Saturday, October 04, 2014

E-Volt Oct. Special: Blessed by Cynthia Leitich Smith for $1.99

E-Volt Deal!
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Thrilling news!

The electronic edition of my novel Blessed (Candlewick) is on sale this month for $1.99!

It's the third novel in the Tantalize series, but it can stand alone and is a perfect read for Halloween!

You’ll try to fight it. But you’ll only be fighting your true self. It’s done. It’s destined. In time, you’ll come to accept it." He pulled back his sleeve to reveal two dress watches. "In time, you’ll come to me."

Quincie P. Morris, teen restaurateuse and neophyte vampire, is in the fight of her life -- or undeath. Even as she adjusts to her new appetites, she must clear her best friend and true love, the hybrid werewolf Kieren, of murder charges; thwart the apocalyptic ambitions of Bradley Sanguini, the seductive vampire-chef who "blessed" her; and keep her dead parents’ restaurant up and running.


She hires a more homespun chef and adds the preternaturally beautiful Zachary to her wait staff. But with hundreds of new vampires on the rise and Bradley off assuming the powers of Dracula Prime, Zachary soon reveals his true nature -- and a flaming sword -- and they hit the road to staunch the bloodshed before it’s too late.


Even if they save the world, will there be time left to salvage Quincie’s soul?


With a wink and a nod to Bram Stoker, New York Times best-selling author Cynthia Leitich Smith unites the casts of Tantalize and Eternal in a delicious dark fantasy her fans will devour.

Blessed was a YALSA Teens Top Ten nominee.


"Off-handed humor, clever wordplay, and a host of supernatural beings
will delight fans of Smith's Tantalize and Eternal, the two novels that precede this one,
though Blessed can certainly be enjoyed as a stand-alone novel."
–School Library Journal

"Wild and ultimately fascinating…
"..the pages fairly smolder in describing their [Quincie and Kieren] attraction...." 
–Kirkus Reviews

“Quincie is a capable, independent and appealing heroine
who has matured considerably since her debut in Tantalize.
...Blessed raises expectations for a complex (and thrilling) conclusion.” 
–The Austin American-Statesman

See more reviews, interviews and blog buzz, sample chapter, media kit and reading group guide.

Check out the sale at E-volt!

Friday, October 03, 2014

Cynsational News & Giveaways

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Firstborn Cover Analysis & Author Interview: (Former Editorial Director) Lou Anders by Matthew MacNish from Project Mayhem. Peek: "To create the countries of Norrøngard, Ymiria, and all the lands on the continent of Katernia, I researched numerous cultures. I worked out time lines to five thousand years. I invented cosmologies and religions. I have an entire book’s worth of notes that isn’t in the book."

Age 14: The No Man's Land Between Middle Grade and YA by Dianne K. Salerni from Project Mayhem. Peek: "Is it just a random benchmark applied by one giant book store chain that some publishers buy into, and others don’t? Why does this particular age matter so much?"

2014 Cybils Nominations Are Open from The Cybils. Peek: "The big one: the book needs to be published between October 16, 2013 and October 15, 2014. Oh, and one book per category per person. No exceptions."

How to Write What You Don't Know by Crystal Chan from National Novel Writing Month. Peek: "Are you willing to dig deep and analyze systemic racism—not just in our society but within themselves?"

History and Magic by Juliet Marillier from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "...anyone who writes in my genre can tell you that the historical research still needs to be done, and done thoroughly. A novel containing fantasy elements should be consistent to its time and culture, whether that time and culture are historical, imaginary or some blend of the two."

Cyn's favorite Halloween Book!
October 2014 Calendar of Children's Books by Elizabeth Kennedy from About.com. Note: autumn, National Bullying Prevention Month, National Hispanic Heritage Month, Star Wars Day, Teen Read Week, Halloween and more. See also Are You Ready for Some Football...Books? by Randy Ribay from The Horn Book. 

The Writer of Faith by Martine Leavitt from Write at Your Own Risk. Peek: "Some of my students who love their religion have asked me how I, as a writer, cope with the expectations of people in a faith community. These young writers have no desire to rebel, and yet in an effort to portray the truth, sometimes fiction offends."

Advice from Authors by Elisabeth Weed from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "I now schedule exercise just as I would a meeting and find that it makes me that much more effective. And happy."

Stuck in the Writing Doldrums? by Kristi Holl from Writer's First Aid. Peek: "The writers who last, who keep producing quality writing, are usually those who have found a way to stay on an even keel most of the time."

Kirkus Prize Finalists

From The Washington Post: "On Tuesday, Kirkus announced the finalists for its first prizes — 18 books in fiction, nonfiction and young readers’ literature. The winner in each of the three categories will receive $50,000, making it one of the largest literary awards in the world."

Cynsational Screening Room



Cynsational Giveaways

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally




Exciting News! My novel Feral Nights (Book 1 in the Feral series)(Candlewick, 2013) has received the Writers' League of Texas (MG/YA) Book Award. See finalists and more information.

Thank you to Mr. Gray and the students, teachers, administrators, staff and families of Harvard Elementary School (Houston) for a wonderful school visit on Thursday evening and Friday.

With fantastic Harvard Elementary librarian Mr. Gray and Greg Leitich Smith.
Greg and I enjoyed visiting with kids (from PreK to grade 5) and their families as well as leading workshops for the fourth graders! One of the best schools we've ever visited! Loved it!

Last week's highlights also included the Tweens Read panel at South Houston High in Pasadena, Texas. I wasn't on the program, but I went with Greg and played fan girl to many author friends and soaked up the book love from 1500 young readers. Yowza! The enthusiasm was sky high!

Brava to Blue Willow Bookshop and the entire volunteer committee for an excellent event! See full coverage via Greg's event photo report.

With author pals Jenni Holm & Jennifer Ziegler outside Blue Willow Bookshop.
Matt London, Jessica Brody, Jennifer Brown & Greg on the "Houston! We Have Problems!" panel.
With morning keynoter Jacqueline Woodson.
Six Minutes with an Author: Cynthia Leitich Smith from LitPick at Facebook. Peek: "Don't forget to floss, eat something green every day, and if you're suffering from writer's block, try dancing in the dark to Olivia Newton-John's 'Xanadu' album." Note on Facebook? See the LitPick site instead!

Personal Links

Inspired by "My Fair Lady"

Cynsational Events

Cynthia Leitich Smith will speak on a panel "Where Are the Heroes of Color in Fantasy & Sci Fi Lit?" from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 15 at YALSA's YA Literature Symposium in Austin.


Thursday, October 02, 2014

Guest Post: P.J. Hoover on Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life

Cynthia & P.J. at Texas Book Festival
By P.J. Hoover
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life (Starscape/Macmillan, 2014) is my fifth novel, but given how long the publication road has been, it’s possibly the one I am the most excited about.

Tut follows the adventures of an immortal King Tut who is stuck at the age of thirteen and has to repeat eighth grade over and over again (talk about perpetual puberty!).

The first couple chapters are set in the past, in ancient Egypt, as we find out how and why Tut is immortal, but after that, we switch to present day Washington, D.C. where the remainder of the book takes place.

My last published novel was Solstice (Tor, 2013), a book solidly planted in the young adult market.

With Tut, I’ve gone back to the middle grade market. The book is aimed at those Harry Potter and Percy Jackson fans out there, third-to-eighth-grade kids, people who adore King Tut, or anyone who enjoys fun fantasy.

It’s been a four years since my last middle grade title, and one thing I’ve discovered more than anything else is that marketing to this age group has changed!

Not only are kids online more, librarians and educators are, too.

I admit it. I love spending time online and playing computer games.

And maybe it makes me a slacker parent, but I often let my kids play longer on their games so I can play, too. (I’m a firm believer that one of the best family time activities is Mario Kart.) My kids never complain. And seeing how much time my kids want to spend on the computer or game consoles, I wanted to find a way to bridge the gap between gaming and reading.

There are a few exciting things I managed to pull together for Tut.

Why are they exciting? Because they are exactly the kind of book extras that I would have wanted if I were a kid. Heck, I’m an adult, and I am loving them. So get your gamer thumbs ready and read on!



MINECRAFT Server

The first thing I came up with (with the help of my kids and their friends) is a MINECRAFT server for Tut. If you don't know what MINECRAFT is, ask any later elementary school or middle school kid, and they will enthusiastically tell you.

The server for Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life has many locations used in the book. Not only can kids visit the world of Tut, they can interact in the same ways that Tut does. They can escape from his tomb. They can find secret tunnels under Washington, D.C. There is also be a place on my website where kids can “apply” to become builders on the server.

In addition, there is a MINECRAFT scavenger hunt. Kids can warp around from place to place on the server piecing out hidden words that can then be strung together to reveal a secret message.

Just a note: MINECRAFT is also starting to get more traction in the educational market. My daughter’s third grade class used it to learn about perimeter and area. You can read more about the educational version of MINECRAFT and the regular version.

Learn more about the TUT MINECRAFT WORLD.


Video Game (using SCRATCH)

The second thing I came up with is a video game for Tut. The video game itself is pretty cool (with ten levels, codes to decipher, patterns to recognize), but what really makes it exceptional is the platform where I designed it.

I used SCRATCH which is a website designed by MIT and used widely in schools to teach and encourage kids to computer program and write video games. Kids can play games written by others (such as my TUT game), they can remix games, or they can write games of their own.

SCRATCH has millions of users worldwide.

Learn more about the TUT SCRATCH video game.

Pick Your Own Quest

I have to mention first that my favorite books in elementary school (besides Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden) were those Choose Your Own Adventure books.

So the third thing I came up with for Tut is a Pick Your Own Quest adventure (which is similar to a Choose Your Own Adventure except done up King Tut style and on the computer).

The Pick Your Own Quest TUT adventure is a fun way for kids to immerse themselves in the world of TUT online and to try their hand at being pharaoh while seeing how their choices will affect their fate.

For starters . . .

You are about to embark on a great adventure as King Tut, Pharaoh of Egypt. Whatever you do, don't turn back. Once you make a choice, it cannot be changed! One path may lead to you saving the world. Another may lead to your end. Choose Wisely.

Learn more about the TUT Pick Your Own Quest adventure.

Yes, it’s all about gaming, but my goal is to encourage educators to get kids excited about reading by relating to things they know and love. I would love to see educators assign video game programming or MINECRAFT world development as possibly curriculum tie-ins when reading books in addition to (or instead of) traditional book reports.

I adore the idea of kids writing video games based on books they love. And I believe that encouraging creative writing in a fun form such as a Pick Your Own Quest adventure is a great thing for reluctant writers!

I leave you with the book trailer for Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life which pulls it all together.



Now it’s time for reading, writing, and gaming!

About P.J. Hoover

At Comic Con
After a fifteen year bout as an electrical engineer, P. J. Hoover started writing books for kids and teens.

When not writing, P. J. spends time with her husband and two kids and enjoys practicing kung fu, solving Rubik's cubes, and watching Star Trek.

Her middle grade novel, Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life (Starscape/Macmillan, 2014), tells the story of a young immortal King Tut, who's been stuck in middle school for over 3,000 years and must defeat an ancient enemy with the help of a dorky kid from school, a mysterious Egyptian princess, and a one-eyed cat.

Her first novel for teens, Solstice (Tor, 2013), takes place in a global warming future and explores the parallel world of mythology beside our own.

About Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life

From the promotional copy:
You’d think it would be great being an Egyptian demigod, but if King Tut has to sit through eighth grade one more time, he’ll mummify himself.

Granted the gift of immortality by the gods—or is it a curse?—Tut has been stuck in middle school for ages.

Even worse, evil General Horemheb, the man who killed Tut’s father and whom Tut imprisoned in a tomb for three thousand years, is out and after him.

The general is in league with the Cult of Set, a bunch of guys who worship one of the scariest gods of the Egyptian pantheon—Set, the god of Chaos.

The General and the Cult of Set have plans for Tut… and if Tut doesn’t find a way to keep out of their clutches, he’ll never make it to the afterworld alive.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Feral Nights by Cynthia Leitich Smith Wins Writers' League of Texas (MG/YA) Book Award

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

From the Writers' League of Texas: "The 2013/2014 Writers' League of Texas Book Awards, awarded in 2014 and recognizing outstanding books published in 2013, honor Texas authors across five categories with three distinctions: Winner, Finalist, and Discovery Prize Winner, all of whom will be celebrated at the WLT booth at the Texas Book Festival in October."

Middle Grade/YA Winner

(Candlewick, 2013)

Finalists

Discovery Prize Winner

Picture Book Winner

(Pelican, 2013)

Finalists

Discovery Prize Winner

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Author Interview & Giveaway: T.A. Barron on Writing & the Atlantis Saga

By Greg Leitich Smith
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

T.A. Barron grew up in Colorado ranch country and traveled widely as a Rhodes Scholar. He is the winner of the 2011 de Grummond Medallion for “lifetime contribution to the field of children’s and young adult literature” and many other awards.

T. A. Barron is the author of more than 25 highly acclaimed books, many of which are international bestsellers.

They include The Lost Years of Merlin (now being developed into a feature film), The Great Tree of Avalon (a New York Times bestselling series), The Ancient One (the tale of a brave girl and a magical tree), and The Hero’s Trail (nonfiction stories of courageous kids).

Though he’d dreamed as a young man of becoming a writer, he couldn’t find anyone to publish his first novel. He joined a business, eventually became president, then decided to try again.

So in 1990, he surprised his business partners by moving back to Colorado to become a writer and conservationist.

His novel Atlantis Rising (Philomel, 2014) was released in paperback last week.

What is your writing process like? Do you outline or just dive in?

Essentially, I write all the time, even when I’m traveling, going for a hike with my kids, baking, etc.

The creative process isn’t limited to the hours I spend in my writing chair in the attic of our house in Colorado. It happens on many levels when I’m immersed in a project.

I always write the first draft with a blue felt pen and a pad of paper, because that is a good creative chemistry for me. And I do lots of rewrites - as many as it takes to get it right!

Like a good stew, novels get better when you boil them down and integrate all the ingredients. Most of my novels take six or seven full rewrites and two years to finish.

What inspired the Atlantis series?

Learn more.
The legend of Atlantis has always intrigued me. No word evokes more of a feeling of tragedy than the word "Atlantis."

The tale of Atlantis is such a beautiful story, and for the 2000 years since Plato first wrote about it, people have wondered and dreamed about it.

But one thing that has never changed is that the island of Atlantis was utterly destroyed.

I started to wonder, though, about something else—how Atlantis began.

How did a place that rose to such a level of near perfection get destroyed by the flaws and weaknesses of its people?

Ultimately, how did that happen?

This big unknown question is what got me to write Atlantis Rising. I wanted to add a new thread to the tapestry of myth about Atlantis—how it all began, the secrets of its origins.

How did research for Atlantis compare with research for Merlin?

Good fantasy must be true.

I know that sounds contradictory, but I’m talking about truth on the deeper emotional and spiritual levels, not just on the factual level. Part of that authenticity is doing research.
Learn more.

For my Merlin Saga, I spent a whole year reading everything I could possibly find about the wizard Merlin – just to get a hint of his true character and voice.

Then came the fun of imagining that character as a young man – and even more basic, as a half-drowned boy who washed ashore with no memory at all.

For Atlantis, I did the same thing to understand the various interpretations of the Atlantean myth (and there are lots of them).

Then I began to re-imagine that myth, especially how it all began – what was at stake, who were the heroes and sources of evil, and what sacrifices and struggles happened to give birth to Atlantis.

What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Here are the essentials: Notice the world around you. Live your life and follow your dreams. Practice writing as often as you can. And importantly, don’t take rejection letters to heart!

Everyone gets them, even established writers. (My first novel got a great reception – 32 rejection letters and no interest whatsoever from any publishers.)

Rejections hurt, but they are just part of life.

The most important thing to remember is this: If you have something to say, and refuse to give up, you absolutely will find a way to say it and share it with others.

T.A. Barron's Writing Room -- Inside & Outside




Cynsational Notes & Screening Room

In 2000, T.A. Barron founded a national award to honor outstanding young people who help their communities or the environment: the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes, which honors 25 highly diverse, public-spirited kids each year. He recently produced a documentary film, "Dream Big," profiling seven winners of the Barron Prize.

When not writing or speaking, T. A. Barron serves on many boards including Princeton University, where he helped to create the Princeton Environmental Institute, and The Wilderness Society, which recently honored him with its highest award for conservation work. His favorite pastime is hiking, camping, or skiing in Colorado with his family.

A native of Chicago, interviewer Greg Leitich Smith now lives in Austin, Texas. His middle grade/tween novels include: the Parents’ Choice Gold Award-winning and Junior Library Guild Selection, Ninjas, Piranhas and Galileo (Little Brown/IntoPrint); its companion Tofu and T.rex (Little Brown/IntoPrint); the Junior Library Guild Selection Chronal Engine (Clarion); and Little Green Men at the Mercury Inn (Roaring Brook). He holds degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois and the University of Texas, and a degree in law from the University of Michigan. Find him @GLeitichSmith and  GregLSBlog.






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Monday, September 29, 2014

New Voice: Joshua David Bellin on Survival Colony 9

Curriculum Guide & Excerpt
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Joshua David Bellin is the first time author of Survival Colony 9 (McElderry, 2014). From the promotional copy:

In a future world of dust and ruin, fourteen-year-old Querry Genn struggles to recover the lost memory that might save the human race. 

Querry is a member of Survival Colony Nine, one of the small, roving groups of people who outlived the wars and environmental catastrophes that destroyed the old world. 

The commander of Survival Colony Nine is his father, Laman Genn, who runs the camp with an iron will. He has to–because heat, dust, and starvation aren’t the only threats in this ruined world.

There are also the Skaldi.

Monsters with the ability to infect and mimic human hosts, the Skaldi appeared on the planet shortly after the wars of destruction. No one knows where they came from or what they are. But if they’re not stopped, it might mean the end of humanity.

Six months ago, Querry had an encounter with the Skaldi–and now he can’t remember anything that happened before then. If he can recall his past, he might be able to find the key to defeat the Skaldi.

If he can’t, he’s their next victim.

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

Joshua's blog is YA Guy.
That’s a great question, because my protagonist spends the entire novel trying to discover and get to know himself!

Querry Genn, the fourteen-year-old narrator of Survival Colony 9, suffers from traumatic memory loss brought on by an accident six months before the action of the book begins. He can’t remember the accident, and he can’t remember anything that happened before it.

This condition presented me with the opportunity to explore Querry’s past as he himself discovers it—to follow along with him as he slowly, painfully fits the pieces together.

When I was drafting, I produced a number of possible pasts for Querry, testing them out until I found the one I liked the most.

Of those that didn’t make the cut, I discarded the majority during the revision process—but others I retained as false leads that Querry himself ultimately discovers to be untrue. So readers are in some ways in Querry’s position, learning along with him what’s real and what isn’t—but just like him, they may jump to conclusions that aren’t borne out by later revelations.

Given my narrator’s amnesia, I was able to pursue a somewhat similar process with the other characters. Querry doesn’t remember anyone else either, so he has to reconstruct who they are and how they fit into his life. So with almost all of the secondary characters—Querry’s father, Laman Genn; Korah, the teenage girl he has a crush on; Yov, the teenage boy who torments him due to his disability—I had the opportunity to develop them in two not always congruent ways: who they actually are, and who Querry thinks they are. My hope is that readers will be drawn into the mystery of not always knowing who or what they can trust.

And that leads me to my antagonists, creatures I call the Skaldi. These monsters have the ability to consume and mimic human prey—which means you can’t be sure who’s human and who’s Skaldi in disguise. Taking all these factors together, I think readers will find the characters in Survival Colony 9 convincingly complex, mysterious, and full of surprises!

Josh Bellin and Big Green, White Cloud MI, age 11
As a science fiction writer, going in, did you have a sense of how events/themes in your novel might parallel or speak to events/issues in our real world? Or did this evolve over the course of many drafts?

I knew from the start that Survival Colony 9 was going to speak to environmental issues. The world of the novel is a hostile desert, and that setting was one of the first things I envisioned.

When I started writing, the category of “cli-fi”—fiction having to do with climate change—hadn’t yet been coined, but it turns out that’s exactly what I was writing!

I will say, however, that it took a number of drafts before I was satisfied with how my novel spoke to contemporary events/issues. In early drafts, the environmental subtext was much more explicit: I devoted a whole chapter to one character explaining to Querry the history of their world, which meant, essentially, a huge truckload of exposition disguised as dialogue. It was too much, not only in terms of length but in the tone, which seemed far too didactic.

So I scaled way back, letting the scene speak for itself. It’s a desert world. Food and water are scarce. Violent, unpredictable storms pound the landscape.

If that image doesn’t speak to readers, no amount of exposition will.

I think this is an important point for science fiction writers, because science fiction is so topical it’s easy for it to become preachy.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818), which some people consider one of the earliest sci-fi novels, raised all kinds of fascinating questions about the nature of life and the power of science—but it didn’t preach to its readers, didn’t tell them what to believe.

Yet when a much older and sadder Shelley revised her novel in 1831, she turned it into a long, boring sermon on the excesses of scientific experimentation. That’s why I never teach the 1831 edition, even though it’s customary to consider the most recent edition the most representative of the author’s vision.

I think Shelley violated her own best instincts as a fiction writer in 1831, and she produced a much inferior novel as a result.

I’m proud of the fact that I’m an environmentalist. I love the natural world, and I work hard—both as a father and as an activist—to instill that love in others.

But as a fiction writer, I’m not going to hit readers over the head with my beliefs. The role of fiction is to stimulate the imagination, not to proselytize or recruit. Having presented the best imaginary world I can, it’s up to readers to do with that world what they will.

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