "In the end, after it [Cirque du Freak] was turned down by 20 publishers, HarperCollins in the UK took a chance on it. It was published in January 2000 and started selling like hot cakes all around the world. By accident, I found myself in the position of a globally successful children's author, and I haven't looked back since!" Note: I watched "Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant," a film adaptation of Cirque du Freak this past weekend, and highly recommended it. Don't miss the special features.

You must see this gorgeous pop-up book trailer for Perchance to Dream by Lisa Mantchev (Feiwel & Friends, 2010). Source: Tiffany Trent at Center Neptune.

Gothic Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, and Urban Fantasy for Tweens and Teens from Cynthia Leitich Smith Children's-YA Literature Resources. An annotated bibliography of spooky reads, plus links to related Cynsations author interviews, horror-writer resources, and much more! See also Suspense for Teens and Tweens.

Web sightings of late included a photo of the Portuguese language version of Immortal: Love Stories with Bite, edited by P.C. Cast, which includes my short story, "Haunted Love," at