Wednesday, February 23, 2011

New Voice: Chelsea M. Campbell on The Rise of Renegade X

Chelsea M. Campbell is the first time author of The Rise of Renegade X (Egmont, 2010). From the promotional copy:

Damien Locke knows his destiny–attending the university for supervillains and becoming Golden City’s next professional evil genius. But when Damien discovers he’s the product of his supervillain mother’s one-night stand with–of all people–a superhero, his best-laid plans are ruined as he’s forced to live with his superhero family.

Going to extreme lengths (and heights), The Rise of Renegade X chronicles one boy’s struggles with the villainous and heroic pitfalls of growing up.

What was the one craft resource book that helped you most during your apprenticeship? Why? How would you book-talk it to another beginning writer in need of help?

The book that really helped me and that significantly helped me on my publication journey (in fact, I don't know if I'd be published if it wasn't for what I learned in this book) is Donald Maass' Writing the Breakout Novel (Writer's Digest, 2002) and Writing The Breakout Novel Workbook (Writer's Digest, 2004)).

I'm not big on books about writing, especially since most of them are written by people I've never heard of who just love writing how-to books. I think it's fair to say that most writing how-to books piss me off.

Writing the Breakout Novel, however, is awesome. It's about challenging yourself to improve your writing and take it to the next level. It doesn't tell you how to write, but instead asks you questions to help you improve your story, like, "What's the worst thing that could happen to your main character? When would be the worst time for that to happen?" Things like that.

It's all about sharpening the conflict in your novel and upping the stakes, both physically and emotionally, and it's hard not to get excited about working on a story while reading this book.

Another thing I love about it is that it's useful at any level. A lot of writing books are only focused on beginners, and there's not a lot aimed at the intermediate writer who knows the basics but can't quite get over the last couple hurdles keeping them from getting published.

Writing the Breakout Novel is great for anyone who wants to improve their storytelling, whether they've got a few novels under their belt but "aren't quite there yet" or have been published for years.

I know the quality of my books jumped up quite a bit after I read this and went through all the exercises in the workbook, and the info I've gotten from it has been invaluable.

As a comedic writer, how do you decide what's funny? What advice do you have for those interested in either writing comedies or books with a substantial amount of humor in them?

Comedy is tough. There's nothing worse than someone who thinks they're funny when they're really not. I think we've all had at least one class with "that guy" who thinks he's hilarious, but everyone in the room is silently willing him to shut the hell up. Obviously, you don't want to be that guy. But the fact that you're even thinking about not wanting to be that guy probably means you aren't.

I think an important element of writing comedy is to write what makes you laugh. You've got to do it for yourself, because if the humor isn't honest, that'll come through and it won't be funny. Plus, if it makes you laugh, it's likely to resonate with other people, too.

I tend to write humorous stories, mostly because that's what comes out and because I enjoy making myself laugh, and The Rise of Renegade X is no exception.

Damien, the protagonist, has a pretty snarky inner commentary running through the whole novel. He says a lot of things I might think to myself but would never actually say.

When I was writing him, I'd just sit down and show what was going on through his eyes, getting his opinions of everything in there, which were usually pretty funny.

Other than funny plot elements, like a supervillain kid having to live with his superhero father, I didn't pre-plan the jokes, I just wrote them as I experienced the story through the character's point of view.

I think it's difficult, but important, to trust yourself. You have to trust that when you sit down to write, something funny is going to come out. Sometimes I don't realize what I've written is funny until I read it over the next day, so don't toss anything you think is boring until some time has passed or someone else has looked over it for you.

Use humor as a tool to show a character's personality--like everything in writing, it should move the story forward and enrich the audience's experience with and knowledge of the characters.

As you write, put in all the jokes you can make work, and worry about weeding out the not-that-great ones that nobody gets but you later on.

Mostly, trust yourself, relax, and have fun.

How "Buffy: the Vampire Slayer" (1997-2003) has influenced my writing:

I have a confession to make: I actually didn't start watching "Buffy" until sixth season. I couldn't imagine that a show based on that movie could be any good, and it didn't help that anyone I knew who watched it acted ashamed and called it a "guilty pleasure."

But now I know better, and no one should ever feel ashamed to watch something as awesome as "Buffy." I have since then seen way more episodes and become a big "Buffy" fan. It's fun, and it's got a girl with superpowers who kicks serious ass while dealing with the same problems as everyone else.

One of the other things I love about it is that Buffy can't do it alone, and even the shy nerdy girl is super useful and eventually finds her strength (I was so that girl).

Even though I tend to write about guys, every time I sit down to write a new book, my mind turns to "Buffy." How can I make something that awesome? How can I have characters that kick ass and who have the ability to be both serious and funny at the same time? How can I create relationships that complex?

Whenever I think about blending real life and fantasy elements in my novels, my go-to inspiration is "Buffy." Is it a coincidence that I love writing about teens who live in a world that's part reality, part magic? I always wanted to write fantasy, but it took me a long time to realize I wanted to write about it in the real world, and that the characters I really loved writing about were teens.

It's a pretty safe bet to say that that seed started with "Buffy," and I don't know where I'd be without it. It changed how I thought about fantasy and about YA.

If you've never seen the show, I highly recommend it. You may start out snickering at all the 90s-isms, but don't wig too much--it won't take long for you to get hooked.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Spooky News & NE Tour Report

In Memorium

Redwall Author Brian Jacques Dead at 71 from The Washington Post. Peek: "Jacques wrote the first book in his famous Redwall series for the children at the Royal School for the Blind in Liverpool, England. The book's hero was a timid mouse named Matthias who found the courage to protect his home, Redwall Abbey. " See also Extreme Sadness: Brian Jacques from Book Moot.

Margaret K. McElderry (1912-2011) from Locus Online. Peek: "Children’s editor and publisher Margaret K. McElderry, 98, died February 14, 2011. She is best known as founder of her eponymous children’s imprint, Margaret K. McElderry Books."

More News

E-Book Sales Rise in Children's and Young Adult Categories by Julie Bosman from The New York Times. Peek: "In 2010 young-adult e-books made up about 6 percent of the total digital sales for titles published by St. Martin’s Press, but so far in 2011, the number is up to 20 percent, a spokeswoman for the publisher said." Source: Varian Johnson.

At Tools of Change, Former ABC Director Kristen McLean to Discuss New Venture, Bookigee by Andrew Albanese from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "Created with input from a 'team of innovators' in fields ranging from specialty design to retail, editorial, Silicon Valley tech, engineering, bookselling and book marketing, Bookigee has an admittedly ambitious goal—in essence, to begin reshaping a consumer process that has become entrenched over decades, but also somewhat inefficient."

The Do's, Don't's and "Stuff" of Writer Conferences by Donna Bowman Bratton from Writing Down the Kidlit Page. Peek: "When you find yourself in the room with revered editors, agents, and award-winning authors, there are certain rules of etiquette you should abide by."

Managing Information Overload by R.L. LaFevers from Shrinking Violet Promotions. Peek: "I have no trouble producing pages, it’s the blocking out unnecessary ‘information’ that lurks everywhere, promising to inform and enlighten me to within an inch of my life."

Author Skype Tour Blog: "a place where authors, teachers, and librarians can connect to help readers discover great new titles and learn more about writing. There are already great Skype-author resources like the Skype-an-Author Network and Kate Messner's list of authors who do free, 20-minute chats with classes & book clubs that have read their books. But sometimes, teachers & librarians may want to connect with an author whose books students haven't read yet...and sometimes, authors may want to talk with groups that haven't read a book yet, to help get the word out about a new title. That's what this site is for."

Teachers and Librarians Love Book Trailers by Darcy Pattison from Greg Pincus at The Happy Accident. Peek: "That is 99% of librarians surveyed who think trailers are effective. Wow!" See also Five Ways Your Characters' Job Affects Your Novel by Darcy from Fiction Notes.

Two Literary Agents by Kathy Temean from Writing and Illustrating. Learn what Molly Jaffa of Folio and Christina Hogrebe of Jane Rotrosen Agency are seeking in manuscripts/clients. Note: in New Jersey, all of the buzz was about the upcoming NJ SCBWI Annual Conference June 3 to June 5 in Princeton. We're talking a mega list of editors, agents, and authors--well worth the trip! Early bird rate deadline: March 1.

Promoting Your Own Books: Who Is Your Publisher? by Michelle in Marketing at Boxcars, Books & A Blog AKA Albert Whitman & Company. Peek: "Aside from the first time author (read: lack of brand name) issues inherent in those possibilities, your publisher just might be more concerned with Baker & Taylor and the American Library Association."

Call for Characters by Darcy Pattison from Fiction Notes. Peek: "I’m looking for contrasts in names, height, weight, ethnic background, style of clothing and personality factors. If X loves cats, Y should love lizards. No, not dogs, silly."

Borders Stores Closing from The Wall Street Journal: about 30% of stores; a complete list. See also FAQ for Vendors about Borders Reorganization from Borders Group Inc. Note: please support brick-and-mortar bookstores.

Seven Tips to Grow Your Mailing List by Katie Davis from Blue Rose Girls. Peek: "Let’s get you a mailing list. You are going to grow your audience and then stay connected."

From Editor to Agent: a chat with Alyssa Eisner Henkin by Bobbie Pyron from From The Mixed-Up Files...of Middle-Grade Authors. Peek: "...I know both editors and kid readers are very ken on the plot-driven-pull-you-in-and-don’t-let-go books that are popular these days. So I’d say plot is a huge factor in my decision in whether or not to represent a book. However, a great voice is certainly of paramount importance."

Spooky Screening Room

Canadian Writers Speak Out On Copyright from Marketwire News Studio.

More Personally

Thank you to Candlewick Press, the event planners, and everyone who turned out, cheered, and helped promote last week's official Blessed tour in NYC, New Jersey, and the Philly area.

(The view out my window at The Standard Hotel in Manhattan/the meat-packing district.)

Cheers to fellow authors Jen Nadol, Sarah Beth Durst, Shannon Delany, and especially Daniel Nayeri (with whom I did two events), who joined me at stops along the way.

(Rita Williams-Garcia--to whom the novel is dedicated--models Blessed at Books of Wonder.)

Mega thanks to Books of Wonder, Francis Lewis High School,, Borders Columbus Circle, Baker & Taylor, New Brunswick Free Public Library, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, NYPL Mulberry Branch, Romantic Times Book Reviews, The New School, Brooklyn Public Library, Little Red School House & Elisabeth Irwin High School, The Voracious Reader, Mercer County Library, and Barnes & Noble, Cherry Hill, N.J.!

(Literary agent Mary Kole and Daniel at The Brass Monkey! Jill Santopolo was kind enough to organize this get-together of Vermont College of Fine Arts faculty, alumni & friends.)

(Susan Van Metre's MFA class at The New School.)

(The Brooklyn Public Library.)

(Authors Libba Bray, Marianna Baer and Melissa Walker at the Brooklyn Public Library.)

(Shannon Delany, Jen Nadol and Shannon Delany at The Voracious Reader.)

Q&A with Cynthia Leitich Smith by Jessica from Chick Lit Cafe. Peek: "Quincie is smart enough to realize that her soul is who she is. If she gives herself up, there’s nothing left. Not her evolving patchwork family or the business she inherited from her mama or her amazing connection to Kieren. He loves her, the real her, not some monster walking around in body. She fights for herself because she has value intrinsically and to those who truly care about her."

Book Review: Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith by Jessica from I Just Want to Sit Here and Read. Peek: "I love Kieren, Quincie's best friend and the only hybrid werewolf. I actually found myself jealous of their friendship. There of course is the slight sexual tension because they haven't pronounced any real feelings for each other, even though you want to scream at them!"

Links of the Week: Dear Teen Me by Bethany Hegedus and Won Ton: A Cat Tale in Haiku recommended by Mercury Boo Leitich Smith (don't miss the comments).

Even More Personally

I'm voting for Chef Drew (Andrew Curren at 24 Diner in Austin) for best new chef in the southwest (and you should, too!).

(My Valentine's Day flowers from my very cute husband and sometimes co-author, Greg Leitich Smith.)

Last night, we joined Anne Bustard and my former Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA student (now alum) Janice Scully (in town from New York state) at the Broken Spoke for some country music by Tony Harrison and Hot Texas and then continued on to County Line on the Hill for barbeque.

Spooky Events

12th Annual Southwest Florida Reading Festival will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 19 in Fort Myers, Florida. Note: speakers include Cynthia Leitich Smith.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Blessed In-Person Author Tour in NY, NJ, Philly Area

Please join me on a stop of the Blessed (Candlewick, 2011) tour!

Events that are open to the public are indicated as such on the schedule below!

Authors Daniel Nayeri, Jen Nadol, Sarah Beth Durst, and Shannon Delany will be joining me here and there along the way!

Sunday, 2/6/11

1 p.m. to 3 p.m. - Books of Wonder - reading/Q&A/signing to public with Another Pan author Daniel Nayeri (PUBLIC EVENT)

18 W. 18th St., New York, N.Y.

Monday, 2/7/11

10 a.m. to 11:34 a.m. Francis Lewis High School

6 p.m. Borders Bookstore - reading/signing (PUBLIC EVENT)

Borders Columbus Circle
10 Columbus Circle, New York, N.Y.

Tuesday, 2/8/11

4 p.m. to 5 p.m. New Brunswick Free Public Library - reading/Q&A/signing (PUBLIC EVENT)

6:20 p.m. to 9 p.m. Rutgers University -- guest lecture, "Materials for Young Adults" -- room 203

School of Communication and Information -- 4 Huntington St., New Brunswick, N.J.

Wednesday, 2/9/11

10 a.m. NYPL Mulberry Branch - visit with schools

10 Jersey Street (Between Lafayette & Mulberry Streets) New York, N.Y.

8 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. New School Creative Writing Graduate Class - guest lecture

66 West 12th Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues

Thursday, 2/10/11

11:15 a.m. to 12 p.m. Brooklyn Public Library - Professional Development Day

Central Library, 10 Grand Army Plaza

4:00 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. Brooklyn Public Library - Will You Be My Paranormal Valentine Party (with teens)(PUBLIC EVENT)

Central Library, 10 Grand Army Plaza

Friday, 2/11/11

2:15 p.m. to 3 p.m. Little Red School House & Elisabeth Irwin High School Visit

Little Red School House & Elisabeth Irwin HS, LREI

272 Sixth Avenue, New York, N.Y.

7 p.m. The Voracious Reader - "Will You Be My Paranormal Valentine?" event with Daniel Nayeri, Jen Nadol, Sarah Beth Durst, and Shannon Delany (PUBLIC EVENT)

1997 Palmer Avenue, Larchmont, N.Y.

Saturday, 2/12/11

1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Mercer County Library Event -- West Windsor Branch (PUBLIC EVENT)

333 North Post Road, Princeton Junction, N.J.

6:30 p.m. Barnes & Noble, Cherry Hill, N.J. (Greater Philly area)(PUBLIC EVENT)

911 Haddonfield Road, Cherry Hill, N.J.

Not on the Tour? Attention Event Planners!

It's two YA authors for the price of one! Book now for the 2011-2012 school year and beyond!

"From Classics to Contemporary:" a joint presentation offered by Cynthia Leitich Smith, author of the Tantalize series (inspired by Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897)) and Jennifer Ziegler, author of Sass & Serendipity (inspired by Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (1811)).

The authors will discuss how they were inspired by these classics, why Stoker and Austen's themes are still relevant to teens/YAs today, the ongoing conversation of books over the generations, and much more.

Contact Dayton Bookings for more information and to schedule.

Spooky Screening Room & Tantalize Series Update

Check out the book trailer for Cloaked by Alex Flinn (HarperCollins, 2011).

Check out this book trailer for Attack of the Fluffy Bunnies by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by Dan Santat (Amulet, 2010).

In the following video, Brent Hartinger offers Seven Reasons You Should Read Shadow Walkers (Flux, 2011)(excerpt)(discussion guide):

"The Bookanistas are dancing because we’re so excited that Beth Revis hit the NY Times Bestseller List for Across the Universe (Razorbill, 2011)." - Shana Silver

More Personally

Snow is on the ground, the rolling brownouts are over (we lost power nine times), my work in progress is resting, and I'm packing to leave town.

So, Cynsations is going on hiatus as I take off for my N.E. U.S. Blessed Tour! Those of you in New York, New Jersey, Philly & surrounding areas, I hope to see you on the road Feb. 6 to Feb. 12. I'll resume posting on Feb. 14!

Blessed is now available from Walker Books Australia and New Zealand! See details!

Cat Calls (Candlewick, 2010), an e-book offering a short story set in the Tantalize series universe, is #15 of the Free Books on the Kindle bestseller list!

The winner of the Blessed Grand Prize Giveaway is Melissa in Washington! Congratulations! Thanks to everyone who entered. Cynsations giveaways will resume once I'm back in town.

Thanks again to everyone who attended or raised awareness of the Blessed and (Mari Mancusi) Night School Launch Party last weekend at BookPeople in Austin.

See the party pics and event report! You can order/pick up signed stock from BookPeople! Budget a little thin? Look for the Tantalize series at your local public library. If it's not there, request it on loan.

Is the series not yet available in your country? International releases are still forthcoming (and I'll keep you posted), but you can order the books from Book Despository, which ships free to anywhere in the world? Click to order Tantalize, Eternal, and Blessed. Note: my Native American powwow picture book, Jingle Dancer, is also available.

On a related note, see information from Mari on Finding Night School.

See also congratulations flowers from my mom (side) and a dear pal (below).

Blessed Blog Tour: Interview with Bradley and Giveaway from Pirate Penguin Reads. Peek: "Cursed Internet. Deception was such a readily available snack in the early-to-mid twentieth century." Giveaway deadline: Feb. 6.

Blessed Blog Tour: Secondary Characters & Giveaway by Cynthia Leitich Smith from Badass Bookie. Peek: "Secondary characters mirror individual qualities of the hero. Illuminate them. Secondary characters challenge the hero. Fuel their growth. Secondary characters comment on the main characters. They help tell the readers what we need to know." Giveaway deadline: Feb. 4.

Blessed Blog Tour: Top Ten YA Recommendations & Giveaway by Cynthia Leitich Smith from A Good Addiction. Giveaway deadline: Feb. 6.

Spooky Events

Blessed In-Person Author Tour Schedule in Central Texas and the Northeastern U.S.: sponsored by Candlewick Press. Are you in Austin, New York, New Jersey, or the Philly area? Come join me along the way!

12th Annual Southwest Florida Reading Festival will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 19 in Fort Myers, Florida. Note: speakers include Cynthia Leitich Smith.

SCBWI-Wisconsin Novel Revision Workshop with author Cynthia Leitich Smith from March 25 to March 27. Note: "Registration is limited to 25 persons."