Enter room and forget why you’re there? Chapter ends work the same. http://writeatyourownrisk.posterous.com/event-boundary#comment
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Enter room and forget why you’re there? Chapter ends work the same. http://writeatyourownrisk.posterous.com/event-boundary#comment
You might not be aware that when this blog was created, the original group of posters agreed to keep it going for 843 days exactly. We had done some pretty complicated calculations on the shelf-life of a blog about speculative fiction for teens and pre-teens, with some assistance from several persons (and a robot) who arrived from the future to warn us about impending utopian conditions.
So here we are at Day 843, feeling compelled to say goodbye so that we can enjoy the sudden utopia we have been informed is about to be created on Earth. (We’ve been told there will be free iced coffee and several Harry Potter sequels for everyone.) We’d like to thank you, blog readers, for following us for so long (two and a half years! over 500 posts!). We’ve appreciated your comments and silent visits alike. We feel this has been a great opportunity to explore our thoughts on various topics important to us science fiction- and fantasy-lovers, and to chat with people we otherwise would never had known existed.
We hope that you will continue to visit us on other places on the web so that we can chat about books and hear your recommendations for what we should be reading and share thoughts about writing and publishing. You can find links to our websites here. Thanks, lovely blog readers, and Happy Reading!
Today I’m chatting with Louise Spiegler, author of two great speculative books that aren’t traditional fantasy or science fiction. They’re—well, I’ll let her explain.
CE: Tell us about your books.
The Amethyst Road is a fantasy set in an alternative Pacific Northwest where Serena, a mixed-race girl, must fight hardship and racial hatred to find and reunite her scattered family. In this world, the Gorgios, a settled people, control the power and money. The Yulang are travellers who are regarded with contempt by the Gorgios. Within the Yulang, there are tribal divisions and strict rules and expectations. Serena is cast out of both groups when her sister Willow has a child out of wedlock. She ultimately succeeds in reuniting her family and discovering her own path in life, but not without a lot of struggle and heartbreak. The book was a Junior Library Book Club selection, and a finalist for the Andre Norton Award (Hugo-Nebula award scheme).
The Jewel and the Key (due out August 29) is set in the present day, as the U.S. is embarking on yet another war in the Middle East. Addie, a stage-struck girl, frustrated in her dream of becoming an actress, becomes deeply involved in saving a derelict theater called The Jewel from demolition. Her best friend Whaley has just been expelled from school and is obsessed with fighting in the war. An earthquake and the discovery of an antique mirror unleash forces that jolt Addie out of her time and into 1917 Seattle, just as America enters World War I. Here she finds a world in as much turmoil as her own. However, in this past era she finds fulfillment working at the Jewel in its hey-day, and in her relationship with its owner’s son, Reg, who in his own way is as much a trouble-magnet as Whaley. As she unravels the connection between the two times she discovers that in both, the Jewel is under threat, war is looming and someone she cares about is determined to fight. In the end, only Addie holds the key to saving the Jewel and her friends’ lives.
CE: Your first book, The Amethyst Road, was set in an alternate reality in the Pacific Northwest. Your new book, The Jewel and The Key, involves time travel between two realistic eras. What draws you to this type of almost-realistic speculative fiction?
I’m drawn to the imaginative and the fantastic—there’s nothing I love better than a good ghost story—but am also deeply involved with the world around me. When I was about seven or eight, I believed there was always something magical just out of reach, around the corner, in the other room, in the old house up the hill. You had to creep up on it and surprise it. I still can have that feeling, especially in places which are old and have a lot of history. So that’s the psychological, ‘it all goes back to my childhood’ explanation.
Nonetheless, I find the struggles of the real world completely compelling. I’m fascinated by the nitty-gritty of how people live, what they have in their pockets to pay for their food, what they do when they can’t pay, what stories they tell about themselves, what they dream about, what they do when the world they live in is dangerous or unjust. For me, fantasy needs to engage all of this. In fact, I think it’s the true substance of good fantasy, no matter how much it bends the rules of time and space.
CE: What inspires you? Do you start with character, plot, situation, or an issue you want to explore?
In The Amethyst Road, character came first. Serena was so real to me from the very start that I could almost feel her tapping me on theDisplay Comments Add a Comment
We hope some of you had a chance to read CHIME since we announced our Book Talk about a month ago. CHIME has received six starred reviews and has garnered a lot of praise around the web. The story follows Briony, a young woman living at the start of the twentieth century in Swampsea, where the swamp is being drained to make way for train tracks–and the monsters who lurk in the mud are angry about losing their home. In order to save her twin sister from a curse brought down by the Boggy Mun, Briony must stop the swamp from being drained, all while balancing her self-hatred and her new-found love for a boy who has just come to town.
Today, Joni Sensel and Parker Peevyhouse chat about the book. We hope you’ll comment with your own opinions on some of these topics. We’d love to hear what you thought of CHIME.
Joni Sensel: So, let’s talk about CHIME! I haven’t read it yet, but I’m intrigued by the swamp setting. Is it used well?
Parker Peevyhouse: Yeah, the swamp was COOL. The setting was fab. I loved the swamp, and all the creatures were varied and wondrous.
Joni: What’s the main character like?
Parker: Briony. She was really into hating herself — she took it to a new level. Okay, well, not Black Swan level. But high up there. When she was young, she used her “witchy” powers to knock her twin sister, Rose, off a swing. Rose hit her head and suffered some kind of brain damage. She’s since been rather off–but Rose is a wonderful character. I loved her. She has a great way of talking, very blunt, and always, “I don’t prefer to do this or that.”
Joni: That’s an interesting twin contrast — like one “good” personality and one bad in two bodies?
Parker: Well, Rose isn’t exactly “good.” She’s rather rude and always runs off. They’re both pretty mischievous. But it was hard for me to love Briony or connect with her, although I found her sense of humor sharp and creative.
Joni: How important do you think that kind of connection is for enjoying a book?
Parker: For me, it’s key. I liked the setting of CHIME, I liked a lot of the characters, and I liked the magic, but Briony wouldn’t let me get close. She has this STRANGE way of talking, of narrating. At one point she’s looking for Rose, is desperate to find her in the swamp and wants Rose to call out to her. She says, “Jab your scream into my ear squish.” I honestly don’t understand why Briony talked the way she did.
I thought maybe Briony is just so crazy with self-hatred that she can’t quite keep a hold on her sanity, but it’s hard to say. Briony is just an unusual girl, I suppose, and I like unusual, but there’s a fine line between unusual and un-relatable. I love to read an unusual book, I really do, but it’s got to have an anchor in that main character. This isn’t to say that Briony is categorically unlovable. I think her relatability will vary from reader to reader.
Joni: Was that kind of language something that took you out of the story?
Parker: I didn’t like most of the language, to be honest. There were some lovely bits swimming around in all these strange bits, some really beautiful descriptions. Briony kept saying that Eldric’s eyes weDisplay Comments Add a Comment
My brother just mentioned that he covered networking on his blog for screenwriters. My brother (the original writer for Sweet Home Alabama) is a pretty smart guy, so check it out.
One of the big concerns for authors is networking (often a bigger concern than writing well, which is bad but another topic, covered bluntly in this post). Networking is important whether you’re trying to find a publisher for your work or readers for a published work, whether you’re publishing traditionally or self-publishing. And today social networking reigns.
Some people love it, some people hate it, many people debate what, if anything, is really successful. Obviously it’s hard to track. How many people have bought one of my books because of seeing my posts here? Any? But that’s not always the point. Social networking is more like real-life making friends. It takes time, it works better with some people than others, and you’re never sure quite where that friendship is going to lead.
I met Joni Sensel through our roles as SCBWI Regional Advisors and she later invited me to join The Spectacle, where we got to know each other better. Since then we’ve shared self-publishing information and exchanged a manuscript critique for proofreading. I’d call that a success, not because I can track hundreds of books sold due to the relationship, but because it’s been fun and interesting and educational.
Then there’s the woman I “met” through the Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Chat Board. I mentioned that my Haunted series had been dropped by the publisher, so I was thinking of self-publishing the fourth book, The Ghost Miner’s Treasure. I was just asking for a bit of feedback on how middle grade e-books were selling, but I got a message from the editor of a small press who is interested in publishing the book. We haven’t signed a contract yet, but we are discussing specifics (and they’re even offering a small advance!). So there is a networking connection that may put money in my bank account.
But did you notice, that wasn’t my goal? Those of you who are long-time followers of this blog are probably here because you enjoy reading about and discussing speculative fiction, not because you want to hear sales pitches. Cynthia Leitich Smith’s blog has thousands of followers not because she occasionally talks about her new books, awards, etc., but because she covers all kinds of children’s book publishing news and features many other authors talking about their new books. It’s like a big, informative cocktail party.
So don’t be afraid of social networking, and don’t network just because authors are supposed to or because it’s the key to riches and fame. And if you’re not a writer — if you’re a librarian or a reader who loves to talk books — we love hearing your voice too.
So get out there and make some friends.
Chris Eboch is writing an article on “How to Use, Not Abuse, Your Social Networks.” Any advice?
Today we continue the chat with Sara Grant, whose YA dystopian novel DARK PARTIES comes out later this year.
Tell us about your writing journey. How have publishers reacted to your work?
DARK PARTIES started as a short story, which I submitted to the SCBWI British Isles (www.britishscbwi.org) UNDISCOVERED VOICES anthology (www.undiscoveredvoices.com). I let a writer friend and my niece read a very early draft. They both wanted to know what happened next and encouraged me to write the rest of Neva’s story. I told myself that if my story was selected, then I would write the novel. And, luckily it was included in the anthology.
The anthology was sent to UK-based editors and agents who focused on children’s fiction. I received calls and emails from editors and agents who were interested in what they’d read. I signed with an agent from Andrew Nurnberg Associates because we hit it off immediately and within moments I knew she understood my work and would be an amazing partner in the crazy world of publishing. And I was right. We worked together for about a year before she submitted my novel and about five months later I accepted an offer from Little, Brown in the US.
Another benefit of writing dystopian fiction is the ease with which it can cross borders and appeal to readers around the world. I intentionally didn’t identify the country in DARK PARTIES. In my mind, it’s a mixture of my two homelands – the US and UK, but it could also easily represent other countries. DARK PARTIES has sold to the US, UK, Germany, Poland and China.
How about readers? Have you found any special challenges reaching people with this genre?
My book isn’t released in the US until August in the US and October in the UK but I have started to be approached by book bloggers who have read advanced copies of DARK PARTIES. Because DARK PARTIES is my first novel, I must admit it’s a very strange experience to have something you’ve written out in the world. What I’m most fascinated by is watching this story take on a life of its own. It’s very gratifying to have people read something you’ve written and even more exciting to learn what they’ve discovered in the pages of your novel.
DARK PARTIES was published in March in Germany under the title NEVA. I was lucky enough to visit Germany for the launch and attended the Leipzig Bookfair where I got to meet my very first readers. It was an overwhelming experience for this small town girl to be signing copies of her book in a country she had never before visited and being so graciously welcomed by enthusiastic readers.
What are some of your favorite speculative fiction books for young people?
I love The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. The first book in her trilogy is a master class in deftly creating a world but not letting the world take over. She blends a compelling love triangle with page-turning action.
I’ve also recently discovered China Mieville. I’ve heard him speak and read a few of his short stories but he’s definitely an author I intend to read more of and study.
If you could live in a sci-fi or fantasy world, which would it be? Why?
Oh, this is a difficult one. I will have to go with my earliest influences in TV and film – Star Wars and Star Trek: the Next Generation. I suppose I couldn’t resist a trip on NCC 1701-D. I love the idea of being able to be beamed anywhere. I would also spend endless hours on the holodeck. Oh, and of course work with Jean Luc to bring peace, love and justice to the universe!
What would readers find surprising or interesting about you?
If I thought the last question was difficult….hmmmm…I find personal questions like this even more tricky to answer. Am I honest and tell you that I think the most perfect food in the universe is mashed potDisplay Comments Add a Comment
Today I’m chatting with Sara Grant, whose debut novel comes out later this year.
Sara, please tell us about your book.
DARK PARTIES is a dystopian novel for young adults.
Sixteen-year-old Neva was born and raised in an isolated nation ruled by fear, lies and xenophobia. Hundreds of years ago, her country constructed an electrified dome to protect itself from the outside world. What once might have protected now imprisons. Her country is decaying and its citizens are dying. Neva and her friends dream of freedom. A forbidden party leads to complications. Suddenly Neva’s falling for her best friend’s boyfriend, uncovering secrets that threaten to destroy her friends, her family and her country – and discovering the horrifying truth about what happens to The Missing…
DARK PARTIES will be published this year by Little, Brown in the US on August 3, Orion in the UK in on October 20.
Why did you choose to write in this genre? What inspires you?
It may sound strange but I didn’t choose the genre. I found an issue and characters that interested me and I let the story evolve. I’d just moved to London, England, from Indianapolis, Indiana. I was immersed in the paperwork of immigration and uncovering news stories on both side of the Atlantic about who and how many should be allowed to enter a country. That got me thinking….what if a country closed its borders to people and ideas?
This question led to more questions of national and personal identity. The citizens in my fictitious country grew more and more alike. Their population dwindled. How would a teenager rebel in this closed and homogeneous society?
DARK PARTIES started as a short story about Neva and her best friend Sanna who host a party for their friends in the pitch black and secretly plot a rebellion. I was intrigued – some might say obsessed – by this idea. I spent the next three years writing and revising DARK PARTIES.
What inspired you to tell the story of a society cut off from the rest of the world?
As I mentioned above, I had just moved from the US to the UK and wanted to explore issues of national and personal identity. You don’t have to look far to see countries, cities and individuals questioning how to maintain their cultural identity in a global society. What does it mean to be American or British when the cultural make up of your country is changing? I definitely believe that diversity of cultures and ideas makes a country stronger. DARK PARTIES was my way to explore all these issues.
I also think DARK PARTIES was influenced by growing up in a small town where it often felt as if I was living in a fish bowl. Everyone knew everyone else – which has many benefits but if you are a teenager, it makes it next to impossible to rebel.
Are there special challenges in writing speculative fiction? How do you deal with them?
I love the freedom of writing speculative fiction – not only the freedom to imagine the future and make the rules, but also the freedom that I can afford my teen protagonist. In contemporary novels, teens are confined by so many rules, and the adventure is limited when the protagonist can pick up a cell phone, search the internet or turn to a responsible adult to solve problems. In speculative fiction, you can break all the rules, raise the stakes, and allow your teens a greater sense of action and adventure.
But the challenge of writing speculative fiction is also the freedom. You create a world and make the rules, but changing one thing can have a nearly endless rippled effect. For example, closing the borders influences how my characters think, speak and act. It’s exhilarating to have that kind of freedom but also daunting. All you can do is think and analyze and ask questions about this world you’ve created and construct it in a way that’s believable to your readers.
I believe less is better. I have to know more about the world thAdd a Comment
P. J. Hoover answers more of my questions about her new YA e-book, SOLSTICE, which she e-published with the help of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. (Read Part 1 of this interview.) SOLSTICE blends teen romance with dystopian elements with Greek mythology.
Parker Peevyhouse: What about marketing–is that all up to you or will the agency help with that? We friended your book on Facebook, by the way.
P. J. Hoover: Thanks. I think they will do what they can to help market the book as far as advertising on their Facebook page, and Laura Rennert will be talking about it at a panel at BEA.
Parker: I would guess it’ll get press just from the angle of “ABLA takes psuedo-publishing role.”
PJ: I hope so.
Parker: What specifically will you do to market SOLSTICE? You’ve got the book trailer, your blog, this interview…
PJ: I plan to really focus on the online. There is no book party at a store to plan, no postcards to mail. So I am going to focus on blog tours, twitter… I’m going to Dallas Comic Con. I made trading cards to hand out with secret content–each card has a special QR code.
Parker: Those weird boxes that you take pictures of with your phone?
PJ: Yes, with a barcode scanner app. It takes you to a hidden website link with maybe a secret vlog or a deleted scene or a chapter from another character’s POV. That sort of thing.
Parker: So I will get one of these cards, when?
PJ: I’ll mail you some! Teens are totally savvy about these things. I handed out cards last Saturday at an event and had hits on my hidden links before I got home.
Parker: Wow. So your marketing will target teens, not gatekeepers like booksellers, librarians and teachers.
PJ: Librarians are definitely in the mix because you can loan out e-books.
Parker: How will sales of your e-book affect future sales of other projects to publishers?
PJ: I think with as much as the market is changing, my options are wide open. I also think, for my career, marketing is very important. I don’t think it’s enough for an author to e-publish a book and put it on Amazon and expect it to just take off. I really think author marketing is huge. HUGE.
Parker: Did author marketing work well for your EMERALD TABLET books [which were published by a small press, CBAY Books]? Is there a difference here?
PJ: There are a few differences. First, those books were middle grade. MG readers are not online, so online marketing is very hard. So much depends on librarians and bookstores. Also, the CBAY books are hardcover and priced at $16.95. Some parents are reluctant to spend that on a book for their kid. SOLSTICE is priced at $2.99. So now I have a book aimed at teen readers who are online and moms who are online. And it is less expensive than a cup of coffee.
Parker: Are you going to aim any marketing specificAdd a Comment
With the explosion of chatter online about authors who make their careers by self-publishing e-books, I was eager to talk with former Spectacle contributor P. J. Hoover about her new YA novel SOLSTICE, which has just been e-published with the help of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. This is a new model for literary agencies who are interested in finding a place in the e-publishing process, and P. J. explains here how that partnership worked in her case.
SOLSTICE is set in a future plauged by a Global Heating Crisis and is about a young woman who becomes entangled in a love triangle of Greek mythic proportions. It’s available now on Amazon and Smashwords, and will be available soon on Barnes&Noble.com.
Parker Peevyhouse: It’s been a while since we’ve seen you here! Looks like a lot has been happening since then. Let’s hear about why you chose to self-publish. Why this book?
P. J. Hoover: This book is really timely for right now. It’s a mythology-based dystopian novel, and right now both of those elements are hot. I think the tipping point was really looking at the market and seeing the books that were coming out and knowing that even if we did sell to a traditional press it could take over a year to come out. Like even into 2013.
Parker: Which means you might miss the trend for dystopian or mythology-based novels.
PJ: And also, given how exciting all the e-book news is these days, it seemed like a really fun thing to do.
Parker: Had you previously submitted the manuscript to publishers?
PJ: My agent [Laura Rennert] and I had subbed a very different version earlier (about a year ago) with minimal dystopian elements. We got close to selling but never found the right fit.
Parker: How did you talk to your agent about self-pubbing?
PJ: I didn’t. I had a phone call scheduled with her to talk about what our submission strategy would be. We talked about that a bit and then she said, “Well, there is another option.” And she suggested the self-publishing route.
Parker: Was this before or after Amanda Hocking’s success with self-publishing?
PJ: This was two months ago–so after her news went viral.
Parker: Had the agency ever suggested self-publishing to their other authors or was this a new view they were taking?
PJ: I’m not sure if they had suggested this to any of their other clients or not. But once I decided I wanted to go the indie pub route, they took the ball and ran with it. We did another round of edits. And then a copy edit, and two proofreading edits.
Parker: Is that more editing than an e-book usually gets? I guess it probably varies.
PJ: We did many rounds back and forth. My agent and her reader are some of the most gifted people I can imagine when it comes to editing.
Parker: Were you always cool with the suggestions?
PJ: There are definitely some things I stood against changing. For example, theDisplay Comments Add a Comment
Hurrah! Amazon has announced a new lending feature for the Kindle, which means I can share titles with other Kindle users for 14 days at a time. The Nook’s LendMe feature was one of the main things that drew me to that device, so I’m excited to find that the Kindle now supports sharing e-books.
There’s just one tiny problem. None of the e-books I own appears to be lendable. Turns out the publisher gets to decide whether to make a title available for the lending feature, and not too many publishers seem to be as excited by this feature as I am. This is really too bad. A 14-day lending period is completely reasonable. Sharing books builds hype and gets readers hooked on a new author or series. Plus, it keeps Kindle-users happy so that they aren’t tempted to illegally download books for free. My 2 cents.
I’m having a hard time trying to decide which books to download to my device, which to get from the library, and which to buy from a bookstore. Most of my books come from the library, because I read far more books in a month than I can afford to buy. But if a book is popular I have to wait weeks or months to get it from the library. If I buy a book from a local store, I’m supporting my local economy and I can pass the book on to a friend who might like it. But downloading it to my Kindle is easiest–it’s fast, and I don’t have to pay for gas to get to the store or shipping to order it online.
So here’s my system for determining whether to download a book (10 points=pay for the download):
I’ll admit that one of the reasons I wanted an e-reader rather than an iPad or smartphone is that a device like the Kindle keeps me free from distractions. Yes, it has a web browser on it, but it’s so difficult to use that I mostly ignore it. IDisplay Comments Add a Comment
Last year, I posted a diary about my brand new Nook e-reader. Those posts are still some of our most popular. Since then, I have acquired another e-reader–a Kindle. So, at the risk of seeming like I’m obsessed with e-readers, I now give you a chronicle of my experiences with the Kindle 2.
My favorite Christmas present this year: my Kindle 2. Actually, my favorite present might be my chocolate Clue game, but the Kindle is a very close second.
My Kindle is the wi-fi version, which means that I can only access the online store when I’m connected to a local wi-fi network, as opposed to whenever it should please me. But that knocks about $45 off the price of the unit. And let’s face it–I should be able to find a wi-fi connection anywhere I want to buy a book. It’s not like I’m going to want to browse for reading material while I’m at the grocery store juggling cereal boxes and a toddler.
I have to admit that the first items I buy for my Kindle are cheap games: Monopoly, Maze A Thon, Minesweeper, and Sudoku. They’re discounted at the perfect time–right when people like me are opening up their Christmas-wrapped Kindles and wondering what to download first. Monopoly is not only under $2, it’s pretty dang fun.
Next I download a bunch of free classics–all of my favorites (like Pride and Prejudice) plus a few I’ve always sworn I would read (like The Count of Monte Cristo). And I splurge on an e-book from one of my favorite new authors, David Mitchell. My Christmas vacation is set.
I don’t really want to carry my Kindle around in a sock, like I did with my Nook for a while. This time, I’ve got a great cover for it, one that opens like the cover of a note pad. I don’t like the covers that open like a book. Two reasons: (1) I find them rather awkward and cumbersome, and (2) I want to feel like I’m reading from my super-cool gadget, not like I’m reading from a book (otherwise I’d read from… a book). I’ve also got a cool little light that slips into a slot in my cover. It runs on its own battery, as opposed to draining my Kindle’s battery, which is what would happen if I had the popular case that Amazon sells (although I admit that case is pretty neat–the light slides into place in a very nifty way).
One disappointment about the Kindle is that it doesn’t have a manual switch for turning off the wireless (like the Nook has). You have to press a few buttons to accomplish that task, which is slightly annoying. However, the Kindle’s battery lasts for ages! I hardly ever recharge it, whereas the Nook’s little color screen at the bottom of the device tends to eat up more battery power.
We continue our interview series today with Parker Peevyhouse and Joni Sensel, who met up online to chat about books, the internet, and e-publishing.
Parker Peevyhouse: So, I’m anxious to hear how you’re going to tackle the next book in your Farwalker series. How are you going to prepare it for e-pubbing?
Joni Sensel: I talked to an editor who knows my work, and she’s going to edit the third book at a rate I couldn’t refuse. That will happen in another couple of months, so I hope to put out a POD and ebook around September or so… assuming the revisions don’t take longer.
Parker: What about the cover?
Parker: That dart is pretty cool. I love how it starts off the adventure. Very intriguing.
Joni: I’m really just doing it to have something for those who ask. And for psychological closure. I think it’s important for writers to find the rewards where we can.
Parker: I think that last reason is more important than people would guess.
Joni: I’m also working hard on a YA sci-fi thriller. I hope it’s thrilling, anyway. What are you working on now?
Parker: I’m between projects, really. And writing some short stories I hope to turn into a collection.
Joni: That might be an interesting e-project — worth experimenting with, anyway.
Parker: You know, P. J. Hoover is e-publishing a YA called SOLSTICE. It’s dystopian with mythological elements. Her agency is helping–they helped her get an awesome cover.
Joni: YES! I heard. I’m dying to know the story there–
Parker: I’m going to interview her in a couple of weeks for the blog, so you will soon have that story.
Joni: Cool. It seems to me that blogs and so forth have built up the writing community and a lot of support for each other even in just the last couple of years.
Parker: Yeah, I would say it has built up support, but has it “made” writers’ careers? I mean, with Amanda Hocking, it’s clearly a case of the Internet making her career. She would not be published or rich without it. But it’s hard to say if it will now be the norm for writers to find fame solely through online marketing.
Joni: Do you have any insights or conclusions about our Spectacle blog experience?
Parker: The blogging is fun, and I like chatting with commenters. I don’t know that it did a lot to increase book sales for our bloggers. So the real value is getting to talk about stuff we like to talk about! And meeting new people online.
Joni: Our readers have been very loyal. But I’ve seen several not-very-scientific studies that suggest the sameDisplay Comments Add a Comment
Our interviews with each other continue–today Chris Eboch talks with Linda Joy Singleton, author of over 35 books, including THE SEER series, DEAD GIRL trilogy and the March 2012 BURIED from Flux Books. She has a continuing contest on her website plus free short stories: www.LindaJoySingleton.com.
Linda Joy Singleton: While THE SEER ends with the 6th book, a favorite character from THE SEER, a Goth girl named Thorn, continues with supernatural mystery in her own book next March. BURIED, A Goth Girl Mystery, follows Thorn to Nevada with her family where she meets a mysterious masked guy and follows psychic vibes from a locket to a killer secret that’s been buried for a long time.
LJS: It was a great experiment. It worked well for my books because there are 6 books in THE SEER series, so
offering one of them for free led to the other books gaining more sales. In fact, my publisher is going to do it again with DEAD GIRL WALKING, the first book in my paranormal trilogy. Beginning May 1st, DEAD GIRL WALKING will be free for one month from Amazon, B&N, Kobo and (perhaps) Sony. This will be a one month only offer, and I’m really excited for this opportunity to find new readers. DEAD GIRL WALKING is about a girl who wakes up in the wrong body then tries to find her way back to being herself, making new friendships and gaining insight into others along the way.
CE: What are you working on now?
LJS: I’m writing a futuristic book which is nothing like anything I’ve ever written before. Over 2 years ago I wrote the first 4 pages to this book and continued to think about it until I finally had the time to work on it. Some people will call it dystopian only it’s not a dark look at the future, but more of a question of a girl’s identity and a murder mystery, too. When I finish this book, I’m hoping to write another Thorn book…but that will be up to my publisher. I also have a picture book and middle-grade being submitted. Every day I wake up hoping something wonderful will happen.
Thanks, Linda. Our interview series continues next week!
In the coming weeks, we here at the Spectacle will be interviewing… each other! It’s our chance to tell you a little bit more about ourselves and our books. Today, I’m interviewing Chris Eboch, author of a dozen books for young people, including the Haunted series, The Well of Sacrifice, and the ghost on the stairs. She writes action-packed romantic suspense for grown-ups under the name Kris Bock.
Linda Joy Singleton: The Haunted series has three books out, The Ghost on the Stairs, The Riverboat Phantom and The Knight in the Shadows. But we haven’t seen a new book in a while. Is anything new in the works?
Chris Eboch: The Haunted series got dropped by Aladdin after major upheavals that included my editor leaving. A couple of months ago, I posted on Verla Kay’s blue Boards — a discussion board for children’s book writers — that I was considering self-publishing the fourth Haunted book, which I had already written.
Last week, I got an e-mail from a new, very small press, wondering if I would be interested in working with them to release the book. We haven’t settled anything yet, but Haunted 4: The Ghost Miner’s Treasure will eventually make its way into print, one way or another. I’d like to keep writing more in the series, but that depends on whether or not I can make enough money to support myself while I write them.
The Ghost Miner’s Treasure continues Jon and Tania’s adventures in hunting — or rather helping — ghosts. This time their paranormal pal is an old miner who struck it rich in life but then couldn’t find his mine again, so he’s still looking, a century after his death. The kids get to join the Haunted ghost hunter TV show on a trek into the Superstition Mountains to hunt for the mine — but someone dangerous is tagging along, and this time it’s not the ghost.
LJS: You did a series of blog posts recently on your decision to self publish after years of traditional publishing. How is that working out?
In terms of the success of the books, it’s still too early to tell. For my first adult novel, the romantic suspense Rattled, I’ve been finding support in the community of mystery writers and fans. I’ve done guest posts on several blogs and have more lined up. It’s really hard to tell how often these things lead to sales, of course, but it helps to get the word out. I also have some great reviews on Amazon!
So far I haven’t seen a big difference in sales between Rattled and my SP middle grade mystery, The Eyes of Pharaoh. I need to contact some of the teachers who use my Mayan historical fiction, The Well of Sacrifice, in the classroom and let them know about the new book.
One of the big challenges is finding the time to promote the books properly, when I have to spend most of my time earning money by teaching, critiquing, and writing articles. But I figured it would be six months to a year before the books had a chance of reaching some kind of “tipping point” and taking off.
I’m still not convinced that self-publishing is the only way to go. I recently met an editor at a conference who is interested in seeing my next romantic suspense, and I’ll probably send it to her. It would be nice toAdd a Comment
Judy Bodmer won a copy of Janet Lee Carey’s The Dragons of Noor for posting after the interview. Judy, Janet will be in touch.
Sarah Beth Durst is the author of Into The Wild, Ice, and Enchanted Ivy, novels that put a new spin on traditional fairy tales. She joins me here for a Q&A about once upon a time, witches, and were-unicorns.
A: I think “once upon a time” and “happily ever after” are two of the most powerful phrases in the English language (right up there with “I love you” and “free pizza”). You hear them and you’re instantly transported. As a writer, it’s fun to play with something that has such cultural resonance and so much emotional baggage attached to it. Kind of like playing dress-up with the Crown Jewels.
Q: Why do you think fairy tales still resound with audiences so many years after they were written?
A: Fairy tales are stories stripped down to bare bone. The characters lack internal lives and often are missing motivation and even logic. So that means that the reader (and writer!) is free to impose her or her own meaning on the stories. Combine that with the universal themes (true love, jealousy, revenge, etc.), and you have a set of stories that can be made relevant to virtually any culture in any time.
Also, fairy tales are awesome. Candy houses, dangerous fruit snacks, and heroines who befriend rodents — what’s not to love?
Q: How do you flesh out characters and plotlines from the fairy tales your stories are based on?
A: Honestly, it’s not so different from fleshing out a non-fairy-tale-related story. Personally, I always start with the characters. I ask myself: What does each character want and fear? Once I can answer that question, I put my main character into a situation that touches on those wants and fears, and I see how they react. At their core, most stories are about a character facing his or her worst nightmare and then changing because of it. It’s the why and the how that make things interesting.
Q: If you were a fairy tale character, who would you be?
I’d love to be Cinderella’s fairy godmother. She makes dreams come true, and she doesn’t fall off a cliff or die in a horrific fashion. In reality, though, I’d probably be a random extra who gets eaten by a wolf.
Q: I especially love your INTO THE WILD books. Who is your favorite character in these books and why?
A: Gothel, Rapunzel’s witch. She’s evil by nature but good by choice, which made her a lot of fun to write.
A: My next book is called DRINK, SLAY, LOVE. It’s about a sixteen-year-old vampire girl who develops a conscience after she’s stabbed through the heart by a were-unicorn’s horn. It comes out in September 2011 from Simon & Schuster, and I’m really, really excited about it!
Q: Is there a fairy tale your fans have asked you to write about? If so, what is it?
A: I’ve written about a bunch of obscure fairy tales on my blog (compiled here). One reader favorite seems to be the bricklebrit donkey, who spews gold out oDisplay Comments Add a Comment
Quick! Identify this image:
Although they may look like speckled eggs, these are alien worlds: a few of the 1,235 exoplanet candidates identified since 2009 by NASA’s Kepler observatory. Before Kepler, about 500 exoplanets total had been discovered, painstakingly, one-by-one, over more than a decade–which demonstrates how dramatically the pace of discovery increases as new tools come online.
The “eggs” above are stars arranged in size order. The “speckles” are planets in silhouette. The entire image, created by a scientist named Jason Rowe, can be seen here.
On this scale, our own sun (occluded by Jupiter and Earth) would look like this:
Based on the information the Kepler project has gathered so far, astronomers are estimating that there may be as many as 50 billion planets in the Milky Way galaxy with 2 billion of those being about the size of Earth, about 10 million of which might be in a range to hold liquid water necessary for the development of life.
If you’d like to participate in your own Easter egg hunt in space, check out Planethunters.org for a chance to be part of a crowdsourced project using Kepler data to find some of the exoplanets that Kepler’s automated algorithm may have missed.
–Greg R. Fishbone, hard boiled
I’ve been posting links to different giveaways on our Facebook page, and I thought I’d post a big list of some here–because everyone loves free books!
First of all, don’t forget that right now you can download an e-book version of Aprilynne Pike’s WINGS, the story of a girl caught between two boys–one of whom is a fairy, here at Amazon for free until April 18th.
YA Reads (ends April 19)
Cryer’s Cross by Lisa McMann, in which a girl with OCD searches for a boy who has mysteriously vanished
Eona by Alison Goodman, in which a girl must learn to bond with her dragon in order to control her powers
Department 19 by Will Hill , in which a boy fights against a supernatural secret agency
Vampire Book Club (ends April 19)
Falling Under by Gwen Hayes, in which a girl falls for a boy she meets in her dreams
Darkest Mercy by Melissa Marr, the conclusion to her Wicked Lovely series
Teeth: Vampire Tales, an anthology featuring stories by Neil Gaiman, Holly Black, Garth Nix, Melissa Marr, and more
Young Adult Books–What We’re Reading Now (ends April 20)
Wither by Lauren DeStefano, a YA dystopian novel in which girls must bear children to save a declining population
There’s a Book (ends April 24th)
The Imagination Station by Paul McCusker and Marianne Hering, in which two friends go back in time in search of treasure
Moonlight Book Reviews (ends April 25th)
The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney, in which a cursed girl will need a faerie’s help to save her friend
Megan Crewe’s blog (ends April 30th)
Give Up The Ghost by Megan Crewe, in which a girl who sees ghosts uses them to learn the secrets of everyone at school 2 Comments on Right Now in Speculative Fiction: Giveaways, last added: 4/12/2011
The week of May 23rd, we’ll be talking about CHIME by Franny Billingsley. If you’ve been thinking of reading it, now is the time to pick up your copy and prepare for our book talk. We’re looking forward to hearing what you have to say about this novel!(from Goodreads.com)
Recently in China, there have been a glut of popular time travel television shows and movies. Typically, a character from modern China goes back in time and discovers that the past was a great place to live: lots of unpolluted air and water; horseback rides instead of traffic jams; epic battles for a noble cause; and romance everywhere.
This seems like a fun idea, but the Chinese government has taken a hard line and banned the entire time travel genre until further notice, as well as historical dramas based on certain works of classical literature. From the Chinese General Bureau of Radio, Film and Television (via Boing-Boing):
“The time-travel drama is becoming a hot theme for TV and films. But its content and the exaggerated performance style are questionable. Many stories are totally made-up and are made to strain for an effect of novelty. The producers and writers are treating the serious history in a frivolous way, which should by no means be encouraged anymore.”
If the pretext is that time travel stories are frivolous and inaccurate…well, duh! Here in the United States, cartoons about Mr. Peabody and his boy, Sherman, debuted in the 1950s as part of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. Mr. Peabody was a Gallifreyan Time Lord whose botched regeneration had given him the form of a talking dog. Sherman was Mr. Peabody’s companion, whose sole purpose was to wander around asking, “Where are we, Mr. Peabody? What’s this, Mr. Peabody? And who is that, Mr. Peabody?”
According to Wikipedia, 91 segments of “Peabody’s Improbable History” were aired, with each containing a silly plot that ended in a horrible pun. Did the writers “treat serious history in a frivolous way?” Heck, yeah! But that didn’t make anyone want to ban Mr. Peabody’s WABAC machine, Doc Brown’s DeLorean, the Doctor’s TARDIS, and all other depictions of time travel on TV and in the movies. There’s got to be something else going on in Beijing.
Time travel stories often include a political message or cultural commentary by nature. By making a purposeful connection with the past, or by projecting current trends into the future, an author can make a powerful statement about the present. This goes all the way back to H.G. Wells’s 1885 novel, The Time Machine, which took a stab at class warfare in Victorian England by journeying to a future where the upper and lower classes had evolved into two separate and exaggerated species.
Sometimes the subtext is open to interpretation, or may be an unintentional consequence of some throwaway joke in the script. Like when Robert Zemeckis gave us an alternate take on the origins of rock and roll music in the first Back to the Future movie.
In its earliest days, science fiction would never have been called literary. But for every “astounding” story of the 50′s, there’s a lyrical Bradbury tale or an experimental Mieville novel or a pointed dystopian story. Both science fiction and fantasy now share shelf space with literary novels of the more typical contemporary and historical bent. In the YA and MG markets, literary science fiction and fantasy particularly flourishes.
There’s no shortage of praise for literary science fiction and fantasy for young readers. Last year’s Printz award-winner was the surreal Going Bovine by Libba Bray. Franny Billingsley’s Chime, a recent fantasy novel whose dominating element is its lyrical voice, has received an incredible six starred reviews. Meg Rosoff’s How I Live Now, a novel about telepathic cousins who fall in love during a future war, received the 2005 Printz. And M. T. Anderson’s futuristic satire, Feed, was a finalist for the 2002 National Book Award. Not to mention all the middle grade science fiction and fantasy novels that have won the Newbery, including The Giver, A Wrinkle in Time, and When You Reach Me.
What makes this particular strain of YA/MG literature so successful? It might be that it’s a magnet for both high sales and good reviews–teens are drawn to the high-interest elements, like supernatural romance, while reviewers are keen to praise the quality of writing. It might also have to do with the perception that young readers are open to reading books that experiment with structure, voice, and setting–something common in literary works as well as science fiction and fantasy stories.
In any case, it seems that agents and editors are looking for sf/f literature that blends literary style with high-interest stories. What do you think of literary science fiction and fantasy–are you writing it? Reading it? Do you love it or are you sick of hearing about it?
Today I’m chatting with Janet Lee Carey, the author of a seven fabulous middle grade and young adult novels, including Dragon’s Keep (starred reviews in Booklist and School Library Journal) Stealing Death, and the Beasts of Noor series. Janet writes contemporary and historical fiction, but has most recently received critical acclaim for her fantasy novels. School Library Journal said, “Verdict: This is quite simply fantasy at its best–original, beautiful, amazing, and deeply moving.”
Janet will be visiting The Spectacle for three days, culminating in a special Earth Day post on Friday. We are also doing a book giveaway, so stop by every day, but most of all be sure to post a comment on Friday to be entered in a drawing for The Dragons of Noor, the sequel to The Beasts of Noor.
CE: Tell us about your book.
JLC: The Dragons of Noor is based on brokenness—two worlds breaking apart, the breaking of a dragon treaty that protected the Waytree forest, the breaking of a family when the youngest child is stolen by the wind . . . It’s my seventh novel for young readers, and the second Noor book. In this tale Miles and Hanna try to “bind what’s broken”. They join the dragons’ fight to save the Waytree forest—the ancient trees that bind the two worlds. If they fail and the last Waytrees fall, the worlds will split in two. All magic will go out of Noor, and their little brother will be forever lost.
CE: Why did you choose to write in this genre? What inspires you?
JLC: People say my fantasy reads like novelized fairytales, though the tales are my own. I feel as if the genre chose me. When I’m lucky, a story idea hits me like cupid’s arrow. I’m shot with love and wonder and go into what my family calls a “Janet trance.” This happened with The Dragons of Noor. The idea started with a daydream of a Wild Wind blowing children up into the sky and over the sea like windblown leaves. I thought I’d write a fairytale about it, but, as usual, the story became a full-length novel.
Inspiration to write fantasy came early. As a child I climbed my “reading tree” with favorite books. In the branches I was swept into Narnia, Middle-earth, and other magical lands. I loved going on these journeys and wanted to grow up booking passage to faraway places for other young readers. I’m continually inspired by Ursula K. LeGuin, Juliet Marillier, Patricia A. McKillip, Kristin Cashore, Robin McKinley, Franny Billingsley…. I could go on and on.
CE: Are there special challenges in writing speculative fiction? How do you deal with them?
JLC: The most difficult challenge is to make the story fresh. A poet faces the challenge to write an original love poem. Fantasy writers are challenged to do something new with archetypal beings like dragons.
I enjoy the challenge to make my dragons fresh. Dragons are like nature unleashed. If a hurricane were an animal, it would be a dragon. Their age and size, their very otherness puts me in awe. Knowing they are both keenly intelligent and wild animals, I spend as much time and care on the dragons’ personalities as I do on my human characters.
CE: How have publishers reacted to your work?
JLC: After writing realistic fiction, I had a hard time breaking into fantasy, but I’m bullheaded, I kept persisting. I fought through rejection like thDisplay Comments Add a Comment
Welcome to day two of Janet Lee Carey’s interview. Remember to post a comment tomorrow to be entered in a drawing for The Dragons of Noor, the sequel to The Beasts of Noor.
CE: What are your writing days like?
JLC: I start my writing day as if I’m going on a climb and I need to bring provisions with me: a thermos of hot tea on cold days, plenty of water on warm ones. I daydream and write in my journal a while to get the ideas flowing. Soon I light the candle in my Aladdin’s lamp, switch on the computer, and journey into the story world. I’m lost in there until lunch time when I emerge ready for a bite to eat and a walk. After the walk, I’m back to the writing. Of course this is my “ideal” day; I also spend a lot of time with the busyness of the business, all writers do, but I begin to feel story-starved if I stay away from writing for too long.
CE: Tell us how you create and develop your characters.
JLC: I create the character’s past before they step into the story so I know his/her loves, losses, longings and secrets. I highly recommend stealing acting exercise and treasure from other art forms to help with character creation. Movement can really help you get into character.
I loved reading The Creative Habit: Learn it and use it for Life by the famous choreographer, Twyla Tharp. She got me to move into character. I began to do what I call Positions. Simply put, this is moving about until I find three body positions for my character: a First Position for the opening of the story, Second Position for the middle, and Third for the end.
For example I ask, “What body position expresses Hanna at the beginning of The Dragons of Noor?” I dance until I find it. Hanna stands with her right foot forward, left foot back, right arm extended forward with an open hand, left arm extended back with an open hand (something close to warrior pose in yoga).
Hanna is pulled in two directions; by the need to stay home and protect her younger brother (left foot and left arm back), and the need to rescue the Wind-taken children (right foot and right hand forward). Once her little brother is Wind-taken, she is launched forward into the heart of the story. Getting out of my writing chair and moving to discover the Three Positions helps me to get inside the character’s body and emotion.
Come back tomorrow for the Earth Day interview. What do the azure trees of Noor and the endangered rainforest of Brazil have in common? Tomorrow we look at how world building can bring about change on our own planet earth.
CE: And don’t forget the book giveaway! Comment on tomorrow’s post to enter.
Happy Earth Day! And welcome to day three of Janet Lee Carey’s interview. Yesterday we promised to look into how world building can bring about change on our own planet earth.
CE: What is your process for world-building?
JLC: The fictional world has to be put to the real-world “sludge and roses” test. It should be as wild, beautiful, dangerous and messy as our own world.
Building from the ground up, I use what I know from the natural world, from natural history and human history to create a believable world and complex society. The setting usually plays a large role, challenging the characters in some way. For Stealing Death, I created a country, Zolya, decimated by ongoing drought. I studied drought-ridden Africa where I saw how arid farmlands, thirst, and lack of clean drinking water can shape a whole society. By page one the drought has already pushed my main character, Kipp, to the very edge of existence. We sense the Death Catcher is not far away.
World-building for The Dragons of Noor began with book one The Beast of Noor, but creation/recreation is ongoing. In the second book, Noor is threatened by the loss of the ancient forest and by the storms brought on by the splitting worlds.
CE: For Earth Day you promised to share how world-building for fantasy worlds can lead to change in our own world.
JLC: The Dragons of Noor have an environmental disaster on their hands. The ancient Waytrees retain deep history in their roots and bind the two worlds of Noor and Oth together. The dragons have been guarding the last Waytree forest for generations:
When the Waytree bridges fall,
Roots die binding all to all. ~ Dragons’ Song
When men come to cut down the trees, the two worlds split farther apart. The splitting worlds unleash quakes and horrendous storms, and the old magic sends a wild wind out that steals young children. Miles and Hanna join with the dragons to try and stop the devastation before the two worlds completely split apart.
I did a lot of research about the state of old growth forests to write the tale and was appalled at what I learned. According to Eco Evaluator “Almost 80% of the world’s old-growth forests have been exploited or completely destroyed. . . Each year, about 25 million acres of ancient and endangered forests in the world are being cleared.”
I usually do some kind of charitable outreach with each book release so I already knew I had to link myself and my readers up to some solution. I chose the Nature Conservancy’s Plant A Billion Trees Campaign.
Plant a Billion Trees goal: to restore one billion native trees to Brazil’s highly endangered Atlantic Forest over the next 7 years. “Tropical forests are the lungs of the earth, filtering out ten million tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere every year. Every day these valuable trees help reduce global warming.”
Growing up under towering redwoods, I’ve always been close to trees. I believe trees are vital. Our bodies, hearts, and brains need their silent majesty, green boughs, and shade. Trees are rooted in humankind’s childhood. When we cut them down we seDisplay Comments Add a Comment