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1. Texas Book Festival 2014

The 2014 Texas Book Festival is over -- and, as usual, what a great event!  Varian Johnson, Jennifer Ziegler, and I had a blast on the "Capers, Cons, and Catastrophes" panel moderated by Anne Bustard. 
Anne Bustard, me, and Jennifer Ziegler
Here are some more pics from the weekend's events:

In the Green Room (cw from left): Anne Bustard, Me, Jennifer Ziegler, Varian Johnson, Varsha Bajaj, Nikki Loftin, Cyn

Erszi Deak, Carmen Oliver, and me at the Texas Monthly breakfast
Jo Whittemore and me in the Green Room

Me and Cyn before #WeNeedDiverseBooks panel
Me, Varsha, Cyn and Trent Reedy at the Saturday night party
Me and Lindsey Lane

Donna Janell Bowman photobombs Carmen Oliver, PJ Hoover, and Cyn

Many thanks to all the organizers, volunteers, and sponsors! 

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2. Japanese American Legal History

This is sort of a throwback Thursday (#tbt) kind of thing:  A few years back, I penned a handful of essays on Japanese American Legal History for an earlier version of the Cynthia Leitich Smith Children’s Literature Resources; now, revised (slightly), they are available on my web site!

Being of Japanese and German descent ("hapa"), I originally wrote these essays out of a concern that, to the extent that the history of Japanese Americans was known, such knowledge focused almost entirely on the Internment, at the expense of other aspects of the societal and legal regime that affect, and have affected, Japanese Americans.
  
Although the essays include case cites, they are intended to be readable by a general audience. :-).

Here's the link to the splash page.

Japanese American Legal History (General) discusses immigration and naturalization issues, as well alien land laws.  Japanese American Legal History (The Internment) discusses the World War II internment of Japanese Americans and the related Supreme Court cases. Finally, Japanese American Legal History (Enemy Aliens and Habeas Corpus) discuss other legal aspects of internment and treatment of enemy aliens and habeas corpus generally.

For more general information on Japanese American history, check out the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles.

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3. Texas Book Festival Children's and YA Panels



Texas Book Festival is October 24 and 25, 2014!  

I am delighted to announce that I will be presenting LITTLE GREEN MEN AT THE MERCURY INN on the panel "Capers, Cons, and Catastrophes," (Sunday, at 130-230 in Cap. Ext. E2.026) with Varian Johnson and Jennifer Ziegler!  (There may be mayhem :-)).

Below are the other panels featuring children's and YA authors.  

Note that there's also ongoing programming throughout both days in the Children's Activity Tent and the Read Me a Story Tent!  For the complete schedule, click here.

Panels featuring Austin authors are in italics.

SATURDAY

10-1045
Grandfather Gandhi
Location: Family Life Center (1300 Lavaca)
Authors:
Arun Gandhi
Bethany Hegedus

10-1045
Choose Wisely
Location: Capitol Extension Room E2.026
Authors:
Lauren Miller
Trent Reedy
Stephen Graham Jones
Moderator:
Vanessa Lee

10-11
YA and not so Y.A.
Location: Capitol Extension Room E2.012
Authors:
Claudia Gray
Melissa de la Cruz

11-1145
Looks Can Be Deceiving
Location: Capitol Extension Room E2.026
Authors:
Michelle Knudsen
Steve Brezenoff
Moderator:
Sean Petrie

12-1
#WeNeedDiverseBooks
Location: The Sanctuary at First United Methodist Church (1201 Lavaca, enter from Lavaca St.)
Authors:
Tim Tingle
Jacqueline Woodson
Andrea Davis Pinkney
Pat Mora
Diane Gonzales Bertrand
Moderator:
Don Tate

12-1
Tomás Rivera Award
 Location: Capitol Extension Room E2.026
Authors:
Susan Goldman Rubin
Duncan Tonatiuh
Moderator:
Jesse Gainer

12-1
Guys Read: True Stories
Location: Family Life Center (1300 Lavaca)
Authors:
Jon Scieszka
Nathan Hale

1215-1
Hazardous Tales
Location: Capitol Extension Room E2.016
Authors:
Nathan Hale

1215-115
Survival 101
Location: Capitol Extension Room E2.026
Authors:
Lindsay Cummings
Rick Yancey
Dayna Lorentz
Moderator:
Sarah Pitre

115-215
Do You Believe in Magic?
Location: Capitol Extension Room E2.026
Authors:
Natalie Lloyd
Annie Barrows
Nikki Loftin

230-330
Adventure is Out There
Location: Capitol Extension Room E2.026
Authors:
Michael Fry
P. J. Hoover
S.S. Taylor

230-330
Poetry for YA
Location: Family Life Center (1300 Lavaca)
Authors:
Jacqueline Woodson
Isabel Quintero
K. A. Holt

245-330
Frank Einstein
Location: Capitol Extension Room E2.026
Authors:
Jon Scieszka

345-430
Katherine Applegate
Location: Family Life Center (1300 Lavaca)
Authors:
Katherine Applegate

345-445
Eyes on the Prize
Location: Capitol Extension Room E2.026
Authors:
Deborah Wiles
Duncan Tonatiuh
London Ladd
Moderator:
Sharon O'Neal

SUNDAY
11-12 Sun
Beginning, Middle, End: A Trio of Trilogies
Location: Capitol Extension Room E2.026
Authors:
Adam Gidwitz
Edward Carey
Deron Hicks

1215-115
Design Decisions: Children's Illustrators At Work
Location: Capitol Extension Room E2.028
Authors:
Patrick McDonnell
Lane Smith
Tad Carpenter
Divya Srinivasan
Carolyn Dee Flores

130-230
Capers, Cons, and Catastrophes
Location: Capitol Extension Room E2.026
Authors:
Jennifer Ziegler
Greg Leitich Smith
Varian Johnson

130-230
Unfinished Business
Location: Capitol Extension Room E2.028
Authors:
Meg Wolitzer
Lindsey Lane
Adele Griffin

245-340
Tony DiTerlizzi
Location: Capitol Extension Room E2.028
Authors:
Tony DiTerlizzi
Moderator:
Suzanne Wofford

245-345
Growing Pains
Location: Capitol Extension Room E2.026
Authors:
Andrea Davis Pinkney
Varsha Bajaj
Mariko Tamaki

3-5
At-Risk Summer Movie
Location: Capitol Auditorium Room E1.004
Authors:
e.E. Charlton-Trujillo

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4. TWEENS READ 2014

Last weekend, I had an awesome time being a panelist at the Tweens Read Book Festival, held at South Houston High School in Pasadena.  In all, more than 1700 tween readers showed up to hear keynotes by Jacqueline Woodson and Margaret Peterson Haddix, as well as any three of five panels of authors.  For the complete list, click here.

My panel was called "Houston, We Have Problems," and featured six authors in a lively discussion of science fiction for tweens:  

Greg Leitich Smith - Little Green Men at the Mercury Inn
Stu Gibbs - Space Case
Jennifer Brown - Life on Mars
Will Alexander - Ambassador
Jessica Brody - Unforgotten
Matt London - The 8th Continent

Check out some pictures:

The students gather for the opening keynote

Jennifer Holm, Jennifer Ziegler, Varsha Bajaj

Megan Frazer Blakemore, Kirby Larson, Jenni Holm, and me

Me and Bruce Hale, with Jonathan Auxier (background)

Authors gathered onstage for introductions

Matt London, Jessica Brody, Jennifer Brown, and me

Signing stock

Natalie Lloyd, Varian Johnson, Jennifer Holm, Jennifer Ziegler, Varsha Bajaj

Cynthia Leitich Smith and Jacqueline Woodson

Megan Frazer Blakemore, a South Houston Trojan, and me
Many thanks to all the organizers, sponsor, and volunteers, especially Blue Willow Books!

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5. WIFYR 2014!

The view from the Waterford School, site of the WIFYR workshops
Cyn and I are just back from WIFYR 2014 -- the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers conference run by the awesome Carol Lynch Williams, where we each led an Advanced Novel workshop.

My workshoppers took me out to lunch
 In the mornings, we led workshops, critiquing manuscripts, and giving and reading writing exercises.  The afternoon was filled with speeches by various faculty members, panels of authors, editors, and agents, and a keynote (this year, by James Dashner). 

Cyn and I taught it two years ago and we were delighted to be asked back -- it's one of our favorite events of its kind and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in working on their craft.  This year, workshop faculty included Ken Baker, A.E. Cannon, Cheri Pray Earl, Lisa Mangum, J. Scott Savage, Shawn K. Stout, Carol Lynch Williams, Cyn, and me.  Editor/agent faculty included John Cusick, Kristin Ostby, Michelle Witte, and Amy Jameson.

Here are some pics of the event:

Me and food at Barbwire and Lace

John and Kristin
Me during one afternoon session on Voice

Cyn and I during the signing
Ken, John, Jeff
Carol and Cyn

Cyn and me and the goat that tried to eat her dress
My assistant -- Stephanie the Awesome -- decorated the room with dinos and lgm
Some of my class
Me and Allosaurus.  Because we had to go to the Natural History Museum of Utah.

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6. Middle Grade Mayhem! LITTLE GREEN MEN AT THE MERCURY INN; REVENGE OF THE FLOWER GIRLS; and THE GREAT GREENE HEIST event report!

Varian, Jenn, me, and out little green friends.  Photo by Dave Wilson.
Yesterday was joint launch party for LITTLE GREEN MEN AT THE MERCURY INN; Jennifer Ziegler's REVENGE OF THE FLOWER GIRLS; and Varian Johnson's THE GREAT GREENE HEIST!

In addition to a photo booth with inflatable little green men, we did a reader's theater of scenes from each of our books, complete with costumes.

The refreshments table was semi-thematic and included fruit and cheese and vegetable platters from Whole Foods; wine, water, and Tang; "wedding" cake;and chocolate chip cookies made by Nikki Loftin!  Thanks to everyone who came and bought books -- your support meant a lot to us.

Me, Jenn, Varian, and moderator Tim Crowe, performing from REVENGE OF THE FLOWER GIRLS (Hence the red hair :-)).  Photo by Dave Wilson.
Jenn, Varian, me, and Tim Crowe during Q&A.  Photo by Dave Wilson.
Varian wears the little green man glasses. Photo by Dave Wilson.
At the signing table.  Photo by Dave Wilson.
The refreshments table.  Photo by Dave Wilson.
Wide angle view of the assemblage.  Photo by Dave Wilson.
Nikki and Cyn.  Photo by Dave Wilson.
Signing Little Green Men at the Mercury Inn.  Photo by Dave Wilson.
Many thanks to everyone who pitched in and/or helped out:  Tim Crowe was sublime as Master of Ceremonies (a role he also plays in Round Rock's annual Sam Bass shootout); Anne Bustard, Debbie Gonzales, Lindsey Lane, and others were masterful supervising refreshments; Cyn was irreplaceable (but you knew that already); and BookPeople was, as always, outstanding!

Thanks also to everyone who helped carry stuff in; set up; and break down!  And to those supported us by coming and buying books! 

Awesome photos above are by Dave Wilson of Dave Wilson Photography.  Go check out his portfolio!

And see the event report on Cynsations!

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7. It's LITTLE GREEN MEN AT THE MERCURY INN Release Day!

I am delighted to announce that LITTLE GREEN MEN AT THE MERCURY INN is now available at bookstores everywhere!  It's the comedic story of three friends at a motel in Cocoa Beach and what happens the day after a space shuttle launch is scrubbed due to the appearance of a UFO over Cape Canaveral!

“In this gleefully absurd tale, Smith (Chronal Engine) unfurls a series of alien-inspired hijinks at a space-themed motel on Florida’s Space Coast…Arnold’s skillfully drafted spot cartoons give this offbeat story a lively layout and match Smith’s light and breezy tone, grounded by the occasional serious moment. The result is an engaging, humorous look at humans learning that they’re not alone in the universe.”
Publishers Weekly  (For the complete review, click here)


“The Mercury Inn…shelters a colorful cast of characters…in a plot that twists and turns like a roller coaster through the engaging setting. The book design and spot cartoon art with a retro space-age feel work well with the wacky characters and situations of this enjoyably beach-y sci-fi escape.”
The Horn Book

“The quirky setting and diverse characters add originality.  An accessible and whimsical read, this should have wide appeal.”
School Library Journal

Head on over to Cynsations for an interview and giveaway!

And come on out to BookPeople at 2 pm on June 14, for MIDDLE GRADE MAYHEM, when Jennifer Ziegler and Varian Johnson join me at a party celebrating all our new middle grade releases! We promise lots of mayhem and shenanigans!  And, quite possibly, an alien from outer space!



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8. #DiversifyYourShelves with Diverse Books by Diverse Texas Authors [updated]


The recent #WeNeedDiverseBooks and #DiversifyYourShelves campaigns got me thinking about the remarkable Austin and Texas youth literature community.  I thought I'd highlight some of the diverse books by diverse Texas authors.  So here's the novel/chapter book edition.

Note that while some of the books feature "diversity" themes and plot lines, in other cases, diversity is reflected in the characters and the circumstances of their environments.

Note, too, that unless otherwise identified with a key code (see below), the book is young adult, traditionally 12+, but in some cases 14+.

Key code:
tw = tween (10-14)
mg = middle grade (8-12)
cb = chapter book (7-10)
gn = graphic novel

Jessica Lee Anderson
BORDER CROSSING

Varsha Bajaj
ABBY SPENCER GOES TO BOLLYWOOD (mg)

Shana Burg
A THOUSAND NEVER EVERS (mg)
LAUGH WITH THE MOON (tw)

e.E. Charlton-Trujillo
FAT ANGIE

Bethany Hegedus
TRUTH WITH A CAPITAL T (mg)

Varian Johnson
THE GREAT GREENE HEIST (mg)
MY LIFE AS A RHOMBUS
SAVING MADDIE
RED POLKA DOT IN A ROOMFUL OF PLAID

Lynne Kelly
CHAINED (mg)

Cynthia Levinson
WE'VE GOT A JOB: THE 1963 BIRMINGHAM CHILDREN'S MARCH (mg)

Diana Lopez
CONFETTI GIRL (mg)
ASK MY MOOD RING HOW I FEEL (mg)

Guadalupe Garcia McCall
UNDER THE MESQUITE
SUMMER OF THE MARIPOSAS

Dia Reeves
SLICE OF CHERRY
BLEEDING VIOLET

Benjamin Saenz
LAST NIGHT I SANG TO THE MONSTERS
SAMMY AND JULIANA IN HOLLYWOOD

Alex Sanchez
SO HARD TO SAY
RAINBOW BOYS
RAINBOW HIGH
RAINBOW ROAD

Cynthia Leitich Smith
FERAL NIGHTS
FERAL CURSE
FERAL PRIDE (forthcoming)
TANTALIZE
ETERNAL
BLESSED
DIABOLICAL
TANTALIZE: KIEREN'S STORY (gn)
ETERNAL: ZACHARY'S STORY (gn)
INDIAN SHOES (cb)
RAIN IS NOT MY INDIAN NAME (tw)

Greg Leitich Smith
LITTLE GREEN MEN AT THE MERCURY INN (mg)
CHRONAL ENGINE (mg/tw)
CHRONAL ENGINE: BORROWED TIME (forthcoming) (mg/tw)
TOFU AND T.REX (mg/tw)
NINJAS, PIRANHAS, AND GALILEO (mg/tw)

Tim Tingle
HOUSE OF PURPLE CEDAR

Jo Whittemore
D IS FOR DRAMA (mg)
FRONT PAGE FACE-OFF  (mg)
ODD GIRL IN  (mg)

Lori Aurelia Williams
SHAYLA'S DOUBLE BABY BROWN BLUES
WHEN KAMBIA ELAINE FLEW IN FROM NEPTUNE
BROKEN CHINA
MAXINE BANKS IS GETTING MARRIED

Jennifer Ziegler
SASS AND SERENDIPITY (tw)
ALPHA DOG (tw)
HOW NOT TO BE POPULAR (tw)
REVENGE OF THE FLOWER GIRLS (mg)



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9. Reviews/praise for LITTLE GREEN MEN AT THE MERCURY INN

My editor just sent me this fantastic review of LITTLE GREEN MEN AT THE MERCURY INN from Publishers Weekly!

"In this gleefully absurd tale, Smith (Chronal Engine) unfurls a series of alien-inspired hijinks at a space-themed motel on Florida’s Space Coast...Arnold’s skillfully drafted spot cartoons give this offbeat story a lively layout and match Smith’s light and breezy tone, grounded by the occasional serious moment. The result is an engaging, humorous look at humans learning that they’re not alone in the universe."

--Publishers Weekly

And check out these awesome blurbs!

"Aliens, government coverups, bionic limbs, kooky scientists, luau pigs, conspiracy theories, and mysterious patio furniture—I don't know about you, but these are the things I look for in a great story. Little Green Men at the Mercury Inn has all of them, plus a huge dose of humor. Read it and enjoy, but be warned: You may never want to eat roast pork ever again."

—Matthew Holm, co-creator of Babymouse and Squish

“Here is a story for everyone who has ever wondered if that brilliant green light was a UFO.  It's for everyone who has ever imagined living on Mars. In short, it's for everyone who has ever asked the question, 'who am I, really?’  Read it, then make your reservations at the Mercury Inn.  Just don’t be alarmed if you find an alien in the refrigerator."

--Kathi Appelt, Newbery Honor author of The Underneath

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10. 2014 TLA Conference Signings by Texas Authors

Next week is the Texas Library Association Annual Conference in San Antonio!  As usual, there are a bunch of Texas authors signing books and/or ARCs.  Here's what I've got so far.  Note that times and places are subject to change.  The complete schedule for authors signing in the Author Area is available here.


Tuesday, April 8:

6:00-7:00 Jennifer Ziegler, Booth 1823 (Scholastic)

Wednesday April 9:

10:15 - 11:00 Lupe Ruiz-Flores, Author Area
10:15 - 11:00 Don Tate, Author Area
10:15-11:00 P.J. Hoover, Booth 2522 (Overlooked Books)
10:15-11:00 Jessica Lee Anderson, Booth 2522 (Overlooked Books)

11:00-12:00 Dotti Enderle, Author Area
11:00-12:00 Jo Whittemore, Booth 1443 (Book Festivals of Texas)

12:00-1:00 Rachel Caine, Booth 1443 (Book Festivals of Texas)

1:00-2:00 Molly Blaisdell,  Booth 1443 (Book Festivals of Texas)

2:00-3:00 Cynthia Leitich Smith, Author Area
2:00-3:00 Libba Bray, Author Area
2:00-3:00 Greg Leitich Smith, Booth 1443 (Book Festivals of Texas)
2:00-3:00 Victoria Scott, Booth 1443 (Book Festivals of Texas)
2:00-3:00 Don Tate, Booth 2440 (Charlesbridge)

3:00-4:00 Liz Garton Scanlon, Author Area
3:00-4:00 Varian Johnson, Author Area
3:00-4:00 E.E. Charlton-Trujillo, Author Area 

3:00-4:00 PJ Hoover, Booth 1443 (Book Festivals of Texas)
3:00-4:00 Jessica Lee Anderson, Booth 1443 (Book Festivals of Texas)

4:00-5:00 K.A. Holt, Author Area 

4:00-5:00 Kay Honeyman, Booth 1443 (Book Festivals of Texas)

Thursday, April 10

9:00-10:00 Nikki Loftin, Author Area
9:00-10:00 Don Tate, Booth 2522 (Overlooked Books)

10:00-11:00 Lupe Ruiz-Flores, Author Area

10:45-11:15 P.J. Hoover, Booth 1448 (Tor)

11:00-12:00 Joy Preble, Author Area

12:00-1:00 Dotti Enderle, Booth 1443 (Book Festivals of Texas)

1:00-2:00 E. Kristin Anderson, Author Area
1:00-2:00 Jerry Hatchett, Booth 1443 (Book Festivals of Texas)

2:00-3:00 Sophie Jordan, Author Area
2:00-3:00 Mari Mancusi,  Booth 1443 (Book Festivals of Texas)
2:00-3:00 Krissi Dallas,  Booth 1443 (Book Festivals of Texas)
2:00-3:00 A.G. Howard,  Booth 1443 (Book Festivals of Texas)

3:00-4:00 Varsha Bajaj, Booth 1548 (Albert Whitman)

Friday, April 11

9:30-10:30  Bethany Hegedus, Booth 1443 (Book Festivals of Texas)
9:30-10:30  Joy Preble, Booth 1443 (Book Festivals of Texas)

10:00-11:00 Lupe Ruiz-Fores, Author Area

11:00-12:00 Kathi Appelt, Author Area

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11. A Dino a Day Special: Illustration by C.S. Jennings

I am delighted to present this awesome illustration by author/illustrator C.S. ("Christopher") JenningsCyn and I had the pleasure of meeting Christopher a couple years back at the Austin Comic Con, where we discussed the possibility of his doing a dino-related sketch for me.  We talked over a couple ideas until I did the A Dino a Day Strikes Back feature last fall to celebrate the release of CHRONAL ENGINE in paperback, and then Christopher did THIS:   


Per his web site, "C.S. Jennings is a professional illustrator specializing in concept work, children's, and editorial illustration. He brings top shelf know-how to the publishing, gaming, editorial, and entertainment industries. (Did we tell you about that one time when he was an animation lead for Richard Linklater's "A Scanner Darkly?" That was pretty cool.) He's an author too, which he is doing more of these days. He calls Austin, Texas home. He has an extensive hat collection, many too hot to wear in his home state."

Jeff Crosby (l) and C.S. Jennings (r) at Comic Con
Christopher was also gracious enough to take the time to answer a couple of questions.
Both of my recent novels (CHRONAL ENGINE and LITTLE GREEN MEN AT THE MERCURY INN) feature illustrations.  You've illustrated picture books and graphic novels, as well as the Jacob Wonderbar series (written by Nathan Bransford) of middle grade novels.  Can you tell us a bit about how you approach illustrating for a novel?  Is it different than illustrating for a picture book?   Or graphic novel?

Illustrating for a chapter book definitely offers a different experience from picture books and graphic novels. First off, the approach to the characters has to change. My picture book characters are more round, soft. Chapter books are aimed at an older group, so the edges get sharper, the characters pulled and stretched to be taller. The themes in the older books are darker too, and this translates into the illustrations. There may be more shadow applied, heavier line in the art, more grim expressions or character design. 

Chapter books and graphic novels, well … Graphic novels have 200 times the illustration in them, whereas chapter books feature mostly spot illustrations. When I approach graphic novel characters I try to keep things simple. One book I did, the character had a red striped shirt on. Drawing all those stripes probably added 15 hours to the book. Also, the characters in chapter books are black and white (in the interior). The tonal pallet is greatly reduced, with a smaller spectrum within to communicate. This is also defined by the printing process and the generally lower quality paper printed upon. Anything over 30% black gets too dark really quickly, anything under 5% disappears.

What does your average day (when you're working on a project) look like?

I have a day job, so I come home, eat a quick dinner, and get into the studio as quickly as I can. I begin each project by listing out the illustrations in a checklist. I make a column for each step--roughs, revisions, final line, adding tones, how much time it will take, that kind of stuff. I try to spend time with the manuscript section I am illustrating that day beforehand to let my brain start chewing on the images. After that, it's warm up time at the drawing table, getting to the place where my brain and my hand line up. Then it's off to the races (the tasks that evening defined by the checklist). I play loud music in the studio. It helps to create a fully immersive environment. Some people can watch TV and work. I can't. I need it to be my pencil, my paper, and my hand. All else exists outside that bubble.

You are a member of the Armadillustrators, a consortium of Austin illustrators.  Can you tell us a bit about that?
Christopher, Don Tate, Jeff Crosby
Critique groups!!!! EVERYONE should be in one. We meet once a month. Our group talks not just about illustration, but also writing. The group discussion is open and fair, with each member free to say what he sees in the illustrations or text. It's so great (and important, I think) to get another set of eyes on your work. They see things you don't, elements that aren't working, as well as those that can help the story. The ideas offered up are for the taking, or can be disregarded. This group has been key to the development of myself and my work. I am so fortunate to have this group.

You also write your own books.  Can you tell us a bit about how you look at the intersection of text and art when it's your own?

Hmmm. Great question. I write picture books and board books, so I'll talk about the relationship from there first. Text and art work hand in hand. When I am writing, I pare down the words. What's the LEAST I can say for this scene? I try to stay aware of "showing and not telling." For instance, if the character is going to pour water out of a bucket, I don't write, "Mr. Jimbers picked up the bucket and poured the water out." He is holding the bucket in the illustration, so I can cut those words. "Mr. Jimbers poured the water out." Can I shorten it even more? Mr. Jimbers is tipping the bucket, blue stuff is coming out …. "Mr. Jimbers poured." In a picture book the drawing does so much of the work. Emotion, characters cues, time, and place are defined by the drawings. There is a concept in the industry that says you should be able to still understand the picture book without the words. (Which makes sense as so many in the audience cannot actually read.)

When I receive a manuscript for a chapter book, I am looking for the places in the text where I can share moments that will grip the reader. Whether it's an emotion, some fun character, or cool element, I ask myself, "What would I want to see as the reader?" Admittedly, sometimes it's "What do I want to draw?" "Ah, sweet! Spaceships!" or, "this character is awesome!" Sometimes it's a wacko character design. Other times, as in the Jacob Wonderbar books, it's someone historical. "Einstein! Napoleon? I've always wanted to do draw them!" I am chomping at the bit to draw Teddy Roosevelt.

Thanks!  For more information, Christopher's web site is here and his twitter handle is @dajanx



Above are a couple of the "inspiration pieces" for the illustration above (photos by Sam Bond Photography). 

And here are links to the rest:

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12. Audio book version of CHRONAL ENGINE!

I am delighted to announce that the audio book version of CHRONAL ENGINE is now available from audible.com!  Click here to download/order!

The narrator is Andrew Keltz, who has a background in theatre and has a BA from Northwestern University.

Boo!



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13. Cover art reveal for LITTLE GREEN MEN AT THE MERCURY INN!

I'm thrilled to present the cover art I just received for LITTLE GREEN MEN AT THE MERCURY INN (Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan 2014)!  It's by Andrew Arnold, who also did the interior illos.


LITTLE GREEN MEN AT THE MERCURY INN is a comedic middle grade story about three friends at a motel in Cocoa Beach, Florida, and what happens when a manned space launch at Kennedy Space Center is scrubbed due to the appearance of an unidentified flying object over Cape Canaveral.

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14. A Dino a Day Strikes Back: A CHRONAL ENGINE Celebration Day 12

 
Welcome to Day 12 of A Dino a Day Strikes Back, celebrating the paperback release of CHRONAL ENGINE, and the new editions of NINJAS, PIRANHAS, AND GALILEO and TOFU AND T.REX!

The paperback of CHRONAL ENGINE is available today!

Today's T-shirt is from Zazzle.com and features a riff on the popular WWII slogan "Keep Calm and Carry On."  I confess that I kind of prefer Churchill's formulation: "For each and for all, as for the Royal Navy, the watchword should be 'Carry on and Dread Nought.'"

But "Keep Calm and Ignore the Raptor" is pretty good, too.

The pictures were taken at Moody Gardens in Galveston last summer, at their Dinos Alive! exhibit.   They basically had about a dozen animatronic dinosaurs on display in conjunction with a 3D movie - the premise of which seemed to be a bunch of folks getting lost in the past :-) (We didn't see the movie itself).

They didn't have a Velociraptor, but they did have an Ornithomimus, which qualifies as a "maniraptor," and hence "raptor."  (Okay, I'm stretching it a little).  Anyway, here are the pics:

Big theropod head for posing next to/on top of
Baryonyx and me
Styracosaurus
Ornithomimus
T.rex, naturally

A nest of Edmontosaurus

A Dino a Day Strikes Back Previous Days
Day 1: Palmer Events Center (Austin Marathon Expo)
Day 2: Texas Memorial Museum 
Day 3: Waller Creek Boat House
Day 4: Hartmann Prehistoric Garden
Day 5: UT Alumni Center
Day 6: O. Henry House and Museum
Day 7: Santa Rita Rig No. 1
Day 8: Texas Memorial Museum (Piranhas)
Day 9: Night Wing
Day 10: Austin Nature and Science Center Day 11:Japanese Garden at Zilker Park


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15. A Dino a Day Strikes Back: A Chronal Engine Celebration! Day 11!

 
Welcome to Day 11 of A Dino a Day Strikes Back, celebrating the paperback release of CHRONAL ENGINE, and the new editions of NINJAS, PIRANHAS, AND GALILEO and TOFU AND T.REX!

DINOSAUR!  In Japanese.  So it seemed appropriate to take the picture at the Japanese Garden in Zilker Park in Austin.  Photos are by Sam Bond of Sam Bond Photography.

 



On the stepping stones over the koi pond
A Dino a Day Strikes Back Previous Days
Day 1: Palmer Events Center (Austin Marathon Expo)
Day 2: Texas Memorial Museum 
Day 3: Waller Creek Boat House
Day 4: Hartmann Prehistoric Garden
Day 5: UT Alumni Center
Day 6: O. Henry House and Museum
Day 7: Santa Rita Rig No. 1
Day 8: Texas Memorial Museum (Piranhas)
Day 9: Night Wing
Day 10: Austin Nature and Science Center

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16. A Dino a Day Strikes Back: A Chronal Engine Celebration Day 10!


Welcome to Day 10 of A Dino a Day Strikes Back, celebrating the paperback release of CHRONAL ENGINE, and the new editions of NINJAS, PIRANHAS, AND GALILEO and TOFU AND T.REX!

 Poor T.rex, his arms never get any respect. :-).  But they're still bigger than Carnotaurus's...

Today's T-shirt is from zazzle.com and features pics from the Austin Nature and Science Center at Zilker Park.  The place has a visitor's center and a great garden and pond, along with a Dino Pit and a Birds of Prey exhibit.  Definitely worth a visit!

At the pond
All these guys were there in the Cretaceous except the heron (and the human)



Barn owl!

A Dino a Day Strikes Back Previous Days
Day 1: Palmer Events Center (Austin Marathon Expo)
Day 2: Texas Memorial Museum 
Day 3: Waller Creek Boat House
Day 4: Hartmann Prehistoric Garden
Day 5: UT Alumni Center
Day 6: O. Henry House and Museum
Day 7: Santa Rita Rig No. 1
Day 8: Texas Memorial Museum (Piranhas) 
Day 9: Night Wing




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17. A DINO A DAY STRIKES BACK:A CHRONAL ENGINE CELEBRATION! Day 9

 
Welcome to Day 9 of A Dino a Day Strikes Back, celebrating the paperback release of CHRONAL ENGINE, and the new editions of NINJAS, PIRANHAS, AND GALILEO and TOFU AND T.REX!

Nightwing!

Okay, not exactly. :-).


Today's Dino a Day T-shirt features T.rex on a bicycle with the moon in the background, a riff on the iconic scene from E.T. Naturally, T.rex is not using the handlebars.   T-shirt is from zazzle.com.

I'm standing next to the Night Wing sculpture at the corner of Congress Avenue and Barton Springs Road, near the Congress Avenue Bridge, home to the world's largest urban bat colony.


Alas, it doesn't seem that bats evolved until after the Cretaceous, but appeared not long after.

 A Dino a Day Strikes Back Previous Days
Day 1: Palmer Events Center (Austin Marathon Expo)
Day 2: Texas Memorial Museum 
Day 3: Waller Creek Boat House
Day 4: Hartmann Prehistoric Garden
Day 5: UT Alumni Center
Day 6: O. Henry House and Museum
Day 7: Santa Rita Rig No. 1
Day 8: Texas Memorial Museum (Piranhas)

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18. A DINO A DAY STRIKES BACK: A CHRONAL ENGINE CELEBRATION DAY 8


Welcome to Day 8 of A Dino a Day Strikes Back, celebrating the paperback release of CHRONAL ENGINE, and the new editions of NINJAS, PIRANHAS, AND GALILEO and TOFU AND T.REX!

Today we feature a fishy (heh) interlude:  PIRANHAS RULE! Shirt is from zazzle.com.

Photos were taken at the Texas Memorial Museum, where it's about more than just dinosaurs.  During the Mesozoic, central Texas was part of the coast of the Western Interior Seaway, and so was home to some rather large aquatic critters.  Alas, piranhas don't seem to have been around back then, but one of my favorite fish with razor sharp teeth, Xiphactinus, was.  Scroll down for pics!

Giant turtle, Protostega
Big fish, Xiphactinus
Looking Mosasaurus in the mouth
My, what big teeth you have...
A Dino a Day Strikes Back Previous Days
Day 1: Palmer Events Center (Austin Marathon Expo)
Day 2: Texas Memorial Museum 
Day 3: Waller Creek Boat House
Day 4: Hartmann Prehistoric Garden
Day 5: UT Alumni Center
Day 6: O. Henry House and Museum
Day 7: Santa Rita Rig No. 1

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19. A Dino a Day Strikes Back: A CHRONAL ENGINE Celebration Day 7

 
Welcome to Day 7 of A Dino a Day Strikes Back, celebrating the paperback release of CHRONAL ENGINE, and the new editions of NINJAS, PIRANHAS, AND GALILEO and TOFU AND T.REX!

In the spirit of Sinclair Oil (and Texas), these pics were taken at the Santa Rita No. 1 oil rig, on display at MLK and San Jacinto, on the University of Texas campus.

 Sinclair Oil, of course, used to feature a "Brontosaurus" as its symbol (and back in the day, Sinclair was a sponsor of many paleo-digs out West.):



The Santa Rita No. 1 is the first oil well on University of Texas lands in west Texas (about halfway between Austin and El Paso).  The oil well flowed from 1923 to 1990. This rig was moved to Austin in 1940. 

 A Dino a Day Strikes Back Previous Days
Day 1: Palmer Events Center (Austin Marathon Expo)
Day 2: Texas Memorial Museum 
Day 3: Waller Creek Boat House
Day 4: Hartmann Prehistoric Garden
Day 5: UT Alumni Center
Day 6: O. Henry House and Museum

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20. A Dino a Day Strikes back: A Chronal Engine Celebration! Day 6

 
Welcome to Day 6 of A Dino a Day Strikes Back, celebrating the paperback release of CHRONAL ENGINE, and the new editions of NINJAS, PIRANHAS, AND GALILEO and TOFU AND T.REX!



These pics were taken by Sam Bond of Sam Bond Photography at the O.Henry House and Museum


On the porch

Listening to the only recording of O. Henry on the Gramophone
Out back
William Sidney Porter lived in the house between 1893 and 1895.  Every May, the site hosts the O. Henry Pun-Off. .Alas, it appears that he was not the first to refer to Austin as the "City of the Violet Crown" in print...

A Dino a Day Strikes Back Previous Days
Day 1: Palmer Events Center (Austin Marathon Expo)
Day 2: Texas Memorial Museum 
Day 3: Waller Creek Boat House
Day 4: Hartmann Prehistoric Garden
Day 5: UT Alumni Center

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21. A Dino a Day Strikes Back: A CHRONAL ENGINE Celebration Day 5

 
Welcome to Day 5 of A Dino a Day Strikes Back, celebrating the paperback release of CHRONAL ENGINE, and the new editions of NINJAS, PIRANHAS, AND GALILEO and TOFU AND T.REX!

In case you ever wondered "How to Eat a Triceratops," this T-shirt (from zazzle.com) features a helpful diagram illustrating the choicest cuts. 



The photos were taken, appropriately enough, in front of a sculpture of another large horned animal: a longhorn at the Texas Exes Alumni Center.  The cattle drive, of course, is part of Texas lore, and Bevo, a longhorn steer, is the mascot of the University of Texas at Austin.

And, recently, scientists announced the discovery of a dinosaur named Nasutoceratops, whose horns looked kind of like those of Bevo's...

A Dino a Day Strikes Back Previous Days
Day 1: Palmer Events Center (Austin Marathon Expo)
Day 2: Texas Memorial Museum 
Day 3: Waller Creek Boat House
Day 4: Hartmann Prehistoric Garden

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22. A Dino a Day Strikes back: A Chronal Engine Celebration Day 4!

 
Welcome to Day 4 of A Dino a Day Strikes Back, celebrating the paperback release of CHRONAL ENGINE, and the new editions of NINJAS, PIRANHAS, AND GALILEO and TOFU AND T.REX!

Shirt is from Zazzle.com and features a T.rex with a death ray laser coming out of its mouth, warning of the dangers of science.  Or maybe, science fiction :-).  Photos are by Sam Bond of Sam Bond Photography.

The Hartmann Prehistoric Garden at Zilker Park is one of my favorite spots in Austin.  It features plants that either existed during or had ancestors with similar forms that existed during the Mesozoic and, thus, were contemporaneous with the dinosaurs.
Ornithomimid sculpture.  Its tracks were found at the site.

 

A Dino a Day Strikes Back Previous Days
Day 1: Palmer Events Center (Austin Marathon Expo)
Day 2: Texas Memorial Museum 
Day 3: Waller Creek Boat House

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23. A Dino a Day Strikes Back: A Chronal Engine Celebration Day 3

Welcome to Day 3 of A Dino a Day Strikes Back, celebrating the paperback release of CHRONAL ENGINE, and the new editions of NINJAS, PIRANHAS, AND GALILEO and TOFU AND T.REX
 

T.rex hates rowing!  In addition to those puny arms, he probably displaces around 5 tons.  The shirt is from zazzle.com.  Photos are by Sam Bond of Sam Bond Photography.


Working out on the erg

The new workout room

Wielding oars
Austin is a great place for sports of the rowing/paddling ilk.  Both the Texas Rowing Center (located behind Austin High) and the Austin Rowing Club (headquartered in the Waller Creek Boathouse behind the Four Seasons) offer novice sculling classes (ARC also offers sweep rowing classes).  I had great fun with the Introduction to Rowing class at ARC and was a member a few years back, when they still had the old boathouse.

In addition, the University of Texas maintains a woman's team and a men's club team.
Grrr....
A Dino a Day Strikes Back Previous Days
Day 1: Palmer Events Center (Austin Marathon Expo)
Day 2: Texas Memorial Museum

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24. A Dino a Day Strikes Back: A CHRONAL ENGINE Celebration Day 2

Welcome to Day 2 of A Dino a Day Strikes Back, celebrating the paperback release of CHRONAL ENGINE, and the new editions of NINJAS, PIRANHAS, AND GALILEO and TOFU AND T.REX!

Ask me about my T.rex!  With the exception of the above, photos are by the awesome Sam Bond of Sam Bond Photography.

With Smilodon.  Not a T.rex.
 This strangely hilarious shirt (scroll down) is from etsy.com.

I found this one last fall, when Shirley Lukenbill, professor of children's literature at the University of Texas at Austin, posted it on my facebook page, so it seemed oddly appropriate to take the pictures at the Texas Memorial Museum, on the UT campus.

Horses.  Also not a T.rex.

T.rex!  Sort of. :-).
Unfortunately, the day we went, the museum itself was closed due to the UT football game...


T.rex and friends, from a few years back...

A Dino a Day Strikes Back Previous Days
Day 1: Palmer Events Center (Austin Marathon Expo)

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25. A Dino a Day Strikes Back: A CHRONAL ENGINE Celebration! Day One

Welcome to Day 1 of A Dino a Day Strikes Back, celebrating the paperback release of CHRONAL ENGINE, and the new editions of NINJAS, PIRANHAS, AND GALILEO and TOFU AND T.REX!

This T-shirt from Snorgtees features a traditional size/scale comparison of a human and various theropod dinosaurs (a Dilophosaurus, a Utahraptor, and a T.rex, I believe).  It seems that a significant number of the size comparisons on the Wikipedia dinosaur entries feature this image, which is the waving human from the Pioneer spacecraft gold plaque.  Apparently, they were first used by paleoartist Matthew Martyniuk (who refers to the silhouette as "Pioneer Dork," because of his seeming insouciance in the face of carnivorous theropods in close proximity).



These photos were taken at the Palmer Events Center, at packet pick-up during the Austin Marathon Expo in February 2013.  For some reason, the shirt seemed appropriate :-).  

Shadows of me and Cyn
The view from Palmer grounds
Expo and packet pickup



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